Five Startup Lessons from America’s First Cofounders

In the late 18th century, a motley crew of lawyers, farmers, merchants, and disruptive freethinkers had an idea for a startup. Few of them figured the fledgling startup had much chance of success…and yet here we are today.

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In the late 18th century, a motley crew of lawyers, farmers, merchants, and disruptive freethinkers had an idea for a startup. Few of them figured the fledgling startup had much chance of success. They came up with many names–including Columbia, the United Colonies, British America, and United Statesian–until they finally settled on the United States of America.

But how exactly do you go about starting up a government, especially if it is unlike any other that has existed before? It wasn’t as if they could go online and read up on how to do it.

The Founding Fathers were an exceptionally innovative collection of men. Not only has the government they conceived of lasted for more than 200 years, but it’s a model of democracy around the world.

It’s fascinating to realize that the political strategies the founders argued passionately about are still being argued today in business schools, boardrooms, and in the garages and basements of those aspiring to become the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. Continue reading “Five Startup Lessons from America’s First Cofounders”

No Managers Required How Zappos’s is Ditching Old Corporate Structure for Something New

After making its move to the new downtown Las Vegas campus as part of Tony Hsieh’s Las Vegas revitalization quest, Zappos is making another radical change.

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After making its move to the new downtown Las Vegas campus as part of Tony Hsieh’s Las Vegas revitalization quest, Zappos is making another radical change. 

No more job titles. No more managers. No more hierarchical decisions. By this time next year, Zappos’s 1,500 workers will be organized into something called a holacracy.

Holacracy is a little known organizational management system that’s is gaining a toehold in the business world. Zappos, so far, is its biggest adopter. Holacracy takes its name from the Greek word holos, a single, autonomous, self-sufficient unit, that is, at the same time, dependent on a larger unit. Think of a human cell’s relationship to the entire body.

Brian Robertson, founder of HolacracyOne and advisor to Zappos and other companies on how to adopt holacracy describes human beings as sensors who observe errors and inefficiencies in systems, and can intuit possible fixes. He describes the gap between what is (current reality) and what could be as a “tension.”

In traditional corporate hierarchies Robertson found that employees who observed inefficiencies or had ideas for improvements would have to go to a boss, who would go to their boss, who would go to their boss and so on. Often this critical information that could lead the company to meaningful change simply slipped through the cracks.  “When there is lack of clear and effective channels for processing tensions,” Robertson says, it can leave people frustrated, burnt-out, and disengaged.

So how does holacracy work?  Continue reading “No Managers Required How Zappos’s is Ditching Old Corporate Structure for Something New”

Giftopia: How to Innovate Your Gift-Giving

Instead of devoting all of your cognitive energy to choosing between the reindeer sweater and the iTunes gift card, why not get creative with the act of gift giving this year?

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Get creative with the act of gift giving

American adults will spend on average nearly $800 on gifts this holiday season according to the Gallup poll. That’s a decent chunk of change that we shell out in cash or put on our credit cards to express our affection, gratitude or commitment to our loved ones, friends and co-workers. But in this era of technological disruption and entrepreneurial innovation why has the act of gift giving changed so little?

We might not always think of it this way, but most gifts in a market economy such as ours, are economic exchanges. Say you walk into a store or go online and find the perfect Marc Jacobs bag. And then you pay for the bag.  Now you own it. And then–Happy Birthday! or Merry Christmas!–the act of giving the bag, properly wrapped and carded, transfers the ownership of the gift from you to the giftee.

But is that all there is? Why not get creative with the act of gift giving instead of devoting all of our cognitive energy to choosing between the reindeer sweater and the iTunes gift card? Continue reading “Giftopia: How to Innovate Your Gift-Giving”