February 2016

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What does Apple spend on research and development?

For the three months ending December 26, 2015, Apple spent $2.4 billion in research and development. So what? That number doesn’t mean a whole lot in isolation. Let’s dig in a little bit and see if we can build some context. For the same three month period, Apple had revenue of $75.9 billion. That means
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Gregg Popovich just taught you how to be an A player

Gregg Popovich is the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, the most successful franchise in professional basketball over the last 20 years. The Spurs have won five NBA championships under his watch. Last week, he was asked what the Spurs look for in their employees. Here’s what he said: “For us, it’s easy. We’re
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The London whale, and the challenges of technical communication

Have you heard of the “London whale”? He’s the trader that lost billions of dollars for J.P. Morgan back in 2012. The trades were bets on whether companies with high-yield bonds would be able to make their payments. The bets started to go sour, and rather than eating his losses, the London whale tried to
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Correlation versus causation in the world of business

In science, we take great effort to avoid confusing correlation with causation. Two things can happen simultaneously, but not be the cause of one another. Confusing the two is a well-known logical fallacy. How do you overcome potential confusion? Test. Set up experiments that isolate variables. Show that you’re able to effect change in one
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Wandering generality versus meaningful specific

I mentioned that I listened to Tim Ferriss interview Seth Godin last week. It’s a fantastic interview. If you’re interested in business, self-improvement, or general intellectual enlightenment, I strongly recommend listening. Seth mentioned something near the end of the interview. He talked about the importance of being a meaningful specific, rather than a wandering generality.
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Use conversation to generate new ideas

I’m a big fan of podcasts. Right now, I’m listening to Tim Ferriss interview Seth Godin. It’ll take me two days of commuting to finish it, but I already know I’m going to be sad when it’s over. I love listening to conversation-style podcasts. I’ll inevitably capture some new idea about something while listening. Maybe
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What would you pay for an infinite supply of cash?

Let’s say I have a machine. The only thing my machine does is spit out $1 million in cash every January 1. This will happen every year, for all of eternity. How much would you pay for this machine? Seriously…make a guess. Even if it’s just an order of magnitude. How much would you pay
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For Icahn's 80th birthday, a primer on activist investors

Carl Icahn turned 80 years old on Tuesday. In case you don’t know, he’s an activist investor. A titan of that field, really. His birthday is a good time to cover the basics of what an activist investor does. After all, this is how Icahn earned his $17 billion fortune. What is an activist investor? Here’s how
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My newborn son, Antonin Scalia, and the curse of notoriety

My wife gave birth to our second son last week. It was one of the best days of my life. Our oldest son is almost exactly 18 months older than his brother. As we slowly get used to being a family of four, tons of thoughts float through my head. I think a ton about
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Another bit of business jargon: "drive"

I’ve written about the word “synergies”, which is one of the classic words in the business jargon lexicon. Today I’ll cover a less iconic piece of jargon: “drive”: You drive accountability on your team. You drive results through ongoing initiatives. You drive efficiency across your supply chain. Drive is an action verb. It’s powerful. It’s
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