Fred Flinstone era of AI?

Ford CEO Jim Hackett recently recanted his company’s promise to deliver autonomous vehicles by 2021. 

As a result, the media did what it likes to do. After uncritically promoting Ford’s unrealistic promise for years — nothing sells like the fears of robots taking over — they now celebrated the reversal. 

“Despite High Hopes, Self-Driving Cars are ‘Way in the Future,” sagely wrote the now-skeptical New York Times. 

In that article, the reporter quotes the Ford CEO saying, “We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles.”

When I read that I thought, ‘Right, they just misunderestimated. They probably forgot to add or subtract a zero in a spreadsheet.’

It also seems they missed the history of just about every new product or service in the tech industry over the last 50 years.Arpanet launched in 1969, inventing the Internet, but nobody paid attention until 20 years later when the Internet was given a friendly user interface called the World Wide Web
 Voice recognition was first developed in the early 1970s but it didn’t become available for commercial use in PCs and Macs until the early 1990s
 The graphical user interface and mouse were first created at Stanford in the early 1960s, but the first real consumer applications did not become available until the Mac launched in 1984
 The first ‘smartphone’ was launched in the early 1990s but did not become mainstream until much later Last week I was one of the first to ride in the first autonomous vehicle licensed for the streets of New York.

Well, let me amend that. 

The semi-autonomous vehicle by startup Optimus Ride is licensed to drive around a few geofenced blocks in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
It’s not exactly Times Square. 

At one spot, one of the two drivers (all the vehicles have 2 people in front in case something goes wrong – so, again, really ’semi-autonomous’ at this point) had to take over and execute a 3-point turn.

Riding in the back with the two drivers in the front, I could almost see their feet propelling the car. In other words, we are definitely still in the Fred Flinstone era of autonomous vehicles. Yabba dabba doo. 

Having said that, this realistic and rare startup has what Ford does not: a practical view of the state of autonomous vehicle technology, and of what customers and cities might be ready for today. 

When it comes to technology, the investments, stories, and headlines should be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism (or ‘skeptical skepticism’ as Oliver Wendell Holmes might say, see book review below).

Final note: In case *you* think that *I* think that I’m smarter than everyone in this regard, I’ll share this. When I first launched CG Councils years ago I thought we’d have millions of members by now. I guess I misunderestimated.

– Phil Upcoming Events
 CG Councils Fall 2019 
Our fall 2019 CG Council meetings will be held in Chicago Mon, Oct 14 – Wed, Oct 16. 1.5 days of private Council meetingsKeynote session with Jason Fried, Co-Founder and CEO of Basecamp, and co-author of several very good booksInteresting range of cross-Chicago “insider” activities (more on that soon)Click here to RSVP (members only).
 Berkshire 2020
If you want to join us in Omaha next year for the “Woodstock of Capitalism” and our workshop, then click here for more information (limited to 100 spots and open to non-council members).

“Wonderful weekend!”
– Carly Zakin, Co-CEO, theSkimm

“Great experience and fantastic group!”
– David Rabkin, EVP, American Express

“Loved it – great event!”
– Chris Fralic, Partner, First Round Capital 
 Amazon 2020
In 2020, we are bringing our Berkshire format – workshop for leaders plus trip to the annual meeting – to Amazon. 

Click here for more information (limited to 50 and also open to non-members).Mission/Vision/Values
I’m working on a mission, vision, values statement for Collaborative Gain and the Councils — 20+ years after working on my first council. Some of us are slow learners. And some of us need a push. In my case, both apply. 

If you have any examples of mission vision statements that have helped smaller companies grow, please send them my way (p.s. only send me the real thing, skip the bloviated corporate-speak).
Customers Included Speeches and Workshops
Even as I work on my next book, I continue to give keynote speeches and workshops on Customers Included and on CX and AI. I’ve done close to 300 now at companies ranging from Apple and Airbnb to Walmart and Warby Parker.

Recently, I visited Austin and gave talks at streaming startup, Flosports, and at Data.World run by my longtime friend, Brett Hurt. Brett also took my cousin and I to a taping of Austin City Limits – that was a lot of fun!

I would love to come speak to your large company or startup (or return if it’s been a few years). Get in touch if you want to learn more (or go online for more info).Peer Coaching Calls (PCCs)
Almost every day, we assemble 3 or 4 experts to coach a CG Councils member on a specific business question, or on their career evolution.

We will run *100s* of Peer Coaching Calls this year. 

Here are a few examples:First 60 days as a CPO?Digital Transformation That Doesn’t Suck?Optimizing/Scaling Chat?Post-acquisition Product Leadership Blues?Advice for Joining Boards of DirectorsShould I CMO or CEO?Running a team that *will* be outsourced?Should I stay or should I CPO?Working for a Boss Whose Job You Wanted?Working and Managing Your Family When a Child has Cancer?If you are a council member, and you need help on a business challenge (or on your career evolution), then you know who to call. 

Call now. 

Peers are standing by. Books
Books I’m Reading

Think Like Amazon: 50 1/2 Ideas to Become a Digital Leader 
by John Rossman (former Director at Amazon)
I’m preparing for our first Amazon workshop next year by reading and re-reading books and annual reports, and by conducting interviews with key leaders. This book by the former Director of Merchant Integration at Amazon is good (thanks to CG Councils member Scott Boyarsky for recommending it).

Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Dot.Com Juggernaut by James Marcus 
When I picked this up earlier this summer, I was delighted to discover that it’s funny, insightful, and worth reading for the stories of the dotcom days AND for its unexpectedly good writing.

Letters on Ethics: To Lucilius
by Seneca
Our next Reading Odyssey reading group (see below) will focus on this terrific text by Seneca, one of the great Roman statesman and moral philosophers. Interestingly, Seneca came up in our recent CG Councils webinar with alum and longtime friend, Jeff Gothelf.

The Airbnb Story 

by Leigh Gallagher
Some business books are not worth reading. This, however, is a good business book by which I mean the author knows how to write and has something worthwhile to say. Her defining question is this: How did the two founders of Airbnb, without an original idea (there’s nothing new about home sharing), and without business or technical experience build that company into a multi-billion dollar success? Good question.

The Art of Gathering: How we Meet and Why It Matters
by Priya Parker
My team and I are enjoying this good book on a topic near and ear to us: how to run great meetings. 

The Weather Machine: A Journey Inside The Forecast
By Andrew Blum
Short book on the history and present state of weather science. Decent writing. Would have preferred more science.

Scaling Up Excellence: Getting To More Without Settling For Less
By Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao
This book and Customers Included ask a similar question: Why, if everyone “knows” the customer is important do most companies make mediocre products and services?

Letters of E.B. White: Revised Edition
I have recently discovered the joy of reading published letters. I cite the Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela in my next book and I’m currently enjoying this collection from the author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. He’s not only an exceptionally good writer, but he’s also funny.

Three Laws of Nature: A Little Book on Thermodynamics 
by R. Stephen Berry
The best way to learn scientific models in my opinion is to learn them in the context of how they developed. If you learn the history, it can make the model easier to both understand and to apply. Berry’s book on thermodynamics attempts to do just that. He doesn’t quite succeed but the effort is worth reading. Be warned: while the book is indeed little, it bogs down in parts.

Einstein’s World: How Relativity Triumphed Amid the Vicious Nationalism of World War One

By Matthew Stanley
This is a superb book. It accomplishes the goal of putting the development of general relativity in its historical context. Stanley take you step-by-step through the development of the theory —including the dead ends, arguments, and world wars that got in the way. It helps if you already understand something about relativity, but even if you don’t you certainly will after reading Stanley’s biography.

Bagehot: The Life and Times of the Greatest Victorian
By James Grant
If you want to understand our global monetary system, the 2008 crisis and its response, then it’s helpful to go back to the 19th century and study the life and times of Walter Bagehot. James Grant, himself an expert on interest rates and on our financial system, is an able 21st century tour guide to this 19th century Economist editor, banker, and influential doctrine-maker. (Bagehot’s lessons and prescriptions still play a big role 150 years later).

Oliver Wendell Holmes, A Life in War, Law and Ideas

By Stephen Budiansky
I knew very little about OWH before reading this terrific biography of the Civil War veteran, Massachusetts judge, and Supreme Court Justice. Holmes knew how to write and how to think and cultivated the skill of being skeptically skeptical. (i.e. skeptical of even his own skepticism).

Beach Reads (Non-Fiction)

Summer may be almost over, but there’s always time to read a good book on or off the beach. Here are my recommended beach reads (and next year I’ll put this out in June and with a fiction section).Personal History
By Katharine Graham
Alert readers know I’m a Grahamophile. But don’t just trust me. Trust David Remnick, longtime New Yorker editor, who said this was the best business memoir yet written. This pioneering CEO knew not only how to outperform her chauvinistic peer CEOs, stand up to Presidents who eventually had to stand down, but she also knew how to write. The Pulitzer Board definitely got this prize right.

By Laura Hillenbrand
I may not care about hockey (see below) but at least I’ve been to a few games. I’ve never been to a horse race and don’t believe I ever will. But, from her first masterful paragraph, Hillenbrand provides a masterclass in great writing and storytelling as she convinces us to care about a scrawny-legged horse from the 1930s. Whether you saw or liked the movie, this book is a great read.

On Writing
By Stephen King
Even if you don’t like Stephen King or don’t want King’s good advice on writing, read this book for the accidental autobiography that forms the first half. Not only is it some of King’s best writing, but it’s one of the funniest and best examples of how to write a memoir with no violins, thank you. Like Graham’s book, I try to read this one every year.

The Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid
By Bill BrysonThe “toity jar” story (I won’t say more) made me laugh harder and longer than almost anything I’ve ever read. I’m still trying to remove the water I snorted. The next time you jet away on vacation take this text by Bryson and get ready to sit back, relax, and inhale some unbelievably great — and funny — writing.

A Death in the RainForest: How a Language and a Way of Life Came to an End in Papua New Guinea
by Don Kulick
This was a surprisingly good — and short — book written by a veteran anthropologist. He challenges a lot of liberal and conservative assumptions and because of decades of field work he is able to help us see the world through the eyes of a tiny tribe deep in the Papua New Guinea rainforest. And that’s what I’m always looking for: help me see and think in new ways. Barbarian Days
William Finnegan
To say this is a surfing memoir is like saying Boy on Ice (see below) is a hockey book. Both writers are such strong prose stylists that the books transcend their topics. In the case of Barbarian Days, it’s a funny, poignant look at one boy’s life growing up surfing and writing around the world while American.Boy on Ice
By John Branch
Branch is one of the best sportswriters exercising words and metaphors today. The catch is he avoids the major US sports to focus on ice hockey(*), rodeo, and other North American amusements. This book’s introduction is terrific and the entire text is strong. It will keep your attention on the ice even as the sun and water beckon.* Note: Canadians hate the adjective ‘ice’ for, according to them, there’s but one hockey. 

Books On Hold at The Brooklyn Library

When I want to read a book for the first time, I typically put it on hold via the Brooklyn Library’s mobile app. If it’s really good and I know I’ll want to read it again, then and only then will I purchase it.

It’s Not You It’s the Workplace: Women’s Conflict at Work and the Bias that Built It
By Andrea S. Kramer and Alton B. Harris

Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future 
by Andrew McAfee, Erik Brynjolfsson

The business of platforms: strategy in the age of digital competition, innovation, and power
by Michael A. Cusumano, Annabelle Gawer, David B. Yoffie

The Washington War: FDR’s Inner Circle and the Politics of Power That Won World War II
by James Lacey

Out of Our Minds: What We Think and How We Came to Think It
Felipe Fernández-Armesto

George Marshall: Defender of the Republic 
by David RollSlow Art Day 2020
Slow Art Day 2020 is April 4, 2020.

CG Councils member Ashley Moran is now volunteering with Slow Art Day and doing a great job.

If *you* are interested in volunteering for this global arts event, please get in touch.

Note: I started Slow Art Day in 2009 for three reasons:Create an antidote to our increasingly screen-based multi-tasking world
 Design a better art museum visitor experience.
 Teach product and CX leaders (and everyone) the art of seeing multiple perspectivesOver 200 museums and galleries all over the world participate every year. Reading Odyssey

About 15 years ago, I started Reading Odyssey to help CG Councils members and other adults reengage lifelong learning via reading some of the great books of history, science, literature, philosophy, etc. 

We’ve run programs with hundreds of thousands of readers all over the world (Darwin program and our Marathon program) and we run small reading groups via Zoom.

This fall we are reading Seneca and would love to have you join us. 

More information on the schedule (we meet once a month in the evening by phone) and how it works can be found here.
Final Note

Longtime CG Councils member and good friend, Aisling Hassell, VP of Community Support at Airbnb, has two openings in her global organization that readers might like to share with potential candidates they know.

Head of Community Support for EMEA

And they are also recruiting a head of support for North America (that posting is not up).

About the Author

Phyl Terry

Phyl Terry, Founder and CEO of Collaborative Gain, Inc., launched the company’s flagship leadership program – The Councils – in 2002 with a fellow group of Internet pioneers from Amazon, Google, and others. Thousands of leaders from the Internet world have come together in the last 15 years to learn the art of asking for help and to support each other to build better, more customer-centric products, services, and companies.

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