Can a strong culture be the end all, be all for success? Will the company enter a new era with the passing of its iconic leader?

Tony Hsieh’s Zappos (1999–2020)

For 21 years, Zappos was led by a big character and widely admired entrepreneur, Tony Hsieh. As its CEO, he developed a strong culture of going the extra mile to achieve customer loyalty. Tony himself had decided to move the company from its San Francisco base to Las Vegas, in search of finding people who were absolutely committed to providing the best customer experience. Zappos culture was designed to show a strong sense of ownership, a customer-centric commitment from each employee, who proudly calls themselves Zapponian.

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According to 2016 INSEAD case study of Zappos, the company’s strategy of “WOWing” required call center representatives to be on call as long as it takes, to build “personal emotional connections” with each caller. Zappos believed that vendors should be treated with the same mentality and visibility. The company sent employees to meet vendors at the airport for each visit, created an “extranet” to give them complete sales and merchandising metrics. …


Airbnb’s humble beginnings and 2020 strives

What is disruptive innovation?

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Clayton Christensen, the late Harvard Business School professor, was the first scholar to develop the theory of disruptive innovation in 1980s. Since then this theory has been widely used by Silicon Valley to build the tech industry. He and his colleague wrote a Harvard Business Review article in December 2015 to review the application and relevance of this theory.

An example of disruptive innovation is peer-to-peer (P2P) commerce, with Airbnb as the prime example. The company’s platform allows direct booking from visitors to stay at a spare room or an entire apartment from qualified hosts. Previously, travelers had to go through centralized companies like hotel chains to book an overnight stay. …


Lessons learned from JetBlue and the J.Peterman Company

JetBlue in 2004:

JetBlue was ambitious in 2004, with a goal to grow into a company of 25,000 employees and 270 planes. David Neeleman, the founder and CEO of JetBlue at the time, is the center of the Fast Company article. The author shadowed Neeleman as he boarded a JetBlue flight to Salt Lake City after working a 14-hour-day. In contrast, the 1999 Harvard Business Review article is J. Peterman’s own chronicle of the many mistakes leading to the collapse of his own company — the J. Peterman company.

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Neeleman was not a novice in the airline industry. He had started two small low-cost airlines Morris Air and WestJet before starting JetBlue. He was aware that his forte is in launching business, therefore, he made sure to surround himself with mature talents to help JetBlue grow. JetBlue COO, David Barger, oversaw the company’s operational matters, which resembles a bureaucratic control that ensures systematic efficiency. …


Analysis of HBR and Wikipedia articles on the topic of social dilemma, and generational difference.

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Harvard Business Review Article: How Gen Y & Boomers Will Reshape Your Agenda

The authors emphasize the connections between Millenial (Gen Y) and Baby Boomers in terms of workplace references. Baby boomers, more experienced, are the cohorts that will be leaving the workforce in the next decade. Gen Y, young and joining the workforce for the first time, will make a big impact on the new workplace.

From their surveys, the authors describe the similar values between these two cohorts: a drive to contribute to social change, an incline toward more flexible workplaces (i.e: the option to work remotely or to take sabbatical), and a desire to explore passions, and personal fulfillments.

To adapt to the new workplace, the authors suggest that innovative firms of the future will have modularity (chunking of work), flexibility (options for remote working), opportunities to give back (gap year program), progressive policies (toward certain causes such as climate change), and intergenerational mentoring (between Boomer-aged executives and Gen Y employees).


Lessons drawn from articles about Microsoft’s 2005 and 2013 restructurings and how the company has revitalized itself to stay competitive in 2020.

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In 2005, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer initiated a corporate reorganization which led to the formation of three separate autonomous divisions: Platforms and Services, Microsoft Business Division, and Entertainment and Devices. Ballmer, in an interview with the Associated Press, was optimistic that a reorganization to divisional structure would allow executives to make faster, crisper actions to help Microsoft stay nimble.

The company’s reorganization will merge seven business units into three divisions. That is aimed at helping the company become more nimble and giving executives broader power to make decisions without bringing in top leaders.

Microsoft in 2005 was facing tremendous competition from different upstarts in different markets, such as Apple for mobile, Google for search engine and PlayStation for entertainment device. Thus, this move was an attempt to help Microsoft focus on different products and stay competitive. …


The lessons we can learn from the ancient foragers. Link of Harari’s book Sapien, published in 2014.

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Hunter-Gather Genes:

Every time I go to the dentist, the dental hygienist would ask me about my sugar intake. Similarly, when I go to the doctors for checkup, they would ask me to have a blood test to check my blood glucose and and blood cholesterol. It is grilled in my mind that sweets and greasy food are bad for my health. Yet, I often wonder why we as a species binge on sweetest and greasiest food. According to Harrari’s Sapien, we have inherited the gorging gene.

In the savannahs and forests they inhabited, high-calorie sweets were extremely rare and food in general was in short supply. A typical forager 30,000 years ago had access to only one type of sweet food — ripe fruit. If a Stone Age woman came across a tree groaning with figs, the most sensible thing to do was to eat as many of them as she could on the spot, before the local baboon band picked the tree bare. …


Part II of my summary of this book. See part I here.

If you like this review, please check out my profile here for more book reviews.

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DETOXIFY:

James Hamblin set out to create a skin care comapmny (against the advice of his girlfriend) after he learned about the process firsthand through skin care entrepreneurs who had little or no prior knowledge or experience. He decided on the tag line “Brunson+Sterling: Menscare for Fucking Perfect Skin.” He contacted his friend, a designer to create a logo for the company, and to help with a budget for website and Instagram advertising.

Dr. Hamblin used his address to register the Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) as a new vendor, without having to specify “what’s in the product, or provide any evidence that it was safe, or that it had any effects at all.” When he finally decided on a recipe, he went to Whole Foods, and bought an assortment of trendy ingredients: jojoba oil, vitamin C, collagen, acacia fiber (a prebiotic), turmeric, shea butter, honey, coconut oil. He made the mixture and packed them into two-ounce Amazon brown glass jars, and posted the product on Squarespace website. Voila! …


Here are my notes and reflections while learning and coping with the unexpected death of my father, who I was not able to see due to the pandemic.

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The course is my attempt to reevaluate my life, 6 months into the biggest pandemic I have seen in my relatively short lifetime. It’s also my way of coping with the recent loss of my father in July 2020. Living in Vietnam at the time, he had avoided COVID-19 and recently recovered from a heart surgery to install a pacemaker, only to passed away suddenly of cardiac arrest 10 days after.

Like Dr. Strecher, I was hit with unexpected enormous grief and I too was lost. By any immigrant’s record, I have been lucky and established: I have a great partner, a stable job, a small house in a medium size city. But you see, that is everybody else’s standards, and a tragic incident like the loss of my father really triggered for me that fundamental, yet grossly neglected question: What the hell really matters to me?


Link to James Hambin’s new book, published June 2020. This is part I of my summary of this book. To continue reading part II, please click here.

If you like this book review, please check out my profile here for more reviews.

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I was not looking for any particular topic within the Health section, I only picked up this book because of its minimalistic cover and title “Clean.” I have never heard of Dr. James Hamblin before, but after reading the brief book summary, I decided to give it a try. To my satisfaction, this book lives up to its cover and more, it offers clear and at times challenging insights about the inner workings of our largest organ — the skin. …


This is a book review of Billion-Dollar Brand Club: The Rebel Startups Disrupting Industry Empires by Lawrence Ingrassia, published in 2020.

If you like this review, please check out my profile here for more book reviews.

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I picked up this book as a recommendation from my library’s new arrivals, and I was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining and thought-provoking it is. The book is written for an audience that craves business-building stories, who binge-listen to real-world stories from business podcasts such as “How I Built This”, “Brought to you By” or “Planet Money.”

It is a detailed, fast-paced series of stories of digital startups in the last 10 years, many of which have become the new iconic brands used by Millenials and thus achieved ‘unicorn’ status as billion-dollar companies. In the first chapter, the author, Lawrence Ingrassia, takes the audiences behind the scenes into the story of Michael Dubin, founder of Dollar Shave Club. …

About

Vic Danh

A motivated learner and observer of technological, health and social trends, and a part-time creative writer.

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