Late Winter / Early Spring Recommendations

Thanks in part to our friend El Nino, we've had quite a mild winter. I said it when I first moved here, and I'll say it again - future climate refugees will find Minnesota fairly attractive. Emily and I did our best to get outside and do some cross country skiing, jump in a frozen lake, and take trips to New York and Kansas City. Emily also finished her data collection for her dissertation and I made the decision to take a new job. 

Maybe I've just been streaming Life of Pablo too much, but I'm fired up for spring. 

Let's get on our Ultralight Beam and reflect on what I've loved reading, watching, eating, drinking and listening to over the last few weeks. 

Here we go...


The Expats - Chris Pavone

International espionage, family secrets and Luxembourg.  Beyond just being a vehicle for a engrossing story, this book has a bit of depth - with insightful commentary on marriage, family life, and adult friendship. 


Branding In the Age of Social Media - Douglas Holt

Can you build brands digitally? For as long as I've worked in advertising / marketing I've been trying to answer this question. Companies generally look at digital brand building in one of two ways - digital as an extension of their offline communications strategy, or digital as an opportunity to build brand through services. From these two approaches you can see how the advertising industry has created a glut of "branded content" that very rarely breaks through. On the other side, you see organizations attempting to create digital products and services to "delight" customers as a way to drive loyalty. 

It's not that either of these approaches are wrong - there is nothing wrong with trying to reach more people more efficiently or creating services that your consumers actually want, but it just may not be enough to break through the branded clutter. 

Building brand is about connecting emotionally with people by creating culture, not just sitting on top of it. Holt argues that companies are struggling to break through with both messaging and services because they are lacking in cultural innovation. While companies are good at coordinating campaigns and monitoring generally meaningless metrics, they fail to have strong points of view that break through all of the content, services, and digital experiences screaming at us everyday. 


What Google Learned From It's Quest to Build The Perfect Team - Charles Duhigg

This is a fascinating investigation of what it takes to build effective teams in today's work environment. Turns out creating psychological safety within teams allows for some of the best work. 


The Miyagi Method Of Organizational Transformation - Flox

"Management consulting has wrongly encouraged companies to outsource their own ability to change." This is a great articulation of what is wrong with the consulting industry today. This article (even if it is a bit of sales pitch) describes the possibility for a better future where both consultant and client are engaged on equal footing to drive meaningful organizational growth and change.  

Kraft Ran The Largest Blind Taste Test Ever and No One Noticed - PSFK

Last year Kraft announced that they would be removing artificial colors, dyes and preservatives from their macaroni and cheese. Predictably, there was backlash from loyal consumers. The easy route would have been to acquiesce to those vocal consumers and keep the recipe the same.

Instead, they changed the recipe for three months and didn't tell anyone. They replaced artificial dyes with paprika, annatto, and turmeric. There was no uptick in negative consumer feedback. 

From now on, the packaging will emphasize the new recipe change. Kraft's revenues are currently projected to stay the same, but they are now growing their audience base with the new recipe, which may translate into both sales and market share.  

Takeaways - 

1. An over reliance on (noisy, post-hoc) consumer feedback can derail progress

2. Thoughtfully designed experimentation creates better information that makes big, scary changes to iconic product lower risk. 

A trend story about millennials, by The New York Times - Jason O. Gilbert

This is just hilarious.

Surprisingly Awesome - Gimlet



The People Versus O.J. Simpson - FX

I remember the O.J. trial, but I definitely was not old enough to remember the O.J. trial. It's fun to watch and realize what a strange and fascinating ordeal it was. The acting is great, and the pacing and plot are unfolding nicely, even if it has taken some liberties with the truth. 

Billions - Showtime

Occupied - Netflix

Imagine a future when Russia occupies Norway for access to its oil. Created by Jo Nesbo (one of my favorite Norwegian crime writers), the show imagines a future that feels very plausible. Maybe too plausible. 

Eat / Drink

Exile Brewing - Des Moines, Iowa

Loved almost every beer we sampled there on our way down to Kansas City, especially their sours. 

Q39 - Kansas City

The coffee, food, and cocktails in Kansas City were amazing, but Q39 was definitely a standout. While BBQ traditionalists may be skeptical of the slightly upscale flair, I promise the bbq is as good as it is anywhere. 

See the full KC list here -

Wear - 

Adidas NMD Runner

Away - Carry On

This carry on is pretty magical - it charges your devices, it is super light, and looks amazing. On the downside it forces you to pack a lot less than usual :)

Listen - 

Beyond Life of Pablo (Which you should listen to over and over), see the playlist below for what I've been into lately. 

Daniel Prager