Tag Archives: hn

SCARF: a brain-based collaboration model

At YC’s Startup School NYC, Shana Fisher brought up an amazing resource called SCARF.

SCARF stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness.

With these five areas, stands positive (approach) and negative (avoid) modes of interacting with people. As the title says, SCARF is based on neuroscience research to correlate human interaction & collaboration with physical brain activity.

When you are being threatened with a SCARF metric, you will perform worse (due to “less oxygen and glucose available for the brain functions involved in working memory“). On the contrary, when you have an opportunity to increase a SCARF metric, you perform better since you don’t have decreased cognitive resources.

There are lots of findings and useful applications, so I encourage you to read about SCARF.

Profit Center Based Work

When it comes to work that will build a great career, Patrick McKenzie has great advice:

Profit Centers are the part of an organization that bring in the bacon: partners at law firms, sales at enterprise software companies, “masters of the universe” on Wall Street, etc etc. Cost Centers are, well, everybody else. You really want to be attached to Profit Centers because it will bring you higher wages, more respect, and greater opportunities for everything of value to you.

The gist is that you want your role at the company to correlate with revenue generation.

If your role leads to more revenue, your role will always be in demand.  Sales functions have so much money allocated into them with the expectation that it is an investment. Back office tasks (HR, accounting, etc.) are essential, but they do not generate gross revenue and are always on the chopping block.

Is the answer to any headline that ends in a question ‘yes’?



Via HN, Wikipedia states Betteridge’s Law of Headlines:

Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word ‘no’.

If you think about it, this makes sense. Articles that could be answered by ‘yes’ choose to state the news in the headline rather than asking a fake question.

Or as Wikipedia explains it, “The maxim trends towards being universally true because of a simple principle of headline writing: if a story has enough sources to have a high chance of accuracy, a headline will be assertive”.

This interests me as it’s a news headline hack that tends to work. Find out the answer without having to go past the jump.

Management Philosophy

A couple pieces on business management (via HN).

Matthew Stewart, founder of a consulting firm that eventually grew to 600 employees, cuts to the heart of management theory:

Between them, Taylor and Mayo carved up the world of management theory. According to my scientific sampling, you can save yourself from reading about 99 percent of all the management literature once you master this dialectic between rationalists and humanists. The Taylorite rationalist says: Be efficient! The Mayo-ist humanist replies: Hey, these are people we’re talking about!

For any given management theory, the support is from numbers (where Stewart mentions, “[pacifying] recalcitrant data with entirely confected numbers“) or emotions (where Stewart says, “And who would want to take a stand against creativity, freedom, empowerment, and—yes, let’s call it by its name—love?“).

Ben Horowitz, CEO of Opsware (acquired by HP in 2007), describes the difference between peace and wartime CEOs:

Peacetime in business means those times when a company has a large advantage vs. the competition in its core market, and its market is growing. In times of peace, the company can focus on expanding the market and reinforcing the company’s strengths.

In wartime, a company is fending off an imminent existential threat. Such a threat can come from a wide range of sources including competition, dramatic macro economic change, market change, supply chain change, and so forth.

The piece goes over the top in describing the difference in thinking of peace VS war CEOs. That said, it does a great job of explaining that different CEO roles are needed when a company is looking for the right product/market fit (aka a viable business plan) VS growing their market share.

Paul Graham’s Upwind

As a new reader of HN, I was poking around PG’s site and this blurb really stood out to me:

I don’t think people consciously realize this, but one reason downwind jobs like churning out Java for a bank pay so well is precisely that they are downwind. The market price for that kind of work is higher because it gives you fewer options for the future. A job that lets you work on exciting new stuff will tend to pay less, because part of the compensation is in the form of the new skills you’ll learn.

PG’s essays are usually good, insightful reads, but this blurb just jumped out at me.

His concept of Upwind vs Downwind is about maximizing your potential. If you’re upwind, you have many possible paths forward (since you haven’t specialized yourself into a niche). While you’re downwind, you don’t have as many doors open to you, but you should be making the big bucks.

I find myself in an “other” category, since I don’t consider myself in a high potential upwind or highly compensated downwind position. I’m downwind yet I’m making peanuts. My solution to this is to gradually get upwind by expanding my skills (reading about UXD and RoR) over time.