Saturday Cup of Joe: a leadership and tech(ish) newsletter from Detroit

Saturday Cup of Joe #123.

Detroit, MI, USA

Friends & Colleagues,

Week 123. A little bit of a different approach this week. Since I was on the road Tuesday through Saturday (today), I figured I’d include a bit more original content than usual. Hope that’s ok. My week was Detroit, Boston, Newport, Cape Cod, Boston, Detroit. It will be good to be home later today.

I’m lucky to be able to get home. To all our friends, family and future friends & family in North Carolina and South Carolina, we wish you the best during this dangerous moment. Florence is making landfall in Wilmington, NC and covering much of the coast, even as I prepare to send this out. Stay strong and we all are pulling for no more loss of life than we’ve already endured during this storm. Be well, NC & SC!


Earlier this week, I was able to brainstorm with some big data innovators in Boston, present a panel on the “new products for the new borrower” at the New England Mortgage Bankers Conference, and finish up my week with some meetings with CATIC Financial about the next year in the company’s growth. It’s been an inspiring and exciting to be working on the big industry questions and trying to create solutions for future homeowners and homebuyers.


Coffee facts for the average cup of joe:

· It can take over 9 hours for caffeine levels in your bloodstream to decrease by half.

· A typical 8-ounce cuppa has 95 milligrams of caffeine.

· The USDA strongly advises humans ingest no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day.

· A grande Starbucks Pike Place blend pours a whopping 310 mg.

· Too much caffeine can make you feel hyper-alert, jittery, anxious, paranoid . . .

Just the right amount of coffee, at the right time (like a Saturday morning), however can be just what the doctor ordered. So to speak.

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash


“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” — Plutarch


Love List: Have you ever heard of the Love List? The list that Conde Nast and Goldman Sachs agree is the list of the fasting growing or beloved brands among Millennials and Gen Z in retail, fashion and luxury companies. My reason for including this here is that the trends reflected in these industries are not limited to retail, fashion and luxury. The brands on the list are limited to those industries. The larger lessons and trends are not limited to retail. The next brands and mover brands can tell you and your company about what these consumers value. For instance, understanding that younger consumers are finding value in existing brands versus startup brands can tell you and your organization about how quickly change is coming. Or, knowing what are the fastest growing brands can help build better marketing and messaging for whatever you’re building.


Big data: I attended a big data innovation summit earlier this week in Boston. One of the topics that was applicable to any business was correlation. When a product spikes or falls, when revenue shifts unexpectedly or when nothing is anomalous in the business at all, how do you know? We all have KPIs and dashboards. We look at the numbers. One of the hardest questions to answer when something happens is — what else happened at this time to create these conditions? We often rely on assumptions or gut feel or perhaps the first explanation offered instead of knowing we found a root cause. As technology becomes a larger part of all our businesses, it is easier to adopt concepts like “root cause” in the management side of the business.

And this is all premised on whether you’ve actually identified an issue in the business. Imagine for a minute you have an app like Candy Crush with in-app purchases like tokens or rewards or more games. You may have one in-app purchase in one game just on Android phones where users cannot confirm the purchase, causing you revenue leak. Unless a consumer complains, how would you know those purchases are problematic? It’s not big enough leak to trigger activity or revenue loss. It could be weeks before someone notices.

Correlation is important in decisions big and small. Find what metrics or processes you’ll use and then constantly test, monitor and rethink the basic premise. Look for correlation but don’t stop there. Find the root cause.


The automated check-in at Yotel Boston. The best.


Regulatory trends: What do you make of the FTC’s Consumer Protection arm announcing a renewed focus on Fintech and lead generation? FTC has a different but important focus in lending and Fintech with broad enforcement authority. This will be something to keep an eye on.


The room service robot at Yotel Boston. So cool.



Planning. Activity. Decisions.

This was an important concept for me to consider this week. Activity is not a decision and visa versa. This week consider your decisions. First and foremost, are you making decisions that address exactly what you’re supposed to be focused on? Second, how do you ensure the activity is actually leading to a decision? P.A.D.


Answer Well: Objectivity. This is a tough one. We are all constant, swirling balls of assumptions. We’re making assumptions all day, every day about everything. Given that’s true, it might be easy to give up on the perception of objectivity and just stop trying to manage assumptions. Instead, I always look for ways to move toward objectivity and consider a decision without all the baked in assumptions. For this I try intellectual distance.

Intellectual distance is one way to create an arm’s length from the decision and try for an objective view. I once heard someone talking about personal decisions by trying to imagine themselves outside their own body above and behind watching themselves — what would I think of a different person making this choice?

I’m sure it doesn’t work for everyone but trying to balance going into a decision with all the emotion and gut feeling of being personally tied to it (even business decisions are personal, right?) with removing all the work, cost and effort to make the best decision. Not easy but something to help with decision-making framework.


Want a wild idea to get a “stuck idea” unstuck? Try this. Cancel it. Cancel it with one week to spare. See what happens. You’ll either discover innovation or properly cancel the thing.


Decision-making: You are the most you you’ll ever be when making decisions under pressure. According to this study from Ohio State, people are generally selfish or pro-social and when under pressure selfish people lean more into being selfish and pro-social types lean more on that. However, “when people have more time to decide, they are more likely to go against their bias as they evaluate the options in front of them.”

How do you handle pressure? Do you demand more time to decide? What’s your framework when there is not more time? What do you do?


New England baseball at its best.
New England beer at its (labeling) best.


Friction: So much of the decisions we make are about friction. How customers make decisions — frictionless. How our companies should be thinking about value? How do we reduce friction? First, who is your customer? It’s important to understand whether the friction your company or product is reducing is actually the friction your target audience feels. Once it is clear that the company or team is focused on reducing the right friction for the right customer, you can turn your attention to adding value. But the best idea in the world can fall flat if the problem wasn’t that much of an issue to begin with. Start with friction and a strategy will materialize.


Today’s thought: How do you socialize and circulate information? Leaders must build consensus and buy in across both teams and senior leaders. Everyone must “lead up” and manage their leaders to accomplish or help accomplish the team’s goals. We’re all doing it. It takes time and effort to build relationships that benefit the team. To do it right, which is to say — effective, takes determination. (That’s why it’s so rare).


Quote: “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” — Plato


Bonus Content: This kinda weird but interesting talk on entrepreneurship, passion and purpose by Tom Bilyeu.

Late summer. Cape Cod, MA. USA.

Continued success and continue to answer well,

Thinker, curious leader, once an attorney…always trying to answer well.