Simple to understand, incredibly hard to do

Good Sunday morning to you! This week we’re talking strategy, but before we get into it, a quick word about my strategic goal for this newsletter.

My aim is grow to 1,000 subscribers by the end of the summer ?

You can help me get there! If you enjoy these emails, please share by forwarding this to 1 or 2 friends. Thank you ?

Let’s get to it…

Jeff Bezos recently announced to shareholders that the $4bn in profits Amazon reported would be reinvested.

This isn’t abnormal for Bezos who believes he can grow that $4bn better than anyone, preferring to plow profits back into his many businesses.

But this reinvestment was notable for it’s theme: Covid-19.

Jeff Bezos is developing the earth’s first “vaccinated” supply chain.

The details are easy enough to understand: at-home Covid-19 testing, plasma donors, coronavirus research websites, and new protocols for distancing and compensation of delivery drivers, grocery store staff, and health care workers — all roles that exist within Amazon and its subsidiaries.

As Prof. Galloway has pointed out, the genius is breathtaking. From his weekly newsletter:

“Any customer, vendor, supplier or worker who wants a near-virus-free supply chain, will have a selection set of one. It’s possible the largest new consumer category in history is testing for Covid-19. Amazon may become the market share leader in this category. I believe Amazon will offer Prime members testing at a scale and efficiency that makes America feel like South Korea (competent). The “vaccinated” supply chain, as tested and safe as possible, will create a more muscular and immune fulfillment organism, offering stakeholders paramount value — real and perceived.”

Amazon has the balance sheet to pull this off. They own the last mile of distribution. And they move fast (and sometimes break things).

This got me thinking.

What they are doing is pretty simple to understand, but incredibly hard to pull off. And this is what sets them apart as a business behemoth.

When explaining why he thought Amazon was better positioned than eBay, despite the San Jose upstart eclipsing them in market cap in the early 2000’s, Bezos said:

“Building distribution centers, carrying inventory and shipping packages is hard. And that’s a good thing, because it will be hard for competitors to replicate. Investors don’t like how hard our business is, but that’s exactly what I do like about our business.

Elon Musk had a similar view when explaining why they made their own seats for the Model X:

“We believe that companies add value by doing hard things. Not outsourcing those hard things to other people, because then they deserve the value.”

Warren Buffett describes his favorite businesses as easy to understand but not easy for competitors to do, i.e. they have a moat.

Now this really got me thinking.

What can I be doing that is simple to understand, but really hard to do?

Enter The Corporate Learning Flywheel

Released into the wild for the first time, to my subscribers only, is the first version of this idea.

In today’s new world, companies are losing the benefits of a workforce that interacts and learns from each other. They are losing organic learning that takes place at desks and in conference rooms.

Instead, they have to rely on formal learning interventions. But the mistake they make is to replicate classroom learning design online. This doesn’t work. No one can sit on a video call all day.

No one wants a lecture through a laptop.

We need to be doing, building, creating. We need to be receiving feedback from our peers. We need to be able to ask questions of experts.

This Flywheel can be created in a virtual environment.

Structures, programs and incentives must be aligned to help Learners learn from Peers, evolve into Experts and ultimately become Teachers, continuing to grow as Learners again (as all good teachers do). Cohort learning and user-generated content (UGC) are key components of the Flywheel.

I’m still working out the details for implementing this, and hope to do so with the help of current clients.

The idea is pretty simple, but the execution… now that’s going to be hard. Just how it should be.

What can you be doing that is simple to understand, but really hard to do?

Till next time, stay safe.


P.S. are you interested in helping with the development of the Flywheel? I’m looking for a small group to provide feedback on the idea (including the name!) and help me poke holes in the concept (and fill them). Hit reply and let me know if you want to help out!


There was a tie two weeks ago between the subject article from the email, about the future of careers in an online world, and an old favorite on the cognitive theory of multimedia learning design.


??‍?How to Buy a Domain Name

I received quite a few responses to my previous email about buying a domain in the name of my son. If you want to do this for yourself or your kids, or even as a gift to someone you know, I recorded a quick video to show you how.

⏳Why You Have No Time

I came across this excellent article in the Atlantic back in February and it finally finds it’s way into the newsletter, at a time where it seems like we should have all the time in the world, but it doesn’t really feel like it. Do you feel this too?

In the article, Derek Thompson proposes three reasons for this that are worth pondering:

  1. Better technology means higher expectations—and higher expectations create more work.
    1. e.g. – automatic washers and dryers raised our expectations for clean clothes and encouraged people to go out and buy new items, creating more loads of laundry to wash, dry, and fold.
  2. A lot of modern overwork is class and status maintenance—for this generation and the next
    1. e.g. – Since the 1980’s child care has been the fastest-growing component of housework. Economists label this a “rug rat race” led parents devoting more hours to prepare their kids for competitive college entrance and job markets.
  3. Technology only frees people from work if the boss—or the government, or the economic system—allows it.
    1. e.g. – what’s the #1 thing that has decreased the amount of housework done by women since the 1960’s? Women entering the workforce. Employers insist on a 40-hour week, or more; and we typically oblige. It doesn’t matter whether technology stays the same, or improves by leaps and bounds. The workweek is fixed and predetermined.

Thompson concludes by saying that we “tend to use new productivity and technology to buy a better life rather than to enjoy more downtime in inferior conditions.”

We’d collectively prefer more money and more stuff rather than more downtime.

Thinking about the antidote to this reminds me of a great quote from Ryan Holiday:

? The Future is For Makers

Two weeks ago I wrote about makers. I briefly highlighted five factors that make it easier for individuals to own their own content and distribution, build their own audiences, and create their own careers. Well this past week, Spotify signed a licensing deal worth north of $100m with the King of Podcasts, Joe Rogan.

This is massive news for creators of all kinds – podcasters for sure, but also anyone monetizing newsletters, online courses and other digital products. These creators form part of what has become known as The Passion Economy.

If you’re interested in this world, I highly recommend Packy McCormick’s article Spotify Calls Him Daddy, in which he breaks down the Spotify-Rogan union by explaining why this is such a massive win for creators, what this will potentially do to the media landscape of individuals and aggregators, and what this means for Spotify’s future strategy (hint: Packy is pretty bullish). He’s pretty bullish on you too.

“The gold rush is on. There has never been a better time to be an individual creator. Launch a podcast, write a newsletter, teach an online course, build a small e-commerce brand. If you’re reading this from a computer or phone, you have the tools you need to create. With your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account, you have a world of customers within reach.”


  1. 9 tips for a productive organization from the CIA
    1. Using Charlie Munger’s favorite mental model “invert, always invert” to tackle problems from new angles, I found some advice from the CIA that you can do the opposite of to create a productive organization.
  2. Custom Learning Experiences: The Indisputable Benefits
    1. How a “one-size-fits-all” approach to training just isn’t enough.
  3. Prior knowledge: the most important factor for learning
    1. How to use advance organizers to active prior knowledge and improve learning retention in your programs.


Motion > direction.

Most good things you do or achieve in life come after just getting started; after building momentum.

You often can’t see where you need to go until you start moving.

This email newsletter was originally shared with subscribers on May 31st, 2020. To receive the latest newsletters twice a month, sign up below!

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap