Sunday Briefing: On competitive advantages, ill-structured domains, world building, and Shopify

Sunday Briefing: On competitive advantages, ill-structured domains, world building, and Shopify

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Welcome to the Sunday Briefing newsletter where I share some of the interesting lessons in life, business, and investing that I’ve come across during the week.

The past few weeks saw the world taking a step back in progression in a horrific fashion. Humanity’s greatest political achievement, the long-term decline in war, is being broken down from an unjust war with unjust objectives. (Yuval Harari has written a great piece in The Economist on Feb 9th on history-changing, human choices which you can read with an Economist subscription here).

Luckily, the Kremlin has already lost the media war and the economic war. Hope this all ends soon.

What I’ve been reading

Why competitive advantages die.

The only thing harder than gaining a competitive edge is not losing that advantage when you have one. That’s as true for careers and investment strategies as it is for business. And since people are naturally optimistic, there’s a tendency to put more thought into finding an edge than not losing it once you find one.

Ill-structured, novel domains.

One problem with case studies is that humans aren’t great at remembering all the ‘variegated detail’ of each case — and each case often has a large number of concepts interwoven into the history. So the researchers recommend using a hypertextual system — that is, a system where you can link to other notes, or link to tags that in turn link to other notes. You get the student to store each case and ask them to highlight concepts. Concepts are backlinked. They go to other cases.

World building.

If you want to change how a system works, and move the system into a new steady state that’s closer to your goal, sequential effort won’t do much. What you need is parallel effort: you need several different things to happen, all at the same time, for the system to actually move in the direction that you want and stay there.

Shopify’s evolution.

[…] Shopify has remained a company that is focused first-and-foremost on its merchants and its mission to “help people achieve independence by making it easier to start, run, and grow a business.” That independence doesn’t just mean one-person entrepreneurs either: good-size brands like Gymshark, Rebecca Minkoff, KKW Beauty, Kylie Cosmetics, and FIGS leverage Shopify to build brands that are independent of Amazon in particular.

Quote of the week

“History is just one damned thing after another”

—Arnold Toynbee

A thought

During the Vietnam War, Ho Chi Minh said, “You will kill ten of us, and we will kill one of you, but it is you who will tire first.” Emotional battles can go on longer than expected (just like speculation).

Have a great coming week,
Oliver Sung

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