s12e59: Look, the Disney Thing; Weak signals, Zoom; Commoditization breeds Complacency
0.0 Context Setting
It's Tuesday, 4 October, 2022 in Portland, Oregon, and it is unseasonably warm.
1.0 Some Things That Caught My Attention
Look, the Disney Thing
Okay, last episode I did a slightly newslettered version of the whole thing.
wait, so visiting Disney for a lot of people (Americans) is like visiting a place where the infrastructure works and has been continually invested in? (tweet)
Since then, a whole bunch more has caught my attention, namely even more stories about how Disney is a safe and accessible place to visit to some (some) people:
It’s also that for women especially it’s safer to walk around by yourself then almost anywhere else in the world (Rachel Amber Bloom)
I listen to a lot of solo trip podcast episodes and it's incredible how many women go to Disney World solo for these reasons (Chappell Ellison)
same, I've been literally been to that place regularly my entire life and it wasn't until last year that I realized the "magic" in 2022 is that Disney World is one of the last spaces in America designed with kids in mind, where they can roam freely without fear of gun violence (Chappell Ellison)
When I was a kid we went to Disney World and it was literally the first time my sister and I were allowed to go off and do things by ourselves because there was safe public transit (the monorail!). The freedom was incredible. (Rusty Foster)
And where there are actual efforts made at accessibility and all the employees know how to assist folks with wheelchairs or walkers. They don't have to go find The One Guy Who Knows. (dave bonner)
It's also the most accessible vacation destination in the world, especially for people with food allergies, who can eat safely on every restaurant on-property with zero worry (rahaeli)
I mean, there's a lot more replies and observations in the thread. And I want to acknowledge a lot of nuance here: that the respondents point out Disney as being a place where white people feel safe, that I pointed out that I haven't seen as many (any?) guest-documented instances of racist or sexist behavior. Look, there are so many reasons for this. That Disney is a corporation and has the ability to just decide things. That Disney has a structure that in some way prioritizes a long-term view. That people choose to come to Disney because of reasons other than its relative safety, like its Intellectual Property Franchises And Their Expression In Interactive Physical Space).
I mean, one of the things Disney does have is some level of healthcare provision! I did not think it would have that! There's urgent care clinics, prescription fulfillment and so on. Now, those services are provided/contracted out by a third-party healthcare provider, so it's still embedded in the U.S. Healthcare System. Services may be available, charges may (i.e. will) apply, and so on.
What I wanted to focus on, or at least the bit that flipped in my head, was not just that Disney has a lot of this infrastructure, but that it's also potentially the first time that Americans may experience this level of infrastructure implementation at all. (I'm focussing on Americans here because I live in America). And with that first time comes extra attention to detail, like making sure the signage is good because people have never ridden on public transit before.
Weak signals, Zoom
Quick one this. Few things that caught my attention:
- First, Zoom started including a banner at the top of the main application window (the one that includes Team Chat, Phone, Contacts etc) that was along the lines of "Hey, refer someone and get credits!"
- Then Zoom started running that banner as a separate pop-up window on application launch.
- Then Zoom changed its icon from the abstract video camera icon to the wordmark, "zoom"
This all smells like Zoom are freaking out and that growth is plateauing. I mean, this is all growth hacking stuff and it's super skeezy. Or at least, it's understandable as a sort of product phenotype/expression of certain internal management proteins being expressed from the, uh, mission statement DNA. Wow. Tortured analogy there, Dan.
Commoditization breeds complacency
The New York City Sanitation Department is hiring McKinsey for a containerization study and design a pilot, one of the outcomes of which is expected to be:
The goal is for McKinsey to design a request for proposal that can ensure that “it is not just another pilot, but something that can actually work all over the city,” DSNY spokesman Joshua Goodman said. “In other words, in a matter of months, we will have a final, market-ready Request for Proposals — including recommended commercial terms, performance requirements, and specifications. The details on widespread, scalable containerization in New York City are finally almost here.”
This kicked off my usual consultant-consulting-on-RFP threat-response mechanism, this time focussing on: under what circumstances and in what environment is an external consultant needed to design that organization's RFP for them?
Here's the short version: you would expect NYC's department of sanitation to, well, know how to do sanitation and know how to it well because that is its core purpose. In general -- and in my experience -- this kind of thing happens, where external consultants are needed, because a bunch of hollowing-out of experience has happened in favour of outsourcing and contract management. This happens over years and decades to the extent that any capability in the actual service delivery domain is vestigial and sidelined, or not effective and influential enough to do whatever it is the department is supposed to do. Which isn't to say that there's no capability whatsoever, just that there are pockets and it's not joined up enough or coordinated well enough, or even given enough shit-umbrella air cover and purpose to actually get the job done. I will try to refrain mentioning more about procurement here.
Anyway. One of the observation-quips that popped into my head here was that commoditization breeds complacency, in that perceived commoditization of a thing (i.e. enough other people do it so that you can kind of buy it off the shelf) helps an organization orient toward behaviour that all they have to do is manage somebody else doing the core thing because there's... what, value-add on top? I mean, that kind of thing happens in the private sector, where banks now provide underlying financial services and then non-banks are on the top providing an ostensibly value-add UI/UX-type layer. But... there is value-add in sanitation?
Anyway. As pointed out, NYC invented modern waste management, so... somehow they devolved that capability intentionally over time.
The contract is worth $4 million. The thing to do would be to see whether the RFP that comes out results in something that demonstrably improves sanitation outcomes. You know, to see if it was worth it. And if it wasn't worth it, then what's the alternative? That's where I keep coming back to a bootstrapping problem where if it makes sense to have the capability to do the work McKinsey is being asked to do, how do you build that expertise if you appear to be building from nothing?
Okay, that's it for today. Still getting into the swing of things. How are you?