The future of work: social, pop culture and wood stain

This classic ad from 1994 is now part of British pop culture. ‘It does exactly what it says on the tin’ is a great catch phrase, and it’s also a great way to describe a whole class of product and a whole class of startup.

It’s really easy to explain what Rigup, Everlaw, Onshape, Figma or are trying to do. They might not succeed (just as the wood stain might not be any good) but you know exactly what the problem is. You could say the same about WhatsApp, or perhaps even early Instagram. They’re discoveries - they found a problem and found a solution (and then executed like crazy for a decade, of course). ‘Do you need wood stain that’s quick drying - yes or no?’

On the other hand, in the last decade, as social has expanded and splintered way beyond Facebook, we’ve had an endless flow of new social experiences that aren’t utilities in that way - they’re pieces of pop culture. They have some ideas about how people feel and ideas about something that might express that, and they launch out into the internet like fireworks, or like fashions, bands or magazines. They think they see some piece of the zeitgeist and some way to express it.

That’s been clear for a while, but I think you could say the same thing about a lot of new productivity apps as well - they’re trying to capture something intangible about the way we (Read more...)