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Why Jeff Williams May Not Be the Next Apple CEO—Data Sheet

A trio of tech snippets—with my take—to start your day:

* Bloomberg Businessweek’s estimable Apple reporter Mark Gurman has a piece in the current issue that calls Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams the heir apparent to his longtime boss, Tim Cook. It reminded me of the feature I wrote in Fortune in 2008 calling Tim Cook the most likely replacement for Steve Jobs. I quoted an unnamed source in that article—still a prominent Silicon Valley personage—calling Cook’s ascension “laughable.” While old-school Apple aficionados will similarly argue vociferously that Williams shouldn’t succeed Cook, Gurman makes a textured and forceful argument why he will. The reason: Smooth operations and profitable services define Apple today more than nifty products and outside-the-box thinking. If I were placing bets, I’d guess that Apple’s board will not choose the next CEO in the mold of the current one, though, just as Cook couldn’t have been more different than Jobs. Seeing as Cook doesn’t appear to going anywhere, the argument seems to be more parlor game than urgent analysis. Apple reports earnings this afternoon.

* An IBM government-affairs official has published a post supporting changes to the key legislation that allows Facebook, YouTube, and others to avoid being regulated and otherwise legally treated like the publishers that they are. (Policy wonks will recognize the law in question as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.) IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has spoken favorably on this topic before, including in a meeting with journalists in San Francisco in February. Breakingviews has a good take on the nuances of IBM’s position.

* We’ll look back one day on the era when travelers paid extra for a service that allowed biometric identification to unlock special access to get through airport security. But for now Clear is a game-changing offering, and my only fear about it is that it will become too popular—because I love it. As mentioned in Monday’s Data Sheet, there were two pieces of great news for coast-to-coast United customers (like me!): discounted memberships for United frequent flyers and the expansion of Clear to Newark.   

Adam Lashinsky

On Twitter: @adamlashinsky

Email: adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

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Greece’s Daunting Challenge: “Hundreds of Thousands of Talented People Have Left”

It is hard to imagine a more unsettling description of one’s country than saying that “the economy is on a low flight path…and it contains bombs with lighted fuses.” That assessment came from Greece’s new finance minister, Christos Staikouras, earlier this month when he was sworn into office, after the conservative New Democracy party trounced the left-wing Syriza government of Alexis Tsipras in elections on July 7.

Now, new Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis—a Harvard-educated venture capitalist—has the urgent task of ensuring that those bombs do not explode in midair, much as they did in the early 2010s, when Greece teetered on the edge of bankruptcy and came close to crashing out of the Eurozone. The country’s pain is legion: Its GDP has shrunk 26% in eight years—the biggest recession in history of any country in peacetime, save perhaps for the Great Depression.

Thanks to a bailout of about $300 billion from the IMF and the European Union, Greece’s 10 million citizens are still E.U. members. But there were other thanks to give for the rescue, in particular to China, whose state-owned shipping giant Cosco Shipping Group now owns Greece’s biggest port, Piraeus. For this month’s Fortune, we traveled to Piraeus to describe how that deal became critical to Greece’s economy, and to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s mammoth global ambitions. (Read “Boxed In at the Docks: How a Lifeline from China Changed Greece.”)

More such deals might be ahead. Mitsotakis told the BBC this week, “My number one priority is to make Greece an attractive destination for capital,” and vowed to cut corporate taxes from 28% to 20%, beginning on Jan. 1. The model for foreign investment, Mitsotakis says, is Piraeus.

Within its first weeks in office, Mitsotakis’s government has approved Cosco’s expansion plans in Piraeus for new five-star hotels and a luxury shopping mall—investments that Tspiras’s government had blocked for several months. It has also said it will end capital controls imposed in recent years.

But Greece’s economy still has a long recovery ahead, as we discovered when we sat down in Athens with Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras for a far-ranging interview. Stournaras laid out how the country can dig out from its darkest decade in modern times. Here’s an edited version of our interview:

FORTUNE: Is the Greek economic crisis over?

Yannis Stournaris: It is much better. Competitiveness has improved, the banking system is capitalized. Of course, there is the legacy of the crisis, which is still high debt as a percentage of GDP. There is a brain drain and an investment gap. These problems will stay for a number of years. We have managed to solve the flow problems, which is deficits. But the stock problems, the high debts, non-performing loans, they are more difficult to tackle.

When you say ‘a number of years’ what is your prediction of when you will truly be out of this crisis?

To bring down a debt of 180% of GDP to below 100%, it will take a number of years.

Focusing on Cosco’s investment in the port of Piraeus, a lot of investment that Cosco planned has not yet happened.

Yes. We desperately need foreign direct investment. Because in order to achieve higher growth rates we need higher investment. We invest only 10% of GDP. Before the crisis we invested about 20% of GDP. So there is an investment gap. We cannot borrow, or borrowing conditions are very difficult, because of the legacy of the debt crisis. We so hope for equity investment, or what we call direct foreign investment.

There is a perception outside Greece that the country is out of the crisis. You exited the E.U. bailout regime in the summer of 2018. Are you out of the woods?

Definitely not. A country which is just out of austerity needs to be careful.

How difficult have these years of austerity been for regular Greeks?

For some of them, very very, difficult. Hundreds of thousands have left the country. But for those who stayed in Greece, there has been an average reduction of income of more than 25% during these years. That is very, very serious, perhaps only second to the Great Depression of the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s. And it lasted longer in Greece. So that is why it is a lesson that we shall never forget. That is why the Bank of Greece needs to warn when it feels it should send warning lights.

What is the lesson you have learned from these dark years?

We should be very vigilant. The problem was we exceeded the targets of the budget. At some point in the past we had a budget deficit of 50% of GDP. That is extremely high. Which means that nobody paid attention to the fiscal situation of the state. That is why I say we should never, never go back to a similar situation in the future.

Everywhere we go in Athens, people talk about the brain drain. How bad is the demographic crisis in Greece – the shrinking population?

Hundreds of thousands of talented people have left Greece to work abroad, because of the crisis conditions here and the recession. Hopefully we will be able to bring some of them back. Not in the distant future, but immediately, by achieving higher growth and creating good new jobs, with good salaries.

The brain drain produces a low growth rate because the population growth is declining. That means the potential growth rate of the economy is declining too. It is not easy to reverse these trends. Only by producing good jobs can we bring back people who left—especially young couples producing more children. But they need better jobs to do that, and in the short term that means we need to do structural reforms, and we need to have direct investment. We have a very high potential. But to exploit that, Greece needs foreign direct investment—immediately.

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Dita Von Teese — The Queen of Burlesque (#379)

Photo by Cosimo Buccolieri

“You can be a juicy ripe peach and there will still be someone who doesn’t like peaches.”
— Dita Von Teese

Dita Von Teese (@DitaVonTeese) is the biggest name in burlesque in the world since Gypsy Rose Lee, and is credited with bringing the art form back into the spotlight. She is renowned for her iconic martini glass act and dazzling haute-couture striptease costumes adorned with hundreds of thousands of Swarovski crystals. This “Burlesque Superheroine” (Vanity Fair) is the performer of choice at high-profile events for designers such as Marc Jacobs, Christian Louboutin, Louis Vuitton, Chopard, and Cartier. She is the author of The New York Times bestseller Your Beauty Mark: The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Glamour, and has a namesake lingerie collection available internationally at prominent retailers. You can join Dita on one of her upcoming tour dates in 2019 and 2020, or at her “Weekend of Glamour” event on August 24th and 25th.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Castbox, or on your favorite podcast platform.


Want to hear an episode with another artist who makes her own rules? — Listen to my conversation with Amanda Palmer in which we discuss books, trauma and grief, crowdfunding, understanding the role of pain, and much more. (Stream below or right-click here to download):


This podcast is brought to you by Athletic Greens. I’m often asked, “If you could only use one supplement, what would it be?” My answer is usually Athletic Greens, which I consider my all-in-one nutritional insurance. I recommended it in The 4-Hour Body and did not get paid to do so. I often take it in the mornings at home and travel with it to minimize the likelihood of getting sick. Though I always focus on whole foods first, AG covers my bases if I can’t get everything I need through meals. As a listener of The Tim Ferriss Show, you’ll get a free 20-count travel pack (valued at $79) with your first order at athleticgreens.com/tim.


This episode is brought to you by LinkedIn Jobs, which offers a smarter system for the hiring process. If you’ve ever hired anyone (or attempted to), you know finding the right people can be difficult. If you don’t have a direct referral from someone you trust, you’re left to use job boards that don’t offer any real-world networking approach.

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

  • Connect with Dita Von Teese:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

SHOW NOTES

  • What is haute couture? [04:30]
  • Dita fondly reminisces about the classic cars she’s collected, refurbished, and flipped over the years. [05:27]
  • What other vintage things does Dita collect as a self-proclaimed “maximalist,” and how did this hobby begin? [09:51]
  • From where did the stage name “Dita Von Teese” accidentally originate? [11:53]
  • How did Dita go from aspiring ballerina to modern-day burlesque breakthrough — reviving an art form that had mostly died out in the 1950s? [15:25]
  • At what point did Dita realize this was a niche that she could fill full time and quit her day job? [21:22]
  • Growing up as the shy and introverted Heather Sweet from Michigan, how did Dita find her voice as a performer and spokesperson? What changed? [29:09]
  • Dita talks about getting kicked out of her father’s house at age 16, going to live with her mother, and where she got the capacity to deal calmly with this passage from her life. [33:38]
  • Why we should embrace the shortcomings and flaws that make us uniquely us. [39:01]
  • On Madonna and Mae West as ahead-of-their-time influences. [45:09]
  • Clearing up something from the rumor mill: Does Dita employ the use of stylists, or does she do everything herself? [52:56]
  • Why does Dita famously arrive four or five hours early to prepare for performances? [54:41]
  • New behaviors or beliefs that have had a positive impact on Dita’s life. [58:47]
  • How meditation, massage, and — believe it or not — going to the dentist help Dita focus and work out her best ideas. [1:00:58]
  • If Dita could give advice to a younger version of herself, what would the advice be, and at what age would she direct it? What advice does she think her 10-year-older self might offer her now? [1:04:31]
  • We discuss our attitudes about children: to have or not to have? And a bonus sure to upset a parent or two listening: are pets just as good? [1:07:01]
  • Wise advice Dita has gotten from older friends. [1:15:52]
  • At what age should a woman stop wearing clothes that show off her skin? Dita weighs in on the surprising blend of sexism and ageism being promoted by people in the fashion industry who should know better — and why she sees it as her duty to carry on, regardless. [1:18:24]
  • Final thoughts and touring/event plans for the immediate future. [1:21:24]

PEOPLE MENTIONED

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StratChat Replay: Innovation Readiness Assessment with Tendayi Viki & Alexander Osterwalder

Visual live-drawn by  Holger Nils Pohl

Visual live-drawn by Holger Nils Pohl

As the pace of change in our world has increased, competitive advantages have become temporary. Companies now need to be able to support and nurture innovation – not as one-off projects, but as a repeatable process. Innovation proficiency is no longer optional.

The questions for leaders and intrapreneurs are:

  • How ready is your company to nurture and support innovation?

  • Do you have the right leadership support, organizational design and innovation practice?

In this session, Tendayi Viki, Associate Partner at Strategyzer, Thinkers50 2018 Radar Thinker and the author of The Corporate Startup, joins Alexander Osterwalder in an insightful discussion around how companies can assess their levels of innovation readiness using some of our latest insights from the field.

Enjoy the replay!

Webinar Survey Results:

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Pivoting the education matrix

For the longest time, school has been organized around subjects. Fifth graders go to math class and then English class and then geography.

Mostly, those classes don’t teach what they say they teach. Sure, there are some facts, but mostly it’s the methods of instruction that are on offer. School usually has a different flavor than learning.

It turns out, the skills we need to use in life (and in school) aren’t subject specific. But we use those subjects to teach the skills we actually end up using. Everyone knows that the typical person doesn’t need binomials, but the argument is that problem-solving, etc, are totally worth learning and so we pretend to teach the subject when apparently, we’re teaching the skill.

Perhaps, instead of organizing school around data acquisition and regurgitation, we could identify what the skills are and separate them out, teaching domain knowledge in conjunction with the skill, not the other way around.

It turns out that the typical school spends most of its time on just one of those skills (obedience through comportment and regurgitation).

What would happen if we taught each skill separately?

Obedience
Management
Leadership/cooperation
Problem-solving
Mindfulness
Creativity
Analysis

Indeed, you are required to do all seven of these things in math class, but in what proportion? Is a kid who has trouble with obedience “bad at math,” or is it that the obedience part of a class got in the way of the analysis or problem-solving part of the class instead?

It’s entirely possible for a kid to make it through 16 years of organized schooling with a solid B average and never do much more than do well on just one thing–remembering what’s on the test. We’ve failed when we’ve turned out someone with just one of the 7 skills.

What happens if we are clear what we’re doing and why? Because obedience isn’t the point of math or science, but sometimes it’s taught that way.

And then, when obedience session is over, we can find other ways to approach the work at hand, developing the other essential skills. A 45 minute Creativity class that uses algebra is going to feel very different from a Leadership class covering the same material.

Some kids spend a decade in the school sports system and learn leadership and management and creativity and analysis. And some learn nothing but how to follow the coach’s instructions and sit on the bench. This has nothing to do with sports (or geography or biology) and everything to do with what we decide we’re teaching in any given moment.

Is there a cognitive difference between solving a chemistry problem and solving a crossword puzzle? Not really. Getting good at solving–putting on your solving hat and finding the guts to use it–is a skill that gets buried under the avalanche that we call obedience.

“How’d you do in Creativity today, son?” or perhaps, “Wow, you got an A in Analysis–that’s going to open a lot of doors for you…”

Bureaucracies over-index for obedience. They do that out of self-preservation, and because it’s the easiest thing to sell to clients, funders and parents (and to measure). But since we’re currently overdoing that one (they do it far more in other countries, though), we end up getting confused about what it means to learn a subject area in a useful way and we definitely under-develop people on the other six skills.

My guess is that most parents and educators are afraid to even discuss the topic. More here.

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