Don’t learn to code. Learn to collaborate

This is Kickstart—the daily morning management briefing on innovation, leadership, technology and the economy from the editors of Canadian BusinessSign up to get it directly to your inbox each weekday at 6 AM Eastern.


Good morning! Here’s what’s on our radar at the moment:

Don’t learn to code. Learn to collaborate

“Learn to code” has been the catchall response to pretty much any knowledge worker facing job uncertainty in the last two decades. It’s also trickling down into the education system, where parents, teachers, policy makers and employers all fret that students need to learn to code in order to have a chance in the workforce. In this wide-ranging interview on artificial intelligence, automation and the future of the workforce, Daniel Pink, the influential author who writes about management and behavioural science, casts a skeptical eye on the whole idea:

There’s a huge a focus on teaching kids to code at a very young age in North America. Is its importance is overblown?

I don’t know, but learning how to code without social skills is not a good recipe. Number one, having good social skills helps you understand what people want and need. You could be an expert in coding something that is irrelevant to people’s lives. Second, in the design of most complex software, it’s a collaborative process. You have to be willing to work with other people, and have the give-and-take of saying, “My code isn’t as good as yours. Let’s use yours.”

Link: Canadian Business

Can Trump and Trudeau bury the hatchet?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump today at the White House to talk trade, and it could be a difficult session. Trump reiterated to Forbes yesterday that he’d prefer to terminate NAFTA altogether and start fresh; meanwhile, the trade dispute between Boeing and Bombardier, which prompted the U.S. Department of Commerce to impose nearly 300% in import duties on the Canada-built CSeries jet, is still festering. Things are unsettled enough that Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has been out laying foam on the tarmac, so to speak:

Freeland, a former trade minister appointed to her role this year primarily to deal with Nafta talks, has begun to issue warnings and temper expectations, saying in a television interview this weekend the Trump administration is the most protectionist since the 1930s. […] Speaking in Washington on Tuesday, Freeland declined to predict what Nafta will look like in the future and reiterated that Canada believes in free trade. Freeland also characterized the current era as the “most uncertain moment in international relations since the end of the Second World War.”

Link: Bloomberg

The two faces of Alexa

Long before Alexa was the voice of the Amazon Echo line of devices, it was the name of a website ranking service also owned by Amazon. And, in fact, it still is. So why would Amazon use the same trademark for two completely different lines of business? Insiders give two potential reasons: the hard “X” sound made “Alexa” an easily recognizable word for a machine to listen for; or it’s simply that the company is so big that one team was hardly aware of the other. It’s not unheard of, but it’s also kind of weird:

Marketers use the term “brand twins” to describe the phenomenon in which pairs of unrelated brands share an identical or nearly-identical name, like Domino’s Pizza and Domino Sugar. In those cases, though, the brands almost invariably have different owners. It’s unclear whether a corporation the size of Amazon has ever simultaneously offered two products with the same name, though when Microsoft released its Surface series of tablets in 2012 it borrowed the name from its much-lampooned $10,000 touchscreen table, originally released in 2007, which it then renamed the PixelSense.

Link: The Outline

PLAY: Corner the paperclip market

As we do from time to time, today we’ll share a game instead of a video, in this case a delightful little simulation of building a paperclip company. Developed by game designer Frank Lantz, who teaches at New York University, it provides a slow-burn illustration of the ways that businesses struggle to find their market, manage growth, foster innovation and delegate tasks, all within a lo-fi browser game. It’s wildly simplified, of course, but that’s also why the business principles it teaches leap off the screen.

Link: Decision Problem

Earnings reports today

Canadian publicly traded companies of note scheduled to report quarterly earnings today:

Firan Technology Group (FTG), MTY Food Group (MTY), Neptune Technologies & Bioressources (NEPT), CounterPath Corp. (PATH)

Thanks for reading! Have a truly excellent day.