📚 Sun Tzu’s fighting words, Fintech for the ageing, Account Aggregator bible, Singapore’s urbanism
Vogue’s cover page, lot of fun Xmas stories & more
Hi & welcome to the post #137.
Today’s post serves an eclectic mix of ideas. From the world of war strategies (or strategies in general) to money, ageing and finally cover pages of Vogue. I love it when my mind is filled with such a diverse set of ideas. It keeps me refreshed and looking for more.
Even when Xmas is all around us, this post has a lot to make your festive mood cheer up some more.
Here’s what we’re going to cover:
🥷 Sun Tzu’s Fighting Words
🧓 Fintech for the Ageing
💸 Account Aggregator Bible
💳 Long shadow of Checks
🧑🎄 Xmas stories
🇸🇬 Singapore’s urbanism
💮 Miniatures, fresh new way of quilling
📔 Vogue’s cover page
And much more
Let’s get to it right away.
1. Sun Tzu’s Fighting Words
Colin Gray, the late doyen of strategy scholars, branded one of his maxims of war and strategy as: “If Thucydides, Sun-tzu, and Clausewitz Did Not Say It, It Probably Is Not Worth Saying.” The acceptance of these three texts as a strategic canon, though, poses a challenge for the contemporary strategist. None of these works was originally written in English, and all of them were compiled in an age far removed from our own frames of reference. Thus, we must rely on others to accurately translate the words of the original text for us, and we concurrently need some insight into the historical context in which they were written to verify our interpretations of their meaning. Only then can we accurately gauge their modern relevance.
This is the context of John F. Sullivan’s essay titled “Sun Tzu’s Fighting Words”. He examines the popular interpretation of “Art of War” where Sun Tzu emphasized non-violent competition through the iconic goal of winning without fighting.
It’s a fine read taking an academic approach. The part about ‘historical context’ is an important aspect of any such interpretation and Sullivan tries to support this and more. Art of War is a best seller in most parts of the world (taught in management & military training alike).
Are we really reading what Sun Tzu meant to say or an interpretation that was far more convenient & alignment with the translator’s worldview?
Sullivan has written more on Sun Tzu & his time. If you like this essay, you may want to head here for more.
2. Fintech for the Ageing
“Fintech for the Ageing Indian Population” delves into the potentially evolving whitespace in the Indian fintech landscape, focusing on the unique challenges faced by the elderly population.
This is a fairly short post, so it just scratches the surface on a minefield of ideas & direction for exploration. Still, the basic premise gives a good starting point for those interested in learning more.
Here’s a snapshot that summarizes all the action that’s happening in the US market in this category. That should give you some idea on the diversity of problems that need to be addressed.
3. The Account Aggregator Bible
Xmas & Year end is just around the corner, so you may not be in a serious mood. If that’s the case, please bookmark this one and set a reminder for 2nd Jan to read this one.
Or if you’re still slogging to fulfil your 2023 learning goals, check out “The Account Aggregator Bible” by Aaryaman Vir (from Tigerfeathers).
It’s in-depth, explores past, present & future, talks about the user side of the story in a fairly detailed way and is written in a fairly fun way.
What’s this Account Aggregator? Well that’s the next big thing in the world that India owns after successfully creating Aadhar and UPI. It’s still in the early days but shows a lot of potential, and will be worth checking out (and get building for, if you can).
If you’re looking for something lighter from the Tigerfeathers folks, this one talks about how Maggi Noodles and Indian Cricket broke out of the box in 1983
4. The Long Shadow of Checks
Do we call them Cheques or Checks? In any case, I knew very little about how these pieces of paper worked. So when Patrick McKenzie (patio11 for those who follow him) wrote “The Long Shadow of Checks,” I had to read it.
There are no magic tricks here, just pure, simple & fairly cumbersome financial machinery at work. But that’s the beauty of systems that work. A lot of younger readers may not have used these paper instruments much, still it's worth knowing how these work. A lot of future fintech solutions will be built on the learning from these systems.
If you are up for some more, you can find Paras Chopra’s summary of “How money works” in post #70.
5. Xmas special
Enough of the financial & money stuff! If you’re looking for some festive cheer, I (re)share some of the popular stories covering the season.
The economics of Christmas trees (in US… In India, we have lot more of the plastic stuff that we buy from the festival gift shops around the corner)
Japan, KFC and Christmas!. This one is a big surprise!
6. Light reads & videos
Singapore urbanism; Noah Smith on how Singapore evolved to become the megacity it is today. We live in cities, interact with so many parts of it, and yet have no ideas about what goes on to build our cities. I love some of the coverage 99% Invisible does on similar themes.
Why is flying not sexy anymore? Sid Jha delves into the history of commercial aviation in the USA. It’s good to see how regulators, innovators and business folks interacted over a long enough period and created this industry.
Anuj Rathi on Lenny’s Podcast has some good inputs on understanding product management from an Indian perspective. Here’s my biggest take away.
There are only three reasons why things do not happen the way you want them to happen as a leader. You can look at a person, and you would say either that person can't do, which is a capability issue, or they won't do, which is a motivation or an alignment issue, or they were not set up to do, which is really your problem that you didn't set up the ways of working now design properly. So, as a leader, do you have the right people in terms of capability? If not, is the right answer for us to coach them or to really put them… or mentor them and so on, or move them to some other place because maybe their capability is suited elsewhere? If they won't do it, why won't they? Are they not aligned to you? Do they not agree with your vision? Do they not just have enough time? So on and so forth. So you need to really go deeper there. Why won't they do it?
7. Everything else
Some random goodness from the internet:
My twitter/X feed is super interesting thanks to The Paperclip (@Paperclip_In). They tell stories that bring a smile and ‘wow’ every time I read one.
Becky Gannon shares magical miniatures in madaboutminiatures and flordeirisarte shares artwork in quilling unlike anything I have seen. These are two reasons my time on Instagram has increased off late.
Does Vogue hate text now - brilliant visual essay on something most of us would have ignored (assuming, we follow the Vogue magazine and its covers). I found it in the Pudding Cup - Pudding’s picks for the best visual and data-driven stories of 2023. A lot more cool things to discover at this page.
That's all for this week, folks!
I hope I've earned the privilege of your time.
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