Core management practices can’t be taken for granted

Monday, May 16th, 2022

In MBA programs, students are taught that companies can’t expect to compete on the basis of internal managerial competencies because they’re just too easy to copy:

If you look at the data, it becomes clear that core management practices can’t be taken for granted. There are vast differences in how well companies execute basic tasks like setting targets and grooming talent, and those differences matter: Firms with strong managerial processes perform significantly better on high-level metrics such as productivity, profitability, growth, and longevity. In addition, the differences in the quality of those processes—and in performance—persist over time, suggesting that competent management is not easy to replicate.


To date the team has interviewed managers from more than 12,000 companies about their practices. On the basis of the information gathered, we rate every organization on each management practice, using a 1 to 5 scale in which higher scores indicate greater adoption. Those ratings are then averaged to produce an overall management score for each company.

That data has led us to two main findings: First, achieving operational excellence is still a massive challenge for many organizations. Even well-informed and well-structured companies often struggle with it. This is true across countries and industries—and in spite of the fact that many of the managerial processes we studied are well known.

The dispersion of management scores across firms was wide. Big differences across countries were evident, but a major fraction of the variation (approximately 60%) was actually within countries. The discrepancies were substantial even within rich countries like the United States.

In our entire sample we found that 11% of firms had an average score of 2 or less, which corresponds to very weak monitoring, little effort to identify and fix problems within the organization, almost no targets for employees, and promotions and rewards based on tenure or family connections. At the other end of the spectrum we identified clear management superstars across all the countries surveyed: Six percent of the firms in our sample had an average score of 4 or greater. In other words they had rigorous performance monitoring, systems geared to optimize the flow of information across and within functions, continuous improvement programs that supported short- and long-term targets, and performance systems that rewarded and advanced great employees and helped underperformers turn around or move on.


As we’ve noted, our data shows that better-managed firms are more profitable, grow faster, and are less likely to die. Indeed, moving a firm from the worst 10% to the best 10% of management practices is associated with a $15 million increase in profits, 25% faster annual growth, and 75% higher productivity. Better-managed firms also spend 10 times as much on R&D and increase their patenting by a factor of 10 as well—which suggests that they’re not sacrificing innovation to efficiency. They also attract more talented employees and foster better worker well-being. These patterns were evident in all countries and industries.


Furthermore, we found zero correlation between perceived management quality and actual quality (as indicated by both their firms’ management scores and their firms’ performance), suggesting that self-assessments are a long way from reality.

It wasn’t the environment itself that was stressful or distracting

Saturday, April 23rd, 2022

In 2010, the psychologists Alex Haslam and Craig Knight set up an experiment in which participants were asked to perform simple administrative tasks in four different office layouts:

One was stripped down: bare desk, swivel chair, pencil, paper, nothing else. The second layout was softened with pot plants and almost abstract floral images. Workers enjoyed this layout more than the minimalist one and got more and better work done there.

The third and fourth layouts were superficially similar, yet produced dramatically different outcomes. In each, workers were invited to use the same plants and pictures to decorate the space before they started work, if they wished. But in one of them, the experimenter came in after the subject had finished decorating, and then rearranged it all. The physical difference was trivial, but the impact on productivity and job satisfaction was dramatic. When workers were empowered to shape their own space, they did more and better work and felt far more content. When workers were deliberately disempowered, their work suffered and, of course, they hated it. “I wanted to hit you,” one participant later admitted.

It wasn’t the environment itself that was stressful or distracting — it was the lack of control.

Yet there is a long, dismal tradition of disempowering workers. In the 1960s, the designer Robert Propst worked with the Herman Miller company to produce “The Action Office”, a stylish system of open-plan office furniture that allowed workers to sit, stand, move around and configure the space as they wished.

Propst then watched in horror as his ideas were corrupted into cheap modular dividers, and then to cubicle farms or, as Propst described them, “barren, rathole places”. Managers had squeezed the style and the space out of the action office, but above all they had squeezed the ability of workers to make choices about the place where they spent much of their waking lives.

There have been only three unicorns in 35 years in the defense space

Thursday, March 31st, 2022

In 2016, Facebook unceremoniously pushed Palmer Luckey out of the virtual reality startup he founded, Oculus. Then Luckey founded Anduril:

Luckey is now winning billion-dollar Pentagon contracts. One of them is for a counter-drone system based on its “battlefield operating system,” called Lattice. Anduril’s demo video shows one of the company’s sentry surveillance towers detecting a hostile drone and dispatching a small high-speed drone of its own to literally knock the intruder out of the sky. Recently, Anduril acquired a company that makes robot submarines.


Anduril has a valuation of nearly $5 billion, making Luckey a rare founder of two unicorns. He is unusual for a military contractor. Perpetually garbed in a Hawaiian shirt, and occasionally still in cosplay threads, his vibe is much more cheerful hacker. His conservative politics also make him an awkward figure in Silicon Valley. (One of his sisters is married to the right-wing provocateur and congress member Matt Gaetz.)


There have been only three unicorns in 35 years in the defense space: Palantir, SpaceX, and Anduril. All three of those companies were founded by people who had just sold their previous company for billions of dollars.

Overall the book is an anti-checklist for Westminster

Saturday, February 26th, 2022

If you want to examine in detail an organisational culture that is much healthier and higher performance than Whitehall, an organisation that actually lives the culture it advocates, then you will find Working Backwards, about the management of Amazon by two people who worked with Bezos in senior roles, interesting, Dominic Cummings suggests:

Discussion in Westminster suffers from false dichotomies. People on ‘the right’ who don’t know about great management talk as if ‘bureaucracy is a public sector problem’ that can be cured by ‘making government more like business’. People on the left including many defenders of the status quo say ‘government is not the same as business … it’s simplistic to say cutting bureaucracy is the answer … lessons from great teams aren’t relevant to most of government … we need more money…’

They’re both a bit right and a lot wrong. Whitehall can and should learn from great businesses and great managers, though generally not in the ways ‘free market’ Tory MPs say. And Whitehall is different in critical ways that limit the application of some lessons from business in some narrow ways. But at a more general level, the lessons from great private sector management and the lessons from great public sector case studies are the same. Great businesses can and do learn from projects like Apollo. Governments can and should learn from great businesses. The breakthroughs of ‘systems management’ came in the public sector between the 1940s and 1960s then spread to business then were largely forgotten by western governments (though are much studied in China).

One of many useful things about this book is the way it shows how many problems of ‘bureaucracy’ we see in government are the same or similar to those experienced in Amazon — and Amazon is, by common consent of the great judges of these things (e.g Charlie Munger), one of the very best managed organisations in the world.

Overall the book is an anti-checklist for Westminster in the sense that if you look at all the things they do really well and really value, and you’ve worked around No10/Cabinet office, you’ll say to yourelf ‘tick, tick, tick, government does the opposite, opposite, opposite’. It’s similar to my paper on the ICBM and Apollo projects which also illustrated a set of ideas about brilliant management that are an anti-checklist for Westminster.


A more fundamental problem than the failures of the civil service is that politicians do not care and are not incentivised to care about performance and unless this changes we can only expect the same sort of failures over and over.

When I said this years ago nobody wanted to hear it. But in 2021 we saw that even after a global pandemic costing 150k lives and hundreds of billions, Westminster collectively turned away from facing the reasons for the implosion of core institutions in 2020, No10 embarked on an attempt to rewrite history, most MPs tried to ‘move on’ rather than force honesty about what happened, while the media mainly overwhelmed serious debate with noise. Errors of spring 2020 were repeated more than once killing thousands more. Things that worked well but challenged traditional ways of doing things, such as the Vaccine Taskforce, were dismantled rather than learned from and built on. Rather than have a very fast lessons learned process, the PM and other senior figures have repeated the historical pattern — punt an extremely lengthy inquiry led by lawyers far into the future where it will have little practical effect on how critical decisions are made, just as the Iraq inquiry did not fix the problems of the MOD and Cabinet Office.

True autonomy is worth almost nothing

Saturday, January 15th, 2022

True autonomy is worth almost nothing when it comes to trucks, Stefan Seltz-Axmacher of Starsky Robotics explains:

At Starsky we modeled that our robotrucks could achieve 42% margins even if each had a dedicated remote person paying attention 100% of the time. Those margins would jump to 58% if that remote driver only needed to pay attention for the first and last miles.

True autonomy, on the other hand, would have added less than 2% to our bottom line. Which means that the technological achievement $70b has been invested in over the last decade is worth less to the trucking industry than automatic billing.

The US trucking industry is structured around the systemic shortage of long-haul truck drivers. The 3.5 weeks/mo an over-the-road (OTR) driver is expected to spend in a truck is so miserable that few will do it for even $60k/yr. On the other side, trucking is a highly fragmented commoditized industry, which puts no fleet in the position where they can raise prices sufficiently to afford to pay drivers more. The result is that the market typically has at least 50,000 too few drivers to meet demand.

This shortage defines everything in American trucking — it’s why our trucks have nice comfortable cabs (worse fuel efficiency but better driver retention), it’s why our railroads are so profitable (which is why Warren Buffet buys them), and why our supply chain has even been shaped to minimize how much time trucks need to drive in cities (drivers get paid by mile and hate driving in slow-speed cities).


$60k/yr isn’t enough to entice over-the-road drivers but it is more than enough to recruit drivers who get to sleep at home.


Trucking is a business with both high fixed and variable costs. For every dollar that comes in, the best run firms typically spend 75% of it evenly divided between fuel, equipment, and labor. They then spend another 17% or so of administrative overhead per truck before eking out an 8% profit margin.


American truck drivers are paid only for the miles they haul freight — the hours spent waiting to be loaded or unloaded and taking mandatory breaks are all unpaid. As a result, the $200/day drivers typically earn is really only for the 7 hours/day they move freight and not for the 14 total hours they’re on-duty. This delta is big — it means that the trucking company feels like they pay drivers $28/hr while drivers feel like they only get $14/hr (or $8/hr if you consider the 24 hours/day drivers spend in a truck).

Drivers who aren’t physically in a truck don’t need to lose productivity when the truck stops moving. Rather than twiddling their thumbs at a distribution center the driver could simply switch to a different truck in the fleet which has been loaded and is ready to move. The driver actually cares about earning $200/day — if they earned that by driving for 11 hours (vs being on duty for 14) their hourly rate would increase. The fleet would see their $200 buy them 57% more hours of a truck moving which would drop their labor cost by 30%, bringing it to just 17.5% of gross.

As a result a robotruck which is remotely monitored 100% of the time by a teleoperator who is looking only at that truck while it moves would cut labor cost from 25% of gross to 16.5% and have profit margins of 42.5%.

95% of the hours an OTR truck moves is on the highway. If you were able to eliminate remote supervision for the bulk of those hours you would see per-truck labor cost drop to just 1.75% of gross and profit margin would soar to 58%.

The hardest 1% of the technical problem, automating the surface streets and interchanges, would end up being worth only about $600/truck/yr. Level 4 truck autonomy has less value than a daily coffee.

A big market will develop for speeding ecommerce to and from suburban warehouses long before air taxis are considered safe

Saturday, January 8th, 2022

Beta Technologies is valued at a billion dollars. Its Alia electric aircraft was not designed for passengers:

But Clark designed Alia primarily as a cargo aircraft, betting that a big market will develop for speeding ecommerce to and from suburban warehouses long before air taxis are considered safe to allow over city streets.

“We’re actually going to win at the passenger game because by the time others are doing passenger missions we will have thousands of aircraft, millions of flight hours and a safe, reliable, vetted design,” says the 41-year-old Clark, whose company is based in his hometown of Burlington, Vermont.

Clark is also spooling up what he thinks will be a lucrative second business: charging stations for electric aircraft of all types that he plans to dot around the country to create the aviation equivalent of Tesla’s supercharger network. There are nine up and running already, in a line from Vermont to Arkansas, with another 51 under construction or in the permitting process. Most will contain banks of used batteries from Alia aircraft, removed when their capacity has declined about 8%, giving them a profitable second life while Beta sells Alia owners replacement packs at about a half a million a pop. Equipping the charging stations with battery storage will avoid the need for expensive upgrades to the local power grid: Clark’s plan is for them to fill slowly at off-peak times, while unneeded power can be sold back at peak to utilities.

Alia Electric Aircraft

Beta aims to start delivering UPS’ first 10 aircraft in 2024 — assuming it wins safety certification for Alia by then from the Federal Aviation Administration. If not, the U.S. Air Force could end up fielding Alia first: Beta has won contracts worth $43.6 million to test out Alia for military use. In May, Alia became the first electric aircraft to win airworthiness approval from the Air Force for manned flight.

Beta says Alia’s bulbous cabin will be able to carry 600 pounds of payload, including the pilot, a maximum 250 nautical miles — at least 100 miles farther than any competitors that have prototypes in the air — or up to 1,250 pounds for 200 miles with one of the five battery packs removed. Clark expects FAA reserve requirements to restrict flights to 125 miles.

But given Alia’s high price — roughly double a similarly sized new Cessna Grand Caravan and up to five times the used planes that dominate small cargo fleets — Beta and UPS know Alia will only make economic sense if it flies a lot. That will require a radical reshaping of delivery networks away from the longtime hub and spoke pattern under which cargo planes typically make just one roundtrip per day, funneling packages from a local airport to a sorting center. Instead, they envision Alia flying directly from one UPS warehouse to another — cutting out truck trips as well as plane flights — and eventually straight to large customers. Frequent flying will allow savings as lower operating costs kick in. Beta promises 90% savings on fuel and cheaper maintenance due to the fewer parts of electric propulsion systems — plus a fat 35% reduction if computers eventually bump pilots from the cockpit altogether.

I was expecting cargo drones by now.

Fisher Price re-released their Music Box Record Player

Friday, December 10th, 2021

In 2010 Fisher Price re-released their Music Box Record Player, in a new version that does not work like the original:

Fisher Price Music Box Record Player 1

Fisher Price Music Box Record Player 2

Fisher Price Music Box Record Player 3

Fisher Price Music Box Record Player 4

Fisher Price Music Box Record Player 5

Fisher Price Music Box Record Player 6

Fisher Price Music Box Record Player 7

Fisher Price Music Box Record Player 8

Fisher Price Music Box Record Player 9


Fisher Price Music Box Record Player 10

(Hat tip to commenter Chedolf.)

Toyota is poised to make affordability, not range, at the center of its EV play

Sunday, December 5th, 2021

Toyota is poised to put affordability, not range, at the center of its EV play:

“‘Nothing happens until you sell a car’ is an expression we have internally,” he summed. “To have a positive impact on the environment, you must sell a high volume of cars…so it’s really important that the price point is such that we can make an actual business model out of it.”

To that point, Toyota expects that it will be selling millions of electric vehicles by the end of the decade. In September, the automaker announced plans to spend $13.5 billion on battery development through then, with aims of cutting the battery cost per vehicle by 50% versus the bZ4X.


“The bottom line is, over time we view EV range similar to horsepower,” Ericksen said, comparing it to how almost any customer really wanted 400 horsepower but, at an affordability standpoint, might settle for 120 hp. “People who are affluent and can afford a really expensive vehicle can afford a lot of horsepower.”

“Batteries are expensive, and the bigger you make the battery, the more expensive it is,” Ericksen said. “So the trick, I think long-term is not all about range, range, range; the trick is matching the range and the price point to what the consumer can afford.”

“And as people become more accustomed to operating an EV I think the anxiety over range is going to dissipate,” he continued, saying that many EV shoppers are going to understand they don’t need 300 or 400 miles—and certainly not in a second or third car.

Although we tend to agree that range is a red herring, especially for that second or third car, Toyota will face some headwinds if it dives into the “just enough” category. In a study released earlier this year, J.D. Power found that EVs with more than 200 miles of range had higher levels of satisfaction than those with less. And back in 2017, a comprehensive Autolist survey on minimum range found that only 14.6% of individuals saw 200 miles of range as enough, while the largest group, 38.9%, considered 300 miles of range to be enough. It emphasized, then, that a jump from 250 to 300 miles yielded an increase of 30% more people willing to buy an EV.

Range really is like horsepower.

Americans do indeed spend more when Thanksgiving falls early

Thursday, November 25th, 2021

Retailers don’t just put up decorations to steal Christmas sales from each other, Tim Harford notes. They are also boosting the total amount we impressionable customers spend:

In 2005, the economist Emek Basker…studied the US, where Thanksgiving now ranges between November 22 and 28, leaving as few as 26 or as many as 32 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. She found a clear pattern: Americans do indeed spend more when Thanksgiving falls early. The sums aren’t trivial: about $10 per person per day in today’s terms. Robert Urbatsch, a political scientist, used a similar approach to examine the jobs market and found that longer Christmas seasons lead to higher levels of employment.

Professor Basker estimated total holiday spending by comparing all spending in November and December vs all spending in September and October; the difference was about $300 per person in today’s money. Using a slightly different method, the author of Scroogenomics Joel Waldfogel has produced broadly similar estimates of the Christmas bump in sales.

Some of the best engineers would rather quit than be micromanaged

Saturday, November 20th, 2021

The Pragmatic Engineer (Gergely Orosz) looks at how Big Tech runs tech projects and ends with the following ideas as food for thought:

  • Iterative changes always work better than ‘big bang’ ones. A European tech company struggling with shipping very slowly hired a new VP of Engineering. This person decided to move the whole organization to a NoEstimates method in the first few months of their tenure. They organized a major event, hired a rock band, and unveiled the new way of working. The following weeks and months were chaos, and the organization reverted to doing what it did beforehand.
  • It’s more work to teach someone to fish, than it is to catch a fish for them. My approach to project management has been to coach and mentor members of my team to become project leads themselves. It was a lot more work upfront, but resulted in the team delivering more, people growing faster, getting promoted faster, and those people becoming engineering leaders faster than their peers. This approach was one of my best decisions in an empowered environment.
  • Directing, mentoring and coaching all have their uses. Directing – telling people exactly how to do something – is micromanaging when they can do it themselves. However, it’s a supportive activity when they can’t. Choose your approaches depending on whether you direct, mentor or coach and give space to people or teams, based on their capabilities as well. Over time, you should be doing little to no directing. But you might need to start with this.
  • The fewer people you need to make decisions, the faster you can make them. If an engineer only needs to talk to an engineer to decide, that decision will be faster than if the engineer needs to talk to their project manager, who talks to another project manager, who talks to an engineer, who talks to… you get it.
  • Optimizing for reporting is optimizing for a low-trust environment. Reporting at the executive levels is important. However, if you roll out project management methodologies that add heavy processes for the sake of reporting, then you’ll get more process, lower trust, and people gaming whatever reports you’re trying to produce.
  • Consultants will be biased to deliver easy-to-measure results because this is the simplest way to prove their value. If the easy-to-measure result is a good goal, this makes consultants a good investment. Just make sure it is a worthwhile goal, and directionally correct.
  • Learning from direct competitors is underrated. Understanding what a faster-moving competitor is doing – and experimenting with something similar – is a very smart one. Having a coffee with a peer at a competitor can be a great professional, and networking investment, not to mention one that may inspire you.
  • Some of the best engineers would rather quit than be micromanaged, especially when the job market is hot, and it’s so easy to switch jobs. A relevant quote from a response to my survey: “Recently, C-level executives have started to mandate the ways of working for all teams (everyone needs to follow the same methodology). It resulted in a lot of engineers leaving.”

Netflix’s greatest impact on pop culture will not be allowing us to binge watch

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

I haven’t watched Squid Game, but the Korean show is on pace to be the biggest hit in the history of Netflix:

Netflix has been investing in foreign language programming since 2015. It has spent more than $1 billion on Korean programs alone. This is the first Korean show to break through on this scale, and it is driving millions of new viewers to other East Asian series like “Sweet Home” and “Alice in Borderland.”

When all is said and done, Netflix’s greatest impact on pop culture will not be allowing us to “binge watch,” or stream TV on-demand. It will be globalizing the entertainment business, creating a platform for people from more than 190 countries to watch stories from all over the world.

Halloween used to be kid stuff

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021

Halloween used to be kid stuff:

By 2005, just over half of adults celebrated Halloween. Today, that number has grown to over 70 percent. Those between 18 and 34 years old participate at the highest rate, and they’re also the holiday’s biggest spenders, shelling out over twice as much on their costumes as older adults and children.

Halloween celebrations have changed, too: less trick-or-treating and more parties and bar hopping. Today, alcohol is as important as candy to the Halloween economy.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach ranked below ports in Tanzania and Kenya

Monday, November 1st, 2021

Stifling regulations have left America with the most inefficient ports in the world:

A recent review of container-port efficiency ranked the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach below ports in Tanzania and Kenya, near the bottom of the list of 351 top ports. America’s ports are effectively third-world. The 50 most efficient ports in the world are mostly in Asia and the Middle East; none are in America.

Gygax was surprised to find both of the Blume brothers in attendance

Monday, October 18th, 2021

In the fall of 1985, Gary Gygax was the most famous and powerful figure in hobby gaming, Jon Peterson explains:

October 22 was a Tuesday, and Gygax was wrapping up another day at TSR corporate headquarters on Sheridan Springs Road in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. His last appointment was a board meeting just after close of business; with 1,371 shares of stock, he held controlling interest in the company, and thus chaired the board. The meeting started late, at quarter past five. Five of the company’s six directors were present: two of the independent directors, James Huber and Wesley Sommer, and then the three principal shareholders: Gygax, Brian Blume, and Kevin Blume. Gygax was surprised to find both of the Blume brothers in attendance. Though they held a substantial stake in the company—as a family, nearly one thousand shares total—they had lost their executive positions at TSR following a reorganization the previous year.

The board proceeded to review the company’s turbulent negotiations with the American National Bank before moving on to the ostensible purpose of the meeting, a discussion regarding TSR’s royalty payments to authors. In recent internal memos, Gygax had insisted that the company allow its employees, himself especially, to retain all copyrights, trademarks, and royalties for works authored rather than assigning them to TSR; in the eyes of other directors, this was in violation of existing contracts. During the course of this discussion, Gygax mused that since it seemed the board would find it easier to afford him these privileges if he were not an employee, perhaps he should just resign.

It was of course preposterous for a majority shareholder to suggest their own resignation, but Gygax found the room coldly receptive to this course of action. The presence of the Blumes worried him. He turned to the Board Secretary, Willard Martens, to ask if his personal stake relative to the other shareholders had changed recently. At first, Martens replied only that Lorraine Williams had exercised her option for 50 shares in TSR. Williams had joined the company in April as Vice President of Administration; her options alone could not endanger Gygax’s majority.

“Have there been any other changes?” Gygax further inquired.

Martens only then volunteered, “Brian Blume exercised his option for seven hundred shares.”

Realization set in. Gary Gygax said simply, “I see.”

What did Gygax see, in that moment? He saw enough shares in play that he stood to lose control of TSR, a company he had founded and transformed into a global brand. But he surely also saw something even more dear at stake: that he might lose control of Dungeons & Dragons.

It’s a rejection of the casual, new money looks of the 2010s

Thursday, October 14th, 2021

Prep is back:

The aesthetic first gained a foothold among Gen Z, who took to TikTok to share “old money” inspiration: polo, croquet, lush gardens, and Italian villages. These scenes became inspiration for both fashion and decor: riding boots, Gucci crossbody bags, floral wallpaper, and lots of vintage. Meanwhile, millennials picked up leisure-class hobbies like sailing and golfing during the “solitary leisure” days of quarantine.

In some ways, it’s a rejection of the casual, new money looks of the 2010s, on display both by Instagram influencers and the hoodie-wearing millennial billionaire class. In other ways, it’s a practical consequence of how a supply shortage and a lockdown changed the economy in ways that will be permanent. And in still another sense, it’s an expression of escape: away from the traumatic events of the young 2020s and toward a nostalgia for another time.

Oxford shirts, tennis skirts, and tweed blazers are taking over social media. Gen Z is plastering Ralph Lauren campaign ads from the ’90s and vintage tennis photos all over TikTok and Instagram — and they’re spending big to recreate the looks.

Vox’s Rebecca Jennings first reported on the “old money” aesthetic in fashion, writing that Gen Z lusts after “the unapologetically pretentious Ivy League-slash-Oxbridge fourth-cousin-of-a-Kennedy country club vibe.”

TikTok users have rediscovered prep and are driving the trend, Morgane Le Caer, content lead at Lyst, told Insider. The global fashion shopping platform has seen increasing demand for preppy styles. Over the week ending on September 24, searches for leather loafers were up by 28%, pleated skirts by 16%, Peter Pan collar shirts by 23%, and pearl necklaces by 29%.


It’s also a response to the casual outfits that typifies the new millennial billionaire class: Dressing in the polished way of a northeastern socialite is ultimately a rejection of the tech CEO’s hoodie and sneaker ensemble.

The old money aesthetic has also made its way inside homes.

The posh look first took root in form of the “grandmillennial” vibe that some millennials gravitated towards pre-pandemic, rich in porcelain figurines, English antiques, chintz wallpaper, and brocade curtains. They were seeking décor inspiration everywhere from English country houses to neo-preppy brands like Rodarte.


Country clubs, yacht clubs, and old money hobbies like golfing and boating have enjoyed a pandemic boom.

During quarantine, these pastimes replaced the group activities typical of social leisure, like amusement parks, concerts, and crowded bars and restaurants. And they continued to remain popular even as the economy reopened, especially as people grew wary of indoor activities again during the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

US boat sales hit a 13-year high last year, per the National Marine Manufacturers Association, with younger first-time boat buyers leading the way. Online resource Discover Boating saw site traffic increase by 90% year-over-year through May among those ages 18- to 24-years-old, with millennials comprising the largest number of visitors overall. Experts expect the upswing in interest to last for a long time.

A similar story is unfolding out on the green. Golf play in the US increased by 14% from 2019 to 2020, according to Golf Datatech, the largest uptick since the industry market research company began tracking the data in 1998. Even spending on golf equipment is on the rise, with retail sales up by nearly 50% in June, July, and August compared to those months two years prior, per data from The NPD Group.