Quartz Weekend Brief—the year of deeds, holacracy in action, emotion-sensing phones, algorithmic deities

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The time for talk is over. The time for action is now.

That is the beloved trope of politicians—or anyone who wants to give the impression of decisiveness, if only malign outside forces weren’t holding them back.

But this year, in Europe, the cliché might actually prove true. After many years marked by malaise and inaction, 2015 is shaping up, finally, to be about deeds, not words.

For some time now, financial markets have been expecting the European Central Bank to rev its printing presses and buy hundreds of billions of euros worth of government bonds, finally doing something concrete to revive the sclerotic, deflationary euro zone economy. This week, Switzerland decided to get ahead of the ECB by ditching an exchange-rate policy once thought sacrosanct, and threw the markets into chaos.

Those markets, in Switzerland and beyond, now are pricing in an expectation that the ECB will announce the start of bond-buying at its Jan. 22 meeting. If ECB president Mario Draghi had any remaining hestitation, he will find no room for maneuver, and little appetite for ambiguity. Especially as an election in Greece, where the leading party has promised to push for another round of debt relief, has renewed fears of the euro zone’s biggest basket case being ejected from the club for good.

Meanwhile, Ukraine is on the brink of default and Russia, for all of its economic problems, continues to stir things up. The horror of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France, a foiled terror plot in Belgium, and arrests of suspected militants across Europe turned abstract fears of a radicalized minority into a terrible reality. The actions it will take to address these threats makes the worries about exchange rates and bond yields seem quaint by comparison.—Jason Karaian

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

Humanity’s genius for self-destruction. The famous doomsday clock on the cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has been ticking ever closer to midnight since the Cold War ended. On the Bulletin’s 70th anniversary, Leo Mirani looks back at its history and how it is keeping itself and its warnings relevant to the digital age.

Why you should kill the annual performance review. When Google looked at its best management practices, it found that number one in importance was for managers to be good coaches for their employees. But scheduled, infrequent reviews might be preventing them from playing that role, Max Nisen finds.

This will be the year of big personalities. Steve LeVine writes up his annual predictions on the issues that will move geopolitics. More than usual, he foresees that 2015 will be shaped by bold moves from a few key leaders—though Vladimir Putin will not, for once, be the boldest.

Is holacracy still the future of management? Shoe retailer Zappos is the best-known practitioner of holacracy, a radical management system that aims to make companies operate like software. In an extensive look at the company, Aimee Groth talked to “Zapponians” from the CEO on down and discovered that they’ve been on something of a bumpy ride.

Streaming didn’t kill the radio star. Despite the proliferation of online music services, by far the most popular form of music listening in the US is still radio. John McDuling argues that this is both good news and bad news for Spotify, Rdio, Beats Music, and their ilk.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

The preventable death of Sierra Leone’s top Ebola doctor. Sheik Humarr Khan watched his friends and colleagues succumb to the disease, but when he himself became infected, there was a chance to save him. Joshua Hammer investigates why that chance was missed in a wrenching story for Medium.

When computers know just how you feel. The day when you frown at your phone and your phone knows you’re unhappy is not far off. Raffi Khachatourian in the New Yorker looks at the startups racing to perfect emotion sensing and the business—and moral—implications it will have.

America’s messed-up maternity leave. The US lags far behind the rest of the world in the time off that it gives working mothers-to-be; but generous systems like Sweden’s have their own drawbacks. Claire Suddath in Businessweek explains how an attempt to change the law might just leave the US with a good compromise, a law similar to Canada’s.

Are algorithms our new deities? Algorithms run everything from our search engines to our thermostats. But Ian Bogost in the Atlantic argues that it’s time to cut them down to size; by exaggerating their influence, we’re ceding the same power to them that we once ascribed to gods and surrendering our ability to think critically about what they do.

On the road with Iraq’s most wanted woman. Vian Dakhil is one of only two Yazidis in Iraq’s parliament, and the woman whose impassioned plea for her people helped mobilize the Western bombing campaign against ISIL to stop the Yazidi genocide. ISIL, needless to say, doesn’t like her much. Abigail Haworth followed her around Iraq for Marie Claire.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, performance reviews, and self-important algorithms to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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