Being defined by the numbers

April 27, 2011

In a Data-Heavy Society, Being Defined by the Numbers

““Numbers make intangibles tangible,” said Jonah Lehrer, a journalist and author of “How We Decide,” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009). “They give the illusion of control.” …

… “We want to quantify everything,” he went on, “to ground a decision in fact, instead of asking whether that variable matters.” … And we often do need to find ways to measure and evaluate people and products in as objective a way as possible. The trouble, though, is when we mindlessly and blindly rely on those numbers to tell us everything, said Sherry Turkle, a professor of social studies of science and technology and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Initiative on Technology and Self.

Numbers become not just part of the way we judge and assess, but the only way. …

And those black-and-white statistics, while arguably irrefutable in one way, really tell us almost nothing. Amazon’s rankings of book sales, for instance — which anyone can view — can vary wildly based on the sale of very few books. All those numbers help us lose sight of why we’re really doing what we’re doing. Ms. Black, for instance, said her books were largely about loss. “I’ll get a letter from someone who says, ‘My daughter died, and reading your book really helped,’ ” Ms. Black said. “That’s so meaningful. How do I measure that against 500 Twitter followers?””

Say the same thing twice (or more)

April 27, 2011

By Tsedal Neeley and Paul Leonardi   Article

Effective Managers Say the Same Thing Twice (or More)

The finding: To get employees to do something, managers need to ask them at least twice.

The research: A team led by professors Neeley and Leonardi shadowed 13 managers in six companies for more than 250 hours, recording every communication the managers sent and received. The researchers discovered that one of every seven communications by the managers was completely redundant with a previous communication using a different technology. They also saw that the managers who were deliberately redundant moved their projects forward faster and more smoothly.

The challenge: If we communicate clearly, do we really still have to repeat ourselves? Isn’t that inefficient? Professors Neeley and Leonardi, defend your research.

Neeley: We know that the effective managers repeated themselves at least once, and we often observed managers who sent three or four redundant communications. We saw some clear patterns with regard to who did this and how. For example, we divided our managers into two types: those with formal power and those without it. We found that those without power planned their redundant communications and that frequently very little time passed between their first message and their second.

HBR: They actually intended to say the same thing twice from the outset?

Leonardi: It was very deliberate. One manager we observed worked on an e-mail for 20 minutes right after explaining his request to the employee in a conversation. He not only was aware of the redundancy but took the time to make sure the two communications said the same thing.

Neeley: Managers with power, however, were redundant in a more reactive way. We found that they think they can tell people what to do just once, but the lack of an adequate response forces them to send a redundant message.”

Trying not to fail, not striving for success

April 27, 2011

By Art Petty   Article

Trying Not to Fail Is Not the Same As Striving for Success

There’s a definite difference between focusing on not failing versus striving for success.

When we focus on not failing, fear rents most of the space in our mind, and we see monsters in need of slaying everywhere we turn. We lose track of the original vision that propelled our actions, and the sheer act of working becomes at best a passionless exercise and at worst, drudgery.

Lousy Leaders Achieve “Not Failing” at a High Price:

Sadly, many leaders provide fuel for the “don’t fail” machine through their actions.

Show me a project team or functional group that exhibit all of the energy and passion of a collection of late-night television zombies, and I’ll guarantee there’s one or more dysfunctional and often micro-managing leaders at the source of this environmental problem.”

The secret to smart investing

April 26, 2011

Posted on April 22nd, 2011 in Diversity   Article

“Here is the secret to smart investing: Don’t buy any actively managed stock or bond mutual funds.

A fund is considered actively managed when the fund manager attempts to beat a designated benchmark. Virtually all mutual funds recommended by brokers and most advisers are actively managed. The data is overwhelming that you would be better off in a globally diversified portfolio of low management fee stock and bond index funds, where the fund manager tracks the performance of a designated index.

Here is the information that your broker isn’t likely to share with you. For the five years ending in December 2010, between 60 and 90 percent of actively managed stock mutual funds failed to beat their designated benchmark in these categories: U.S. large cap, U.S. mid cap, U.S. small cap, global, international, and emerging markets. The lone exception was international small, where 24 percent failed to beat the index.

This dismal performance is consistent with exhaustive research showing that actively managed funds, as a group, tend to underperform the market by an amount equal to their average fees and expenses. Actively managed funds are up to 500 percent more expensive than index funds. Their high cost makes it exceedingly difficult for them to capture returns comparable to low management fee stock and bond index funds.

Actively managed bond funds fared worse, consistent with research showing this market is as efficient as stocks. There is no way to predict the movement of interest rates and bond prices. Between 56 percent and 98 percent of actively managed bond funds failed to beat their index over the past five years in the following categories: government long, government intermediate, investment grade long, investment grade intermediate, investment grade short, national municipals, and California municipals.”

Cartoon: The Silver Lining

April 26, 2011

By Abraham Hyatt   Article

“This one’s for the engineers, the programmers, the database administrators, the sysadmins, the networking gurus, and the rest of that army of people that gets deployed when a major outage happens. While the rest of us grouse that we can’t check in at our local haunts, or log on with our Twitter app of choice, or vote a story up or down on Reddit – or even do something a little more directly tied to social or economic productivity – those folks are working brutal hours under intense pressure to get everything back up again.

And while we’re firing off #fail hashtags and loudly musing about how we’re seriously considering competitors and alternatives, they’re closing off issues, squashing bugs, rooting out corrupted files or finding that one fried capacitor that brought everything down.

Yes, someone or some group of people out there was responsible for the decisions or actions – or lack thereof – that led to the latest outage, and they should be held accountable. But every once in a while, it’s nice to shift the recrimination generators into idle, and thank the people who get us all back up and running again.”

The 7-Stage Evolution of a Socially Responsible Brand

April 26, 2011

By Simon Mainwaring   Article

“For decades, the decision to be an environmentally and socially responsible company has been based on the bottom line: Would it be profitable? In general, companies have crunched the numbers and chosen shareholder profits over a sufficient commitment to invest in greater social responsibility. In terms of traditional accounting and the legal requirements of corporations, costs always outweighed benefits.

But it now seems that this equation is starting to lean the other way as brands recognize the potential financial and reputational advantages they can gain by engaging with consumers around the shared ambition of building a better world. We can see this already happening among some leading brands such as Pepsi, Google, Nike, Patagonia and Starbucks, who have all earned consumer respect for their involvement in some area of environmental or social responsibility related to their business.

How did this come about? In large part, it is because the payoff for corporate engagement with customers has risen dramatically as a result of social media. The new dynamics between brands and consumers, driven by social media, are proving to be a powerful impetus for change. …

The process of becoming a brand leader in the next decades will be an evolutionary one involving at least seven stages. Each stage is defined by its unique leadership style, brand vision, social media commitment and level of engagement with the brand’s customer base: ….”

Keep Customers – In A Nutshell

April 25, 2011

By Terry Starbucker   Article

The Absolutely, Positively, No Doubt About It Way To Keep Customers – In A Nutshell

“I’ve seen a lot of books out there lately that have taken a lot of pages to explain how to get and keep customers, but it’s really pretty simple:

  1. Thank your customers for their business, preferably with a smile
  2. Follow the Golden Rule in all your communications with customers, no matter the form
  3. If you mess up with a customer, own up to it and apologize
  4. Repeat 1-3, replacing “customers” with “employees, and “business” with “service

That’s it, in a nutshell.

This is exactly what we did at the last company I worked for, and it worked beautifully.

(By the way, ever wonder how the expression “in a nutshell” came to be? Check this out – fascinating……)”