Correlation, causation, and confusion

April 27, 2015

By Nick Barrowman via   Article

“Causation has long been something of a mystery, bedeviling philosophers and scientists down through the ages. What exactly is it? How can it be measured — that is, can we assess the strength of the relationship between a cause and its effect? What does an observed association between factors — a correlation — tell us about a possible causal relationship? How do multiple factors or causes jointly influence outcomes? And does causation even exist “in the world,” as it were, or is it merely a habit of our minds, a connection we draw between two events we have observed in succession many times, as Hume famously argued? The rich philosophical literature on causation is a testament to the struggle of thinkers throughout history to develop satisfactory answers to these questions. Likewise, scientists have long wrestled with problems of causation in the face of numerous practical and theoretical impediments. …

In recent years, it has become widely accepted in a host of diverse fields, such as business management, economics, education, and medicine, that decisions should be “evidence-based” — that knowledge of outcomes, gathered from scientific studies and other empirical sources, should inform our choices, and we expect that these choices will cause the desired results. We invest large sums in studies, hoping to find causal links between events. Consequently, statistics have become increasingly important, as they give insight into the relationships between factors in a given analysis. However, the industry of science journalism tends to distort what studies and statistics show us, often exaggerating causal links and overlooking important nuances.

Causation is rarely as simple as we tend to assume and, perhaps for this reason, its complexities are often glossed over or even ignored. This is no trifling matter. Misunderstanding causal links can result in ineffective actions being chosen, harmful practices perpetuated, and beneficial alternatives overlooked. Unfortunately, the recent hype about ‘big data’ has encouraged fanciful notions that such problems can be erased thanks to colossal computing power and enormous databases. The presumption is that sheer volume of information, with the help of data-analysis tools, will reveal correlations so strong that questions about causation need no longer concern us. If two events occur together often enough, so the thinking goes, we may assume they are in fact causally linked, even if we don’t know how or why.”

Have you ever …

April 27, 2015

By  via   Article

Don’t Tell and Sell. Show and Ask

“As a judge, I had an opportunity to review Cari’s business plan in advance. She had created a hook, called Cargo, you put in your car to hang your purse on.

I thought, ‘Really?! You’re building a business around a hook that holds a purse?’

However, Cari intrigued us in the first minute. She carted a full size car seat to the front of the room, set it down on the floor next to her and put a purse on it. She stood up, faced the group, wrapped her fingers around an imaginary steering wheel and started “driving” while saying:

‘Have you ever been driving along and you had to STOP all of a sudden?

Your cell phone falls off the passenger seat onto the floor. You’re scrabbling around trying to retrieve it with one hand while driving and trying to stay on the road with the other hand?

Imagine never having to worry about that again. Imagine having a hook that you …’

At this point, a man in the audience stood up and said, ‘I’ll take two. One for my wife and one for my daughter.’

Wow. Cari went from a skeptical ‘Really?!’ to an enthusiastic ‘I’ll take two’ in sixty seconds. That’s the power of showing and asking.

Cari did several smart things that contributed to her creating curiosity and getting our attention.

She asked instead of told. Have you been taught to start communications by telling people what you’re going to tell them, telling them, and then telling them what you told them? That’s terrible advice. Do you know anyone who likes being told what to do?

It’s more engaging to ask ‘Have you ever …?’ questions that involve people instead of inform them. Now they feel like you’re talking with them instead of at them.

She ‘made us look’ by using a prop.”

Only 10%

April 27, 2015

Via   Article

This May Not Surprise You: Only 10% Of Managers Have What It Takes To Be Managers

“It’s actually really, really hard to be a great boss. And the qualities that make people great bosses are not how we decide who gets promoted.

If you interact with managers at work, this may not surprise you: A lot of people aren’t good at being managers. They lack the skills, the poise and, above all, the ability and willingness to engage. And we all know how this affects you, the worker. A bad manager can be disconnected and uninterested, leaving you alone but failing to help you grow. But the situation can be much, much worse.

Just how common are these bad bosses? A new report from Gallup, based on extensive polling, finds only 10% of managers have what it takes to be ‘a great manager.’

‘Great managers possess a rare combination of five talents. They motivate their employees, assert themselves to overcome obstacles, create a culture of accountability, build trusting relationships and make informed, unbiased decisions for the good of their team and company,’ says the report. ‘The majority of managers are miscast.’

Management theory has answers for why that is. The Peter Principle says people are often are promoted based on their current role, not their prospective performance in a management role. Or, they’re promoted because it’s their turn:

‘When Gallup asked U.S. managers why they believed they were hired for their current role, they commonly cited their success in a previous non-managerial role or their tenure in their company or field,’ the research group says.”


There’s no levity

April 27, 2015

By Donna Marshall via   Article

Tips for a happy workplace

“A five-year study of 3,000 people conducted by the Oxford-based iOpener Institute found that happy employees do the equivalent of an extra day’s work every week and take 66 percent less sick time than their least happy colleagues.  Marcia Kent, an organizational psychology specialist and president of Denver-based BizPsych … says she can tell immediately if an environment has a happy vibe.

‘The people are smiling, they are laughing and they are exchanging information. Their posture is open and relaxed.’ … In workplaces where happiness is lacking, Kent says, “There’s no levity, people don’t give each other attention and mainly it’s just the leaders that speak.” …

Here are a few of her tips to foster a happy environment:

  • Be open with praise. When a BizPsych employee goes above and beyond or earns positive feedback from a client, that strong performance is shared with everyone through emails and other communications. That, in turn, becomes a social contagion. Recognizing contributions publicly helps build momentum.
  • Change the mindset. Instead of viewing a group of employees laughing and talking as a negative, think about how those water cooler conversations encourage collaboration. Reconsider what success at your firm means if it translates into working 60 hour weeks and getting by on four hours of sleep. …
  • Contribute to the larger community. Offer employees opportunities to do volunteer work. Companies that reward people with time to pursue charitable work will see improved satisfaction levels because these contributions create the opportunity for employees to feel better. These don’t have to be expensive or big endeavors. Even small project can turn into big wins.
  • Encourage movement. Getting up and moving – even for 15 minutes a day – creates helps to create a healthy habit. It gets the endorphins going and creates a sense of well-being.”

Bad news

April 20, 2015

By Amy Gallo via   Article

“Delivering bad news is tough. It’s even harder when you don’t agree with the message or decision you’re communicating. Maybe you have to tell your star performer that HR turned down her request for a raise or to inform your team that the company doesn’t want them working from home any longer. Should you toe the line and act like you agree with the decision or new policy? Or should you break ranks and explain how upset you are too?

What the Experts Say
‘In a managerial role, it’s natural to feel ambivalence’ when delivering disappointing news, says Joshua Margolis, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. This is because you always have two different parties’ interests at heart — that of your employees and that of upper management. Talent management expert writer Susan Heathfield agrees: ‘As a manager, you walk a fine line between being a company advocate and an employee advocate.’ Reconciling the two is no easy task and you often feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. Here’s how to navigate the situation. …

Putting it all together
To give you a sense of what this all sounds like, consider the following example. If you have to tell a direct report that he didn’t get the promotion he was hoping for you can say something like: We’re unable to give you the promotion (be direct). HR says that in order to be at a director level you need to have responsibility for a larger scope of the business (explain the rationale). It’s not necessarily how I’d approach itbut I understand why as an organization we do it that way (express procedural fairness).  What questions do you have for me? How are you feeling? (Allow for venting). Now let’s look at what you can do to get that promotion next year or the following one (focus on the future).”

Sorry, not sorry

April 20, 2015

By Jessica Hagy via   Image

Real leaders

April 20, 2015

By Dean Williams via   Article

Why Real Leaders Don’t Care About Titles or Formalities

“Traditional leadership that relies on prominence (‘look to me’), dominance (‘listen to me’), and tribalizing (‘follow me’) to get things done isn’t working anymore. Instead the best leaders are global change agents; they’re men and women who can act with or without formal positional authority to mobilize diverse factions to face reality, participate in interdependent problem solving, and contribute to innovative solutions with focus and speed.

The outdated leadership modal emphasizes operating within boundaries—these leaders protect and manage boundaries. But global change agents, true leaders, aren’t afraid to cross boundaries, bust boundaries, transcend boundaries, and build bridges. Here’s what that looks like:


Interdependent problems necessitate that multiple groups in a social system be mobilized since problems can’t be brought to resolution by one group acting alone or in isolation. True leaders, then, must cross the cultural, gender, geographic, structural, and professional boundaries that separate people and groups. …


True leaders must intervene to break up maladaptive practices and counterproductive boundaries that perpetuate silos and tribalism. Groups by nature are tribal and seek to preserve their prevailing boundaries, even at the expense of facing reality and adapting to changed conditions.

Boundaries play an important function in protecting groups and sustaining a group culture, but they become impediments when they reduce the flow of information and resources and keep people from facing changed conditions, dealing with threats, and taking advantage of unique and emerging opportunities.”