Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 20th, 2014

Predicting the Future, Delight the weird, Hard work of understanding

Seth Godin posted 3 short pieces.

Strategies for predicting the Future: Accuracy, resilience and denial

… three ways to deal with the future.

Accuracy is the most rewarding way to deal with what will happen tomorrow–if you predict correctly.

Accuracy rewards those that put all their bets on one possible outcome.

The thing is, accuracy requires either a significant investment of time and money, or inside information (or luck, but that’s a different game entirely).

Without a reason to believe that you’ve got better information than everyone else, it’s hard to see how you can be confident that this is a smart bet.

Resilience is the best strategy for those realistic enough to admit that they can’t predict the future with more accuracy than others.

Resilience isn’t a bet on one outcome. It’s an investment across a range of possible outcomes, a way to ensure that regardless of what actually occurs (within the range), you’ll do fine.

And denial, of course, is the strategy of assuming that the future will be just like today.

If you enter a winner-take-all competition against many other players, accuracy is generally the only rational play.

Consider a cross-country ski race. If 500 people enter and all that matters is first place, then you and your support team have to make a very specific bet on what the weather will be like as you wax your skis.

Picking a general purpose wax is the resilient strategy, but you’ll lose out to the team that’s lucky enough or smart enough to pick precisely the right wax for the eventual temperature.

Of course, and this is the huge of course, most competitions aren’t winner take all.

Most endeavors we participate in offer long-term, generous entrants plenty of rewards.

Playing the game is a form of winning the game. In those competitions, we win by being resilient.

Unfortunately, partly due to our fear of losing as well as our mythologizing of the winner-take-all, we often make two mistakes.

The first mistake is to overdo our focus on accuracy, on guessing right, on betting it all on the ‘right’ answer. We under appreciate just how powerful long-term resilience can be.

And the second mistake is to be so overwhelmed by all the choices and all the apparent risk that instead of choosing the powerful path of resilience, we choose not to play at all.

Denial rarely pays.

Posted by Seth Godin on January 03, 2014

Delight the weird, the outlier

Everyone who eats at your restaurant expects a good cup of coffee, and it’s difficult to wow them, because, of course, your competition is working to do the same thing.

But of course, it’s not everyone who wants a cup of coffee. Some want a cup of tea, or a cup of herbal tea, and those folks are used to being ignored, or handed an old Lipton tea bag, or something boring.

What if you had thirty varieties for them to choose from?

Everyone who stays at your hotel expects the same sort of service, and it’s difficult to wow them, because, of course, your competition is working to do the same thing.

But of course, it’s not everyone. Some people travel with their dogs, and they’re used to being disrespected.

What if you gave those people a choice of a dozen dog toys, three dog beds and a special dog run out back?

When you delight the weird, the overlooked and the outliers, they are significantly more likely to talk about you and recommend you.

Posted by Seth Godin on January 05, 2014

The hard work of understanding

Sometimes, we’re so eager to have an opinion that we skip the step of working to understand. Why is it the way it is? Why do they believe what they believe?

We skip reading the whole thing, because it’s easier to jump to what we assume the writer meant.

We skip engaging with customers and stakeholders because it’s quicker to assert we know what they want.

We skip doing the math, examining the footnotes, recreating the experiment, because it might not turn out the way we need it to.

We better hurry, because the firstest, loudest, angriest opinion might sway the crowd.

And of course, it’s so much easier now, because we all own our own media companies.

Posted by Seth Godin on January 04, 2014

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Ariel Sharon speech in 1982: Hang me if you like…

Ariel Sharon led Israel army in Lebanon in 1982 and entered Beirut.

Israel army put siege around Beirut for 3 months and cut-off water supply, electricity, all kinds of power, and food stuff.

During the siege, Sharon bombed Beirut from air, sea and land and destroyed buildings with people in on the excuse of targeting Yasser Arafat.

The Lebanese trapped in West Beirut experienced the grueling feeling of Israeli soldiers emptying their potable water bottles when crossing back to their homes.

Here is a translation of a French text of Sharon’s defense confronting Kahan commission on the massacre of Sabra and Shatila of 1982:

“Even today, I am volunteer to do the dirty job for Israel: To kill as many Arabs as necessary, to deport them, transfer them, burn them

Do whatever the entire world hate us for doing, to harass the Jews of the diaspora and pressuring them to run to us crying in fright.

Even if we have to demolish a couple of synagogues her and there. I don’t care.

And I don’t care if after the job is finished to be tried in a Nuremberg-type tribunal and sent to jail for life.

Hang me as a war criminal, if you desire.

Am I an anti-semite? Fine.

I’ll do whatever is required to increase anti-antisemitism…”

Note: The French text

“Même aujourd’hui je me porte volontaire pour faire ce sale travail pour Israël, de tuer autant d’Arabes qu’il est nécessaire, de les déporter, de les expulser, de les brûler, de faire que le monde entier nous haïsse, de tirer le tapis de dessous les pieds des Juifs de la diaspora, ce qui les forcera à courir vers nous en pleurant.

Même s’il faut faire sauter une ou deux synagogues par-ci par-là, cela m’est égal.

Et cela m’est égal aussi si une fois le travail fait, vous me mettez devant un tribunal de Nuremberg puis me jetez en prison à vie.

Pendez-moi même, si vous voulez, comme criminel de guerre. » …

« Ainsi je suis un antisémite ? Parfait ! » …

….« Je ferai tout ce que je pourrai pour accroître l’antisémitisme ! »

Ariel Sharon (1982)

Another Trap? Open-Office
 posted in The New Yorker this Jan. 7, 2014

THE OPEN-OFFICE TRAP

In 1973, my high school Acton-Boxborough Regional, Massachusetts, moved to a sprawling brick building at the foot of a hill.

Inspired by architectural trends of the preceding decade, the classrooms in one of its wings didn’t have doors.

The rooms opened up directly onto the hallway, and tidbits about the French Revolution, or Benjamin Franklin’s breakfast, would drift from one classroom to another.

Distracting at best and frustrating at worst, wide-open classrooms went, for the most part, the way of other ill-considered architectural fads of the time, like concrete domes.

(In 2005, following an 80-million-dollar renovation and expansion, none of the new wings at A.B.R.H.S. have open classrooms.) Yet the workplace counterpart of the open classroom, the open office, flourishes: some 70% of all offices now have an open floor plan.

open-office.jpg

The open office was originally conceived by a team from Hamburg, Germany, in the 1950’s, to facilitate communication and idea flow.

But a growing body of evidence suggests that the open office undermines the very things that it was designed to achieve.

In June, 1997, a large oil and gas company in western Canada asked a group of psychologists at the University of Calgary to monitor workers as they transitioned from a traditional office arrangement to an open one. The psychologists assessed the employees’ satisfaction with their surroundings, as well as their stress level, job performance, and interpersonal relationships before the transition, 4 weeks after the transition, and, finally, 6 months afterward.

The employees suffered according to every measure: the new space was disruptive, stressful, and cumbersome, and, instead of feeling closer, coworkers felt distant, dissatisfied, and resentful. Productivity fell.

In 2011, the organizational psychologist Matthew Davis reviewed more than a 100 studies about office environments. He found that, though open offices often fostered a symbolic sense of organizational mission, making employees feel like part of a more laid-back, innovative enterprise, they were damaging to the workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction.

Compared with standard offices, employees experienced more uncontrolled interactions, higher levels of stress, and lower levels of concentration and motivation.

When David Craig surveyed some 38,000 workers, he found that interruptions by colleagues were detrimental to productivity, and that the more senior the employee, the worse she fared.

Psychologically, the repercussions of open offices are relatively straightforward.

Physical barriers have been closely linked to psychological privacy, and a sense of privacy boosts job performance.

Open offices also remove an element of control, which can lead to feelings of helplessness.

In a 2005 study that looked at organizations ranging from a Midwest auto supplier to a Southwest telecom firm, researchers found that the ability to control the environment had a significant effect on team cohesion and satisfaction. When workers couldn’t change the way that things looked, adjust the lighting and temperature, or choose how to conduct meetings, spirits plummeted.

An open environment may even have a negative impact on our health.

In a recent study of more than 2,400 employees in Denmark, Jan Pejtersen and his colleagues found that as the number of people working in a single room went up, the number of employees who took sick leave increased apace. Workers in two-person offices took an average of 50% more sick leave than those in single offices, while those who worked in fully open offices were out an average of 62% more.

But the most problematic aspect of the open office may be physical rather than psychological: simple noise.

In laboratory settings, noise has been repeatedly tied to reduced cognitive performance. The psychologist Nick Perham, who studies the effect of sound on how we think, has found that office commotion impairs workers’ ability to recall information, and even to do basic arithmetic.

Listening to music to block out the office intrusion doesn’t help: even that, Perham found, impairs our mental acuity. Exposure to noise in an office may also take a toll on the health of employees.

In a study by the Cornell University psychologists Gary Evans and Dana Johnson, clerical workers who were exposed to open-office noise for 3 hours had increased levels of epinephrine—a hormone that we often call adrenaline, associated with the so-called fight-or-flight response.

What’s more, Evans and Johnson discovered that people in noisy environments made fewer ergonomic adjustments than they would in private, causing increased physical strain. The subjects subsequently attempted to solve fewer puzzles than they had after working in a quiet environment; in other words, they became less motivated and less creative.

Open offices may seem better suited to younger workers, many of whom have been multitasking for the majority of their short careers.

When, in 2012, Heidi Rasila and Peggie Rothe looked at how employees of a Finnish telecommunications company born after 1982 reacted to the negative effects of open-office plans, they noted that young employees found certain types of noises, such as conversations and laughter, just as distracting as their older counterparts did.

The younger workers also disparaged their lack of privacy and an inability to control their environment. But they believed that the trade-offs were ultimately worth it, because the open space resulted in a sense of camaraderie; they valued the time spent socializing with coworkers, whom they often saw as friends.

That increased satisfaction, however, may merely mask the fact that younger workers also suffer in open offices.

In a 2005 study, the psychologists Alena Maher and Courtney von Hippel found that the better you are at screening out distractions, the more effectively you work in an open office.

Unfortunately, it seems that the more frantically you multitask, the worse you become at blocking out distractions. According to the Stanford University cognitive neuroscientist Anthony Wagner, heavy multitaskers are not only “more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli” but also worse at switching between unrelated tasks.

In other words, if habitual multitaskers are interrupted by a colleague, it takes them longer to settle back into what they were doing.

Regardless of age, when we’re exposed to too many inputs at once—a computer screen, music, a colleague’s conversation, the ping of an instant message—our senses become overloaded, and it requires more work to achieve a given result.

Though multitasking millennials seem to be more open to distraction as a workplace norm, the wholehearted embrace of open offices may be ingraining a cycle of under-performance in their generation: they enjoy, build, and proselytize for open offices, but may also suffer the most from them in the long run.

Maria Konnikova is the author of “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.”

Photograph: View Pictures/UIG via Getty.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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