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Posts tagged ‘Studies’

Organizations like to describe women as “abrasive”

The gender bias in performance reviews can be pretty ridiculous.

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White attitudes on African-Americans in prisons are a never-ending circle

The whole topic of racial attitudes around incarnation is very fraught — and also very complicated, as entire bodies of research are penned on it across people’s careers. I can’t begin to scratch the surface. I do know this, as does seemingly everyone: African-Americans are 12 percent of the U.S. population, but represent 40 percent of those incarcerated. That flat-out seems wrong (is wrong). Again, it’s a very complex issue, but it seems to be a never-ending circle as well, per this new research from Stanford University (paper link here):

Although African-Americans constitute only 12 percent of America’s population, they represent 40 percent of the nation’s prison inmates.

But informing the white public of this disproportionate incarceration rate may actually bolster support for the very policies that perpetuate the inequality, according to a studypublished in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Stanford psychology researchers Rebecca Hetey and Jennifer Eberhardt found that when white people were told about these racial disparities, they reported being more afraid of crime and more likely to support the kinds of punitive policies that exacerbate the racial disparities.

So … let’s get this straight.

If you try and use really imbalanced stats (the 12-40 split above) to inform white people about how imbalanced it is, instead you scare them — and they want black people (or any violent offenders, I guess) to go away even more. Read more

Want influence? The six factors are reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, likability and consensus.

How can you gain influence in your various networks? Turns out there are six keys.

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This 430 million days of unused paid vacation a year is so sad for Americans

You may have seen some of these stats — they’ve been on morning shows and evening news for a couple of days now. Basically, Americans don’t take as much vacation as they should; 430 million days of paid vacation time is left on the table every year. Here’s the report; the first part of the title is “Overwhelmed America.” This has led to a bunch of discussions about being a “work martyr,” and quotes like this:

“We found that people have this whole busyness as a badge of honor thing,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “We’re becoming a nation of work martyrs. People really wear it on their sleeves how they don’t take time off. Everyone around the world looks at Americans like we’re crazy.”

That quote made me feel smarter than I really am, because I’ve written about the same topic before.

Now, a personal story — and a bit of a sad one at that, but bear with me. Last fall, my aunt passed away fairly young (about 60). It was a tragic situation because it happened pretty quickly; she essentially got sick in July and passed away in October. At the end of her life — I wasn’t there day to day, but I know people who were — she never talked about work and spreadsheets and clients and bookings, but she talked about memories and experiences and trips. For example, her and my uncle had gone on a genealogy trip in the last 18 months of her life, and also gone to the Caribbean with friends. That’s what was on her mind at the end.

I’m not trying to argue that you should make life decisions based on how you might feel when you’re close to the end of your life, but I do think you need some context around how to think about things. Too often, we get caught up in the day-to-day of what we do and what our responsibilities are, and we don’t realize the bigger picture. First off, vacations let you re-charge and reflect and relax; all of those are good things in terms of your professional existence. If all you do is grind, you’re basically grinding yourself to a nub. You need those periods of breaking away; weekends are good, but they’re not everything. Weekends become errands and stuff too.

Quotes like this are ridiculous:

Managers didn’t set a very good example either. The survey found that nearly half answer emails on their vacation, three in 10 return work calls and just 37 percent of senior managers surveyed fully unplug from work while they’re away.

Get awayHave experiences. The work will be there when you come back.

In this same study, I read something like 30 percent of people were “afraid” to take vacation because they thought other people might jump them at work, or something like that. Asinine. If someone is going to jump you because you’re gone for a work week or maybe a little more than a work week, then you live in a politically-fraught environment where someone might jump you when you’re there doing your work. If the people making promotion decisions are going to penalize you for taking some time off, that’s not a place you want to become a manager anyway; I don’t care how high the salary is. Life isn’t about Excel.

Here’s some common excuses and rebuttals. Look it over and make some notes.

Final thing: as people are living longer, there’s this idea that “what” generations leave to the next generation will change. For years, that model was “money” (as in, inheritance/etc.) Now the idea is the grandparent generation does OK for itself, and they take big family trips — in the travel and leisure industry, they call that “multi-generational” — and in the process of spending some of the nest egg, they’re giving their children and grandchildren experiences as opposed to cash on the barrel when they’re gone. I think you’re going to see more and more of that, especially as “real wealth” is probably going to get harder to accumulate.

Look, life is about the value of the experiences and the connections you make; work is a part of that, but it’s not something that should define everything. Travel is a way to experience life and gain context. Do it. You’ll still have a job to get after when you get back.



Brief thought exercise: what if evolution isn’t going to end with humans, and instead the next phase is ‘cogent technology?’

The link text for this article on Slate – essentially about the possibility of technology replacing a lot of human jobs, which has been a concern for a decade or more at this point — is: “Technology is getting smarter. Humans aren’t.”

Think about that for a second: evolution is a fairly tangible fact, and yet, people have been wondering for a while whether the current phase of humans is the end of the line as far as evolving goes. This has been debated in Cosmos Magazine, on NPR, on Popular Science, and in a handful of other places — see here, here and here.

Now, I don’t want to go all bad-Johnny-Depp-movie here, but think about this for a second.

What if the natural next step in human evolution is, in fact, an evolution to ‘cogent technology?’

You could instantly argue that ‘cogent technology’ isn’t human — it’s technology — so by definition it wouldn’t be ‘human evolution’ anymore.

But stop and think: if technology is evolving faster than humans, could it someday essentially replace humanity as what’s living on the Earth?

A sci-fi premise, yes, but couldn’t that be where this is all headed?

Now stop and pause: cultural evolution (which technology is somewhat a part of) typically goes much faster than biological evolution (which involves changes in our DNA and the like). Here’s a good read about that: 

Tinkering. Take that souped-up brain and put it in the texting, Twittering, 24-7 world we’ve recently created for ourselves, and it’s easy to imagine that we will become superspeedy multitaskers—or more complacent cubicle dwellers. However, this progress comes too slowly for some. “The world is changing so rapidly that biological evolution is not where the action is,” says Nick Bostrom, a professor at the University of Oxford and cofounder of the World Transhumanist Association, which seeks to use science to improve humankind. He, for one, doesn’t care to wait through a few hundred generations for improvements. Genetic engineering will help short term, he says, and then nanotechnology will step in, altering the biochemistry of the human body at the flip of a switch. “If we’re thinking several hundred years out, then much more radical intervention may be feasible.”

Now, I’m not sure I’m ready to admit that somehow and someday all humans will evolve into (or be replaced by) cogent machines, but … in a way that might happen in terms of the job world. Cue Slate:

“Automation is Voldemort: the terrifying force nobody is willing to name,” declared one respondent quoted in the Pew report. “Good-paying jobs will be increasingly scarce,” said another, NASA program manager Mark Nall. “I’m not sure that jobs will disappear altogether,” allowed Justin Reich of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, “but the jobs that are left will be lower paying and less secure than those that exist now.”

Here’s a paper from Pew Research Center that a lot of the Slate article is based on. They made a helpful list of “key themes” in an inline graphic, and here’s one of the things listed under “Reasons To Be Concerned:”

Our educational system is not adequately preparing us for work of the future, and our political and economic institutions are poorly equipped to handle these hard choices.

This is kind of the same problem you’re seeing with “Big Data” right now – it’s a buzzword and something a lot of organizations want to get more deeply involved with, but we’re not actually spending time at the undergrad/grad level teaching it enough.

I’m not sure whether this was a straight-up rant or not, but it is interesting to think about: basically, what’s the future of humanity? Is evolution going to end with the current humans you see walking around? Will it get to the level you sometimes see in pictures — of humans with much bigger eyes? Or will cogent technology ostensibly replace us and hijack evolution?



Between 2006 and 2012, income inequality increased in 226 U.S. metros

If you’re trying to figure out where exactly the Great Recession (or “Downturn”) of 2008 did the most damage in the United States, one way to explore that would be to look at rising inequality rates. After all, in downturns the rich are typically not as affected as the middle class and the poor (a generalization, but definitely true in many places). Thankfully, there’s a post at CityLab delving into this.

This post uses the Gini Coefficient, a statistical dispersion measure that’s commonly used to track and understand income inequality. It looks at the 50 U.S. states and corresponding large metros at two points in time — 2006, about two years before the Downturn, and 2012, about three years after the beginnings of the recovery. CityLab – and more specifically, the same author (Richard Florida) — wrote another post looking at this from more of a state-by-state level too.

Here’s a map that shows changes in income inequality from 2006 t0 2012, mapped out by metro:

Inequality 2006-2012 Basic

Overall, 226 U.S. metro areas saw an increase in income inequality during the ’06-’12 period. That’s about 60-65 percent of the United States, give or take. Makes sense, because if you look at 1979 to 2012, there’s only four states where income inequality rose less than 10 percent. In sum? Inequality is getting worse before it’s getting better. But where is it hitting the most?

Via this map above, some of the bigger cities that saw rising inequality were:

  • New Orleans
  • Jacksonville
  • Salt Lake City
  • Atlanta

This is all (mostly) logical, as Jacksonville — while technically Florida — has more of a ‘Southeast’ vibe sometimes, and the Southeast (i.e. New Orleans and Atlanta as well) hasn’t been great on these types of studies; economic mobility, as a concept, is typically low in that region of the country. (The debt accumulations are higher too.)

The largest absolute increases in income inequality came in places such as:

  • Columbia, Missouri
  • Wausau, Wisconsin
  • Ithaca, New York
  • Dalton, Georgia
  • Corvallis, Oregon

If you do this just by percentage increase, Wausau (WI) saw its Gini Index grow by 18 percent. Check out this map for that context:

Inequality 2006 to 2012 Percentage

Here’s the bad news with all of this: just on the face value of what you tend to evaluate about an area (the average rent, the cost of groceries, the need for a car, etc.), you already know inequality seems to be rising in affluent coastal metros (NYC, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, et al). I just heard a story last weekend that one of my friends tried to rent an apartment on 44th and Ditmars in NYC — that’s end of one train line + a 13-block walk, give or take — and it was going for $2,400 for a 1BR. That’s absolutely stupidly absurd, and that apartment probably shouldn’t cost more than $1,500 max. But the markets can be crazy in those cities.

The bad news, though? Inequality is still rising in other places — and in real, absolute terms, it might be rising even faster.

Now look at that second map again; notice Texas, which is a huge state, has no dark blue areas in terms of massive percentage growth in inequality. Maybe that’s part of why I moved here, eh?

Brief thought exercise: can ‘Big Data’ ever mean big money?

“Big data” has been a term of note for a few years now — maybe going on a half-decade. Companies seem to love the idea of it, even though the C-Suite doesn’t completely understand it and schools aren’t necessarily teaching it. But just like another thing that corporations seemingly loved a few years ago — that being social media — the question now becomes: can you actually make money off Big Data?

Seemingly, you should be able to — after all, the underlying principle of “Big Data” is that you can accumulate information about your customers and potential customers in terms of what they actually want/need/are looking for, and then you can shape your strategy around that. There’s a big “way-we’ve-always-done-things” leap there in the sense of, a lot of people will still be more comfortable relying on their gut as opposed to data. Think about this: retail legends like Ron Johnson have gone on record saying that “Big Data” is a little bit overrated.

Here’s another voice in that chorus — former Google employee David Auerbach, now writing for Slate, notes this:

Why the trough? Because big data has yet to yield big money. For all the hype about the quantified self, the Internet of things, and data science, big data has yet to yield a true killer app. Google Flu Trends is a fascinating idea, but extrapolating flu incidents from Google searches on flu keywords has not produced reliable results. The New York Times recently published a piece by Sendhil Mullainathan wondering if search queries for “slow iPhone” might imply that Apple is intentionally slowing down older iPhones as new ones are released, but he concluded merely that big data doesn’t tell us enough to know for sure.

This is an interesting thing to think about: social really hasn’t been successful for many (some have done better than others) as a revenue generator. That’s going to change its perception in the next 5-10 years. It could become perceived as more of a niche PR / marketing channel if companies continue to struggle to tie it directly to revenue. Now you have to wonder: could the same thing happen to “Big Data?” Could it become more of an internally-focused element (that organizations use to track and monitor their own people) and less of a consumer-facing / consumer-acquisition strategy if it continues to not be linked directly to money in the bottom-line sense?

As with anything, some companies are doing it well. Check out Caesar’s Palace in Vegas and their use of analytics:

At Caesars Entertainment Corp.CZR -4.31%, the goal is to keep customers from leaving the gaming table and keep them spending money. Over 10 years, the company has developed real-time analytics software that helps it identify when customers are at a tipping point – what Ruben Sigala, the company’s chief analytics officer, calls “persuadable moments.”

Mr. Sigala says Caesars can now track 80% of gaming activity back to a specific customer – compared with 30% to 40% several years ago. “We’ve been at this for over a decade,” he says. This improvement means Caesars’ employees can reach out to customers having a poor run of luck at the blackjack table and offer them a meal or tickets to a show for the same night. “We can engage them in a way that goes beyond that one unlucky experience and remind them of the broader value proposition” of sticking around, he says.

Again, maybe not directly tied to revenue, but getting closer.

What do you think: could Big Data become a fad if its ties to bottom-line effectiveness can’t be proven directly?


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