Thursday 24th September 2020
  • The unexpected benefits of virtual education

    Let's just say it: there is nothing ideal about students and teachers dealing unexpectedly with remote learning, as millions have been doing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    That said, there may be a silver lining to virtual classrooms and distance learning, which many universities and schools this academic year are defaulting to, in various degrees, due to the coronavirus. As students and teachers may have to compensate for logistic challenges, collaborating online might prepare high school students with the kind of organizational acumen, emotional intelligence and self-discipline needed for modern careers, particularly those that allow for the growing trend of working in remote, distributed teams. The sooner that students master those proficiencies, the better off they'll be when they reach the job market.

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  • To Achieve Big Goals, Start with Small Habits

    Hey, it's the middle of the week and you need some motivation to get through the rest of the week, right? This HBR article has some (of the usual) advice about breaking big goals into small daily habits, but the part that stuck with me is 'how we are often not able to think small enough and how being too aggressive in growing the daily habit can kill the overall project, whether it's running a 10k or becoming a writer'. An excerpt below:

    It's hard to think small to begin with; it's even harder to stay small. Jake's micro habit was doing two push-ups a day. After earning 10 Y's in a row on his Yes List, Jake was eager to do more. For the next two days he did five push-ups, soon pushing up the number to 10 and then adding a 20-minute workout after. The sad result? Within two months, Jake had given up exercising as he'd enlarged his goals unrealistically fast. You've stuck with your original micro habit long enough when you feel bored with it for at least two weeks in a row. Then increase it only by about 10%.

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  • Customer Surveys Are No Substitute for Actually Talking to Customers

    I'll never forget the questionnaire handed to me midway through a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney. It was massive. Page after page of detailed tick-the-box or circle-the-response questions - it seemed to me it would take the full 13-hour flight to complete. I started, but it was too much work and I abandoned it halfway through. I thought to myself: does management really believe they get valid and reliable data from these surveys?

    For many organizations, surveys like this qualify as "talking to the customer." They're ubiquitous - appearing in hotel rooms, after online purchases, and in hospital emergency departments. But do they really qualify as customer consultation? Or are they a symptom of an isolated management just putting on a show of interest? What can be done instead?

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  • 3 biggest mistakes founder CEOs make when building that crucial first team

    I've recently been reflecting on challenges many founder CEOs face - myself included - in getting a company off the ground, and I keep coming back to the importance of the team. All startups have a vision and seeds of a product that has the potential to be something great, but success comes down to how well you execute the vision and build the right team to act on it.

    Far too often, technical CEOs who have brilliant ideas cannot execute on them, leading to their replacement by seasoned CEOs. These CEOs with years of experience know the ins and outs of the business world, but they often lack the vision and passion that the one who came up with the idea brings to the table. Therefore, the vision goes unrealized.

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  • Evolution made really smart people long to be loners

    Psychologists have a pretty good idea of what typically makes a human happy. Dancing delights us. Being in nature brings us joy. And, for most people, frequent contact with good friends makes us feel content.

    That is, unless you're really, really smart.

    In a 2016 paper published in the British Journal of Psychology, researchers Norman Li and Satoshi Kanazawa report that highly intelligent people experience lower life satisfaction when they socialize with friends more frequently. These are the Sherlocks and the Newt Scamanders of the world - the very intelligent few who would be happier if they were left alone.

    To come to this conclusion, the researchers analyzed the survey responses of 15,197 individuals between the ages of 18 and 28.

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  • The psychological origins of procrastination- and how we can stop putting things off

    "I love deadlines," English author Douglas Adams once wrote. "I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by."

    We've all had the experience of wanting to get a project done but putting it off for later. Sometimes we wait because we just don't care enough about the project, but other times we care a lot - and still end up doing something else. I, for one, end up cleaning my house when I have a lot of papers to grade, even though I know I need to grade them.

    So why do we procrastinate? Are we built to operate this way at some times? Or is there something wrong with the way we're approaching work?

    These questions are central to my research on goal pursuit, which could offer some clues from neuroscience about why we procrastinate - and how to overcome this tendency.

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  • The Baloney Detection Kit: Carl Sagan's Rules for Bullshit-Busting and Critical Thinking

    Carl Sagan (November 9, 1934 - December 20, 1996) was many things - a cosmic sage, voracious reader, hopeless romantic, and brilliant philosopher. But above all, he endures as our era's greatest patron saint of reason and critical thinking, a master of the vital balance between skepticism and openness. In The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark - the same indispensable volume that gave us Sagan's timeless meditation on science and spirituality, published mere months before his death in 1996 - Sagan shares his secret to upholding the rites of reason, even in the face of society's most shameless untruths and outrageous propaganda.

    In a chapter titled "The Fine Art of Baloney Detection," Sagan reflects on the many types of deception to which we're susceptible - from psychics to religious zealotry to paid product endorsements by scientists, which he held in especially low regard, noting that they "betray contempt for the intelligence of their customers" and "introduce an insidious corruption of popular attitudes about scientific objectivity."

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  • Eye-watering problem: Agra-based optician's claim threatens to break Indian banks

    When business evaporated at Gajendra Sharma's eyeglass shop a couple of miles from the Taj Mahal during India's strict COVID-19 lockdown, he was relieved to hear about a pandemic debt moratorium that would give him breathing room on his home loan.

    Now, however, the 53-year-old optician's $13,500 debt risks destabilising India's banks, authorities warn.

    That is because a complaint he brought challenging the loan relief plan, grouped with those of other borrowers and now before the Supreme Court, could mean a $27 billion hit to lenders - more than half their annual profits - that could shake the nation's financial system, the industry and regulators fear.

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  • The surprising traits of good remote leaders

    Strong in-person leadership skills don’t necessarily translate to being a good virtual leader. Instead, organisation and competency reign supreme.

    Fifteen years ago, Steven Charlier, chair of management at Georgia Southern University in the US, had a hunch that in-person charisma and leadership skills don't translate virtually. "Before I became an academic, I worked for IBM for a number of years on a lot of virtual teams," he says. "I had a boss who was a wonderful guy and great manager, and he drove me crazy trying to communicate. He was incredibly slow and unresponsive."

    This seed of professional vexation has borne fruit, with new data showing that the confidence, intelligence and extroversion that have long propelled ambitious workers into the executive suite are not enough online, because they simply don't translate into virtual leadership. Instead, workers who are organised, dependable and productive take the reins of virtual teams. Finally, doers lead the pack - at least remotely.

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  • There's no such thing as a stable career

    Job insecurity has always been a fact of life. Just ask chimney sweeps, lectors, and telephone operators.

    The rapid development of automation and artificial intelligence is dramatically changing industries - and jobs - around the world.

    But look back at the last century-plus of economic history, and it quickly becomes clear that such rapid technological change and disruption has long been the rule, not the exception. Categories of jobs once viewed as integral to Western economies have shrunk or essentially disappeared, only to be replaced by new ones.

    Though these changes often take place on an international scale, the United States - as the world's largest economy - has frequently been at the forefront of transformations in the workforce. What happens there seldom remains isolated for long and is often a harbinger for changes to come.

    Here are some of the occupations that have disappeared or transformed over the past century and others that may drive the U.S. economy over the next 10 years and beyond.

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