Tuesday 19th November 2019
  • What Kids Need to Learn to Succeed in 2050


    Humankind is facing unprecedented revolutions, all our old stories are crumbling, and no new story has so far emerged to replace them. How can we prepare ourselves and our children for a world of such unprecedented transformations and radical uncertainties? A baby born today will be thirtysomething in 2050. If all goes well, that baby will still be around in 2100 and might even be an active citizen of the 22nd century. What should we teach that baby that will help them survive and flourish in the world of 2050 or the 22nd century? What kind of skills will they need in order to get a job, understand what is happening around them, and navigate the maze of life?

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  • Signaling: The Language Peacocks, Gazelles, and Humans All Speak


    We are constantly signaling. Every minute of the day, we send signals to others to convey that we are intelligent, successful, attractive, healthy, well-adjusted people with impeccable taste. We signal to our bosses, coworkers, partners, friends, family, strangers on the street - just about everyone. Usually, we can't just tell people we have a particular positive quality. Talk is cheap and most people have no reason to believe us. We only rely on straightforward assertions when the stakes are low. Plus, there are few things less appealing than bragging. So instead of telling others who we are and how great we are, we use signals.

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  • The mindsets and practices of excellent CEOs


    For all the scrutiny of the CEO's role, though, little is solidly understood about what CEOs really do to excel. McKinsey's longtime leader, Marvin Bower, considered the CEO's job so specialized that he felt executives could prepare for the post only by holding it. Many of the CEOs we've worked with have expressed similar views. In their experience, even asking other CEOs how to approach the job doesn't help, because suggestions vary greatly once they go beyond high-level advice such as "set the strategy," "shape the culture," and "get the right team." Perhaps that's not surprising - industry contexts differ, as do leadership preferences - but it illustrates that fellow CEOs don't necessarily make reliable guides.

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  • The Riddle of the Well-Paying, Pointless Job


    This baffling paradox is the leading cause for today's restless workplace

    Work without pay is not a job, but work without motivation can certainly be one.

    This distinction between money and motivation is glaring, yet most employers structure their organizations as if the two things are synonymous. Each step up the corporate ladder comes with an associated increase in pay, and our motives for working have led to a chicken-or-egg situation.

    So what comes first: The desire for more money, or the desire to do better work?

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  • Can You Be a Great Leader Without Technical Expertise?


    There is a broad assumption in society and in education that the skills you need to be a leader are more or less transferable. If you can inspire and motivate people in one arena, you should be able to apply those skills to do the same in another venue.

    But recent research is rightly challenging this notion. Studies suggest that the best leaders know a lot about the domain in which they are leading, and part of what makes them successful in a management role is technical competence. For example, hospitals managed by doctors perform better than those managed by people with other backgrounds. And there are many examples of people who ran one company effectively and had trouble transferring their skills to the new organization.

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  • The new dot com bubble is here: it's called online advertising


    In 2018 $273bn was spent on digital ads globally. We delve into the world of clicks, banners and keywords to find out if any of it is real. What do we really know about the effectiveness of digital advertising?

    Picture this. Luigi's Pizzeria hires three teenagers to hand out coupons to passersby. After a few weeks of flyering, one of the three turns out to be a marketing genius. Customers keep showing up with coupons distributed by this particular kid. The other two can't make any sense of it: how does he do it? When they ask him, he explains: "I stand in the waiting area of the pizzeria."

    It's plain to see that junior's no marketing whiz. Pizzerias do not attract more customers by giving coupons to people already planning to order a quattro stagioni five minutes from now.

    Economists refer to this as a "selection effect."

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  • How Machine Learning Pushes Us to Define Fairness


    Bias is machine learning's original sin. It's embedded in machine learning's essence: the system learns from data, and thus is prone to picking up the human biases that the data represents. For example, an ML hiring system trained on existing American employment is likely to "learn" that being a woman correlates poorly with being a CEO.

    Cleaning the data so thoroughly that the system will discover no hidden, pernicious correlations can be extraordinarily difficult. Even with the greatest of care, an ML system might find biased patterns so subtle and complex that they hide from the best-intentioned human attention. Hence the necessary current focus among computer scientists, policy makers, and anyone concerned with social justice on how to keep bias out of AI.

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  • Illusion of Transparency: Your Poker Face is Better Than You Think


    "A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other." - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

    When we experience strong emotions, we tend to think it's obvious to other people, especially those who know us well. When we're angry or tired or nervous or miserable, we may assume that anyone who looks at our face can spot it straight away.

    That's not true. Most of the time, other people can't correctly guess what we're thinking or feeling. Our emotions are not written all over our face all the time. The gap between our subjective experience and what other people pick up on is known as the illusion of transparency. It's a fallacy that leads us to overestimate how easily we convey our emotions and thoughts.

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  • What Separates Elite Achievers From Average Performers?


    Inthe 1990s, a trio of psychologists from the Universität der Künst in Berlin embarked on a quest to answer the question: What separates elite achievers from average performers? Their resulting research became the basis of the so-called "10,000 hour rule," popularized by psychology writer Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers - the idea that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve true mastery of a skill. (Gladwell has pushed back on the interpretation over the years, but the popular conception of the rule has taken on a life of its own.)

    For their study, the researchers gathered a set of star violin players, ones who professors believed would become world-class performers. Let's call this group the stars. They also put together another group: students who were serious about the violin, but as their professors noted, not in the same league as the stars. We'll call this group the mediocres.

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  • Cracking the Code of Sustained Collaboration


    Ask any leader whether his or her organization values collaboration, and you'll get a resounding yes. Ask whether the firm's strategies to increase collaboration have been successful, and you'll probably receive a different answer.

    "No change seems to stick or to produce what we expected," an executive at a large pharmaceutical company recently told me. Most of the dozens of leaders I've interviewed on the subject report similar feelings of frustration: So much hope and effort, so little to show for it.

    One problem is that leaders think about collaboration too narrowly: as a value to cultivate but not a skill to teach. Businesses have tried increasing it through various methods, from open offices to naming it an official corporate goal. While many of these approaches yield progress - mainly by creating opportunities for collaboration or demonstrating institutional support for it - they all try to influence employees through superficial or heavy-handed means, and research has shown that none of them reliably delivers truly robust collaboration.

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