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Best content from the best source handpicked by Shyam. The source include The Harvard University, MIT, Mckinsey & Co, Wharton, Stanford,and other top educational institutions. domains include Cybersecurity, Machine learning, Deep Learning, Bigdata, Education, Information Technology, Management, others.

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  • 12/21/13--05:39: Winter solstice 12-21

    As the winter arrives, the sun's maximum elevation during the day, the elevation at noon, gets lower. This maximum elevation attains its lowest value at the winter solstice and after that it starts to increase.
    When it is Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the summer solstice in theSouthern Hemisphere.
    For the Northern Hemisphere, at the moment of winter solstice, the sun is at its greatest height as observed from the South Pole. Similarly, for the Southern Hemisphere, at the moment of the winter solstice, the sun is at its greatest height as observed from the North Pole.  In the Northern Hemisphere the winter solstice is also the Southern solstice and occurs in December, In the Southern Hemisphere this is theNorthern solstice which occurs in June.
    Depending on one's position on the globe, the December solstice usually occurs on the 21st and the 22nd and the June solstice usually occurs on June the 20th or 21st. However, it is sometimes possible for a solstice to coincide with three different dates. Thus the December 2016 solstice coincides with 20th of the month in American Samoa, with the 21st in London and with the 22nd at Kirtimati.
    Source Wikipedia

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    Let Your Customers Streamline Your Business

    Customers appreciate simplicity. In fact, a number of recent studies have shown that it’s key to their loyalty and satisfaction. CEB reported in HBR last year that the most important factor in creating customer “stickiness” was “decision simplicity,” i.e. the ease of getting credible information in the midst of marketing noise. Another CEB study found that loyalty is positively affected by reducing the amount of effort that customers need to invest in service issues. Along the same lines, Francis Frei and Anne Morriss, in their study of service businesses, have found that one of the most effective ways to keep customers is to simplify customer service jobs.
    But how do you simplify in ways that will really make a difference for customers? Oftentimes, organizations rely on internal planning, process mapping, and brainstorming sessions to come up with new ways of satisfying customers. While this can be productive, more often than not it leads to ideas that barely change the status quo, because it’s difficult for internal people to produce fresh perspective on longstanding policies and practices.
    So rather than relying on internal perspectives alone, engage your customers in developing simplification ideas — the second of our seven strategies for simplifying your organization. Here are five best practices that will help you take an outside-in approach to making it easier for customers to do business with you.
    Listen to your critics. Does your organization ask for customers’ feedback about what it was like to do business with you? What about asking non-customers why they don’t do business with you? Intentionally including people who dislike your product or service in a focus group can lead to more provocative conversations. Better yet, have naysayers sit in on internal planning meetings to share their thoughts on how product or service enhancements could affect how they perceive your company.
    Roast your products and services. Comedy Central gained attention from its famous Roasts, where a celebrity gets torn to shreds with hilarious insults doled out by the audience. Try out this practice on your company’s products or services. Do you sell something that’s desperately in need of a makeover? Roast it. Do you have a product that doesn’t work as well as it should? Roast it. The goal of this exercise is to see your products objectively like your customers do; flaws and all. Use customer service emails as fodder to get you started. This is an opportunity for your staff to say what everyone in the room and all of your customers have probably already been thinking. You’ll get a good laugh, but more importantly, identify opportunities for improvement.
    Turn pains into gains. Think about actively asking your customers about their pain points when it comes to working with your organization and its products or services. Once you identify the low points, you can start brainstorming how to make them selling points and key differentiators in the market. For example, if customers are consistently frustrated with the wait time for resolving complaints, make that your number one priority for change.
    Figure out what your customers do all day. Think you know your target market? Not just their demographic, but what their life is actually like. What do they think about in the morning when they wake up? What are their high and low points throughout the day? What really makes them tick? Try giving your customers a diary for them to record what a day in their life is like, or have some of your managers spend a day shadowing a customer. This will help you understand unmet needs.
    Learn from other industries. Sometimes businesspeople think their company has unique circumstances; that problem-solving strategies that have proven successful in other industries wouldn’t work for them. This could not be further from the truth. Henry Ford got the idea for assembly line production from visiting slaughterhouses that used a similar technique. Cattle and cars don’t seem to have much in common from the surface, but the strategy for efficiently delivering a final product to consumers is a great fit for both industries. Similarly, GE developed an approach to more rapidly solving customers’ problems from talking with Walmart. What industries could provide radical change ideas for your company?
    These five best practices of course are not meant to be all-inclusive; but they are all aimed at helping you to unlock a different way of thinking about simplification. If you want to make it easier for your customers to do business with you, make sure that you start with their perspective.

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    Rahul Gandhi unleashes his more responsible self to woo industry

    Outlines UPA's economic agenda in his address to India Inc at Ficci's annual general meeting
    Rahul Gandhi
    Rahul Gandhi
    Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, expected to be named the Congress’ prime ministerial candidate for the coming Lok Sabha elections, on Saturday tried to woo industry with a clear economic agenda — a special-purpose vehicle for natural resource investment, flexible labour laws, fast-tracking environmental clearances, cracking down on hoarding to combat food inflation, among other things.

     He was addressing industry captains at the annual general meeting of industry body Ficci.

    Gandhi touched “all our concerns”, said industrialist Rajiv Kanoria, but another businessman quipped: “Hope the government is listening.” Hardly deviating from his prepared script, a clean-shaven Rahul Gandhi appeared much different — there were few signs of the rebel-within image he had displayed at a CII gathering in April this year, soon after taking charge as the party’s vice-president.

    Before addressing his audience, Gandhi admitted the political reality of the electoral drubbing that the Congress had received in four of the five states that had gone to polls recently. “My last quarter results have not exactly been resounding,” he said, but expressed confidence — CEO-style — that the Congress would bounce back.

    Speaking the language industry wants to listen to, Gandhi addressed the concerns several industry delegations had flagged — land acquisition difficulties, labour laws forcing companies to engage contractual labour, environmental bottlenecks, etc. “We can’t allow you to be held back because of slow decision-making,” he said, conceding there had been a lapse on the part of the government, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

    Without blaming the Opposition for holding up governance or decision-making (unlike on many occasions earlier), he attempted to lay out a road map of the United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA’s) economic vision and highlight the achievements of its “decade in power”.

    Accused consistently of sidelining industry concerns and prioritising social welfare sops, Gandhi was at pains to impress upon industry that it was a partner in the process of economic growth. The natural resource investment SPV for obtaining prior clearances before auctioning projects to private players was one such innovative idea. “Poverty cannot be fought without growth,” he emphasised.

    He did not directly address the scams that had frayed the UPA government’s relationship with industry, Gandhi said UPA was serious about tackling corruption, which he labelled UPA’s “biggest “ concern. In a reference to the scrapped ordinance on tainted politicians — which elicited peals of laughter — Gandhi admitted: “I got to learn that it is not polite to ask that ordinances be torn and thrown into the dustbin!”

    Launching into the framework of legislation that UPA had lined up to tackle corruption, including the recently-cleared Lok Pal Bill, he candidly admitted the Right to Information (RTI) had “opened ourselves to scrutiny”.

    Highlighting UPA’s achievements, such as bringing a third of the population above the poverty line, he read out the Congress-led UPA’s electoral plank loud and clear: “It is today’s investments in people that create tomorrow’s markets.”

    He also made it clear that UPA was not going to sacrifice any of its welfarist agenda, such as the food security programme, rural development schemes and the employment guarantee scheme.

    Realising that rising prices had brought the Congress down in the Assembly elections, Gandhi flagged tackling inflation, including the food part, as top priority.

    Without naming the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Gandhi recalled the Nazi era in the 1930s and the pitfalls of bringing in power “a party built on a divisive ideology” — obviously, hinting at BJP.

    He also tried to explain to industry (considered the strongest advocate of bringing Modi to power), that “wealth cannot be constructed on poverty” and “societies cannot be built on injustice…”.

    Unlike his previous outing at CII, Gandhi did not ambitiously resort to metaphors like “India is a beehive of energy”, etc. Responding to Kanoria’s question on “mismatch” between laws like the land acquisition law and easing policy bottlenecks, Gandhi said: “Take the Tata example in West Bengal. It was the absence of law that allowed such a (people and political) mobilisation,” adding politics in this country was changing and there was transparency. “We need to provide you a framework.”

    Responding to questions put to him from former Ficci Presidents, Gandhi said: “The biggest problem is absolute arbitrary powers at all levels of the system. The real issue in all these things, whether land acquisition or environment, is arbitrary power — of chief ministers and environment minister — to do what they want.”

    To sum up, he said: “We have to build rule-based structure... We have to get used to the new paradigm.” But, as Rajan Bharti Mittal said, “you definitely have your heart in the right place” but “hope the government is listening”.


    * The Venue: A jam-packed Ficci auditorium had members of the audience squatting even on the aisles and stairs

    * A new look: Rahul Gandhi seemed to have shed the rebel-within image he had displayed a CII event in April

    * Body language: Not aggressive — no characteristic rolling up of sleeves, no tearing papers, no nervous shuffle, not even the stubble (he was clean shaven)

    * The gait: Instead of striding across the stage, as he did in April, he limited himself to standing at the lectern

    * To the point: Gandhi mainly stuck to his written speech. He did not take questions put to him by Ficci’s past presidents. There was no bombastic metaphor on India, either

    * Clear talk: His speech, unlike earlier occasions when he made vague academic references, was much clearer

    * No family friends: He avoided narrating stories of the Gandhi family and friends from abroad. Only mentioned Europe and US when talking about IT industry and its competitiveness

    Policy remedies of Rahul Gandhi

    * Time-bound decision-making for infrastructure projects

    * Need to balance environmental clearances with industry’s needs

    * The Cabinet Committee on Investment and the project monitoring group are a recognition of the need to fast-track clearances

    * Need to build a robust and open real-estate market

    * A natural resource investment SPV for obtaining prior clearances before auction of projects to private players

    * Framework of legislation to fight corruption

    * Increased investment in education and research & development

    * In a decade, manufacturing sector should be 25% of GDP and generate 100 million new jobs

    * Need to reform labour laws and make labour market flexible

    * Beating inflation, including in food, top priority; crackdown on hoarders a must

    Reproduced from Business Standard

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    Full text: Rahul Gandhi’s speech at Ficci AGM

    Following is full text of the address by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi at the Ficci's 86th annual general meeting today:

     "Thank you, Madam President and members of Ficci, for inviting me to speak to you today. You represent the great entrepreneurial skills that our people possess. The businesses you have built are symbols of the immense potential that lies at the heart of India. Let me begin by acknowledging that my last quarter results have not exactly been resounding. I now know how it feels when you have to go to your AGMs with bad news. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. PTI The recently held elections have made their point. We need to have the foresight and humility to accept the messages being expressed to us without resorting to the usual props of statistical data and excuse making. A political party’s strength lies in the voice of those it represents. We will listen to the voices we represent. The Congress party has long prided itself in this very ability and used it to rise from adversity time and again. We will renew ourselves. And will fight strong and confident in order to protect the values of tolerance and compassion that are the essence of India. You are stakeholders of the Congress party. Our bonds with you date back to 1931 when Mahatma Gandhi addressed Ficci's fourth Annual Meeting. We have charted the growth of our nation side by side. You understand the global economic environment well; listening to your voice and heeding it is imperative. Over the last few months, many of you have spared time to meet with me and discuss your views. For this I am grateful. I am in complete agreement with the need for the regulatory system to be rapidly and radically modernized. Frankly, there are no excuses for the length of time required to clear some of these projects. We are a fast moving economy. We cannot allow you to be held back by slow decision making. Accountability has to be clear, fixed and time bound. The Cabinet Committee on Investment and the Project Monitoring Group are a recognition of the need to fast track clearances. Some 300 projects with an investment of over Rs. 5 lakh crores, about 5 percent of GDP, have been cleared. Sectors affected by delays in clearances such as power, petroleum and mining have been the biggest beneficiaries of this focused approach. Of course, many projects are still stuck - some for good reason and some for no good reason at all. However, much of the information about these cleared projects remains obscured from the public domain. Unfortunately, good news about this government doesn’t seem to sell newspapers these days. Many of you have expressed your frustration with environmental clearances that are delaying projects unduly. There is excessive administrative and judicial discretion. The loopholes are so big you can drive a truck through some of them! Environmental and social damage must be avoided, but decisions must also be transparent, timely and fair. Accessing land is difficult and time consuming. It’s a struggle. The black market in land has got to go. We need to build a robust and open real estate market, so that businesses, especially small startups, have affordable access to land. The UPA government is considering a Natural Resource Investment SPV. The idea is to obtain all clearances before auctioning projects to private players. This is a powerful and innovative idea. Corruption is bleeding our people dry. It is an unacceptable burden on the people of our nation. We must fight corruption with all our strength and determination. Recently, we have been able to ensure that convicted criminals are kept out of Parliament. In the process, I got to learn that it is not polite to ask that ordinances be torn and thrown into the dustbin! This week, we took a huge step. We passed the Lokpal Bill. But, as I have said on numerous occasions, we need to go further. The Congress party has developed a framework against corruption. I have appealed for the passage of six critical anti-corruption bills through parliament. Let me tell you about two. The amendment to the Prevention of Corruption Act will protect honest officers and be much more effective against those who are corrupt. The Grievance Redressal Bill will ensure that every citizen has the right to timely delivery of goods and services by their government. It includes a mechanism to redress their grievances in the event of any lapse. This government has done more than any other government to combat corruption. The Right to Information Act has been our most powerful weapon in the fight against corruption. The power of information is finally in the hands of the people. This has created a paradigm shift. Few governments have had the courage to enact legislation that rendered their processes more transparent and open to scrutiny. I am proud to say that the RTI has shown all concerned the writing on the wall and, in some cases, it has shown them the wall of Tihar Jail! I would now like to talk about some key policy areas. We desperately need better knowledge and innovation systems. We need you to increase investment in education and R&D. Most importantly, we need to rid ourselves of the idea that academia and industry are separate silos. We need to drastically upgrade the skill level of our people and simplify our processes. India has the brightest youngsters in the world. But let me be blunt - our current education system does not do them justice. There has been a massive scaling up of investment in education and training. But we need to do much more. This is the land that produced Buddha, Kabir, Tagore and Ramanujan. We have to produce many more world-class scientists, artists, and philosophers. Over the last decade we have achieved the fastest economic growth in the history of India. Despite global headwinds, Indian industry has sustained growth because of the energy of our business community. The political stability and rational policy environment provided by our governments also made this possible. We believe that economic prosperity must include everyone. Poverty is neither befitting of human dignity, nor is it conducive to good business. I would like to state clearly that poverty cannot be fought without growth. Maintaining robust growth has enabled the UPA government to invest in people. In ten years almost a third of India’s poor have risen above the poverty line. There is a view that our investments in food security, employment guarantee and rural development are a drag on economic growth. I don’t believe there is a trade off between investments in the social sector and economic growth. It is today’s investments in people that create tomorrow’s markets. It is today's markets that allow us to invest in our people's future. A mindset revolution is the fuel for economic growth. Today self help groups have shattered the hold of moneylenders. They have enabled millions of women to seek credit to finance their aspirations. They are the new age customers for the banks. Women now claim credit as their right and see it as an opportunity. Such mindset changes are the result of years of sustained political effort and investment in people -- in their education, their health, in rural infrastructure and job creation. The most important thing that we have to do is to create fulfilling and rewarding jobs for our youngsters. Those who are poor, those who belong to the middle class and those among the 700 million people above the poverty line but below the middle class threshold. These are the craftsmen who are building India. India must become the global leader in manufacturing. This has to be one of our core missions. Let’s target growing the manufacturing sector to 25 percent of GDP generating 100 million new jobs in the next decade. I sincerely believe that this can be done. The dramatic improvement we need in productivity demands that we provide the right enabling environment. This will require the political will to make difficult reforms in labour laws. Old labour laws have forced businesses to use contract labour. As you know, they are often underpaid and unprotected. India needs a modern and flexible labour market where labour has a fair share and is protected by international labour standards. We must reform the power sector and ensure that businesses have reliable and affordable access to power. While absorbing the latest technologies from around the world, Indian manufacturing must also be built around Indian patents. We have to open up our manufacturing sector and foster competition. The Industrial Corridors - Delhi-Mumbai, Mumbai-Bengaluru, Bengaluru-Chennai and Ludhiana-Kolkata - will revolutionize high value added manufacturing and provide millions of jobs. Agriculture is an equally high priority. We are on the threshold of a second Green Revolution. Price realization and improved productivity have raised farm wages significantly in the last decade. We have made greater investments in critical areas such as micronutrients, microirrigation, satellite weather forecasting and access to affordable credit to farmers. Our efforts to raise productivity and farm income will continue unabated. High inflation on the back of high food prices is an immediate concern. It has stretched household budgets and constrained industrial growth. It hurts our people everyday. Beating inflation is our top priority. We must crack down on hoarding and profiteering. We must ease infrastructure bottlenecks and rapidly modernize the supply chain from field to plate. Now, a little about politics. Around the time Mahatma Gandhi was making his address to Ficci in 1931, the dark shadows of fascism had begun to spread over Europe. A party built on a divisive ideology full of hatred, arrogance and misguided notions of superiority plunged the world into a war that brought Germany to its knees. Millions of people were killed and communities impoverished. Businesses were destroyed. What our people understood intuitively, but the Europeans of the 1930s did not, was that wealth cannot be constructed on poverty. Peace cannot be constructed on conflict. Societies cannot be built on injustice and hatred. India’s democracy has never been more vibrant. What will India look like when she celebrates her hundredth birthday? Our vision for India is of a country whose economy would be the largest in the world, second to none. Our vision is also of an India which would have deepened its democracy to the grassroots; a democracy where every citizen would have voice in government. Where power would have been devolved to the lowest levels, to elected bodies. An India where every political party would be truly representative and truly democratic. But above all our vision is of an India united by compassion, not power; living in harmony, not in hatred; thriving in peace rather than suffocating in conflict; filled with humility, not with hubris. Where poverty has been confined to the dustbin of history. An India where government serves the people rather than people serve the government. The central mission of the Congress was defined by Gandhiji as the industrial progress and prosperity of India. The Congress mission is anchored in a simple idea. It is not a new idea. It is an ancient Indian idea - an idea where humanity is united in love, compassion and harmony. And in this great, great country of ours it always has, and always will, trump hatred."

    View at the original source

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  • 12/13/13--02:57: wikiHow Kudos 12-13
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    In the New Economy, You Are the Product

    PHOTO: In the New Economy, You Are the Product

    How much would you pay to secure your personal information from data farmers and marketers – and anyone that might be able to hack their servers? $100? $1,000? More?
    What if I told you that you gave it to them for $5 off your next $100 purchase? Because every time you gave your ZIP code to a store clerk last weekend for one of your Christmas gift purchases, that's what you did. But the real question is, in the grand scheme of things, even with great incentives, is the tradeoff worth it? It's a hard question to answer unless you know what's really going on.
    Consider the newest innovation in retailer data-mining from a startup called Index, which uses a three-tier system to track shoppers. First, it allows retailers to track repeat customers' shopping patterns via card swipes. Next comes The Ask: "Would you like to give us your ZIP code or phone number so we can tell you about upcoming promotions?" Take the bait, and you and your purchases are no longer anonymous. The ultimate grab is installed at the third tier, when you're asked to download a retailer's mobile app. Then they can push promotions to your phone as you walk by various items that their big data setup knows you might be tempted to buy.
    The first two parts are hardly unique to retailers using Index – after all, who doesn't have a pharmacy or grocery store loyalty card (or multiples of both)? For a dollar off here, a buy-one, get-one free deal there, we've already given up our contact information and enabled companies to track our purchases to offer us coupons or other incentives to buy. In other words, we eagerly turn over all stripe of personally identifiable information, with which data farmers can match everything from your medical records (prescription purchases) to your preferred shampoo (or hair dye) to your favorite cereal to your smoking cessation aid.
    But at least in those cases, we've knowingly given up our information. In other cases, companies started compiling on us without us even knowing. It wasn't that long ago people were unsettled by the New York Times exposé that Target was buying data from "other sources" to add to its own massive information collection program for purposes of mining the data. A recent report on Walmart's privacy practices by the Center for Media Justice, Color of Change, and Sum of Us revealed the many avenues people are tracked in a way that consumers cannot stop or opt out of. The report estimates that 60% of adult Americans are in Walmart's big data grab -- 145 million people.
    And if you think that valuable information remains in a proprietary database or is only used to print coupons, just take a look at the catalogues in your recycling bin that you don't remember ordering. Selling mailing lists is, and has long been, standard practice in the retail industry.
    The real reason many retailers want your information isn't necessarily to save you money or move inventory. Once they get good at predicting your buying behavior and graft what they know about you onto other publicly available information, they can wholesale your data to others. Bottom line is they don't just want to sell things to you, they want to sell you.
    They don't have to get this information by crawling through the cracks and crevasses of our lives -- retailers have found that the easiest way to get our personal information is simply to ask. (Others, of course, don't ask. They gather data however they can.)

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    Be a Minimally Invasive Manager

    So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work. —Peter Drucker

    One of the hardest things for entrepreneurs to learn is that most of the time, the best thing they can do is get out of the way of the people actually doing the work. That’s the core tenant of what I call “Minimally Invasive Management.”
    The idea reflects the struggles of tech-centered start-ups to rethink the role of professional managers. These companies tend to be run by engineers and creatives, not MBAs. At least in Silicon Valley, management is becoming just another operating function, like payroll and finance and sales, all serving to facilitate the work of the technically and creatively skilled who do the heavy lifting.
    Be aware, there’s a risk here that the pendulum swings too far, and companies end up under-managed. Skilled managers still matter – Minimally Invasive Management is not the same as no management at all.
    You’ve heard of software as a service? This is management as a service. Managers serve the people doing the work. And nobody is more important in an organization than the people doing the work.
    In this brave new world, management’s role should be to remove the impediments in front of the people doing the work so that they can do it well – and so they can be satisfied, rewarded and motivated in their work.
    When you start your company, with a half-dozen people in a room, every job is important. Everyone is involved in every decision. Everybody is empowered. Everybody feels like a stakeholder. But then you add another half dozen people …. and another half dozen … and another half dozen…
    And then you start to see chinks in the armor. You start with a bunch of doers, but fall into dysfunction. Priorities aren’t being set. Conflicts aren’t being resolved. Communications aren’t clear. People don’t know what decisions are being made or why they’re being made. Morale starts to fade – and things slow down. That’s bad: in the world we all operate in, speed is everything.
    So those are the signs that you need management. Not because people need a boss, but because people need someone to resolve the issues that are stopping them from doing their work. Managers aren’t ball carriers. They’re running interference for the ball carriers.
    In the world of minimally invasive management, managers have three primary jobs: they need to hire; they need to develop and serve their people; and they need to fire.
    Hiring the best people is the easiest way to build a high functioning, competitive organization. If you hire badly, you’ll spend most of your time as a manager dealing with personnel issues and you will find that 75% of your time is dealing with problems. If you hire well, you can invest more time on issues like strategy, innovation, and goal-setting. Management can spend the bulk of its time taking a C+ player and turning him into a B- player, or they can take an A- player and make them into an A player. Where would you want them to spend their time? The answer is obvious.
    Job two is staff development. A good manager doesn’t make people cogs in a wheel, but instead gets all the wheels spinning together. That starts with giving people clear priorities and communicating well what’s going on in the organization – what decisions are being made and why they are being made. It’s about taking individuals and making them 10% or 20% or 50% better than they ever thought they could be.
    That said, you can hire as well as you can, and you can develop your people strongly, but ultimately you are going to be wrong sometimes. Jobs change. People don’t step up to new roles. Organizations change. You need to understand who can improve and who is simply incompetent.
    Managers need to know the difference. There are high costs to getting rid of a B player if they have the competence to be a B+ or even an A player. But if they don’t, you need to resolve that quickly. Organizations regress to the mean. If you have a bunch of B players that are not advancing, your organization will start to regress to their level.
    Adding managers to an entrepreneurial organization is always difficult. Those first half dozen people you brought in felt like stakeholders. They were involved in every decision. You’re now asking them to pull back, focus more on their work and not be involved in every decision. This involves trust. A great manager has to create that trust with their organization. They have to do it through communication, and predictable and reliable behavior.
     There won’t always be unanimous agreement, but management must be fair and honest – and work hard for the benefit of the team. And ultimately you need managers who know that, most of the time, they need to get out of the way and let people do their work.

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    The Future Of Education Eliminates The Classroom, Because The World Is Your Class


    This probably sounds familiar: You are with a group of friends arguing about some piece of trivia or historical fact. Someone says, “Wait, let me look this up on Wikipedia,” and proceeds to read the information out loud to the whole group, thus resolving the argument. Don’t dismiss this as a trivial occasion. It represents a learning moment, or more precisely, a microlearning moment, and it foreshadows a much larger transformation--to what I call socialstructed learning.
    Socialstructed learning is an aggregation of microlearning experiences drawn from a rich ecology of content and driven not by grades but by social and intrinsic rewards. The microlearning moment may last a few minutes, hours, or days (if you are absorbed in reading something, tinkering with something, or listening to something from which you just can’t walk away). Socialstructed learning may be the future, but the foundations of this kind of education lie far in the past. Leading philosophers of education--from Socrates to Plutarch, Rousseau to Dewey--talked about many of these ideals centuries ago. Today, we have a host of tools to make their vision reality.

    Think of a simple augmented reality app on your iPhone such as Yelp Monocle. When you point the phone’s camera toward a particular location, it displays “points of interest” in that location, such as restaurants, stores, and museums. But this is just the beginning. What if, instead of restaurant and store information, we could access historical, artistic, demographic, environmental, architectural, and other kinds of information embedded in the real world?
    This is exactly what a project from USC and UCLA called Hyper Cities is doing: layering historical information on the actual city terrain. As you walk around with your cell phone, you can point to a site and see what it looked like a century ago, who lived there, what the environment was like. Not interested in architecture, passionate about botany and landscaping instead? The Smithsonian’s free iPhone and iPad app, Leaf snap, responds when you take a photo of a tree leaf by instantly searching a growing library of leaf images amassed by the Smithsonian Institution. In seconds, it displays a likely species name along with high-resolution photographs of and information on the tree’s flowers, fruit, seeds, and bark. We are turning each pixel of our geography into a live textbook and a live encyclopedia.

    So look beyond MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in thinking about the future education. In our focus on MOOCs and how they are likely to disrupt existing classrooms and educational institutions, particularly colleges and universities, we are missing the much larger story. Today’s obsession with MOOCs is a reminder of the old forecasting paradigm: In the early stages of technology introduction we try to fit new technologies into existing social structures in ways that have become familiar to us.
    MOOCs today are our equivalents of early TV, when TV personalities looked and sounded like radio announcers (or often were radio announcers). People are thinking the same way about MOOCs, as replacements of traditional lectures or tutorials, but in online rather than physical settings. In the meantime, a whole slew of forces is driving a much larger transformation, breaking learning (and education overall) out of traditional institutional environments and embedding it in everyday settings and interactions, distributed across a wide set of platforms and tools. They include a rapidly growing and open content commons (Wikipedia is just one example), on-demand expertise and help (from Mac Forums to Fluther, Instructables, and WikiHow), mobile devices and geo-coded information that takes information into the physical world around us and makes it available any place any time, new work and social spaces that are, in fact, evolving as important learning spaces (TechShop, Meetups, hackathons, community labs).
    We are moving away from the model in which learning is organized around stable, usually hierarchical institutions (schools, colleges, universities) that, for better and worse, have served as the main gateways to education and social mobility. Replacing that model is a new system in which learning is best conceived of as a flow, where learning resources are not scarce but widely available, opportunities for learning are abundant, and learners increasingly have the ability to autonomously dip into and out of continuous learning flows.
    Instead of worrying about how to distribute scarce educational resources, the challenge we need to start grappling with in the era of socialstructed learning is how to attract people to dip into the rapidly growing flow of learning resources and how to do this equitably, in order to create more opportunities for a better life for more people.

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    Should Leaders Focus on Results, or on People?

    A lot of ink has been spilled on people’s opinions of what makes for a great leader. As a scientist, I like to turn to the data.  In 2009, James Zenger published a fascinating survey of 60,000 employees to identify how different characteristics of a leader combine to affect employee perceptions of whether the boss is a “great” leader or not. 

    Two of the characteristics that Zenger examined wereresults focus and social skills. Results focus combines strong analytical skills with an intense motivation to move forward and solve problems.  But if a leader was seen as being very strong on results focus, the chance of that leader being seen as a great leader was only 14%. Social skills combine attributes like communication and empathy. If a leader was strong on social skills, he or she was seen as a great leader even less of the time — a paltry 12%.
    However, for leaders who were strong in both results focus and in social skills, the likelihood of being seen as a great leader skyrocketed to 72%.
    Social skills are a great multiplier.  A leader with strong social skills can leverage the analytical abilities of team members far more efficiently. Having the social intelligence to predict how team members will work together will promote better pairings.  Often what initially appear to be task-related difficulties turn out to be interpersonal problems in disguise.  One employee may feel devalued by another or think that she is doing all the work while her partner loafs – leading both partners putting in less effort to solve otherwise solvable problems. Socially skilled leaders are better at diagnosing and treating these common workplace dilemmas.
    So how many leaders are rated high on both results focus and social skills?  If this pairing produces especially effective leaders, companies should have figured this out and promoted people to leadership positions accordingly, right?  Not hardly.  David Rock, director of the Neuroleadership Institute, and Management Research Group recently conducted a survey to find out the answer.  They asked thousands of employees to rate their bosses on goal focus (similar to results focus) and social skills to examine how often a leader scored high on both.  The results are astonishing.  Less than 1% of leaders were rated high on both goal focus and social skills.
    Why would this be?  As I describe in my book, Social: Why our brains are wired to connect, our brains have made it difficult to be both socially and analytically focused at the same time.  Even though thinking social and analytically don’t feel radically different, evolution built our brain with different networks for handling these two ways of thinking.  In the frontal lobe, regions on the outer surface, closer to the skull, are responsible for analytical thinking and are highly related to IQ.  In contrast, regions in the middle of the brain, where the two hemispheres touch, support social thinking.  These regions allow us to piece together a person’s thoughts, feelings, and goals based on what we see from their actions, words, and context.
    Here’s the really surprising thing about the brain. These two networks function like a neural seesaw. In countless neuroimaging studies, the more one of these networks got more active, the more the other one got quieter.  Although there are some exceptions, in general, engaging in one of the kinds of thinking makes it harder to engage in the other kind.  Its safe to say that in business, analytical thinking has historically been the coin of the realm — making it harder to recognize the social issues that significantly affect productivity and profits.  Moreover, employees are much more likely to be promoted to leadership positions because of their technical prowess.  We are thus promoting people who may lack the social skills to make the most of their teams and not giving them the training they need to thrive once promoted.
    How can we do better?  For one, we should give greater weight to social skills in the hiring and promotion process.  Second, we need to create a culture that rewards using both sides of the neural seesaw.  We may not be able to easily use them in tandem, but knowing that there is another angle to problem solving and productivity will create better balance in our leaders.
    Finally, it may be possible to train our social thinking so that it becomes stronger over time. Social psychologists are just at the beginning stages of examining whether this kind of training will bear fruit.  One exciting prospect, one that would make the training fun, is the recent finding that reading fiction seems to temporarily strengthen these mental muscles.  
    Wouldn’t that be great — if reading Catcher in the Rye or the latest Grisham novel were the key to larger profits?

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    NASA's  "Wreath nebula." 

    NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission presents the "Wreath nebula." Though this isn't the nebula's official name (it's actually called Barnard 3, or IRAS Ring G159.6-18.5), one might picture a wreath in these bright green and red dust clouds -- a ring of evergreens donned with a festive red bow, a jaunty sprig of holly, and silver bells throughout. Interstellar clouds like these are stellar nurseries, places where baby stars are being born.

    The green ring (evergreen) is made of tiny particles of warm dust whose composition is very similar to smog found here on Earth. The red cloud (bow) in the middle is probably made of dust that is more metallic and cooler than the surrounding regions. The bright star in the middle of the red cloud, called HD 278942, is so luminous that it is likely what is causing most of the surrounding ring to glow. In fact its powerful stellar winds are what cleared out the surrounding warm dust and created the ring-shaped feature in the first place. The bright greenish-yellow region left of center (holly) is similar to the ring, though more dense. The bluish-white stars (silver bells) scattered throughout are stars located both in front of, and behind, the nebula.

    Regions similar to this nebula are found near the band of the Milky Way galaxy in the night sky. The "wreath" is slightly off this band, near the boundary between the constellations of Perseus and Taurus, but at a relatively close distance of only about 1,000 light-years, the cloud is a still part of our Milky Way.

    The colors used in this image represent specific wavelengths of infrared light. Blue and cyan (blue-green) represent light emitted at wavelengths of 3.4 and 4.6 microns, which is predominantly from stars. Green and red represent light from 12 and 22 microns, respectively, which is mostly emitted by dust.

    Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

    #christmas #nasa #space #wise #wreath #red #green #holiday #nebula #universe 

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    The Secret to Delighting Customers

    What motivates employees to go above and beyond the call of duty to provide a great customer experience? Disney tells a story about a little girl visiting a theme park who dropped her favorite doll over a fence. When staff retrieved the doll, she was covered in mud, so they made her a new outfit, gave her a bath and a hairdo, and even took photos of her with other Disney dolls before reuniting her with her owner that evening. The girl’s mother described the doll’s return as “pure magic.”

    The theme park team didn’t consult a script or seek advice from managers. They did what they did because going the extra mile comes naturally at Disney. Such devotion to customer service pays dividends. Emotionally engaged customers are typically three times more likely to recommend a product and to repurchase. With an eye to these benefits, many companies are making customer experience a strategic priority. Yet they are struggling to gain traction with their efforts.
    Why is customer experience so difficult to get right? The main hurdle is translating boardroom vision into action at the front line. That’s even more important in an era when optimizing individual customer touchpoints is no longer enough —when you have to focus on holistic customer journeys, instead.
    There’s only one way to create emotional connections with customers: by ensuring every interaction is geared to delighting them. That takes more than great products and services — it takes motivated, empowered frontline employees. Creating great customer experience comes down to having great people and treating them well. They will feel more engaged with the company and more committed to its goals.
    The best companies make four activities habitual:
    Listen to employees. Want your employees to take great care of your customer? Start by taking great care of them. Treat them respectfully and fairly, of course, but also get involved in tackling their issues and needs. Establish mechanisms to listen to concerns, then address them.
    When Disney first opened its Hong Kong resort, employees had to pick up their uniforms from attendants before every shift. With up to 3,000 people arriving at once, waiting in line could create frustration and delay. So leaders responded by pioneering a new approach using self-service kiosks. Employees pick up a uniform, scan the tag and their ID at a kiosk, check the screen display, and walk away. Result: a smoother start to the day that frees frontline staff to focus all their energies on customers. The new approach was so effective that Disney rolled it out across all of its parks and cruise ships.
    Hire for attitude, not aptitude — and then reinforce attitude. To get friendly service, hire friendly people. Airline JetBlue has embedded this philosophy in its hiring process. To recruit frontline staff with a natural service bent, it uses group interviews. Watching how the applicants interact with one another enables hiring managers to assess their communication and people skills to an extent that wouldn’t be possible in a one-to-one setting.
    Having hired people with the right attitudes, leaders need to ensure they reinforce the behaviors they want to see. Although Disney hires janitors to keep its parks clean, everyone else in the organization knows that they share the responsibility for maintaining a clean and pleasant environment. Asked why he was picking up paper in the restroom, one leader replied, “I can’t afford not to.” Leaders’ actions are visible to all. Or as Disney puts it, “Every leader is telling a story about what they value.”
    Give people purpose, not rules. Rules have their place, but they go only so far. To motivate employees and give meaning to their work, leading companies define their “common purpose”: a succinct explanation of the intended customer experience that resonates at an emotional level. When people are set clear expectations and trusted to do their jobs, they feel valued and empowered. They choose to go that extra mile through passion, not compliance.
    For Chilean bank BCI, common purpose is about developing trust-based customer relationships that last a lifetime. Leaders at the bank tell a story about a lottery winner who was deciding who to entrust with his prize money. Asked why he chose BCI, he said advisors didn’t just sell him products, but tried to satisfy his needs. Some of them traveled regularly on the bus he drove, and he thought they seemed just as genuine in their free time as they were in the branch.
    Tap into the creativity of your front line. Giving frontline employees responsibility and autonomy inspires them to do whatever they can to improve the customer experience. When they see a problem, they fix it without waiting to be asked. Frontline staff are also a rich source of customer insights. They can help leaders understand what customers want without the time and expense of market research.
    Take Wawa, a US convenience-store chain. One enterprising manager decided his customers would like a coffee bar and a bigger choice of fresh food. When customer traffic and profits soared, head office noticed and dispatched a team to find out why. With facts in hand, the company quickly developed a plan to replicate the innovation across its network.
    Technological advances have made it much easier for companies to understand customers on an individual basis. Even so, engaging with customers is still undertaken largely through personal contact. Building a relationship of trust happens at the front line, one interaction at a time. So to create an emotional bond with your customers, start with your employees. 

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    'We Are Creating Walmarts of Higher Education'

    As colleges feel pressure to graduate more students for less money, professors worry that the value of an education may be diminished.

    Universities in South Dakota, Nebraska, and other states have cut the number of credits students need to graduate. A proposal in Florida would let online courses forgo the usual higher-education accreditation process. A California legislator introduced a measure that would have substituted online courses for some of the brick-and-mortar kind at public universities.

    Some campuses of the University of North Carolina system are mulling getting rid of history, political science, and various others of more than 20 “low productive” programs. The University of Southern Maine may drop physics. And governors in Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin have questioned whether taxpayers should continue subsidizing public universities for teaching the humanities.

    Under pressure to turn out more students, more quickly and for less money, and to tie graduates’ skills to workforce needs, higher-education institutions and policy makers have been busy reducing the number of required credits, giving credit for life experience, and cutting some courses, while putting others online.

    Now critics are raising the alarm that speeding up college and making it cheaper risks dumbing it down. “We all want to have more students graduate and graduate in a more timely manner,” says Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the American Association of University Professors. “The question is, do you do this by lowering your standards?”

    About 100 university faculty-members from all over the country plan to meet in January in New York under the umbrella of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, a national movement that aims to “include the voices of the faculty, staff, students and our communities—not just administrators, politicians, foundations and think tanks—in the process of making change.”

    The group says the push for more efficiency in higher education often leads to lower quality, and that reforms are being rushed into practice without convincing evidence of their effectiveness. Some of the association’s members point out that there has been little research into the effectiveness of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, for example, even as the number of students enrolled in them skyrockets. One of the first major studies of MOOCs, by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, found that only about four percent of those enrolled complete them.

    Meanwhile, to save money, more conventional classrooms are filling up with part-time faculty, often hired two or three weeks before they’re due to begin teaching, according to research by another organization, the New Faculty Majority Foundation.

    “We are creating Walmarts of higher education—convenient, cheap, and second-rate,” says Karen Arnold, associate professor at the Educational Leadership and Higher Education Department at Boston College.

    Steven Ward, a sociology professor at Western Connecticut State University and the author of Neoliberalism and the Global Restructuring of Knowledge and Education, likens the new world of higher education to another American business known for its low prices. Ward calls it the “McDonaldization” of universities and colleges, “where you produce more things, but they’re not as good,” Ward says, reviving a term first used in 1983 by the sociologist George Ritzer to describe a dehumanizing drive toward efficiency and control.

    One of the biggest threats is the move in many states to allocate funding for public universities based on measures such as graduation rates, rather than simply enrollment, say Fichtenbaum and others. They say that will compel faculty to pass more students, including some who may not deserve to be passed.

    “I have no doubt this is going to create a subtle pressure to pass students who wouldn’t otherwise,” says Fichtenbaum. He says the pressure may be even greater for part-time faculty, or those who don’t have the job security of tenure. Advocates for change say the faculty who resist it have an obvious stake in a status quo that doesn’t work.

    Performance-based funding is only one of the efforts aimed at creating more college graduates, pushed by policymakers who are frustrated by this statistic:only 56.1 percent of college students graduate within even six years. Among those leading the charge are advocacy groups, philanthropic foundations, and President Barack Obama, who has called for the United States to retake the lead in the share of its population with university degrees.

    But there is too little known about whether efforts to create more college graduates are affecting the quality of what is being taught, says Debra Humphreys, vice president at the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

    “There are a whole bunch of policies—like getting students through more quickly—most of which don’t pay attention to what they are learning,” Humphreys says. “It could be making a bad situation worse if we don’t look at the impact of not only how many students get through, but what they learn.”

    She says there is certainly need for improvement in higher education, but the focus on increasing the quantity of graduates may be diverting attention from innovations that could improve the quality of their education.

    “The idea that the system is working fine, and we just need to get students through more quickly, is false,” says Humphreys, a former professor of women’s studies and English.
    Innovations such as so-called learning communities—in which groups of students take courses together—may help motivate students and make them less likely to drop out, which would in turn lead to more graduates. But assuming that “one change to the whole system” will achieve that goal is false, says Humphreys, “especially with the student body so unprepared and so diverse.”

    The best ways to help students succeed include providing them with “a critical mass of interesting peers, interactions with professors and outside-the-classroom experiential learning,” says Boston College’s Arnold. Yet, “At the same time we know this, we are moving in the opposite direction.”

    Take MOOCs. “Thousands are looking at this. But few are finishing the courses,” Arnold says. “In the end, education is an interpersonal endeavor.”

    Mayra Besosa, a lecturer in Spanish at California State University-San Marcos, is more blunt. “Anything that creates distance in the teacher-student relationship will hurt the student,” Besosa says.

    In the end, says Humphreys, when it comes to “getting students through more efficiently, more quickly and with the learning they need, we need to pay attention to all three. Otherwise, at least one will suffer.”

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    Finish the task right away


    Do not postpone what you can do today. A planned approach could help you reach your goal.
    At some point of time in our lives most of us would have put off for later a task that had to be done. Whether it is about completing academic assignments or projects before the deadline, or seizing an opportunity which could have altered the course of our lives completely, we may have missed it because of procrastination. Procrastination means postponing things or putting off until tomorrow what could have been done today. But the problem is “tomorrow never comes.”
    Procrastination comes into the picture when it is a question of choosing between larger long-term rewards and smaller short-term rewards. Students know that they have an assignment to finish before the deadline. But they spend their time in other pleasurable activities or gather data till the penultimate day and complete their assignment on the last day in a hurried manner which may not bring out their full potential.
    According to research, performance anxiety, fear of failure and low self-esteem are some of the reasons why students procrastinate. Some students procrastinate to avoid anxiety and some avoid tasks which they feel they cannot complete successfully and which will make them feel like failures. Students with low self-esteem tend to be self-critical and judge themselves by high standards and say, 

    “If I am not good enough why should I begin this task now?”

    Overcoming procrastination is easy if you have a planned approach.

    Estimating time

    Often students underestimate the time needed to complete a task and think there is a lot of time remaining and don’t begin. When they overestimate time, they perceive the task as large and difficult and don’t start.

    For example, if you have to read a management text book of 700 pages. You have to calculate your reading speed (words per minute) and check the time you take to read one page and multiply that by the total number of pages to estimate the total time needed to complete the book and then calculate how much time you need to invest on a daily basis.

    Sometimes students get discouraged by the size of the task and due to fear don’t even make a beginning. It is said if you want to eat an elephant, start by taking small bites. Divide the complete 700 page book into small chunks of bite-sized pieces according to your comfort/resistance levels, say 5-10 pages, and read them over 30-45 minute slots.

    Starting with easy tasks first will not only increase your confidence level but will also help you to overcome inertia and gather momentum to sustain.

    Useful tips

    Sometimes students feel if they have to begin studying, they need a big time slot where they can study for long hours continuously. Instead you can poke holes on a big task and work in smaller units of time at odd moments like utilising a free 30-minute slot available, for completing assignments.
    Choose the time of the day when your energy and alertness levels are high and utilise that time to tackle the most difficult subject.

    Lack of exercise and low energy levels are common among those who procrastinate. Physical exercise will increase your stamina and cause the brain to release endorphins which will act as natural pain-killers and make you feel calm.

    Visualise yourself as performing a difficult task easily and give yourself encouraging self talk. Like, when reading a big book, say to yourself, “Come on just one more page to study. I know I can do it.”
    Keep a to-do list, visible to you with tasks arranged according to priority (importance/urgency) to serve as reminder. Strike-off each accomplished task and feel happy to see the list diminish.

    Occasionally give yourself small rewards for accomplishing the task on time. This positive reinforcement will help you to maintain your progress and increase productivity.

    If the habit of procrastination is not overcome during student life it will carry forward to your work life and social life. The cost of procrastination is high. It reduces productivity and sometimes compounds problems. Many medical problems could be treated, if diagnosed early. But the problem is people postpone their visit to the doctor.

    The famous speaker and writer Dale Carnegie said “The best possible way to prepare for tomorrow is to concentrate with all your intelligence, all your enthusiasm, on doing today’s work superbly today. That is the only possible way you can prepare for the future.”
    Don’t procrastinate, follow the mantra DO IT NOW.

    Reproduced from "The Hindu" Education Plus

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    The Cambridge primary review's key findings.

    There is a "pervasive anxiety" about the pressure on pupils at school and from the commercial world, but these concerns are often overstated and mask the fact that poverty is the single biggest threat to children's lives, the Cambridge review has found.

    Concern is fuelled by a media obsession with "toxic childhood", but children themselves report being happier than their parents and teachers give them credit for.

    The review says: "Yes, English childhoods have changed in the past, say, 25 years. Family forms have changed, formal learning starts at younger ages and other education policy changes impact on children's school experience … On the other hand, opportunities for children are greater than they have ever been. What is worrying is the persistence of a long tail of severely disadvantaged children whose early lives are unhappy, whose potential is unrealised and whose future is bleak."

    Children's biggest concerns are about the environment, terrorism and about their personal safety – a minority in inner-city areas reported a fear of violent crime. The most entrenched problems are faced by children from disadvantaged homes.
    "[Education] matters to all children, but especially to those who, in our divided society, lack the massively compensating advantages of financial wealth, emotional harmony and a home life which is linguistically, intellectually, culturally and spiritually rich," it says.
    The system
    Although there should be an urgent debate about teaching ages, styles, curriculum and standards, the review concludes that "for many, schools are the centre that holds when things fall apart". But in many cases schools are succeeding in this despite government policy, not because of it. The review describes how, since 1997, the government has intervened in the way schools teach on an unprecedented level, instructing a "state theory of learning" with "Stalinist overtones".
    Starting age
    The review says that England should conform to international practice by delaying the start of formal school until children turn six. This would extend the preschool, play-based curriculum to give children a stress-free grounding before they start formal lessons. It found a "strong and widespread conviction" that children are ill-served by starting formal learning at four, as currently happens in many areas of the country and as is being proposed by the government as a national policy. Starting formal learning before the age of six "dents children's confidence and risks long-term damage to their learning".
    One local authority claimed that the combination of an early start, testing and pressure to reach government standards was creating a generation with mental health problems.
    Primaries have become too focused on the "three Rs" and the curriculum needs to be broadened. Today's report sets out plans for a new curriculum that includes 12 aims for each pupil: wellbeing, engagement, empowerment, autonomy, respect and reciprocity, interdependence, citizenship, celebrating culture, exploring, fostering skills, exciting imagination and enacting dialogue.
    Children's learning should also cover eight domains, including arts and creativity, language, oracy and literacy, and science and technology, which would replace the current narrower subject areas. Schools would be given back part of the timetable reserved for teachers to design their own lessons locally.
    Labour's national strategy for primary schools, which introduced the daily literacy and numeracy hours, has massively centralised the system and de-professionalised teachers. The school secretary Ed Balls's recent decision to scrap the private contract with Capita, which runs the National Strategies, will not take away that effect, the review argues, because there is now a generation of teachers who only know how to teach under the system. It has made teaching "inflexible and monolithic" and was an ill-informed political intervention, it concludes.
    Teachers should be given back control over how they teach. Many parents surveyed argued that homework should be scrapped and researchers said it gave an unfair advantage to children from more supportive, settled homes.
    The model of the generalist teacher in primary schools has been in place since the 19th century when it was introduced to cut costs. This system should now be revised with the introduction of more specialist teachers, some of whom could be shared between schools. It acknowledges that this would be expensive.
    The government's rules around teaching, designed to raise standards, could in fact depress them by robbing teachers of their independence. The review disputes Ofsted's finding that schools now have the best ever cohort of new teachers in history, saying there is no proof to back up that claim.
    The review identified "serious concerns" about provision for children with special educational needs (SEN). Children are too often classified as SEN on the basis of "stereotyping and discrimination" instead of considered analysis. Parents and schools are deeply frustrated at the lack of support and unequal funding for their children across the country. It calls for a separate full and independent review of Sen provision.
    Researchers encountered widespread concerns about behaviour in the classroom, with many sources blaming changing social trends and "bad parenting". The review suggests that improved teaching rather than stricter rules is the best way to tackle indiscipline. "Those who feel a failure are more likely to team up with the class tearaways to gain at least some affirmation, if, indeed, they are able to make friends at all," it says.
    A good relationship between home and school is a considerable bonus. However, over-zealous parents can be as problematic as disengaged ones. "Parents can over-control as well as under-control, and demotivate while attempting to motivate," it says. Nevertheless, children are far more affected by what happens at home than they are by what happens at school. "Family breakdown and poverty are huge influences on growth and development or children. When the two coincide, the effect is potentially dramatic," it concludes.
    Sats should be scrapped and replaced with new tests marked by teachers to inform them and parents of a child's progress. But they should not be used to measure their school's success in league tables or feed into national statistics to judge the progress of government policies. Instead, a sample of children in every school should sit a separate test to gauge progress, but this should be in a wider range of subjects than the three Rs, to encourage schools to teach more broadly. The review concludes league tables are so flawed they are "invalid", but says schools should be held accountable through Ofsted.
    School buildings
    New primaries should give more space for specialist teaching as well as traditional multi-subject classes and better outdoor facilities to follow the Scandinavian example of holding more lessons outdoors. Libraries that are currently disappearing from schools should be preserved. Small schools, particularly in rural areas where they can be at the heart of a community, should also be protected.
    Many of those canvassed pushed for smaller class sizes despite research suggesting that smaller classes are only beneficial in the early years of primary school. The government should consider shortening the long summer holidays, which can prove disruptive to children's learning.
    The money allocated to primaries should rise to match secondaries. Primaries require more money to introduce the specialist teachers needed to improve education. It suggests the debate about primaries needs to move beyond the traditional versus progressive discourse. "The politicisation of primary education has also gone too far. Discussion has been blocked by derision, truth has been supplanted by myth and spin, and alternatives to current arrangements have been reduced to crude dichotomy," it says.

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    Why I Have Become Pessimistic About Indian I.T.

    When Wall Street Journal and Forbes published articles, a few years ago, predicting the demise of Indian IT, I responded in Business Week that they were dead wrong. I said that the outsourcing market had a long way to go before it peaked; rising salaries and attrition rates were not a cause for long-term concern; and Indian IT would soon become a $100 billion industry. I was, of course, right.
    Now I am ready to declare the end of the line for Indian IT. There are new $100 billion opportunities that could revitalize this industry. But from what I’ve seen, Indian executives seem incapable of steering their ships in the right directions.
    It is not that Indian outsourcers have become less capable of servicing Western needs. It is that their customer base—the CIO and IT department—is in decline. With the advent of tablets, apps, and cloud computing, users have direct access to better technology than their IT departments can provide them. They can download cheap, elegant, and powerful apps on their IPads that make their corporate systems look primitive. These modern-day apps don’t require internal teams of people doing software development and maintenance—they are user-customizable and can be built by anyone with basic programming skills.
    It takes decades to update legacy computer systems, and corporate IT departments move at the speed of molasses. So, Indian outsourcers have a few more years before they suffer a significant decline. They certainly won’t see the growth and billion-dollar outsourcing deals that have brought them this far.
    The same advances that are changing the IT landscape are also creating new opportunities.
    For example, advances in robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and 3D printing are making it cost effective to move manufacturing back from China to the U.S., Europe, …and India.
    Take the Baxter robot from Rethink Robotics. It has two arms, a face that displays simulated emotion, and cameras and sensors that detect the motion of human beings that work next to it. It can perform assembly and move boxes—just as humans do. It will work 24 hours a day and not complain. It costs only $22,000. This is one of many such robots.
    AI is making it possible to develop self-driving cars, voice-recognition systems such as Apple’s Siri, and computer systems that can make human-like decisions. AI technologies are also finding their way into manufacturing and are powering robots such as Baxter.
    A type of manufacturing called “additive manufacturing” is making it possible to cost-effectively “print” products. 3D printers can create physical mechanical devices, medical implants, jewelry, and even clothing. The cheapest 3D printers, which print rudimentary objects, currently sell for between $500 and $1000. Soon we will have printers for this price that can print toys and household goods. By the end of this decade, we will see 3D printers doing the small-scale production of previously labor-intensive crafts and goods. In the next decade we may be 3D-printing buildings and electronics.
    These technologies are becoming readily available and cheap, but America’s manufacturing plants aren’t geared up to take advantage of them. Most don’t have the know-how. This is where India’s companies could step in. They could master the new technologies and help American firms design new factory floors and program and install robots. They could provide management consulting on designing new value chains and inventory management. They could manage manufacturing plant operations remotely. This is a higher-margin business than the old IT services. And American’s would cheer India for bringing manufacturing back to their shores—rather than protest its taking their IT jobs away. We are talking about a trillion dollar market opportunity.
    India’s technology companies can also develop sensor-based biomedical devices, cures for diseases by analyzing genome and health data, drone-based delivery systems, smart cities, digital tutors, and sensors to improve farming. Software and IT are the key to developing all these.
    In my discussions with Indian CEOs, they all acknowledge the reality. They are becoming aware of what lies ahead. I have implored them to start retraining their people in the new technologies and to develop new businesses and consulting practices. They listen, nod their heads from side to side, and go back to trying to close the disappearing software-outsourcing deals. I tell them that they are shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.

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    Building a High-Trust Culture,  It Starts with Integrity

    Over forty years in business, I've been involved with more than 100 companies, done thousands of deals, and worked alongside countless leaders and team members in multiple industries. In that time, I've come to believe that the most important ingredient in a business’s success is, simply, trust.
    Because it’s become fundamental to my view of leadership and running companies, I’m going to publish a series of posts here on LinkedIn about the value of trust: what it is, how to cultivate it, and how to protect it.
    In firms where people trust their leaders and colleagues trust one another, there’s more innovation and better business outcomes. Mistrust and politics are expensive, time-consuming and dispiriting. When a company has a reputation for fair dealing, its costs drop: trust cuts the time spent second-guessing, worrying, and lawyering. Trust strengthens every part of any deal: its durability, its potential profitability, and its flexibility. Like most things, business works better when the energy spent on doubt, fear and suspicion are reduced.
    Early on in my career I made a deal with a savvy and experienced investor several years my senior. As papers were being drawn up, I received a call from him. “I don't think you meant to set things up the way you did,” he said, referring to a part of the deal that was in his favor. He proceeded to explain to me how the provision could have left my firm in a bind. He was right, and saved me from a bad mistake. From this, we went on to do over a hundred financings together over several decades. Our level of mutual trust became so great that he’d wire money before the papers were complete. Later, I had a chance to sort through some troubled assets for him to ensure that he recovered his investment capital. I didn't need to, but I never forgot how he'd saved me as a young entrepreneur. Building genuine trust is a long-run investment.
    Trust is as important for an established enterprise as for a two-person startup. When teams feel encouragement and support, rather than fear of retribution or embarrassment, they tend to take the kinds of risks that can lead to breakthroughs. In an organization where team members have earned the trust of their supervisors, they can have confidence that if they don’t nail something the first time, there will be a second. Empowered workers can sense they are trusted. For most people, the feeling of being trusted leads to an increased desire to be trustworthy. This virtuous cycle can take your team to great interdependent heights.
    But in order for leaders to build and develop trust, it’s important for them to reflect on what it is, and how it works. In my view, there are ten key drivers of trust – from the way leaders display it, to the way team members develop it, and how it requires sacrifice, humility, communication, and accountability. Over this next series of posts, I'll explore why the sum of these key elements is fundamental to building a great organization.
    Trust Principle #1: It Starts with Integrity
    The foundation of any high-trust organization is the integrity of its leaders. Having integrity means, among other things, that the gap between what you say you're going to do, and what you actually do, is small. I call this a “say-do gap.” Leaders in high-trust organizations must serve as living examples of integrity and trustworthiness – and not just at the office and during business hours. Here are a few ways to think about personal integrity as a core building block of trust:
    1) A business is only as trustworthy as its leaders. The people who run things must show – by their actions – the way they want business to be done, and the way they want people to be treated. Talking doesn't cut it. Leaders must embody the spirit they want the team to adopt. People pick up on phoniness. They trust authenticity. Just as kids look to parents for an example, team members watch their leaders. So, miss an opportunity to be that example, and you miss a chance to raise the level of trust.
    2) Personal integrity matters. No matter a leader’s competence, charisma, or authority, she’s either trustworthy or she’s not – in all parts of her life. Trustworthy people are trustworthy when it comes to family, friends or colleagues. Obligations to show respect, to consider the welfare of others, and to keep your word don’t end when you leave the office. Leaders who fall short with commitments to friends, family, or close associates are unlikely to establish enduring trust with colleagues, suppliers, or customers. You just can't fake character.
    3) Integrity is a habit. Leaders who strive to do the right thing under all circumstances know that being trustworthy takes effort, awareness and work. Trustworthy leaders have generally worked long and hard on their own character building. They’re often quite intentional about fixing things about themselves, about receiving feedback and about learning from it and making changes. In the same way a mechanic keeps a car in top running condition, high-trust individuals monitor and tune their behavior, always striving to do better by team members and customers alike.
    Anyone wanting to build a high-trust organization must start by looking in the mirror. Personal character is foundational for interpersonal trust. And organizations in which leaders have integrity stand a much better chance of building trust from the top down, and bottom up.

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    10 Extraordinary People and Their Lessons for Success

    From presidents to hip-hop producers to poets, the last page of every issue of Harvard Business Review is always an interview with someone who has succeeded outside the traditional corporate world. Here, some of our favorite lessons from the class of 2013:

    Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on having long-term colleagues: “Treat people well. Don’t mislead them. Don’t be prickly. Don’t say things that are aggravating. Try to be as agreeable as you can be. Try to be helpful rather than harmful. Try to cooperate.”
    Cartoonist Scott Adams on using his MBA: ”When the comic strip first came out, it showed Dilbert in a variety of settings—not just the office. I didn’t really know what was working, because I had no direct contact with readers… So way back at the dawn of the internet, I started putting my e-mail address in the margin of the strip… I found out that there was a common theme: People loved it when Dilbert was in the office, and they liked it a lot less when he was at home or just hanging around. So Dilbert became an office-based comic, and that change made it all work.”
    Chef Nobu Matsuhisa on starting as an apprentice: “I was 18 and didn’t know anything about fish. My mentor taught me the basics. For the first three years, I didn’t make sushi; I washed dishes and cleaned the fish. But if I asked questions, he always answered. I learned a lot of patience.”
    Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels on hiring: “I wouldn’t choose anyone whose side I didn’t want to be on. It isn’t like we hire 12 and figure six will work. We don’t bring in anybody we’re not rooting for. Sometimes they succeed in week five, but for most people it’s two, three, four years before they become who they’re going to be. You have to allow for that growth.”
    Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons on meditating twice a day: “Every creative idea, every second of happiness, is from stillness…. But the way you move around the world has nothing to do with the stillness in your heart. Moving meditation—that’s what we have to practice. It doesn’t mean you have to move slow; you just have to see the world in slow motion.”
    Golfer Arnold Palmer on learning humility: “One time at Augusta, I was going into the last hole with a one-shot lead to win the Masters, and a friend from the gallery hollered at me, so I walked over and accepted congratulations. And then I proceeded to make six on the hole and lose. My father had warned me about that. I was told all my life not to accept congratulations until it’s over.”
    Poet Maya Angelou on courage: “One isn’t born with courage. One develops it by doing small courageous things—in the way that if one sets out to pick up a 100-pound bag of rice, one would be advised to start with a five-pound bag, then 10 pounds, then 20 pounds, and so forth, until one builds up enough muscle to lift the 100-pound bag. It’s the same way with courage. You do small courageous things that require some mental and spiritual exertion.”
    Designer Philippe Starck on persuading clients: “I’m very good at explaining. I don’t work like a diva. I don’t say, “Oh my God, that must be pink,” and refuse to discuss it… I am cuckoo, yes. I am the king of intuition. But I am also a serious guy. I explain in a clear way. And then, even if it’s something that looks completely different than expected, something completely against mainstream thinking, clients understand. I explain that it might look strange but why, given the two to five years it will take for development, it will for so many reasons be exactly the right thing to do… And then the clients agree, always, 100%.”
    President Mary Robinson on being frank: “At every stage, it’s [a] passion for human rights that has prompted me to speak truth to power, to stand up to bullies, to be prepared to criticize even the United States after 9/11. People told me it wouldn’t help my career as high commissioner, but it seemed much more important to do the job than to try to keep the job.”
    Historian David McCullough on hard work: “When the founders wrote about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they didn’t mean longer vacations and more comfortable hammocks. They meant the pursuit of learning. The love of learning. The pursuit of improvement and excellence. I keep telling students, ‘Find work you love. Don’t concern yourself overly about how much money is involved or whether you’re ever going to be famous.’ …In hard work is happiness.”

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    Family speaks out after mystery diner's good deed, encouraging note

    A family in Rowan County got an unexpected, and inspiring, note when they were out to dinner on Friday. A photo of the note is going viral.
    Ashley England went to dinner at the Stag-N-Doe pizza restaurant in China Grove with her family on Friday evening, including her 8-year-old son, Riley. The family was sitting at the table when Riley, who has special needs, began to get "a little rowdy."
    "He threw the phone and started screaming," she recalled. "The past few weeks have been very hard and trying for us - especially with public outings. Riley was getting loud and hitting the table and I know it was aggravating to some people."
    Just when England was ready to leave, a waitress appeared.
    "I'll try to do this without crying," the waitress told the family. "But another customer has paid for your bill tonight and wanted me to give you this note."
    The note read: "God only gives special children to special people."
    Riley is non-verbal and has been through three major brain surgeries for a severe form of epilepsy. The seizures started when he was 18-months-old, robbing him of his speech. His mom says he had more than 100 seizures a day.
    Riley's frustration with being unable to speak, often leads to outbursts England says causes many to cruelly judge her son.
    "Until a person has walked in the shoes we have walked in," she said. "They have no right to say one thing."
    What they should focus on instead? Remembering the one thing she longs to hear from Riley.
    "They take just a simple 'I love you' from your child for granted," she said.  
    "Because you have never heard that from your son?" asked WBTV's Brigida Mack.
    "Never," England replied, getting choked up. "Never."
    England says the kindness of the mystery diner made her cry.
    "To have someone do that small act towards us shows that some people absolutely understand what we are going through and how hard it is to face the public sometimes," she said. "They made me cry, blessed me more than they know - I felt like out of all the rude negative comments that we are faced with - these outweighs them. The people who care!"
    She says she wants to say thank you to the person that paid for their meal and sent the encouraging words.
    "Little did he know what struggles we had been facing lately and this was surely needed at that moment," she said. "Thank you!"

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    In “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” Dorian learns that after he spurned the girl who loved him, she died—presumably by her own hand. He insists that he had resolved to marry her after all, but his resolution came too late. Resolutions, as Oscar Wilde knew, are problematic. Dorian’s patron, Lord Henry, when he hears Dorian’s excuses, declares, “Good resolutions are useless attempts to interfere with scientific laws. Their origin is pure vanity. Their result is absolutely nil.”
    Not quite, but close. When the psychologist John Norcross researched New Year’s resolutions, in the nineteen-eighties, he found that more than fifty per cent of Americans made some sort of resolution. After six months, only forty per cent had stuck with it. When Norcross followed up two years later, the number had dropped to nineteen per cent. Even among the successes, more than half had experienced lapses—fourteen, on average. Still, we keep telling ourselves that we can lose weight, save money, and go to the gym.
    It turns out that timing is important in determining whether or not we succeed. In May, 2012, Katherine Milkman, a behavioral economist at the University of Pennsylvania, was invited to the PiLab Summit, an annual gathering of social-science researchers convened by Google to discuss ways of making the company more productive. Milkman found herself in a discussion about “nudges”—small environmental interventions that could shift people’s behavior. 
    “In the course of the conversation, someone posed a question, ” Milkman recalled. “When would nudges be the most effective?” Milkman’s research hadn’t focussed on that particular aspect of nudges, but, she said, “I had a strong instinct that they’d be more effective at turning points—moments that feel like a new beginning.”
    When Milkman returned to Philadelphia, she teamed up with two colleagues, Jason Riis and Hengchen Dai, to see if the idea of temporal turning points held any merit. In a series of studies, forthcoming from the journal Management Science, Milkman, Riis, and Dai found that fresh starts do push us to change our behavior. The beginning of a week, a month, or a year forms what the psychologist Richard Thaler calls a “notational boundary.” 
    With that, researchers suspect, comes a sense of optimism, the promise of “a new me,” as Milkman put it. To test that theory, her team looked at daily Google searches for the term “diet” over a period of nine years. They found that searches followed a predictable cycle: they peaked at the start of any given week, month, or year, then gradually tapered off. The largest increase—eighty-two per cent above the baseline—occurred immediately after New Year’s.
    Milkman and her colleagues then looked at behavior by tracking the gym attendance of nearly twelve thousand undergraduates over a year and a half by measuring the participants’ average number of visits. Gym attendance peaked in January, they found, and decreased in the following months. Smaller spikes occurred at the beginning of each week, each month, and each term.
    Finally, the researchers looked at commitments on a Web site called stickK, which allows you to set a goal and contractually determine the consequences for failing to attain it, ranging from community sanctions to monetary payments. (If you don’t lose those ten pounds, you’ve agreed to donate fifty dollars to a political party that you loathe.) 
    After tracking forty-three thousand people over two and a half years, the team found that the greatest number of contracts—a hundred and forty-five per cent above the average rate—were signed at the start of the new year. Throughout the year, each week and each month had a mini-cycle of its own, with the beginning of the week corresponding to a sixty-three-per-cent increase. “Every week brings a new opportunity,” Riis says. “And people take advantage of that, whether or not they know it.”
    This sensibility even influences the stock market. In a phenomenon known as the January Effect, the market always performs better than average at this time of year. Recent evidence suggests part of the explanation lies in simple optimism: in January, we take a rosier view of the future, and tend to bid up uncertain stocks. (They subsequently fall back to their real value.)
    Optimism, then, isn’t always constructive. If we’re too positive, we condemn ourselves to fail. Many backsliders relapse because they have overestimated their own abilities, underestimated the time and effort involved in staying the course, or have an exaggerated view of the effect that the change would have on their lives. 
    “We underestimate these fluctuations in self-control and motivation,” Riis said. “In the moment of exuberance, it’s easy to forget how much we won’t feel like exercising.” The psychologists Janet Polivy and Peter Herman call this the false-hope syndrome: unrealistic expectations about our ability to change, followed closely by the dashing of our initially high aspirations.
    Naturally, if you set more realistic goals, you are more likely to succeed. In a study that looked at the role of expectations in exercise, the psychologist Fiona Jones and her colleagues found that people with more modest expectations were far likelier to complete a twelve-week-long exercise course. And once we’ve set goals, we’re most likely to reach them by creating a firm plan. 
    The theory of implementation intentions, a term coined by the psychologist Peter Gollwitzer, maintains that we have a better chance of sticking to a goal if we think about contingencies in advance and devise a direct, automatic response to each of them. (If feel too tired to go to the gym, I’ll have some coffee or eat an apple before heading out.) “It’s harder to break a specific commitment then a nonspecific one,” Milkman said.
    Anecdotal evidence suggests that one’s commitment to a determined spouse can also be helpful. “I haven’t had a cigarette in probably six years,” President Obama said in September. “That’s because I’m scared of my wife.”
    But it’s never easy. Milkman’s colleague Hengchen Dai tried to apply her team’s insights to help her quit biting her nails: “Once it worked for three months, which is a long time for me,” she said. Her cuticles were in good shape. “But then I bit them once, and I couldn’t stop.” In those moments of relapse, Dai said, she reflects on the premise of fresh starts. 
    “If we help people realize how many opportunities there are, they can put their imperfections behind them.” As for her nails? “Maybe I’ll try again on New Year’s.”

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    Google: Socially Awkward, but Upwardly Mobile

    It’s not news that Google missed social. But perhaps it’s news that the company now admits it, and that someone is taking responsibility.
    In a video for Bloomberg TV offering his predictions for 2014, Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt says what most people already know — that Facebook won:
    “The biggest mistake I made was not anticipating the rise of the social networking phenomenon. Not a mistake we’re going to make again. I guess in our defense we were busy working on many other things, but we should have been in that area and I take responsibility for that.”
    The defense Schmidt offers is pretty good. Around the time of Facebook’s 2004 founding, Google was working hard on mobile, and eventually bought Android in 2005.
    Of the two monster trends, social and mobile, it was arguably more important for Google to spot the second. Think of what might have happened to Google’s cash-cow advertising business had another company won in mobile search.
    Indeed, even as Schmidt offers a mea culpa for social in the Bloomberg video, he also emphasizes the smartphone revolution: “The trend has been that mobile is winning. It has now won.”
    A big reason for that is Android, which Google distributes free to handset makers, lowering the costs of phones world-wide. That helps explain why Android just passed 80% market share of smartphone shipments in the third quarter for the first time,according to IDC.
    If Schmidt takes the blame for missing one trend, he is likely owed some credit for helping to spot the other.

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