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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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    Reduce Fleet Management Costs and Remove Complexities Involved

    For many businesses in a range of industries, their fleet of vehicles will be one of their most important assets. Companies rely heavily on vehicles for picking up and delivering goods or for employee transportation, and seeing as the fleet is such a valuable asset it makes fleet management a hugely important part of their operation. When your business has a number of vehicles you will need to consider elements such as insurance, fuel management, vehicle acquisition, vehicle disposal, vehicle maintenance, risk management, road fund license renewal and policy management just to name a few factors.

    Commercial Fleet

    Running a fleet of vehicles and managing them can cause a great deal of stress for businesses, and in addition it can also be a major cost in the operation. As with all types of business, it is important to look for ways to reduce costs. When you reduce costs without compromising the quality of the service it enables growth and higher profits to be made. Fortunately there is a way to reduce costs when it comes to fleet management; this is something that any business with a fleet of vehicles should consider, as it could have a huge impact on the success of the company.

    What Fleet Management Services Include

    Fleet management services can make the running a fleet of vehicles stress free as well as affordable. This service is available from vehicle finance and fleet management specialists, such as Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions and a few others, being a good example. These companies offer services that can minimise disruption to the business in case of an accident, save money through efficient fuel management, maintain all of the vehicles and ensure they are always kept on the road. They can also acquire the best vehicles for your business and remove all the stress of running a fleet whilst reducing your costs. This is all possible whilst maintaining the ownership of all of the vehicles in the fleet.

    All companies that have a fleet will rely very heavily on these vehicles on a daily basis. With so many vehicles to manage it can become expensive and difficult to manage, but both the cost and stress can be reduced with fleet management services. This will help your business to be more profitable, and also easier to manage and maintain as all of the complexities involved with fleet management will be taken care of by specialists.

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    Formative Assessment: The Secret Sauce of Blended Success

    A few weeks ago, a colleague emailed me about some trouble she was having with her first attempt at blended instruction. She had created some videos to pre-teach a concept, incorporated some active learning strategies into her face-to-face class to build on the video, and assigned an online quiz so she could assess what the students had learned. After grading the quizzes, however, she found that many of the students struggled with the concept. "Maybe," she wondered, "blended instruction won't work with my content area." 

    When I met with the colleague, it was clear from our conversation that she hoped a blended approach would allow her to incorporate more active learning strategies into her face-to-face class. She wanted to break away from a primarily lecture-driven environment and provide students with more opportunities for collaboration and interaction. When we discussed her blended lesson, however, she focused mostly on what she wanted the students to learn during the different phases of the lesson. "What," I asked "were YOU learning from your students during the different phases of the lesson?" She seemed puzzled by the question, which provided a great entryway for discussing how formative assessment can contribute to blended success. 

    Although most people probably associate the term "assessment" with quizzes and exams, in reality these high-stakes activities represent a small subset of assessment opportunities. Educationally, assessments can be broken into two larger categories: summative and formative. Most of our experience with assessment usually comes in the form of summative assessment. We have our students take exams or write papers at the end of a chapter. Summative assessments are valuable because they let us know whether our students have successfully learned what we wanted them to learn. Summative assessments, however, are limited in that they provide little information to guide teaching because they usually serve as the endpoint of some instruction. 

    Whereas summative assessments are assessments "of" learning, formative assessments are assessments "for" learning. They help to guide instruction and provide valuable information for the instructor and for the learner. Formative assessments can help to drive instructional decision-making and allow the instructor to "take the temperature" of the class. In the discussion with my colleague, I outlined the different phases of blended learning and highlighted opportunities for formative assessment in each. 

    Activities for before class
    In a blended class, instructors typically assign a video or some instructional content to pre-teach a topic or concept. But this also provides opportunities for formative assessment. Instructors can examine the prior knowledge that students possess before starting the lesson. This process doesn't have to involve giving students something formal. Prior to assigning the pre-teaching material, instructors can have students complete a concept map representing what they already know about a given topic, or they can facilitate a classroom discussion where students share their knowledge associated with the concept. 

    The specific strategy isn't as important as the information the process reveals. By assessing students' prior knowledge, the instructor discovers the starting point for her learners, which can inform how the lessons are organized and the techniques used. In a science class, this could mean helping students overcome long-held misconceptions about a topic by using more hands-on instruction. In a math course, this might mean teaching some requisite skill needed to learn at a higher level. 

    Assessing prior knowledge isn't the only assessment opportunity in the pre-teaching phase of blended instruction. Instructors can also assess students after they've interacted with assigned video lessons. Students can complete a handout while watching the video or take an online quiz after the fact. Free tools like EDpuzzle and Educanon allow instructors to easily embed questions at specific points during the video. The screen recording software Camtasia Studio also allows instructors to inject questions throughout a video lesson. Again, the specific strategy itself isn't as critical as the information it provides. Armed with information from these assessments, instructors can modify their in-class lessons and activities to target areas where learners have struggled after the pre-teaching phase. 

    Activities for during class 
    In this phase of the blended cycle, instructors incorporate activities and lessons to help students build on the concepts they learned during the pre-teaching phase. Maybe students are completing problems in class or discussing higher order concepts in more detail. 

    Like the pre-teaching phase, this phase provides opportunities for formative assessment that can help guide instruction. For instance, instructors can use clickers to assess whether students are effectively applying the concepts. This can let the instructor know when he needs to reteach a concept or open the class to some peer instruction. Even informally observing body language and facial expression can prove to be powerful formative assessments to guide instruction. 

    Activities for after class

    In this phase of the blended cycle, students are extending their learning by applying the concepts to new situations or building on the concepts through additional instruction. These situations lend themselves to even more formative assessments. For instance, as students exit the class, instructors can ask them to submit what they felt was their "muddiest point" of the lesson. This could provide useful information as instructors create or select content to assign. 

    In my colleague's lesson, she had originally assigned the quiz as more of a summative assessment. After our in-depth discussion on the power of formative assessment, my colleague began to see the quiz as providing valuable information to guide her instruction and reteach areas where the students had struggled. This important shift in the purpose of assessment is critical to the success of any student-centered environment, especially a blended class. 

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    I love gadgets and I am fascinated by connecting devices through the Internet of Things. I always keep a close eye on the latest developments and felt it was time to take stock and give you my list of the 21 coolest Internet of Things gadgets. Some are available already, some are coming soon, and a few are just prototypes that will probably turn into something real in the next few years. Mother
    Don’t let this one’s cute looks fool you – it is actually a cunning spy, ready to report on every detail of your family’s movements and daily activities. Small sensors known as motion cookies can be given to every family member so everyone knows where everyone else is, at any given time (as long as they have access to the app). Alerts can be set to tell you when the kids are home from school, and every member of the family can feel secure (and maybe a little bit creeped out) that wherever they go, Big Mother is watching!

    Google Glass
    These just have to be on any list. The connected glasses from Google that give you computing power and hands free information right in font of your eyes. For example, it allows wearers to communicate with the Internet using natural language voice commands, a touch pad and the in-build camera. information is returned via voice to your ear piece or via the display in the glasses. You can also take HD videos or photos, and soon new apps will allow you use Google Glass for many crazy things including recognize faces, track your exercise, translate text, see reminders, go on Facebook and Twitter, etc. Definitely a glimpse of what's to come...

    Delphi Connect vehicle diagnostics
    A smart vehicle diagnostics tool which plugs into any car with a OBD 2 port and sends alerts and updates on its condition to the mobile app, as well as including a few other neat features. These includes remotely locking and unlocking its doors, starting the engine and even setting up “geofences” – which send alerts if the car is driven across boundaries set by the owner. Useful for parents and company fleet operators.

    Withings WiFi Scales
    Imagine having scales that recognize you as soon as you step onto them. As well as measuring weight and BMI, these wifi-equipped scales synch the data to the Health Mate app which allows you to set targets for weight loss or gain, and monitor your progress. If you already use a fitness app such as RunKeeper, Loose It, or one of a hundred others, it’s compatible with that too. I have been using these scales now for a while and love them – they even measure the air quality in your bedroom!

    Trakdot aims to offer travellers peace of mind, by letting them track the location of their luggage. Patented technology switches off transmitters and receivers while they are in the cargo hold and reactivates them when they are unloaded, automatically contacting the owner through local cell networks to report their location. Of course it won’t stop your luggage getting lost, but it will certainly make it easier to find and recover.

    Moto 360 smart watch
    Flagship device heralding the arrival of Google Wear – it will be the first of an expected flood of smart watches equipped with the Android-based operating system which it hopes will become as standard on “wearables” as the original is on phones. Expect fierce competition when Apples expected iWatch eventually emerges.

    Sony Smart Tennis Sensor
    Sharpen up your tennis skills with these sensors that attach to compatible rackets and serves up data on your serves and swings, to help you tweak your game. Similar devices are available or in development for every sport from soccer to golf, giving anyone the access to training aids that would only have been available to elite professionals a few short years ago. This one is currently only available in Japan.

    Jawbone Up band
    I love my Up wristband. It is one of a new generation of devices designed to track and record data about our lifestyle, to help us make informed decisions on improving how we eat, sleep and move.
    The data is synched to an Android device or iPhone where it is presented as visualisations which can be analysed by the user to provide useful insights. It gives you a smart alarm function that wakes you up when it is best (during a light sleep phase) and even calculates the ideal time for a powernap (by analysing the sleep you had the night before).

    Fitbit Zip
    Similar to the Up, the fit tracks the number of steps you take, the distance you travel and the calories that you burn, and synchs the data wirelessly to your mobile phone or tablet. Unlike the UP, it doesn’t monitor your sleep or eating habits, so it’s a little bit less expensive.

    SkyBell Wifi Doorbell
    Skybell is a video doorbell that lets you see and talk to whoever comes calling, regardless of whether you are home or not.
    Motion sensors can send alerts and pictures from the onboard camera to your phone even if visitors don’t interact with the device – useful for knowing whether or not parcels have been delivered.

    Microsoft Septimu earbuds with Musical Heart
    This one’s a work in progress and you can’t buy it yet, but Microsoft say they have developed technology which will allow sensors in ear buds to work out what mood you’re in based on your heart rate, body temperature and biorhythms. It may eventually be used for monitoring health, but the first application that has been announced is software that will match music to the mood you’re in.

    LIFX Smart Light Bulb
    Ever wanted to turn the light down but not get up from the sofa? Now you can, with this energy efficient and wifi enabled smart light bulb from. You can use your smart phone up to remotely control you light and even change colours and mood in the room. You can even control your lights when you are away on vacation.

    Ice cubes that stop you getting too drunk
    This one is a bit more “out there” – MIT researcher Dhairya Dand has created ice cubes that not only pulse colourfully in time to music, they record (using a built in timer and accelerometer) how much and how quickly you are drinking. If the cubes (actually electronics enclosed in a waterproof, edible jelly) pulse red, it might be time to slow down! They go one step further, however, and can be programmed to alert a friend when they decide you’ve had too much and need someone to help you get home safely.

    Thumb-sized electronic tags which you can attach to any of your possessions, and then locate them through your phone’s GPS. From car keys to toddlers – stick them on anything you want to keep track of, and follow on-screen prompts to find them. Or “page” them to set off an audible alarm.

    Smart Diapers
    Diapers with sensors that send an alert to your smartphone or a compatible wristband when they become wet. This is still seeking funding according to their website, but the project has received some media interest and it’s a great idea for hospitals and care homes as well as parents. Soon, smart diapers are expected to not only alert you that your baby needs changin but provide a full analysis of urine to check sodium and hydration levels in the baby as well as signs of infections.

    Base smart notifications
    Ok this one is software rather than a “thing”, but has potential for use in lots of Internet of Things applications. Basically it’s a way for developers to understand more about the people who are using their gadgets and apps, and communicate more efficiently with them. The code analyzes the user base and determines the best time to send them notifications. Currently in beta phase, software like this will hopefully make the Internet of Things easier for humans to interact with by eliminating background noise of irrelevant or untimely alerts.

    Kensington Proximo
    Similar to the Bikn, but specifically to stop you losing your phone. The electronic tag send a signal to the receiver on your key fob (or anywhere) when you move a certain distance away, and a button on the fob activates a beeper on the tag, so you can trace your handset quickly. For those times when you can’t find it by calling it, because you know you’ve left it on silent!
    Nest Learning Thermostat
    Wireless enabled home thermostat which connects to – you guessed it – your smartphone. The clever concept here is that instead of the complicated switches and dated LED displays associated with programmable thermostats, all you have here is one dial control (it was designed by the man behind the original iPod, after all!).
    The “learning” part happens automatically – adjust the temperature manually over a few days, and soon it starts to pick up on your lifestyle and preferences, and will take over the job for you.

    Belkin Wemo home automation
    This is a line of wifi-enabled home automation devices controlled from the mobile Wemo app, which promises to save you money along with the convenience of controlling everything from one hub. It uses Insight Switches – pass-through plugs which fit into wall adapters making it possible to remotely switch on or off any electronic device, as well as monitoring the amount of power it uses. You can add other features such as Wemo motion sensors, to automatically switch lights on or off as you move around the house.
    Ever wanted to be able to switch on your kitchen kettle remotely from bed, so you’ve got boiling water by the time you walk into the kitchen? Well the iKettle makes that possible – or you can set the app to offer to switch it on along with your morning alarm, and keep it warm after it reaches boiling point if you don’t use it right away.

    Another software one. If you are determined to buy everything on this list and automate everything you possibly can, as you might have realized, you are going to end up with a lot of different apps on your smart phone to control everything. This tries to solve that issue by acting as the equivalent of a universal remote control. Connect it to Internet of Things gadgets from any of the supported manufacturers and control everything from one simple app.

    Hope this has given you a flavour for what I see as an amazingly exciting new world of connected and smart devices. What other gadgets would you add to this list? Also, let me know your views on the topic as a whole – are you excited or scared? Please let me know in the comments below…
    Here is a slide summary of all these amazing IoT Gadgets for you to flick through:

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    Google "Corkboard" Server, 1999

    Currently on display in 1 West
    In 1998 Stanford University graduate students Larry Page and Sergey Brin launched Google, a web-search company, in a garage in Menlo Park, California.
    To maximize searching at the lowest cost, Page and Brin built thirty racks of servers, including this one, from cheap parts. Each server row used corkboard insulating pads—hence the name—and had eight 22-gigabyte hard drives and four personal computers. Because components frequently failed, the system required effective fault-tolerant software.
    From this modest, but highly innovative, beginning, Page and Brin built one of the largest and most influential information companies in the world.
    Google 'corkboard' Server, 1999
    close-up of Google 'corkboard' server

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    Examining Knowledge Beliefs to Motivate Student Learning

    “I just cram for the exam and then forget everything.”
    “If I can just get this last paper done I am in the clear.”
    Comments like these make us cringe, but we all know the external factors that motivate students: grades, grades, grades. I spend a great amount of time providing students with concrete, detailed feedback on papers only to hear someone say, “Oh, I didn’t look at the feedback, just the grade.” From a faculty perspective, the grade is the least important. The joy of student engagement and learning drives our work. We ended up in higher education for a reason—most of us see great value in the learning process.
    So how can we help students understand that there is more to college and learning than getting good grades and fulfilling requirements? Is there a way to reach the student and help her understand how learning can be supported and viewed as important? Is it essential that the student become internally motivated? The research on epistemological beliefs and development lends some insight to these questions (Hofer & Pintrich, 2002). Epistemology explores the beliefs we hold about knowledge, what knowledge is, how knowledge is constructed, and what constitutes knowledge. Beliefs about the sources of knowledge will influence our decision-making processes, guide critical thinking practices, and facilitate self-regulated learning (Bakx, VanDer Sanden, Sijtsma, Croon, & Vermetten, 2006).
    Ignoring the epistemological belief systems of students can lead us to ineffective teaching strategies and learning outcomes (Marra & Palmer, 2008). We end up spinning our wheels and wondering why the student is not responding to our pleas for improvement. If the student does not believe there is significance or importance to developing certain forms of knowledge then he keeps the knowledge separate; establishing a dualistic knowledge reference (Kuhn & Weinstock, 2002). If the student believes the knowledge is relevant and important then the student is more likely to internalize her learning and work towards building more knowledge, rather than just focusing on the grade (Kuhn & Weinstock, 2002). I have seen students make this shift in classes to the point where they are just as interested in the feedback and how to improve as the grade. These students begin to demonstrate a willingness to examine how they construct knowledge and what this means to their future.
    There is no magic solution to the motivation question. Motivation for learning is an extremely complex entity and scholars disagree on how to measure motivation, evaluate learning, etc. (Schunk, 2012). I believe the heart of motivating students lies in the ability to reach the student at the beliefs level.
    By working with students to help them explicitly (rather than just implicitly) understand how they view knowledge and the implications of knowledge beliefs can make a difference. In my research classes, I provide students with a “beliefs questionnaire” at the beginning of the research methods courses. The questions require students to rate their agreement with sources of knowledge, the validity of that knowledge, the construction of knowledge, and so on. Students share the responses in small group discussion where they compare their beliefs with others. The conversations become very animated. Students seem to light up as they begin to discover how and why they believe what they do about school and learning. Students will indicate a new awareness of how their knowledge beliefs lead to biases in how they interpret various forms of knowledge. Students indicate that they have never discussed knowledge beliefs before, and certainly never with other students. A frequent comment is “so this is why we have to learn to read research articles.”
    Based on a study I conducted of student epistemological beliefs, it became clear that the majority of students’ knowledge and beliefs of knowledge are based on their personal life experiences and relationships with others. Given the diverse background of life experience and relationships that formed students’ knowledge beliefs it is pertinent to try and connect our material to the students’ beliefs. We need to utilize students’ beliefs about knowledge to help motivate them to question and learn in a new way thereby enhancing epistemological development. This does not mean the classroom turns into a support group where students share personal experiences. Helping students understand how their ideas are formed, the sources they use for the ideas, and the connection to critical thinking sets a foundation for students to engage in the learning process in a new way.
    Instructors also can utilize concrete strategies to facilitate epistemological development. Specific strategies include:
    • allowing students to choose topics for research;
    • encouraging targeted peer discussion about knowledge beliefs and their impact on learning;
    • letting students form their own work groups (and then teach conflict resolution for the ensuing challenges);
    • providing lecture material (yes, some lecture) on what is epistemology and how it informs learning; and
    • designing a variety of exercises to have students compare sources of knowledge when dealing with a difficult scenario.
    Despite the wealth of literature about self-regulated learning, motivation, cognitive/affective development, and epistemological development, there is no simple solution for motivating student learning. In the end, students are still going to focus on grades, their personal relationships, and outside work, but perhaps there will be greater understanding of the importance of examining and developing beliefs in order to enhance critical thinking, decision making, and knowledge building. Bottom line, because students are relationship driven, faculty have to model the importance of epistemological development for our disciplines.

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    Entrepreneurship Is a Disease

    What does it mean to be an entrepreneur? Ask 100 people this question and you’ll get at least 100 different answers. Is an entrepreneur an inventor or a CEO? Is a small business owner an entrepreneur? Are they people who take wild risks or people who go to business school? Entrepreneurs could be all or none of those things. Entrepreneurs can’t be defined by their job titles, education, or even propensity for risk.
    Instead, entrepreneurism should be thought of as a set of personality traits; worse than traits, they are symptoms of a disease. Maybe you can live a normal life with only one or two symptoms, but if you have a majority of the symptoms, you’ve got the disease. Having it myself, I can tell you two things with certainty: first, it’s not always a good thing and second, there is no cure.
    Not that the media sees it that way. American culture in particular idolizes entrepreneurs. We’re fascinated by the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Richard Branson. Who wouldn’t want to be that successful, that powerful, that rich? The lure of fame and fortune attracts many, but there are a few problems with that line of thinking. First, fame and fortune is the exception, not the rule. Most new businesses fail. But more importantly, entrepreneurs don’t do what they do to make money. Instead, they do it because they can’t not do it. True entrepreneurs, the ones with the disease, love what they do to the point of obsession. They are accidental success stories, living with both a blessing and a curse.
    Aspiring to be an entrepreneur is like aspiring to have a disease. In fact, in his book The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (A Little) Craziness and (A Lot of) Success in America,psychologist John Gartner argues that entrepreneurs are actually hypomanic – which means that they are slightly manic without the nasty side effects of depression. The difference between mania and hypomania is that hypomania is mild enough that it usually doesn’t interfere with being able to maintain a job or have normal social relationships. But both mania and hypomania are diagnosable psychiatric conditions, and the characteristics are pronounced:
    - Persistently elevated mood
    - Inflated self-esteem
    - Decreased need for sleep
    - Flight of ideas or racing thoughts
    - Increase in goal-directed activity
    Entrepreneurs surely identify with this list, as many wake up at the crack of dawn (or earlier) bursting with energy from 1000 ideas they can’t wait to implement. There is a ton of advice out there for entrepreneurs about establishing a work-life balance. I could offer similar tips, but none of the true entrepreneurs—those affected by the disease—would pay any heed.
    If this doesn’t sound like you, be grateful. If you’d like to make good money and achieve career success, I’d recommend the tried-and-true path: stay in school, get a degree, become a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. There’s nothing stopping you from having a successful and stable career, making a good living, and supporting your family. Admire entrepreneurs from afar, but don’t try to catch the disease and become one of them!

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    The nation's top colleges are turning our kids into zombies

    In the spring of 2008, I did a daylong stint on the Yale admissions committee. We—that is, three admissions staff, a member of the college dean’s office, and me, the faculty representative—were going through submissions from eastern Pennsylvania. The applicants had been assigned a score from one to four, calculated from a string of figures and codes—SATs, GPA, class rank, numerical scores to which the letters of recommendation had been converted, special notations for legacies and diversity cases.

     The ones had already been admitted, and the threes and fours could get in only under special conditions—if they were a nationally ranked athlete, for instance, or a “DevA,” (an applicant in the highest category of “development” cases, which means a child of very rich donors). Our task for the day was to adjudicate among the twos. Huge bowls of junk food were stationed at the side of the room to keep our energy up.

    The junior officer in charge, a young man who looked to be about 30, presented each case, rat-a-tat-tat, in a blizzard of admissions jargon that I had to pick up on the fly. “Good rig”: the transcript exhibits a good degree of academic rigor. “Ed level 1”: parents have an educational level no higher than high school, indicating a genuine hardship case. “MUSD”: a musician in the highest category of promise. Kids who had five or six items on their list of extracurriculars—the “brag”—were already in trouble, because that wasn’t nearly enough. We listened, asked questions, dove into a letter or two, then voted up or down.

    With so many accomplished applicants to choose from, we were looking for kids with something special, “PQs”—personal qualities—that were often revealed by the letters or essays. Kids who only had the numbers and the résumé were usually rejected: “no spark,” “not a team-builder,” “this is pretty much in the middle of the fairway for us.” One young person, who had piled up a truly insane quantity of extracurriculars and who submitted nine letters of recommendation, was felt to be “too intense.” On the other hand, the numbers and the résumé were clearly indispensable. I’d been told that successful applicants could either be “well-rounded” or “pointy”—outstanding in one particular way—but if they were pointy, they had to be really pointy: a musician whose audition tape had impressed the music department, a scientist who had won a national award.

    “Super People,” the writer James Atlas has called them—the stereotypical ultra-high-achieving elite college students of today. A double major, a sport, a musical instrument, a couple of foreign languages, service work in distant corners of the globe, a few hobbies thrown in for good measure: They have mastered them all, and with a serene self-assurance that leaves adults and peers alike in awe. A friend who teaches at a top university once asked her class to memorize 30 lines of the eighteenth-century poet Alexander Pope. Nearly every single kid got every single line correct. It was a thing of wonder, she said, like watching thoroughbreds circle a track.

    These enviable youngsters appear to be the winners in the race we have made of childhood. But the reality is very different, as I have witnessed in many of my own students and heard from the hundreds of young people whom I have spoken with on campuses or who have written to me over the last few years. Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.

    When I speak of elite education, I mean prestigious institutions like Harvard or Stanford or Williams as well as the larger universe of second-tier selective schools, but I also mean everything that leads up to and away from them—the private and affluent public high schools; the ever-growing industry of tutors and consultants and test-prep courses; the admissions process itself, squatting like a dragon at the entrance to adulthood; the brand-name graduate schools and employment opportunities that come after the B.A.; and the parents and communities, largely upper-middle class, who push their children into the maw of this machine. In short, our entire system of elite education.

    I should say that this subject is very personal for me. Like so many kids today, I went off to college like a sleepwalker. You chose the most prestigious place that let you in; up ahead were vaguely understood objectives: status, wealth—“success.” What it meant to actually get an education and why you might want one—all this was off the table. It was only after 24 years in the Ivy League—college and a Ph.D. at Columbia, ten years on the faculty at Yale—that I started to think about what this system does to kids and how they can escape from it, what it does to our society and how we can dismantle it.

    A young woman from another school wrote me this about her boyfriend at Yale:

    Before he started college, he spent most of his time reading and writing short stories. Three years later, he’s painfully insecure, worrying about things my public-educated friends don’t give a second thought to, like the stigma of eating lunch alone and whether he’s “networking” enough. No one but me knows he fakes being well-read by thumbing through the first and last chapters of any book he hears about and obsessively devouring reviews in lieu of the real thing. He does this not because he’s incurious, but because there’s a bigger social reward for being able to talk about books than for actually reading them.

    I taught many wonderful young people during my years in the Ivy League—bright, thoughtful, creative kids whom it was a pleasure to talk with and learn from. But most of them seemed content to color within the lines that their education had marked out for them. Very few were passionate about ideas. Very few saw college as part of a larger project of intellectual discovery and development. Everyone dressed as if they were ready to be interviewed at a moment’s notice.

    Look beneath the façade of seamless well-adjustment, and what you often find are toxic levels of fear, anxiety, and depression, of emptiness and aimlessness and isolation. A large-scale survey of college freshmen recently found that self-reports of emotional well-being have fallen to their lowest level in the study’s 25-year history.

    MAP: America's 10 Richest Universities Match These Countries' GDPs
    So extreme are the admission standards now that kids who manage to get into elite colleges have, by definition, never experienced anything but success. The prospect of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them. The cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential. The result is a violent aversion to risk. You have no margin for error, so you avoid the possibility that you will ever make an error. Once, a student at Pomona told me that she’d love to have a chance to think about the things she’s studying, only she doesn’t have the time. I asked her if she had ever considered not trying to get an A in every class. She looked at me as if I had made an indecent suggestion.

    There are exceptions, kids who insist, against all odds, on trying to get a real education. But their experience tends to make them feel like freaks. One student told me that a friend of hers had left Yale because she found the school “stifling to the parts of yourself that you’d call a soul.”

    “Return on investment”: that’s the phrase you often hear today when people talk about college. What no one seems to ask is what the “return” is supposed to be. Is it just about earning more money? Is the only purpose of an education to enable you to get a job? What, in short, is college for?

    The first thing that college is for is to teach you to think. That doesn’t simply mean developing the mental skills particular to individual disciplines. College is an opportunity to stand outside the world for a few years, between the orthodoxy of your family and the exigencies of career, and contemplate things from a distance.

    Learning how to think is only the beginning, though. There’s something in particular you need to think about: building a self. The notion may sound strange. “We’ve taught them,” David Foster Wallace once said, “that a self is something you just have.” But it is only through the act of establishing communication between the mind and the heart, the mind and experience, that you become an individual, a unique being—a soul. The job of college is to assist you to begin to do that. Books, ideas, works of art and thought, the pressure of the minds around you that are looking for their own answers in their own ways.

    College is not the only chance to learn to think, but it is the best. One thing is certain: If you haven’t started by the time you finish your B.A., there’s little likelihood you’ll do it later. That is why an undergraduate experience devoted exclusively to career preparation is four years largely wasted.

    Elite schools like to boast that they teach their students how to think, but all they mean is that they train them in the analytic and rhetorical skills that are necessary for success in business and the professions. Everything is technocratic—the development of expertise—and everything is ultimately justified in technocratic terms.

    Religious colleges—even obscure, regional schools that no one has ever heard of on the coasts—often do a much better job in that respect. What an indictment of the Ivy League and its peers: that colleges four levels down on the academic totem pole, enrolling students whose SAT scores are hundreds of points lower than theirs, deliver a better education, in the highest sense of the word.

    At least the classes at elite schools are academically rigorous, demanding on their own terms, no? Not necessarily. In the sciences, usually; in other disciplines, not so much. There are exceptions, of course, but professors and students have largely entered into what one observer called a “nonaggression pact.” Students are regarded by the institution as “customers,” people to be pandered to instead of challenged. Professors are rewarded for research, so they want to spend as little time on their classes as they can. The profession’s whole incentive structure is biased against teaching, and the more prestigious the school, the stronger the bias is likely to be. The result is higher marks for shoddier work.

    It is true that today’s young people appear to be more socially engaged than kids have been for several decades and that they are more apt to harbor creative or entrepreneurial impulses. But it is also true, at least at the most selective schools, that even if those aspirations make it out of college—a big “if”—they tend to be played out within the same narrow conception of what constitutes a valid life: affluence, credentials, prestige.

    Experience itself has been reduced to instrumental function, via the college essay. From learning to commodify your experiences for the application, the next step has been to seek out experiences in order to have them to commodify. The New York Times reports that there is now a thriving sector devoted to producing essay-ready summers, but what strikes one is the superficiality of the activities involved: a month traveling around Italy studying the Renaissance, “a whole day” with a band of renegade artists. A whole day!

    I’ve noticed something similar when it comes to service. Why is it that people feel the need to go to places like Guatemala to do their projects of rescue or documentation, instead of Milwaukee or Arkansas? When students do stay in the States, why is it that so many head for New Orleans? Perhaps it’s no surprise, when kids are trained to think of service as something they are ultimately doing for themselves—that is, for their résumés. “Do well by doing good,” goes the slogan. How about just doing good?

    If there is one idea, above all, through which the concept of social responsibility is communicated at the most prestigious schools, it is “leadership.” “Harvard is for leaders,” goes the Cambridge cliché. To be a high-achieving student is to constantly be urged to think of yourself as a future leader of society. But what these institutions mean by leadership is nothing more than getting to the top. Making partner at a major law firm or becoming a chief executive, climbing the greasy pole of whatever hierarchy you decide to attach yourself to. I don’t think it occurs to the people in charge of elite colleges that the concept of leadership ought to have a higher meaning, or, really, any meaning.

    The irony is that elite students are told that they can be whatever they want, but most of them end up choosing to be one of a few very similar things. As of 2010, about a third of graduates went into financing or consulting at a number of top schools, including Harvard, Princeton, and Cornell. Whole fields have disappeared from view: the clergy, the military, electoral politics, even academia itself, for the most part, including basic science. It’s considered glamorous to drop out of a selective college if you want to become the next Mark Zuckerberg, but ludicrous to stay in to become a social worker. “What Wall Street figured out,” as Ezra Klein has put it, “is that colleges are producing a large number of very smart, completely confused graduates. Kids who have ample mental horsepower, an incredible work ethic and no idea what to do next.”

    For the most selective colleges, this system is working very well indeed. Application numbers continue to swell, endowments are robust, tuition hikes bring ritual complaints but no decline in business. Whether it is working for anyone else is a different question.

    It almost feels ridiculous to have to insist that colleges like Harvard are bastions of privilege, where the rich send their children to learn to walk, talk, and think like the rich. Don’t we already know this? They aren’t called elite colleges for nothing. But apparently we like pretending otherwise. We live in a meritocracy, after all.

    The sign of the system’s alleged fairness is the set of policies that travel under the banner of “diversity.” And that diversity does indeed represent nothing less than a social revolution. Princeton, which didn’t even admit its first woman graduatestudent until 1961—a year in which a grand total of one (no doubt very lonely) African American matriculated at its college—is now half female and only about half white. But diversity of sex and race has become a cover for increasing economic resegregation. Elite colleges are still living off the moral capital they earned in the 1960s, when they took the genuinely courageous step of dismantling the mechanisms of the WASP aristocracy.

    The truth is that the meritocracy was never more than partial. Visit any elite campus across our great nation, and you can thrill to the heart-warming spectacle of the children of white businesspeople and professionals studying and playing alongside the children of black, Asian, and Latino businesspeople and professionals. Kids at schools like Stanford think that their environment is diverse if one comes from Missouri and another from Pakistan, or if one plays the cello and the other lacrosse. Never mind that all of their parents are doctors or bankers.

    That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few exceptions, but that is all they are. In fact, the group that is most disadvantaged by our current admissions policies are working-class and rural whites, who are hardly present on selective campuses at all. The only way to think these places are diverse is if that’s all you’ve ever seen.

    Let’s not kid ourselves: The college admissions game is not primarily about the lower and middle classes seeking to rise, or even about the upper-middle class attempting to maintain its position. It is about determining the exact hierarchy of status within the upper-middle class itself. In the affluent suburbs and well-heeled urban enclaves where this game is principally played, it is not about whether you go to an elite school. It’s about which one you go to. It is Penn versus Tufts, not Penn versus Penn State. It doesn’t matter that a bright young person can go to Ohio State, become a doctor, settle in Dayton, and make a very good living. Such an outcome is simply too horrible to contemplate.

    This system is exacerbating inequality, retarding social mobility, perpetuating privilege, and creating an elite that is isolated from the society that it’s supposed to lead. The numbers are undeniable. In 1985, 46 percent of incoming freshmen at the 250 most selective colleges came from the top quarter of the income distribution. By 2000, it was 55 percent. As of 2006, only about 15 percent of students at the most competitive schools came from the bottom half. The more prestigious the school, the more unequal its student body is apt to be. And public institutions are not much better than private ones. As of 2004, 40 percent of first-year students at the most selective state campuses came from families with incomes of more than $100,000, up from 32 percent just five years earlier.

    The major reason for the trend is clear. Not increasing tuition, though that is a factor, but the ever-growing cost of manufacturing children who are fit to compete in the college admissions game. The more hurdles there are, the more expensive it is to catapult your kid across them. Wealthy families start buying their children’s way into elite colleges almost from the moment they are born: music lessons, sports equipment, foreign travel (“enrichment” programs, to use the all-too-perfect term)—most important, of course, private-school tuition or the costs of living in a place with top-tier public schools. The SAT is supposed to measure aptitude, but what it actually measures is parental income, which it tracks quite closely. Today, fewer than half of high-scoring students from low-income families even enroll at four-year schools.

    The problem isn’t that there aren’t more qualified lower-income kids from which to choose. Elite private colleges will never allow their students’ economic profile to mirror that of society as a whole. They can’t afford to—they need a critical mass of full payers and they need to tend to their donor base—and it’s not even clear that they’d want to.

    And so it is hardly a coincidence that income inequality is higher than it has been since before the Great Depression, or that social mobility is lower in the United States than in almost every other developed country. Elite colleges are not just powerless to reverse the movement toward a more unequal society; their policies actively promote it.

    Is there anything that I can do, a lot of young people have written to ask me, to avoid becoming an out-of-touch, entitled little shit? I don’t have a satisfying answer, short of telling them to transfer to a public university. You cannot cogitate your way to sympathy with people of different backgrounds, still less to knowledge of them. You need to interact with them directly, and it has to be on an equal footing: not in the context of “service,” and not in the spirit of “making an effort,” either—swooping down on a member of the college support staff and offering to “buy them a coffee,” as a former Yalie once suggested, in order to “ask them about themselves.”

    Instead of service, how about service work? That’ll really give you insight into other people. How about waiting tables so that you can see how hard it is, physically and mentally? You really aren’t as smart as everyone has been telling you; you’re only smarter in a certain way. There are smart people who do not go to a prestigious college, or to any college—often precisely for reasons of class. There are smart people who are not “smart.”

    I am under no illusion that it doesn’t matter where you go to college. But there are options. There are still very good public universities in every region of the country. The education is often impersonal, but the student body is usually genuinely diverse in terms of socioeconomic background, with all of the invaluable experiential learning that implies.

    U.S. News and World Report supplies the percentage of freshmen at each college who finished in the highest 10 percent of their high school class. Among the top 20 universities, the number is usually above 90 percent. I’d be wary of attending schools like that. Students determine the level of classroom discussion; they shape your values and expectations, for good and ill. It’s partly because of the students that I’d warn kids away from the Ivies and their ilk. Kids at less prestigious schools are apt to be more interesting, more curious, more open, and far less entitled and competitive.

    If there is anywhere that college is still college—anywhere that teaching and the humanities are still accorded pride of place—it is the liberal arts college. Such places are small, which is not for everyone, and they’re often fairly isolated, which is also not for everyone. The best option of all may be the second-tier—not second-rate—colleges, like Reed, Kenyon, Wesleyan, Sewanee, Mount Holyoke, and others. Instead of trying to compete with Harvard and Yale, these schools have retained their allegiance to real educational values.

    Not being an entitled little shit is an admirable goal. But in the end, the deeper issue is the situation that makes it so hard to be anything else. The time has come, not simply to reform that system top to bottom, but to plot our exit to another kind of society altogether.

    The education system has to act to mitigate the class system, not reproduce it. Affirmative action should be based on class instead of race, a change that many have been advocating for years. Preferences for legacies and athletes ought to be discarded. SAT scores should be weighted to account for socioeconomic factors. Colleges should put an end to résumé-stuffing by imposing a limit on the number of extracurriculars that kids can list on their applications. They ought to place more value on the kind of service jobs that lower-income students often take in high school and that high achievers almost never do. They should refuse to be impressed by any opportunity that was enabled by parental wealth. Of course, they have to stop cooperating with U.S. News.

    More broadly, they need to rethink their conception of merit. If schools are going to train a better class of leaders than the ones we have today, they’re going to have to ask themselves what kinds of qualities they need to promote. Selecting students by GPA or the number of extracurriculars more often benefits the faithful drudge than the original mind.

    The changes must go deeper, though, than reforming the admissions process. That might address the problem of mediocrity, but it won’t address the greater one of inequality. The problem is the Ivy League itself. We have contracted the training of our leadership class to a set of private institutions. However much they claim to act for the common good, they will always place their interests first. The arrangement is great for the schools, but is Harvard’s desire for alumni donations a sufficient reason to perpetuate the class system?

    I used to think that we needed to create a world where every child had an equal chance to get to the Ivy League. I’ve come to see that what we really need is to create one where you don’t have to go to the Ivy League, or any private college, to get a first-rate education.

    High-quality public education, financed with public money, for the benefit of all: the exact commitment that drove the growth of public higher education in the postwar years. Everybody gets an equal chance to go as far as their hard work and talent will take them—you know, the American dream. Everyone who wants it gets to have the kind of mind-expanding, soul-enriching experience that a liberal arts education provides. We recognize that free, quality K–12 education is a right of citizenship. We also need to recognize—as we once did and as many countries still do—that the same is true of higher education. We have tried aristocracy. We have tried meritocracy. Now it’s time to try democracy.

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    Drawing  from  the  City: Exquisite  Indian  Folk  Art  Meets Women’s Empowerment

    One self-taught artist’s journey from poverty to imaginative reinvention.
    By now, you know my soft spot for visionary Indian indie publisher Tara Books, who for nearly two decades have been giving voice to marginalized art and literature through a commune of artists, writers, and designers collaborating on beautifully crafted books celebrating Indian folk art traditions. Their latest gem, Drawing from the City (public library) by artist Tejubehan, is both more exquisite and born out of a more moving personal story than just about any book I’ve come across. Its gorgeous black-and-white pen-and-ink drawings, brimming with expressive lines and dots somewhere betweenYayoi Kusama and Edward Gorey, tell the partly autobiographical, partly escapist tale of this self-taught artist who came of age as a woman trapped between unimaginable poverty and a wildly imaginative inner world in a patriarchal society.
    Tejubehan takes us on a journey from her small village into the big city, where her poor parents move to find work. Three years pass. Teju is now a young woman and she marries a man who sings for a living. With his encouragement, she becomes an artist.
    It is like magic. I sit in one place with paper and pen, and it is my hand that starts to move. Lines, dots, more lines, and more dots, and you have a picture. I can bring to life things that I have seen and know, but also things that I imagine. I can even bring the two together.
    I have been moving all my life, looking for ways to survive, but this is a new direction. My heart is full.
    I see a girl going somewhere on a bicycle, and I draw a whole group of girls, all of them on the way somewhere.
    We reach the city! Everything is on the move here, not just the train. People rush past, pushing their way through the streets. Only the tall buildings seem rooted to the spot, along with a few trees that stand guard on the other side.
    I don’t mind the rush though. The sun is setting, and I marvel at the lampposts that can turn night into day. Nights in our village are really dark.
    Tejubehan at work
    At its heart, however, the story is really a feminist story — a vision for women’s liberation in a culture with oppressive gender norms and limiting social expectations. In envisioning the woman of the city — biking, driving, flying — Tejubehan is really envisioning what it might be like to live in a world where to be female means to be free to move and free to just be.
    I like cars. I wonder what it’s like to move at such a high speed and to be in control of where you’re going. There are always two women in my cars. One drives and the other looks out of the window.
    I want to be both of those women.
    But even in the plane, my women are not content to sit still. So I float them down, wondering where they should go next. Should they fly forever like birds? Or should I draw some lines taking them down to the sea?
    I rest my pen here for a moment. I have time to decide.
    Like many of Tara’s other books, Drawing from the City has been silkscreen-printed and bound by hand on handmade paper. The cover is colored with traditional Indian dyes, emanating an enchanting earthy smell that reminds you what it’s like to hold an analog labor of love in your analog human hands.

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    Where’s my creativity gone?

    It happens to the best of designers, all is going well until you reach that plateau, or that mental block where you cease to produce any creativity and think all is lost. Sometimes all It takes is a simple bit of inspiration and motviation to bring back the innovative ideas you once had inside your head!
    This is a guide for people who need a bit of inspiration. In the form of a tasty infographic, we have come up with 40 Ways to Stay Creative, so that if you are ever lacking in the creative department, you can always refer to this post or even print out our poster (links are below and above the infographic on Redbubble) in your studio or office so that you will never suffer from the dreaded creative block ever again.
    Without further delay, we present to you, 40 Ways to Stay Creative – An infographic by If you would like to embed this infographic, please do so below:

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    Why Your Idea Is Worth Nothing Until Executed

    When many decide to start a business there seems to be a big misunderstanding about the worth of their idea. An idea is just that, until it is actually executed and sales are produced.

    Over the last 5 years, my business partner and I have written many business plans and developed proforma financial statements for clients who were starting a business. For the most part, the majority of those we have worked with have a great understanding of their business, its potential, and made an investment in their business . In those cases, they have on their own, or with our help been able to obtain funding or investment.
    There suddenly has been an increase in individuals starting their own business either due to wanting to be self-employed or out of necessity due to the job market. There are so many misconceptions about what it takes to get a business up and running and funded and it is sad to see that people sometimes get too far down the path before they realize there could be an issue in getting proper funding or investment.
    There are three major components to business valuation. 1) net realizable assets (all you own minus all you owe), plus 2) Net present value of future cash flows (past results are a good indication of future results), plus 3) Synergies; someone believes in you – it why one person pays more for something versus someone else; it’s the person who sees the future in what you are doing – emphasis on “doing.
    No assets means Value = 0;
    No revenues means Net Present Value = 0;
    Synergy in this case with no value what multiples will an excited investor pay?
    Grants and Government Loans
    In Canada, there are many grants and loans available for businesses, as long as you understand the requirements and limitations. There are very few start-up grants and for those that are, most are tied to equipment, real estate, or were created to help stimulate growth in the economy by funding employees such as students or those on unemployment. Where the grants are for “hiring” it means “net new employees”, not funding the owners salary; and there most likely will be audits to ensure you did what you said you were going to do. There is only so much money available and everyone is going after the same piece of the pie.. In many cases there will be a cap on the number of grants of that type, so if you are applying later in the year, there is a very good chance that program is closed for the remainder of the year.
    There are small business loans through the government that the banks or credit unions administer that are great for those starting up, as long as you understand they are still a loan. They need to see security for 25% and the loan will go through the same process as any other loan. The loan needs to be tied to assets of some kind, whether business or personal. If you are buying equipment or a building for your business, that becomes an attachable asset. The bank or credit union are expected to ensure these loans are paid back – even though they are backed by the government. They have a duty of care to adhere to.
    Business Plans and Supporting Financials
    Your business plan is your supporting document for your proforma financial statements. Your numbers need to make sense. You cannot pull numbers out of the air and hope a bank won't look back within your plan to see how you obtained them. Your plan needs to defend the size of your market and how you are going to obtain the share you have stated to get to your forecast. And before you spend more time on the cover and making pretty pictures for the bank, know that they only care about the numbers and validation of them through the plan. We had one of the bankers we deal with tell us about a client that spent a lot of money on a binder, tabs, and colour copying for their business plan. The plan looked nice, but there was no substance and they were shocked they were turned down. If more time had been spent on the content and the financials, they would have had a better chance at obtaining lending.
    Investment and Experience
    You have to invest in your own business and show that you have some skin in the game. If I heard once I have heard it a thousand times," but it is my idea so that is my investment". My favourite line is "I am giving sweat equity as I am worth more than the salary I am giving myself". Sweat equity means you do not take anything out of your business until you are profitable. No one will fund an owner's salary. You need to account for having enough sales to pay yourself.
    Your idea is worth absolutely nothing to an investor if you are not willing to invest or take risk in the idea yourself. No financial institution or investor will give you any funding if you have not invested in your own business with either equity (money) or assets and why should they? What message are you sending to ask someone else to take a risk on you and your idea if you are not willing to take a risk yourself. The lender or investor also wants to know that you have the background and experience to execute on the idea. Have you worked in that industry, in management, in sales, or possess other skills that show there is a good chance of success.
    Target Market and Sales
    There has to be more than saying your industry is $5B and you plan to take .5% of it. You have to defend that number based on many factors . How much of the market do your competitors have and how much is available? How many sales people or channels will you have and do the numbers make sense based on the number of sales per person/channel for the sales cycle of your product. Our observations have been that the greatest weakness in new plans is supporting / justifying the top line: revenues. It is insufficient to state “I will take 0.5% of a $5B market ; 0.5% should be easy to get – right? So let’s just put $25M as our revenue line in year 3 and we’ll ramp up to that".
    Have you invested enough in marketing (aka sales planning & execution) to get to your forecast? Have you priced your product or service appropriately to sell and are you making enough margin to cover the expenses. Does your SWOT analysis have more strengths and opportunities than weaknesses and threats?
    Actual Sales and Cash are King
    If you have made an investment yourself in your business or have assets to attach and have sales, you are in a position of strength, if the business makes sense. By having sales in hand, this shows that your idea can be executed. . It is up to you as the business owner to go out and get the first sales. You cannot wait until the customers come to you. Don’t forget; a sale is a gift until it is paid for; make sure you collect from real paying customers.

    So before you quit your job to jump into life as an entrepreneur, make sure you are prepared for what lies ahead in starting a business. There is money out there and are resources to help you but you need to be prepared to do most of the heavy lifting and take the risk, as the old saying is true. No risk, no reward. An idea is just an idea until it is proven and realized which means you have someone who is willing to purchase.

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    Has ‘Disruptive Innovation’ Run Its Course? Not Yet…

    Eonomic theories emanating from business schools do not usually draw 6,000-word takedowns in the popular press. But then, few ideas have permeated society as thoroughly as the notion of disruptive innovation. The theory describes the way a new product or service transforms an existing market — and eventually replaces and redefines the status quo — by bringing new simplicity, convenience and affordability. In a June 23 article in The New Yorker, Jill Lepore launched an attack on the soundness of the theory itself and the solidity of the scholarship behind it. She also decried the misappropriation of the concept across a variety of arenas beyond pure business.
    “The 18th century embraced the idea of progress; the 19th century had evolution; the 20th century had growth and then innovation. Our era has disruption, which, despite its futurism, is atavistic,” wrote Lepore, a Harvard University professor of American history. “It’s a theory of history founded on a profound anxiety about financial collapse, an apocalyptic fear of global devastation and shaky evidence.”
    The father of the theory of disruptive innovation, Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen, who coined the term in his 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, has offered an initial response to the criticisms in a Bloomberg Businessweek interview. In that piece, Christensen calls Lepore’s article a “criminal act of dishonesty.” He goes on to say that Lepore broke “all of the rules of scholarship that she accused me of breaking — in … truly egregious ways. In fact, every one — every one — of those points that she attempted to make [about The Innovator’s Dilemma] has been addressed in a subsequent book or article. Every one! And if she was truly a scholar as she pretends, she would have read [those].”Lepore’s polemic may or may not signal the beginning of the end for disruptive innovation as the knee-jerk answer to all institutional ills, but it has undoubtedly given great energy to the discussion of what was once a discrete and considerably more modest theory. “I do think this interaction is healthy in that we are all talking,” says Wharton management professor Rahul Kapoor. “It serves perhaps to discipline the use of the term and the application of the term … closer to what the research meant.” sloppy,” notes David Robertson, a Wharton practice professor of operations and information management. “That is a sign of the success of Christensen’s ideas and the widespread adoption. But it’s not fair to lay all the sloppiness at his feet. On the other hand, it is fair to talk about how sloppy the term ‘disruption’ has become, and how we have to worry about [disruptive] technology all over. Poking holes in that [sloppiness] is easy, and it’s a contribution that Lepore did that.”
    Plastic Bricks and Integrating Innovation
    Christensen applauds Lepore for writing that disruptive innovation is a concept that has invaded all quarters of society, and that the term is now thrown around carelessly. The theory, as he defined it, saw disruptive innovation as the kind that comes from behind and develops a new market that eventually displaces the old one.
    About Lepore’s piece, he told Businessweek: “In the first two or three pages, it seems that her motivation is to try to rein in this almost random use of the word ‘disruption.’ The word is used to justify whatever anybody — an entrepreneur or a college student — wants to do. And as I read that, I was delighted that somebody with her standing would join me in trying to bring discipline and understanding around a very useful theory. I’ve been trying to do it for 20 years.”
    Many others agree. But beyond that, Robertson says he has differences with both Christensen and Lepore. “She says disruptive innovation has neither good evidence behind it nor predictive power, but then she doesn’t leave us with answers,” he notes. “If I am a CEO, and I see this disruptive technology entering my industry, what do I do?” At the same time, he adds, Lepore does not confront a false tenet of Christensen’s theory. “Christensen says we must respond to disruption by adopting the disruptive technology — or die. What Christensen has said is to disrupt yourself before somebody else does, and I don’t think that is always the answer.”
    According to Robertson, there are lots of companies that have survived not by changing their fundamental business model, but by adapting new technologies to their strategy. Robertson, author of Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry, says that the Danish company was threatened by virtual play — including games like “Minecraft,” in which online players build and destroy in worlds inhabited by an online community. “It’s good, and cheaper than a LEGO plastic brick,” Robertson notes.
    But LEGO innovated and integrated into its business a new venture that has only increased demand for the company’s core business: a feature-length film. The LEGO Movie has grossed more than $463 million worldwide, and for a while was the top-grossing film of 2014. “I think LEGO wants to reinvent the future of play,” says Robertson. “The core business is really spinning off tons of cash, and I know that some of that cash is going to labs in separate buildings that are looking at different ways kids can play. They have tried and failed several times to do something genuinely different, but they will continue trying until they get it right.”
    Does disruption kill core business models? “Not necessarily,” Robertson says. “Does that mean you should anticipate how it is going to affect the core business? Of course you should. You should always be looking for that next big thing, as well. In the late 1990s, [LEGO] moved away from core business and stopped focusing on bricks. Everything was out-of-the-box innovation, and it almost put them out of business.”
    Kapoor has looked at how these issues play out in the pharmaceutical industry, where investment in innovation happens, but “somehow it’s harder for these discoveries to be pushed toward development and pushed toward markets.” A research paper co-authored by Kapoor and Thomas Klueter, titled “Decoding the Adaptability-Rigidity Puzzle: Evidence from Pharmaceutical Incumbents’ Pursuit of Gene Therapy and Monoclonal Antibodies” and published in the Academy of Management Journal, argues that it is a misconception that incumbent firms do not invest in disruptive technology research are strongly influenced by the cognition and incentives of strategic decision makers and the resource allocation process within incumbent firms.
     While these organizational characteristics facilitate firms’ development of sustaining technologies, they induce inertial pressures when the technological regime is disruptive and make it more difficult to garner resources and support for subsequent development.” Innovation supported through alliances and acquisitions, on the other hand, is shielded from those pressures.
    Kapoor sees his paper as “helping the idea evolve in a more refined way.” The researchers note that “when we think about why it is difficult for firms to adapt to new innovations and new technology, it’s not that these firms get blinded — they don’t. But it is difficult within the context of inventive structures to give the same propriety to ideas that don’t fit with existing models. That is something not explicitly addressed in the research in the 1990s…. In [this] paper, we talk about the different ways established firms can overcome these inertial pressures. We think it provides a more nuanced approach to how we think about these problems.”
    Why ‘Where’ Matters
    Does it matter where innovation takes place in a firm? Peter S. Cohan thinks so. The instructor of business strategy and entrepreneurship at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., and president of Peter S. Cohan & Associates, a management consulting and venture capital firm, calls Christensen’s scholarship flawed, citing as particularly wrong-headed Christensen’s dictum that disruptive innovation be housed separately in subsidiaries.
    “What works is when the CEO leads a transition,” Cohan notes. “If it is set up specifically, as Christensen put it, to ‘attack the parent,’ with that kind of dynamic going on, the focus is not on creating value for customers. [Subsidiaries] can’t get the resources, and don’t have the power the CEO has to marshal those resources. If the CEO leads it, then the CEO is going to start off by focusing on what the customer is looking for. It needs to deliver a service or product that is better than the competition. Only a CEO is willing to take the short-term financial hit as the change occurs.”
    An example of a company willing to make short-term sacrifices during a transition, Cohan says, is Adobe. “They used to sell packaged software, but since 2011, they have moved to software as a service, where you pay a monthly amount and get the latest version from the cloud. The amount of cash in the short-term is much lower, and their revenue and profits in that time haven’t been a pretty picture. But Adobe’s stock has more than doubled because they did a great job explaining to customers and investors what they were doing during this transition. They have been able to beat expectations, because it is a product customers really like.”
    If certain aspects of Christensen’s theory turn out not to be valid, that in no way renders his research useless, many say. Wharton operations and information management professor Christian Terwiesch notes that he found Lepore’s piece “unduly harsh,” and that it is easy to complain that models and their empirical methodology are not perfect.
    “Let’s look at the innovation-focused best-selling books The Innovator’s Dilemma and Blue Ocean Strategy,” says Terwiesch, co-director of Wharton’s Mack Institute for Innovation Management. “It is important to understand the research methods underlying such studies. In both cases, the authors, guided by years of reflection and industry observation, had a certain framework in mind. They then looked for data to put that framework into a business context and to create the appearance of an empirical foundation.” However, in all of social sciences, and especially in business, empirical foundations tend to be shaky, Terwiesch notes. “We don’t have the randomized controlled trials that we have in medicine: Let 50 CEOs use the Christensen framework and 50 CEOs not use it and then see who wins. That type of study simply does not exist.”
    To marginalize Christensen’s work would be to miss something quite valuable, he says. “I have worked with dozens of companies around innovation and strategy,” Terwiesch notes. “I found the model of disruptive innovation powerful, though I am fully aware that it is not a universal truth. It enables a discussion with organizations; it provides organizations with a framework and [encourages them to] reflect on their strategy. That is all. But that is a lot. All models and frameworks are wrong. Reality is always more complex. They all are wrong – but some are useful nevertheless.”
    Wishing Disruption Away?
    But can disruptive innovation be applied to every sector of society? More importantly, should it? Lepore spends the first parts of her piece disemboweling the specifics of disruption theory. But she builds to a larger, if implied, claim that capitalism itself, as it has come to be practiced under the terms of disruptive innovation, has run amok.
    “Innovation and disruption are ideas that originated in the arena of business but which have since been applied to arenas whose values and goals are remote from the values and goals of business,” she writes. “People aren’t disk drives. Public schools, colleges and universities, churches, museums and many hospitals, all of which have been subjected to disruptive innovation, have revenues and expenses and infrastructures, but they aren’t industries in the same way that manufacturers of hard-disk drives or truck engines or dry goods are industries. Journalism isn’t an industry in that sense, either. 
    Doctors have obligations to their patients, teachers to their students, pastors to their congregations, curators to the public and journalists to their readers — obligations that lie outside the realm of earnings and are fundamentally different from the obligations that a business executive has to employees, partners and investors.”
    But simply saying that it is inappropriate to layer disruptive innovation on certain sectors does not mean that disruption will not arrive on your doorstep one day unbidden, others point out. Says Robertson: “It’s a scary thing when some new technology comes in and changes the way your business works, be it education or high tech or the web or whatever. I think the reason Christensen resonates so well is he recognizes that this is a situation that has happened [to many].”
    In Lepore’s view, Christensen invites criticism when, in The Innovative University, written with Henry J. Eyring, he subjects higher education (in this case, Harvard) to what Lepore calls “a wildly misguided attempt to apply standards of instruction in the 21st century to standards of instruction in the 17th.” But Robertson counters that “it’s just silly to say disruption is not going to happen to education. It sounds like something people said in the 1990s just before they went out of business.”
    Rather than pretending nothing will change, or proposing that everything will change, Roberts argues for a third possibility. “Things are not going to be the same, but not entirely different,” he notes. “The university of the future – [in fact,] the university of now — will have some tech component. Harvard Business School is offering a pre-MBA course that is an online, virtual experience that helps prepare you for an MBA. That doesn’t mean people won’t be showing up in Boston on the first day of class. But isn’t that also the start of an experience in an interesting and important way?”
    Johns Hopkins business school professor Ravi Aron says it is important to remember that disruption leaves behind a tremendous number of winners. “If universities use a combination of adjuncts and online delivery to cap the costs of delivering courses, while it would depress the demand for a Ph.D. in the academic market, it would help contain the costs of education and expand its reach.” Similarly, Aron adds, disruption in the recording industry has benefited many consumers, as well as musicians themselves who no longer must go through gatekeepers to get their product to market. “While the demand for the services of classically trained musicians drops, the access to classical music has been greatly democratized by the digital delivery of music,” he says.
    Like Lepore, Aron notes, however, that disruption cannot be extended into all sectors of society without potentially dire consequences. “The reason that the disruption framework is misappropriated is because of a lack of understanding of the objective function of the enterprise,” he says.
    A corporation’s objective function can be understood in terms of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), he notes, and disruption has a meaning in that context. “However, an entity such as a university, a hospital or a government-funded infrastructure project — such as mass transit, or an airport — has an objective function that is very different from EBITDA and net margins,” Aron points out. 
    “Disruption is often invoked by consultants and soundbite gurus to explain why these entities fail. The fact that these entities are not maximizing the objective functions that the consultants think that they should is lost on them. It is akin to a disruption consultant telling the Vienna Philharmonic, ‘If you can implement a program of continuous productivity improvement, the Unfinished Symphony could be finished.’ The solutions that the ‘disruption consultants’ come up with range from the trite and the trivial to catastrophically dangerous.”
    Reproduced from Knowledge@Wharton

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    Learning on the Edge: Classroom Activities to Promote Deep Learning

    The explosion of educational technologies in the past decade or so has led everyone to wonder whether the landscape of higher education teaching and learning will be razed and reconstructed in some new formation. But whatever changes might occur to the learning environments we construct for our students, the fundamental principles according to which human beings learn complex new skills and information will not likely undergo a massive transformation anytime soon. 
    Fortunately, we seem to be in the midst of a flowering of new research and ideas from the learning sciences that can help ensure that whatever type of approach we take to the classroom—from traditional lecture to flipped classes—can help maximize student learning in our courses.
    One fascinating implication of this growing body of research for me has been a greater awareness of the edges of a traditional class. Environmental biologists have dubbed landscapes that sit on the edge of two different ecosystems (such as a forest and a grasslands environment) an ecotone. These spaces are known for having rich biological diversity, because they can support creatures from both sides of the ecotone, and encourage mixing between the bordering zones. The especially rich nature of the ecotone has also become known as the “edge effect.”
    The ecotone of a traditional college class would be the first and last few minutes of the class session, when students are walking in the door from their busy lives outside of the classroom—coming from meals with friends, from exercise or sports activities, from socializing either in person or through their phones—and entering this more formal learning space. Too often these first and last minutes of class are frittered away with administrative details, hurried reminders about due dates or admonitions about upcoming assignments. But what if we saw those ecotones of the classroom exactly as we saw them in the natural world—as especially rich and fertile periods, ones in which we can begin and end the process of promoting deep learning for our students?
    Two key cognitive activities seem to me especially promising in terms of their ability to maximize student learning in the ecotones of higher education: predicting and retrieving.
    Predicting. In a 2009 article in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Kornell, Hays, and Bjork describe a series of experiments in which they gave participants test questions on subject matter before they had the opportunity to study or learn it correctly. One of their interests was determining whether incorrect answers on a pre-test—which are likely to happen when the subjects have not yet been exposed to the material—would create further difficulties for the learner down the line. In other words, if learners give a wrong answer on a pre-test, will that answer stick in their heads and make them more likely to repeat it on subsequent exams?
    Not only did the researchers discover that wrong answers on pre-tests do not interfere with subsequent learning—they also discovered that asking learners questions about subject matter before they learned it actually improved their performance on subsequent tests. The authors speculate that this happens because an initial attempt to construct a response to a question “create[s] a fertile context for encoding the answer when it is presented.” In other words, the learner confronted with a difficult question marshals associated ideas and facts in their effort to come up with an answer; in doing so, she prepares a “fertile context” which enables her to learn the true answer more deeply when she hears it.
    The activity of prediction seems tailor-made for the edges of a class period. In the opening moments, we can ask students to make predictions about problems that will be solved in class, about how theories from last night’s reading might apply to current events, or about how an experiment will turn out. In the closing moments, we can ask them to speculate about how the novel they are finishing for the next class will end, about how the theory presented today might be critiqued in a subsequent class, or about how a course concept might predict future political events.
    Retrieving. Researchers have developed in recent years a substantive body of research around the power of retrieval practice, also sometimes described as the “testing effect.” In one elegant demonstration, described in a 2008 article in Science magazine, Karpicke and Roediger had participants memorizing 40 English-Swahili word pairs over the course of a single day of studying and testing. When they brought the participants back a week later to give them a final test on the word pairs, they found that those who had taken multiple tests on all 40 word pairs remembered more than twice as many of the pairs as those who had more study time and fewer tests. Results like these have been replicated in dozens of other contexts, from laboratory settings to classrooms at all educational levels, from elementary school to higher education.
    The short and (over)simple explanation of this phenomenon is that if we want to remember something, we have to practice remembering it. That practice can take the form of taking tests—hence the notion of the “testing effect”—but it does not have to. Any opportunity that a learner has to recall learned material from memory improves their ability to recall it again later.
    In the opening ecotone of the classroom, retrieval practice might take the very simple form of opening class with a five-question practice quiz or a writing exercise in which they identify the most important concept from last night’s reading. In the closing ecotone, it might take the very simple form of the minute paper, in which students are asked to repeat the most important concept from that day’s lecture. In both cases, though, note that students must retrieve—the effect will occur only if they have to draw the material from memory, and not from glancing back at their texts or notebooks.
    The science of the ecotone can help us recognize the power of the classroom borders, and ensure that the edge effects we create in higher education are positive ones that help our students maximize their learning.

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  • 07/28/14--07:47: Know Your Stress Type 07-28
  • Know Your Stress Type

    NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Healthconducted a nationwide poll in March and early April to find common sources of stress.
    They surveyed more than 2,500 adults across the US, finding that the usual culprits topped the list: too many responsibilities, finances, and work issues. Personal health difficulties, as well as health problems in the family were also commonly cited.
    One aspect of the study that caught my attention was how stress affects people's behavior, particularly in areas that can negatively impact health. People who reported a great deal of stress in the previous month cited difficulty sleeping. Eating less and exercising less were also common changes.
    Stress hits each of us differently. Some of us feel it in our bodies. Others just can't stop worrying. Knowing how you experience stress can help you find the most effective methods to relax.
    Back when I was doing research at Harvard, we called the kind of stress that expresses itself in the body “somatic,” for example, getting butterflies in your stomach, indigestion, a racing heart, or the jitters.
    But some people are prone to experiencing their stress mentally. Worrisome thoughts that keep you up at night or that continually intrude into your focus during the day are defined as “cognitive” stress.
    Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School used the scale for cognitive and somatic anxiety that we devised at Harvard to sort patients who were being taught a variety of stress-fighting methods, including mindfulness meditation and yoga. The bottom line: there is no single best way to get there – each of us has our own path. Not everyone will benefit from a body-focused relaxer like yoga, just as meditation may not be the most effective way to fight stress for every person.
    But finding a technique to help you relax is worth the effort. When we calm down from stress, we are shifting our nervous system from physiological arousal to the relaxation and recovery state known as parasympathetic activity. In this state, our minds are more open and clear, our heart rate slows, blood pressure lowers, and our muscles release tension.
    Two tips on practicing relaxation techniques:
    1. Shop around at first to find a method that you enjoy. You don't have to take a psychological test to find out which method will work best for you. Make the match through simple trial and error. After all, you are the final judge of what will help you.
    2. Practice every day. Find a time in your daily routine that you can set aside just for this – whether during your drive to work or during personal quiet time first thing in the morning. If you develop a strong daily practice, you'll be able to call on it to help you calm down when you need to the most – right after those hassles that get you so tense in the first place.
    The results may be subtle at first. You might find, for instance, you're no longer waking up at 4 a.m. obsessing about that rude person, or that you aren't yelling at the kids when they dawdle getting ready in the morning. It's harder to notice problems that don't happen than ones that do – but that's not such a bad thing.

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    From Mass Production to Mass Individualism

    A few weeks ago, NY Times columnist David Brooks posted an OpEd on The Evolution of Trust. The OpEd is focused on Airbnb Inc., the online platform where people list and book  accommodations all over the world, which now has over 600,000 listings in more than 34,000 cities and 190 countries. Mr. Brooks thought that people would never rent rooms in their homes to total strangers. “But I was clearly wrong,” he writes.  “And Airbnb is only a piece of the peer-to-peer economy.  People are renting out their cars to people they don’t know, dropping off their pets with people they don’t know, renting power tools to people they don’t know.”
    He attributes the growth of this peer-to-peer economy to three main trends.  First is middle-class stagnation. Technology and globalization have significantly reduced the employment opportunities and earning of middle-skill, middle-wage jobs. Many have thus had to invent their jobs and sources of income, including renting out rooms, cars and other possessions, and offering child care, pet boarding and a variety of other services.
    Second, quite a number of people find the less expensive, one-of-a-kind goods and services now being offered by unique individuals more appealing than the mass-produced goods and services offered by companies. People with time to travel but little money prefer to stay in someone’s moderately priced spare room rather that in a more expensive standard hotel chain.
    And, adds Mr. Brooks, “the big thing I underestimated was the transformation of social trust. In primitive economies, people traded mostly with members of their village and community. Trust was face to face. Then, in the mass economy we’ve been used to, people bought from large and stable corporate brands, whose behavior was made more reliable by government regulation. But now there is a new trust calculus, powered by both social and economic forces.”
    Rooms for rent in boarding houses and child care services are nothing new. What is new is the impact of the Internet on this growing peer-to-peer economy. The Collaborative Economy, a 2013 report by Jeremiah Owyang, nicely explains the evolution of this Internet-based economy, and the associated shift of economic power from institutions to individuals. He identifies three main phases.
    In the first phase, the Web offered lots of information to individuals, but control remained in the hands of institutions. Web 1.0 is a one-to-many model, where companies speak at their customers through their websites. “The power lies with a few, though many are impacted.”
    Then came Web 2.0, a many-to-many model where new social media platforms and tools empowered individuals to publish information, and to easily share content and opinions with each other. The institutions are now required to listen to and speak with customers.  “Customers and companies share power.”
    The collaborative economy represents the evolution of the social media era. Continuing advances in social, mobile and payment tools now make it possible for individuals to share goods and services. Companies are being disrupted as consumers bypass traditional institutions. “Power shifts to the consumer.”
    “An entire economy is emerging around the exchange of goods and services between individuals instead of from business to consumer,” writes Mr. Owyang.  “This is redefining market relationships between traditional sellers and buyers, expanding models of transaction and consumption, and impacting business models and ecosystems.” All kinds of new products and services, like Airbnb, are now coming to market.
    This emerging economy is a result of our digital economy. It would not be possible without the social networks that enable peer-to-peer transactions matching supply with demand; the mobile devices and platforms that enable individuals to conduct such transactions any time and place; and the digital payment systems that reliably and securely broker the transactions between buyers and sellers. Social reputation systems, where people rank buyers and sellers, are critical to the smooth functioning of collaborative markets like Airbnb. In the digital economy, our online reputations follow us everywhere, whether we are the renters or the ones renting, the service providers or the service consumers.
    Beyond the enabling technologies, major social and economic forces are behind what Mr. Brooks calls a new trust calculus.  Large numbers of people are living more unstructured lives; freelancing and consulting rather than having a full-time job; working from home-offices rather than going to a classic office. “They become very fast and fluid in how they make social connections. . . They have traded dependence on big organizational systems for dependence on people they can talk to and negotiate arrangements with directly. They become accustomed to flexible ad-hoc arrangements.”
    “The result is a personalistic culture in which people have actively lost trust in big institutions. Strangers don’t seem especially risky by comparison. This is fertile ground for peer-to-peer commerce.”
    Mass production was a defining hallmark of the 20th century industrial economy, bringing high productivity and low costs to a wide variety of offerings – from household appliances to hotel chains. But, digital technologies and lots of information have been eroding the power of large-scale mass production. Existing companies risk becoming disintermediated by their customers now transacting directly with each other. They need to figure out how to leverage these new models for their own competitive advantage.
    Airbnb is expected to become the world’s largest hotelier some time this year. It’s hard to tell how big a competitive threat this might represent to the major hotel chains, especially to those primarily catering to business customers. However, the chains are paying attention, and have been busy developing a variety of boutique hotels, each targeted at a different customer segment. Instead of the vanilla sameness of the industrial-age hotel chains, they are trying to offer their customers a more unique, personalized experience.
    In a recent Newsweek column, Mass Individualism Makes Life Tough for Consumer Product Giants, technology author and columnist Kevin Maney writes that  “Today’s technology gives the advantage to companies that have deep relationships with consumers, and there are two key ways to get those relationships.  One is to gather so much data about your customers that you come to know them in a borderline-creepy automated way—that is the M.O. of platforms like Amazon or Google.”
    “The other is to be small and intimate enough to connect with your customers on a personal level, like craft brands on Etsy or apartment owners who rent their places through Airbnb.”
    “In fact, in this new age of consumer information and relationships, a big brand can be a negative,” he adds.  “As we get better information about small-scale competing products, we feel safe seeking out the unique, the undiscovered, the unbrands. Hilton becomes vulnerable to Airbnb’s one-of-a-kind dwellings. Tiffany becomes vulnerable to jewelry makers on Etsy.”
    “The one thing the peer-to-peer economy has not relied on much so far is government regulation,” writes Mr. Brooks in his OpEd. “The people who use these companies may be mostly political progressives, but they are operating in a lightly regulated economic space. They vote left, but click right.”
    As this sector matures, government is getting more involved. City officials have clashed with Airbnb and Uber on a range of issues. But most city governments don’t seem inclined to demand tight regulations and oversight.  Centralized agencies don’t know what to make of decentralized trust networks. Moreover, in most cities people seem to understand this is a less formal economy and caveat emptor rules to a greater degree.
    We don’t know where jobs will come from in the coming years. We have no choice but to become a more entrepreneurial society, with many now having to invent their own jobs. Peer-to-peer, collaborative economies may well be the invisible hand’s answer to this critical job challenge. It may well turn out to be one of the most important innovations in our 21st century digital economy.

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    Motivation may explain disconnect between cognitive testing and real-life functioning for older adults

    A psychology researcher at North Carolina State University is proposing a new theory to explain why older adults show declining cognitive ability with age, but don’t necessarily show declines in the workplace or daily life. One key appears to be how motivated older adults are to maintain focus on cognitive tasks.
    “My research team and I wanted to explain the difference we see in cognitive performance in different settings,” says Dr. Tom Hess, a professor of psychology at NC State and author of a paper describing the theory. “For example, laboratory tests almost universally show that cognitive ability declines with age, so you would expect older adults to perform worse in situations that rely on such abilities, such as job performance – but you don’t. Why is that? That’s what this theoretical framework attempts to address.”
    Hess has been developing this framework, called “selective engagement,” over the past 10 years, based on years of work on the psychology of aging.
    At issue are cognitive performance and cognitive functioning. Both deal with cognition, which is an individual’s ability to focus on complex mental tasks, switch between tasks, tune out distractions and retain a good working memory. However, cognitive performance generally refers to how people fare under test conditions, whereas cognitive functioning usually refers to an individual’s ability to deal with mental tasks in daily life.
    “There’s a body of work in psychology research indicating that performing complex mental tasks is more taxing for older adults,” Hess says. “This means older adults have to work harder to perform these tasks. In addition, it takes older adults longer to recover from this sort of exertion. As a result, I argue that older adults have to make decisions about how to prioritize their efforts.”
    This is where selective engagement comes in. The idea behind the theory is that older adults are more likely to fully commit their mental resources to a task if they can identify with the task or consider it personally meaningful. This would explain the disparity between cognitive performance in experimental settings and cognitive functioning in the real world.
    “This first occurred to me when my research team saw that cognitive performance seemed to be influenced by how we framed the tasks in our experiments,” Hess says. “Tasks that people found personally relevant garnered higher levels of cognitive performance than more abstract tasks.”
    Hess next hopes to explore the extent to which selective engagement is reflected in the daily life of older adults and the types of activities they choose to engage in.
    “This would not only further our understanding of cognition and aging, it may also help researchers identify possible interventions to slow declines in cognitive functioning,” Hess says.

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    Glucose ‘control switch’ in the brain key to both types of diabetes


    Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have pinpointed a mechanism in part of the brain that is key to sensing glucose levels in the blood, linking it to both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The findings are published in the July 28 issue of Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.
    “We’ve discovered that the prolyl endopeptidase enzyme — located in a part of the hypothalamus known as the ventromedial nucleus — sets a series of steps in motion that control glucose levels in the blood,” said lead author Sabrina Diano, professor in the Departments of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, Comparative Medicine, and Neurobiology at Yale School of Medicine. “Our findings could eventually lead to new treatments for diabetes.”
    The ventromedial nucleus contains cells that are glucose sensors. To understand the role of prolyl endopeptidase in this part of the brain, the team used mice that were genetically engineered with low levels of this enzyme. They found that in absence of this enzyme, mice had high levels of glucose in the blood and became diabetic.
    Diano and her team discovered that this enzyme is important because it makes the neurons in this part of the brain sensitive to glucose. The neurons sense the increase in glucose levels and then tell the pancreas to release insulin, which is the hormone that maintains a steady level of glucose in the blood, preventing diabetes.
    “Because of the low levels of endopeptidase, the neurons were no longer sensitive to increased glucose levels and could not control the release of insulin from the pancreas, and the mice developed diabetes.” said Diano, who is also a member of the Yale Program in Integrative Cell Signaling and Neurobiology of Metabolism.
    Diano said the next step in this research is to identify the targets of this enzyme by understanding how the enzyme makes the neurons sense changes in glucose levels. “If we succeed in doing this, we could be able to regulate the secretion of insulin, and be able to prevent and treat type 2 diabetes,” she said.

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    Crowd funding is the Highest Form of Loyalty: Shared Destiny 

    10 Reasons Why FriendFeed is a Better Place to Browse Flickr Photos Than Flickr ItselfHarvest a thousand ideas. Above photo from popular photographer, and my friend, Thomas Hawk.
    Crowdfunding is the highest form of loyalty, and only a few big companies have deployed this crowd strategy.
    Big companies can learn from Indiegogo, and Kickstarter.
    You’ve heard of Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and other crowdfunding platforms for the tech savvy, but what does it mean to corporate product strategy? Today’s crowdfunding projects often include a litanay of odd products that didn’t make the shelves, I jokingly refer to it as “this decades home shopping network” due to the odd ball products you didn’t realize you needed. These “long tail” products, are examples of grassroots market innovation offering an opportunity for entrepreneurs to get pre-orders, pre-funded, and free marketing to support a future business.
    U-Haul Investors Club spurs crowdfunding strategy.For years, marketers have told themselves that repeat sales is the highest form of loyalty, but I’d like extend that we’re now seeing the greatest level of loyalty, crowdfunding, become an untapped opportunity for even large companies to develop. Let’s take U-Haul Investors Club for example, where the crowd can finance and own parts of the loading equipment often at better rates than traditional banks. In return, they receive periodic revenues from the performance of these vehicles. It’s safe to assume, that when it’s time for folks to move homes, these U-Haul Investors will use these services, as well as advocate to their friends.

    GE taps crowd innovation from Quirky.

    With that said, this is just the first phase of the crowdfunding movement, expect more refined versions to appear, akin to GE’s Quirky program, where the crowd submits ideas, a smaller team selects, and GEs massive production and supply chain is able to create –and distribute at scale. For the inventors who submit ideas, they benefit from their name being on the box, shared revenues, and a chance to see their brainchild hit shelves –without even going to a fabrication plant.

    What are the benefits of Corporate Crowdfunding?
    1. A nearly limitless supply of fresh innovation and ideas. Struggling to get fresh ideas to market? Is your company mandate to foster outside-in innovation, tap crowdfunding principles to start your journey for crowd innovation.
    2. Backers pre-pledge to go the journey with you. These backers are telling entrepreneurs, and even large corporations that they’re committed for a long period of development in exchange for early access, perks, or even financial benefits.
    3. They’re engaged with product development. This engaged community can be counted on for active feedback, although they are likely representative of a passionista contingent, not a mainstream audience.
    4. A built-in set of early adopters. In both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, most benefits include perks, which include special services, recognition, or gifts, a few of them result in the early product being shipped. Tap these early adopters for feedback and word of mouth.
    5. They’ll naturally advocate the product. Being engaged means to commit fully, and these crowd-based backers are invested in your future product with time, money, and often reputation. Assume they’ll advocate your products to their network and beyond.

    Opportunities for corporate product strategy.
    Using the same consumer-type strategies as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, allow the crowd to suggest products, and then fund them, for potential development, akin to GE’s successful Quirky program, which has now extended beyond consumer electronics to appliances. Allow the crowd to drive the initial discussions, ideation. Allow a system for IP, rights, and rewards to be shared between inventors and your own company.
    Below Graphic: Crowdfunding behavior set to double
    Adoption numbers of 90,000 respondents from my recent research with Vision Critical shows that Crowdfunding will double in adoption by US, UK, and Canadian general population.
    Corporate crowdfunding is uncharted territory.
    What’s the one major downside of Crowdfunding programs? Many a project doesn’t see the light of day, and if it does, it may not be a global success. Additioanlly, some companies are afflicted with the “if it’s not invented here” syndrome which limits innovation to only engineers and scientists. Here’s where established brands can help make the right choices, apply the right resources, and help both crowds –and companies –win. While relatively untapped, corporations can adapt this new strategy, to obtain the highest form of loyalty, crowdfunding, for shared destiny with the crowd.
    Crowdfunding is the highest form of loyalty: shared destiny
    (Disclosure: GE is a founding member of my company, Crowd Companies, an association for business leaders at large companies.) 

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    NASA's SDO Observes a Lunar Transit

    By blending different SDO wavelengths, we can get an enhanced image of the sun.
    By bl

    This animated gif shows the path of the moon across the Solar Dynamics Observatory's field of view for this lunar transit.
    This animated gif shows the path of the moon across the Solar Dynamics Observatory's field of view for this lunar transit.
    Image Credit: 
    NASA/SDO team
    On July 26, 2014, from 10:57 a.m. to 11:42 a.m. EDT, the moon crossed between NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and the sun, a phenomenon called a lunar transit. This happens approximately twice a year, causing a partial solar eclipse that can only be seen from SDO's point of view. Images of the eclipse show a crisp lunar horizon, because the moon has no atmosphere that would distort light.

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    flipkart 2

    Flipkart raises $1 billion to strengthen its bid to own India’s e-commerce space

    It’s turning into quite a year for Flipkart. Today the e-commerce company from India has confirmed the much-reported rumor that it has raised $1 billion in fresh investment, as it eyes new verticals, expand its operations and stave off challenges from Amazon and eBay.

     An announcement confirms that the round includes participation from existing investors Tiger Global, Yuri Milner’s DST Global group, Accel Partners, ICONIQ Capital, Morgan Stanley Investment Management and Sofina. Prior to today’s news, Flipkart had taken just over $700 million from investors.

    The company most recently raised $210 million back in May, just after it acquired fashion-focused rival Myntra for an undisclosed fee which was said to be around $300 million. Since then, we have seen Flipkart launch its own line of tablets andsmartphones, in addition to an Amazon Prime-like members service that provides a host of benefits for 500 INR, around US$8.50, per year.

    Why all the investor interest in e-commerce in India?

    The increase in capital is about giving the company a footprint to succeed in India’s e-commerce market that has vast potential as internet penetration and the rate of smartphone ownership increases. A report from Accel Partners earlier this year predicts that the number of online shoppers will double to 40 million by 2016, with their spending set to increase four-fold to $8.5 million.

    Speaking to Quartz, Kunal Bahl, the CEO of Flipkart’s closest rival Snapdeal, predicted that the value of the online shopping market in India could reach $50 billion by 2020. That’s a whole lot of potential.

    “We believe the internet will improve the quality of life for millions of Indians, and e-commerce is going to play a huge role in this change. The focus at Flipkart is to continue to make shopping online simpler and more accessible through the use of technology,” said Flipkart founders Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal in a statement.

    flipkart fouders Flipkart raises $1 billion to strengthen its bid to own Indias e commerce space
    Flipkart claims 18 million registered users and 3.5 million visits to its site per day, and it claims to be the first e-commerce firm outside of the US to reach $1 billion in GMV (sales on its marketplace). Yet, it has two US giants breathing down its neck. Amazon quietly moved into the India market last June. It began selling books only, but now offers music, movies, electronics, fashion and other categories that Flipkart covers too.
    eBay also has plans for the Indian market, after it invested in Snapdeal with a view to a future acquisition. Snapdeal itself recently raised $100 million from five investors as well, including Singapore’s Temasek Holdings.
    Image via Sankarshan Mukhopadhyay / Flickr

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    Humble CEOs Are Best For Business, New Study Says

    James Collins, author of the 2001 business classic Good to Great, likes to tellthe story of Darwin E. Smith, the shy, reserved CEO of Kimberly-Clark for two decades until 1991. When Smith was asked how he turned around the maker of Kleenex and Huggies, generating returns to investors that were four times better than the stock market’s, Collins quotes him as saying, “I was just trying to become qualified for the job.”
    Though Collins has described how humility can make leaders better at their jobs, there has been a striking absence of empirical research to back up that notion, says Angelo Kinicki, management professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. Most CEO studies look at the flip side of the personality coin. For instance I recently wrote about a study showing that narcissistic CEOs who run tech companies make more money than their less dominant, less entitled counterparts.
    Kinicki was thinking of testing the proposition that humble CEOs like Darwin Smith could be powerful leaders, when one of his graduate students, China-born Amy Ou, suggested it would be interesting to look at some of the leadership traits associated with Confucianism. Those traits include self-awareness, openness to feedback, and a focus on the greater good and others’ welfare, as opposed to dwelling on oneself. Ou, who is now an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore, thought that China would be a good place to gather data, because of Confucianism’s influence. She also had a network of corporate contacts there and she teamed up with another Chinese colleague at the business school, Anne Tsui, who had connections in China.
    Together with three other colleagues in the U.S. and China, the researchers wound up interviewing the CEOs of 63 private Chinese companies. They also gave surveys to 1,000 top- and mid-level managers who worked with the CEOs. The surveys and interviews aimed to determine how a humble leadership style would affect not so much the bottom line as the top and mid-level managers who worked under the CEOs. Did managers feel empowered by CEOs’ humility, did they feel as though they were invited into company decision-making, and did that lead to a higher level of activity and engagement?
    The study was a challenge to complete because the researchers had to quiz the CEOs about whether they regarded themselves as humble and then test that judgment with mid- and upper-level management. “We had a whole separate study validating that finding,” says Kinicki. The study rated the CEOs’ humility on a 1-6 scale, with the mean falling at 4.47; in other words, most of the CEOs tended to be more humble than not.
    The study’s conclusion: The more humble the CEO, the more top- and mid-level managers reported positive reactions. Top-level managers said they felt their jobs were more meaningful, they wanted to participate more in decision-making, they felt more confident about doing their work and they had a greater sense of autonomy. They also were more motivated to collaborate, to make decisions jointly and to share information. Likewise middle managers felt more engaged and committed to their jobs when the top boss was more humble.
    How likely is it that these findings would translate to the U.S.? “I think humble leaders in the U.S. will have the same cascading influence on others as they do in China,” says Kinicki. “People like to be empowered and they like to be treated fairly. That’s as true in the U.S. as it is in other parts of the world.”
    But the researchers studied companies in China in part because the tradition of Confucianism is so strong there, and thus they thought it was more likely they would find a greater number of CEOs who exhibited humble characteristics than they could in the U.S. “The U.S. is one of the most individualistic nations in the world,” says Kinicki. “If you’re very individualistic, it’s kind of hard to be humble.”
    Still, American bosses would do well to pay attention to the new study, which is published in the Administrative Sciences Quarterly.
    Kinicki is in the process of conducting similar research on U.S. CEOs. His goal: to determine how CEO humility affects financial performance. His guess is that humble CEOs like Darwin Smith have a positive effect on the bottom line. “There is a negative stereotype that humble people are weak and indecisive,” Kinicki says. “That’s just not the case.”

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