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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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    People are irrationally motivated to complete arbitrary sets of tasks, donations, or purchases—and organizations can take advantage of that, according to new research by Kate Barasz, Leslie John, Elizabeth Keenan, and Michael Norton. 

    Here’s a tip for persuading people to finish more tasks, buy more products, or donate more money: Simply present assignments, requests, or items as arbitrary sets, rather than as individual units.
    New research reveals that people are irrationally but effectively motivated by the idea of completing a set, even if it means working harder or spending more money—with no additional reward other than the satisfaction of completion and the relief of avoiding an incomplete set. Imagine arriving at your boss’s summer BBQ and presenting her with five beers in a box designed to hold six. No matter that your favorite craft beer store permits you buy bottles one at a time. Chances are you’d still buy six, just to fill all six spaces in the box.
    “People really don’t like to leave things incomplete,” says Kate Barasz, an assistant professor of marketing at IESE Business School and lead author of the paper “Pseudo-Set Framing,” written while she was a doctoral student at Harvard Business School. The term “pseudo-set” refers to the idea that the set is kind of arbitrary—manufactured for the sole purpose of creating the idea of wholeness.
    “People really don’t like to leave things incomplete”
    Do you want customers to refer more of their friends to your company’s website? Ask them to refer friends in arbitrary “batches” of five at a time. Looking to increase charitable giving to your nonprofit organization? Ask potential donors to contribute a set of six gifts. Are you and your fiancé struggling to write thank-you cards for all those wedding shower gifts? Try batching the unwritten cards into sets of eight. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of writing one note at a time, you’ll feel oddly motivated to finish a whole set at a time.
    Appearing in a forthcoming edition of Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, “Pseudo-Set Framing” was co-written by Barasz; Leslie John, the Marvin Bower Associate Professor at HBS; Elizabeth Keenan, an assistant professor at HBS; and Michael Norton, the Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration at HBS.

    The Canadian Red Cross puts pseudo-sets to the test

    The researchers proved the efficacy of pseudo-set framing through a series of laboratory and real-world field studies.
    In one study, they teamed up with the Canadian Red Cross, a humanitarian charitable organization, to find out whether pseudo-set framing could influence gift-giving behavior during its 2016 holiday online fundraising campaign.
    More than 7,000 potential donors were randomly (but evenly) directed to one of three landing pages.
    The first page emphasized cash donations.
    The second page emphasized specific gifts over cash donations. This page also included an image of a globe. For each new item added to the donor’s online cart, a location marker would appear in a particular geographic region, signaling that the item would be donated to that part of the globe.

    The third page invited donors to give one of each of six items in order to complete a so-called “Global Survival Kit”—in other words, a pseudo-set. This page had a globe on it, too, but instead of location markers, it featured a line that grew closer to circumnavigating the globe each time an item was donated.
    The rationale: “Who wants to donate six blankets, when you can donate one blanket and feel just as good?” Barasz says. “But, if you frame it as a set, then there is a reason to want to complete the set and to donate all six of the items.”
    The results of the field study were stark. Among those who chose to give gifts, 21 percent of those in the “Global Survival Kit” condition chose to donate all six items, compared with just 5 percent in the “gift” condition and 3 percent in the cash condition.
    “The strength of the increase was a really nice surprise,” says Doug Wayne, director of national digital marketing and web strategy at the Canadian Red Cross, who decided to collaborate with the research team after meeting Norton through a colleague. “Ultimately, it speaks to how powerful that framing is.”

    People incur the cost of a bad gamble just so they can complete a pseudo-set

    In fact, the human drive for completion is strong enough that people will strive to complete arbitrary sets even when there’s a risk associated.
    In another study, 201 participants had the opportunity to accept up to four online gambling opportunities, with the chance of winning up to 25 cents. (The stakes were notably low—the online equivalent of nickel slots.)
    The chances of winning decreased with each successive gamble, and participants could stop and cash out at any time. Gamble 1 offered a 90 percent chance of winning a nickel and a 10 percent chance of winning nothing, Gamble 2 offered a 75 percent chance of winning, and Gamble 3 a 50 percent chance. In the first three gambles, there was no chance of incurring a loss. But Gamble 4 offered a 50 percent chance of winning a nickel and a 50 percent chance of losing a dime.
    The odds were stupid. It made no rational sense to take that last gamble. And yet….
    The researchers rigged the system so that all participants won the first three gambles, such that they’d all be facing the final risk having accrued 20 of the possible 25 cents. Everyone saw their successive winnings displayed both numerically and graphically on screen.
    However: Half of the participants saw a visual display consisting of five nickels—with separate blank circles depicting money not yet earned. The other half saw a single quarter, divided into fifths such that unearned money was depicted as a missing piece.
    Overall, 29 percent of participants in the single-quarter condition chose to accept all four gambles, compared with 16 percent in the five-separate-nickels condition. For them, the need to complete that picture of a quarter seemed to supersede their rational knowledge of the bad odds.
    “People persist with completing pseudo-sets even when it’s costly for them to do so,” John says. “That, to me, is especially compelling as a researcher—that completing this totally arbitrary set is so motivating to people that they are willing to participate in an obviously bad bet.”

    Future research and advice for managers

    The researchers acknowledge that it’s possible for a pseudo-set to backfire. For instance, a person who might have given seven items to the Red Cross might decide to give a single set of six items instead. And a badly designed pseudo-set could prove annoying or demotivating—say, if the arbitrary set comprises 200 parts. “If the number of tasks required to fill a ‘pie piece’ is prohibitively high, people may decide not to engage at all to avoid anticipated dissatisfaction with partial completion,” the authors write in “Pseudo-Set Framing.”
    Future research may investigate the ideal size of a pseudo-set in any given situation. In the meantime, Barasz offers this rule of thumb, especially with regard to encouraging people to complete repetitive tasks: “My advice to a practitioner would be to find out, on average, how many people usually complete, and then make your set slightly larger than that,” she says.  

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    Archaea, bacteria, and eukarya use the same mechanism to maintain size...

    SEAS researchers have found that these pink-hued archaea — called Halobacterium salinarum — use the same mechanisms to maintain size as bacteria and eukaryotic life, indicting that cellular division strategy may be shared across all domains of life. (Image courtesy of Alexandre Bison/Harvard University) 

    The three domains of life — archaea, bacteria, and eukarya — may have more in common than previously thought.

    Over the past several years, Ariel Amir, Assistant Professor in Applied Mathematics at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has been studying how cells regulate size. In previous research, he and his collaborators found that E. coli (bacteria) and budding yeast (eukaryote) use the same cellular mechanisms to ensure uniform cell sizes within a population.

    Now, with a team of collaborators including Ethan Garner, the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Natural Sciences at Harvard, and Amy Schmid, Assistant Professor of biology at Duke University, Amir found that archaea use the very same mechanism. 

    The research is published in Nature Microbiology.

    “These findings raise really interesting questions about how cellular mechanics evolved independently across all three domains of life,” said Amir. “Our results will serve as a useful foundation for, ultimately, understanding the molecular mechanisms and evolution of cell cycle control.”

    Archaea are single-celled microorganisms that inhabit some of Earth’s most extreme environments, such as volcanic hot springs, oil wells and salt lakes. They are notoriously difficult to cultivate in a lab and, as such, are relatively understudied.

    Archaea inhabit some of Earth’s most extreme environments, such as this salt lake in Bolivia (Image courtesy of Ariel Amir/Havard SEAS)
    “Archaea are unique because they blend a lot of the characteristics of both bacteria and eukaryotes,” said Dr. Yejin Eun, first author of the paper. “Archaea resemble bacterial cells in size and shape but their cell cycle events — such as division and DNA replication — are a hybrid between eukaryotes and bacteria.”
    The researchers studied Halobacterium salinarum, an extremophile that lives in high-salt environments. They found that like bacteria and budding yeast, H. salinarum controls its size by adding a constant volume between two events in the cell cycle. However, the researchers found that H. salinarum are not as precise as E.coli and there was more variability in cell division and growth than in bacterial cells. 
    “This research is the first to quantify the cellular mechanics of size regulation in archaea,” said Amir. “This allows us to quantitatively explore how these mechanisms work, and build a model that explains the variability within the data and the correlations between key properties of the cell cycle. Eventually, we hope to understand just what makes this cellular mechanism so popular across all domains of life.” 
    Archaea resemble bacterial cells in size and shape but their cell cycle events — such as division and DNA replication — are a hybrid between eukaryotes and bacteria.

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    The topic of workplace diversity has vexed businesses and employees for decades. Increasing diversity has long been promoted as the right thing to do, but that notion could be viewed as simplistic and ignoring the deep benefits that inclusion can bring to an organization. Scott Page, a professor of complex systems at the University of Michigan, tackles the issue in his new book, The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off In The Knowledge Economy. He discussed why diversity must be more than “feel-good metaphorical statements” on the Knowledge@Wharton show, which airs on SiriusXM channel 111.

    Knowledge@Wharton: What drove you to research this topic?
    Page: It’s a little bit of a C.P. Snow moment. He was the British academic who said there are two academies: science and arts. Within the University of Michigan or almost any university, you’ve got people in the humanities and in the arts and philosophy departments talking about the need for inclusion on normative grounds, a sort of moral case for a more integrated society. Over in computer science and ecology and business, there are all these people showing in a knowledge economy this incredible value from people who have different perspectives, different ways of looking at problems, different tools.
    On one side of campus, there’s a whole bunch of people talking about the pragmatic benefits of diversity. On the other side, people are talking about the normative benefits. They weren’t communicating with one another. I saw this as a real opportunity for a fruitful conversation.
    Knowledge@Wharton: Don’t you think this “right thing to do” mindset about diversity feels a little patronizing?
    Scott Page: It does in a way. We want our firm to look like America or have people that come from all these different categories, as opposed to asking whether we are bringing in people who can help us fulfill our mission or be better at whatever it is that we do as an organization.
    Knowledge@Wharton: Are we seeing a significant shift in companies thinking more deeply about diversity in the workplace?
    “The talent of the team depends on having diverse people on that team.”
    Page: I think you’re seeing a real shift as the nature of work changes. One of the tropes I use in the book is: Think about a firm that’s hiring people to do physical labor like chopping down trees. In that world, you can figure out someone’s ability, which is how many trees they can chop down. If you’re hiring 10 people, you should hire the 10 best people, and to not hire someone because of their race or religion or gender would be discrimination. Going back to the civil rights movement, that’s how a lot of this was framed. You shouldn’t discriminate. You should hire the person who has the most ability.
    Think about Apple: That company generates $2 million in revenue per person. No one in Apple is chopping down any trees; they’re working on really hard problems. As evidence begins to accumulate, it’s becoming clear that you want smart people who think differently, who have been trained differently, went to different schools, have different knowledge bases. The talent of the team depends on having diverse people on that team. This has become something that everyone has started to recognize as more and more data rolls in showing that to be true. You end up with firms recognizing that cognitive diversity is a strategic asset.
    Knowledge@Wharton: There are concerns that Silicon Valley is not diverse enough in terms of women working at these companies. Diversity isn’t just people of different backgrounds. There’s also gender diversity as well.
    Page: Right. Identity diversity is a difference in who we are. Cognitive diversity is the difference in how we think. If you’re Apple, if you’re Google, if you’re Amazon, the question is, does identity diversity matter? The evidence shows it matters in four ways. The first is syllogism. If you and I come from different identify groups, we have different knowledge bases. You search different things on the web than I search. We read different books. We have different interests.
    On some problems, identity diversity correlates with cognitive diversity. It’s also true that if I’m sitting in a room of people who are all trained like me and look like me, I don’t think as hard and don’t feel the need to explain as deeply. Imagine you’re designing a building and put a blind person on your team. You’re going to think about the building entirely differently just because that person is in the room. Or if you put a physically disabled person in the room. Just being around difference, that’s the second thing.
    The third one is the things we see as problems vary depending on our identity. Where we want to devote our energies is a function. Having more people from different identity groups in the room just leads to more possibilities, and that is well-documented.
    The fourth thing, and I think this is the one that people miss, is that all these women who are not in tech because they just don’t feel comfortable there, or people of color who are not in tech because the culture just doesn’t fit, you’re not only missing out on talent, but you’re also missing out on diversity. Because when you make the pool bigger, you’re just going to get more diversity. Even if women work differently than men, just by having a larger pool, you’d have more diversity.
    Knowledge@Wharton: You’re looking at the benefits, but diversity can backfire on companies that don’t commit to a meaningful policy.
    “If you don’t bring a lot of diverse lenses to bear, you’re likely to have blind spots and make mistakes.”
    Page: Absolutely. If you think of how a consulting company comes in and does an evaluation, they’ll ask, how does this affect people? How does it affect process in terms of the organization? Is there risk? How are competitors responding on a list of dimensions with which you evaluate a business decision? If you don’t bring a lot of diverse lenses to bear, you’re likely to have blind spots and make mistakes.
    What I’m trying to do with the book is speak math and logic to metaphor. You know how people say, “Oh, diverse perspectives are useful,” and that sounds like a reasonable thing? You want to ask, what do you mean by diverse perspectives? And what types of perspective are useful? You want this to move in the direction of science and away from feel-good metaphorical statements about different people being in the room.
    Knowledge@Wharton: There is a trend of companies wanting to build teams. The days of giving a project to one person and having it done a month later are going away, so the need to have different ideas is more important than ever.
    Page: That’s exactly right, and the reason why is because everything is so connected now. When I think about any sort of business policy, there’s an environmental effect, there’s an energy effect, there’s a personnel effect. No one’s going to have the bandwidth to think of all the dimensions to a problem. What you see within universities and within organizations is this rise of team-based work. The effective teams have to be diverse when the problem is hard.
    One of the things I play within the book is what I call the opposite proverbs problem. It’s like anything your grandfather said, your grandmother said the opposite. A stitch in time saves nine. He who hesitates is lost. Too many cooks spoil the broth. Two heads are better than one.
    It’s not the case that you always want a team. But firms are figuring out that where you need teams are on high-dimensional, complex problems. I’m a professor of complex systems. When I look at complexity, whether I look at ecosystems or engineered systems, I realize the way to cope with complexity is through diversity. The right way to harness that complexity is through diversity. Not all diversity. Don’t turn that dial all the way to 11. There’s an appropriate amount and an appropriate type. I think firms have seized the new challenge: Who should be in the room and how do we get the right people in the room, interacting in the right ways, to lead us to innovative, new ideas and products?
    Knowledge@Wharton: You could take this philosophy well beyond the company and put it into society.
    Page: Absolutely. The reason the book is called The Diversity Bonus is that it’s not a marketing ploy, it literally is a bonus. One of the most amazing pieces of research that I talk about in the book is a study that looked at 28,000 predictions by economists over a 40-year period. The best economist is 10% better than a random economist. If you average the best economist with the second-best economist, who is 9% better, you get 18% better. Bringing somebody in who is demonstrably worse makes you better because of the fact that they’re different. There literally is a bonus. It’s not marketing. It’s math.
    Knowledge@Wharton: That’s why the more perspectives you can bring to a problem, the greater the potential benefit.
    Page: With one caveat: They’ve got to be good. This is the challenge, the deep paradox that lies in this sort of logic. If it were possible to create 100 ways of looking at a problem that were all good and diverse, we could nail everything. Therefore, it’s got to be impossible to do because these things are just not predictable. But the point is, typically two is better than one, and three is probably better than two. You may not want to have 15 different ways because you might not be able to provide fuel for 15 reasonable ways of looking at a problem.
    “You want diversity to move in the direction of science and away from feel-good metaphorical statements about different people being in the room.”
    Knowledge@Wharton: How does all this apply specifically to the knowledge economy?
    Page: First, I see increased reliance on teams. I also see firms casting a much wider net in terms of who they hire. A third thing you see when organizations go into a 360 on errors, they’ll ask, “Why did we make this mistake? Is it because we didn’t have someone in the room who would have seen this?”
    Sometimes you place your bets, you take your chances, and things are going to work out or not work out. Other times, you just completely forget to look at a particular dimension and realize next time we make this decision, we’re going to have someone from the unions in the room. Or next time we make this decision, we’re going to have someone who knows logistics in the room. You want to make sure that you’ve got the right level of diversity to cover all the bases.
    Knowledge@Wharton: Workplace culture is also a factor in the success of diversity, correct?
    Page: Ten years ago, I wrote a book called The Difference, which is kind of a mathematical book about the role of diversity in complex systems. Because of that book, I got invited to a lot of high tech firms, including Boeing, Yahoo, Google, Ford and NASA, to talk about the mathematics of diversity and things like random forced algorithms — really geeky stuff.
    You go into those places, and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, every one of them is so different.” There’s the famous David Foster Wallace quote where there’s two goldfish swimming in the water and an older goldfish comes up and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” They’re kind of confused. He swims off. Then one says to the other, “What the hell is water?” You go into these firms, and it’s like the water is different in every place. One of the things that’s so important is making sure that you have a culture where people feel comfortable sharing their diverse ways of thinking. If you look back at the O-ring disaster with NASA, that’s a case of a culture where people didn’t share what they know.
    Knowledge@Wharton: In the book, you link diversity to the U.S. Supreme Court and some of the decisions by Justice Antonin Scalia.
    Page: There was a famous Supreme Court case, Grutter vs. Bollinger, involving the University of Michigan, where Scalia says Michigan has a choice. You can be diverse or you can be excellent. I think “super-duper” is the phrasing that he used. So, it’s a choice between super-duperness or diversity. If we were admitting students and they were going to go chop wood, he’d be exactly right. My point is not that Scalia is wrong. My point is that there are places where Scalia is right, namely chopping wood, but there are other cases where Scalia is not right, and that involves almost anything that’s complex. The fact is, if we really want to be super-duper on complex problems, we have to be diverse. There’s no trade-off.
    I think Scalia was kind of pernicious about it. We get back to your earlier comment that it seems patronizing. Well, we’re including some diverse people because we want to do the right thing here. If I really wanted to figure out obesity or the opioid epidemic or inequality, or write a health care plan, the idea that I wouldn’t be bringing people of every race and both genders from different reaches of the country just doesn’t pass the sniff test.

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    Working from home gets a bad rap. Google the phrase and examine the results — you’ll see scams or low-level jobs, followed by links calling out “legitimate” virtual jobs.

    But Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Nicholas Bloom says requiring employees to be in the office is an outdated work tradition, set up during the Industrial Revolution. Such inflexibility ignores today’s sophisticated communications methods and long commutes, and actually hurts firms and employees.

    “Working from home is a future-looking technology,” Bloom told an audience during TEDxStanford, which took place in April. “I think it has enormous potential.”

    To test his claim, Bloom, with co-researchers James Liang, John Roberts, and Zhichun Jenny Ying, studied China’s largest travel agency, Ctrip. Headquartered in Shanghai, the company has 20,000 employees and a market capitalization of about $20 billion.

    The company’s leaders — conscious of how expensive real estate is in Shanghai — were interested in the impact of working from home. Could they continue to grow while avoiding exorbitant office space costs? They solicited worker volunteers for a study in which half worked from home for nine months, coming into the office one day a week, and half worked only from the office.

    Bloom tracked these two groups for about two years. The results? “We found massive, massive improvement in performance — a 13% improvement in performance from people working at home,” Bloom says.

    Two reasons led to that uptick: First, people working from home actually work their full shift. In the office, people might be delayed by traffic, take a long lunch with a colleague, or leave work early to let a repair person in. They are less likely to be on the clock for the full workday. 

    Second, Bloom says, people at home are able to concentrate better. “The office is actually an amazingly noisy environment. There’s a cake in the break room; Bob’s leaving, come join. The World Cup sweepstakes is going. Whatever it is, the office is super-distracting.”
    Also, his study found that resignations at the company dropped by 50% when employees were allowed to work from home. “Not only do the employees benefit (by working from home), but the managers benefit because they can spend less of their time painfully advertising, recruiting, training, and promoting.”
    Bloom says the experiment led Ctrip to roll out a work-from-home option to all its employees. The company reported that it made about $2,000 more profit per person at home, Bloom says.
    Bloom hopes this example helps kill the negative stereotypes of working from home. “For employees, they’re much more productive and happier. For managers, you don’t have to spend so much time recruiting and training people. For firms, you make far more profit. For society, there’s a huge saving of reducing congestion, driving times and, ultimately, pollution.
    “There’s not much to lose, and there’s a lot to gain,” he says. 

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    Shyam's insights :

    If I say, I am excited, it will be an understatement.....

    If I say, I am ecstatic, it will still be an understatement.....

    If I proudly say, India has become Incredible Again, probably it would be a statement closer to reality.
    Today, all we need to do is,  celebrate the in-imaginably astounding happening that has made India 'Incredible India' once again.

    For the almost past three years, we had got used to being looked down upon by the people of world for our preoccupation with Gau (Cow) violence, Beef Violence, and now the Karni Sena violence.
    While the political parties and politicians are busy muddying the beautiful landscape of the country, this event comes as an refreshing cleanser.

    These events made even people forget the great economic reforms and progressive policies of P. V. Narasimha Rao, Shri. Vajpayee and Dr. Manmohan Singh.

    Amidst all these, one person worked silently and unperturbedly for the upliftment and rehabilitation of women and children, and that effort is being by World Economic Forum.

    Thanks Dr. Shah Rukh Khan, for making India INCREDIBLE again, and  for giving us a reason to take pride in our Indian origin.


    Now please read the article

    The World Economic Forum’s 48th Annual Meeting in Davos will begin later this month, under the theme of “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”.

    Artists are unique in the ways that they hold up a mirror to society—so that we can see the fractures more clearly, but equally that we can be reminded of our essential shared values.

    The 24th Annual Crystal Awards celebrate the achievements of outstanding artists who have shown exemplary commitment to improving the state of the world. We are delighted this year to honor actors and directors Cate Blanchett and Shah Rukh Khan, and musician Sir Elton John. Each of them in their own way has taken action to uphold human dignity.

    The awards ceremony will take place on the evening of Monday, January 22, launching the Annual Meeting. It will serve as a marker of the intention of the Meeting and as a reminder to us all of our responsibility to act with respect, generosity and compassion.


    Cate Blanchett, for her leadership in raising awareness of the refugee crisis
     UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett visits Syrian refugees in Jordan

    Cate Blanchett is an internationally acclaimed award-winning actor and director of both stage and screen. Appointed a UNHCR Global Goodwill Ambassador in 2016, in recognition of her commitment to refugees, she has lent her voice and influence to raising awareness, advocating and fundraising for the UNHCR. Having met refugees in countries including Lebanon, Jordan and her home country, Australia, she advocates for increased solidarity and responsibility sharing for the 65 million-plus displaced people across the world. She has brought her creative skills to bear in sharpening focus on the individual human stories that lie behind the vast numbers.

    “As a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, my job is simple: to help connect people to the human stories of those forced to flee, and to state the case for all of us to stand with refugees.”
    —Cate Blanchett

    Sir Elton John, for his leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS

    Sir Elton John is one of the world’s most successful musical solo artists of all time, whose career has spanned more than five decades. With thirty-five Gold and twenty-five Platinum albums, he has sold more than 250 million records worldwide. In 1992, he established the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF), which today is one of the leading non-profit HIV/AIDS organizations. EJAF has raised more than $400 million to date to support hundreds of HIV/AIDS prevention, service and advocacy programmes around the globe. In 1998, HM Queen Elizabeth knighted him Sir Elton John, Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his services to music and charitable causes. Sir Elton John recently received the Harvard Foundation’s Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award.
    “AIDS is the leading cause of death for women of childbearing age, yet the medicine and know-how exists to prevent this. If we want to give the next generation a better future, we could solve this problem. What it takes is our collective passion and compassion.”
    —Sir Elton John

    Shah Rukh Khan, for his leadership in championing children’s and women’s rights in India

    Shah Rukh Khan is one of Bollywood’s most prominent actors who has been at the forefront of the Indian film and television industry for over 30 years. He is the founder of the non‐profit Meer Foundation, which provides support to female victims of acid attacks and major burn injuries through medical treatment, legal aid, vocational training, rehabilitation and livelihood support. He has also been responsible for the creation of specialized children’s hospital wards and has supported childcare centres with free boarding for children undergoing cancer treatment.

    “With victims of acid attacks I have had the privilege to witness the unparalleled courage and compassion that women are capable of. I have seen the transformative strength of goodness and the healing power of gentleness.”
    —Shah Rukh Khan

    Crystal Awardees are part of a community of 40 cultural leaders in Davos “creating a shared future in a fractured world”.

    View at the original source

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    Business leaders are scrambling to adjust to a world few imagined possible just a year ago. The myth of a borderless world has come crashing down. Traditional pillars of open markets—the United States and the UK—are wobbling, and China is positioning itself as globalization’s staunchest defender. In June 2016, the Brexit vote stunned the European Union, and the news coverage about globalization turned increasingly negative in the U.S. as the presidential election campaign progressed.
    One week after Donald Trump’s inauguration, with fears of a trade war spiking, the Economist published a cover story, “The Retreat of the Global Company,” in which it proclaimed that “the biggest business idea of the past three decades is in deep trouble” and that “the advantages of scale and…arbitrage have worn away.” And Jeffrey Immelt, GE’s chairman and CEO, has talked about the company’s “bold pivot” from globalization to localization.
    But is a mass retreat from globalization really the right approach for companies in these uncertain times? Or, short of packing up and returning home, should they focus on localization—that is, producing and even innovating where they sell—as the strategy of choice? Not according to my research. Recall that as recently as a decade ago, business leaders believed that the world was becoming “flat” and that global companies, unconstrained by country borders, would soon dominate the world economy. Those exaggerated claims were proven wrong. Today’s cries for a massive pullback from globalization in the face of new protectionist pressures are also an overreaction, in the other direction. While some of the euphoria about globalization has shifted to gloom, especially in the United States, globalization has yet to experience a serious reversal. And even if it did, it would be a mistake to talk about the end of globalization: The “rewind” button on a tape recorder shouldn’t be confused with the “off” button.
    A full-scale retreat or an overreliance on localization would hamper companies’ ability to create value across borders and distance using the rich array of globalization strategies that are still effective—and will continue to work well into the future. Today’s turmoil calls for a more subtle reworking of multinationals’ strategies, organizational structures, and approaches to societal engagement. In this article, I address common misperceptions about what is—and isn’t—changing about globalization, offer guidelines to help leaders decide where and how to compete, and examine multinationals’ role in a complex world.

    The Trajectory of Globalization

    Doubts about the future of globalization began to surface during the 2008–2009 financial crisis. But as macroeconomic conditions improved, the gloom gave way to a murky mix of perspectives. For example, within the span of just three weeks in 2015, the Washington Post published an article by Robert J. Samuelson titled “Globalization at Warp Speed” and a piece from the editorial board called “The End of Globalization?”
    In the face of such ambiguity, it is essential to look at the data. To see how globalization is actually evolving, Steven Altman and I compile the biennial DHL Global Connectedness Index, which tracks international flows of trade, capital, information, and people. The two index components of greatest business interest—merchandise trade and foreign direct investment—were hit hard during the financial crisis, but neither has suffered a similar decline since then. Trade experienced a large drop-off in 2015, but that was almost entirely a price effect, driven by plunging commodity prices and the rising value of the U.S. dollar. Updated data suggests that in 2016 foreign direct investment dipped, in part because of the U.S. crackdown on tax inversions. Complete data for 2016 is not yet available, but factoring in people and information flows will probably reinforce the conclusion that globalization has stayed flat or even increased.

    What has nose-dived, however, is the tone of public discourse in the United States and other advanced economies. An analysis of media mentions for the term “globalization” across several major newspapers—the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post in the U.S. and the Times of London, the Guardian, and the Financial Times in the UK—reveals a marked souring of sentiment, with scores plummeting in 2016.

    The contrast between the mixed-to-positive data on actual international flows and the sharply negative swing in the discourse about globalization may be rooted, ironically, in the tendency of even experienced executives to greatly overestimate the intensity of international business flows relative to domestic activity. In other words, they believe the world is a lot more globalized than it actually is.

    Exaggerated perceptions about the depth of globalization—that is, how much activity is international versus domestic—come at a cost. In surveys I’ve conducted, respondents who overestimated the intensity of globalization were more likely to believe erroneous statements about international business strategy and public policy. When businesspeople think the world is more globalized than it really is, they tend to underestimate the need to understand and respond to differences across countries when operating abroad. In the public policy sphere, leaders tend to underestimate the potential gains from additional globalization and to overestimate its harmful consequences for society.

    Surveys suggest that people also underestimate the breadth of globalization—that is, the extent to which international activity is distributed globally rather than narrowly focused. In a 2007 survey of Harvard Business Review readers, 62% of respondents agreed with the quote from Thomas Friedman’s best-selling book The World Is Flat that companies now operate on “a global, Web-enabled playing field that allows for…collaboration on research and work in real time, without regard to geography, distance or, in the near future, even language.” However, data shows that actual international activity continues to be dampened strongly by all those factors.
    To counteract such “globaloney,” I offer two laws that govern, respectively, the depth and breadth of globalization:
    • The law of semi-globalization: International business activity, while significant, is much less intense than domestic activity.
    • The law of distance: International interactions are dampened by distance along cultural, administrative, geographic, and, often, economic dimensions.
    These principles, set out in my book The Laws of Globalization, can be very helpful for strategy making—if they can be counted on to apply in the future. Given surging protectionist sentiments and possibly even a trade war, will they continue to hold? The best way of stress-testing them—at a time when the precise policies of the Trump administration and other governments are still unclear—is to look at the last time a major trade war broke out, in the 1930s, which led to the largest reversal of globalization in history. Two major lessons, corresponding to the two laws of globalization, stand out.
    The first lesson is that although trade dropped precipitously in the 1930s, it did not dry up entirely. The collapse that began in 1929 was staggering, and by early 1933, trade flows had plummeted by two-thirds. That said, the drop-off in value reflected a fall more in prices than in quantities, which declined by less than 30%. Even in the wake of the collapse, trade volumes continued to be far too large for business strategists to ignore.
    The second lesson is that distance of various sorts continued to dampen international business activity. For example, from 1928 to 1935, the relationship between trade flows and geographic distance barely budged. The beneficial effects of a common language and colonial ties remained powerful: Country pairs with such ties continued to trade about five times as much with each other as pairs without such ties, all else being equal. The net result was that the trading partners with whom countries (or groups of countries) did most of their business before the crash remained largely unchanged afterward.
    Getting back to the future: If global trade didn’t screech to a halt in the 1930s, it’s reasonably safe to say that it won’t in the 2020s, either. In fact, analyses of what a trade war under Trump might look like suggest much smaller declines in trade than occurred in the 1930s. Moody’s Analytics estimates that if the United States were to impose proposed tariffs on China and Mexico and those two countries retaliated in kind, that and other factors would shrink U.S. exports by $85 billion in 2019. That’s only about 4% of total U.S. exports in 2015. Of course, a wider trade war would have a more significant effect, but it is very unlikely that the consequences would be as dire as in the 1930s.
    Similarly, if the breadth of trade didn’t change much despite the drastic declines in depth during the Great Depression, it probably wouldn’t change much in the event of a trade war today. It is worth adding that with many more independent countries now, as well as more vertically fragmented supply chains, the estimated effects of geographic distance on merchandise trade are actually larger than they were in the 1930s.

    Where to Compete

    If cross-border interactions in the aggregate are unlikely to fade away, what is the rationale for individual multinationals’ pulling back? The recent Economist article on the retreat of global companies, which has stirred significant discussion, pointed to the performance problems they have experienced. But the declines over the past three to four years occurred in an environment of plunging commodity prices, dropping demand for globalization-related services, and, for U.S. companies, shifts in exchange rates—factors that clearly played outsize roles in the performance numbers. And longer-term declines over the past decade coincide with a period in which globalization actually slowed down.
    To argue that poor performance problems over this period should force reconsideration of multinationalization would be like arguing that Singapore, the most deeply connected country in the world according to the DHL Global Connectedness Index, should pull back from globalization because of the growth problems it has experienced since the financial crisis. The latest report of Singapore’s official Committee on the Future Economy dismisses that notion, saying that globalization through trade, capital, and knowledge flows is still the future, as far as Singapore is concerned. And even in countries much less dependent on exports than Singapore is, a wholesale pullback from globalization would be counterproductive.
    Even when economic conditions are favorable and globalization is advancing rapidly, as was the case several decades ago, multinationals can face performance issues. My 2003 HBR article, “The Forgotten Strategy,” notes that between 1990 and 2001, Fortune Global 500 companies consistently posted lower average returns on sales for their foreign operations than for their domestic ones. Given the difficulties implied by the law of distance, multinationalization has always been an option, not an imperative. Some firms—and industries—clearly overdid it, especially in the years leading up to the financial crisis.
    What’s lacking in much of the debate today is the notion of contingency: a case-by-case approach in which a globalization-related move is evaluated on its own merits rather than subjected to some sweeping injunction about whether to go forth and globalize or to come back home. That said, many multinational companies do need to pay renewed attention to where they compete—in other words, to market selection.
    They must also resist the idea that a truly global company must compete in all major markets. Some 64% of the respondents to the 2007 HBR survey agreed with this (non)dictum, yet an analysis of internal financial data from 16 multinationals around that time indicated that eight of them had large geographic units that destroyed value after their financing costs were taken into account. Such problems still persist. Toyota, for example, seems to be the only major competitor in the highly globalized auto industry that has managed to build up significant market share in Japan, North America, and Europe and in key emerging economies—while remaining highly profitable. By contrast, most major automakers would be better served by following the example of GM, which shed its loss-making European operation, Opel, in March 2017.
    Recent data on companies ranked among the top 100 with the most assets located outside of their home countries tells a similar story. While these companies tend to operate in dozens of countries, their top four markets—including their home market—account for about 60% of their revenues and probably a larger slice of total profits. And only a single-digit percentage of the Fortune Global 500—the world’s largest firms by revenue—earn at least 20% of their revenue in each of the “triad” regions of North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.

    In sorting out which markets to focus on, it’s important to note that the law of distance applies to foreign direct investment as well as trade. Although FDI is less sensitive to geographic distance than trade is, I estimate the effect of a common language and a colony-colonizer link to be similar and FDI to be more sensitive to differences in per capita income.
    So as companies today weigh their options, they should look for opportunities where they can find cultural, administrative/political, geographic, and economic affinities. This resonates even more strongly as we recall that country relationships became even more important during the 1930s. As the political environment shifts, business leaders need to keep a careful eye on how their home countries are realigning their international ties, and engage in their own corporate diplomacy.
    Remember too that staying at home is an option. Only about 0.1% of the world’s firms are multinationals, although since multinationalization is highly skewed toward larger firms, this greatly understates their overall impact. (Their foreign affiliates generate 10% of global GDP, and the multinationals themselves account for more than 50% of world trade.) For companies based in large emerging economies, focusing on the domestic market, where they enjoy home court advantage as well as rapid growth, can be a particularly attractive proposition.
    Leaders must resist the idea that a global company has to compete in every market.
    Of course, trade can occur without multinationalization, and this is what some tout as the wave of the future: The Economist points to “a rising cohort of small firms using e-commerce to buy and sell on a global scale.” But e-commerce is still significantly less internationalized than off-line commerce. And in light of changes brewing in the policy environment, this seems like a particularly inauspicious time to think that one can go global just by setting up a website or joining an online platform.

    How to Compete

    If you conclude that your company should continue to do business in a variety of markets, you still need to figure out whether to change the type or mix of strategies that you use in response to protectionist pressures. At a high level, globalization strategies have three components, as described in my 2007 book, Redefining Global Strategy.
    Companies use adaptation when they want to adjust to cross-country differences in order to be locally responsive. They use aggregation to achieve economies of scale and scope that extend across national borders. And arbitrage strategies are used to exploit differences, such as low labor costs in one country or better tax incentives in another.
    How companies should use these three strategies will change somewhat in a protectionist world—but perhaps less than you’d think. Take adaptation. Jeffrey Immelt isn’t alone when he talks of his company’s “bold pivot” away from aggregation and the importance of “localizing” in today’s environment. Firms should look for opportunities to amp up their adaptation efforts, because becoming more responsive to differences can help reduce the impact of protectionism.
    The most obvious way for a company to adapt is to vary products, policies, market positioning, and so on to suit local markets. However, each variation increases costs and complexity. Therefore, smart adaptation typically involves limiting the amount of variation as well as finding ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of any changes that are introduced. For example, companies can design common platforms upon which local variants are offered. Or they can externalize some of the costs of adaptation via franchising, joint ventures, or other types of partnerships.
    But while more adaptation may make sense, multinationals should not automatically put it above all else—doing so would only undercut their sources of competitive advantage relative to local competitors. Global companies—especially those from advanced economies—typically justify their cross-border strategies primarily on the basis of aggregation. In the most classic cases, they invest in intangible technological or marketing assets that they can scale across national borders. Those advantages normally have to be pretty large in order to overcome the home court advantage of local competitors. The economic rationale for aggregation won’t evaporate for multinationals that have built a healthy, profitable business in foreign markets—even if some countries make it more expensive to operate within their borders. Companies that have operations in markets where they’re only marginally successful, on the other hand, may need to retrench.
    Turning to arbitrage, the opportunities for vertical multinationals to globalize on the supply side rather than on the demand side have narrowed somewhat in recent years, but they still remain large. Even with rising prosperity in large emerging markets, U.S. GDP per capita is still seven times that of China, and 33 times that of India. Differences in tax regimes across countries are not going away either, and will continue to provide arbitrage opportunities. According to the OECD, the dispersion of corporate tax rates across countries has barely changed since 2007, and progress at curbing tax havens has been slow. Furthermore, cross-country differences in safety, health, and environmental standards continue to persist as well—although exploitation of these differences raises ethical concerns.
    Multinationals coming out of emerging markets tend to get their start from advantages rooted in arbitrage—competing abroad on the basis of low costs at home. This strategy continues to be the engine that drives the growth and profitability of India’s offshore IT services industry—which inspired Friedman’s The World Is Flat, kicking off a wave of interest in arbitrage strategies. More than a decade later, programmers’ salaries in India are still just a fraction of those in the United States, and cost reduction remains the top reason companies choose to outsource. The largest India-centric vendors have far outstripped their Western competitors in terms of both growth and profitability, and as of June 2016 the top four India-centric vendors enjoyed market valuations more than 50% larger than those of their top four Western competitors.
    As companies from advanced and emerging countries joust for global leadership, each has to shore up its traditional weakness—for incumbents, that’s arbitrage; for insurgents, it’s aggregation. For example, developed-world incumbents in IT services, such as Accenture and IBM, have expanded their workforces in India, while Indian companies are trying to strengthen their brands and technological capabilities.
    Returning to GE, Immelt’s pivot toward localization does imply a boost to its adaptation strategy. But GE—like most other multinationals—cannot give up on aggregation or arbitrage. GE’s aggregation-based advantages are what underpin its ability to compete across 170 countries. Its $5.5 billion R&D machine yields world-beating technological innovations, its $34 billion brand value opens doors everywhere, its famous management-training programs both attract and cultivate talent, and its scope across products, services, and geographies all contribute to GE’s immense cross-border aggregation potential. And while Immelt’s remarks shrewdly downplay wage arbitrage as “what GE did in the 1980s,” in contrast to its current focus on selling more abroad, arbitrage has become sufficiently ingrained at the company over the past few decades that it will probably not disappear and will continue to be part of its globalization strategy. In my view, GE’s “localization” strategy is best understood as one that retains a core strength in aggregation while toning down the company’s prior emphasis on arbitrage and becoming more adaptive.

    Engaging with Society

    Along with where and how to compete, questions about how to engage with society are becoming increasingly prominent on business leaders’ agendas. Except in highly regulated industries, companies have historically treated interactions with governments, media, and the public as an afterthought in setting strategy. But now, as Martin Reeves of BCG points out, “In many cases companies are seeing bigger impacts from political and macroeconomic factors than from competitive considerations.” Those factors, he says, include Brexit-driven exchange rate movements, share price fluctuations in response to policy pronouncements, and the cost of changing investment plans in light of anticipated shifts in trade policy. I would add to the list the rise of NGOs, the proliferation of social media, and increases in anti-globalization sentiment.
    Companies are constrained in their responses to these developments by a range of factors. First of all, the backlash against globalization is also—in part—a backlash against big business. The general reputation of business is at an all-time low. In a recent survey, the Pew Research Center asked respondents in the U.S. how much people in 10 occupations contributed to the well-being of society. Business executives ranked next to last, ahead only of lawyers. Just 24% of respondents said they thought business leaders contributed “a lot.” The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer also reports an all-time low for CEO credibility. And companies’ decisions about how to deploy the reputational capital that they do possess are complicated by tensions between a country’s citizens and its government—Uber CEO Travis Kalanick ran into problems with public perception when he joined Trump’s business advisory council, for example—as well as by uncertainties about how the broader environment will evolve.
    In such a context, just speaking up more about social issues—as business leaders today are often instructed to do—is no panacea. While it is hard to offer simple instructions about how to cope with these complexities, the law of semi-globalization does suggest one injunction and one insight. First the injunction: Falling in line with what governments want wherever a company operates is unlikely to be a sustainable strategy. Multinational companies need to craft governmental and societal agendas that are both localized and linked across countries. Anti-globalization pressures require that multinationals deliver more local benefits—and communicate about them—in the countries where they operate. Such efforts must go well beyond compliance to include contributions in the form of jobs, technology, and so forth.
    The backlash against globalization is also—in part—a backlash against big business.
    Of course, there are dangers to shifting too far toward localization. Consider how IBM responded to the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany. Rather than pulling back—even as it became clear that the census IBM was supporting was being used to identify Jews for persecution—IBM sought to grow its business with the Nazi government. In 1937, then-CEO Thomas Watson was awarded—and accepted—a medal from Hitler for “service to the Reich.” One would hope that such a strategy would not even merit consideration today.
    The law of semi-globalization affords an important insight as well: Addressing much of our current malaise—including but not confined to anti-globalization sentiment—requires domestic policy changes rather than the closing of borders. For example, one of the principal complaints about globalization today is the sense that it has contributed to rising income inequality and that a large swath of the population in advanced economies has been left behind. In the U.S., income inequality has recently risen to levels last seen in the 1920s, and other countries, especially developed ones, have registered similar, if less dramatic, increases. Meanwhile, corporate profits are running close to their highest historical levels.
    The widespread perception that globalization is primarily to blame for this problem, however, is empirically implausible. Most research suggests that technological progress and (in the United States) the decline of unions have been bigger contributors to inequality than globalization. Corroboration is supplied by real-world examples: If the Netherlands can preserve a more reasonable income distribution despite having a trade-to-GDP ratio six times that of the United States, it seems odd to blame globalization for the much higher level of inequality in the U.S. economy. And even if one is inclined to point fingers at globalization, it is clear that protectionism is a much more expensive solution than government safety nets, increases in the minimum wage, changes in tax policy, job-training programs, and the like. Such policies are not typically favored by big business, so corporate voices advocating them make a powerful statement. Furthermore, closing borders does nothing to prepare a country to deal with the automation-related threats to jobs that dominate the debate about the future of work.
    My research into the 2011 book, World 3.0: Global Prosperity and How to Achieve It, offers an in-depth evaluation of the various harms attributed to globalization. (I expected the present backlash to arrive several years before it did.) Some, such as the risks associated with international imbalances in trade and investment, are indeed real and significant. Most others, however, turn out to be overblown in relation to actual levels of international integration. For example, the contribution of international air transportation to energy-related greenhouse gas emissions is only one-tenth as large as British air travelers estimated in a survey. To deal with global warming, it would be far more effective to tackle bigger sources such as housing or driving. My research suggests that international openness should be coupled with targeted domestic policies in addressing such side effects as globalization does have.
    That perspective is, of course, the opposite of President Trump’s apparent preference for domestic deregulation and international intervention, which brings me to my last point—which may seem politically partisan but is rooted in the common notion that a company’s market and nonmarket strategy should be in alignment. If your company is or may eventually be global, it’s not a good idea to actively support policies that build up barriers to trade and capital flows, make people less mobile, and delegitimize the idea that companies can contribute to the well-being of people in more than one country—even if all you care about is shareholder value. Over the long run, companies that rely heavily on sourcing from abroad (such as Walmart) and those that export far more than they import (such as GE) would benefit from joining forces to oppose protectionism.


    In his classic 2006 Foreign Affairs article Samuel Palmisano, then chairman and CEO of IBM, pointed out that 150 years ago, companies that crossed borders engaged mostly in trade, but by the early 1900s, they had started to invest in localizing production. He also proclaimed the recent emergence of a new corporate form, the globally integrated enterprise, for which “state borders define less and less the boundaries of corporate thinking or practice.”
    From today’s perspective, that seems too rosy by half. But there is some good news for those tasked with leading multinational companies. First, the global corporation never became nearly as integrated as Palmisano prophesied, so the amount of change required if globalization does go into reverse is less than people might think. Second, it’s still unclear whether a retreat from globalization will occur: International activity has stagnated in recent years but has not fallen off significantly. And third, even if globalization suffered a violent reversal similar to that experienced at the beginning of the 1930s, the world would still remain more globalized in terms of trade and foreign direct investment than it was in the 1920s, let alone in the 19th century. So reverting to the multinational structure of 100 years ago or the trade-based structures of 150 years ago strains plausibility. Globalization strategy and practice have advanced well beyond the prescriptions those historical models would imply, and leaders would be ill-served by going backward. 

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    Good customer service seems like common sense for businesses. But how valuable is it really?
    Until now, this has not been rigorously quantified across different companies. Businesses are understandably reluctant to share their CRM and sales data, and most research in this field has been based on surveys. But as more Americans seek customer service online, social media offers a better platform for analyzing interactions between service reps and customers.

    Using data from Twitter (where one of us works), we designed an experiment to study customer service interactions in two industries that generate a significant number of customer service complaints: airlines and wireless carriers. We found that prompt and personal customer service does indeed pay off —  customers remember good and bad customer service experiences, and they’re willing to reward companies that treat them well.

    We identified more than 400,000 customer service-related tweets sent to the top five major airlines (American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, and United) and top four wireless carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon) in the U.S. from March 2015 to April 2016. Our sample of tweets was comprehensive, including complaints, questions, and comments. Since all tweets are public, we could review the entire conversation between the customer and the customer service agent (except direct messages) and code the interaction for attributes such as customer sentiment and tone (e.g., Is the interaction praise or scorn? Is the customer happy or angry?)

    We then contacted these customers on Twitter, up to six months after they tweeted at the companies, and invited them to take a brief survey. Without providing a reason for the survey, we asked them to participate in a common market-research exercise called conjoint analysis to see if their customer service experiences affected how they valued the brands.

    For example, for customers who had tweeted at airlines, the conjoint asked them to imagine buying a ticket for a two-hour non-stop flight. They had to choose between several combinations or “offers” that varied across dimensions such as airline, seat type, on-time arrival rate, and fare — similar to how customers would shop for fares on sites like Kayak or Expedia. We offered a similar exercise for wireless service customers.

    From the conjoint exercise, we could discern what value, in dollar terms, customers attributed to their preferred airline. On Twitter, 1,877 users completed the conjoint exercises – 673 of them had received responses from companies, 375 received no response, and 829 had no customer service interaction and served as our control group for baseline willingness to pay.

    We then tested our hypothesis: do customers who had a positive interaction with a brand’s customer service representative value that brand more? Or in management parlance, when a brand provides better customer service, will customers reward that brand with greater loyalty or pay a price premium?

    Good Customer Service Matters on All Platforms

    Customers who had interacted with a brand’s customer service representative on Twitter were significantly more likely to pay more for the brand, or choose the brand more often from a comparably-priced consideration set, compared to our control group of customers who had no such interaction. On average, across all tweets and regardless of whether the customer used a negative, neutral, or positive tone, we found customers who received any kind of response to their tweet were willing to pay almost $9 more for a ticket on that airline in the future. This extra $9 can be thought of as incremental brand value the airline has gained in the customer’s mind. In other words, all else being equal, a customer would be willing to buy a ticket from the airline even if the airline cost $9 more than its competitors.

    We found similar results for wireless carriers. Customers who received any kind of response to their tweet were willing to pay $8 more, on average, for a monthly wireless plan from that carrier in the future, compared to the control group. Unlike airline tickets, wireless plans are monthly and recurring, so an $8 per month higher premium can lead to a significant revenue boost.

    We also surveyed customers on their likelihood to recommend the brand to others, so we could derive a Net Promoter Score (NPS), a common measure of customer loyalty. We found that receiving a response improved NPS by 37 points for airlines and 59 points for wireless carriers, consistent with our findings from the conjoint exercise. (This bump is significant considering NPS scores range from -100 to 100.) In addition, these effects held up for at least six months after the interaction, suggesting some permanence to the positive impact of good service.

    Respond to Customers, Even If They’re Upset

    The connection between good customer service and brand loyalty may seem intuitive. What’s more surprising is that seeking to engage an angry or confrontational customer can also have a positive effect on brands.

    Handling angry customers is a daily task for any customer service rep. While most companies do earnestly try to solve customer problems, inevitably there are some problems that cannot ever be fixed — the canceled flight that causes you to miss your sister’s wedding, or the dropped calls during your critical business negotiation. In many cases, there is little a company can do to redress a customer’s specific grievance.

    But sometimes customers are just looking for a little empathy. When customers used a negative or even an angry tone in their initial tweet to a brand’s customer service team, we saw that the best approach was to respond to negative comments instead of ignoring them.

    In our study, simply receiving a response — any response at all — increased the customer’s willingness to pay later, even in cases where customers were aggrieved. While successfully resolving an issue created more brand value (about $6 for our airline sample), responding without providing a resolution was still worth about $2 in added brand value for airlines.

    We found even larger effects for wireless carriers. For customers who received no response, we found no statistically significant change in their willingness to pay. But, customers who got any response to their negative tweet were on average willing to pay $7 per month more for a wireless plan from that company than customers who got no response. For cases where the issue was resolved, they were willing to pay $8 more; if the agent was unable to resolve the issue, they were still willing to pay $6 more.

    The lesson for managers is to reply to every customer service comment online, even the proverbial “I’ll never fly your airline again!” A mere acknowledgement of the customer’s problem can defuse initial frustration and put the customer back on the road to loyalty. Instead of the customer seeing the company as the enemy, a sympathetic response can reorient the situation so that the customer now feels that the company is on his or her side.

    That being said, don’t ignore your happiest customers. We found the highest increases in willingness to pay actually came when businesses responded to customers who tweeted a positive comment at the company. Receiving a response to a positive comment generated $28 more for a future airline ticket and $12 more per month for wireless plans. Customers who say good things about your business are your advocates and your brand loyalists. You can demonstrate that you value them by acknowledging them and thanking them for their loyalty.

    Good Service Happens Fast

    As important as it is to respond to every customer issue, it is even more important to respond quickly. We observed that a brand can capture substantially more value by replying right away. When an airline responded to a customer’s tweet in five minutes or less, that customer was willing to pay almost $20 more for a ticket on that airline in future months. Similarly, wireless customers were willing to pay a whopping $17 more per month for a phone plan when they received a reply within five minutes.

    Customer service representatives need to move fast to capitalize on these opportunities. For airlines, we found that after 20 minutes had elapsed, customers were only willing to pay $3 more, a decrease of 85% in value compared to customers who received responses in five minutes or less. After an hour, customers were only willing to pay $2 more. We found that the median time airlines took to respond to the tweets in our sample was about 20 minutes, meaning that at least half of all airlines were leaving significant money on the table.
    While we were only able to measure the response time for interactions on Twitter, we believe fast responses can generate goodwill in all customer service channels. In our study, a response time of five minutes or less meant the airline ranked in the fastest 20% of response times in our data. We expect to see similar effects, regardless of channel, as long as the company is responding faster than customer expectations. (The average customer expects companies to help them within 5 minutes by phone, within 1 hour by social media, and between 1-24 hours for email.)
    These patterns also held even if the customer’s complaint was unresolved, meaning that even a short acknowledgement of the customer’s issue and reassurance that the agent is looking into it can pay off. This is consistent with other psychology research showing that we dislike the uncertainty of making a request to someone and hearing nothing back.
    Customers Are People, So Be Personal
    Another insight from our research is the value of making a personal connection with a customer requesting support. Personalizing a message by typing a few extra characters can make a huge difference. Customers who received an unsigned response showed no detectable increase in willingness to pay compared to the general population. But, when a customer service agent added their name or initials in their first reply to a customer, we observed that their willingness to pay increased by $14 for a future flight on that airline compared to those who received an unsigned response. Similarly, in the wireless industry, customers were willing to pay $3 more for a monthly plan if the agent signed their name compared to those who received an unsigned response.

    When agents sign their name in their tweets or posts, it humanizes them and helps customers feel that the company, or at least someone within the company, is on their side. Customers are also likely to feel more comfortable following up about an issue later if they have the name of the employee who helped them.
    As consumers turn to a wider array of channels for help and expect faster responses, it has become more challenging to provide customer service. Bottom-line pressure restricts what companies are able to provide without breaking the bank. Our research shows that customer service that shows empathy can drive a lot of value, and there are some simple best practices to turn aggrieved customers into loyal advocates.
    First, surprise customers by responding quickly, so that they feel someone is watching out for them. Even a simple acknowledgement to buy time to diagnose the customer’s issue can drive future revenue. Second, don’t shy away from responding to unhappy customers, even if you can’t immediately resolve their issue. Finally, even small gestures such as having agents sign their names or initials creates immediate value for your business.

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    Why does immunotherapy achieve dramatic results in some cancer patients but fail in others? 

    Scientists have elucidated the mechanism behind some tumor's ability to escape immunotherapy drugs. Image: iStock

    Why does immunotherapy achieve dramatic results in some cancer patients but doesn’t help others? It is
    an urgent and vexing question for many cancer specialists.

    Now, two research groups from Harvard Medical School based at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have independently discovered a genetic mechanism in cancer cells that influences whether they resist or respond to immunotherapy drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors.

    The findings, the researchers say, reveal potential new drug targets and could aid efforts to extend the benefits of immunotherapy treatment to more patients and target additional types of cancer.

    The two groups converged on a discovery that resistance to immune checkpoint blockade is critically controlled by changes in a group of proteins that regulate how DNA is packaged in cells. The collection of proteins, called a chromatin remodeling complex, is known as SWI/SNF. Its components are encoded by different genes, among them ARID2, PBRM1 and BRD7. SWI/SNF’s job is to open up stretches of tightly wound DNA so that its blueprints can be read by the cell to activate certain genes to make proteins. 

    Researchers led by Van Allen and Choueiri sought an explanation for why some patients with a form of metastatic kidney cancer called clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) gain clinical benefit—sometimes durable—from treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors that block the PD-1 checkpoint, while other patients don’t.

    The scientists’ curiosity was piqued by the fact that ccRCC differs from other types of cancer that respond well to immunotherapy, such as melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer and a specific type of colorectal cancer. Cells of the latter cancer types contain many DNA mutations, which are thought to make distinctive tumor antigens called, neoantigens, which help the patient’s immune system recognize and attack tumors and make the cancer cells’ microenvironment hospitable to tumor-fighting T cells. By contrast, ccRCC kidney cancer cells contain few mutations, yet some patients even with advanced, metastatic disease respond well to immunotherapy.

    To search for other characteristics of ccRCC tumors that influence immunotherapy response or resistance, the researchers used whole exome DNA sequencing to analyze tumor samples from 35 patients treated in a clinical trial with the checkpoint blocker nivolumab (Opdivo). They also analyzed samples from another group of 63 patients with metastatic ccRCC treated with similar drugs.

    When the data were sorted and refined, the scientists discovered that patients who benefited from the immunotherapy treatment with longer survival and progression-free survival were those whose tumors lacked a functioning PRBM1 gene. About 41 percent of patients with ccRCC kidney cancer have a nonfunctioning PBRM1 gene. That gene encodes a protein called BAF180, which is a subunit of the PBAF subtype of the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex. 

    Loss of the PBRM1 gene function caused the cancer cells to have increased expression of other genes, including those in the gene pathway known as IL6/JAK-STAT3, which are involved in immune system stimulation.

    The finding does not directly lead to a test for immunotherapy response yet, the scientists caution, but they carry a clear therapeutic promise.

    “We intend to look at these specific genomic alterations in larger, randomized controlled trials, and we hope that one day these findings will be the impetus for prospective clinical trials based on these alterations,” Choueiri said.

    In the second report, the scientists led by Wucherpfennig came at the issue from a different angle. They used the gene-editing CRISPR/Cas9 tool to sift the genomes of melanoma cells for changes that made tumors resistant to being killed by immune T cells, which are the main actors in the immune system response against infections and cancer cells. 

    The search turned up about 100 genes which appeared to govern melanoma cells’ resistance to being killed by T cells. Inactivating those genes rendered the cancer cells sensitive to T-cell killing. Narrowing down their search, the Wucherpfennig team identified the PBAF subtype of the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex—the same group of proteins implicated by the Van Allen and Choueiri team in kidney cancer cells—as being involved in resistance to immune T cells.

    When the PBRM1 gene was knocked out in experiments, the melanoma cells became more sensitive to interferon gamma produced by T cells and, in response, produced signaling molecules that recruited more tumor-fighting T cells into the tumor. The two other genes in the PBAF complex—ARID2 and BRD7—are also found mutated in some cancers, according to the researchers, and those cancers, like the melanoma lacking ARID2 function, may also respond better to checkpoint blockade. The protein products of these genes, the authors noted, “represent targets for immunotherapy, because inactivating mutations sensitize tumor cells to T-cell mediated attack.” Finding ways to alter those target molecules, they added, “will be important to extend the benefit of immunotherapy to larger patient populations, including cancers that thus far are refractory to immunotherapy.”

    Research included in the report by Van Allen and Choueiri was supported by Bristol-Myers Squibb, American Association for Cancer Research Kure It Research Grant for Immunotherapy in Kidney Cancer, Kidney SPORE, and Cancer Immunologic Data Commons (National Institutes of Health grant U24CA224316).

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    A divide in attitudes towards the news media has been exacerbated by the growing phenomenon of fake news, particularly its impact on political discourse, current events and innocent individuals. Amid the deafening chorus of concern surrounding the accuracy of modern news coverage, which countries tend to trust their news media most and least? A recent Pew Research survey spanning 38 countries found that a median 62 percent of respondents say their news media does a good job reporting the news accurately.

    The following infographic shows a selection of those 38 countries with the Dutch in particular placing a high degree of faith in the accuracy of their news coverage. 82 percent of people in the Netherlands said their news media are doing very or somewhat well at reporting the news accurately, ahead of India's 80 percent.
    In the United Kingdom which has experienced sharp division both before and after the country's Brexit vote, only 63 percent of those polled felt they could rely on the news media for accurate reporting. In the United States, where the fake news debate is still going strong, only 56 percent of people think their news reports can be relied upon. Greece, where austerity is still raging, recorded the very worst score in the polling with only 22 percent of people trusting their news media.

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    Darwin’s theory wrong, nobody saw ape turning into man......... Minister Satyapal Singh.

    Union minister Satyapal Singh said Darwin’s theory needs to change in school and college curriculum.

    This great statement is coming from a person who is Minister of State in HRD ministry.

    Thank god, he did not say, no one alive has ever seen Darwin, so, even he is a fiction of imagination. Darwin faced a lot of opposition from the Christian church and clergy, and One of them most probably has reincarnated as our #MoSHRD.

    Sometime back we had a statement from the health minister of Assam belonging to the same party telling us that Cancer is caused by the sins of previous birth by the person.

    The medical world found this statement so amusing, it was shared by the leading health association magazines the world over..

    It did not cure cancer anywhere, but certainly did provide some comic relief to the overworked medical professionals.

    This is in line with the statements we had in the past like. Peacocks don't mate, earth is flat and others.

    Yes peacock's don't mate ..

    Most probably, the peacocks and peahens have a spiritual intercourse to reproduce offspring..

    Darwin probably missed out on this important aspect. What Darwin missed out on is being made good by this minister.#FatalisingEducation.

    Probably, this is also part of Modi's "Make In India" programme with the objective of making India a laughing stock in the eyes the people of the world.

    This government is probably planning to export the ignorance of these people Which is available in huge measure, to all the parts of the world..


    I am a very possessive and fanatic student of Genetics and Evolution and hold Darwin and Darwinism in high regard.

    Still wondering, how such people become ministers in education ministry.. As if one Smriti Irani wasn't enough.....One more to create laughs among people.

    Finally Charles Darwin quote...

    "We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities... still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin."

    Now the news item....

    Darwin’s theory wrong, nobody saw ape turning into man: Minister Satyapal Singh

    Union minister Satyapal Singh said Darwin’s theory needs to change in school and college curriculum.
    Union minister Satyapal Singh has claimed that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution of man was “scientifically wrong” and it needs to be changed in school and college curriculum.

    Singh, minister of state for human resource development, said our ancestors have nowhere mentioned that they saw an ape turning into a man.

    “Darwin’s theory (of evolution of humans) is scientifically wrong. It needs to change in school and college curriculum. Since the man is seen on Earth he has always been a man,” he said while speaking to reporters on Friday in Aurangabad.

    The IPS officer-turned-politician was in this central Maharashtra city to attend the ‘All India Vaidik Sammelan.’

    “Nobody, including our ancestors, in written or oral, have said they saw an ape turning into a man,” he said.
    “No books we have read or the tales told to us by our grandparents had such a mention,” the minister added.

    Darwinism is a theory of biological evolution that states that all species of organisms arise and develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual’s ability to compete, survive, and reproduce.

    It was developed by Darwin, a 19th century English naturalist, and others.

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    Meaningful work is something we all want. The psychiatrist Viktor Frankl famously described how the innate human quest for meaning is so strong that, even in the direst circumstances, people seek out their purpose in life. More recently, researchers have shown meaningfulness to be more important to employees than any other aspect of work, including pay and rewards, opportunities for promotion, or working conditions. Meaningful work can be highly motivational, leading to improved performance, commitment, and satisfaction. But, so far, surprisingly little research has explored where and how people find their work meaningful and the role that leaders can play in this process.

    We interviewed 135 people working in 10 very different occupations and asked them to tell us stories about incidents or times when they found their work to be meaningful and, conversely, times when they asked themselves, “What’s the point of doing this job?” We expected to find that meaningfulness would be similar to other work-related attitudes, such as engagement or commitment, in that it would arise purely in response to situations within the work environment.

    However, we found that, unlike these other attitudes, meaningfulness tended to be intensely personal and individual; it was often revealed to employees as they reflected on their work and its wider contribution to society in ways that mattered to them as individuals. People tended to speak of their work as meaningful in relation to thoughts or memories of significant family members such as parents or children, bridging the gap between work and the personal realm. We also expected meaningfulness to be a relatively enduring state of mind experienced by individuals toward their work; instead, our interviewees talked of unplanned or unexpected moments during which they found their work deeply meaningful.

    We were anticipating that our data would show that the meaningfulness experienced by employees in relation to their work was clearly associated with actions taken by managers, such that, for example, transformational leaders would have followers who found their work meaningful, whereas transactional leaders would not. Instead, our research showed that quality of leadership received virtually no mention when people described meaningful moments at work, but poor management was the top destroyer of meaningfulness.

    We also expected to find a clear link between the factors that drove up levels of meaningfulness and those that eroded them. Instead, we found that meaningfulness appeared to be driven up and decreased by different factors. Whereas our interviewees tended to find meaningfulness for themselves rather than it being mandated by their managers, we discovered that if employers want to destroy that sense of meaningfulness, that was far more easily achieved. The feeling of “Why am I bothering to do this?” strikes people the instant a meaningless moment arises, and it strikes people hard. If meaningfulness is a delicate flower that requires careful nurturing, think of someone trampling over that flower in a pair of steel-toed boots. Avoiding the destruction of meaning while nurturing an ecosystem generative of feelings of meaningfulness emerged as the key leadership challenge.

    About the Research

    Meaningful work is a topic that is receiving increased attention. However, relatively little empirical research investigates in depth what meaningful work actually means to individuals. To address this, we undertook an extensive review of the literature on meaningful work from various fields, including psychology, management studies, sociology, and ethics. Drawing on these findings, we defined meaningful work as arising “when an individual perceives an authentic connection between work and a broader transcendent life purpose beyond the self.”

    To conduct our research, we wanted to garner insights from people in a wide range of work situations. We interviewed 135 individuals in 10 very different occupations and asked them about times when they found their work meaningful or meaningless. The occupational groups we studied were: retail assistants, priests from various denominations, artists (including musicians, writers, and actors), lawyers, academics from science disciplines, entrepreneurs who had started their own business, nurses in an acute care hospital, soldiers, conservation stonemasons who were working on the preservation of an ancient cathedral, and garbage collectors. All data were collected in the U.K. We transcribed the interviews and coded them by theme to uncover patterns in how people view their work.

    The Five Qualities of Meaningful Work

    Our research aimed to uncover how and why people find their work meaningful. (See “About the Research.”) For our interviewees, meaningfulness, perhaps unsurprisingly, was often associated with a sense of pride and achievement at a job well done, whether they were professionals or manual workers. Those who could see that they had fulfilled their potential, or who found their work creative, absorbing, and interesting, tended to perceive their work as more meaningful than others. Equally, receiving praise, recognition, or acknowledgment from others mattered a great deal. These factors alone were not enough to render work meaningful, however. Our study also revealed five unexpected features of meaningful work; in these, we find clues that might explain the fragile and intangible nature of meaningfulness.

    1. Self-Transcendent

    Individuals tended to experience their work as meaningful when it mattered to others more than just to themselves. In this way, meaningful work is self-transcendent. Although it is not a well-known fact, the famous motivation theorist Abraham Maslow positioned self-transcendence at the apex of his pyramid of human motivation, situating it beyond even self-actualization in importance. People did not just talk about themselves when they talked about meaningful work; they talked about the impact or relevance their work had for other individuals, groups, or the wider environment. For example, a garbage collector explained how he found his work meaningful at the “tipping point” at the end of the day when refuse was sent to recycling. This was the time he could see how his work contributed to creating a clean environment for his grandchildren and for future generations. An academic described how she found her work meaningful when she saw her students graduate at the commencement ceremony, a tangible sign of how her own hard work had helped others succeed. A priest talked about the uplifting and inspiring experience of bringing an entire community together around the common goal of a church restoration project.

    2. Poignant

    The experience of meaningful work can be poignant rather than purely euphoric. People often found their work to be full of meaning at moments associated with mixed, uncomfortable, or even painful thoughts and feelings, not just a sense of unalloyed joy and happiness. People often cried in our interviews when they talked about the times when they found their work meaningful. The current emphasis on positive psychology has led us to focus on trying to make employees happy, engaged, and enthused throughout the working day. Psychologist Barbara Held refers to the current pressure to “accentuate the positive” as the “tyranny of the positive attitude.” Traditionally, meaningfulness has been linked with such positive attributes.

    Our research suggests that, contrary to what we may have thought, meaningfulness is not always a positive experience. In fact, those moments when people found their work meaningful tended to be far richer and more challenging than times when they felt simply motivated, engaged, or happy. The most vivid examples of this came from nurses who described moments of profound meaningfulness when they were able to use their professional skills and knowledge to ease the passing of patients at the end of their lives. Lawyers often talked about working hard for extended periods, sometimes years, for their clients and winning cases that led to life-changing outcomes. Participants in several of the occupational groups found moments of meaningfulness when they had triumphed in difficult circumstances or had solved a complex, intractable problem. The experience of coping with these challenging conditions led to a sense of meaningfulness far greater than they would have experienced dealing with straightforward, everyday situations.

    3. Episodic

    A sense of meaningfulness arose in an episodic rather than a sustained way. It seemed that no one could find their work consistently meaningful, but rather that an awareness that work was meaningful arose at peak times that were generative of strong experiences. For example, a university professor talked of the euphoric experience of feeling “like a rock star” at the end of a successful lecture. One actor we spoke to summed this feeling up well: “My God, I’m actually doing what I dreamt I could do; that’s kind of amazing.” Clearly, sentiments such as these are not sustainable over the course of even one single working day, let alone a longer period, but rather come and go over one’s working life, perhaps rarely arising. Nevertheless, these peak experiences have a profound effect on individuals, are highly memorable, and become part of their life narratives.

    Meaningful moments such as these were not forced or managed. Only in a few instances did people tell us that an awareness of their work as meaningful arose directly through the actions of organizational leaders or managers. Conservation stonemasons talked of the significance of carving their “banker’s mark” or mason’s signature into the stone before it was placed into a cathedral structure, knowing that the stone might be uncovered hundreds of years in the future by another mason who would recognize the work as theirs.

    They felt they were “part of history.” One soldier described how he realized how meaningful his work was when he reflected on his quick thinking in setting off the warning sirens in a combat situation, ensuring that no one at the camp was injured in the ensuing rocket attack. Sales assistants talked about times when they were able to help others, such as an occasion when a customer passed out in one store and the clerk was able to support her until she regained consciousness. Memorable moments such as these contain high levels of emotion and personal relevance, and thus become redolent of the symbolic meaningfulness of work.

    4. Reflective

    In the instances cited above, it was often only when we asked the interviewees to recount a time when they found their work meaningful that they developed a conscious awareness of the significance of these experiences. Meaningfulness was rarely experienced in the moment, but rather in retrospect and on reflection when people were able to see their completed work and make connections between their achievements and a wider sense of life meaning.

    One of the entrepreneurs we interviewed talked about the time when he was switching the lights out after his company’s Christmas party and paused to reflect back over the year on what he and his employees had achieved together. Garbage collectors explained how they were able to find their work meaningful when they finished cleaning a street and stopped to look back at their work. In doing this, they reflected on how the tangible work of street sweeping contributed to the cleanliness of the environment as a whole. One academic talked about research he had done for many years that seemed fairly meaningless at the time, but 20 years later provided the technological solution for touch-screen technology.

    The experience of meaningfulness is therefore often a thoughtful, retrospective act rather than just a spontaneous emotional response in the moment, although people may be aware of a rush of good feelings at the time. You are unlikely to witness someone talking about how meaningful they find their job during their working day. For most of the people we spoke to, the discussions we had about meaningful work were the first time they had ever talked about these experiences.

    5. Personal

    Other feelings about work, such as engagement or satisfaction, tend to be just that: feelings about work. Work that is meaningful, on the other hand, is often understood by people not just in the context of their work but also in the wider context of their personal life experiences. We found that managers and even organizations actually mattered relatively little at these times. One musician described his profound sense of meaningfulness when his father attended a performance of his for the first time and finally came to appreciate and understand the musician’s work. A priest was able to find a sense of meaning in her work when she could relate the harrowing personal experiences of a member of her congregation to her own life events, and used that understanding to help and support her congregant at a time of personal tragedy.

    An entrepreneur’s motivation to start his own business included the desire to make his grandfather proud of him. The customary dinner held to mark the end of a soldier’s service became imbued with meaning for one soldier because it was shared with family members who were there to hear her army stories. One lawyer described how she found her work meaningful when her services were recommended by friends and family and she felt trusted and valued in both spheres of her life. A garbage collector described the time when the community’s water supply became contaminated and he was asked to work on distributing water to local residents; that was meaningful, as he could see how he was helping vulnerable neighbors.

    Moments of especially profound meaningfulness arose when these experiences coalesced with the sense of a job well done, one recognized and appreciated by others. One example of many came from a conservation stonemason who described how his work became most meaningful to him when the restoration of a section of the cathedral he had been working on for years was unveiled, the drapes and scaffolding withdrawn, and the work of the craftsmen celebrated. This event involved all the masons and other trades such as carpenters and glaziers, as well as the cathedral’s religious leaders, members of the public, and local dignitaries. “Everyone goes, ‘Doesn’t it look amazing?’” he said. “That’s the moment you realize you’ve saved something and ensured its future; you’ve given part of the cathedral back to the local community.”

    These particular features of meaningful work suggest that the organizational task of helping people find meaning in their work is complex and profound, going far beyond the relative superficialities of satisfaction or engagement — and almost never related to one’s employer or manager.

    Meaninglessness: The Seven Deadly Sins

    What factors serve to destroy the fragile sense of meaningfulness that individuals find in their work? Interestingly, the factors that seem to drive a sense of meaninglessness and futility around work were very different from those associated with meaningfulness. The experiences that actively led people to ask, “Why am I doing this?” were generally a function of how people were treated by managers and leaders. Interviewees noted seven things that leaders did to create a feeling of meaninglessness (listed in order from most to least grievous).

    1. Disconnect people from their values. Although individuals did not talk much about value congruence as a promoter of meaningfulness, they often talked about a disconnect between their own values and those of their employer or work group as the major cause of a sense of futility and meaninglessness. This issue was raised most frequently as a source of meaninglessness in work. A recurring theme was the tension between an organizational focus on the bottom line and the individual’s focus on the quality or professionalism of work. One stonemason commented that he found the organization’s focus on cost “deeply depressing.”

    Academics spoke of their administrations being most interested in profits and the avoidance of litigation, instead of intellectual integrity and the provision of the best possible education. Nurses spoke despairingly of being forced to send patients home before they were ready in order to free up bed space. Lawyers talked of a focus on profits rather than on helping clients.

    2. Take your employees for granted. Lack of recognition for hard work by organizational leaders was frequently cited as invoking a feeling of pointlessness. Academics talked about department heads who didn’t acknowledge their research or teaching successes; sales assistants and priests talked of bosses who did not thank them for taking on additional work. A stonemason described the way managers would not even say “good morning” to him, and lawyers described how, despite putting in extremely long hours, they were still criticized for not moving through their work quickly enough. Feeling unrecognized, unacknowledged, and unappreciated by line or senior managers was often cited in the interviews as a major reason people found their work pointless.

    3. Give people pointless work to do. We found that individuals had a strong sense of what their job should involve and how they should be spending their time, and that a feeling of meaninglessness arose when they were required to perform tasks that did not fit that sense. Nurses, academics, artists, and clergy all cited bureaucratic tasks and form filling not directly related to their core purpose as a source of futility and pointlessness. Stonemasons and retail assistants cited poorly planned projects where they were left to “pick up the pieces” by senior managers. A retail assistant described the pointless task of changing the shop layout one week on instructions from the head office, only to be told to change it back again a week later.

    4. Treat people unfairly. Unfairness and injustice can make work feel meaningless. Forms of unfairness ranged from distributive injustices, such as one stonemason who was told he could not have a pay raise for several years due to a shortage of money but saw his colleague being given a raise, to freelance musicians being asked to write a film score without payment. Procedural injustices included bullying and lack of opportunities for career progression.

    5. Override people’s better judgment. Quite often, a sense of meaninglessness was connected with a feeling of disempowerment or disenfranchisement over how work was done. One nurse, for example, described how a senior colleague required her to perform a medical intervention that was not procedurally correct, and how she felt obliged to complete this even against her better judgment. Lawyers talked of being forced to cut corners to finish cases quickly. Stonemasons described how being forced to “hurry up” using modern tools and techniques went against their sense of historic craft practices. One priest summed up the role of the manager by saying, “People can feel empowered or disempowered by the way you run things.” When people felt they were not being listened to, that their opinions and experience did not count, or that they could not have a voice, then they were more likely to find their work meaningless.

    6. Disconnect people from supportive relationships. Feelings of isolation or marginalization at work were linked with meaninglessness. This could occur through deliberate ostracism on the part of managers, or just through feeling disconnected from coworkers and teams. Most interviewees talked of the importance of camaraderie and relations with coworkers for their sense of meaningfulness. Entrepreneurs talked about their sense of loneliness and meaninglessness during the startup phase of their business, and the growing sense of meaningfulness that arose as the business developed and involved more people with whom they could share the successes. Creative artists spoke of times when they were unable to reach out to an audience through their art as times of profound meaninglessness.

    7. Put people at risk of physical or emotional harm. Many jobs entail physical or emotional risks, and those taking on this kind of work generally appreciate and understand the choices they have made. However, unnecessaryem> exposure to risk was associated with lost meaningfulness. Nurses cited feelings of vulnerability when left alone with aggressive patients; garbage collectors talked of avoidable accidents they had experienced at work; and soldiers described exposure to extreme weather conditions without the appropriate gear.

    These seven destroyers emerged as highly damaging to an individual’s sense of his or her work as meaningful. When several of these factors were present, meaningfulness was considerably lower.

    Cultivating an Ecosystem For Meaningfulness

    In the 1960s, Frederick Herzberg showed that the factors that give rise to a sense of job satisfaction are not the same as those that lead to feelings of dissatisfaction. It seems that something similar is true for meaningfulness. Our research shows that meaningfulness is largely something that individuals find for themselves in their work, but meaninglessness is something that organizations and leaders can actively cause. Clearly, the first challenge to building a satisfied workforce is to avoid the seven deadly sins that drive up levels of meaninglessness.

    Given that meaningfulness is such an intensely personal and individual experience that is interpreted by individuals in the context of their wider lives, can organizations create an environment that cultivates high levels of meaningfulness? The key to meaningful work is to create an ecosystem that encourages people to thrive. As other scholars have argued, efforts to control and proscribe the meaningfulness that individuals inherently find in their work can paradoxically lead to its loss.
    Our interviews and a wider reading of the literature on meaningfulness point to four elements that organizations can address that will help foster an integrated sense of holistic meaningfulness for individual employees. (See “The Elements of a Meaningfulness Ecosystem.”)

    The Elements of a Meaningfulness Ecosystem

    Individuals can derive meaning from their job, from particular tasks in their work, from interactions with others, or from the purpose of the organization. Although it is possible for someone to describe meaningfulness at work in terms of just one of the four elements, meaningfulness is enriched when more than one is present in a job, and these four elements can combine to enable a state of holistic meaningfulness.

    1. Organizational Meaningfulness

    At the macro level, meaningfulness is more likely to thrive when employees understand the broad purpose of the organization. This purpose should be formulated in such a way that it focuses on the positive contribution of the organization to the wider society or the environment. This involves articulating the following:

    What does the organization aim to contribute? What is its “core business”?

    How does the organization aspire to go about achieving this? What values underpin its way of doing business?

    This needs to be done in a genuine and thoughtful way. People are highly adept at spotting hypocrisy, like the nurses who were told their hospital put patients first but were also told to discharge people as quickly as possible. The challenge lies not only in articulating and conveying a clear message about organizational purpose, but also in not undermining meaningfulness by generating a sense of artificiality and manipulation.

    Reaching employees in ways that make sense to them can be a challenge. A clue for addressing this comes from the garbage collectors we interviewed. One described to us how the workers used to be told by management that the waste they returned to the depot would be recycled, but this message came across as highly abstract. Then the company started putting pictures of the items that were made from recycled waste on the side of the garbage trucks. This led to a more tangible realization of what the waste was used for.

    2. Job Meaningfulness

    The vast majority of interviewees found their work meaningful, whether they were musicians, sales assistants, lawyers, or garbage collectors. Studies have shown that meaning is so important to people that they actively go about recrafting their jobs to enhance their sense of meaningfulness. Often, this recrafting involves extending the impact or significance of their role for others. One example of this was sales assistants in a large retail store who listened to lonely elderly customers.

    Organizations can encourage people to see their work as meaningful by demonstrating how jobs fit with the organization’s broader purpose or serve a wider, societal benefit. The priests we spoke to often explained how their ministry work in their local parishes contributed to the wider purpose of the church as a whole. In the same way, managers can be encouraged to show employees what their particular jobs contribute to the broader whole and how what they do will help others or create a lasting legacy.

    Alongside this, we need to challenge the notion that meaningfulness can only arise from positive work experiences. Challenging, problematic, sad, or poignant jobs have the potential to be richly generative of new insights and meaningfulness, and overlooking this risks upsetting the delicate balance of the meaningfulness ecosystem. Providing support to people at the end of their lives is a harrowing experience for nurses and clergy, yet they cited these times as among the most meaningful. The task for leaders is to acknowledge the problematic or negative side of some jobs and to provide appropriate support for employees doing them, yet to reveal in an honest way the benefits and broader contribution that such jobs make.

    3. Task Meaningfulness

    Given that jobs typically comprise a wide range of tasks, it stands to reason that some of these tasks will constitute a greater source of meaningfulness than others. To illustrate, a priest will have responsibility for leading acts of worship, supporting sick and vulnerable individuals, developing community relations and activities, and probably a wide range of other tasks such as raising funds, managing assistants and volunteers, ensuring the upkeep of church buildings, and so on. In fact, the priests were the most hard-working group that we spoke to, with the majority working a seven-day week on a bewildering range of activities. Even much simpler jobs will involve several different tasks. One of the challenges facing organizations is to help people understand how the individual tasks they perform contribute to their job and to the organization as a whole.

    When individuals described some of the sources of meaninglessness they faced in their work, they often talked about how to come to terms with the tedious, repetitive, or indeed purposeless work that is part of almost every job. For example, the stonemasons described how the first few months of their training involved learning to “square the stone,” which involves chiseling a large block of stone into a perfectly formed square with just a few millimeters of tolerance on each plane. As soon as they finished one, they had to start another, repeating this over and over until the master mason was satisfied that they had perfected the task. Only then were they allowed to work on more interesting and intricate carvings. Several described their feelings of boredom and futility; one said that he had taken 18 attempts to get the squaring of the stone correct. “It feels like you are never ever going to get better,” he recalled. Many felt like giving up at this point, fearing that stonemasonry was not for them. It was only in later years, as they looked back on this period in their working lives, that they could see the point of this detailed level of training as the first step on their path to more challenging and rewarding work.

    Filling out forms, cited earlier, is another good example of meaningless work. Individuals in a wide range of occupations all reported that what they perceived as “mindless bureaucracy” sapped the meaningfulness from their work. For instance, most of the academics we spoke to were highly negative about the amount of form filling the job entailed. One said, “I was dropping spreadsheets into a huge black hole.”

    Where organizations successfully managed the context within which these necessary but tedious tasks were undertaken, the tasks came to be perceived not exactly as meaningful, but equally as not meaningless. Another academic said, “I’m pretty good with tedious work, as long as it’s got a larger meaning.”

    4. Interactional Meaningfulness

    There is widespread agreement that people find their work meaningful in an interactional context in two ways:26 First, when they are in contact with others who benefit from their work; and, second, in an environment of supportive interpersonal relationships. As we saw earlier, negative interactional experiences — such as bullying by a manager, lack of respect or recognition, or forcing reduced contact with the beneficiaries of work — all drive up a sense of meaninglessness, since the employee receives negative cues from others about the value they place on the employee’s work.

    The challenge here is for leaders to create a supportive, respectful, and inclusive work climate among colleagues, between employees and managers, and between organizational staff and work beneficiaries. It also involves recognizing the importance of creating space in the working day for meaningful interactions where employees are able to give and receive positive feedback, communicate a sense of shared values and belonging, and appreciate how their work has positive impacts on others.

    Not surprisingly, the most striking examples of the impact of interactional meaningfulness on people came from the caring occupations included in our study: nurses and clergy. In these cases, there was very frequent contact between the individual and the direct beneficiaries of his or her work, most often in the context of supporting and healing people at times of great vulnerability in their lives.

    Witnessing firsthand, and hearing directly, about how their work had changed people’s lives created a work environment conducive to meaningfulness. Although prior research has similarly highlighted the importance of such direct contact for enhancing work’s meaningfulness, we also found that past or future generations, or imagined future beneficiaries, could play a role. This was the case for the stonemasons who felt connected to past and future generations of masons through their bankers’ marks on the back of the stones and for the garbage collectors who could envisage how their work contributed to the living environment for future generations.

    Holistic Meaningfulness

    The four elements of the meaningfulness ecosystem combine to enable a state of holistic meaningfulness, where the synergistic benefits of multiple sources of meaningfulness can be realized. Although it is possible for someone to describe meaningful moments in terms of any one of the subsystems, meaningfulness is enriched when more than one or all of these are present. A sales assistant, for example, described how she had been working with a team on the refurbishment of her store: “We’d all been there until 2 a.m., working together moving stuff, everyone had contributed and stayed late and helped, it was a good time. We were exhausted but we still laughed and then the next morning we were all bright in our uniforms, it was a lovely feeling, just like a little family coming together. The day [the store] opened, it did bring tears to my eyes. We had a little gathering and a speech; the managers said ‘thank you’ to everybody because everyone had contributed.”

    Finding work meaningful is an experience that reaches beyond the workplace and into the realm of the individual’s wider personal life. It can be a very profound, moving, and even uncomfortable experience. It arises rarely and often in unexpected ways; it gives people pause for thought — not just concerning work but what life itself is all about. In experiencing work as meaningful, we cease to be workers or employees and relate as human beings, reaching out in a bond of common humanity to others. For organizations seeking to manage meaningfulness, the ethical and moral responsibility is great, since they are bridging the gap between work and personal life.

    Yet the benefits for individuals and organizations that accrue from meaningful workplaces can be immense. Organizations that succeed in this are more likely to attract, retain, and motivate the employees they need to build sustainably for the future, and to create the kind of workplaces where human beings can thrive.

    Reproduced from MITSLOAN Management Review  

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    Connecting with others is at the heart of human nature. Recent research emphasizes that the power of connections can help us be creative, resilient, even live longer. But we can easily overlook the importance of these bonds. As popular writer and researcher Adam Grant has noted, the pressure of tight deadlines and the pace of technology mean that fewer Americans are finding friendship in the workplace. In fact, many of us are further disconnecting from the people we work with: we’re more stressed out than ever, and half of us regularly experience incivility in our jobs.

    How can we create possibilities for connection in what is sometimes a hostile atmosphere? We believe there needs to be more compassion.

    We define compassion as a 4-part experience of noticing someone’s distress or pain, interpreting it as relevant and important, feeling concern for that person or group, and acting to alleviate their pain. As we talk about in our book, Awakening Compassion at Work, acts of compassion can span from grand and coordinated to small and personal.

    Consider Patty, who was worried about returning to work after the death of her husband. The thing she dreaded most was arriving at an empty desk on Monday mornings because for the past 15 years Patty’s husband had ordered flowers to be delivered early on Monday mornings. Every Monday, a beautiful bouquet — and a symbol of their life together — graced Patty’s desk.

    Summoning up her determination, Patty walked into the office. After saying hello to a few people, she moved toward her desk and caught a glimpse of a colorful bouquet of flowers waiting there. She fought back tears as she read a note from her coworkers, who also did not want her to come back to an empty desk. They cared for her so much that they had collected funds across the entire office and made arrangements for a fresh bouquet of flowers to be delivered every Monday for a year.

    Compassion, whether a coordinated gesture or an individual one, increases meaning at work — and not just for Patty, but also for her colleagues and for all the people who see this human response unfold. Being compassionate changes how we see the value of the people who are part of our work world, shifts how we see ourselves, and helps us to see our organizations as more humane.

    Our research highlights four ways that people can bring more compassion to work.  

    Sharpen Your Skills in Noticing Suffering

    Signs of suffering at work are often subtle. Professional norms dictate that it’s not safe to express too much emotion, making it hard to see pain. Attuning ourselves emotionally to patterns in our colleagues, and making ourselves more physically and psychologically available, makes us better at picking up on what’s happening.

    Alex described noticing that his coworker Ming-Jer was not enjoying the holiday party. Despite not knowing Ming-Jer well, Alex was concerned. He began by simply asking, “How are you doing, Ming-Jer?” Alex discovered that Ming-Jer was struggling with a chronic illness that was straining his finances and his relationships. Alex told us how much closer the two have become since that moment, and how meaningful the connection has made other aspects of his workplace.

    Perfect Your Capacity for Inquiry

    Norms about keeping personal and professional life separate can make it awkward to ask personal questions. Organizations such as Accenture and EY are now offering training programs on how to inquire in ways that fosters compassion. Asking “Are you okay?” is one example. This kind of question, asked in a genuine way with comfortable time and space, may increase a sense of safety and open space for compassion. That’s what happened with Alex and Ming-Jer.

    When asking directly is too difficult, you can turn to someone who has a closer relationship to share your concerns. In one organization we studied, an employee had been a victim of domestic violence and several of her colleagues felt it wasn’t appropriate to talk with her directly about it. Instead, they shared their concerns with her friends at work who relayed the messages. These intermediaries also became coordinators, organizing a collection of donations and delivery of meals. Asking intermediaries for updates became an effective way for lots of people to participate in creating compassion at work during a difficult, sensitive situation.

    Tune into Your Feelings of Concern

    Sensing and understanding the distress of another person is often accompanied by a feeling that researchers call empathic concern — a warm desire for the other person to be well. This kind of emotion arises more easily when we know that we have something in common.

    When we studied students who lost everything in a fire and the way their university organized a response, we found that a faculty member who had also lived through a fire became a very effective organizer. Her shared experience helped her advocate for resources such as emergency funds, new clothing, computers, and even housing.

    But having the prior experience wasn’t the only route to common ground. A fellow student, who had never been involved in a fire, was able to tune into his own deep empathy and concern for his classmates. He used the motivation that flowed from this feeling to facilitate the coordination of books and class notes that allowed full replacement of each student’s customized study materials — again increasing the meaningfulness of their school program for everyone who participated in the effort to respond.

    Unleash Your Creativity with Compassionate Actions

    Societal norms often give us a script to follow when we encounter pain or distress: offer condolences, ask whether there is anything we can do to help, and send a card. While these scripts can be helpful, they often fall short of being meaningful to the receiver.

    In one nonprofit organization we studied, an executive’s nephew was killed in a tragic accident just before an important board meeting. Instead of a scripted response, colleagues brainstormed several resourceful ways to take action, including excusing him from attending the board meeting, taking on urgent tasks so that he didn’t have to focus on them, donating their vacation days to him, collectively writing a poem to send to the family, and organizing a tribute to share at the memorial service.

    Too many people think of compassion and connection with others as a nice-to-have in organizations. But if people feel like they belong and genuinely care about one another, they will be more creative, resilient, and eager to contribute at work. It’s tempting to ignore distress, and suffering and pretend like they have no place in our offices. But the human experience of pain is going to show up, whether we invite it or not, and the only way to respond is with compassion.
    View at the original source

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  • 01/23/18--09:21: The Troublemakers 01-23

  • When students act out, why do we seek out flaws in their character? Shouldn't we instead search for the flaws in our schools and our teaching, holding us, the adults, primarily responsible?

    When students act out, why do we seek out flaws in their character? Shouldn't we instead search for the flaws in our schools and our teaching, holding us, the adults, primarily responsible? Shouldn't we find better ways to understand the problem children, the ones we label the troublemakers?

    I dreaded my first-period class. It was big and early — 29 bleary-eyed 11th- and 12th-graders yawning and slurping extra-large iced coffees. My students, recent immigrants and refugees from more than 25 different countries, spoke English with varying degrees of fluency, making my task of connecting with each particularly challenging.
    And then there was Joe. 
    He was funny, opinionated, and unceasing in his running commentary on our U.S. history class.
    Sometimes it was a clarification: “It’s due when?” More often it was an opinion: “Those Nazis, I mean that’s messed up!”
    He had one volume: loud. And he shared ideas as soon as they popped into his mind, unable to contain them a moment longer. His interjections could come at any time — during silent reading, group work, or while I was explaining an assignment. I was forever reminding him, “Please, Joe, try not to call out.” “Remember to raise your hand.” Sometimes I simply looked sternly in his direction.
    He was always polite: “I got ya, Ms.” “Sorry, Ms.” “My bad, Ms.” He really would try. But three minutes later…
    We teachers all have our Joes. Our students who consistently call out, talk back, refuse to participate or sit down or stay on task. They throw our lessons into disarray, make our heads pound. They keep us up at night strategizing, worrying. How can I connect? What strategies might work tomorrow? When, occasionally, these students miss school, class is unusually calm. Guiltily, we sigh with relief.
    How do we reach and teach our troublemakers? Most teachers have binders brimming with ideas: shuffled seat assignments, tracking systems, rewards for on-point behavior. But when these fail, what can you do when it’s you alone in your class balancing 29 personalities, the clock ticking and your 40-minute-long class is almost up?
    Too often schools’ response to misbehavior is exclusion: timeouts, visits to the principal’s office, suspensions, expulsions. It is the easy way out — often a form of triage when too many classes are overcrowded, understaffed, or undersupported. But, whatever the reason, exclusion damages our students’ futures.
    Carla Shalaby, Ed.M.’09, Ed.D.’14, a former elementary school teacher, urges us to see and teach our most challenging students differently in her new book, Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at School.
    Shalaby introduces us to four rambunctious first- and second-graders: Zora, Lucas, Sean, and Marcus. These four have already been labeled as problems — by both school staff and peers. 
    Shalaby set out to see school through their eyes. She followed them into classrooms and on school field trips. She accompanied them to the park with siblings, to karate class, and back home with their families. These four children leap off the page. They are daring, charismatic, silly, curious, creative.
    But at school, they are outcasts. Shalaby paints a stark, but painfully recognizable portrait of a typical American classroom. School has “good students” and “bad students.” To be good is to follow teacher directions and rules, sit quietly, listen attentively, do what you’re told, conform. Those who deviate, question, or rebel are often excluded. And their exclusion sends a sharp message to their peers “that belonging to the classroom community is conditional, not absolute, contingent upon their willingness and ability to be a certain kind of person.”
    Why is it, Shalaby asks, that when kids act out, we seek out flaws in their character? Shouldn’t we instead search for flaws in our schools and teaching — holding us, the adults, primarily responsible?
    It is a question all educators should be asking.
    Joe and I came to a head in late April. A guest speaker was finishing a presentation. Just as we were wrapping up, Joe shouted out, “Hey, you’re hot!” I regret to say I snapped. “Joe!” my voice loud and stern. “Come up here right now.” The bell rang, the class streamed out, and Joe shuffled up to my desk.
    Troublemakers is not a book of strategies. Shalaby is clear that we cannot support our most disruptive students with cookie-cutter “behavior management” techniques. Rather than prescribe what to do, she offers up ideas for how to be, urging teachers to act first and foremost from a place of empathy, love, and understanding for all students.
    But how do we as teachers go about putting this into action? In rereading the stories of these four young people, I was struck by six important truths these students teach us.
    1. Keep children in class.
    When we exclude our students, we are telling them: You don’t belong here. Exclusion shuts down opportunities for dialogue and understanding between us and our students. And exclusion triggers a vicious cycle. When we send students out, they miss essential academic content and skills. They return to class behind, confused, and even more likely to act out. These missed lessons add up and have long-lasting consequences. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, students who struggle to read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out or to fail high school. Across the country, approximately 3.5 million children are suspended from school annually. And African American and Latino students are three times more likely to be suspended than their white peers, according to 2014 data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
    2. Let children be heard, and really listen when they speak.
    To be heard is to be respected and valued. I see the importance of this simple truth whenever I speak at length with a student. They come during lunch, or linger after school, seeking advice on how to talk with friends, parents. When I see a student upset, unusually surly, or argumentative, I try my best to carve out time to check in and see if they want to talk. Being open to listen, and being aware to ask, reinforces to our students that we see them and we value them. Frustratingly, too often rigid school schedules leave little space to meaningfully connect.
    Joe and I finally sat down to talk, and to listen, on that late April afternoon. He shared with me his frustrations. I shared with him mine. We examined how I might feel when he interrupted the class and we examined the same interruption from his perspective. I shared my hopes for what he could achieve in my class; he shared his hopes, but also what he needed from me to achieve them. It was not a wholly
    comfortable conversation for either of us, but it was a starting point.
    In the following weeks and months, Joe still called out, still offered spontaneous commentary at full volume, but he did so less frequently. More often than before I intentionally asked him to lead a discussion or to share an opinion — creating space for him to be included, and to be heard.
    No one wanted to work with Jenny. In groups, she argued, she was dogmatic, and she sulked when she didn’t get her way.
    Mostly, Jenny was unpredictable. Some days she walked in with a bounce and a smile, eagerly pulling out her binder, taking notes in a flurry, and jabbing her hand into the air to confidently answer questions. Other days she slunk into class, slouching in her back corner seat, glowering.
    In groups, she was the same. She could be full of ideas, ready to work and ready to encourage others to tackle assignments — be it a PowerPoint presentation on labor unions or an op-ed for our local paper. But other days she would stubbornly talk over her peers. When they didn’t comply, she refused to do any work at all.
    I was at a loss about what to do.
    3. Partner with families.
    Teachers’ most powerful partners are our students’ families. They are the experts, our students’ first and most important teachers, and their fiercest advocates. Our families know their children’s strengths, their passions, and their struggles. Resounding research tells us that strong family partnership in schools is essential for student success, school success, and for our own success as teachers. These partnerships are perhaps most important for our troublemakers. We often only see one or two dimensions of our charges. What is more, we only see our students in a collective — as one of maybe 30 personalities vying for
    attention. As Shalaby shows us when we follow Zora, Lucas, Sean, and Marcus outside classroom walls and school halls, we see strikingly different sides, personalities, and strengths of these young people. As teachers, we must try to know more of these dimensions.
    Early in the fall I met with Jenny’s mother. Sitting together one evening I heard about Jenny’s journey to America, the family she left behind, her struggle to fit in. Her mother shared her hopes for Jenny’s future and some of the challenges she faced. We exchanged phone numbers and emails, and for the rest of the long year we checked in regularly.
    And in the classroom, I shaped an approach from what I had learned. Every day I made a point of checking in — often in those few moments as students filtered in. “Today’s a bad day, Ms. Lander,” she would share with me. “I’m so sorry to hear that. Would you like to tell me why?” Often she would. Sometimes it was another class or friend that was proving frustrating; other times it was an argument with her mom. For such days we developed a pact. “What support can I give you?” I would ask. Jenny would think for a moment and then provide an idea. Maybe she needed to work solo, or maybe it would be helpful to write thoughts in her notebook. Sometimes simply sharing her mood seemed sufficient to help Jenny turn things around.
    4. Seek out our students’ strengths.
    All students have strengths. Perhaps they are avid photographers, basketball players, coders, or poets when not in school. But when it comes to our troublemakers, it can be easy for their assets to be overshadowed by behaviors that disrupt the carefully cultivated cultures of our classrooms. We cannot lose sight of these strengths. Yet it is not enough to know that our troublemakers are budding artists, scientists, and entrepreneurs. We must also seek to reframe and better understand the qualities we find most frustrating. Zora shouts out a reaction during read-aloud; her teacher labels her impulsive. But what if, Shalaby counters, we saw Zora’s expression as fearlessness? Sean is forever asking why. His teacher describes his behavior as badgering, but Sean’s mother sees him as questioning and curious.
    In class, Jenny was often stubborn, demanding that other students follow her ideas, growing upset when they didn’t. What if I reframed her behavior? What if I saw Jenny’s obstinacy as confidence, a young woman unafraid to share ideas? Jenny had a powerful skill her peers could learn. What Jenny needed were strategies to help her leverage her confidence and tools to help her become a generous leader.
    At lunch one day, I shared with her some of my observations. To my surprise, her eyes grew wide. Quietly she asked, “You think so, Ms. Lander?” “Yes I do, and I think you have real potential to be a class leader.” She was grinning.
    And so we began, taking time in quiet moments to break down leadership skills, discussing elements she could practice. Jenny attacked each with a determined nod. She still struggled at times, still had bad days. But what I saw more and more was Jenny volunteering to lead and, slowly, succeeding.
    I was worried about Henry. It was only week two, but already I could see him slipping into a pattern. He barely took notes and chattered continuously with the boys next to him. He had yet to turn in a piece of homework. But I noticed too that in discussions he was engaged, offering thoughtful comments about the growth of cities during the Industrial Revolution. I held Henry back one afternoon. I shared my observations. How could I support his learning? He looked around the empty classroom.
    “I should probably move seats,” he mused.
    “That sounds like a strong idea. Where would be best for you to sit?” I asked. We talked through different possibilities and he settled on a spot across the room, among another, more studious, but also silly group of boys.
    The next morning, Henry strode confidently to his new seat, and as the class progressed, it was as if another child had walked in that morning. He took notes, led discussions, and was quick to throw his hand to the sky with an idea about the impact of the growth in business monopolies. The new Henry showed up again the next day, and the day after.
    5. Strategize with students.
    We can only guess as to why a student might call out or fail to do homework. Rather than assume we know the answer, ask. From our students we can better learn what hurdles they face and in what ways we can support their success. And in doing this we demonstrate our commitment to our students.
    As fall chilled to winter, Henry flourished in my class. He still forgot his homework sometimes, still had to be occasionally reminded to stay on task. But he had found a group of friends who could be goofy and yet also grapple with charting the effects of the Spanish American War. I watched excitedly as he grew in confidence, one of the first to raise his hand to answer a question or share an opinion.
    A few weeks later, I learned that this was not the Henry that appeared in his other classes. He confided this to me one afternoon when he came seeking advice. In other classes, he described, he was always the troublemaker, always being sent out, always blamed for something. He didn’t know what to do. Many of his teachers seemed to have such a negative opinion of him. Most importantly, he was upset because he wanted so deeply to make his father proud.
    I saw an opportunity.
    “I see you in my class,” I told him, my voice slow, deliberate. “I see how hard you work and how well you can do.” He nodded a little shyly. Together we could talk through strategies that might help in other classes. But I also had another idea, a challenge.
    6. Create opportunities for students to realize their potential and be publically recognized for their academic achievements.
    All students are capable of achieving remarkable things, they just might need our help to do so. In raising the stakes, but also the support, we can create opportunities for students to explore at the edge of their capabilities. And when they do succeed, celebrate these achievements. Our troublemakers are too often only publicly acknowledged for their disruptions. We can change this pattern by intentionally creating opportunities to publicly recognize their strengths.
    I am a journalist as well as a teacher, and I believe it is critical that my students learn to write clear and powerful prose. Halfway through the year I had my class embark on an op-ed project, writing on issues they cared about, the very best selected for publication in the local newspaper. Sitting with Henry on that fall afternoon I proposed an idea. What if he worked toward being one of those 10 students whose op-eds were published?
    These six ways of being are not enough. Shalaby argues, and rightly so, that our troublemakers are “canaries in the coal mine.” These children, in their defiance, are warning us of something fundamentally destructive — in Shalaby’s words, toxic — about our schools and our expectations for all young people.
    School is a place that prioritizes the group at the cost of the individual. Too many schools require students to conform, to sit silently, to do without questioning. Too few schools allow time for creative student-driven exploration or provide space to form meaningful relationships with peers and adults. Such school structures hurt all our students’ futures, but it is only our troublemakers who rebel forcibly enough to make us take notice.
    I think of my own classes packed with close to 30 teenagers. I see them for barely 40 minutes a day. In that time I try to connect with and support this diverse collection of individuals. But I have never felt that I have succeeded — or can succeed 100 percent. This failure weighs heavy.
    Shalaby urges us to reimagine the classroom. We must also reimagine schools. Top to bottom we desperately need to question the structure, the curriculum, the role of teachers, the role of students. We need a system of education that supports all types of learners, not just some learners. We need a system that will support teachers in reaching every student. And we need schools that nurture our students’ curiosity and individual strengths.
    A week after Henry and I talked, he came into my classroom all fired up. His father, he told me, was very excited about Henry’s determination to write an op-ed. He was hoping to support him at home and might even put a down payment on a computer to help his son write. “If I get my op-ed published,” Henry confided, “I’ll make my father so proud.”
    These six ways of being are not enough. Shalaby argues, and rightly so, that our troublemakers are “canaries in the coal mine.” These children, in their defiance, are warning us of something fundamentally destructive — in Shalaby’s words, toxic — about our schools and our expectations for all young people.
    School is a place that prioritizes the group at the cost of the individual. Too many schools require students to conform, to sit silently, to do without questioning. Too few schools allow time for creative student-driven exploration or provide space to form meaningful relationships with peers and adults. Such school structures hurt all our students’ futures, but it is only our troublemakers who rebel forcibly enough to make us take notice.
    Throughout December and January Henry doggedly worked to research, write, and edit. It was not always easy — he needed many reminders and cajoling — but we kept at it. As we approached the deadline, Henry began showing up early and staying late to edit.
    In February, nine student op-eds were published in the paper. Henry’s was one of them. It was one of the strongest. I couldn’t have been more proud.

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    What Are Stem Cells?

    They are cells that maintain a state of “open-mindedness” thoughout the life of the individual from fetal life senescence, to enable them to participate in repair, replacement and regeneration of the tissue they happen to be in, in addition to affecting tissues in other parts of the body by migration and by producing growth factors and cytokines. They are regarded as undifferentiated and are found in different tissues of the body, throughout life. The early fetal stem cells are “pluripotent’ with a vast potential; while non-embryonic adult mesenchymal stem cells are “multipotent.” This means they are less versatile than those of the fetus, but non-the-less can turn into several different kinds of cells within any tissue type.

    Where Are Stem Cells Found?

    Undifferentiated, non-embryonic adult mesenchymal stem cells are found everywhere in the body, in all tissues, but especially in fat tissue, bone marrow and blood- in that order.  The stem cells found in blood and bone marrow are hematopoietic stem cells because, under normal circumstances, they are destined to form red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells (WBCs), and platelets; and those stem cells that are found in fat (adipose) tissue, among fat cells, are called adipose stem cells.
    GCSC&RMC uses adipose stem cells because they are approximately 2,500 times as abundant as hematopoietic stem cells, per a given mass of tissue. Furthermore, no organs are hurt or disturbed in the process of harvesting adipose tissue, which only requires local anesthesia.

    How Are Stem Cells Used?

    Stem cells have the potential to repair human tissue and certain internal organs by forming new cells and producing substances to regenerate cartilage, bone, ligaments, tendons, nerve, fat, muscle, and blood vessels. Stem cells are being investigated and researched as an innovative therapy option for more than 70 major diseases and conditions that affect millions of people worldwide. These include diabetes mellitus, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), spinal cord injuries, various eye conditions, and HIV/AIDS.

    The GCSC&RMC Process

    Gulf Coast Stem Cell & RMC has a specific SVF harvest and injection protocol. First, a couple of ounces of fat are harvested from the love handle areas of the back, under surgically sterile conditions and local anesthesia, by minimally-invasive mini-liposuction. This procedure lasts a mere 20 minutes; and this small amount of fat yields millions of stem cells (at least half a million per ml of fat). In fact, it is possible to obtain well over 50 million cells from a single harvest.
    After the cells are harvested, the stem cells are separated from the fat cells and are ready for deployment within 90 minutes or less from harvest. They can then be injected into a vein to reach wider targets throughout the entire body, and directly into target areas like the spinal space, joints and specific tissues.


    Stem cell therapy is a minimally invasive, low-risk option that may help patients who suffer from the daily discomforts of orthopedic conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, sports-related injuries, spine disease, and general problems with shoulders, elbows, hands/wrists, hips, knees, or ankles. Research indicates that most orthopedic issues are fundamentally caused by inflammatory, autoimmune, or degenerative processes. Stem cells have the potential to reduce discomfort by decreasing inflammation, modulating autoimmunity, and repairing or replacing bone, tendons, and ligaments that have deteriorated due to injury or a degenerative joint disease. This investigational therapy could benefit the near 350 million people worldwide who are afflicted by arthritis, about 50 million of whom live in the United States, including over a quarter million children.


    Over one billion people worldwide suffer from neurological diseases. In universities and medical research centers around the world, stem cells are being explored for their regenerative potential. We at GCSC&RMC have research protocols for many neurological conditions, including multiple sclerosis, peripheral neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injuries, and more. Beyond their ability to become different kinds of cells, stem cells are able to cross the blood-brain barrier, aided by hygroscopic molecules like Mannitol. This potential for transmigration, or crossing the barrier, means that stem cells can reach broader areas of brain tissue that have been affected by injuries or degenerative diseases. This has been shown to be the case in a rat model. Subtle differences in brain function can affect mood, balance, thought processes, and other areas that have significant impacts on a patient’s overall quality of life.

    Cardiac & Pulmonary Diseases

    Cardiac disease is the most common killer in the United States. Every day, 2,200 people die from cardiovascular diseases—that’s 1 in every 3 deaths. Stem cell therapy has the potential to help with cardiac and pulmonary conditions such as a heart attacks, myocardial infarctions, congestive heart failure, ischemic heart disease, COPD, and pulmonary fibrosis. The purpose of our research protocols is to target inflammation, reducing it; regenerating cells lost in cardiac ischemia, replacing damaged or diseased heart-muscle cells, and promoting the development of new coronary artery branches. The latter can be effected through the production of substances like the angiogenesis factor. When an intravenous dose of SVF or stem cells is given, the infused molecules and cells pass through the heart to the vast capillary network of the lungs, where a significant proportion of the cells stay. There they participate in various repair processes, which, according to published results and our own, often improve gaseous exchange and may result clinical improvement.

    Autoimmune Diseases

    Autoimmune diseases happen when the body’s immune system turns against itself and starts mistakenly attacking healthy cells. Many disease processes are considered autoimmune, and many of those conditions have shown response to research protocols using stem cell therapy, including lupus, hepatitis, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, myasthenia neuropathy, CIDP, and ulcerative colitis. Deploying stem cells in these diseases may reduce inflammation of affected organs and tissues, regenerate damaged cells and tissue, and help modulate the immune response by possibly block compliment reactions.

    UroGenital & Skin

    Intersticial Cystitis (IC) and Lichen Sclerosis are among the most distressing, chronic conditions that can afflict women and men, although they are much commoner in women. There are an estimated 108 million people suffering from lichen sclerosis around the world. When women are afflicted, the labia may fuse together, adding to the distress. Our research findings, as well as those of others in our group (CSN), indicate that SVF deployment may help both women and men who suffer with those conditions. Furthermore, according to our research findings, patients who had local injections of filtered fat (nanofat) into the labia and surrounding skin, in addition to the SVF  appeared to have better outcomes. Clearly, in those who benefit the stem cells as well as growth factors and cytokines re-direct the atrophic, inflammatory process towards healing and resolution.
    Erectile Dysfunction may be a very distressing entity to those afflicted and the condition afflicts approximately 50% of men over 40, to some degree. Naturally the causes may be multifactorial, but research results indicate that combining pressure wave therapy with SVF may result in significant improvement in over 60-70% of men.  In those who benefit, stem cells may have the potential to stimulate the growth of the smooth muscle lining of vessels and improve endothelial function, repair and rejuvenate damaged and effete cells and boost blood flow to erectile tissues.

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    Imagine going to a staff meeting and being second-guessed by Einstein. Well, that’s what happens at Salesforce—sort of.

    Chief executive Marc Benioff told Davos attendees on Thursday that, at a senior staff meeting every Monday for the last year, one seat has been occupied by the company’s “artificial intelligence” software, which is called Einstein.

    “I ask Einstein, ‘I heard what everybody said but what do you actually think?'” Benioff said, according to a CNBC report.

    Benioff explained that Einstein recently upset a European employee by saying “Well, I don’t think this executive is going to make their number, I’m so sorry,” before identifying the problems at hand.
    While this early AI deployment is unusual, to say the least, it’s probably unsurprising that it’s happening at Salesforce.

    The cloud software company has been very bullish on AI, having last year launched a $50 million fund to invest in startups that are deploying such technology.

    Salesforce revealed Einstein’s existence a year and a half back, bringing together technologies it had recently acquired.

    The company has been pitching the Einstein AI—which it originally wanted to call “Optimus Prime“—as a tool for things like identifying sales leads more quickly and efficiently. It is trying to encourage the functionality’s incorporation into a variety of business applications. 

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    A Veteran Entrepreneur

    If you can lead soldiers into battle, you can cold call 140 investors.

    Neuroflow founder Chris Molaro, WG’17, is a veteran, and he’s seen the effects of PTSD. As he reminds us, “20 veterans a day commit suicide, on average.”
    Neuroflow is his way of fighting back. Neuroflow uses wearables to measure the physical effects of stress, and quantify them in a way that is useful to therapists who are treating people for severe anxiety and stress. For the first time, therapists can use quantifiable measurements to see if their therapies are working—and adjust for maximum effectiveness.
    The Importance of Persistence

    Neuroflow is also a story of persistence. Chris started working with his cofounder, Adam Pardes, who is an engineering PhD candidate at Penn, on a project for the Y-Prize, which asks students to commercialize Penn technologies. In Chris’s words, they “lost miserably.” But the idea was what set them on the path to Neuroflow.

    They won the Innovation Prize in the Penn Wharton Startup Challenge, and got a lot of other support from across the University. Chris says that, “before raising the investment capital we won a total of $140,000 in business plan competitions, thanks in large part to Wharton.”
    But when they set out to raise serious money, it took time, and a lot of persistence. They ultimately raised $1.25 million. Doing so took them months of conversations, and talks with 140 investors. This, as Karl points out, isn’t especially uncommon—so for you entrepreneurs out there who are looking to raise funds, get ready to start calling.
    Our Own Battle

    For Chris, he sees Neuroflow as “our own war zone, our own battle, and we have to figure out a way. And we’ve got great men and women to our left and right in the office, and we’ll figure it out.”

    What is Neuroflow, 

    Originally appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, written by Anna Orso.

    When Clark Griswold tried to blanket his home in Christmas lights, an electrical glitch rendered the facade completely dark. But it was his gruff in-laws who added insult to injury. “Beautiful, Clark,” said one. The other called it a “silly waste of resources.”

    This is a scene from the 1989 classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. But you don’t need to summon Chevy Chase to feel some sort of way at the mere mention of your in-laws.

    Finances, gift-giving and, yes, difficult family members all contribute to higher levels of stress during the holiday season. Now, thanks to a Philadelphia startup, there’s an app for that.

    A Wharton grad and a Penn Ph.D. student last year founded NeuroFlow, a startup that’s developed software to interpret brain waves and heart rate to measure relaxation and help patients and clinicians visualize how external stressors trigger physical reactions.

    The software shows that even the mention of one’s in-laws can set off in some people a physiological response – that gut-level feeling of uneasiness – and can then illustrate exactly how meditation and mindfulness techniques impact the body and brain. But the tool, now in beta and used by a handful of mental health professionals, has applications far beyond the holiday season. Its founders are planning a full launch in February, and believe their platform will ultimately help de-stigmatize mental illness by helping people see it, rather than just feel it.

    A lofty goal for a company with eight full-time employees run by a couple of twentysomethings.

    “We know it’s a stressful time of year, yet what we found is that the conversation around mental health, around anxiety, around stress is such that there’s this negative stigma,” said CEO and co-founder Christopher Molaro, 29, an Iraq war veteran and Wharton MBA who founded the company in large part to address post-traumatic stress disorder. “I think it’s because if you can’t understand something, measure something, see something, you just push it aside as something that doesn’t exist.”

    NeuroFlow is a phone app and cloud-based program that, through bluetooth technology, interprets data to offer digestible information about how relaxed a person is. That data comes from a heart-rate monitor and an EEG (electroencephalogram), in this case a headset, which measures electrical activity in the brain.

    The idea is that clinicians would be able to visualize exactly when a patient becomes more stressed, and can then watch in real-time as relaxation techniques like breath monitoring start to actually work. That visualization helps people see mental illness in the same way they can see a broken arm on an X-ray.
    Sound complicated? I tried it out this week in a conference room at Benjamin’s Desk, the Center City coworking space where NeuroFlow is based.

    Adam Pardes, the company’s 26-year-old co-founder and chief operating officer, helped me put on a headset (similar to the one in the photo above) that retails for about $250. The NeuroFlow program recognized I was wearing the headset, and the line that charted my score on the “relaxation index” was sky high.

    Safe to say this reporter is not very relaxed. NeuroFlow confirmed it.

    But with the help of a breathing guide that acts a bit like a metronome, I watched the line go down. After just about a minute, I’d gotten into the “relaxation zone,” and I was able to see it.

    Other variances in anxiety and stress can be seen with NeuroFlow’s YouTube integration, a tool that allows therapists to show a patient a video – say it’s of a car driving over a bridge for a person who fears that – to see the exact point when a patient’s body goes into anxiety mode.

    Using the technology, a patient would also be able to gauge progress with a therapist over time. The tool isn’t meant to replace a mental health professional, though. Think of NeuroFlow more as a thermometer for mental health.

    “Your body physiologically changes when you’re more stressed and more relaxed,” Molaro said. “The fact that we can measure and better understand means that you don’t have to be ashamed of it and can go seek help, whether using our platform or not.”

    Molaro said NeuroFlow closed its first major funding round in October, raising $1.25 million in venture capital. It’s also supported in part by Penn, where the company is conducting some research through the school’s Neuroscience Initiative.

    Sixteen clinicians across the country are currently using NeuroFlow in beta, and the full software will be available for purchase online for about $100 per month.

    Molaro and Pardes, who has a background in bioengineering, see a host of applications for clinicians and patients down the line, from testing stress levels in soldiers to tracking mental health in professional athletes to managing that Griswold-level holiday stress.

    “Twenty veterans a day killing themselves is unacceptable. Fourteen students at Penn killing themselves is unacceptable,” Molaro said. “My mom crying on Christmas because she’s anxious and stressed out is unacceptable. People deserve better.”

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  • 01/29/18--05:54: Flip the Switch 01-29

  • Changes in fat metabolism may promote prostate cancer metastasis...

    Prostate tumors tend to be what scientists call “indolent”—so slow-growing and self-contained that many affected men die with prostate cancer, not of it. But for the percentage of men whose prostate tumors metastasize, the disease is invariably fatal.

    In a set of papers published in the journals Nature Genetics and Nature Communications, researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Cancer Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have shed new light on the genetic mechanisms that promote metastasis in a mouse model and implicated the typical Western high-fat diet as a key environmental factor driving metastasis.

    “Although it is widely postulated that a Western diet can promote prostate cancer progression, direct evidence supporting a strong association between dietary lipids and prostate cancer has been lacking,” said first author Ming Chen, HMS research fellow in medicine in the laboratory of Pier Paolo Pandolfi, the HMS George C. Reisman Professor of Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess.

    Epidemiological data links dietary fats (and obesity) to many types of cancer, and rates of cancer deaths from metastatic cancers including prostate cancer are much higher in the United States than in nations where lower fat diets are more common. While prostate cancer affects about 10 percent of men in Asian nations, that rate climbs to about 40 percent when they immigrate to the U.S., mirroring the rates among the native-born U.S. population. That points to an environmental culprit that may work in concert with genetic factors to drive this aggressive, fatal disease.

    “The progression of cancer to the metastatic stage represents a pivotal event that influences patient outcomes and the therapeutic options available to patients,” said senior author Pandolfi, who is also director of the Cancer Center and the Cancer Research Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess. “Our data provide a strong genetic foundation for the mechanisms underlying metastatic progression, and we also demonstrated how environmental factors can boost these mechanisms to promote progression from primary to advanced metastatic cancer.”

    The tumor suppressor gene PTEN is known to play a major role in prostate cancer; its partial loss occurs in up to 70 percent of primary prostate tumors. Its complete loss is linked to metastatic prostate disease, but animal studies suggest the loss of PTEN alone is not enough to trigger progression. Pandolfi and colleagues sought to identify an additional tumor suppressing gene or pathway that may work in concert with PTEN to drive metastasis.

    Looking at recent genomic data, Pandolfi and colleagues noticed that another tumor suppressor gene, PML, tended to be present in localized (nonmetastatic) prostate tumors but was absent in about a third of metastatic prostate tumors. Moreover, about 20 percent of metastatic prostate tumors lack both PML and PTEN.

    When they compared the two types of tumor—the localized ones lacking only the PTEN gene versus the metastatic tumors lacking both genes—the researchers found that the metastatic tumors produced huge amounts of lipids, or fats. In tumors that lacked both PTEN and PML tumor suppressing genes, the cells’ fat-production machinery was running amok.

    “It was as though we’d found the tumors’ lipogenic, or fat production, switch,” said Pandolfi. “The implication is, if there’s a switch, maybe there’s a drug with which we can block this switch and maybe we can prevent metastasis or even cure metastatic prostate cancer,” he added.

    Such a drug already exists. Discovered in 2009, a molecule named “fatostatin” is currently being investigated for the treatment of obesity. Pandolfi and colleagues tested the molecule in lab mice.

    “The obesity drug blocked the lipogenesis fantastically, and the tumors regressed and didn’t metastasize.”

    In addition to opening the door to new treatment for metastatic prostate cancer, these findings also helped solve a long-standing scientific puzzle. For years, researchers had difficulty modeling metastatic prostate cancer in mice, making it hard to study the disease in the lab. Some speculated that mice simply weren’t a good model for this particular disease. But the lipid-production finding raised a question in Pandolfi’s mind.

    “I asked, ‘What do our mice eat?’” Pandolfi recalled.

    It turned out the mice ate a vegetable-based chow, essentially a low-fat vegan diet that bore little resemblance to that of the average American male. When Pandolfi and colleagues increased the levels of saturated fats, the kind found in fast food cheeseburgers and fries, in the animals’ diet, the mice developed aggressive, metastatic tumors.

    The findings could result in more accurate and predictive mouse models for metastatic prostate cancer, which in turn could accelerate discovery of better therapies for the disease. Additionally, physicians could soon be able to screen their early-stage prostate cancer patients for those whose tumors lack both PTEN and PML tumor suppressing genes, putting them at increased risk for progressing to metastatic disease. These patients may be helped by starving these tumors of fat either with the fat-blocking drug or through diet.

    “The data are tremendously actionable, and they surely will convince you to change your lifestyle,” Pandolfi said.

    This work was supported by a U.S. Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Program Postdoctoral Training Award and the National Institutes of Health (grants R01 CA142784, R35 CA197529, P01 CA120964 and R35 CA197459.)

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    The marketing landscape is evolving rapidly. Hardly breaking news. There are new companies and products constantly popping up that enable more efficient and effective work across all channels. The teams that achieve the most success are the ones that are constantly up-to-date with these new tools.

    Finding new products is also a lot easier today than it was in the past. Today, there are far more thought leaders, newsletters, and blogs sharing the latest trends and ways in which companies are taking advantage of them.

    Moving forward, the landscape is going to continue to morph and expand, which is truly saying something when you consider the number of martech options that were available in 2017 as per Scott Brinker's infamous chart. And if you can't read it here, and who can blame if you can't, you can see the full version here.

    Here are 5 ways that tech is going to change marketing in 2018 that you should be on the lookout for:

    1. It Will Be Easier To Find Customers

    There are inbound leads, like site visitors, and there are also outbound leads, like a group of Sales VPs that get sent an email. Tech is making it easier to find and sell to both of these groups.
    For inbound, technology has enabled marketing teams to find out more about their website visitors. Companies can run reverse IP lookups to match a visitor with the company they work for. Different services are also making it easier to capture emails. Emails are more valuable than ever because enrichment products can tell you everything about a person once given an email. Plus, that data is becoming more accurate as time goes on.

    Outbound leads have also become easier to find. Marketing teams can take advantage of lead generation services that offer unique targeting of
    audiences. The customization that companies will be able to do to gather leads, and the quality of those leads, will also increase in 2018. This is, consequently, enabling companies to spend more time figuring out who their target audience is, instead of actually gathering their information.

    2. There Is Better Customization

    Once you know the visitor's title, location, company and/or industry, anything about their site experience can be changed. This could be the images they are presented, the customers or testimonials they see for social proof, and even the messages sent by a chatbot. This customization, and the functionality for it, is going to improve dramatically in 2018.

    The early movers are also going to get a huge bump in conversion rates. They will be able to target messaging and pictures to fit the psyche of each company and visitor. Instead of needing a catch-all site, companies can segment their audiences. Mark Rabe, SVP of Art Concrete Solutions told me, “We have 2 very different customers. One group are potential franchisees for our concrete repair business. The other group are consumers who might purchase our DIY concrete repair bucket. We have to segment our visitors and show them relevant info or they’re gone fast. We can display the best option given data we have on the visitor. That, inevitably, will increase conversion rates.”

    3. There Will Be A Greater Push For Immediate Sales

    People have many distractions today, and that will only increase in 2018. They are constantly flooded with emails and content, as well as spend a significant amount of time on social media. Therefore, in 2018, marketing is going to move further towards quick sales. E-commerce sites are trying to capture the sale upon a user’s first visit. They are already offering discounts for immediate buys and will likely continue to do so. Email follow-ups about open online orders will also continue to emerge as the norm.

    Implementations of blockchain technologies, like PureGold’s new gold-backed payment gateway, will enhance consumer access to e-commerce using cryptocurrency. Being a brick and mortar company with gold ATMs, gold minting factories and storefronts, PureGold also offers many offline ways to provide instant transactions for consumers. Whether mobile, desktop, or in person, maximum flexibility is offered.

    The recent emergence of chat-bots like Drift and Intercom enable a site visitor to schedule a demo with a sales rep in seconds. Being able to do so prevents the need for back and forth email exchange. It also takes advantage of the currently attentive visitor before they become distracted or overwhelmed with other things.

    4. No Excuse For Poor Web Design

    Engineers have become better and there are new tools enabling novices to design quality-looking sites. In just a few clicks, developers and designers can now easily build content-ready, production sites for their products. Landing pages are critical components of a brand’s image and will largely determine the effectiveness of a company’s funnel. This trend is putting a greater emphasis on people that can design, build front-end sites, or even navigate a CMS like WordPress.

    5. There Will Be A Greater Emphasis On Data (if that's even possible)

    Marketers can look at more metrics than ever. These include open rates, time spent on pages, and how people interact with a page. This data can drive better decisions and keep marketing people from guessing. There has even been an emergence of machine learning in marketing. Machine learning can qualify leads and determine customer projected value.

    Companies like Repux are using data and artificial intelligence to help businesses maximize their potential. On the Repux platform, businesses can sell anonymized data to developers for use with machine learning algorithms. Once optimized as intelligent applications, the applications can be sold back to businesses for better business decision making.

    Larger brands will likely put more resources towards their branding, images and messaging because they can. Smaller brands do not have the budget or time for that. In the past, this meant that they were less effective. Now, though, smaller brands can test a handful of approaches quickly.
    Then, they can use that data to inform their decisions.

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    The development of ultra-intense lasers delivering the same power as the entire U.S. power grid has enabled the study of cosmic phenomena such as supernovae and black holes in earthbound laboratories. Now, a new method developed by computational astrophysicists at the University of Chicago allows scientists to analyze a key characteristic of these events: their powerful and complex magnetic fields.

    In the field of high-energy density physics, or HEDP, scientists study a wide range of astrophysical objects—stars, supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies and galaxy clusters—with laboratory experiments as small as a penny and lasting only a few billionths of a second. By focusing powerful lasers on a carefully designed target, researchers can produce plasmas that reproduce conditions observed by astronomers in our sun and distant galaxies.

    Planning these complex and expensive experiments requires large-scale, high-fidelity computer simulation beforehand. Since 2012, the Flash Center for Computational Science of the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at UChicago has provided the leading open computer code, called FLASH, for these HEDP simulations, enabling researchers to fine-tune experiments and develop analysis methods before execution at sites such as the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory or the OMEGA Laser Facility in Rochester, N.Y.

    "As soon as FLASH became available, there was kind of a stampede to use it to design experiments," said Petros Tzeferacos, research assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics and associate director of the Flash Center.

    During these experiments, laser probe beams can provide researchers with information about the density and temperature of the plasma. But a key measurement, the magnetic field, has remained elusive. To try and tease out magnetic field measurements from extreme plasma conditions, scientists at MIT developed an experimental diagnostic technique that uses charged particles instead, called proton radiography.

    In a new paper for the journal Review of Scientific Instruments, Flash Center scientists Carlo Graziani, Donald Lamb and Tzeferacos, with MIT's Chikang Li, describe a new method for acquiring quantitative, high-resolution information about these magnetic fields. Their discovery, refined using FLASH simulations and real experimental results, opens new doors for understanding cosmic phenomena.
    "We chose to go after experiments motivated by astrophysics where magnetic fields were important," said Lamb, the Robert A. Millikan Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Astronomy & Astrophysics and director of the Flash Center. "The creation of the code plus the need to try to figure out how to understand what magnetic fields are created caused us to build this software, that can for the first time quantitatively reconstruct the shape and strength of the magnetic field."
    Skyrocketing experiments
    In proton radiography, energetic protons are shot through the magnetized plasma towards a detector on the other side. As the protons pass through the magnetic field, they are deflected from their path, forming a complex pattern on the detector. These patterns were difficult to interpret, and previous methods could only make general statements about the field's properties.
    "Magnetic fields play important roles in essentially almost every astrophysical phenomena. If you aren't able to actually look at what's happening, or study them, you're missing a key part of almost every astrophysical object or process that you're interested in," said Tzeferacos.
    By conducting simulated experiments with known magnetic fields, the Flash Center team constructed an algorithm that can reconstruct the field from the proton radiograph pattern. Once calibrated computationally, the method was applied to experimental data collected at laser facilities, revealing new insights about astrophysical events.
    The combination of the FLASH code, the development of the proton radiography diagnostic, and the ability to reconstruct magnetic fields from the experimental data, are revolutionizing laboratory plasma astrophysics and HEDP. "The availability of these tools has caused the number of HEDP experiments that study magnetic fields to skyrocket," said Lamb.
    The new software for magnetic field reconstruction, called PRaLine, will be shared with the community both as part of the next FLASH code release and as a separate component available on GitHub. Lamb and Tzeferacos said they expect it to be used for studying many astrophysics topics, such as the annihilation of magnetic fields in the solar corona; astrophysical jets produced by young stellar objects, the Crab Nebula pulsar, and the supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies; and the amplification of magnetic fields and acceleration of cosmic rays by shocks in supernova remnants.
    "The types of experiments HEDP scientists perform now are very diverse," said Tzeferacos. "FLASH contributed to this diversity, because it enables you to think outside the box, try different simulations of different configurations, and see what plasma conditions you are able to achieve."

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    Ford is developing a robot police car to catch speeding drivers and slap them with fines. 

    The car giant has been issued with a patent for the artificial intelligence tech that will catch motorists breaking road laws.

    The sketches filed with the US Patent & Trademark Office even show the sneaky Robocop hiding behind a tree.
    Cameras and wireless sensors will allow it to track cars and connect over wifi to let them know they've broken the law.
    The regular car would then message back revealing if it was in driverless mode - or with the driving licence photo of the person in control.
    Robocop could then issue a warning or fine remotely.

    The robotic cop car will be fitted with cameras and wifi allowing it to be used as a remote surveillance device - or to call in back up.
    And the patent reveals it can even drive itself to hunt down rogue motorists - or be used with an officer inside.
    The Ford patent said: "While autonomous vehicles can and will be programmed to obey traffic laws, a human driver can override that programming to control and operate the vehicle at any time.
    "When a vehicle is under control of a human driver there is a possibility of violation of traffic laws. Thus, there will still be a need to police traffic.
    "An autonomous police vehicle may enforce traffic laws by identifying violators, pulling over the offending vehicle, capturing an image of the licence plate of the offending vehicle, and determining whether to issue a warning or a ticket.
    “Autonomous police vehicle may be trained or otherwise programmed using machine learning tools – deep neural networks – to find good hiding spots to catch violators of traffic laws.”
    The futuristic tech is still some way off but the very fact Ford has filed a patent means it's on their radar.
    It mimics the sci-fi cop cars seen in Sylvester Stallone's 1993 cult classic Demolition Man - plus the iconic 80s action star Robocop.

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