Sunday, January 11, 2015

Workplace Diversity is a Business Priority in New Year


Every New Year brings with it unique challenges and opportunities for individuals as well as employers. This post will examine fostering workforce diversity as the #2 business priority in the year ahead. My prior post addressed strengthening cybersecurity as the #1 business priority for 2015. Forthcoming posts in this five-part series will focus on how companies can increase productivity, profits and create model workplaces by expanding work flexibility (#3), maximizing social media (#4) and firing malicious managers (#5).

Most savvy employers understand the business case for diversity, which has been well documented ad nauseam. It should be evident by now that diverse employees bring diverse ideas and viewpoints to the table which can promote positive change and spark business innovation.

A diverse workforce challenges traditional and antiquated thinking with fresh out-of-the-box business concepts. This can subsequently improve productivity, efficiency and effectiveness of overall business operations and boost profits. Moreover, embracing diversity in the workplace can help companies expand their consumer base and improve recruitment, retention and advancement of talented employees.

·         Embracing and fostering workforce diversity on a national and global scale means large employers will not miss out on hiring the best available talent in a global marketplace.


The Messy Minds of Creative People

Scientific American

According to one prominent theory, the creative process involves four stages:  preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. This is all well and good in theory. In reality, the creative process often feels different.


The creative process– from the first drop of paint on the canvas to the art exhibition– involves a mix of emotions, drives, skills, and behaviors. It’d be miraculous if these emotions, traits and behaviors didn’t often conflict with each other during the creative process, creating inner and outer tension. Indeed, creative people are often seen as weird, odd, and eccentric.


Over the years, scientists have attempted to capture the personality of creative people. But it hasn’t been easy putting them under the microscope. As psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who has interviewed creative people across various fields points out, creative people “show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an “individual,” each of them is a “multitude.”


So how can we possibly bring order to the messy minds of creators? A new paper offers some hope. Psychologists Guillaume Furst, Paolo Ghisletta and Todd Lubart present an integrative model of creativity and personality that is deeply grounded in past research on the personality of creative people.


Bringing together lots of different research threads over the years, they identified three “super-factors” of personality that predict creativity: Plasticity, Divergence, and Convergence.


When a challenge appraisal goes viral: The psychology behind the “contagion effect” of the #IceBucketChallenge


During the 2014 summer, a new viral phenomenon has invaded social networking platforms and a tidal wave of videos showing people dumping a bucket of iced water on their heads from different countries and corners around the world sprouted everywhere on the internet. The original rules are quite simple yet not necessarily explicit in many occasions where media outlets post videos related to the Ice bucket challenge. First, Get challenged: either by friends, relatives or even co-workers who ask you to do the challenge; then Accept the challenge: you have 24 hours to accept the challenge by filming yourself in a continuous footage where you start by showing your acceptance and then pouring ice water on your head; then Pass on the message, by naming at least three more people you want to challenge and don’t forget to mention the website, the target of the donation. According to many sources, Pete Frates a former Bostonian College baseball player has originally promoted this challenge to promote donations for ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) patients. But when worldwide famous people get involved such as Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Ethel Kennedy in the story, the challenge has captured bigger attention from media which further fueled its virality in social networking.

The interesting fact about the Ice Bucket Challenge, both from psychological and anthropological perspectives, is its dynamic evolution over a short period of time. First, the lack of real contributions to help financially ALS patients has drawn criticism toward the challenge by accusing the online movement for its slacktivism. Consequently, slight modifications of the original rules have been made to cope with these criticisms. For instance, if you don’t want to dump ice water on your head you may donate $100 to help ALS patients. Or if you accept the challenge, you still need to donate a reasonable amount of money but with no more than $10. Later videos have combined the challenge with genuine donations. An MND report from Australia is a good example revealing that to date over $2,500,000 has been raised for MND research in Australia.


What Books Do for the Human Soul: The Four Psychological Functions of Great Literature


The question of what reading does for the human soul is an eternal one and its answer largely ineffable, but this hasn’t stopped minds big and small from tussling with it — we have Kafka’s exquisite letter to his childhood friend, Maurice Sendak’s visual manifestos for the joy of reading, and even my own answer to a nine-year-old girl’s question about why we have books today.

Now comes a four-point perspective on the rewards of reading by writer and philosopher Alain de Botton and his team at The School of Life — creators of those intelligent how-to guides to modern living, spanning everything from the art of being alone to the psychology of staying sane to cultivating a healthier relationship with sex to finding fulfilling work. In this wonderful animated essay, they extol the value of books in expanding our circle of empathy, validating and ennobling our inner life, and fortifying us against the paralyzing fear of failure.


Tech 2015: Deep Learning And Machine Intelligence Will Eat The World


Despite what Stephen Hawking or Elon Musk say, hostile Artificial Intelligence is not going to destroy the world anytime soon. What is certain to happen, however, is the continued ascent of the practical applications of AI, namely deep learning and machine intelligence. The word is spreading in all corners of the tech industry that the biggest part of big data, the unstructured part, possesses learnable patterns that we now have the computing power and algorithmic leverage to discern—and in short order.

The effects of this technology will change the economics of virtually every industry. And although the market value of machine learning and data science talent is climbing rapidly, the value of most human labor will precipitously fall. This change marks a true disruption, and there are fortunes to be made. There are also tremendous social consequences to consider that require as much creativity and investment as the more immediately lucrative deep learning startups that are popping up all over (but particularly in San Francisco.)

Shivon Zilis, an investor at BloombergBETA in San Francisco, put together the graphic below to show what she calls the Machine Intelligence Landscape. The fund specifically focuses on “companies that change the world of work,” so these sorts of automation are a large area of concern. Zilis explains, “I created this landscape to start to put startups into context. I’m a thesis-oriented investor and it’s much easier to identify crowded areas and see white space once the landscape has some sort of taxonomy.”


Transforming the Conversation on Women in Computer Science


Oracle Academy vice president Alison Derbenwick Miller is one of many people devoted to helping increase interest in computer science among young students, particularly girls and minorities. One of the ways to do this is through organizations supported by Oracle Academy, including Black Girls Code and Girls Who Code, but Miller says there are a number of other steps that need to be taken to reverse the gender imbalance in computer science. She says the effort should start with making computer science a core element of K-12 curriculum. From there it will be important to make computer science more relatable to students, in part by highlighting the connections between computer science and students' lives, something increasingly easy to do in the era of ubiquitous cellphones and smart devices. Miller also says it is important to provide students with real-life examples of women succeeding in computer science, especially women within their own communities. She thinks computer science extra-curricular activities also are an important way to drive sustained interest in computer science among girls, particularly in helping them see how computer science skills can be applied beyond the classroom.


AT&T Builds an Assistant App With Social Skills

Technology Review

AT&T researchers have developed a smart, digital address book that serves up contacts based on the user's communication patterns on a daily basis. The virtual assistant, called Contax, is designed to analyze users' call logs and text-messaging patterns to determine their most important relationships. Contax actively curates the top contacts, creating a "social circle" that will be just one tap away whenever the user pulls out their phone to call or text someone. AT&T must avoid the mistake of enabling Contax to make an excessive amount of suggestions at different times of day, says the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab's Chris Schmandt. The current version would be accessible through the Web browser of a mobile device, but the developers say Contax could be turned into a downloadable app. Contax also could be modified to draw on email or social media in the future. The researchers are pitching Contax to other divisions to gauge interest in rolling it out as a product.


Bruce Lee on Self-Actualization


Recently on reddit, Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon, did an ask me anything.

One of the questions caught my attention:

… of all your father’s philosophies, which do you feel we can all learn from? I am a huge fan of your father’s cinema, martial art form and of course his writings.

Shannon Lee’s response was pretty amazing.

I feel we can learn from his philosophy on self-actualization. I believe we are all still talking about him because he was so good at cultivating and expressing his true essence. If we all did that, we would all be cultivating our uniqueness and we would all put something original and truly authentic into the world because it would emanate from deep within ourselves which [is] a place that no one else can inhabit but ourselves!

So I went digging to read some of Lee’s thoughts on this.

In Bruce Lee: Artist of Life, he writes:

… if you are cursed with perfectionism, then you’re absolutely sunk. This ideal is a yardstick which always gives you the opportunity to browbeat yourself, to berate yourself and others. Since this ideal is an impossibility, you can never live up to it. You are merely in love with this ideal, and there is no end to the self-torture, to the self-nagging, self-castrating. It hides under the mask of “self-improvement.” It never works.

Many people dedicate their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like, rather than actualizing themselves. This difference between self-actualizing and self-image actualizing is very important. Most people only live for their image.

Where some people have a self, most people have a void, because they are so busy projecting themselves as this or that. This again is the curse of the ideal. The curse is that you should not be what you are. Every external control, even internalized external control—”you should”—interferes with the healthy working of the organism. There is only one thing that should control the situation. If you understand the situation that you are in, and let the situation that you are in control your actions, then you learn how to cope with life.


Rational and Irrational Thought: The Thinking that IQ Tests Miss

Scientific American

No doubt you know several folks with perfectly respectable IQs who repeatedly make poor decisions. The behavior of such people tells us that we are missing something important by treating intelligence as if it encompassed all cognitive abilities. I coined the term “dysrationalia” (analogous to “dyslexia”), meaning the inability to think and behave rationally despite having adequate intelligence, to draw attention to a large domain of cognitive life that intelligence tests fail to assess. Although most people recognize that IQ tests do not measure every important mental faculty, we behave as if they do. We have an implicit assumption that intelligence and rationality go together—or else why would we be so surprised when smart people do foolish things?