All posts by Marc Resnick

old digital clock

A Tale of Two Clock Radios

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I recently had to retire my tried and trusty alarm clock radio. I never thought it was anything special. I didn’t keep it around because it had superior functionality, a great experience, great audio quality . . . . it was just the clock I had.

But in making a change to a new clock, I realized how good I had it before. It seems that attention to simple human factors principles was not a priority.

pattern

Industry Level Pattern Recognition

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I find the concept of an industry becoming “dematured” to be intriguing. I came across it in this paper in Strategy + Business. The basic idea is that many industries become disrupted not because of the stereotypical sudden change but an accumulation of gradual, prevalent, multifaceted, dynamic, interacting factors. These are just as hard to predict, even though they occur slowly, because we don’t notice them until our industry has been disrupted. It is a question of pattern recognition and change blindness, similar to what we see with banner blindness and the curse of expertise.

Dematurity is what happens to an established industry when multiple companies adopt a host of small innovations in a relatively short time. Those seemingly trivial moves combine to rejuvenate the old mature industry and make it young again.

teddy bears

Compliance with Social Norms

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Compliance with social norms has both a bright side and a dark side. On the positive, having some basic behaviors that people follow to get along with colleagues and neighbors helps teams perform more fluidly. It keeps society organized and helps us enforce the rule of law. It keeps meetings orderly. It pressures students to pay attention in class.

So how do we know when to promote compliance and when to promote non-compliance? I am not talking about defiance and outright rebellion, just maybe some moderate nonconformity. As individuals, are we well calibrated to know when to conform and when to stray? In our work teams, do we know how to balance the two poles? As a society, are we creating a culture that has a happy mix? The proverbial middle path?

palace guards

Improving Communication Through Reverse Power Poses

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This paper by James Detert and Ethan Burris in Harvard Business Review has an interesting take on something that has been in the news a lot lately (and even a TED talk). The topic is “power posing” and the basic message is that if you adopt a power pose you exert a wide range of influences. It creates an internal frame by making you more confident in yourself. Even if you can’t see yourself in the pose, you know you are doing it.

Studies on power posing show that intentionally adjusting your body posture, facial expressions, and voice can help you express your ideas and concerns and win greater influence. This is true no matter what title or position you hold. Simply comporting yourself as if you’re a rung or two higher makes people act more deferentially toward you. Often, they’re not fully aware that they’re responding this way, yet the effect is in full force in any kind of hierarchy, whether it’s based on formal or informal status.

little girl in bed

Bedtime Math Stories

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So here is the set up. Too many parents have a phobia when they talk about math with their kids. They get visibly anxious and uncomfortable. They describe their interest in and ability with math negatively. “Math is hard.” “I am not good at math.” This leads their kids to think about math the same way. Plus, it reduces the child’s willingness to ask their parents for help with homework. They don’t share their interest in math with their parents over the dinner table. In the long run, it reduces our societal capabilities in math by slowing it down right from the start.

Even children who used the app with their parents as little as once a week saw gains in math achievement by the end of the school year. The app’s effect was especially strong for children whose parents tend to be anxious or uncomfortable with math.

a twitter icon on a phone

Attacks of Positivity

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ISIS uses some incredibly sophisticated methods that are based in solid cognitive science and persuasive design. They are great at framing their narrative in a way that is engaging and convincing. They hit just the right affective buttons. They leverage powerful cognitive heuristics to anchor, confirm, and solidify their legitimacy in the minds of their prospective recruits and to incite action. It is scary just how good they are at it.

“The best thing to speak against recruitment by Isis are the voices of people who were recruited by Isis, understand what the true experience is, have escaped and have come back to tell the truth … Counter-speech to the speech that is perpetuating hate we think by far is the best answer.”

lightbulb

Social Strategies for Creativity

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My Take This article has a few great topics for us. I think the primary message is the first one. One of the best ways to be creative is to be open to all kinds of ideas and experiences (the Openness to Experience trait of the Five Factor model) and to frequently expose yourself to new and novel ones. It is possible to do this by following a diverse group of thought leaders who post intelligent content. Of course, it is also possible for social…

miltary tank

User Experience for a Volatile World

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Every year, it seems that the “experts” say that there is a new normal. Things are different this time. The world has fundamentally changed. But there is one thing that hasn’t changed. The increasing velocity of change. Eric McNulty has a good summary of what I mean in a recent Strategy+Business.

From regular triple-digits swings in the market to the rapid rise of often profit-free unicorns valued at US$1 billion or more, a possible exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, the devolution of the once-hopeful Arab Spring into the chaos of the Syrian civil war, and turmoil from Libya to the Ukraine, this isn’t just a VUCA world anymore; it’s becoming ever more VUCA.

big data

Wisdom Beats Big Data in Health Care

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Today’s topic – wisdom in health care. John Halamka has a great article in Harvard Business Review. It is an opinion piece discussing the danger of the big data craze and how patients with their wearable devices, lifelogging software, and Google searches self-diagnose themselves into an early grave. They can’t translate the heaps of data into wisdom. The algorithms in their health care apps at best get them to the information stage, with some loose guesses on knowledge.

Using the cuff, I took my BP before and after commuting, drinking tea, and attending anxiety-provoking meetings — nearly 100 measurements in a week. The raw data were just numbers, although they helped reveal interesting information — that none of my life activities (commuting, tea drinking, work) influence my blood pressure. The problem, logged as a discrete data point in my electronic health record (EHR), turned out to be my parents.

red dice

Risk Preference and the NAcc

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This study in Brain came from a team from the UK and Spain. They are studying the link between risk preference and the nucleus accumbens (NAcc). Even given the limitations in associating brain activity and human behavior that I acknowledged above, there is reasonable evidence that the NAcc is linked to risk preference. This study is remarkable in that they did a controlled study and the participants were blind to the intervention. This is rare in neuropsych studies where confounds and mediators are hard to control for.

Short-lived phasic electrical stimulation of the region of the nucleus accumbens dynamically altered risk behaviour, transiently shifting the psychometric function towards more risky decisions only for the duration of stimulation. A critical, on-line role of human nucleus accumbens in dynamic risk control is thereby established.