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Archive for the ‘decision theory’ Category

Pressler in his NYT article of May 18th 2010, takes a stab at explaining why Connecticut’s attorney general, Richard Blumenthal and other unnamed people in the lime-light say and perform in corrupt or dishonest ways to get ahead can be accounted for as “rooted in the dishonesty that surrounded the Vietnam-era draft.”

If only life was so simple and had a list of absolute causes and values as he posits.  His argument is flawed; No, not in the straw-man ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ sense.

Just because he lived in the midst of the Vietnam War changes doesn’t give him or his generation any special knowledge [as implied] of that period he calls the “The Technicality Generation”.

“… many in my generation knew they were using a broken (but legal) system to shirk their duty. They cloaked themselves in idealism but deep down had to know they were engaging in a charade. (I, too, was against the Vietnam war and felt that people should protest, but not dodge their draft responsibility.)

The above quote shows that what Pressler valued, others didn’t, be it the system, the War, the ‘duty’ to serve, and so on.  It also points out a more insidious case that (1) fear of consequences is a pervasive driver of behavior and (2) we [Homo sapiens] don’t have the slightest understanding of why we do what we do and don’t do what we don’t do.

The latter point (2) is the point of this response to his article.

Pressler has confused the causes with some effects — in his castigation of others in his article. It is not BECAUSE of the Vietnam War, but having an understanding of what you value was up for assessment in the 60’s.  Rules of life were changing.  More and more people were seeing patterns that didn’t make sense.  More and more people were questioning the basis of past rules in the context of their 28,500 days on earth.  They were questioning the basis of past antecedents linked to how they were supposed to behave as well as the expected consequences for that behavior.

The fact that “someone poorer or less educated, and usually African-American, had to serve” when others didn’t, is one of those consequences in life, not just for Vietnam, but for life in general.  As a Rhodes Scholar Pressler might want to review history, contingencies  management, and factors modulating individual behavior.

Besides finances and education, many of those who served were also culturally separate, had different histories, had different contexts and had different prospects for the immediate futures than those who didn’t.  Yes, there were a large number of African-Americans.  There was also an abundance of other minorities as well, just as it is today in a volunteer armed services world.  This ‘abundance’ has an abundance of causes.  None of those minorities had exactly the same set of values [learned rules in cultural – community] for enlisting, serving or NOT serving and avoiding Vietnam.

This Pressler logic implies that everyone who used the law, their circumstances, etc., and didn’t go to Vietnam had similar values and everyone that did go to Vietnam had a different set of values – like those aligned with Pressler himself which he contends were the correct values.  As if Pressler himself or his generation invented functional dualism, Pressler then castigates others for not doing what he did concerning his definition of “basic responsibilities.”

“Once my generation got in the habit of saying one thing and believing another, it couldn’t stop.”

Please!

If all that happened in the 60’s hadn’t happened as it did, things would be different today than they are.

His contention is that things would be better.  I maintain that he has a long way to go to show any such reason for that conclusion. If anything he has shown that ‘the system’ that he and others fought for, works…  including catching up to Mr. Blumenthal’s and having the consequences of his betrayal of constituents, state, friends and family come into play.  Maybe due to the thorough level of vetting of individuals Pressler’s article should more poignantly have been titled:  “FROM THE VETTING GENERATION: WELCOME!”

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To start, the goal is not to be an ‘elite’ athlete…

Third in a 5 Part Series on http://www.SocialMode.com

(1)   Sports, like businesses or social movements have goals and costs.

(2)   The best way to advance is through the “Do”.

(3)   Focus on long-term benefits as well as short-term gains

Elite athletes must practice a lot. There are no short-cuts.  In the practice process they get to make a lot of errors requiring a lot of adjustments needed for success down the road. If they focused only on success in the short term, they would not push themselves into zones beyond their immediate potential.  And yes, we’ve seen what happens to those potentially elite athletes that focused on the short-cuts… Of course, business people are no different.

So, as a business person, you need to discern whether or not you value becoming an expert at something, or navigating your company to be essential and separated from those just ‘good enough’.  If you want to excel, it will require that you push yourself out of your own comfort zones almost daily.

Like the elite athlete, you have to start somewhere.  Start with a mentor or committee and never stop practicing balancing great risk with great consequences. The bigger the risks, the larger the consequences impact more than your behavior.  If you can, get someone, or many with the skills you want, to coach, mentor and support you.

Coaching can be very helpful to guide your initial moves outside of your comfort zones. Yes, that makes you vulnerable. You may not be comfortable with that tactic but your objective requires you to change.  Learning to focus on stretching your skills to attain short-term gains AND long term benefits will mean learning to live with vulnerability, levels of discomfort and minimal comfort zones.  Why do you think so few people rise to elite levels?

NEXT: It is not ‘automaticity’ per se that leads to high proficiency

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Second in a 5 Part Series…

To start, the goal is not to be an ‘elite’ athlete…

(1)   Sports, like businesses or social movements have goals and costs. [see previous post]

(2) The best way to advance is through the “Do”.
Once we have a strategy, we have to act. Right… pull the trigger on something.  “Do” now that the yak is done.  So often, people think for a long time – a very long time — about nuances marginally related to the goal.  For instance, starting a business?  Considering the logo and mission statement is a time and activity-trap to avoid.  Thinking is not risky. Doing is. Yet the risk of doing provides learning that no thinking will ever provide. If there is something you have been longing to achieve: lose weight; find romance; make more money; do it!  ‘Just do it’ resonated with athletes before it was a trademarked call to action. Athletes too are vulnerable to ‘thinking it through’ rather than doing it.  At some early point you must put away your thinking cap and do something. And don’t even think why you don’t ‘do’ this or that!  Just do the plan.  Stop aiming and pull the trigger.  Once it is pulled, get ready to pull it again.  You can make adjustments toward your goal each time. When you ‘do’, know that each event is a learning event. When you next do something toward your goal you’ll be amazed what you have learned and that you are not acting blindly after all.

NEXT: How to…“Focus on long-term benefits as well as short-term benefits”

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

THE SEMESTER IS OVER AND NOW WHAT?

This is not a political endorsement but a process endorsement.

It starts something like this: Under pressure, few of us are as calm as President Obama appears to be.

How does he keep his cool? Someone might ask, “Does he meditate? Does he practice yoga? Has he tried any of the hip therapies that have promised everything that the media has pushed since his election? How about brain exercises? Those are ‘cool’ right now… What kind of medicinal herbs, salt-free diets or protein shakes is he provided that the rest of us need to know about?”

Along with 92,000 other people packed into the University of Michigan’s football stadium last weekend, President Obama deliver a remarkable speech very calmly to the Michigan’s graduating class of 2010.

Volcanoes are erupting, oil vomiting from the ocean, rivers flooding, car bombs smoldering in Times Square and the birthplace of all nation-states collapsing in Europe while wars of our own making are raging along with division and derision of the American people on what to do and how to do it. The whole world seems to be wrenching by the porcelain. Everyone’s ‘rules’ are being broken in so many ways. Yet, President Obama appears to be calm.

Attacks on him as a person, on the office of the President and on his policies are everywhere, any one of which could anger, embattle or create greater amenity toward those yelling, plotting or disagreeing.  Just writing about it spikes my blood pressure.  Yet, he’s been doing something we were taught is a good rule to have; he is listening.

While some contemplate their own navel, march to their small righteousness, stand firm in mystic convictions or ponder what therapies to experiment with next, he interacts with as many Americans as possible.  As pointed out elsewhere, every night President Obama reads ten letters from American citizens. He says, “This is my modest effort to remind myself of why I ran in the first place” he admits. He also admits that about a third of the writers call him an idiot or worse, which is how he knows he’s getting “a good representative sample” he concedes with his typical delivery smile.

If you turn on the news, read the printed media or listen to the talk while getting a Starbucks, you can sense why friends, family and strangers are on edge. Serious arguments about serious issues are bound to arouse emotions during these unique but fear-filled times. Obviously, we can’t solve our problems if we can’t hear the good ideas delivered in the cacophony of that fear. Our fears challenges the possibility to disagree with people’s positions without demonizing them or questioning their motives or patriotism.

The advice he gave to the newly-minted graduates of ‘Big Blue’: “For four years you’ve been exposed to diverse thinkers and scholars,” he said. “Don’t narrow that broad intellectual exposure just because you’re leaving…   Instead, seek to expand it. If you grew up in a big city, spend time with somebody who grew up in a rural town. If you find yourself hanging around with people of your own race or ethnicity or religion, include people in your circle who have different backgrounds and life experiences. You’ll learn what it’s like to walk in somebody’s shoes.”

My advice to you at the end of this class is as robust and just as meaningful contextually: Listen. Suspend disbelief that anyone could accept ideas that you don’t have. Avoid emotional fits; they’re all exhaust. Then, question what you think you know, what your teachers, authorities, gurus, priests or potentates tell you is the ‘absolute’ or the ‘new’ truth. This process has no known short-cuts, is hard & can be lonely but will keep you going when others bog down from rhetoric.

This is not a political endorsement but a process endorsement.

Contorted, twisted and purloined from a P. Warner Post in The Huffington Post : May 9, 2010

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From Decision Science News:

What of the adage “the best predictor of future performance is past performance”? It seems less true than Sting’s observation “History will teach us nothing“. Let’s continue the investigation.

DSN did a nice analysis on a ton of baseball game out comes to see whether a team who had just won a game was more likely to win the next game.   There have been other studies like this involving basketball players “hot streaks.” Similar results revealed… well, it’s a crap shoot shot to shot, game to game.

Now, over the long haul winning records, shot percentages indicate there is some skill involved.  But at the micro level it just ain’t true!

Now why do we as fans, observers, interested parties believe in hot streaks, win streaks, etc. etc?   is it a side effect of some other useful thing we do in associating events?  or is there really some direct value in assuming immediate past performance indicates a similar future performance?

what can we test to figure that out?

the nba hot streak article has some insights….

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To start, the goal is not to be an ‘elite’ athlete…

(1)   Sports, like businesses or social movements have goals and costs. In sport, the goal is to win. Thus, the most skilled movement (plan) is one that accomplishes the goal at the lowest cost.

We tend to think more of just getting something rather than the cost of getting it. That is, we tend to think less about getting what we want efficiently in terms of material, time and effort.   If that is the case, our ‘response cost’ is probably much more than that it should be to get what we want.  The same Response Cost framing can be used in assessing your work in business.

Signs that you may not be working efficiently are:

  1. you spend little time thinking about what the heck you are doing and just “do”
  2. you make immediacy and avoidance of not looking busy more valuable than expertise
  3. you work extremely hard every day for social or financial benefit not knowing exactly why

If you do any of these things, then you have not been spending enough time thinking about efficiency in your life.

So, that is one of five connections between Business People and Elite Athletes for consideration…

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The iPad, like the iPod, iPhone, and iMac isn’t a revolution in computer science, design interface, consumer packaging nor ui. It’s a revolution of the economics of those things. Now that there’s a device on the market now at 500 bucks and an unlimited data plan for 30 bucks a month it’s almost assured that the iPad type of computing and media platform will be popularized and maybe not even by apple. The hype of the technology will surely drown out the economic story for some time but in the long run the implications of the price of this technology will be the big story.

Sure we have sub 500 dollar computers and media devices. they have never been this functional or this easy. Apple has just shown what is possible so now the other competitors will have to follow suit. It really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme if it’s apple or htc or google or microsoft or Sony who wins the bragging wars each quarter – the cat is out of the bag – cost effective, easy to use, and fun computing for everyone is possible in a mass producible construction.

There are some interesting side effects coming out of this. If a business can’t make huge profits from the hardware or the connection or the applications where will the profit come from? (I’m not saying companies won’t mark good profits I just don’t think it will be sustainable – especially for companies used to big margins.)

Obviously the sales of content matters. Books, movies, games, music and so on. This computing interface makes it far more easy to buy content and get a sense that it was worth buying. If the primary access channel is through a browser I think people aren’t inclined to pay – we all are too used to just freely browsing. On a tablet the browser isn’t the primary content access channel.

The challenge for content providers is that quality of the content has to be great. This new interface requires great interactivity and hifi experiences. Cutting corners will be very obvious to users. There’s also not really some easy search engine to trick into sending users to a sub par experience. That only works when the primary channel is the browser.

If advertising is going to work well on this platform boy does there have to be a content and interaction shift in the industry. Banners and search ads will just kill an experience on this device. Perhaps more old school magazine style ads will work because once your in an app you can’t really do some end around or get distracted. Users might be willing to consume beautiful hifi ads. Perhaps the bigger problem is that sending people to a browser to take action on an ad will be quite weird.

Clicks can’t be the billable action anymore. Clicks aren’t the same on a tablet! (in fact, most Internet ads won’t work on the iPad. Literally. Flash and click based ads won’t function)

Perhaps the apps approach to making money will work. To date the numbers don’t add up. Unless users are willing to pay more for apps than they do on the iPhone only a handful of shops will be able to handle the economics of low margin, mass software. So for the iPad apps seem to be higher priced. More users coming in may change that though.

In a somewhat different vein…. Social computers will be a good source of cold and flu transmission. If we’re really all going to be leaving these lying about and passing them between each other, the germs will spread. Doesn’t bother me, but some people might consider that.

Will users still need to learn a mouse in the future?

Should we create new programming interfaces that are easier to manipulate with a touch screen. Labview products come to mind?

What of bedroom manners? The iPhone and blackberries are at least small…

And, of course, the porn industry. The iPhone wasn’t really viable as a platform. This touch based experience with big screens… Use your imagination and I’m sure you can think up some use cases…

I do think this way of interacting with computers is here to stay. It’s probably a good idea to think through how it changes approaches to making money and how we interact with each other. I’d rather shape our interactions than be pushed around unknowingly….

Happy Monday!

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