Periodic Table of Social Media. An interesting concept!
The discovery of a soccer-ball-like nebula in the far reaches of the universe has positioned soccer as not just the world game, but the universal game…
The nebula has been named Kronberger 61 after its discoverer, amateur astronomer Matthias Kronberger. It was formed when a dying star released a gaseous shell. I find its similiarity to the familiar soccer ball interesting, given my recent post on Apophenia, Searching for Meaning.
For more information on the theory behind the formation of this phenomena, click here.
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Tags: Apophenia, Kronberger 61, Matthias Kronberger, National Geographic, soccer, world game
Categories : Bizarre and Amazing Research, Chewing Gum for the Mind, Psychology and Society, Uncategorized
Babies love faces. As soon as they can turn their heads they will turn towards a face. Breastfeeding focuses them on the face of the mother – eyesight focus in small babies is less than 30cm, just about the right distance to focus on mum’s face while feeding. By the age of two months, babies are skilled at recognising faces and are attracted to anything that even vaguely resembles a face. It is a survival skill and helps them begin to learn to communicate and to interpret emotion and expression. A basic representation of two dots and a line in a circle is recognisable to children and adults as a face – perhaps a smiley face.
As normally functioning adults, we seek meaning in the world around us. When seemingly random and inexplicable things occur, we try to rationalise, try to seek an understanding. We use religion, horoscopes, philosophies, karma – all manner of ways to try to understand and control the random and unsettling things that occur in our lives and the lives of others. How many times have you heard “It happened for a reason”?
And while we rationalise the events, our brains also seek to find meaning in the random visuals we are presented with. We see elephants in clouds, a face in the dust of Mars, Jesus in a toasted cheese sandwich and the Virgin Mary in mould growing on a wall. The very fact it is often a religious icon or being could either indicate we are seeking a supernatural meaning – or perhaps the atheists are wrong. Quite why omnipowerful supernatural beings would decide to manifest themselves so often in foodstuffs and other ephemera is not explained.
The Skeptics Society’s Michael Shermer calls this “patternicity” – the ability to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise. Statistically it would be a Type One error- a false positive.
The technical names for this perception of meaning in random data are Apophenia, or Pareidolia. And this need to seek meaning in a random universe can be used to explain miracles, paranormal phenomena and horoscopes.
This all came to my attention when we decided to research some ghost stories on a particular historical area for a tourist brochure. While I find the ghost stories really interesting and am willing to suspend disbelief for the sake of entertainment, others in my team are highly skeptical. My basic rule is, if you have to go too far to explain something away, then that is no more valid than going too far to explain it in the first place. The explanation for the ghosts being seen in fog, dust and half-light did seem to fit this theory – some of the other phenomena would perhaps bear further investigation.
So depending on your viewpoint, we are alone in a universe that we cannot control, where inexplicable and sometimes unfair things happen with random timing, but sometimes serious impact on our lives and the lives of other we care about. This lack of control can be scary, challenging. Is it any wonder we seek to understand, seek to find meaning around us?
Is there any harm in believing something unsubstantiable if it gives us comfort that there is meaning, and harms no-one else?
Live and let live.
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Tags: Apophenia, atheism, atheist, breastfeeding, ghost, horoscopes, karma, Michael Shermer, paranormal, Pareidolia, patternicity, philosophy, religion, search for meaning, The Skeptics Society
Categories : Bizarre and Amazing Research, Psychology and Society, Uncategorized
Recently there has been a lot of traffic regarding the Gen Y employee. They move around a lot, they don’t have the same loyalty that Gen X and particularly Baby Boomers have. How do you motivate them? How do you keep them? How do you manage them? How do you deal with their concept of work-life balance?
In every challenge, there is opportunity. This posting is in praise of the Gen Y employee. Providing you get the right one. (See Harvard Business Review Blog: 3 tips For Hiring New Graduates for hints in this area.)
1. They are IT literate. Not only can they ALL type, they are also a generation brought up understanding the logic behind software programs. Hence they are not only familiar with the range of Microsoft programs, they also pick up other IT programs quickly.
2. They can be outspoken if something is wrong. Unlike those of us who have been in the office for a long time, Gen Y-ers are often not acculturated to the office, and they are confident that their opinions are of value. So if you have a process that makes no sense to them, you will hear about it. And maybe you needed to hear it.
3. Their work-life balance can mean a positive and happy person in the workplace. Which is great for team morale, providing they are also doing their work.
4. They have a low boredom threshold. Must be growing up in the technological age with computer games providing constant stimulation. The low boredom threshold can work in you favour providing it is channelled correctly. This requires both the right attitude from the Gen Y-er, and from the supervisor. If they are coming to you telling you they have finished their work and they are bored – find something new for them to do that will stretch them – a developmental or quality improvement program that no-one else has time to do. They are often keen to try something new, and this may be a great way to keep them interested, encourage them to stay and see what ascertain their potential.
5. They move around a lot. While some see this as a negative, it can also be a positive, providing they are not moving every couple of months. Picking up ideas and processes from other workplaces and other industries is a great way of gaining different perspectives which can be applied to your workplace.
6. They are often less interested in financial compensation compared to other forms of reward which facilitate their lifestyle. Which is possibly a lesson that we should all learn. And in these days of tightening budgets, learning about other ways to reward employees may be of benefit to the organisation at large.
Gen Y is a label for a stereotype and therefore does not apply to every Gen Y-er – any more than the terms Gen X and Baby Boomer apply to every Gen X and Baby Boomer. However Gen Y is the future so we, the other generations, need to know how to work with them for the betterment of us all.
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Tags: Baby Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y, Generation X, Generation Y, work-life balance
Categories : In the office, Psychology and Society
That is the question.
Often a new executive or manager coming into an organisation will restructure. This has the effect of looking like a “go-getter” action sort of person who is getting things done, addressing the issues and making changes.
International literature indicates that a restructure hold an organisation back by 12 months. A merger or demerger has an 18 month impact. For that period of time staff are busily working out their roles in relation to others, reporting structures, remaking committee structures and reporting lines, budget lines and delegations, policies and procedures, remaking relationships with other units – a significant productive-work-time cost. While time is spent reforming the organisation, other innovations get put on hold. Meanwhile your competitors may be working on their product and service innovations.
On top of that there may be direct financial costs: new staff and executives, new letterhead, business cards, websites, signage. The effect on staff of restructures and particularly frequent restructures is cynicism and change-fatigue (leading to change-resistance), particularly if a “spill and fill” methodology is employed. Such a method can also cost significantly in payouts for those who are retrenched as part of the restructure.
So why would you restructure? It is not always a bad idea – sometimes restructures can make a quantum leap for the organisation.
1. When the current structure doesn’t actually work. This may be because the industry has changed, but it may also be that the current structure has grown over time rather than having been designed to fit organisational outcomes.
2. To align with the CEO’s mental map. For the CEO to have a good grip on the organisation and an understanding about work flows and process flows, it does need to align with their mental understanding of how organisations work. This is probably the least easy reason for staff to understand.
3. To cut costs through significant savings. As noted above, there are very significant costs inherent in a restructure, so the savings predicted by the new structure need to be significant. As opposed to the immediate costs of a restructure, the benefits can flow long-term – providing you aren’t going to restructure next year and the year after….ad infinitum. Cost savings might be realised through eliminating a unit or function, or through merging two or more units. However these need to make sense from an organisational point of view – eliminating the R&D section because they are costly and not directly linked to an income stream is not going to help the organisation long-term.
4. If the industry or the goals have moved. If the organisation is undergoing significant change in purpose, a restructure might be necessary to change the direction. When Nokia changed from manufacturing rubber boots, cables and consumer electrical products into focussing on electronics, it would have been necessary to restructure to meet the needs of the new industry.
Have you been through a restructure, merger or split recently? Has the dust has settled, has it worked? Did it achieve what it was meant to achieve? Was the process well managed?
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Tags: change fatigue, demerger, merger, Nokia, organisation culture, organisational culture, redundancies, restructure
Categories : In the office
In about 1974 or 1975 an exhibition of artefacts from Pompeii toured Australia. I visited it at the SA Museum in Adelaide. I was probably about 9 years old. I still have a postcard of one of the statues, carefully stuck into the back of my childhood photo album.
I had been fascinated to hear that when they were excavating Pompeii they kept coming across holes in the ash with bones in them. They tried filling the holes with plaster before they exposed them – and discovered that they were producing plaster casts of the people and animals who had died when Vesuvius erupted.
My lasting memory of the exhibition was of the plaster cast of a dog – arched around on its back with its legs in the air.
Fast forward to 2011.I am in the main square of Pompeii. Vesuvius looms large in the background, ever the reminder of why this town is the way it is. Pompeii is massive. They estimate between 12000 and 22000 people lived here. It is also remarkable not just for the preservation, but for the things we can find out about Roman life. They had plumbing throughout the town – lead pipes. There were water fountains and wells. The houses each collected water for the central use. Storm-drains funnelled rain away from the footpaths.
Stepping stones enabled people to cross the road without stepping in manure from the chariots. Deep ruts have been ground into the stones paving the roads – evidence of the iron-rimmed chariot wheels. This is one of the most amazing things I saw – evidence of actual human activity worn into stone.
The houses were large with spacious rooms. Bars, bakeries and shops lined the paved streets. The most popular visit for tourists these days is the brothel – complete with paintings on the wall – our trilingual guide explains in Italian, English and French, that it is “like the menu in MacDonalds – you point at what you want”. Peppe is not only fluent in three languages, he is witty in them as well.
The baths were made of marble, as were the counter-tops in the bars. Houses had tiled mosaic entrances and brightly coloured murals on the walls. Pictures of Vesuvius show a forested pointed mountain, very unlike the denuded flattened top that exists today, post-explosion.
The plaster casts are eerie. Some of them, you can see the bones through the plaster. They apparently died from gas prior to the town being covered by ash. It wasn’t a pleasant death – the bodies are contorted. Some hold their hands over their faces. Families lie together – parents cocoon children.
In the afternoon we climbed Vesuvius, a very steep climb. The crater at the top is large and still smoking. The volcano overlooks Naples. They say another explosion is overdue, but that when it happens they will know in advance.
This was my childhood dream, to go to Pompeii. Next time I want to see Herculaneum, the other town lost to the same 79AD explosion.
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Tags: Herculaneum, holiday, holiday photographs, Naples, Pompeii, Vesuvius
Categories : At home, at large, Chewing Gum for the Mind
So here are some of the best things about the 1980s.
• Big hair. All it took was hair spray / gel (it wasn’t called product then), a hair dryer and a bit of time. Anyone could do it.
• Shoulder pads. Yes, OK, we overdid it. But clothes that looked good on the coat-hanger also looked good on a person because of the shoulder pads.
• Power dressing. The thing about power dressing for women wasn’t the clothes, it was the public declaration that women could be highly successful in their careers and have – yes, wait for it – power. The fashion industry declared that women could have power and we believed them.
• Australian music – Models, Crowded House, Midnight Oils, Men at Work, Hoodoo Gurus, Divinyls, Hunters and Collectors, Mondo Rock, Icehouse, Nick Cave, Paul Kelly. I could go on, but then it would just be a list of 1980s music.
• But the best of them all, INXS – and Michael. Gorgeous, sexy, wild Michael.
• Stadium Rock. It was big. Big sound, outrageous costumes, wild hair and make-up, and massive lyrics. Yes it was commercial.
• Yacht rock. What would the easy listening stations play if yacht rock hadn’t been invented?
• But there were some good indi bands – B52s, UB40, Boomtown Rats, The Cure, The The, Joy Division.
• Pop rock – Madonna, Human League, Cyndi Lauper, Sade, Wham, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Adam Ant, Billy Idol. And lots of others with the sugary texture of bubblegum.
• And of course, MTV. Music clips had evolved from just showing the band playing the song, to mini-movies with budgets to match.
• Aerobics gear. Yes, we got into gyms in a big way, but the best part was being able to get around in dance gear. Lycra does wonderful things for the figure! You couldn’t quite do the tutu unless you were Madonna.
• Mad Max. OK, so Mel Gibson might have fallen from grace, but in the 1980s he was young, gorgeous, and we claimed him as Australian.
• Entrepreneurs – we celebrated entrepreneurs. Big money, big egos, big yachts, young sexy wives with plastic surgery. They seemed to have it all. And it seemed achievable for us as well. The big court cases came later.
• For most of the 1980s we were in a major bull market. The stock market just rose and rose. Unfortunately I was too young for most of the 1980s and missed out, but that feeling of optimism that lasted until the 1987 crash – that’s still there somewhere!
• Video-games. This is where they began. Before this, they were pin-ball machines. Remember the iconic Pac-man and Space Invaders?
• Great British comedies that didn’t rely on unfunny sexual innuendo. Blackadder. The Young Ones. And the comedians they brought to our attention: Rik Mayall, Rowan Atkinson, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Hugh Laurie (better known now as Dr House)
• Acid colours. I vaguely recall owning a fluorescent orange suit. I must have looked like a traffic cone.
• St Elmo’s Fire. An amazing coming of age movie that launched the careers of Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Andrew McCarthy, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy and Andy MacDowell.
• Top Gun when we liked Tom Cruise (the volleyball scene with Val Kilmer). Flashdance (see dance gear above).
• I was really never into Dynasty and Dallas and their various spin-offs, but these were really big. They showed us how the super-rich live (apparently it involved a lot of cat-fighting and scheming) and how they spent their money (sequined dresses and private jets). Whole generations of Krystal and Alexis’ were named after characters in this show.
• Computers. OK, so computers were not invented in the 1980s. But the concept of the desk-top computer and a computer in every home and office was. And Microsoft Windows, for better or worse, made it all quite usable for the average Joe or Josephine. Prices came down and it was all quite affordable.
• Cheap plastic jewellery and sunglasses. Yeah they were cheap and they looked it. They were meant to be fun and they did mean everyone could get the look. Very democratic. And disposable.
• Bling. It wasn’t called bling then. But big flashy jewellery preferably teamed with a sequined dress that swept the ground behind you, but plunged to expose as much cleavage as possible. Yeah, that was style!
• Ken Done, Jenny Kee. Probably less said the better, but they did put Australian fashion and the Australian way of life on the world stage. And their designs are instantly recognisable even today.
• We took the Me generation to a new level – Greed is Good! The idea that if you work hard enough you can achieve anything (the flip side being if you haven’t got what you want or need, then its your fault. Not so nice.) On the other hand, we had Band Aid.
• Trivial Pursuit. Probably the best new board game since Monopoly or Scrabble.
• The end of the Cold War. The Berlin Wall came down. It seemed like such a good start for the 1990s.
So what have I forgotten? What else did you like about the 1980s? Leave a message in the comment section and I’ll add them in.
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Tags: 1980s, 1980s fashion, 1980s movies, 1980s music, 1980s television series, B52s, Blackadder, Boomtown Rats, Crowded House, Dallas, Demi Moore, Divinyls, Dynasty, Hoodoo Gurus, Hunters and Collectors, Icehouse, INXS, Jennifer Saunders, Joy Division, Mad Max, Mel Gibson, Men at Work, MIchael Hutchence, Midnight Oils, Models, Mondo Rock, MTV, Nick Cave, Pacman, Paul Kelly, Rik Mayall, Rob Lowe, Rowan Atkinson, Space Invaders, The Cure, The The, UB40
Categories : Chewing Gum for the Mind, Psychology and Society
Remember the Commodore 64?
Yes OK, maybe you weren’t born then. So let me tell you about the beginning of the home computer…it was a different world. Previously computers had lived in warehouses in massive stacks with tape reels on the front, whirring and whizzing, doing important stuff. An entire warehouse of computer probably had less capacity than my i-phone now has. But at the time, the idea of a computer in every house and office was still somewhat unreal.
So the Commodore 64 was relatively affordable, and small enough to fit on your desk. Computations took ages but we still thought they were amazing.
Even the early days of Windows, getting the computer to do something took…well, MINUTES! And we waited and thought how much faster it was than doing it ourselves. And when it flashed up on the screen, we were thrilled.
Now if the download takes more than two minutes, I walk away and get a coffee (yes, that is quite some caffeine addiction I have going). If I press a button I expect it to happen instantaneously. I am frustrated at how long it takes to load photos into Facebook. I can’t plan ahead long enough to download a tv program from the internet to watch it (hence I watch less TV – not a bad thing) and the “buffering” in u-tube videos means I rarely watch an entire video.
OK, so I am exaggerating for effect. I am not quite that impatient. But not far off it.
So a recent study conducted by parcel delivery company myHermes stating that most of us lose patience after 2 ½ minutes is – unsurprising. Citing a number of different situations, researchers found that people start to get cross after waiting in line for 60 seconds. After five minutes, they walked away. Clearly this study was not conducted at Disneyland, or any of the French tourist attractions I visited recently.
Other instances of impatience included slow traffic and traffic jams, slow internet connections (see above), queuing for the public toilet and friends who were always late.
The pace of life has increased considerably. If you will indulge my reminiscences again briefly – when I started work desk-top computers and pre-email, I would receive a handful of letters every day. I would draft responses by hand, send them off to the typing pool to be typed up and then send them out maybe a few days later. This amounted to maybe ten decision points per day.
Now I might receive 80 to 100 emails a day. Some of them are just chat – people saying “thanks” for something I have sent, documents being sent to me, meeting invitations and the like. But there are probably between 40 and 50 emails a day that require serious thought and a response. 40 to 50 decision points and responses within a day or two, all within the same 7 ½ hour day (yes OK I am kidding myself, it is a 9 hour day at best). And 40 or 50 yesterday and another 40 or 50 tomorrow.
No wonder we are so impatient.
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Tags: Commodore 64, impatience, Microsoft, myHermes, patience, Windows
Categories : In the office, Psychology and Society