12 lessons for CEOs – Manage your company better

“someone once said to me that CEO is the loneliest job in the world as
there are days that your board hates you, your employees hate you, your
customers hate you, and your family hates you”
Hate it or not, the job of the CEO is crucial to the success of a company. I wish this article would talk about the personnel motivation aspect of being a CEO, which I consider so important. Still, the author learnt a few useful things as a CEO:

12 Learnings From My First Turn As Startup CEO – socialmedian

AT&T trying to commit suicide

Why does AT&T want to know what you’re downloading? – By Tim Wu – Slate Magazine

Chances are that as you read this article, it is passing over part of AT&T’s network. That matters, because last week AT&T announced that it is seriously considering plans to examine all the traffic it carries for potential violations of U.S. intellectual property laws. The prospect of AT&T, already accused of spying on our telephone calls, now scanning every e-mail and download for outlawed content is way too totalitarian for my tastes. But the bizarre twist is that the proposal is such a bad idea that it would be not just a disservice to the public but probably a disaster for AT&T itself. If I were a shareholder, I’d want to know one thing: Has AT&T, after 122 years in business, simply lost its mind?

Can subliminal messages influence our decisions?

We need more research on this area, but it is clear where the pointers are heading towards:

Subliminal Political Messages: Science Sensei 10: Science Videos – Science News – ScienCentral

In the study, they asked Israeli volunteers to complete a computer-based survey about their opinions on core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But for half of the volunteers, subliminal images of the Israeli flag were flashed throughout the question and answer session. The flashes lasted 16 milliseconds or 0.016 seconds – too fast for the volunteers to consciously notice the image. Participants were also given a test to rate them on an “Identification With Israeli Nationalism” (IWIN) scale, designed to identify their position on the national political spectrum.

The results were clear. The image of the flag, though unnoticed on the conscious level, caused the test group to respond differently from controls who were not exposed to the subliminal image.

Negotiating: how much should we offer to maximise acceptance?

Why people believe weird things about money – Los Angeles Times

Would you rather be A or B?

A is waiting in line at a movie
theater. When he gets to the ticket window, he is told that as he is
the 100,000th customer of the theater, he has just won $100.

is waiting in line at a different theater. The man in front of him wins
$1,000 for being the 1-millionth customer of the theater. Mr. B wins

Amazingly, most people said that they would prefer to be A. In other words, they would rather forgo $50 in order to alleviate the feeling of regret that comes with not winning the thousand bucks. Essentially, they were willing to pay $50 for regret therapy.

(…) How much should you offer? Why not suggest a $90-$10 split? If your
game partner is a rational, self-interested money-maximizer — the very
embodiment of Homo economicus — he isn’t going to turn down a
free 10 bucks, is he? He is. Research shows that proposals that offer
much less than a $70-$30 split are usually rejected.

Chocolate chip cookies aroma and pictures make us more impulsive

Stimulating the appetite can lead to unrelated impulse purchases

Exposure to something that whets the appetite, such as a picture of a mouthwatering dessert, can make a person more impulsive with unrelated purchases, finds a study from the February 2008 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research. For example, the researchers reveal in one experiment that the aroma of chocolate chip cookies can prompt women on a tight budget to splurge on a new item of clothing.

Virtual worlds, attitude changes and persuasion power

Very interesting discoveries in the fields of psychology and persuasion:

digital imaging raises the specter of manipulation. When photos of
undecided voters were partially morphed into those of candidates, the
voters would prefer a candidate with whom they’d been melded, but could
not detect that the photo contained their own face.


STANFORD Magazine: January/February 2008 > Features > Virtual Reality

Courtesy Virtual Human Interaction LabThis form of pretending is so powerful that what happens online doesn’t necessarily stay online, Bailenson argues. Experiments in his lab have shown that what you experience as your digital doppelgänger lingers after you power down the PC—and bleeds into your real-life identity, at least for a while. His Stanford research team has begun exploring how those virtual experiences might be used to tweak who you are, for better or worse.

Bailenson’s lab has found, you can make your avatar seem to gaze at
multiple people; they’ll pay more attention than they would in a
face-to-face conversation, and be twice as likely to agree with you.

Yee describes an experiment in which people who were given taller
avatars behaved more aggressively in a virtual bargaining task than
people with shorter avatars. When the subjects later repeated the task
with a real person, “people who had been in taller avatars continued to
bargain more aggressively face-to-face.”

  • seeing Future Me made Present Me worry about retirement for weeks afterward. Ersner-Hershfield imagines that if bonding with your futurized image
    encourages saving, retirement planners or banks might be able to use a
    less-intrusive application—say, by virtually aging a photo that clients
    upload to a website—to spur Americans’ moribund saving habits.

  • subjects who watch their own avatar run on a treadmill are more active
    the next day than subjects who see a stranger’s avatar run, or who see
    themselves stand still.
  • Ahn: because people tend to take what they see online at face value,
    can their behavior be shaped by deliberately false information? Ahn’s
    developing a test in which subjects’ faces are Photoshopped directly
    into ads, or partially morphed with the faces of other endorsers.

The implications of this kind of work are mind-boggling and a little
creepy: is this online game of let’s pretend ultimately empowering,
because we can be anything we want, or potentially sinister, because we
can be so easily manipulated by unseen hands?

How not to handle a layoff: the Tesla case

Good and timely PR advice:

How NOT to handle a layoff, via Tesla « FoundRead

In an unfortunate lapse of good judgment, Tesla’s spokesperson Darryl Siry told VentureBeat there was no reason to worry and added, rather defensively, it seems:

“We’re letting go of people who are either not the best on the team, or are working on something that is not a priority,” he said in an interview.


ONE: Don’t ever publicly diminish your outgoing staffers. Ever. You might think they’re not “the best” but don’t say so. Say nothing about those you’ve fired. Use the little time/space you have on the record with the press to focus on the positive forward movement that whatever change you’re making will have on your company.

For example: “We’re very enthusiastic about the upcoming release of [our product]. We’re grateful for the hard work of everyone who has helped [the company] come this far, including those leaving the company today. With this streamlined team we are better-organized to deliver [our product] successfully, and on time. Everyone at [the company] is reinvigorated for this challenge.”

The design crisis: how the rush to market affects the quality of products and services we use

Unfortunately,  the same kind of economic pressures commented in this article are resulting in a gradual loss of design and engineering quality in all industries, not only in software development. White line products, cars, houses…most sectors are affeted. And more will be…

Too Much Code: The Design Crisis

Of course, the pressures of a competitive economy still apply. With construction costs eliminated, a company that can quickly complete a design gains a market edge. Pressure on getting design done fast becomes the central push of engineering firms. Inevitably, someone not deeply familiar with the design will see an unvalidated version, see the market advantage of releasing early, and say “This looks good enough.”

Some life-or-death projects will be more diligent, but in many
cases consumers learn to suffer through the incomplete design.
Companies can always send out our magic robots to “patch” the broken
buildings and vehicles they sell. All of this points to an amazing,
counter-intuitive conclusion: our sole premise was a dramatic reduction
in construction costs, and the result is quality got worse.