Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Poor management can Diminish Trust among your Colleagues

Managers who compare co-workers to one another, through raises, promotions and/or differential treatment, diminish trust among colleagues in the workplace, according to a paper written by professors at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business, and University of Washington Foster School of Business.

The researchers looked at two kinds of trust: cognitive (faith in one’s abilities) and affective (faith in one’s relationship with a person).

Although cognitive is easier to mend than affective trust, employers can benefit by boosting employees’ perception of their value without pointing out how they have outpaced anyone else and by offering team rewards.

The paper was published by Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Data Security not a Priority - The Information Risk Maturity Index

Data breaches will continue to expose European businesses to unnecessary risk and damage business reputations unless action is taken now to improve the management and protection of sensitive business information, says a new report by Iron Mountain and PwC.

The study highlights an urgent need for a change in employee behaviour and a cultural shift among senior executives if organizations are to overcome the complacency, negligence and lack of shared responsibility uncovered by the study.

PwC surveyed senior managers at 600 leading European businesses to compile the Information Risk Maturity Index.

The scores, assessed for France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK, suggest that many businesses are woefully unprepared to address and manage information risks such as data breaches, data loss and non-compliance.

The average score for European companies was 40.6 against an ideal score of 100.

The report, launched at Iron Mountain’s first European Information Risk Summit, reveals that:
  • Only around half of mid-sized businesses consider the loss of sensitive information as one of their top three business risks.
  • Less than a quarter (24 percent) of the companies surveyed were aware as to whether or not they had experienced a data breach in the last three years.
  • A mere 1 percent of respondents consider information risk to be the responsibility of every employee, while nearly two thirds (60 percent) concede that they do not know whether their employees have the right tools to protect information.
  • Only 13 percent consider information risk to be a boardroom issue, while around a third (35 percent) view all information risk – whether related to paper or digital information – as the responsibility of the IT department. This tendency to view information risk as an IT issue was found to be widespread, with 59 percent responding to a data breach by installing additional technology.
  • Just a third (36 percent) of companies have assigned responsibility for information risk to a specific individual or team whose effectiveness is monitored.
Marc Duale, President of International at Iron Mountain, said the report was a wake-up call for European businesses: “It is time for businesses to move from a culture of information apathy and neglect to a culture of information responsibility. Fail to act and you expose your customers to serious information risk while potentially leaving your company open to the risk of irreparable reputational damage.”

Read the report (PDF)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

PwC report identifies a ‘fundamental shift in risk management’

Economic turmoil, political upheavals and natural disasters, all combined with advancing globalization and rapid technology progress, are creating a new era of risk for businesses and causing a fundamental shift in risk management practices, according to a new PwC US 2012 annual report.

Entitled ‘Risk in Review’ the report is based on a survey of more than 1,000 executives and risk management leaders.

"2011 marked a year of reckoning, and many companies are still struggling to create an effective approach to managing the ever-widening risk landscape. Businesses are scrambling to fix weak links in their systems stemming from non-traditional risks such as social media and digital technology, to dealing with the realities of operating in today's global marketplace," said Dean Simone, leader of PwC's US Risk Assurance practice.

"In this new risk era, corporate boards and senior management have a crucial role to play to ensure they set the right culture and align their strategy to risk imperatives."

According to the report, forward-looking companies are responding by shifting their risk management focus in several fundamental ways: from internal to external, from operational to strategic and from bottom-up to top-down.

To better prepare themselves to deal with unexpected events for the upcoming year and beyond, companies installed new risk management organizational structures, have put in place a new breed of risk management leadership and have adopted innovative techniques such as scenario analysis and predictive indicators.

To address changing risk landscape, PwC recommends the following risk management approaches for 2012:

Increasing cross-communication: Place greater emphasis on communications and data sharing in 2012 and take steps to improve cross-functional and departmental communication.

Improving data quality and reporting: Enhance global economic teams to help improve data quality and put in place improved processes for reporting data. Different business units should meet periodically with different business units to review and exchange information and data as a form of early alert to possible upcoming risks to the business.

Better forecasting and scenario analysis: Leverage more sophisticated tools such as early-warning systems and contingency plans to reconfigure approaches to manage risk (i.e. set up scenario models or Monte Carlo analysis geared to the nuances of the business, run models as events unfold, etc.)

Elevating the chief risk officer (CRO): Put risk management role on the proactive offensive instead of reactive defense by giving CROs more cross-functional access and ability to effect decision-making.

Integrating risk management: Manage risk holistically by continuing to integrate risk management into decision-making processes relating to ‘traditional’ functions (i.e. strategic planning). Don't exclude new areas of risk (i.e. talent management and outsourcing), but address and integrate them into decision-making processes.

Bolstering IT: Address data privacy and security concerns and take stock of where to build better processes, practices, procedures and technical defenses. Shifting technology and heightened competition for new customers in new markets are also exposed to more risks, so it's imperative to study the setbacks and successes of peers who pioneered the use of these new technologies.

Greater board involvement: Understand the risks facing a company and have in-depth discussions with management to make sure those risks are being handled properly. The discussion should also cover potential risks that are not yet on management's radar and what the implications of those emerging risks might be.

To download a full copy of the report visit:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Malcolm Gladwell:The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Malcolm Gladwell does have a penchant for synthesizing diverse research, connecting the dots, and distilling the gist for the laymen of the land.

In Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, he does just that, translating research on snap judgements into captivating storytelling about our “adaptive unconscious” — the always-on mental system the processes danger and reacts to new information.

From assessing a stranger’s trustworthiness to choosing a mate during speed-dating to orchestrating military maneuvers, the book explores the deeper science of what’s commonly known as “first impressions,” kindling a new level of awareness of our own behavior and that of others.

Barry Schwartz: The Paradox of Choice

Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz's estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.

In The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, he debunks one of the great myths of modern civilization: That abundance makes us happier and greater choice equals greater good.

Through solid behavioural economics, cognitive psychology and neuroscience, Schwartz makes a compelling case that abundance exhausts the human psyche, sprouts unreasonable expectations and ultimately makes us feel unfulfilled.

Alongside the research, he offers simple yet effective strategies for curbing the disappointment consumerism has set us up for and living lives that feel more complete.

How We Decide: Jonah Lehrer

In his latest book, How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer explores how the unexpected discoveries of neuroscience can help us make better everyday decisions.

Amazon has a nice Q&A with Lehrer on the book page, in which he addresses everything from neuroscience to how he handles the cereal aisle.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Noam Chomsky: The Purpose of an Education - Video

Noam Chomsky discusses the purpose of education, impact of technology, whether education should be perceived as a cost or an investment and the value of standardised assessment.

Presented at the Learning Without Frontiers Conference - Jan 25th 2012- London (LWF 12)

Friday, March 16, 2012

George Clooney: The New Ethics of Satellite Surveillance

George Clooney believes that he has found evidence of the Sudanese government murdering its own citizens.

Using images from space satellites, the Hollywood actor, with help from the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), documented crimes against humanity taking place in sub-Saharan Africa.

"It is absolutely without question a war crime that we saw firsthand," the actor told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee while presenting his findings on Wednesday.

While Clooney's efforts are patently good, are they ethical?

No project like this has ever been done before, and so Clooney and his partners are making the rules as they go, albeit rules within the strictures of international law.

SSP is a collaboration between the non-profit Enough Project, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and DigitalGlobe Inc. (NYSE: DG), a publicly-traded space imagery company. The whole enterprise is funded by Clooney and his Not on Our Watch organization.

"This is a collaboration that in itself is revolutionary. No one could do it alone," said Nathaniel Raymond, the Director of Operations for the SSP.

Using field reporting from the Enough Project and DigitalGlobe's satellite images, which are directed and interpreted by Harvard, SSP monitors what it sees as an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Sudan that started with the Second Civil War in 1983, bred the genocide in Darfur and essentially continued uninterrupted as it developed into the ethnic conflict surrounding South Sudan's independence.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

New translations of business continuity Good Practice Guidelines published

The Good Practice Guidelines were written by the Business Continuity Institute (BCI) to provide business continuity managers, consultants, auditors and regulators with ‘a working knowledge of the rationale for BCM and its basic principles’.

The latest version, GPG 2010, has been available as English, Portuguese and Italian versions; and now the BCI has added Spanish, Japanese and German translations to the collection. Translations into French, Chinese, Greek and Korean are also underway.

BCI members can obtain PDF copies of the Good Practice Guidelines free of charge and they are available to non-members for £19.95 /€22.95 or $29.95.

More details.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Creativity: Copy, Transform and Combine

"The most dramatic results can happen when ideas are combined. By connecting ideas together, creative leaps can be made, producing some of history’s biggest breakthroughs." ~ Kirby Ferguson

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Amateur Innovators Construct Hand-Held Thermal Detection Device

Sick of living in a poorly-heated apartment? You can now expose draughty trouble spots by building your own thermal flashlight and painting colourful heat maps on your walls.

The do-it-yourself technology developed by the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, a non-profit group based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, lets homeowners and tenants document the temperature around their home to reveal inadequate insulation.

Last month, during a hacking session at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island, students with little electronics experience gathered to make their own flashlights from a multicoloured LED, a thermal sensor, a circuit board and wire.

A programmed mini-processor was used to control how the unit responds to heat. One student exploited the hackable nature of the tool to develop a wand design as an alternative to the standard exterior made from a VHS tape case.

By the end of the afternoon the flashlights were ready for testing. The students waved frozen water bottles in front of the device while capturing a time-lapse of the light painting with the online webcam program Glowdoodle.

To find out more about the device and potential applications for environmental monitoring, read our full news story: "Thermal flashlight 'paints' cold rooms with colour".

Problem Solving: Generic Parts Technique (GPT)

Stuck solving a problem? Seek the obscure, says Tony McCaffrey, a psychology PhD from the University of Massachusetts.

“There’s a classic obstacle to innovation called ‘functional fixedness,’ which is the tendency to fixate on the common use of an object or its parts. It hinders people from solving problems.”

McCaffrey has developed a systematic way of overcoming that obstacle: the “generic parts technique” (GPT), which he describes in the latest issue of Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science.

The article also reports on McCaffrey’s test of GPT’s effectiveness. Its results: People trained in GPT solved eight problems 67 percent more often than those who weren’t trained, and the first group solved them more than 8 times out of 10.

Here’s how GPT works: “For each object in your problem, you break it into parts and ask two questions,” explains McCaffrey, who is now a post-doctoral fellow in UMass’s engineering department.

”1. Can it be broken down further? and 2. (this is the one that’s been overlooked) Does my description of the part imply a use?

So you’re given two steel rings and told to make a figure-8 out of them. Your tools? A candle and a match.

Melted wax is sticky, but the wax isn’t strong enough to hold the rings together. What about the other part of the candle?

The wick. The word implies a use: Wicks are set afire to give light. “That tends to hinder people’s ability to think of alternative uses for this part,” says McCaffrey.

Think of the wick more generically as a piece of string and the string as strands of cotton and you’re liberated.

Now you can remove the wick and tie the two rings together. Or, if you like, shred the string and make a wig for your hamster.

McCaffrey has drawn his insights by analyzing 1,001 historically innovative inventions. In every one, he found, the innovator discovered an obscure feature or an obscure function.

McCaffrey cites a recent invention to solve a modern problem. “In this very poor section of the Philippines, people living in shanties were using electric lights inside while it was sunny outside,” he says.

How to save money on electricity? “Take a 2-litre Coke bottle, stick it through a hole in the roof, fill it with water.

The water reflects the light around the inside the house.” A simple idea, using an overlooked feature of water: “It refracts light 360 degrees.”

GPT is one of a “palette” of techniques McCaffrey is developing into what he calls “innovation assistance software,” which itself can be put to novel uses.

His undergraduate student, a comedy writer, is applying the technique to build obscure situations that can make people laugh.

More information: http://www.psychol … ical_science

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Human Rights Lawyer Bryan Stevenson at TED - Injustice

In an engaging and personal talk, with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks, human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America's justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country's black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives.

These issues, which are wrapped up in America's unexamined history, are rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness.

Bryan Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. Full bio »

Neuroscience and Magic: Teller Reveals His Secrets

In the last half decade, magic—normally deemed entertainment fit only for children and tourists in Las Vegas—has become shockingly respectable in the scientific world.

Even I—not exactly renowned as a public speaker—have been invited to address conferences on neuroscience and perception. I asked a scientist friend (whose identity I must protect) why the sudden interest. He replied that those who fund science research find magicians “sexier than lab rats.”

I’m all for helping science. But after I share what I know, my neuroscientist friends thank me by showing me eye-tracking and MRI equipment, and promising that someday such machinery will help make me a better magician.

I have my doubts. Neuroscientists are novices at deception. Magicians have done controlled testing in human perception for thousands of years.

I remember an experiment I did at the age of 11. My test subjects were Cub Scouts. My hypothesis (that nobody would see me sneak a fishbowl under a shawl) proved false and the Scouts pelted me with hard candy. If I could have avoided those welts by visiting an MRI lab, I surely would have.

But magic’s not easy to pick apart with machines, because it’s not really about the mechanics of your senses. Magic’s about understanding—and then manipulating—how viewers digest the sensory information.

I think you’ll see what I mean if I teach you a few principles magicians employ when they want to alter your perceptions.

Read more of his secrets but use your new powers wisely:

Monday, March 5, 2012

Paul Snelgrove at TED: A census of the ocean

Oceanographer Paul Snelgrove shares the results of a ten-year project with one goal: to take a census of all the life in the oceans. He shares amazing photos of some of the surprising finds of the Census of Marine Life.

Paul Snelgrove led the group that pulled together the findings of the Census of Marine Life -- synthesizing 10 years and 540 expeditions into a book of wonders. Full bio »

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Vijay Kumar showing off palm-sized "agile aerial robots" at TED

In his lab at Penn, Vijay Kumar and his team build flying quadrotors, small, agile robots that swarm, sense each other, and form ad hoc teams -- for construction, surveying disasters and far more.

At the University of Pennsylvania, Vijay Kumar studies the control and coordination of multi-robot formations. Full bio »