Appreciating Business Category Explained:

Nature itself is the best business model.

It is slow, very slow.

It tosses millions of possibilities into each exploitable niche with as many seeds as there are flakes in a snowstorm.

I have chosen articles for this section from writers who agree with me, such as:

“An Internet worm that disabled networks across the U.S. Monday and Tuesday temporarily thrust the nation into its most severe maelstrom of productivity since 1992.”

Workaholics Anonymous: when life gets lost in impossible workplace demands

WA has been around since the 1980s, but groups still thrive as people struggle with a work-life balance exacerbated by technology’s ability to make sure we are always available

Jana Kasperkevic in New York
October 31, 2015

More than a dozen adults gather in an empty classroom in midtown Manhattan. As the clock strikes six, they shift in their seats. The meeting is about to begin. It starts with a serenity prayer.

“God grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

While their colleagues have hit the bar or headed home for the weekend, a group of addicts – some wearing running shoes, some high-heeled pumps, some dress shoes – have come to share their problems. But it’s not drugs or alcohol making them unhappy. It’s work. This is Workaholics Anonymous.

The support group has been around since 1983, with chapters popping up all over the world, creating a network of people that support each other. Someone to call for help, to figure out how to say no, when to stop volunteering, when to quit.

Volkswagen Test Rigging Follows a Long Auto Industry Pattern

Sept 23, 2015

In 1987, Lee A. Iacocca, chairman of Chrysler, ran advertisements to repair the damage done by a scandal over selling cars whose odometers had been altered. Credit Robert Kozloff/Associated Press

Long before Volkswagen admitted to cheating on emissions tests for millions of cars worldwide, the automobile industry, Volkswagen included, had a well-known record of sidestepping regulation and even duping regulators.

For decades, car companies found ways to rig mileage and emissions testing data. In Europe, some automakers have taped up test cars’ doors and grilles to bolster their aerodynamics. Others have used “superlubricants” to reduce friction in the car’s engine to a degree that would be impossible in real-world driving conditions.

Automakers have even been known to make test vehicles lighter by removing the back seats.

The Spy Who Fired Me

The human costs of workplace monitoring

With the advent of wireless connectivity, along with a steep drop in the price of computer processors, electronic sensors, GPS devices, and radio-frequency identification tags, monitoring has become commonplace.

By Esther Kaplan
Harpers Magazine
March 2015

Last March, Jim Cramer, the host of CNBC’s Mad Money, devoted part of his show to a company called Cornerstone OnDemand. Cornerstone, Cramer shouted at the camera, is “a cloud-based-software-as-a-service play” in the “talent-management” field. Companies that use its platform can quickly assess an employee’s performance by analyzing his or her online interactions, including emails, instant messages, and Web use. “We’ve been managing people exactly the same way for the last hundred and fifty years,” Cornerstone’s CEO, Adam Miller, told Cramer. With the rise of the global workforce, the remote workforce, the smartphone and the tablet, it’s time to “manage people differently.” Clients include Virgin Media, Barclays, and Starwood Hotels.

Cornerstone, as Miller likes to tell investors, is positioning itself to be “on the vanguard of big data in the cloud” and a leader in the “gamification of performance management.” To be assessed by Cornerstone is to have your collaborative partnerships scored as assets and your brainstorms rewarded with electronic badges (genius idea!). It is to have scads of information swept up about what you do each day, whom you communicate with, and what you communicate about. Cornerstone converts that data into metrics to be factored in to your performance reviews and decisions about how much you’ll be paid.

The Machines Are Coming

Zeynep Tufekci

APRIL 18, 2015

To crack these cognitive and emotional puzzles, computers needed not only sophisticated, efficient algorithms, but also vast amounts of human-generated data, which can now be easily harvested from our digitized world.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — THE machine hums along, quietly scanning the slides, generating Pap smear diagnostics, just the way a college-educated, well-compensated lab technician might.

A robot with emotion-detection software interviews visitors to the United States at the border. In field tests, this eerily named “embodied avatar kiosk” does much better than humans in catching those with invalid documentation. Emotional-processing software has gotten so good that ad companies are looking into “mood-targeted” advertising, and the government of Dubai wants to use it to scan all its closed-circuit TV feeds.

Yes, the machines are getting smarter, and they’re coming for more and more jobs.

Not just low-wage jobs, either.

Today, machines can process regular spoken language and not only recognize human faces, but also read their expressions. They can classify personality types, and have started being able to carry out conversations with appropriate emotional tenor.

Machines are getting better than humans at figuring out who to hire,

Noam Chomsky on the Roots of American Racism

By George Yancy and Noam Chomsky
March 18, 2015

"The industrial revolution was based on cotton, produced primarily in the slave labor camps of the United States. As is now known, they were highly efficient. Productivity increased even faster than in industry, thanks to the technology of the bullwhip and pistol, and the efficient practice of brutal torture…."

(The Stone)
The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless.

Philip Jones Griffiths/Magnum Photos

This is the eighth in a series of interviews with philosophers on race that I am conducting for The Stone. This week’s conversation is with Noam Chomsky, a linguist, political philosopher and one of the world’s most prominent public intellectuals. He is the author of many books, including, most recently, “On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare,” with Andre Vltchek.

– George Yancy

George Yancy: When I think about the title of your book “On Western Terrorism,” I’m reminded of the fact that many black people in the United States have had a long history of being terrorized by white racism, from random beatings to the lynching of more than 3,000 black people (including women) between 1882 and 1968. This is why in 2003, when I read about the dehumanizing acts committed at Abu Ghraib prison, I wasn’t surprised. I recall that after the photos appeared President George W. Bush said that “This is not the America I know.” But isn’t this the America black people have always known?

Noam Chomsky: The America that “black people have always known” is not an attractive one.

Jobless Recoveries

By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published April 8, 2015



Why Economic Recoveries Are Different Than They Used To Be

In the last three months, the U.S. economy created more than one million jobs and median wages jumped forward—finally. It took five years from the end of the Great Recession for truly robust job and wage growth to take hold. It took so long, in fact, that a new phrase entered the lexicon—“the jobless recovery.”

Henry Siu and Nir Jaimovich may have an answer as to why. In their work presented here, Siu (University of British Columbia) and Jaimovich (Duke University) begin by looking at previous recessions and uncovered a striking pattern. “…Averaged over the three early episodes, employment turns around about four months after the recession; in the recent episodes, the average turnaround time is 21 months.” In other words, recent recessions, especially the most recent, are not your father’s recessions. Jobs recover very slowly with many people stuck in part time or lower paying jobs.

Siu and Jaimovich explain the emergence of this phenomenon by looking at the loss, over time, of “routine” jobs. They argue that “… many of the routine occupations that were once commonplace have begun to disappear, while others have become obsolete. This is because the tasks involved in these occupations, by their nature, are prime candidates to be performed by new technologies.” By showing the trends in routine and non-routine jobs through a series of recessions, they illustrate a central economic problem of our time. The 21st century economy doesn’t create the sorts of jobs we used to have. Job creation is no longer simply a function of an economy wide recovery, it poses challenges that were not part of earlier recessions.

Our Cubicles, Ourselves: How the Modern Office Shapes American Life

How did we come to work in spaces that make us so miserable?

Rebecca J. Rosen 
Apr 14, 2014

Each year, the average American spends nearly 2,000 hours working. For many, that time passes inside the three little walls of a modern cubicle.

Writer Nikil Saval explores these odd spaces—how they came to be, how they make us feel—in his new book Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace. I spoke to Saval about the modern office, and a lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Your book is, as I see it, about twin themes: the spaces we work in, and the quality or character of the work itself. Can you talk, just briefly, about the relationship between those two ideas?

I’ve found that space in an office often reflects the way power operates in a workplace: design expresses (though not in a simple way) relationships of hierarchy, control, and authority.

The idea that they were related at all came to me when I was first doing the research for this book, which coalesced into an article for n+1 (where I’m an editor), called “Birth of the Office” (winter 2007). I was working in my second cubicle, much smaller than my first, and looking into the history of it: Where did it come from? Was it always a symbol of the worst of office life? Maybe predictably—though to me it was a surprise—it wasn’t.

Ellen Langer on the Science of Mindlessness and Mindfulness

September 10, 2015

Ellen Langer: We have these categories, work, life, and we have brains, brawn, so on. All the different distinctions that we make. We make them mindfully, and then we start to use them mindlessly, forgetting that when we’re at work, we’re people. We have the same needs we had when we were on vacation. And you should get to the point where you’re treating yourself whether you’re at work or at play in basically the same way.

Krista Tippett, host: Ellen Langer is a social psychologist who some have dubbed “the mother of mindfulness.” But she defines mindfulness with counterintuitive simplicity: the simple act of actively noticing things — with a result of increased health, competence, and happiness. Her take on mindfulness has never involved contemplation or meditation or yoga. It comes straight out of her provocative, unconventional studies, which have been suggesting for decades what neuroscience is pointing at now: our experience of everything is formed by the words and ideas we attach to them. What makes a vacation a vacation is not only a change of scenery — but the fact that we let go of the mindless everyday illusion that we are in control.

Ellen Langer has shown it’s possible to become physiologically younger through a changed frame of mind; to find joy in what was experienced as drudgery by renaming it as play; and to induce weight loss by substituting the label “exercise” for labor.

I’m Krista Tippett, and this is On Being.

The Holy Trinity Of (In)Efficiency

This drive for clarity and accountability triggers a counterproductive multiplication of interfaces, middle offices, coordinators that do not only mobilize people and resources, but that also add obstacles. And the more complicated the organization, the more difficult it is to understand what is really happening.

by Annette Gleneicki
September 12, 2015

Looks like I’m on a productivity kick at the moment.

Last week, I wrote about the difference between busy work and real work in your customer experience transformation.

Today, I’m inspired by this TED@BCG London Talk by Yves Morieux. If it seems like I’ve mentioned him before, I have. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Six Rules for Smart Simplicity and Employee Engagement, another post inspired by one of his TED Talks.

In this latest TED Talk, he introduces the holy trinity of efficiency – clarity, accountability, and measurement – and makes you think twice about whether: (1) these three really make you more efficient – or less efficient – and (2) you’re focusing on the right things to do your job and to be productive.

Joy Ploy

The dismal science of human optimization

It is only in a society that makes generalized, personalized growth the ultimate virtue that a disorder of generalized, personalized collapse will become inevitable. And so a culture which values only optimism will produce pathologies of pessimism; an economy built around competitiveness will turn defeatism into a disease. From The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being, by William Davies. Verso. 320 pages. $26.95.

Reviewed by Kristin Dombek

The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being, by William Davies. Verso. 320 pages. $26.95.

24 Hours of Happy, directed by We Are from L.A. Iconoclast Interactive. 1,440 minutes.

At 9:04 a.m. in the video for Pharrell Williams’s neo-Motown hit “Happy,” a smiling gray-haired woman in glasses and a flowing flowered dress dances in the parking garage of a Los Angeles skyscraper. Her delight is palpable. With a scarf loosely tied around her neck and a purse on her shoulder, she shimmies and claps, windshield-wipers flat palms back and forth in front of her, points to the sky, and nods when she sings along that “happiness is the truth.” More than 400 southern Californians each got four minutes to perform their happiness in the twenty-four-hour-long video, dancing toward a retreating Steadicam down Hollywood Boulevard, through Echo Park and Silver Lake, in Runyon Canyon and in a riverbed, at LAX and Union Station.

Hey, America, Take the Day Off

August 10, 2010

In The Conversation, David Brooks and Gail Collins talk between columns every Wednesday.

Gail Collins: Tim, thanks for taking the time to have this conversation while David Brooks is on vacation. I believe you’re coming back from some down time yourself. I’m so jealous.

Timothy Egan: Thanks, Gail, and it’s a real thrill for me to have a digital back-and-forth with you. But after all those days at the lake spent without shoes or a care in the world, I’m sluggish and my head is a muddle. So bear with me.  In the summer, Huck Finn is my role model.

Gail Collins: Excellent choice.  Michelle and Sasha Obama are just back, too. The White House got all kinds of heat for their high-end vacation in Spain. I’m sure it was a private decision. If the political team had done the planning, obviously they’d have been dispatched to swim on the not-at-all-polluted shores of the Florida panhandle and eat delicious, freshly caught Gulf seafood.

Timothy Egan: And they would have been criticized for a craven political stunt. Can’t the most scrutinized family in the world just have some down time without the rest of us trying to find larger meaning in it?  A mother takes her youngest daughter to Spain for five days and she’s compared to Marie Antoinette. Please.

Sometimes a vacation is just a vacation, to paraphrase Freud.

Electronic efficiency is all the rage

By Bu Jack Markowitz

Dec 5, 2013

Let's coin a phrase here and call it electronic “betweening.” Jazzier yet: “eBetweening.” It's a phenomenon of our age, hugely significant for how we do business and fill jobs.

Cyber Monday brought the latest proof. Sales jumped 20-odd percent from a year ago; 130 million or more Americans shopped online by computer, smartphone or handheld tablet. By contrast, in-store sales on Black Friday dropped nearly 3 percent. Nobody sees that trend quitting.

It's the power of eBetweening, when something electronic gets between you and what you want done, to help of course. Cyber shopping avoids traffic, saves time, even cuts pollution (from car engines). But something's lost, and not only the state sales taxes that have become a national issue.

EBetweening takes many forms. Telecommuting is one. Millions can work at home or in coffee shops from laptops instead of going to offices.

A lover of books no longer has to lug home the physical 500-pager from the bookstore or library. Entire texts download in seconds to a lightweight reader-screen. No wonder the publishing and bookselling markets are in flux.

Efficiency trumps personalisation

May 26,  2014

TORONTO: A majority of consumers are more interested in receiving an efficient customer service experience as opposed to a personalised one, a new survey has found.

IntelliResponse, a supplier of virtual agent technology, polled 1,000 US online consumers asking what sort of relationship they wanted from those companies they bought goods and services from.

Over half (59%) preferred an efficient, transactional relationship while around one quarter (24%) characterised their relationship as a friendship, where they get personalised service.

Brands need to stop trying to "surprise and delight", according to IntelliResponse, and instead focus on the changing approach of consumers towards customer service.

Efficiency 'key' to expanding business travel sector

Feb 6,  2014

After several fallow years in which companies curtailed their travel arrangements as a result of the global economic downturn, spending on business travel is once more rising. According to new figures, 2013 saw a rise in the number of trips taken by employees, with an average of 13.1 trips per person sanctioned last year, up from 12.7 in 2012.

The research, comprising a survey of 400 regular business travellers from across the UK and Ireland that was carried out by travel technology specialist Amadeus, also indicated that more people are travelling, as well as existing travellers taking more trips.

In fact, the percentage of individuals who took one or more business trip last year has nearly doubled in the past two years, from four per cent in 2011 to eight per cent in 2013.

Efficiency is a Problem: Irrational Use of Medicines

OpEdNews  2/18/2014

By zhenchao ren

My PCP recently prescribed me azithromycin for the "sore throat" without obvious symptom of fever at an urgent-care encounter of esophageal reflux; and my parents had to take Lipitor just because their cholesterol levels were a little bit over the normal value for the first time. As a laboratory technologist in transfusion medicine and clinical diagnosis, I saw many clinicians ordering blood products without reading laboratory test results, making unreasonable platelet orders for suspected low platelet counts, and requesting overdosed human-factor derivatives to stop excessive bleeding. The obstetricians and gynecologists failed to inform Rh-negative pregnant women about why they had to have a Rhogam shot. Inefficiency is prevalent in the U.S. healthcare system, which adds costs and undermines quality, and raises questions about how Americans pay for future health-care needs.

The Green Thing Story

From an old guy who remembers and participated in all of this

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment. The woman apologized and explained, "We didn't have this green thing back in my earlier days." The young clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."

She was right -- our generation didn't have the green thing in its day. Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

An Energy Efficiency Parable

Posted on May 19, 2014 by Catherine Wolfram

Here’s a story that captures a lot of the challenges we face as we try to improve energy efficiency. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t have a happy ending, but I’m holding out hope for the sequel.

Many of us leave our work computers on 24/7 – estimates suggest more than half of us. I do mainly because I like to use remote desktop from home.

In some organizations, the computer teams insist that desktops remain on overnight so they can run software updates, download the newest security patches, backup files, and do other important stuff during hours when people are less likely to be working.

The folks who pay an organization’s energy bills – let’s call them the accountants – would probably be unhappy if they knew how much they were paying to power computers between the hours of 5PM and 9AM. It’s a lot of money — at electricity prices of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour, a 75W computer left on for all 8760 hours costs almost $75 per year, while one left on for 2000 working hours only costs $16.50. Estimates suggest that nationwide, desktops consume several times more energy than servers.

Slowing Down the Consumer Treadmill

by: Rick Heller
Published in the July / August 2011 Humanist

If solving the climate change problem were as simple as handing out light bulbs, we’d be all set. This April, three dozen humanists paired up like Mormon missionaries and rang doorbells in Cambridge, Massachusetts—but not to spread a message of faith. Instead, they gave away free energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs to residents who surrendered their old-fashioned incandescent bulbs in exchange. Coming at the conclusion of the American Humanist Association’s 2011 conference, this community service project collected a couple hundred energy-hogging bulbs for reuse in children’s crafts projects.

Technological improvements such as better light bulbs are part of the solution to the climate problem. But events like the 2010 BP oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico and the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear complex make it hard to place all one’s faith in large-scale engineering projects. Furthermore, Boston College economist Juliet Schor warns that the growth in consumption has been outpacing efficiency improvements. “We get more efficient, but that makes people want to buy more energy, because it’s effectively cheaper,” she told me. “So you have to control the demand.”

Let’s Be Less Productive

By TIM JACKSON May 26, 2012 New York Times Op-ed

Farnham, England

HAS the pursuit of labor productivity reached its limit?

Productivity — the amount of output delivered per hour of work in the economy — is often viewed as the engine of progress in modern capitalist economies. Output is everything. Time is money. The quest for increased productivity occupies reams of academic literature and haunts the waking hours of C.E.O.’s and finance ministers. Perhaps forgivably so: our ability to generate more output with fewer people has lifted our lives out of drudgery and delivered us a cornucopia of material wealth.

But the relentless drive for productivity may also have some natural limits. Ever-increasing productivity means that if our economies don’t continue to expand, we risk putting people out of work. If more is possible each passing year with each working hour, then either output has to increase or else there is less work to go around. Like it or not, we find ourselves hooked on growth.

What, then, should happen when, for one reason or another, growth just isn’t to be had anymore? Maybe it’s a financial crisis. Or rising prices for resources like oil. Or the need to rein in growth for the damage it’s inflicting on the planet: climate change, deforestation, the loss of biodiversity. Maybe it’s any of the reasons growth can no longer be safely and easily assumed in any of today’s economies. The result is the same. Increasing productivity threatens full employment.