Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Wii

Brand loyalty fills the same role and religious symbolism according to an article in Fast Company:

Or so goes the thinking in a new study from Duke University, which concludes: "The brand name logo on a laptop or a shirt pocket may do the same thing for some people that a pendant of a crucifix or Star of David does for others." In fact, the more religious a person is, the less brand expression appears to matter...
Similar to Duke's report, brand expert Martin Lindstrom conducted a 3 year, 7 million dollar study comparing brain scans of the religious to those with high brand loyalty. Lindstrom discovered that the scans of people loyal to Apple matched the scans of devoted Christians.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Psychology Today on Income Inequality and its Effects

Ray B. Williams, writing for Psychology Today, poses the question "Will Income Inequality Cause Class Warfare."

The article presents some fascinating stats:

Dan Ariely of Duke University and Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School, showed that across ideological, economic and gender groups, Americans thought the richest 20% of American society controlled about 59% of the country's wealth, while the real number is actually 84%. At the same time, the survey respondents believed that the top 20% should own only 32% of the wealth. In contrast, in Sweden, a country with significantly greater economic equality, 20% of the richest people there control only 36% of the wealth of the country. In the American survey, 92% of the respondents said they'd rather live in a country with Sweden's wealth distribution...

The United States is the most economically stratified society in the western world. As The Wall Street Journal reported, a recent study found that the top .01% or 14,000 American families hold 22.2% of wealth, and the bottom 90%, or over 133 million families, just 4% of the nation's wealth. The U.S. Census Bureau and the World Wealth Report 2010 both report increases for the top 5% of households even during the current recession. Based on Internal Revenue Service figures, the richest 1% have tripled their cut of America's income pie in one generation.

The gap between the wealthiest Americans and middle- and working-class Americans has more than tripled in the past three decades, according to a June 25, 2010 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. New data shows that the gaps in after-tax income between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the middle and poorest parts of the population in 2007 was the highest it's been in 80 years, while the share of income going to the middle one-fifth of Americans shrank to its lowest level ever.

So will we experience a "class war" over these inequalities? Read the original article for the author's conclusion.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

On Banks and the Real Economy

Newsweek has published an article by Michael Hirsch "Our Best Economic Minds are Failing Us," which challenges our continuing focus on the health of Wall Street as a measure of our overall economic health. Here is an excerpt:

Wall Street execs have been whining for two years that to reduce pay incentives and bonuses would cost the firms their best talent. The government’s response should be YES! That’s precisely the idea. Finance was once a means to an end: the growth of the real economy. Banking once served industry and services. Now finance has become the end, and the real economy is subservient to financial services (it’s no surprise that after the crisis, over-the-counter derivatives trading quickly climbed back up to more than $600 trillion). “At some point in our recent past, finance lost contact with its raison d’ĂȘtre,” European Central Bank chief Jean Claude Trichet said earlier this year. “Finance developed a life of its own…Finance became self-referential.” As long as this pathological state of affairs persists, questions of global growth and social welfare will continue to depend on Wall Street and the enduring fallacies of free-market finance.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Value of Mentors

In the preface to her book Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors, children's advocate Marian Wright Edelman wrote about the values her teachers passed along to her.

I cannot recall a single one of the mentors I share with you in this book ever talking to me just about how to make a living or get a job-- worthy and necessary goals. They all stressed how to make a life and to find a purpose worth living for and to leave the world better than I found it...I can't remember the clothes a single one of them wore or the kind of car they drove or whether they drove a car at all. What I do remember is their integrity, courage in the face of adversity, perseverance and shared passion for justice and a better life for children-- their own and other people's--as for education as a means to the end of helping others.

The Power of Complementary Currencies

This clip of an interview with Charles Eisenstein, author of Ascent of Humanity, is from a forthcoming documentary, Money & Life, described by its director as:

Inspired by the possibility of generating real transformative social change from the opportunity of the current economic and financial crisis, I have been on a two year odyssey studying the money system and interviewing cutting edge thinkers and leaders on the issue of the day.

The film proposes that money, like other social technologies, is a reflection of our consciousness as individuals and as a society. If we are indeed in the midst of a planetary evolutionary shift, then money is one of the most important aspects of the postmodern world to grapple with, given its pervasiveness in our lives and throughout the world. The film's basic inquiry is: can our understanding of money and how we relate to it be transformed to serve our highest capacities and values?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Autonomy and Responsibility: The Netflix Approach

The Telegraph has a great article today on how Netflix has scrapped its vacation policy and now allows its employees to take as much time off as they need as long as their work is covered and their managers know where they are. Some excerpts:

As the company explains in its "Reference Guide on our Freedom & Responsibility Culture", a 128-slide PowerPoint presentation that has spread like samizdat literature on the internet: "We should focus on what people get done, not how many hours or days worked..."

...ever more companies are realising that autonomy isn't the opposite of accountability – it's the pathway to it. "Rules and policies and regulations and stipulations are innovation killers. People do their best work when they're unencumbered," says Steve Swasey, Netflix's vice-president for corporate communication. "If you're spending a lot of time accounting for the time you're spending, that's time you're not innovating."

...In his new book, Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, New York University scholar, Clay Shirky, argues that when we design systems that assume bad faith from the participants, and whose main purpose is to defend against that nasty behaviour, we often foster the very behaviour we're trying to deter. People will push and push the limits of the formal rules, search for every available loophole, and look for ways to game the system when the defenders aren't watching. By contrast, a structure of rules that assumes good faith can actually encourage that behaviour.

So if you think people in your organisation are predisposed to rip you off, maybe the solution isn't to build a tighter, more punitive set of rules. Maybe the answer is to hire new people.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Friday, September 3, 2010

House Sitting Adventure

The Ecologist recently printed an article (posted, I guess, not a lot of actual "printing" going on these days) on cash-free living.

I am embarking on my own "cash free" adventure as I head off to North Carolina for my first assignment as a house sitter. In exchange for free room and board, I will be watching a home and pets while the owners are on vacation. Being on the road with my ballet project half the year, the idea of being a house sitter during the off months has always appealed to me. I thought it would be hard to get into, and I didn't know where to start. It turns out to have been surprisingly easy to get into, at least in my case. I simply subscribed to The Caretaker Gazette, a newsletter which lists house sitting and property care-taking opportunities. I replied to an ad, and was off. I'll let you know how it goes.

In the mean time: buy the book, won't you? There's a link to the right. Thanks.