Rapid Thinking makes people happy

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What does rapid thinking do to people? The above chart summarizes an article about rapid thinking from Scientific American.  Scientists from Harvard and Princeton found that accelerated and varied thoughts improve your mood and can change a lousy day to possibly a creative one.   However, if ones thoughts are fast and repetitive, it can cause anxiety.  If these thoughts were slowed down, and are repetitive, it may cause depressive thoughts.   If these slow thoughts were varied, thoughts of peaceful happiness, commonly associated with meditation would be stimulated.

Why does speed of thought affect mood?  The researchers infer that dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that is important for motivation and pleasure, maybe stimulated.


If you had $60M, what would you do?

News of the AIG bonuses and other financial institution bonuses and perks have received populist angst. While companies that received bailout money continue to pay out extravagant bonuses and parties, this one did the opposite of that, in this interview a man named Leonard Abess, sold his bank for $60 million dollars and rather than lining his own pockets, he shared it with his employees.  Why would he do that?

He believed that people are the center and the core of any business.  He felt his employees contribute to much of his banks’ success and felt that they acted and worked like owners, and he wanted to acknowledge that.  In his annual report, he acknowledged and thanked his employees first before talking about the various metrics as so many companies are apt to do.

With regards to laying people off:

“….I tell young CEOs, that before you cut anybody’s compensation, before you fire anybody for economic reasons, you deal with yourself. Your perks go, your bonus goes, your salary goes. I am very surprised when I see huge amounts of money that go to the people at the top [even] as there are massive layoffs, especially when they accept government money.

One of the greatest traits that any leader has, according to Mr. Abess, is the ability to listen.  Mr. Abess knows his employees names’, spouses names’ and even their parents and children.  He added that leaders lead by example such as: motivate people, being human and being real and talking to people.  They should also have a clear moral compass and clear ethics and be examples in their communities.

It is too bad in the news, we hear too much about the greedy and morally corrupt leaders and not the ones that influence and inspire positive change like Mr. Abess.  He truly exemplifies a positive force in leadership.

How has the recession affected brand strategy?

Many advertisers and marketers position their brand message to Maslow’s higher order needs (e.g. the need for belonging, esteem, self-actualization) on the pyramid.   Has the message changed as a result of the recession?

Mr. John Gerzema, author of Brand Bubble argued that because of the recession we need to embrace the lower order needs (e.g. the needs for safety and physiological protection) on Maslow’s hierarchy.  Fear and uncertainty are on the rise.  The marketers that will have a competitive advantage from this recession will replace passion with compassion.  Evidence of this includes Hyundai’s current campaign called Hyundai Assurance, which lets any Hyundai owner walk away from their lease or loan on a new Hyundai vehicle, if they lose their job within 12 months of the purchase.  In the first quarter of this year, the entire automotive industry in the US was down 38.4% between March 2009 YTD versus March 2008 YTD.  While Hyundai’s sales were up 0.7% during that same period.

There are a few businesses that have succeeded in the recession. Evidence is apparent with the Match.com, The Economist Magazine, LoveFilm and MTV.  In these four case studies, all are able to adapt to people’s interests as a result of people cutting back in their budgets.  The most compelling case study is with The Economist.  Its rich content about the recession and the banking crisis certainly appeal to people, but in my opinion,  it is its creativity in leveraging different media such as its podcasting, online content, magazine content and its educational guides on various subjects such as advertising that help differentiate this magazine with others.

Does anonymity lead to lack of empathy?

In this article, news commentator Alan Colmes wrote about a man named Angel Arce Torres, 79, who died from being hit by a speeding vehicle.  In this disturbing video, there were many passer-bys who witnessed the accident, but did not react.

Has society lost its moral compass that people do not react when these incidents occur? Mr Colmes also referred to the Kitty Genovese murder case in 1964, when she was being stabbed to death on the street, no one did anything to alert the police or perhaps to stop the stabbing despite 38 witnesses being able to hear her screams.

This was a classic example of Bystander Effect, which people diffuse their responsibility because they believe someone else would take a lead responsibility role.  This occurs because people do not want to take personal responsibility for these crimes.  They prefer not to be involved.  They are afraid that they could make the situation worse because they lack the expertise to deal with the situation.  The manner to which people can get involved would be assign specific duties to any passer-bys.  For example, If you are in the public library, and plan on leaving your belongings unattended, ask someone specifically to watch your belongings, otherwise, they simply would not take any responsibility.

Similar to the above video, this behavior exists online.  This article discusses how because of anomie, empathy is removed and people suffer from “Internet Asperger’s Syndrome,” although I disagree with the terminology, similar to this video, there is the element of anonymity that leads to a mob mentality which people psychologically suffer.   The author coined the term Asperger’s Syndrome because of the nature of this disorder where a person lacks empathy and communication skills, while focusing on specific behaviors which may become obsessive.  In the case of the online community, the obsessive behaviors would include checking email, twittering, blogging and not being able to connect with other people, and viewing them as objects rather than individuals.

This author believes that in some cases due to the environment which anonymity occurs,  people in the online community’s goal is to inflict as much psychological suffering as possible on another human being, and he called it “Harris’ Law.”

I totally disagree.  I think it is the classic case of Bystander Effect and Grouthink, which leads behaviors that range from apathetic to being an active participant. What do you all think?

Magazines on-demand

If you have been following this blog, I had been stressing about the importance of content on demand.

The first example, is at Heathrow Airport in London, where HSBC is promoting their Premier Card.  Travelers go to a kiosk, where they are able to customize their own magazines for free by selecting their own content.  These custom magazines will be branded by HSBC.  The Premier card’s target demographic group are travelers.  Based on the success of this campaign, this program could be a perk for HSBC Premier members.

Second example, is with Time Magazine  in conjunction with Lexus are pursuing a made to order magazine. Lexus will have editorial content and exclusive ad space, while the readers get aggregated content from Time and its subsidiaries all for free.  This campaign ties the customizable nature of this new aggregated magazine to the new Lexus RX sport utility vehicle and its customizable features.   The magazine will be available as a hard copy to the first 31,000 respondents, and then it will be available online as well as on mobile.

I think this is definitely how content will be viewed in the future.  The internet as a disruptive technology, changed how people view media.  Offering customized content that appeals to what, when, where and how the customer wants to look at the media is imperative.  Online advertising has not generated enough revenue to offset the decline in print.  Offering this customizable content is probably the best alternative.  What do you all think?

What is TV’s future role?

I had argued how TV advertising is increasingly becoming irrelevant.   Due to content-on-demand as well as the emergence of mobile technology, TV will soon become part of the oblivion, or will it?   Is TV really going to the wayside?   Two weeks ago, I attended a PSFK Good Ideas Salon in Toronto.   There was a panel discussion about TV, Social Media and the future of various forms of media.

One of the panelists had an interesting perspective.  As much as TV can be dismissed, it is still a popular medium.  Case in point was the recent viral video success of Susan Boyle, which was made possible due to her exposure to an existing popular platform.   This article summarizes one of the panelist’s position clearly; metaphorically, TV as a medium becomes part of the chicken and the egg argument.  One cannot exist without the presence of the other and vice-versa.  In fact, in the case of Susan Boyle, the Britain’s got Talent TV show became more popular as a result of her viral videos online.

How often do you check your email?

Ever had the experience of checking your email incessantly? You end up checking it numerous times even during an hour? Or do you glance at your blackberry to find new messages?  It can almost be addictive for people who sit in front of their computers all day.  Psychologists have studied this type of behavior.

Why is email so addictive?   It is because of a behavior called Operant Conditioning, which affects learning by attributing consequences to rewards and punishments.  In the case of checking emails, we associate both rewards and punishments as well as any underlying consequences to it.  As this article stated,

Email is addictive because it is a variable-interval reinforcement schedule.

How do we lessen the action-reward link?  The article even suggested using a five minute delay for emails.  The removal of the check email button can also lessen the stimulus too.

My thoughts on this would be to design some software that would freeze emails for two or three hours at a time.  There is software that blocks internet usage for an alloted time designated by the user.   What are your thoughts on this?