31 May 2012

Dan Pink: “Drive”

Contrary to popular business practices, employees do not perform better just because they are offered more money (often in the form of incentives and bonuses). This methodology is holds true for basic manual tasks but it actually hampers productivity and creativity for problem solving and solution finding.

Dan Pink gave the lecture twice, once at TED and once at RSA. The RSA also made a short, illustrated recap of his lecture.
Daniel Pink on the surprising science of motivation (TED)
Dan Pink - Drive (RSA)
RSA Animate - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

30 May 2012

Thoughts of Productivity Measuring Software

[Note: While this was written from the perspective of being at work, it was actually written during personal time.]

Even as I type these very words, I am beginning to cringe as I watch the numbers slowly increase. Just to find my mouse, it goes from zero to one. Launching the word editor jumps me up to two, as I type I am up to three. Then I realize that I made a mistake. That means I have to go back and make corrections which puts me at a level 4.

Last week, some work productivity monitoring software showed up. It was cute and nice at first. It has a brightly smiling face to indicate that I compliant with my breaks (oops. I just jumped up to a five, I should type slower) and an angry red face when I do not take my breaks on time, or for too short.

My favorite part is the numerical indication of my work intensity. It starts out green and at zero. Whenever I do almost anything it jumps up to a one, as the number go up, the green turns to yellow (at about five) and starts turning an angry red around seven. I cannot imagine what a full ten is (probably an angry red).

In addition to the numerical and color indication of my “work intensity,” it also sees fit to remind me, quite intrusively, that I need to take breaks. For example, if I type too long (a couple of good paragraphs) it will make me do a “micro pause” where I am unable to use the keyboard or the mouse for 30 seconds. I can, of course, dismiss the reminder, but much like an incessant child, it waits for me at the top of the screen in bright, flashing colors; and there is always the threat of the nice smiley face turning angry if I fail to comply with my breaks.

While I can sympathize with the management’s desire to help me avoid stress injuries and to, in general, be happy and productive, but in the end I think it is more detrimental to my ability to effectively work to have a constant reminder of that work. I can never zone out and just cruise with the work. Another problem I keep running into with all these “micro pauses” is a break in my thought trains.

So really, there are three problems I see with constantly measuring work performance: it distracts from actual work, the indication methodology encourages low levels of work (the green zero is more pleasant than the red nine) and reduces the ability to cruise through a project by interrupting work with a flood of reminders that I am working too hard and need to slow down.

I suppose, in the end, I could take management’s hint and not wok at all but then why are they paying me.

28 May 2012

"Evil Genes" by Barbara Oakley

An interesting examination as to how genetics can effect our mental disposition. Honestly, I did not like the book too much as the author tried to weave threads of personal drama into the text, after which I would look up and wonder why she had wasted my time with the personal interlude.

Interesting tidbit: Something happens in the brains of young people between 20 and 25 that significantly decreases the chances of them remaining religiously vigilant (beyond going to church because their parents tell them to).

19 May 2012

From Reading to Viewing

I have noticed that as of late, I have not had a lot of time to read but I have been able to watch (or listen to) some really lectures and presentations. I will start, in the near future, posting notes on these lectures similar to the Readings. I think I will call Viewings.

18 May 2012

"Why We Lie" by David Livingstone Smith

Apparently, telling lies is a deeply rooted evolutionary trait instilled in our DNA for a very long time. The book covers a variety of ideas on why we are so good at telling lies, including a long section about self-deception and some ideas on why we are so good at hiding information from ourselves.

Interesting tidbit: The average person tells three lies every ten minutes, many of the lies the individual would not consciously recognize that they were telling a lie at the time.

03 May 2012

"Visual and Statistical Thinking: Displays of Evidence for Making Decisions" by Edward R. Tufte

Another essay. This one is geared towards making sure that data presentations address the correct questions and show the data in a way that allows for a quick and accurate analysis of the given data set. The essay features a combination of original data presentations (such as documents from the Challenger accident) and remakes of the presentations that allow for a better understanding of the data.

Interesting tidbit: Data does not bear out the famous conclusion of the 1854 London Cholera Epidemic. Namely, new cases cholera were already on the decline when Snow removed the infamous water-pump handle.

01 May 2012

"The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within" by Edward R. Tufte

This is hardly a book at all, but is more of an essay. It is a wonderful summary of why one feels discontent and ill informed after sitting through a lengthy PowerPoint presentation. Tufte starts with a detailed accounting of the communication processes that led to the Challenger accident. He then proceeds into many common presentation flaws commonly made and he even includes some suggestions for compensating for those flaws.

Interesting tidbit: NASA engineers were required by policy to provide technical analysis (not just the conclusion) in PowerPoint.