We are living in an era of technology obsession and smartphone addiction. I hear it all the time: “I can’t go anywhere without my phone” or “I feel anxious when I’m not able to check email” or “If I’m not on my social feeds, I feel like I’m missing out.”
Not surprisingly, research shows that too much technology use diminishes our mental and physical health, our relationships and more.
Short of going off the grid, how can we build better habits around technology—preserving its benefits while minimizing the negative effects? Here are a few research-backed strategies I recommend you implement at work and at home.
Use “cc” and “reply all” judiciously. Group emails, while helpful for team collaboration, are an increasingly problematic workplace distraction. After the second or third “reply all”—when most messages could be directed to just one or two people, rather than everyone—these chains to start to feel oppressive, adding extraneous content to our already overflowing inboxes. I encourage anyone initiating a team email to instead think very carefully about who they “cc,” making sure to include only relevant team members. I also recommend avoiding “reply all,” unless your comments are truly meant for—and useful to—all members of the group. The more email you send, after all, the...
What does it take to cause something big about a community to change — something that no one individually has much power over, even something as big as a prevailing mindset? We know what it takes: a social movement. And social movements aren’t only the domain of community organizers and college students. Business people can set them in motion, too, as we are seeing right now.
Currently gaining force is a movement to focus for-profit enterprises more on the essential work of enriching societies — that is, benefiting not only those humans who are their owners as publicly traded companies but also those who work in them and who stand to benefit from more purpose-driven innovation. Like any social movement, this one has started with many people starting small fires. Look around and you will see them:
On the morning of May 18, 2012, at precisely 11:05, Nasdaq planned to execute the first trade in in Facebook’s hotly anticipated initial public offering. The opening trade was an auction of sorts—buyers and sellers entered orders, and Nasdaq calculated a price that would cause as many shares as possible to change hands. As the start of trading approached, hundreds of thousands of orders poured in. But when 11:05 arrived, nothing happened.
With billions of dollars poised to change hands and the spotlight on, Nasdaq managers scrambled to diagnose the problem, dialing into an emergency conference call to troubleshoot. After a few minutes, a group of programmers narrowed the problem down to something called the validation check, a safety feature they built into the computer program years earlier. Despite the check’s warning that something was amiss, managers decided to push forward anyway.
When the validation check was removed, trading started, but the workaround caused a series of failures. It turned out the check had initially picked up on something important: a bug that caused the system to ignore orders for more than 20 minutes, an eternity on Wall Street. Traders blamed Nasdaq for hundreds of millions of dollars of losses, and the mistake exposed the exchange to litigation, fines,...
People who study creativity and innovation talk a lot about the value of “recombination” — bringing existing ideas, practices, processes, or technologies together in new ways or applying them in fresh contexts or markets. It’s a model that has led to many popular consumer products, such as leak-proof water bottles that borrow nozzles from shampoo dispensers, and home cholesterol testers that incorporate the inject/eject mechanism from CD players.
Over the last three decades, research has shown that the people most likely to innovate via recombination talk with groups of people that don’t talk to each other. In the language of social networks, these people span diverse clusters, which gives them a “vision advantage,” as the sociologist Ronald Burt is fond of putting it. Their position as “network brokers” allows them to see things that others can’t.
So, if you want to innovate, you should become a network broker, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Changing your network is hard, because it’s not just about who you talk to. It’s about who your friends and coworkers communicate with — and you can’t dictate that, even if you forge new relationships.
But not to worry. Our recent research using survey data on communication networks among software engineers at a large mobile...
I hate meetings. They sit subconsciously in my brain, taking up space. I prepare for them in my notebooks. I travel to them, and then back again, in the middle of my work days. And what do most meetings usually result in? You guessed it — more meetings.
When I worked as Director of Leadership Development at Walmart, my days were full of meetings. Everybody’s were! And when I quit two years ago to strike out on my own as an author and keynote speaker, I thought my days full of meetings were behind me.
But I was wrong.
I now have research calls and phone interviews; lunches with literary agents and web developers; conference calls about book titles and publishing schedules; and radio interviews and media prep calls. And before every speech I give, there’s always a meeting with the client and meeting planner to clarify goals and logistics for the event.
Meetings never really go away.
But the problem is that I’m now measured almost solely on my creative output. And there’s no time for it! It’s not just me, either. As our world gets busier and our phones get beepier, the scarcest resource for all of us is becoming attention and creative output. And if you’re not taking time...
When colleagues display helpful and cooperative “citizenship behaviors,” research has shown, they tend to develop high-quality social connections, which can improve individual and team performance through enhanced coordination, communication, and shared understanding within organizations. But there’s an obstacle to reaping those benefits — social psychologists have also found that people often react negatively to being helped. So we recently conducted a series of studies (forthcoming in the Journal of Applied Psychology) to gain insight into how that dynamic plays out at work.
In a qualitative study, we asked 238 employees in a variety of industries to explain why they would or wouldn’t accept help from a coworker. From their responses, we identified five key reasons people avoid being helped: preferring to be self-reliant and complete their work on their own, wanting to protect their image, not wanting to feel obligated to return the favor, not trusting their coworkers’ motives, and believing that their coworkers are incompetent.
How pervasive are these attitudes? More so than you might think. When we asked more than 500 employees in a separate survey how much they agreed with various reasons for not seeking help, nearly two-thirds indicated that they preferred to finish their work without assistance from colleagues. Over half agreed...
More than a third of U.S. workers landed their current job via an employee referral. In a tight talent market, it’s tempting for organizations to rely even more heavily on employee referrals to fill open positions, but a new study from PayScale shows that doing so could lead to pay inequities and a less-diverse workforce.
Between April and August 2017, PayScale asked approximately 53,000 U.S. workers how they came to apply to their current job and if they had landed their job based on an employee referral. Other demographic, job, and employer details were also collected as part of the survey.
Holding everything else constant, from job title to industry to location, female and minority applicants were much less likely to report receiving an employee referral than their white male counterparts. More specifically, white women were 12% less likely to receive a referral, men of color were 26% less likely and women of color were 35% less likely.
The data also show that the candidate’s relationship to the source of the employee referral impacts salary offers, and that other job application methods might lead to higher pay. The most common type of employee referral was from a family member or close friend (41% of employees who received a referral), but...
In a landmark 2016 study Johns Hopkins researchers estimated that more than 250,000 Americans die each year from treatment-related mistakes, making medical error the third-leading cause of death in the United States. As a former military flight surgeon trained in aviation accident investigations, I know well the hazards of misusing or mistrusting instruments.
In contrast to health care, aviation has been an early adopter of decision-support technology — the “fly by wire” flight-control computers that prevent unsafe operation of the aircraft and reduce maintenance costs and pilot workloads. Due to the progressive digitization of the cockpit and pilot decision support, flying by and trusting instruments is now essential for avoiding accidents. The U.S. Department of Defense’s new F-35 aircraft is so advanced that the pilot interacts continuously through a “heads-up” digital display projected on the helmet, providing total situational awareness. Pilots who aren’t adept at working with computer interfaces and don’t trust algorithms to help fly the aircraft will not just perform poorly, they’ll crash on takeoff.
Though health care is still in the early stages of adopting AI and digital technologies, it is already making great strides. In radiology such technology will augment human competence in image recognition. Digital technology now assists with detection of diabetic retinopathy, heart arrhythmias, and dermatologic...
What would Walt Disney Parks and Resorts be without its Cast Members and the extraordinary level of service delivery they strive for each day? Clearly, this is critical to our continued growth and success as a business. Because of this success, we are constantly asked, “How do you do it?” And the even more interesting question may be ”How do you sustain it?”
From the start, Walt Disney knew how important it was to empower his Cast Members at Disneyland to strive for excellence and deliver outstanding service to each and every guest. In fact, Walt Disney once said, “You can dream, create, design, and build the most wonderful place in the world … but it requires people to make the dream a reality.”
So, how do we ensure that everyone is able to deliver on Walt’s...
One of the best insights on what true productivity means in the 21st century dates back to 1890. In his book The Principles of Psychology, Vol.1, William James wrote a simple statement that’s packed with meaning: “My experience is what I agree to attend to.”
Your attention determines the experiences you have, and the experiences you have determine the life you live. Or said another way: you must control your attention to control your life. Today, in a world where so many experiences are blended together — where we can work from home (or a train or a plane or a beach), watch our kids on a nanny-cam from work, and distraction is always just a thumb-swipe away —has that ever been more true?Attention Management
To be consistently productive and manage stress better, we must strengthen our skill in attention management.
Attention management is the practice of controlling distractions, being present in the moment, finding flow, and maximizing focus, so that you can unleash your genius. It’s about being intentional instead of reactive. It is the ability to recognize when your attention is being stolen (or has the potential to be stolen) and to instead keep it focused on the activities you choose. Rather than allowing distractions to derail you,...
Male entrepreneurs are the beneficiaries of the overwhelming majority of venture capital investments. But are their ideas really better investment opportunities for VCs than those pitched by women?
According to our research, the answer is “not necessarily.” In a two-part study, we observed that venture capitalists adopt markedly different stereotypical notions of female and male entrepreneurs during their decision-making processes. These stereotypical notions, which cast men as having traits better suited to starting successful companies, don’t hold up when compared with venture performance data from annual reports. In other words, there is no statistical evidence that a host of myths about female entrepreneurs is true.
Before presenting our study, some context is helpful. For several years, Sweden has been ranked number one in the EU Gender Equality Index. Nonetheless, statistics show that women-owned businesses, which account for one-third of Swedish businesses, are not granted the corresponding proportion of government venture financing; in fact, women-owned businesses receive only 7%. This percentage is remarkable because Swedish government venture capitalists must adhere to national and European equality regulations when granting financing to entrepreneurs.
To better understand this puzzling incoherence, we used interview data to study how 11 venture capitalists from two Swedish government organizations used notions of gender in their assessments of applications by 126 entrepreneurs...
Most workers don’t probably know how much their colleagues make, and likely don’t know how much their counterparts at other companies are paid, either. This lack of transparency may be keeping millions of Americans from earning higher paychecks.
There is limited evidence on the impacts of wage transparency on middle-class wages, largely because there are few examples of transparent wages in the U.S. labor market. American experiments with wage transparency have primarily come through two avenues: disclosure of salaries for public-sector workers and for highly compensated executives.
These select instances aside, many workers have no idea about their relative pay. Part of the problem is that when it comes to knowing what their counterparts earn, private-sector workers have few reliable resources. Public data often lack sufficient detail to make for a useful comparison, and wages are rarely published by companies. And social stigma and workplace polices often prohibit workers from even talking about wages in the first place—a recent survey revealed that 41% of workers are discouraged from talking about pay and a shocking 25% of workers fear retribution over pay discussions.
Employers, on the other hand, often have ready access to fulsome data on compensation. Salary surveys, also referred to as compensation surveys, are widespread among employers—with one source estimating that...
Standard screening tests such as colonoscopy, mammography, and cholesterol measurement are fine for individuals at average risk for cancer and heart disease but are inadequate for people whose genetic profiles put them at much higher risk. Current clinical guidelines, based primarily on families large enough to show a positive family history for that condition, fail to identify about half of the high-risk individuals in the population. For those individuals, we need a different approach that accurately forecasts their risk and anticipates their health needs. To this end, Geisinger has launched a DNA sequencing project with the potential to identify virtually everyone in our patient population who is at increased risk for early onset, inherited cancer and cardiac events. Already we have identified more than 500 patients who are at increased risk for disease and have uncovered previously undetected cases of cancer and heart disease, allowing our doctors to treat these much earlier than they could have otherwise.
In our precision health programs, sequencing the known functional parts of the genome for our patients is becoming a clinical reality, not just as a diagnostic test for patients who present with particular symptoms, but for all patients in our community. Understanding their genome’s warning signals is now an essential part of their health forecasting,...
Once upon a time, surveys were a staple for every leader to solicit feedback and every company to assess engagement. But now, surveys are starting to look like diesel trucks collecting dust in the age of electric cars. Companies are using cool new machine-learning algorithms that crunch big data to measure employee engagement through email response times and network connections outside one’s core team, and forecast turnover risk by tracking signals like how often employees update their resumes. Who needs a clunky, time-consuming survey where some employees only tell you what you want to hear, and others don’t bother to respond at all?
For decades, having regular employee opinion surveys has been on evidence-based lists of high-performance HR practices. Our internal research at Facebook suggests that for three reasons, it would be a big mistake to abandon them today.
1. Surveys are still great predictors of behavior.
At Facebook, we’ve found that simply asking our people how long they intend to stay is more than twice as accurate at foretelling their future turnover than machine-learning forecasts by an industry leader in predictive analytics.
We learn a lot from surveys even when people don’t participate. People who don’t fill out either of our two annual surveys are 2.6 times...
We know that male mentors and sponsors are essential for helping talented women get ahead. When women are mentored by men, they make more money, receive more promotions, and report greater satisfaction with their career trajectories. Although advantageous for all employees, mentoring is particularly helpful to women for addressing the myriad barriers to career advancement. But in the wake of the #MeToo Movement there are growing whispers among some men that it just isn’t safe to mentor women. We’ve also heard from some men who are having the opposite reaction, determining to mentor and “save” more women. While we applaud their good intentions, this attitude is also unlikely to have the results they want.
Let’s just start by saying the obvious: of course men should mentor women. It’s wrong (and illegal) to exclude half the population. But taking a save-the-day approach won’t work very well, either. Even the standard mentoring approach of the mentor as all-knowing guru, dispensing knowledge, implies a hierarchical, one-way relationship that can frame men who mentor women as champions, heroes, even rescuers. In this model, the mentor shares wisdom, throws down challenges, and when necessary, protects his protégé from all malignant forces in the organization. Enter the chivalrous knight-damsel in distress archetype....
The cartoon of business-to-business (B2B) buyers depicts gray-haired executives and purchasing agents in meetings, on the phone and lunching with their vendors. Conversations focus mainly on negotiating price and payment terms.
But along with fax machines and long golf games, these features of B2B life have all but disappeared due to the astonishing change in technology over the past two decades. Digital natives who grew up with the Internet and smartphones have transformed the way B2B buyers research purchases, qualify vendors and make purchases—changing the rules of the game for marketers and product managers.
Some 73% of 20- to 35-year-olds are involved in product or service purchase decision-making at their companies, according to a study of “millennial” buyers by Merit, with one-third reporting that they are the sole decision-maker for their department. And about half of all B2B product researchers are digital natives, a number that increases every year, according to a Google/Millward Brown digital survey of buyers. When a company needs a product or service, buyers turn first to research on their laptop or smartphone rather than immediately calling vendors or hosting meetings. More than 70% of searches start with a generic search, such as “CRM software,” rather than a search for specific brands. Contacting a salesperson occurs...
Organizations spend over $100 billion annually to improve employee engagement. Yet according to Gallup, only 13% of employees are engaged — and disengaged employees cost U.S. companies $450 billion to $550 billion per year in lost productivity.
The reason why most engagement efforts fall short is that they’re designed to cultivate employees’ commitment in generic, general ways. They attempt to make people feel that they’re working for a responsible company or that the company’s leaders care about them. A more precise, robust approach is employee brand engagement, which establishes a critical link between employees and customers.
Employee brand engagement is achieved when employees are aligned and involved with the organization’s brand. It requires the company to have a clearly articulated brand identity and its leaders to cultivate a positive, multidimensional connection between employees and that brand identity. The goal is to make sure employees know what the brand stands for and are committed to reinforcing it with their actions.
Employee brand engagement differs from “employer branding” or “employment branding,” terms that refer to an organization’s efforts to enhance its image to attract and retain talented employees. It’s also more than “internal marketing” or “invertising,” which describe when an organization promotes its brand to employees as it would to customers and...
Dominic Barton, the global managing partner of McKinsey&Company, discusses the firm’s sustainability efforts. He talks about the wake-up call he got about sustainability and how he tries to convince CEOs hesitant to make it part of their business model that doing so will improve company performance. He says he sees companies thinking about the environment. “But the speed and scale of what we need to do — I don’t think it’s sufficient.”
While the healthcare industry becomes increasingly adept at applying clinical and claims data to improve care, it has largely ignored other data sources that provide the greatest opportunity to positively impact health and cost at scale. The dependence on this limited data set originates in the system’s orientation toward “sick care” — treating illness. To radically improve health care, we need to apply consumer demographic and lifestyle data in ways that help the health care industry shift its focus from providing sick care to partnering with people (rather than “patients”) to help them stay well.
The government and private sector have dedicated enormous capital and energy to building electronic health record and claims systems to automate and record sick-care transactions. This digitization supports consistent quality of care and payment accuracy, but the data is primarily retrospective – it tells a story of what has been. To most effectively predict future health and how a person will interact with health resources, the health care industry must learn to integrate selected consumer data with medical and claims data.
We are living in times when it’s increasingly difficult — if not impossible — to go into the office and leave what’s going on outside behind. We are reckoning with difficult and emotional issues in our society — sexual harassment, racism, and deep political divides — that don’t get checked at the door. We are only human; it’s impossible to think we can come to work and not continue to feel angry, hurt, or disappointed by issues that don’t originate with our companies or our colleagues.
As the dean of a business school, I have many conversations with business leaders who are telling me they feel increasingly challenged by how outside issues are affecting their team members. For many people, topics involving politics or social issues have been considered taboo at work. How do you handle them? What if you say the wrong thing? What if you sound stupid? What if you offend someone? What if it’s awkward? After all, as the old maxim goes, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”
When it comes to the context we live in today, I respectfully disagree and offer this humble piece of advice: Talk. There is a danger in remaining silent. In the absence...