Archives: October 2009

Psychology By Any Other Name

I love the book Nudge—the content's pretty good, the title even better! But I hate—literally hate—the title of the genre. Namely, "behavioral economics."

Oh for God's sake.

Behavioral economics?


(Or as I like to call the field, "Economists discover humans.")

But that's actually not the topic of this post.

As I write I sit in a beautiful British Airways Club Class lounge in Heathrow's opulent Terminal 5.

The lounge is big.
The lounge is well appointed.
There are two parts.
There is no distinction between the two parts in terms of access.
The "half" you come into has the food and drink, and the loos.
The other half has no amenities aside from a flight info screen.
The two halves are separated by a glass wall, with a simple door.
Push the door and, voilà, go from one half to the other.
(No signs, no labels, no designations at all.)


The half you enter, now, at 10 a.m., has a ratio of approximately (I counted but may be off a bit) three full seats to every entry seat—it is obviously "crowded."

The other half has a ratio of 6 empty seats to every full seat! (And ... the space between rows of seats is much greater.)

The simple (and totally transparent) dividing wall did it!
Three-to-one versus one-to-six.

Maybe the folks in the entry side like crowds? Not likely, since you see new entrants apparently looking for places with more privacy.

Maybe it's no food and drink? Nope, the food and drink area is just as close to me, in the nearly empty side, as it is for those on the entry side; there just happens to be a door in the middle.


That is, there's no "sensible" explanation for the radically greater share of free space on "my side" other than something like the assumption, "It's on the 'far side' of the wall—I don't belong there."

The fun (and seriousness) of the nudge-behavioral economics-psychology "thing" is that the differences, like this one in the BA lounge, are often as not extreme. Not a ten percent difference. Or a twenty-five percent difference. (Which would, in fact, be a damn big deal.) But a 180+ degree flip: 3:1 vs. 1:6.

I could go on and on!
I love this stuff!
(Human psychology, that is—I'm not too keen on economics.)

Let me conclude with one pragmatic point: If you become a "nudgist" and a practitioner of "nudgery," the good news is that you don't have to be a Big Boss. These are, in 9 cases out of 10, "below the radar" phenomena. That is, most are unaware of the behavioral consequences of little nudges—and hence anybody at any level who takes the initiative is effectively allowed to play.

Bottom bottom line: This is very-wildly-insanely powerful stuff!!


Lucky boy. (He said for the 1000th time.) Had a lovely full-day seminar with wonderful folks in Luanda, Angola. It's said to be the most expensive city in the world—oil related activities booming, and relatively thin infrastructure; hence demand exceeds supply in the likes of the hospitality industry. But now the construction cranes have flocked to Luanda—oil, oil, and more oil (OPEC's #3 producerer?) and available credit courtesy, mostly, the Chinese. At any rate, I enjoyed my brief visit, and was overwhelmed by the kindnesses of my seminar hosts and participants. Progress, oil or not, is remarkable given that Angola is but a half-dozen years past a multi-decade, brutal civil war. As I prepared my "all-knowing" "guru remarks," I couldn't help but reflect that 90% of audience members over, say, 35 were far wiser to the twisted ways of the world than I.

[Get the PPT slides.—CM]

See Tom at

We have some new friends, and they've started the relationship off nicely by posting videos of Tom on their website. Anthony Gell, who's the founder of The Business Voice,, convinced Tom to sit for an interview. They taped it, divided it into topics, and posted it on their website. You can watch the whole interview or choose to watch Tom on innovation, talent, leadership, passion, branding, and more. Our thanks to the folks at bvo!

California Dream

"Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated."—Mark Twain

Did you know: 43% of all U.S. venture capital in 2008 went to the San Francisco Bay Area.

California on its last legs? I probably heard that sorry story five times in my 30-plus year residence, roughly 1966–2000.

What a crock!

Check out this week's Time cover story, "The End of California? Dream on!"

Here's an excerpt:

"Ignore the California whinery. It's still a dream state. In fact the pioneering megastate that gave us microchips, freeways, blue jeans, tax revolts, extreme sports, energy efficiency [CA's per capita energy consumption index has gone down steadily for the last 40 years while the U.S. overall has gone up], health clubs, Google searches, Craigslist, iPhones, and the Hollywood vision of success is still the cutting edge of the American future—economically, environmentally, demographically, culturally, and maybe politically. It's the greenest and most diverse state, the most globalized in general and most Asia-oriented in particular at a time when the world is heading in all those directions. It's also an unparalleled engine of innovation, the mecca of high tech, biotech, and now cleantech. In 2008, California's wipeout economy attracted more venture capital than the rest of the nation combined. Somehow its supposedly hostile business climate has nurtured Google, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Facebook, Twitter, Disney, Cisco, Intel, eBay, YouTube, MySpace, The Gap, and countless other companies that drive the way we live."

I'll close with this quote from genomics guru Craig Venter: "This is the most dynamic place for change on earth. That's why we're here."

I suggest you delay the publication of the obit.
Roll on, mighty California!

Five Boo-boos

  1. Jobs are not coming back. People are hurting!!!! "Some people" (me!) cheered the return of the DJ average to 10,000 last week. Yup, we're pulling out of the recession! Try telling that to the 15 million out of work in the U.S. And those still working are scoring but 33 hours per week—the least in 60 years. In a horrifying (careful word choice) article by gazillionaire Mort Zuckerman in yesterday's Financial Times ("The Free Market Is Not Up to the Job of Creating Work"), Mr. Z adds a raft of other appalling facts about the astonishing mismatch between areas where job growth might take place and the skillsets of the recently booted. Message: The recession is a long way from "waning" for a bloody lot of people! Keep your cheering to yourself! (You may have to keep it to yourself for, say, the next 10 years.)
  2. So the reporter at the desk next to yours lost his job. An article in Time focused on the implications of the revolutionary transition to the "new economy." For God's sake, I've been yelling about that for 15 years. And what a bunch of bull! Yup, there is a new economy—and newspapers are getting clobbered. But the large majority of us still work in pharmacies and insurance offices and, yes, car dealerships. Why oh why do we always willfully focus on folks in big companies in sexy industries?
  3. Gen X (etc.) is bringing a new look to the work force. Yeah, unemployed. Much as we focus on the 52-year-old UAW worker tossed out the door, the fact is that the older folks are doing relatively well in the "contraction"—and the younger folks are taking it in the chops. (See BusinessWeek's "horrifying" October 8 cover story, "The Lost Generation.")
  4. Don't lose those superstars! Is there any credible evidence that Wall Street's superstars (about to receive mega-bonuses) are actually superstars? If so, it's not clear to me. (I admit to being a slavish devotee of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Fooled By Randomness—which sets off alarms on this topic.)
  5. Our gentle neighbors. I was in Toronto last week. (Love that city!) When "we" think of Canada, we often think it's a "very nice place." Well, it is, but life for workers ain't no walk in the park! (Understatement.) Canadian pension plans are going bye-bye like ours (Except for the public sector, like us). Fact is that only 25% of Canadian workers have a pension plan. So much for kindly Canada, the workers paradise. (Yup, they all have health coverage—no small thing. And many I talked to are really pissed off at our willful mis-characterization of their health plan, with which they are more or less quite happy.) (Source for pension information, The Globe and Mail, 10/17/09.)


Sorry, editing-editing-editing again this week. (Then, on Saturday, off to Angola and Saudi Arabia.)

Link Roundup #8

Of the top 50 Most Influential Management Gurus as published by Forbes, Tom is 19.

ABC's Nightline featured Cool Friend Dan Coyle and his book, The Talent Code. Watch it and learn about talent training hotbeds.

Will you accept nothing short of being passionate about your work? This article continues the debate over the importance of happiness at work.

Cool Friend Rosabeth Moss Kanter has a new book out called SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good in which she highlights that doing good and making money do not have to be mutually exclusive.

We can always count on Cool Friend Dan Pink to provide us with fascinating facts, but this one really stood out: "A study of the top fifty game-changing innovations over a hundred-year period showed that nearly 80 percent of those innovations were sparked by someone whose primary expertise was outside the field in which the innovation breakthrough took place."

Need new marketing ideas? Michele Miller at WonderBranding recommends three new blogs to add to your feeds.

It's All About the Talent

[Our guest blogger is Valarie Willis. Find out more about Val here.]

We have known for years that the focus should be on talent and not jobs. I was intrigued as I read this article today in the New York Times telling people to think of their careers like a business.

Even people inside organizations today should view their work and career as if they owned them. How differently would we act if we approached our work with an entrepreneurial spirit? Would you go after new skills, would you promote yourself more, would you find new projects to associate yourself with?

Talent is still key, work doesn't get done without the right talent in place. Today, however, the way organizations obtain the talent they need is changing. Talent will be brought in for projects, short and long term, and then released, and the cycle will start all over again. People who keep their skills up to date, watch the market for future skill needs, and adapt will survive. Some companies have cut personnel too deep and will be looking for the right talent to bring onboard.

So, now would be a great time to think about how you differentiate yourself in the market when your only opportunity to "interview" may be via one of the social networking media. I recently hired someone from the Elance site to do some IT work for me. I never met them in person—our entire relationship was Web based. From this site, you can put out a request for proposal on what you need done, people bid on the job, and you have your pick of great talent. You can even see the feedback and ratings from others that they have worked for, so it is in the best interest of talent to do excellent work. What if your company put up a public rating scale, how would you fare? How would you rate others on your project team?

It is certainly something to think about as we strive to manage our careers and do our absolute best work.

Excellence Slides: Toronto

Tom is speaking today in Toronto at an all-day event called "The Art of
Management." Among others with whom he'll be sharing the podium is Marcus
. "There's nobody," Tom says, "in 'this business,' whatever 'this
business' is, whom I respect more than Marcus. It's that simple." (Tom also
reports gleefully that the promised overnight snow did not materialize.)

To get the slides, use these links:
The Art of Management, Toronto, Final
The Art of Management, Toronto, Long Version

Sorry. Redux.

Once again, AWOL. This time a weeklong trip to India followed by a 40-hour journey from New Delhi to Austin TX via god-knows-where-cubed. Then back from Austin to Boston, logging my third consecutive midnight in the air—followed by a return to intensive book editing, about round #6 or #7 or #8 as I figure. (And the editing to a manuscript that was supposedly "ready to go" when I started the half-dozen or so rounds in late June—summer, where did thou go? Snow predicted for VT tomorrow, and also for Toronto where my carcass will be, eh?) At least at an Austin signing for airport managers and board members, I had the thrill of autographing 250 sets of our galleys. And all this from a body that's 23 days from finishing up its 67th year—dear God Almighty that's frigging old.

FYI, one other highlight ...