Archive | books

Can You Create A Dictionary of Cultural Literacy?

Almost exactly 25 years ago, a close friend gave me a book called “The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know.” The book contains 23 sections, representing “major categories of knowledge”, each containing hundreds of entries discussing ideas, events, and individuals that were “essential for understanding American discourse”. At first, I thought…

Continue Reading 0

The Unintended Consequence Of The Cobra Effect

Whenever plans don’t work out the way someone expects them to, I’m reminded of the cobra effect. Coined in a book written by the late German economist Horst Siebert, the cobra effect is a cautionary tale of unintended consequences during British rule in India. The British government was concerned that venomous cobra snakes were common…

Continue Reading 3

The Parable of the Kid and the Barber

A few years ago I read psychologist Walter Mischel’s book, “The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control,” which provides recommendations on how to substantially increase your ability to control your impulses, including: Create good habits Visualize long-term consequences Disassociate from situations so they are less personal This strategy even managed to teach self-control to Sesame Street’s Cookie…

Continue Reading 0

When Promoting People, Beware the False Record Effect

After writing about several examples of bias from insensitivity to sample size, a former colleague asked whether I thought performance in the workplace was subject to the same bias. She observed that people were sometimes rewarded or even promoted for high performance, even if that performance was sporadic rather than sustained. She asked: Shouldn’t the…

Continue Reading 0

In Business, Informal Tribes Matter More Than Formal Teams

Not long after I joined my last employer, a colleague provided me with an incredibly important insight on how to get things done. Informal networks, she explained, were much stronger than the official hierarchy. Top-down decisions were usually met with questions which delayed their implementation. On the other hand, powerfully-connected people could implement decisions virally…

Continue Reading 1