Saturday, April 30, 2011

Motivation Plays A Critical Role In Determining IQ Test Scores

ScienceDaily (Apr. 27, 2011) — New psychology research at the University of Pennsylvania demonstrates a correlation between a test-taker's motivation and performance on an IQ test and, more important, between that performance and a person's future success.

Angela Lee Duckworth, an assistant professor of psychology in Penn's School of Arts and Sciences, led the research, which involved two related studies.

The first was a meta-analysis of previous research into the effect of incentives on IQ scores. For individuals who had above-average scores at baseline, motivation accounted for only about a quarter of a standard deviation, or about four points. But, for those who had below-average scores, motivation made up almost a whole standard deviation.

The second study involved an experiment in which researchers observed video footage of adolescent boys taking a standard IQ test to rate their motivation and then measured how well they fared in terms of criminal record, job status and educational attainment more than a decade later.

Coders, who were not aware of subjects' IQ scores or the hypothesis of the study, rated each subject's motivation based on a standard rubric of behaviors, such as refusing to answer questions or obviously rushing through the test to make it end as quickly as possible. Ratings of test motivation and IQ scores were about equally predictive of the adult outcomes of years of education, employment status and criminal record.

"What we were really interested in finding out was when you statically control for motivation, what happens to the predictive power of the IQ tests? What we found is that the predictive power goes down significantly," Duckworth said.

Duckworth's research was published April 26 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"When people use IQ tests in social science research, where thousands of kids are taking IQ tests where it doesn't matter to them what they get, what's the effect of motivation on those scores?" Duckworth said.

"IQ scores are absolutely predictive of long-term outcomes. But what our study questions is whether that's entirely because smarter people do better in life than other people or whether part of the predictive power coming from test motivation" Duckworth said.

"Could it be that part of the reason doing well on this test predicts future success is because the kinds of traits that would result in you doing well -- compliance with authority, self-control, attentiveness, competitiveness -- are traits that also help you in life?

"This means that for people who get high IQ scores, they probably try hard and are intelligent," she said. "But for people who get low scores, it can be an absence of either or both of those traits."

The research was conducted by Duckworth; Patrick D. Quinn of the Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin; Donald R. Lynam of the Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University; and Rolf Loeber and Magda Stouthamer-Loeber of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health and National Institute on Aging.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Pennsylvania.

 

How Good Designers Think

We all know that really good designers somehow think differently from you and me about new products. But just exactly what does this difference consist of? The best summary of what makes really good designers tick was a simple post by Bruce Nussbaum back in 2007. Since reading that I've often pondered the subject and today, I find it helpful to look at my experience of how good designers think (and do) at each stage of the innovation process: insights, inspiration, and action.

Insight: They Look at What We
Don't Know

Most insight, because it relies so heavily on asking consumers, only deals with improvements to known/ existing products and services (I'd like it bigger, cheaper, quicker, smaller, etc). It rarely deals with the new/never been done before — the unexpected but relevant solution.

No one ever asked for Starbucks, or Walkmans or iPods, or the Internet ,or texting — they were truly new ideas. And no amount of consumer research gave Steve Jobs the confidence to re-imagine the music industry.

Good designers aim to move beyond what you get from simply asking consumers what they need and want. First of all because they understand that most people when asked don't say what they mean or mean what they say, but also because people often don't know. Good designers want to unearth what consumers can't tell them: latent & emerging needs and motivations; actual behaviors and attitudes; and, crucially, barriers to as well as drivers of change — or simply put, what your competitors don't also already know.

How?

Firstly, good designers don't tend to think about consumers; they think about people and what they want and need. It's a subtle point, but thinking about people as consumers immediately dehumanizes them and makes it harder to empathize.

Secondly, good designers like observing — really looking at what people do rather than simply relying on what they say they do. As Paul Smith once explained, when asked where he got his ideas from: "You and I could walk down the street together and look at the same things, but I'd SEE ten times more than you would."

Thirdly, they bring expertise in other categories and industries to bear on problems in others. They pull together threads from different functions, disciplines, fields, and sectors, and integrate them into a new and (the dreaded word) "holistic" understanding.

Fourthly, good designers look at what might all change in the short, medium and long-term, by engaging with the best trends and forecasting intelligence. Unlike other crystal ball gazers they use this prescience to help them understand how they could bend the future, shape it to their vision.

And lastly, good designers pressure test their conclusions by consulting with other cultural 'interpreters' from a broad range of other disciplines.

Inspiration: They Look for What to Do
Good designers want to solve problems — and this makes them want to transform insights into inspiration.

How?

Firstly, they have the ability to visualize what has never been. As Bruce Nussbaum said in the same post, "Many firms are plagued by articulate and persuasive 'smart talkers' who sound good in meetings but get bogged down in abstract complexities." Good designers are good at what I call inspirational tangibility, "making it real," whether it be by concretizing with a sketch what would otherwise be abstract thoughts or so many post-its in a meeting, enabling large amounts of complex data to be understood and absorbed quickly with a diagram, or as Bruce describes it "quickly lashing together a physical or digital mock-up" of a proposed solution.

Secondly, good designers live and work in the future most days, immersed in the activity of actively creating and shaping their client's future visions of new products and services. And this familiarity with fusing creativity with what's feasible and commercial every day is what makes good designers so good at doing this consistently and better than others.

Thirdly, they overcome the "not invented here..." syndrome. For new ideas to survive and indeed thrive they have to be successfully embraced by all the relevant (another ghastly word) "stakeholders." Good designers can act as a translator between functional silos as different as supply chain, marketing and R&D.

Action: They Keep Going
When good designers talk about innovation, they mean (and I make no apologies for cribbing Lord Sainsbury's much-quoted definition), "the successful exploitation of new ideas." They don't stop with the invention. They turn their inspirations into reality.

How?

Firstly, in the case of a new product or service, it's unlikely to be successfully brought to market unless it can be integrated into and be supported by all the other aspects of the marketing mix: and if we're talking new business strategy, then good designers have to understand how the new offering could and should impact (and to what degree) all the other aspects of the organization: from its structure, to its mission and culture...all the way to the business model(s) that underpin everything.

Good designers don't claim to be able to do all these things, but they do know to work with the various functions and outside resources that do. And unlike some others, they don't leave their colleagues at the bus stop; they stay with the project until the end because nothing gives a good designer more satisfaction than being able to point to something that everyone else thinks is the best thing since sliced bread and saying, "I did that!"

Secondly, they are good at practical resolution. Bruce Nussbaum describes the problem thus, "Some of the smartest execs get bogged down in the messy process of implementation." But again, good designers' ability to "make it real" can help resolve contradictions and find highest common denominator compromises, helping the (innovation/ marketing) process more forward.

Thirdly, good designers are good at iterative prototyping, refining the concept through repeated cycles and getting feedback from the right people as they go. James Dyson famously made two thousand prototypes of his bagless vacuum cleaner before he got it right. The rest, as they say, is history.

Simon Rucker is an associate director at global design and innovation company Seymourpowell, based in London.

Thanks to Blogs HBR

 

Psychologists Ask How Well -- Or Badly -- We Remember Together

ScienceDaily (Apr. 27, 2011) — Several years ago, Suparna Rajaram noticed a strange sort of contagion in a couple she was close to. One partner acquired dementia -- and the other lost the nourishing pleasures of joint reminiscence. "When the other person cannot validate shared memories," said Rajaram, "they are both robbed of the past."

From this observation came a keen and enduring interest in the social nature of memory, an area of scholarship occupied mostly by philosophers, sociologists, and historians -- and notably unattended to until recently by cognitive psychologists.

So Rajaram, a psychology professor at Stony Brook University, began to specialize in "collaborative memory" -- or how people learn and remember in groups. People generally believe that collaboration helps memory -- but does it always? "How is memory shaped by being experienced in a social context?" These are the questions Rajaram investigates in the lab -- and addresses in a new paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Some findings in the field of collaborative memory research have been counter intuitive. For one, collaboration can hurt memory. Some studies have compared the recall of items on lists by "collaborative groups," or those who study together, and "nominal groups," in which individuals work alone and the results are collated. The collaborative groups remembered more items than any single person would have done alone. But they also remembered fewer than the nominal groups did by totaling the efforts of its solitary workers. In other words, the collaborators' whole was less than the sum of its parts.

This so-called "collaborative inhibition" affects recall for all sorts of things, from word pairs to emotionally laden events; it affects strangers or spouses, children or adults. It is, in scientific lingo, "robust."

What explains this? One dynamic is "retrieval disruption": Each person remembers in his or her own way, and compelled to listen to others, can't use those strategies effectively. Sometimes that effect fades. Sometimes it squashes the memories for good, causing "post collaborative forgetting." Then there's "social contagion" of errors, wherein a group member can implant erroneous recollections in another's memory.

On the other hand, collaborative learning helps -- which is why people hold it in high esteem. Individuals recall different information or events; after time, they can get together, contribute their bits, and reeducate each others' memories and expand the group's recall, mitigating the costs of collaboration. People can also correct each other's erroneous memories, a process Rajaram and her colleagues call "error pruning." Or they can "cross-cue" -- bring up recollections that jog memories others have forgotten.

Rajaram's work involves small groups in the controlled laboratory environment. Yet, like others in her field, she believes it can inform the understanding of the wider "networks in which social memory phenomena are occurring" -- classrooms, institutions, communities, subcultures, or nations.

"If a small group can reshape memories, we see how individuals come to hold certain viewpoints or perspectives," she says. "That can serve as a model for how collective identities and histories are shaped."

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Association for Psychological Science.

 

A Teakettle With Star Power? The Upsides And Pitfalls Of Celebrity Brands

A Teakettle with Star Power? The Upsides and Pitfalls of Celebrity BrandsA little over 25 years ago, Kmart teamed up with Jaclyn Smith, the onetime Breck Shampoo Girl and star of TV's Charlie's Angels, for an exclusive line of fashionable, reasonably priced clothing and accessories. At the time, the discount chain was best known for its folksy "Blue Light Specials" -- where a store worker would light up a mobile police light and offer a discount in a specific department. The goal of the Jaclyn Smith partnership was to add a touch of sophistication to the chain. Today, the collection, which sells everything from faux leather jackets to silk table linens to velvet Christmas ornaments, is one of Kmart's most recognized and enduring brands.

But the collaboration signifies much more than the widespread availability of affordable wedge sandals and two-tone straw hats: It effectively blazed a trail for what might be considered the golden era of celebrities designing for big box stores. Today, for instance, Michael Graves, the architect, designs a line of hip teakettles and toasters for Target. Vera Wang, the A-list fashion designer, creates stylish shoes, sweaters and jewelry exclusively for Kohl's. Pop star Miley Cyrus has an allowance-friendly label for Walmart of tops, pants and graphic tees targeted at tweens. This summer, reality TV stars the Kardashian sisters will introduce their line of clothing, the Kardashian Kollection, at Sears.

In an otherwise price-driven economy, retailers are increasingly relying on a stable of private label and exclusive brands, according to Wharton marketing professor Barbara E. Kahn, director of the Jay H. Baker Retailing Initiative. These lines differentiate stores, give them more say over the marketing of their merchandise and perhaps most importantly, give retailers control over pricing, which leads to greater profitability, Kahn says. Profits on exclusive brands tend to be higher than national brands because chains are able to mark the lines down at their own speed.

"Retailers are in a difficult situation right now because the price of cotton is going up, as are labor and operating costs. But with private labels, they have many more pricing options and much more control over their brands," Kahn notes. "Attach a celebrity name to an exclusive store brand, and retailers get all that dazzle and panache along with all the profits. It's a way to create excitement in the store, and make it special."

But there are pitfalls to these partnerships. Exclusive lines represent an enormous amount of time, effort and expense from retailers. If stores do not properly execute the line in any way -- by stocking an ill-considered miniskirt or a shoddily manufactured appliance, for instance -- they are left with a large and costly inventory.

Retailers are also vulnerable to the personal foibles of their celebrity designers: If one misbehaves or becomes embroiled in a scandal, sales could fall. For example, now defunct retail chain Anchor Blue failed to score with a clothing line by reality television star Heidi Montag, better known for her multiple plastic surgeries and other controversial off-screen behavior. Finally, celebrities can find themselves susceptible to the declining fortunes of their retail partners: The bankruptcy of budget chain Steve & Barry's left exclusive lines by Sarah Jessica Parker, Amanda Bynes and Venus Williams without a place to call home.

Cutting Through the Clutter

One of the biggest challenges facing retailers is the lack of differentiation among the major department stores. Walk into any two strip malls in America and the monotony of merchandise on the shelves is apparent: shelf after shelf of the same trousers, toasters and tea towels. But an exclusive brand -- particularly one with a celebrity name on the label -- helps separate retailers from their competition, according to Stephen Hoch, a Wharton marketing professor.

"This is just one of the ways we're seeing that branding is more important than it used to be," he says. "What is new is that retailers are doing it more often, and these exclusive lines represent a higher percentage of their sales than they ever have before."

Last year, for instance, Kohl's garnered about 48% of its sales from exclusives, up from 44% the previous year. Exclusive brands at Saks Fifth Avenue stores until very recently made up less than 10% of the products for sale, but last year the up-market retailer announced several new product lines that will make exclusive items about 20% of its offerings over the next several years.

Celebrity lines are an obvious way for retailers to generate buzz. They also put a face on the brand and help crystallize the target market, notes Hoch. "It's a way to borrow some equity from the celebrity -- a way for stores to sell the same stuff, but with a measure of exclusivity.... Plus, everyone else is doing it. Stores reason, 'If my competitor is doing it, I have to do it to stay in business.' That's why it's more ubiquitous now."

Famous clothing and product designers are also much more open to the prospect of having a line at a major retailer, he adds. "Every designer is interested in the middle market. If they are only designing for the runways and doing haute couture, they will be famous in Women's Wear Daily, but they won't be rich. They know that the money is in the mass market. This is where they will get scale."

A second reason retailers seek out celebrity partnerships is to enhance their image and build loyalty among customers. Stores' own private label brands do not inspire allegiance because "there's an enduring notion that store brands are cheap and not as good," according to Jonah Berger, a Wharton marketing professor. But consumers feel better about brands with a "name" attached. "They feel better about wearing them, and they feel better about giving them as gifts. This is why name brands are more resistant to a downturn."

Consumers feel a personal connection to famous-name brands. Martha Stewart has lines at both Macy's and Kmart, and if you are a Stewart fan, "You know something about Martha Stewart as a person, you already have a connection to her, you get excited about her and you have a quality association with her," Berger says. "People buy celebrity brands not just for what the products do, but what they mean. Part of the reason people like celebrity brands is because they want to be associated with celebrities."

After all, celebrity sells. Take, for instance, Jessica Simpson, the pop star and actress, who has an eponymous line of moderately priced shoes, handbags, coats and clothing. According to Women's Wear Daily, the Jessica Simpson Collection took in $750 million in retail sales last year. At its current rate of growth, it could be the first ever celebrity clothing line to top a billion dollars in retail sales next year.

These labels not only add flair to the stores, but they also cause a "spillover effect." Customers are attracted to a certain retailer because of the cache of a given celebrity brand, but they may ultimately buy other items they hadn't intended -- a phenomenon known in the retail realm as "cross-shopping." "If you go into a Kmart to buy Martha Stewart pots and pans, you're more likely to buy other things as well because the very fact that they sell Martha Stewart -- a brand you have a connection to -- makes the rest of the store seem even better," according to Berger.

Gaining Control

In addition to differentiation, retailers seek out celebrity partnerships to gain control of their supply chain as well as control over how their products are marketed and sold. At a time when retailers are just starting to recover from the near-collapse of the financial sector in the fall of 2008 and the ensuing consumer slowdown, they are coming under new pressure from higher sourcing fees in China and the rising cost of materials and labor.

Exclusive brands enable retailers to gain more control over manufacturing costs, says Kathy Doyle Thomas, chairman of the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association (RAMA). "It also makes it easier for them to control inventory. A retailer knows it sells a certain number of black pants every season, so it makes economic sense for them to control the supply chain, and make the manufacturing cheaper. And if something is not working, the stores know what their margins are, so they know what they need to do to fix it."

This control over the supply chain also allows them to react faster to customer demands and trends, and enables big box retailers to be nimbler at creating so-called disposable fashion. Disposable or "fast fashion" is a specialty of retailers like H&M and Zara, which sell inexpensive, readily-available clothes designed to be worn a limited number of times before quickly going out of style. "The clothing may not be of the highest quality but it's very much in the moment, fun, and fashionable," notes Kahn. "Shoppers are not planning on wearing it forever so they don't mind that the product is not of the highest quality. It has a short shelf life."

There are other forces driving the movement toward private label brands, she says. Retailers are reacting to the fact that national brands -- such as Ralph Lauren -- are pulling out of department stores and instead selling directly to customers in standalone storefronts. "National brands want to have complete control," Kahn states. "When they have their own stores, national brands can be as persnickety as they want to be about their image. They can control how their products look on the shelves; they can dress the mannequins; they can determine how all the products appear in catalogs. And they also have a lot more control over price -- which is especially important when they are so vulnerable to prices of commodities."

When retailers launch an exclusive famous-name brand, they are able to wrest back some of that control over price. They are not beholden to national brands for markdowns, and the very existence of their in-house exclusive brand makes it tricky for customers to do a straight price comparison with similar goods. After all, it is hard to know the exact difference in quality between a Michael Graves lemon squeezer designed for Target and a generic one. And because there are no like-for-like comparisons, the product is no longer competing completely on the basis of price.

Of course retailers must pay careful attention to the marketing of their brands to make sure they don't become commonplace or over-extended. But generally speaking, these lines sell at a premium, says Theresa Williams, director of the Center of Education and Research in Retailing and marketing professor at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business. She estimates exclusive brands have a profit margin of about 50, which is 10 to 15 points higher than a national brand.

"Exclusive brands create a sense of urgency in the customer's mind about owning a particular product. A customer at Kohl's will pay $64 for a sweater with a Vera Wang label on it," Williams notes, adding that $64 is quite expensive compared with other Kohl's sweaters. "To that shopper, there is something there that tells her that sweater is worth it."

The Downside of Fame

Partnering with a celebrity does have some disadvantages, however. Exclusive brands are very expensive to execute and require a significant effort on the part of retailer. Chains often must commit to large minimum orders to get the best prices on their in-house products, and if those products don't sell, they could be left with a big and expensive inventory.

"The cost is substantial mainly because they have another partner -- the celebrity on the label -- to worry about," says Williams. "It changes the way retailers source manufacturing, and the approval process becomes much more onerous. There's a certain aesthetic -- not just a look or style -- that really is the entire essence of the line, and everyone has to approve. It puts a much greater responsibility on the part of the retailer to keep the brand partner satisfied."

Williams estimates that partnering with a celebrity for an exclusive brand increases the cost of a product line by about 12%. Add the advertising dollars to create customer awareness, and royalty payments to the brand partner, which typically range from 1% to 3% of revenue and, "for a retailer like Target, that's a lot of money," Williams points out. "And if you miss the mark, or make a mistake -- you own it. You don't have guaranteed profitability with these lines."

For this reason, retailers must choose their celebrity partners carefully. "They have to think hard about who best represents the brand, who makes sense and who excites the customer," says Williams. "They have to look at the demographic and psychographic of their target customer and figure out who has the greatest 'stickiness'. They don't want to just hang their hat on the flavor of the month."

Thanks to Knowledge@Wharton

 

PR Blunders And How To Avoid Them

PR Blunders And How To Avoid Them

Many small business owners think PR means sending out a news release with carefully chosen words to promote, say, a new product. But public relations covers a broad scope of activities. Done right, PR can help build awareness of your company, products, services, technologies, people and issues. Done wrong, PR will still do the same thing, but in ways you really don't want.

The candy bombers

Take, for example, the 1920s German candy company that thought it would be great pubic relations to drop confections from a biplane. The press all over Europe exploded with articles about the stunt—predominantly complaints from people who said they'd been bombed with chocolate.

But years later, in another context, the same idea was a huge success. During the Russian Blockade of 1948-49, a major Cold War crisis, pilots flying food and fuel into isolated Berlin thrilled the city's children by dropping candy attached to little parachutes. Reported worldwide, the act of kindness had a huge positive impact on German-American relations in postwar Germany.

Why was one candy drop a PR blunder and the other an international success? The former was self-serving, the other selfless. Sure, corporate communications is about getting the word out about your company, products, services, technologies, people and issues as we've said. But a real PR success goes beyond simple communications, and says something about the values of the organization too; it's about what you offer others.

Carrying a spork without a license

Public relations isn't just about getting the word out. It's also about sending a message. Take, for example, the Delaware teacher and principal who suspended an enthusiastic six-year old for bringing a Cub Scout "spork" to school—a folding spoon, knife, and fork. The school board, in the wake of the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings, tried to send a message and rigidly sentenced the A-student to 45 days in reform school for violating their "zero tolerance" policy regarding "weapons." Only after the New York Times and the NBC Today show took them to task was the innocent tyke allowed back in school. Did their actions influence public relations? Oh, yeah.

You can avoid such a blunder if you keep in mind that the message received is the message sent. Regardless of your intent, your relations with the public are the result of how they perceive what you said—and how you said it. Handled differently, with careful thought about the message they were really sending, the school district could have sent a very positive message to their audience and influencers. And the little boy, who said, "...there's something wrong with the law not me..." would have learned a much more beneficial lesson at school.

Airline mangles public image

And then there's the famous case, a guitar case actually, that was thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers causing $1,900 damage to Dave Carroll's $3,500 Taylor guitar. Missing an opportunity for good PR, United initially refused to pay for the damage. Understanding the power of PR, Carroll and his country band, Sons of Maxwell, created a YouTube video that was viewed 3 million times in the first week. Apparently it struck a chord with United, which eventually agreed to pay for the damage.

But the PR award in this episode goes to Taylor Guitars, which invited Carroll to its factory and presented him with a new guitar to replace the one United's baggage handlers mangled.

How could United have avoided the blunder? The same way you can: care about your customers.

Above all, remember that PR, good and bad, is sticky. Taylor is still a hero and United is still the goat, three years and 10,282,619 YouTube views later.

Thanks to Tom Harnish / OpenForum

 

LinkedIn Takes A Data Dive To Examine What’s In A Professional Name

There have been many studies examining the most popular and ideal names for CEOs and professionals. But what's better than examining the actual data from over 100 million professionals from around the globe? Professional social network LinkedIn has done a deep data dive on the top CEO names, and most popular names by industry and country.

LinkedIn contrasted CEOs with the average LinkedIn professional to find the top names that are over-represented among CEOs. The top CEO names found on the network, in order, are: Peter, Bob, Jack, Bruce, Fred, Deborah, Sally, Debra, Cynthia, and Carolyn. One trend LinkedIn highlights is that the most over-indexed CEO names for males tend to be either short or shortened versions of popular first names. Female CEOs, on the other hand, use their full name to project a more professional image, reports the network.

In terms of name length by industry, short, four-letter names are even more popular in sales (Chip, Trey, Todd) but not in engineering (Rajesh, Jeremy, Andrew) or the restaurant industry, where the top over-represented names are Thierry, Philippe and Laurent.

By country, Howard took the top CEO name in the U.S., Ray won in Canada, Charles for the U.K., Tony for Ireland, Gilles for France, Wolfgang for Germany, Guido for Italy, Xavier for Spain, Rajiv for India, Mike for New Zealand, Bruce for Australia and Roberto for Brazil.

Of course, it's important to note that these names correlate with members who indicated they are CEO positions at companies around the world on their LinkedIn profiles.

Thanks to Leena Rao / TechCrunch

 

 

5 Resourceful Online Communities For Freelancers

5 Resourceful Online Communities For Freelancers

Many people are exploring the option of freelancing in today's marketplace, whether it's for extra money or more flexible hours. Whatever the motivation, becoming a part-time or full-time freelancer isn't as easy as it seems.

Forgoing a steady paycheck from a full-time job, freelancers make a living by using their talents for multiple clients, the operative world being "multiple." It takes discipline and organization, and it helps to have an online community with whom you can share resources, best practices and even job prospects.

Here are a handful of freelancer communities that provide resources and paid opportunities for freelancers:

1. Elance

Elance offers freelancers the ability to set up a profile, apply for projects directly, and do the actual freelance work in their cloud-based work area. There are several subscription levels on the site. You can opt for a free, basic level that provides a profile, a minimum number of proposals to potential clients and minimum workroom storage space. The highest subscription permits multiple users, "preferred listing" status, enhanced storage space, wire transfers and other features for $40 per month. These two levels are the extremes—there are other options in between to align with your needs.

From a business perspective, companies can hire freelancers and use the cloud workspace to manage the project. This is a plus for companies that need to manage multiple contractors at the same time.

Elance also streamlines the oft-troublesome invoice and payment process: the company pays Elance, then Elance pays the freelancer. Elance guarantees that its online system will get users paid on-time.

2. oDesk

oDesk is similar to Elance in that companies can hire contractors from the oDesk database or they can bring their own team together using the oDesk platform. In both cases, oDesk handles the payroll.

The difference is that oDesk does not charge the contractor or the company to sign up with them—there are no fees to post jobs or create profiles. oDesk makes its money by taking a 10 percent cut of all payments, which is outlined in the FAQs on its site.

As a freelancer, oDesk offers jobs in many categories. Freelancers are able to create oDesk profiles outlining their past work history and skills. You can also take a few online skills tests to verify your abilities with various apps and tools—Excel, Java, WordPress and Ruby on Rails, to name a few—for a potential client.

3. Sologig

Sologig is reminiscent of a traditional job board. Freelancers can register for free and sign up for an e-newsletter so job opportunities come right to your inbox. Once you're signed up, you can search for jobs or peruse an RSS feed of open gigs. To target opportunities that would be a good fit, you can upload your resume and let Sologig's job-matching technology match keywords in your resume with company listings.

Companies such as Ernst & Young, Lockheed Martin and Medix IT Staffing Solutions pay a fee to post jobs. They also can access the Sologig profiles database to search for freelance talent directly.

4. Hour.ly

Hour.ly is a relatively new social networking community. Launched on Labor Day 2010, Hour.ly gained some initial attention by winning the People's Choice Award at the O'Reilly Media Startup Showcase.

It's free to join Hour.ly and create an online profile with your contact information, photo, social media contact info and your work availability. Once you see a job you like, you can submit your online profile with one click. You can also opt-in for a background check to demonstrate to potential companies that you're serious. Instead of letting you search jobs, Hour.ly matches freelancer profiles with open jobs (companies can post for free) based on location, pay rate, experience and scheduling availability.

Once a match is made, employers can interview people using the Hour.ly video chat system.

5. Freelance Switch

Freelance Switch is a community site that lists freelance jobs in addition to providing information about the freelancer lifestyle. The site has many articles about setting prices, finding and dealing with clients and getting referral business. It recently relaunched its regular podcasts, which cover topics such as debt collection, personal branding and contract negotiations.

Accessing the resources is free, but applying for jobs is possible only with a paid subscription. Rates start at $7 per month.

Companies are able to post freelance opportunities for free—Sony, Nokia and Adobe have posted jobs on Freelance Switch.

If you're a freelancer who has used these or other sites, let us know in the comments.

Thanks to Sharlyn Lauby (Mashable)  / OpenForum

 

8 Tips For Building Brand Loyalty

With thousands of brands crawling around and begging for recognition, we know that customer loyalty is key in getting your brand to the top. But how do you turn people from casual customer to hardcore fan?

We've assembled eight great tactics you can employ today that will generate loyalty to your brand. You'll be seeing increased business and otherwise noticing increased awareness of your product.

1. First impressions matter

It doesn't hurt to think of your interactions with customers as if you're on a date. Are you putting your best foot forward? Be nice. Be flattering. If you do damage to your business relationships early on, it will take time and money to fix it. Show your genuine, best self.

2. Let people connect with you on their own terms

Put together some sort of regular and recurring e-mail newsletter, but allow people to opt in to it. Would you appreciate an endless barrage of e-mails from some company you did business with one time and never wanted to hear from again? How would that stream of junk mail make you think about that company? Would you ever be interested in dealing with that organization a second time?

3. Keep in touch, but do it meaningfully

After people have opted in to your newsletter, send them information they care about. Yes, send them coupons and information on upcoming sales, but don't stop there. Figure out a way to include engaging content. Maybe it's a humorous update on what's been going on around the office. Get creative. What would you personally want to read? The more it feels like a conversation, the better.

4. Set the stakes high

Get your customers invested. A high switching cost is an asset, not an obstacle. Why are Apple fans frequently seen as rabid and devoted? It's because they've invested in an expensive product, and after switching from a PC, they've had to learn how to work with a completely new operating system. Set things up so that people have doubled down on your product as soon as they buy it.

5. Reward your customers

Honoring coupons and implementing loyalty programs will go a long way towards ensuring repeat business. It's a no-brainer method to get people coming back. The greater the rewards, the more business you can expect. Think big but practical at the same time.

6. Make your diehard fans extra talkative

A paid representative can only be so convincing. A person's friend or family member will go miles farther for free. Reward people who refer business to you. If you do it well, they'll only keep referring.

7. Give your fans a name

Lady Gaga has her "little monsters." Jimmy Buffett has the Parrotheads. Naming your fans will help create a sense of identity and community at the same time.

8. Make your customers feel famous

Lots of companies employ some sort of "customer spotlight" feature because it works. People want their 15 minutes of fame. Talk to your users, and when they say something interesting, share it with attribution. If you implement it in a compelling way, soon you'll have customers reaching out all the time.

Thanks to Dylan Love / OpenForum

 

When Small Business Owners Think Big

Q: How can a small business owner go about laying the foundation for a corporate culture like Virgin's?

A: Whether you're launching a new business or preparing to expand your existing one, laying a solid foundation for the future is critically important—bringing in investors, getting your contracts right, hiring your core team members, choosing the right suppliers. The fact that you are thinking about this question shows that you already have a sense of where your priorities should lie and you're ready to follow through.

To be honest, when my friends and I started the first Virgin business 40 years ago, we had no master plan—especially not one for a group of companies that by 2011 would number more than 400 businesses around the world and employ 50,000 people. Had we tried to plan for such a future, we would certainly have messed it up.

If there is a "right" way to develop your company's culture, our experience shows that it should evolve organically. In 1970, my friends and I weren't planning to do anything other than make some money and have a good time while doing something we loved. We loved listening to music, so we tried to sell records to other kids who wanted a fun place to hang out while deciding which ones to buy. We had no marketing plan or budget; our goals were simply to make enough money to pay the rent and our suppliers, and to have some cash left over at the end of the month.

Our launch was really no different from that of most small companies, since few entrepreneurs start thinking about their business' culture until it is already well established. If I think back to what we did right, it was in our planning process, when we made sure we were having fun working together and that everyone who had a good idea was included in our decision-making process. We had accidentally stumbled on the core elements of a culture dedicated to delivering great customer service! It turned out that people who work in a friendly environment that is tolerant of mistakes, and who are empowered to make decisions about how they do their jobs, arrive at the best possible solutions for serving customers.

When you're sorting out what your front-line colleagues' priorities should be, remember that how you treat the customer will form the basis of your corporate culture. Put your staff first, listen to them and follow up on their ideas and suggestions. Because you can be sure that every person on your staff already has deep insights into what your customers want and what employees need in order to deliver it. Should they focus on delivering solutions tailored to each customer's needs? Or on building lasting customer relationships? Or should they quickly deliver the goods or services your company offers? Listen carefully and find ways to empower each person to do a great job. One of my mentors, the late Sir Freddie Laker, was famous for his standard response to any staffer who came to him to whine about something: "Don't bring me problems, bring me solutions!" (He could certainly never be accused of running an autocracy.)

Small business owners often find it tough to learn how to handle success. When a business does well, many chief executives start to focus solely on increasing profits, no matter what the cost—leaving behind everything that originally made the business special. The founder usually moves to a big corner office on the top floor and never again sets foot in the factory. Employees who were integral to the company's early success suddenly find they are the last to know what is happening, and their views are no longer valued or sought.

So try to ensure your company grows at a comfortable pace and, whenever possible, involve your employees in the company's evolution. If you are a small business owner mulling over an expansion, tell all your employees about your plan—include everyone from the truck driver to your senior team—and ask for their input. If you can, it would be best to work out the details of the expansion plan together, taking into account the challenges faced by your employees, and incorporating improvements they would like to make. The ultimate winners will be your customers and the bottom line.

At Virgin, we have never had to struggle with the typical problems of big corporations, probably because we never really got big —we just diversified. Our growth was once described as "vertical disintegration" because our new businesses frequently appear to be tangential or even completely unrelated to our core mission. When Virgin was known for producing and selling records, for instance, we started up an airline.

The traditional corporate response to our typical plan for a new business would be, "I'm sorry, but we're a ____ company. This business is not within our core competency." But we see a uniting factor in our dedication to customer service. Instead of becoming a huge, bloated entity locked into a single sector, these tangential forays have kept our company fresh and different —we are always learning new businesses and recruiting smart new people. Each Virgin company is run by its own largely autonomous management team that relies on the same small-business principles we've employed since the very beginning.

Whatever route you decide to take as you expand your business, make sure that it builds on your company's past successes, and that it fits with the corporate culture and the vision for the future that you and your team have created. If someone says, "That's not the way a big company would do it," take it as a compliment!

Thanks to Richard Branson / OpenForum

 

10 Signs You Shouldn't Be A Small Business Owner

Thinking about starting your own business? Take a moment to read the signs. While no single sign here guarantees failure, any one of them will certainly make success in business much more difficult than it already is. The good news, however, is even if you see yourself in this list, you can overcome any of these traits and rewrite your signs.

The essential requirement is to be honest with yourself. If you find that you're nodding in agreement, step back and work on improving in those areas first, then tackle business ownership later.

1. You can't make decisions

Making decisions doesn't mean you need to make every single decision (that's what we call micromanaging), that you have to deliberate for hours over the ones you do make (that's what we call procrastinating), or that you have to make decisions following a certain procedure or managerial methodology. You do have to be able to make the call, one way or another, move that decision into action, and then deal with what happens as a result of that action, good or bad.

An indecisive leader wastes time trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing. Meanwhile, the rest of the world has passed by. In business, taking too long to make a decision on how to proceed means you lose the chance to proceed.

2. You won't take responsibility

If you're known among friends and family as the Master Excuse Maker, don't open a business, at least not until you get a handle on being the one who doesn't invent excuses but takes responsibility. The fun thing about being a business owner is that you get to be in charge; and the worst thing about being a business owner is that you have to be in charge—hence, the bottom line depends on you.

No matter whose fault a mistake is, as the head of your business, you have to own everything that goes on in your business, bad and good. An unhappy customer doesn't want to hear about why it's your employee's fault. An unhappy investor doesn't want to hear about why the economy didn't turn out the way you expected it to. Learn to claim responsibility for what happens in your life before you jump into owning a business.

3. Your only motivation is money

You can certainly get rich as a business owner; many people have. Many (more) people have also lost money attempting to start and run businesses. If you aren't in it for more than the money, you'll find your motivation wavering. Building a successful business takes time, usually a long time. Failure is part of the process. You have to have an internal motivation, a desire to succeed, an intrinsic ambition or motivation that moves you forward even without the fat paycheck.

4. You swing between extremes

If your moods have two points on the psychological map, one being "extremely depressed" and the other being "unrealistically optimistic," then you're in for a rough ride as a business owner. The ability to keep an even keel will help you deal with the challenges you'll face as a business owner. If a minor setback can take you down into depression, you might not be equipped to run a business.

You've also got to be able to temper your excitement and enthusiasm and look at possibilities from a realistic angle. Extreme emotional swings will mean that investors won't take you seriously, employees will run away in terror, and customers won't know what to do with you, so they just won't do anything.

5. You can't overcome chronic disorganization

Do you have piles of paper on your desk, and can never find the one you want? Never quite got that filing system set up? Is it your habit to live in clutter and disorder and simply try to survive despite the problems it causes? Are you perpetually late paying bills because you don't have an efficient system?

These dis-organizational habits can doom your fledgling business. No, you don't have to be an alphabetized, color-coded, organizing wizard; you do have to be able to operate efficiently and do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.

6. You have no track record of completion

If your past is a manuscript of opening paragraphs without any conclusions, you need to step back from the business arena until you've proved that you can take an idea from initial spark to end result. Ideas are great, and they're the food of innovation; but action that leads to results must be part of how you live, or your business will flutter, like you, from one great idea to another. A lack of completion means a lack of success. Get a good track record first; achieve some things; reach some goals; then evaluate where you are.

7. You have no support system

Being a business owner is difficult, at best. If your friends scoff and your family isn't supportive, you'll be waging a lonely war against the forces of internal resistance, organizational disaster and economic disinterestedness. The economy isn't going to reach out and pull your business up; you'll have to deal with your own personal weaknesses as you take one step after another toward building a good business. If you've got no personal or emotional support, and no mentors to call for advice, your chances of success are slim.

8. You are addicted to the familiar

It's a whole new world in business. Marketing is changing, the economy is in turmoil, the way of business-as-we-know-it is shifting in terms of product demand, distribution, processes and technology every day. Pity the business owner who takes refuge in the comfort of what is familiar, because what is familiar is quickly becoming what is obsolete.

While you hide behind what you know from the past, your business will languish in the present and, most certainly, die in the near future. As a business owner, you have to be able to let go of the familiar and deal objectively and fearlessly with the new that will present itself to you every day.

9. You never set your own limits

Being a business owner is appealing to many because they get to be the boss. If the only reason you want to be in business is to be completely independent, to live without limits and revel in your rebelliousness, good luck. You'll need it.

As a business owner, you'll find that you need to put forth your own resolve, your own measure of discipline, your own rules, and then you'll need to live by them. That doesn't mean you have to do things traditionally. It means you have to identify and rein in your own unruly tendencies in order to get the job done and run a company that can sustain itself.

10. You don't keep your word

Honesty is fundamental. Whatever may change in business, from marketing methods to product offerings, an essential requirement for any successful business is that it does what it says it will do. You can't make promises and break them; you can't offer products and fail to follow through; you can't make guarantees and then conveniently forget them. You might make a good first run, before customers figure out that you can't be trusted. But trust is integral to successful relationships between consumers and business, and you can't build trust without honesty.

If you're already a business owner, do you see yourself in any of these descriptions? If so, maybe the best way to improve the operations and profitability of your business is by changing something about yourself.

Annie Mueller is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. She covers small business topics with a focus on lean/zero budget start-ups, business blogging, and simple (sane) ways business can use social media without selling their souls to Facebook. Her work can be seen online at Investopedia's Financial Edge blog, Young Entrepreneur, Wise Bread, Organic Authority, Modern Mom, and her own site, AnnieMueller.com

Thanks to Annie Mueller (Wise Bread) / OpenForum

 

18 Ways Attention Goes Wrong

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When attention goes badly wrong it can play some nasty tricks on us.
Imagine if every time you walked into a room with a neatly turned down bed, you automatically took off your clothes and got into it -- even though it wasn't bedtime, wasn't your bed, and wasn't even your home. This might sound fanciful but it's a documented behaviour of patients with attentional problems caused by brain damage (Lhermitte, 1983).

Many everyday occurrences can also be explained by attentional errors, like when we miss obvious changes in the environment, fail at sports or simply forget to put the milk back in the fridge. More seriously psychologists have found that attentional processes can play a role in psychological problems like anxiety, panic, insomnia, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Here are 18 ways attention can go wrong, some very common, some extremely unusual, a few downright weird; each giving us an insight into how our minds work.

1. Utilisation behaviour

Experienced by people who have suffered certain types of damage to the frontal lobes: patients find themselves unable to resist the routine actions suggested by objects around them. They will get into neatly turned down beds, even though it's not their bed; they will put on glasses, even though they don't wear glasses; and they will start eating when they see a plate and cutlery, even though the plate is empty and they're not hungry. These strange behaviours, reported by Lhermitte (1983) and others, are partly caused by an inability to inhibit automatic behaviours, it's like the old comedy standby of a distracted person continuing to spoon sugar into their coffee, except much more extreme.

2. Spatial neglect

Brain damage can produce weird shifts in behaviour and experience. People with damage to certain areas of the right hemisphere fail to pay full attention to things they see on their left (because of the way the brain is wired, the right hemisphere processes information about the left-visual-field). They may only eat the food on the right-hand-side of their plate, or only shave half their face. They seem to see things to the left, but not to notice them.

3. The rubber gloves illusion

Competition for attention between the senses can create strange illusions. In one spooky study by Spence et al. (2000), participants were made to 'feel' a touch on empty rubber gloves in front of them, despite their own hands being hidden from sight underneath the table, free from tactile sensation. This suggests information from the visual system can override attention to tactile sensation (or lack thereof) from the hands, to create an apparently impossible sensation.

4. Pain

Even more than sight, though, pain is the ultimate attention-grabber. Unsurprisingly people who experience chronic pain of one kind or another can find it difficult to concentrate (Ecclestone, 1995). Pain pulls sufferers' attention away from task demands and forces them to continually re-focus to achieve their goal. One of the promising treatments for people suffering from chronic pain is 'attentional management': effectively helping people to direct less attention to their pain (Elomaa et al, 2009).

5. The cocktail party problem

The 'cocktail party effect' is our impressive ability to tune our auditory attention to just one voice at a party. Unfortunately for those with hearing loss this can become the cocktail party problem, a difficulty in separating one voice from all the others. Hearing aids can be somewhat helpful, but often can't restore full function (Marrone et al., 2008). This shows just how sensitive aural attention is to vocal characteristics: without precise information on spatial location, onset, offset, intensity and prosody, it's much more difficult to pluck one voice from a multitude.

6. Alcohol myopia

My favourite technical term for the insidious effect alcohol has on attention. After a couple of beers long-term consequences of actions are ignored in favour of short-term impulses. The intoxicated become attentionally short-sighted, even failing to spot clear environmental cues that things are going to end badly. Of course I wouldn't know anything about that: I just read it in a book. Ahem.

Eye Monster

7. Errors of automaticity

When our attention is distracted we carry out highly practised behaviours automatically, occasionally at inappropriate times. Like putting the milk out and the cat in the fridge. In a classic diary study of everyday slips and lapses Reason (1979) got people to describe all sorts of cute out-of-context slips. One person reported unwrapping a sweet (candy to the rest of you), throwing the sweet away and putting the wrapper in his mouth, another to putting shaving cream on his toothbrush and another to going upstairs to change for the evening, then finding himself wearing pyjamas. Although practice makes perfect, it can also make an unthinking robot.

8. Inattentional & choice blindness

It's absolutely incredible what changes people will miss when they're distracted. Participants in psychology studies fail to spot a gorilla in plain sight (Simons & Chabris, 1999); don't notice their conversational partner has suddenly changed mid-conversation, albeit hidden by a conveniently passing door (Simons & Levin, 1998); and frequently fail to recognise which of two people they originally chose as the most attractive (dubbed by the authors choice blindness).

9. Ironic processes of control

In fact sometimes attention is a real bear. What about when you really want to get something right, like putt the ball, hit a beautiful serve right in the corner or reverse the car into a narrow space? Naturally you concentrate even harder than normal, really focus. Unfortunately that just seems to make things worse: you miss the putt by a mile, frame the ball 50ft in the air and ding the car. What gives? These are what Wegner et al. (1998) call 'ironic processes of control'. Sometimes too much attention is just as detrimental as too little.

10. Insomnia

It's all very well smirking at the irony of people unable to putt, serve or park, but anyone who has suffered insomnia knows it's no laughing matter. Attention gets a look in here as well. Recent research suggests that insomnia may be partly explained by an attentional bias towards 'sleep-related threat' (Harvey et al., 2005). In other words insomniacs keep themselves awake by focusing too much on the bodily sensations associated with sleep and any environmental noises that might be keeping them awake. Unfortunately also somewhat ironic.

11. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Now the most well-known of attention disorders, it consists of three broad types: (1) mostly inattentive, (2) mostly impulsive and hyperactive and (3) all three (jackpot). Those with the attention-deficit component find it difficult to concentrate, are easily distracted and likely to day-dream. The vast majority of those diagnosed with ADHD are children. ADHD is often partly treated with a stimulant (Ritalin), along with behaviour therapy.

12. Anxiety

two_heads

You may be surprised to learn that anxiety is a sort of attention disorder, but being overly self-focused seems to be involved in many different mental health problems. Amongst people with social phobia and social anxiety their self-focused attention tends to maintain the problem (Spurr & Stopa, 2002). It makes perfect intuitive sense: a person continually thinking about themselves in social situations is bound to become more self-concious. Unfortunately it's another rather ironic process.

13. Panic attacks

Paying too much attention to bodily processes is a strong feature of those who experience panic attacks. Clearly we should all pay some attention to our bodily processes - otherwise we'd just ignore the toothache and our teeth would drop out. But people who experience panic attacks are hypervigilant to somatic sensations (Schmidt et al. (1997). One person's heartburn is another's death-knell.

14. Hypochondriasis

And talking of paying too much attention to bodily sensations, you'll be unsurprised to learn that hypochondriacs tend to be hypersensitive to odd twinges (Barsky et al., 1988).

15. Eating disorders

Again people with eating disorders like anorexia nervosa seem to have attentional biases around body image (Rieger et al., 1998)

16. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

People with OCD typically carry out particular tasks -- like hand-washing -- repeatedly in order to relieve anxiety about an obsession. Excessive attention towards anxiety-inducing thoughts, particularly those that are threat-related seems to be at least partly to blame (Lavy, 1994).

17. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

After experiencing a traumatic event, most people will recover given time, but to a significant minority relief is elusive. They experience flashbacks, nightmares and the feeling of losing control. Attention seems to be involved as PTSD sufferers are especially attracted to and vigilant for negative stimuli in the environment (Vythilingham, 2007).

18. Depression

Like those with PTSD, people experiencing depression also show an enhanced processing for negative stimuli (Ingram et al., 1994). One important maintaining process in depression is thought to be rumination. Individuals who are more prone to going over negative experiences again and again are more susceptible to developing clinical depression.

Well balanced

In many, perhaps all these examples of how attention can go wrong, it isn't just attentional processes that are causing grief; psychological problems are frequently caused by many different factors. What this list does demonstrate, though, is how disruptions to attentional processes can cause or are involved in all kinds of different problems.

Something that psychologists are heard to say increasingly often is that the potential for many of these extreme experiences is within all of us. Anxiety, panic, insomnia and the rest are a part of the human condition - everyone can empathise to some extent.

What strikes home is how delicately balanced attentional processes have to be in order to produce pleasant everyday experience. Too little attention and it's difficult to achieve goals in life, too much attention and it's hard to break free from loops of negative thinking and feeling.

Thanks to PsyBlog

 

Learning To Multitask: Simultaneous Reading And Writing

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Classic attentional training study hints at our considerable potential to multitask.

The mind has a remarkable ability to focus attention on just one voice from a chorus (see: the cocktail party effect). But what about spreading our attention across different types of tasks? A classic 1976 study which taught two people to read and write at the same time hints at our considerable potential to multitask.

Professor Elizabeth Spelke and colleagues at Cornell University wanted to know whether we can really divide our conscious attention between two demanding tasks, like reading and writing. To find out they recruited two participants willing to put in 29 hours of practice over a 6 week period: Diane and John were their volunteers (Spelke, Hirst & Neisser, 1976).

Before the training Diane and John's normal reading and comprehension rates were measured, so it could be compared with post-training. Then Spelke and colleagues set about their three-phase training regime.

Phase 1: Simultaneous reading and writing.

The first step was to get Diane and John reading and writing at the same time. To do this they read short stories by authors like Katherine Mansfield at the same time as writing down a list of words being dictated to them. Afterwards the experimenters checked their story comprehension and memory for the list of words. This procedure was continued throughout all three phases of the study.

Naturally when Diane and John first tried to multitask their reading speed, comprehension and memory all deteriorated. But surprisingly, after six weeks, they could read just as fast and with the same level of comprehension whether or not they were also taking dictation at the same time. They also often recognised more than two-thirds of the dictated words.

There is a problem with this study so far though: it's possible that Diane and John weren't really multitasking but had just leant to take dictation automatically and unconsciously. Spelke and colleagues knew they had to push Diane and John harder.

Phase 2: Detecting structured sub-lists

Over the next few weeks Spelke and colleagues tested Diane and John's higher-level awareness of the dictated lists. Instead of dictating relatively unrelated words, patterns were now surreptitiously inserted into the lists, sometimes whole sentences.

Without forewarning Diane and John found these difficult to spot, but once told to search for the patterns they started noticing rhymes, categories of words and even sentences. Although still missing a few, they did spot many of the patterns the experimenters hid in the sub-lists.

Remember that this is all at the same time as reading an unrelated story at their normal speed and level of comprehension. In this second phase the participants' multitasking is even more impressive and it's harder to argue that the dictation has become automatic and unconscious because Diane and John could spot many of the patterns.

Phase 3: Reading while categorising words

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In the third and final phase Diane and John were asked to just write down the category to which the words belonged rather than the words themselves. Again, their reading speed initially dropped when they were given this new task, but soon, with practice, it was back up to its original level.

After the 16 weeks of the study it seemed that both Diane and John could categorise lists of words and write down the name of the category at the same time as reading, and understanding, a sophisticated and completely unrelated short story.

Not only that but their reading speed and comprehension of the short story was unaffected compared with their pre-training tests. Quite an impressive feat of attention.

What does this mean?

Not everyone accepts that what Diane and John were doing was really multitasking. Here are some of the objections:

  • One of the tasks became automatic and therefore unconscious.
  • Similarly, people have complained the tasks weren't hard enough: reading and writing are already highly practised skills.
  • Diane and John were learning to switch their attention from one task to the other very quickly, not focus on both at the same time.
  • Two people is a very small sample size!

    These are all good points, but ultimately there's still an impressive human performance here that requires explanation. Whether or not Diane and John were really multitasking, the research certainly implies that we can train our attention to carry out two sophisticated tasks which require conscious deliberation at the same time.

    This is more than just simultaneously talking and driving, or patting the head while rubbing the stomach: both reading and writing involve relatively deep processing of similar types of linguistic information. Spelke and colleagues were clearly very impressed with Diane and John's new abilities and they suggest there may be no limits to training human attention, perhaps even no limits to our general cognitive capacity. All we need is some creativity along with plenty of time and practice.

    Thanks to PsyBlog

     

  • Paul Eugen Bleuler (April 30, 1857 – July 15, 1939)

    Eugen Bleuler

    Born April 30, 1857
    Zollikon, Switzerland
    Died July 15, 1939 (aged 82)
    Zollikon, Switzerland
    Residence Zürich
    Citizenship Swiss
    Nationality Swiss
    Fields Psychiatry
    Institutions Rheinau-Zürich clinic
    Burghölzli clinic
    University of Zürich
    Alma mater University of Zürich
    Doctoral advisor Jean-Martin Charcot
    Bernhard von Gudden
    Doctoral students Manfred Bleuler
    Known for Schizophrenia
    Autism
    Influences August Forel
    Sigmund Freud
    Influenced Carl Jung

    Paul Eugen Bleuler (April 30, 1857 – July 15, 1939) was a Swiss psychiatrist most notable for his contributions to the understanding of mental illness and for coining the term "schizophrenia."

    Biography

    Bleuler was born in Zollikon, a small town near Zürich in Switzerland, to Johann Rudolf Bleuler, a wealthy farmer, and Pauline Bleuler-Bleuler. He studied medicine in Zürich, and later studied in Paris, London and Munich after which he returned to Zürich to take a post as an intern at the Burghölzli, a university hospital.

    In 1886 Bleuler became the director of a psychiatric clinic at Rheinau, a hospital located in an old monastery on an island in the Rhine. Rheinau was noted at the time for being backward, and Bleuler set about improving conditions for the patients resident there.

    Bleuler returned to the Burghölzli in 1898 where he was appointed director.

    Following his interest in hypnotism, especially in its "introspective" variant, Bleuler became interested in Sigmund Freud's work, favorably reviewing Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud's Studies on Hysteria. Like Freud, Bleuler believed that complex mental processes could be unconscious. He encouraged his staff at the Burghölzli to study unconscious and psychotic mental phenomena. Influenced by Bleuler, Carl Jung and Franz Riklin used word association tests to integrate Freud's theory of repression with empirical psychological findings. As a series of letters demonstrates (published in English in 2003), Bleuler performed from 1905 a self-analysis in correspondence with Freud, mostly in order to submit the new psychoanalytic method to empirical verification. [3] As the leader of a major teaching and research hospital, Bleuler's support for Freud was very important to the early growth of psychoanalysis. By 1911, however, Bleuler withdrew his support for psychoanalysis.

    Bleuler is particularly notable for naming schizophrenia, a disorder which was previously known as dementia praecox.[4] Bleuler realized the condition was neither a dementia, nor did it always occur in young people (praecox meaning early) and so gave the condition the purportedly less stigmatising but still controversial name from the Greek roots schizein (σχίζειν, "to split") and phrēn, phren- (φρήν, φρεν-, "mind"). Bleuler treated celebrated Russian ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky after his breakdown in 1919, following a meeting with him and seeing that he showed signs of violence and excessive babbling.

    Bleuler coined the New Latin word autismus (English translation autism) in 1910 as he was defining symptoms of schizophrenia, deriving it from the Greek word autos (αὐτός, meaning self).[5] According to the Critical Dictionary of Psychoanalysis by Charles Rycroft, it was Bleuler who introduced the term ambivalence (in 1911).

    Bleuler is also recognized today for having a neurological condition called synesthesia, in which information from the sensory systems crosses over with the result that an individual experiences one sensation as another – tasting colours, hearing numbers or seeing music, for example.

    This article is copied from an article on Wikipedia® - the free encyclopedia created and edited by online user community. The text was not checked or edited by anyone on our staff. Although the vast majority of the Wikipedia® encyclopedia articles provide accurate and timely information please do not assume the accuracy of any particular article. This article is distributed under the terms of GNU Free Documentation License.

     

    Picking The Best Pay Structure For Your Business

    When Max Borges started hiring at his namesake public relations agency in Miami in one of his biggest challenges was figuring out how to incentivize employees to take on more responsibility.

    His solution: a pay structure in which employees could double and even triple their salaries based on how motivated they are to service clients.

    "I came up with the idea to pay my employees a percentage of client billings they were responsible for," said Borges, founder of the Max Borges Agency. 

    The pay structure incentivizes employees and holds them accountable for their performance. "At my agency, if you lose a client, you get a cut on the next paycheck. It causes people on the front line to be accountable for how to save the business. They are looking for ways to be more efficient, handle as many clients as possible and do good work so they don't lose clients," said Borges.

    Most of Borges' employees are paid under a percentage of client billings structure. These employees are paid a low base salary and are given the opportunity to increase their pay once their percentage of billings exceeds their salary.

    For example, an employee with a starting salary of $30,000 is assigned an account which brings in $120,000 a year for the company: If that employee gets 25% of the billings, that means she has generated $30,000.  However, because this amount does not exceed her salary, she is not given additional compensation for this client. The additional compensation kicks in on the next account. If the second account is also worth $120,000, then the employee's salary jumps from $30,000 to $60,000.  If she were to lose one of the two clients, her pay would go back down to $30,000.

    Mark Olson, an MBA grad, started working at Max Borges four years ago, and has progressed through company ranks from account executive to account manager and currently serves as account director.  His salary increased from $40,000 to more than $100,000 during this time.

    "The overwhelming benefit is there is no cap on your success. It is completely driven by your work ethic," said Olson, "Everything in our company is based around efficiency."

    Despite having lost clients, Olson said that his pay rarely went down for more than one pay period.  "When I lost a client I usually gained a higher retainer client," recalled Olson.

    Borges maintains that his company's success and employee job satisfaction is linked to the pay structure. For the last two years Max Borges Agency has been a part of INC5000's fastest growing companies.

    While it's tempting for other small business owners to want to replicate Borges' success, there are precautions a business owner should undertake before revamping pay structures.

    Dave Klasing, founder of The Tax Law Office of David W. Klasing, warned that entrepreneurs may find themselves in a nasty situation if they don't familiarize themselves with industry regulations for pay structures. 

    "Write up a version of the plan and submit it for approval to the Division of Labor Standards Board or hire an employment law specialist," recommended Klasing.

    Small business owners need to structure the plan in a way that is easy to monitor, advised Tae Macias, founder of Padgett Business Services in Los Angeles.

    "Make sure that you have a reporting system capable of tracking the billing and staff capable of administering and getting the payroll out." She also said owners need to determine whether the pay plan will be based on a simple percentage or have a base salary with an added percentage.

    "To keep the plan fair, it needs to be complex, but the more complex it is the harder it is to track and administer."

    Business owners should also make sure employees understand the nuances of the pay structure. "Entrepreneurs need to clearly explain to employees how this will be structured in a way that illustrates the upside," Macias recommended. "They should put the plan in writing to avoid litigation down the line and they should make sure employees understand the lag time between when sales are billed and when they end up in a pay check."

    For employees, this pay structure can also result in surprises come tax season. "With a fluctuating paycheck employees will have to make sure their taxes are not over or under withheld," said Macias.

    Klasing warned that one of the downfalls of percentage of billings is how much access employees will have to the company's balance sheet.

    "This structure forces you to open your books to your employees," said Klasing. "Every employee will want to check and verify and you will have to show them."

    Thanks to Cindy Vanegas / Small Business Center / Fox Business