How Reliable Are First Impressions?

August 22, 2017

From an interesting article in Ars Technica on how we can overestimate what we extract from first impressions:

Other people’s faces are thus more akin to mirrors reflecting our own biases than to windows revealing their owners’ inner lives; the first impressions we make of other people based on their faces say more about us than about them.

The article is a review of a recent book: Face Value: The Irresistible Influence of First Impressions by Alexander Todorov (Princeton Uni Press, 2017):

We make up our minds about others after seeing their faces for a fraction of a second—and these snap judgments predict all kinds of important decisions. For example, politicians who simply look more competent are more likely to win elections. Yet the character judgments we make from faces are as inaccurate as they are irresistible; in most situations, we would guess more accurately if we ignored faces. So why do we put so much stock in these widely shared impressions? What is their purpose if they are completely unreliable? In this book, Alexander Todorov, one of the world’s leading researchers on the subject, answers these questions as he tells the story of the modern science of first impressions.

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The Design Museum, London

August 8, 2017

The Design Museum and some surrounding buildings, that are also very impressive, which all adds to the overall vista

“The world’s leading museum devoted to contemporary design in every form from architecture and fashion to graphics, product and industrial design.”

The striking entrance to the museum

I’ve been meaning to visit the Design Museum for years. It used to be near Tower Bridge so was a little out of the way for most of my visits to London. However in November last year it was moved to a very impressive and much larger new building in High Street Kensington.

As you can see the bulk of the building is empty space with rooms at all levels around the sides. There are a variety of exhibitions, events and workshops running.

The impressive Designer motif (that changes to Maker and User through flipping screens)

The free permanent exhibition, Designer Maker User (the only one I had time to view, see above), presents it’s themes clearly and interestingly. It was however quite a bit smaller than what I would have imagined considering the remit of the museum (perhaps there are various practical constraints). Other (and rather mixed) views on visiting the museum can be found on TripAdvisor.

Some example text from the permanent exhibition

The famous Anglepoise type lamps

The Design Museum is certainly worth a visit, for families as well as schools, and the very attractive Holland Park is also nearby.

Approaching the museum from Holland Park

Some interesting additional background on the museum (extracted from from Wikipedia):

The museum was founded in 1989 by Sir Terence Conran and was originally housed in a former 1940s banana warehouse on the south bank of the River Thames in the Shad Thames area in SE1 London.

In June 2011, Sir Terence Conran donated £17.5 million to enable the Museum to move in 2016 from the warehouse to a larger site which formerly housed the Commonwealth Institute in west London.

The move brought the museum into Kensington’s cultural quarter, joining the Royal College of Art, V&A, Science Museum, Natural History Museum and Serpentine Gallery.

The top-floor space under the spectacular museum roof houses a permanent display, Designer Maker User, with key objects from the museum’s collection. It is the only one in the UK devoted exclusively to contemporary design and architecture.


How to Talk and How to Listen

July 2, 2017

Celeste Headlee (from a TED Talk, see here which includes a transcript)

There are quite a few posts on my blog that orient around the role and importance of face-to-face conversations. Some of these focus on actual events that promote and stimulate (group) conversations, such as the Knowledge Cafes pioneered by David Gurteen (for example, see here). Another aspect that interests me are the conversational skills we all have and, importantly, how these can be developed further.

This was brought home to me in a vivid manner a few years ago when I heard a talk on ‘how to have better conversations’ and approached the speaker afterwards with some queries. He then duly broke most of the advice he had just given out eg didn’t listen, didn’t ask questions, ignored my body language etc. Apart from being wryly amusing (not to mention disappointing), it provided a good example of the common disparity between theory and practice! That being said, I expect we’ve all done this at some time or other, or maybe we’ve simply been trained and educated to act this way?

In many organisations there are opportunities for developing communication skills (say through formal training) although these rarely seem to cover conversation. Conversation seems to be thought of as an ad hoc skill which you just ‘have’.

Anyway, this leads on to the funny and insightful TED talk (above) by Celeste Headlee (which has had over 3 million views). As she says, even if you master just one of the ways she recommends you’re doing great!

Interesting quote from the video: “Conversational competence might be the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach.”

After listening to this video, and as a trial, I’ve tried to ‘listen’ more and it really does work. I catch myself bursting to say something and then just say ‘let it go’ and it’s quite amazing how the conversation develops (the other person realises you really are paying attention to what they’re saying and are quite often surprised!). I’m now going to try a few of the other suggestions (see list below; mainly being briefer, staying out of the weeds and less repeating).

Another illuminating activity is to just listen to people having conversations and figure out what works and what doesn’t and then try to incorporate the better points. In TV interviews, repetition, unnecessary details and rambling really do stand out like a sore thumb.

Why not give one or two of the topics a go yourself, you may be (pleasantly) surprised at the results!

As a list, the ten points are (however, best to just watch the 12 minute video):

  1. Don’t multitask.
  2. Don’t pontificate.
  3. Use open-ended questions.
  4. Go with the flow.
  5. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know.
  6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs.
  7. Try not to repeat yourself.
  8. Stay out of the weeds.
  9. Listen.
  10. Be brief.

The Challenge of Choice

June 30, 2017

“In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from a longterm perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not ecommerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time – literally – substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.” — Peter Drucker


Cooking Up Knowledge

June 30, 2017

“Knowledge is never raw. Cooking and eating knowledge is perhaps the most difficult of all the arts.” – Theodore Zeldin

More on Zeldin here plus a previous post here.

 


Nonlinear Thinking

June 19, 2017

Examples of some nonlinear relationships (from HBR article below)

From an article in the Harvard Business Review:

“In recent years a number of professions, including ecologists, physiologists, and physicians, have begun to routinely factor nonlinear relationships into their decision making. But nonlinearity is just as prevalent in the business world as anywhere else. It’s time that management professionals joined these other disciplines in developing greater awareness of the pitfalls of linear thinking in a nonlinear world. This will increase their ability to choose wisely—and to help the people around them make good decisions too.”

The article discusses some simple examples that might crop up in a marketing scenario.

Whilst knowing the relationship between quantities, even qualitatively, may be difficult to determine in practice, simply being aware that nonlinearity may be important could be enlightening and suggest alternative ways forward.


Compound Productivity

June 19, 2017

Worth thinking what impact that little 1% change may lead to!

See here (in connection with money).