April 29, 2017

Behavioral Economics and Us

Jason Zweig starts off his WSJ Moneybeat column “Investors believe the darnest things.” Turns out wealthy investors believe they can earn 8.5% return. Don’t they know the economy is growing ~2% last 5 years, bonds are returning 2%-3%, stocks are near record high Price/Earnings and less likely to grow?

More astounding ‘One in Six’ Institutional Investors believe they can earn 20%. This is despite a record of below average returns. These are not mom & pop investors like you and me.

We should not be surprised the cause of these beliefs. People avoid information that will cause them to feel or think in a way they don’t want to. Smoker avoid the Surgeon General Warning. Dieters do break down for that piece of cake.

Blogger Mr. Money Mustache says, “Yes! The politicians like to cultivate fear, jealously and entitlement because these are strong emotional triggers.” No wonder partisans of both parties cannot agree. Both are ignoring evidence disagreeing with their beliefs. However neither party has a monopoly on good ideas.

Nobody likes to look at their shrinking funds when the market has an inevitable recession. We hate to sell investments that have gone down in price because we have to acknowledge the loss. It is easier to pretend it will recover. People then give up and sell out near the bottom of the market. Then are unaware of the start of eventual recovery and miss market gains.

George Soros record of investment is outstanding. George says a large part of his success is acknowledging an idea is not working and limiting his losses.

We need to be more humble and admit there may be better ideas out there. Actively search for different opinions and let your ideas be challenged. Try to build a consensus before rushing ahead.

When planning a project, define what success will look like. Then figure how to measure the results. Lean Startups look for a minimum viable product / service to test if there is a market for it.

It is okay to be wrong and fail. How else do we learn?

See Think for Yourself for more ideas on confirmation bias

April 22, 2017

Could Your Job be Replaced by a Robot?

Most of us think, “No way a machine could do what I do.” Over your whole assignment that may be true. But there are simple repetitive parts of your job could be automated or done with artificial intelligence (AI) programming.

The drive to work and deliveries will be done by self-driving vehicles. Note auto-pilots can already take off, fly and land aircraft with minimal intervention by pilots. The Navy has already tested self-flying aircrafts on carrier decks, the hardest landing task for pilots.

Computers are better at sorting and searching than we are. Your work organization could be better managed by programming.

Millions of hours legal research are no longer done by young lawyers. The AI research programs are faster, cheaper and more accurate.

In medical fields doctors enter symptoms and programs like IBM’s Watson propose more alternative diseases for doctors to evaluate than their memory would hold. The result is less misdiagnosis.

When I started working drafting was done by hand, and every manager had a secretary or access to a secretary pool. There were dozens of secretaries in my department. Today my department has 3 office assistants for ~150 people. We all write emails, documents & PowerPoint’s instead of memos, and schedule meetings with Outlook.

All these jobs are white collar jobs being automated or out sourced. Parts of all our work can be replaced.

The good news is what can’t be automated is deep knowledge and judgment. We need to do is determine what part of our careers is most valuable, and then focus to be move productive there.

What parts of you job are grinds? Just time consuming. We need to minimizing those tasks, and focus on making money for our companies.

Not saying there will not be change in our working world. It is determining what is valued and providing those services.

April 15, 2017

Faith and 20 years

On Good Friday it dawns on me it has been 20 years since returning to attending church regularly at 40. My life changed dramatically.

I usually write about business, careers or leadership. Something much easier to define than Faith. Truthfully is More Feelings than Logic. This is an engineer/scientist/businessman speaking. We all get only a little understanding of the world God created, and have to share it with others. We have to learn more from each other.

Joined fellowships, charismatic services, small groups, bible studies, healings, men’s retreats, made friends, and had small glimpses of God in action.

Met wonderful people every year who share their lives. Watched their babies become toddlers, become precious children, become preteens, becomes talented teenagers, become college students, and become wonderful adults.

Went from a shy introvert to a noisy one who networks. Became more open to others pain, and try to share understanding with compassion. Have volunteered and grown, not from being outstanding. Mostly washing dishes, serving coffee and putting away tables and folding chairs. So rewarding.

Just completed an Alpha Course where learned more about faith, and the mysteries in it like the Holy Spirit. Alpha is for people beginning to explore, doubters, those fallen away, people with struggles, even atheists trying to prove it is not true. Highly recommend you try it. 

I welcome anyone who would like to join me. The change in your life is really worth it. Blessing and Peace to all.

April 6, 2017

Response to Syria’s Chemical Attack

Bashar Assad miscalculated. Trump was going to relax removing him from power in deference to Russian involvement. Instead the Syrian military believed they could get away with a chemical attack to intimidate the rebels. They were now in a stronger position, and who would challenge Russia? Besides the US had talked big for several years, and never delivered.

No one was happy about a government using chemical weapons, especially against civilians. The pictures are horrific. Men, women, children, and babies all dying.

Donald Trump and the US military reacted. A military air base in Syria where the helicopter left with the chemical weapons was just targeted with 60 Tomahawk missiles. Too early to know the destruction, but should weaken the Syrian military.  An expensive blow to the Syrian government.

History shows the result of a similar attack on Libya. Muammar Gaddafi and Libyan agents were blamed for a discotheque bombing in German, and then the Lockerbie Pan Am 747 bomb. Ronald Regan order the 1986 attack on the capital Tripoli and directly on Muammar Gaddafi’s personal palace.

The result of the bombing was a reduction in acts by Libyan agents around the world. Gaddafi stood down from challenging Western powers. He became a peacemaker to try and buy more time in power.  Eventually his own people overthrew his government.

Attacking a military base sends messages. The US will respond to challenges. There should be few civilian causalities attacking a military target, but there will be some.

Interesting may be the rumored loss of Russian soldiers or advisers at the air base. The speed of response and willingness to risk losses sends a strong message.

Syria, Iran and North Korea may be more uncomfortable tonight. Syria may realize the next attack could be Bashar’s palace. China and Russia may be revising their opinions about a paper American military. Our allies got a comforting message. 

The world is a safer place tonight.

April 1, 2017

Resilient Companies

Vibrant companies act differently. Even with a long history behind them, you sense they are current or even state of the art. How do companies stay resilient through all the changes in technologies, different styles, consumer fads, business practices, and new customers every day?

Simple, they are not the company they were yesterday. Vibrant companies avoid the ‘Status Quo Bias’ that affects us all. Keep looking for the new. Looking for the opportunities. Looking out for your customers. Finding better ways to take care of them. Seeing what competitors offer, then offering simpler or better value products/services to compete.

Second vibrant companies take care of their people. Provide benefits and onsite service that free peoples time to work. Simplify processes and procedures to allow creativity. Celebrate & learn from their successes and failures. Avoid overworking people, even if our culture is celebrating overwork.

Why take care of employees? Who takes care of the clients? Burnt out employees are not creative, and do not go the extra mile to make clients happy.

How do companies stay resilient? Create a culture obsessed with pleasing the customer. Truly care about customers and employees.

March 25, 2017

Being Heard at Work

Recently read about a young professional not being able to get a word in edgewise in a meeting. It is uncomfortable not being heard, but their experience is not unique. With 38 years’ experience, and being (formerly) shy introvert in an extroverted world have suggestions to be heard:
  • Ask questions first. Then when you have the floor, make a point. Actually got compliments for participation during different meetings where I only asked one question.
  • Being able to project your voice is an asset. Look into Toastmasters to be able to present to a room. I start talking to the person furthest away to get my volume right.
  • I had a baby face (could pass for high school till almost 30) and had to dress one level up to be taken seriously. Casual Fridays are still a weakness.
  • Attitude makes a difference. EXPECT to be heard and taken seriously. Sit at the table and take up space in the meeting room. Make small talk with people before and after the meetings.
Should add interrupting with a firm “Yo!’” has worked on occasion for me.  Recommend reading Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Try and use whichever tips works for you. It is only a matter of time before you will be a full team member.

March 18, 2017

Mom’s Pinto Wagon

Difficult for Profession Women to get the Respect they Deserve. Martin Schneider shared an inbox with Nicole and was getting grief working with a customer. He could not understand the customer’s resistance. He had worked with him before.  Yet everything he was suggesting was being resisted. Due to the common inbox, he had been signing his responses as Nicole.

Finally, he replied: “Hey this is Martin”, and the customer worked well with him after that.

Nicole & Martin switched names for a week. Everything Martin did took longer. Nicole had the most productive week of her life. Men are assumed to be competent. Women have to prove it.

My late mom was one of the first 3 women to attend Newark College of Engineering (now NJIT). She rarely talked about some of her treatment, but she also knew how to handle it.

Her used 1 year old Pinto wagon with only 11,000 miles was shifting off time. Dad and I both drove it and thought the transmission bands needed adjustment. However he was busy at work and I was on 3rd shift that week on my summer job (about 40 years ago). So she took it to the dealer.

The service rep thought he ‘had one on the line’. So he kept talking until he said she needed a new transmission instead of an adjustment. Mom walked away from him into the sales area to talk to the manager (in front other customers) and in a LOUD voice said, “John, it looks like you sold me a lemon. What are you going to do about it?

When they tried to tell her this was normal, she said, “No, I am an engineer. Could see my son’s Ford wagon with 110,000 miles needing a transmission. Not a car with 11,000 miles.”

When they further tried to push the issue, she replied, “John, I own 5 cars. Do you want to take me for a repair, or get the next car?” They gave in and adjusted it. Every time she brought it in for service she got treated with respect after that.

Follow up - car was rusted falling apart years later with 140,000 miles and Dad driving it. The original transmission had no problems or further adjustments when they retired it.

Dad knew how to handle these situations. At a different dealer they were shopping for a car for Mom. Dad said to the salesperson this car is for Mom, get her what she wants. The man kept asking Dad questions. Dad would repeat his question to Mom and wait for her to answer. Finally the guy got the message, and talked to her.

Lesson: Expect and give respect. Do what is right. Ask questions, follow with suggestions. If it takes time, stay with it.

Here is Martin’s story
Grateful he shared this story.

Behavioral Economics and Us

Jason Zweig starts off his WSJ Moneybeat column “Investors believe the darnest things.” Turns out wealthy investors believe they can ear...