Monthly Archives: August 2011

Hire friendly, not smart?

If you want your business to succeed, you hire really super-smart people, right?

MIT suggests not necessarily so. A recent study of “collective intelligence” explored what it takes to build teams most likely to succeed at solving problems. MIT found that individual IQ, that thing we all like to believe we have so much of, mattered far less than the ability of the group to perform functions such as clarifying the challenge, brainstorming, making “collective moral judgments,” and structuring limited resources. Group camaraderie, and not individuals’ IQs, was the greatest input required for success.

MIT called this the “C factor” for collective intelligence and noted that women tend to have more of it. Women, by nature, have less testosterone, which in high levels can lead to emotional, impulsive or illogical decisions (“I’m right!” “We must do this!”) and depresses sensitivity to others, often required to really digest all the data inputs to solve thorny problems. The study suggests that so-called “social sensitivity” would be a better prerequisite for hiring staff and managers than super-smart IQ, and that more women in groups — still, often missing in some business settings — leads to higher collective intelligence.

MIT found several things any group can do better to increase collective IQ:

– Avoid having a single smart person dominate the discussion.
– Get everyone in the room to participate.
– Watch nonverbal communication as well; individuals may signal they are confident or impatient or frustrated, and those are all elements that can be drawn out to improve the group’s decision — what does the confident person know, or why does the frustrated person believe the team is on the wrong track?

It’s an intriguing concept, that what makes one individual burn bright (aggression and brains) could increase the odds that a team will fail, while friendliness drives success. Obviously strong leaders are needed and can thrive; Apple and Steve Jobs may be the best case study. Yet powerful leaders and bright people might crank up their empathy a bit and assess whether the dynamic of their supporting groups is friendly enough to allow the best chance for success.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Image: Paco CT

A debate on individualism vs. ecosystems

Occasionally social media breaks loose and real ideas emerge. We recently crossed swords on Google+ with Pierre Johnson, a brilliant mind, in a debate about USPS’s broken business model that turned into a foray on individual liberty. If you ponder what drives today’s disappointed liberals and infuriated conservatives, try these excerpts:
Ben Kunz:

It’s easy to proclaim that government is bad and wasteful and shared resources are a burden, when the truth is almost everyone in our society wants more government than we are willing to pay for. By government, I don’t mean the fiction of waste — which is mostly that, an illusion — but the major buckets of spending called the U.S. military, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Those buckets account for most of our government, whose primary purpose is to fight wars or send checks to old people, and any attempt to cut them significantly draws screams of protest from the right (military), left (Medicaid), or seniors (Social Security and Medicare).

The sad facts are U.S. government spending represents 25% of our GDP while tax revenues are 14.4%. Do the math and we’d have to cut government spending almost in half to balance our budget, and no one is willing to do that.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with shared resources, which are one component of society … as adults, we have to give back to society to support the basic things such as roads, education, and clean air that make our group society possible. It’s a nice fantasy that we can live every man for himself. What individualists often miss is a clear field in the economy or hunting grounds requires a healthy ecosystem, and it is only by the many sharing some of their resources and building rules for the environment that individuals can thrive.

Pierre Johnson:

Collectivists of all stripes suffer from mediocre intellects. They’ve never discovered what can be found everywhere in nature and why any ecosystem thrives — emergent spontaneous order. Yet, hubris-suffering technocrats and their sycophants cling to their false beliefs that through their tiny models of scientism, they have suitably captured the immeasurable — a centillion of interaction and components.

Society is a not so nice fantasy. It doesn’t exist. It’s a word of mere rhetoric spoken by those seeking to use force or the threat of force to take from many and give to some. For any true adult knows that this is how power gets seized and maintained, exactly. Power derives from the consent of the bribed, the beggars for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, TANF, SNAP, Section 8.

While all are right to want to live as long as they can. No one is right to want to live at the expense of faceless, nameless others who get forced to make it happen. For adults know that life-extending, longevity medicine exists and the want for such is foreseeable to anyone in his or her twenties. Aging and disease are not great mysteries that sneak upon humans…

For when life gets boiled to its marrow, we see that all anyone has is living through a limited slice of time. Any imposition upon one’s time amounts to theft and slavery. And as income is money and credit exchanged for packaged skills through time, any enforced taking of that income — what goes by the rubric income taxation amounts to the stealing of that precious time. It’s theft of life itself.

Ben Kunz:

Ah Pierre, has it occurred to you that you, as an individual, are part of a larger species organism that is trying to survive, and as such some none-individualistic behavior such as sharing or altruism is an evolutionary trait that, like a man who wants to breed with 1,000 pretty woman and yet is drawn into monogamy to care for one child, helps others and thus the entire species survive? If we define the individual as the species, and not organism, then collective sharing may be a requirement for survival. So let’s take your thoughts to an experiment (I’m testing my omniscience here, bear with me) and assume what brings you maximum individual pleasure is pumping, in one shot, enough carbon into the atmosphere to fry the entire planet … and to continue this thought experiment, let’s assume every other individual on the planet votes a mandate to charge you $100 million for a permit to do so, knowing (I guess wildly) that you could not do so. Is that an infringement on your rights?

In other words, we are not debating rights, but who the rights belong to. The individual or the species?

Pierre Johnson:

As I mentioned to you elsewhere, species don’t exist. Only individuals exist. Species is mere academic abstraction for individuals having alike genomes.

Since there is no such thing as a species, there cannot exist a collective, hive mind that decides in attempt at survival for the abstraction that we label as ‘species’.

Does the doctrine or way of living known as altruism exist, actually? For many consciously claim to give or help freely, but in their acts, do so because they’re motivated to feel good about themselves. Also, it’s well known that seemingly altruistic acts lead to reciprocation. There could be underlying, subconscious factors at work that are yet to be well-understood by those who study the mind.

As to your thought experiment, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins,” as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once said. In other words, it is the equal liberty of others to be left unharmed that constrains your liberty.

Far too many get the whole idea of rights, well, wrong. Rights aren’t permissions bestowed on some by those who wield power and hide behind the name government. Those are privileges. It’s the clever ones who adroitly use words and call such privileges by the moniker ‘civil rights’.

We can go back to the earliest Germanic roots of English to discover quickly that right means straight, morally correct. Saying the word ‘rights’ is shortcut for saying a man is right to defend his life, a man is right to defend his liberty, a man is right to pursue his preferences and desires, yet only within the bounds of himself and through any voluntary association…

Ben Kunz:

Of course, if value has a spectrum of definitions, then freedom from paying money as taxes to support others is only one type of freedom; we should also be free from rules that stop us from owning and not sharing value in any other way. So if we remove the artificial line of “money” as value, where does our freedom from sharing value end? If it is wrong to force sharing to help an old woman, why should we have laws forcing sharing that stop me from eating all the food off your table or taking your car? Why do red street lights prohibit my rapid progress? Why can’t I talk on my cell phone near 10,000 feet even if it might crash a plane?

Any restraint would be altruism; altruism may not exist, because its motive is reciprocity, which is another grab at value. Caught in this Mobius strip of self-interest, any imposition of rules against pure consumption and selfish ownership of anything is quashing our freedom, no?

Thus, freedom can only exist in a vacuum without any rules to stop it.

The problem with this concept of freedom is its logic resides in an arbitrary and fictitious definition for ownership. Ownership, unlike your one Truth, is a mental construct with numerous possible parameters that simply draws a line around some “value” that we call our own. Because any individual resides at the center of her universe and may draw her circle of ownership large, the circles conflict, and individual freedoms cannot reside in the same space and time without rules to limit them for others.

I choose now to draw the circle around the planet. It is all mine, and I will not share. Don’t stop me, +Pierre Johnson, because I now own you, and I will not share you with yourself.

Pierre Johnson:

You ask, “If it is wrong to force sharing to help an old woman, why should we have laws forcing sharing that stop me from eating all the food off your table or taking your car?”

Yet, I’ve explained above, my right to be left unharmed constrains your want to steal from me or to harm me.

Though many might use the word value as one might use a screwdriver as a hammer and another a screwdriver as an awl, concepts are invariant and unique.

Value arises from economic relation which one thing bears to another in exchange, Value gets seen expression of a ratio of importance between two commodities. When one of two things in exchange is money, we give value another name, price. Yet no one would be right if she or he described a thing as value, though that thing might give rise to value…

True, ownership is a construct of a mind and through time, many minds. Yet, this most useful construct is unparalleled for its facilitation of human interaction. For it is through ownership that men interact without violence…

Freedom is the realm where a man or woman is self-sovereign. Only collectivists would rhetorically claim that Freedom does not exist and thus decree they are right to seize the living moments of anyone, dictating to those seized how to live, when to live and where to live.

Officialdom is the realm where men and women seize power and dole out privileges often referring to such privileges as rights in exchange for keeping power. Officialdom demands privilege seekers to surrender each of their respective realms of Freedom.

Ben Kunz:

I give up Pierre. I concede individualism is the center, and I will use that to make the collective choice to share with you a beer.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

The 1-in-244 odds of QR code use

At first glance QR codes are taking the world by storm, according to a new report by comScore. The study found that in June, 6.2 percent of all U.S. mobile users scanned a QR code — or about 14 million consumers in total. ComScore has lots of juicy details, such as more men than women snap images of the codes, top users have more than $100,000 in household income, and the top source were codes printed in magazines and newspapers.

But wait — is it really becoming a habit among Americans? The comScore report neglects to tell us how frequently users snap the codes. If you assume the average person scans two QR codes a month — since this is an infrequent, new behavior — then of the 6.2 percent of all mobile users using the codes each month only 0.41% do so on a daily basis. For a marketer, that means that the odds of any individual holding a smart phone actually scanning your code on a given day are 1 in 244.

Since QR codes are merely square blocks that send a cell phone user to a web site, and once there, some other conversion must take place for marketers to achieve their goal, a 1 in 244 maximum potential response rate at the top of the QR code marketing funnel seems anemic. Yes, the codes are beginning to be seen, but don’t assume consumers will rush to snap. We estimate longer odds than the comScore study headline suggests.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Image: John Watson

The psychology of polarization

Why is America so polarized? Back in 1961 MIT student James Stoner wrote a master’s thesis that suggested people in groups undergo a “risky shift,” making decisions that are more risky or extreme than the average group member would individually. This was counterintuitive — previously, psychologists thought groups would weigh facts and lean toward the moderate middle, like a jury building a logical consensus — but subsequent studies found Stoner was right. When we get in groups, we go to extremes.

Why? Reasons could be groups diffuse responsibility (you don’t worry as much about the impact on you personally if the group suggests something radical); risk-takers exude confidence and so may lead groups to the edge; and as group members begin paying attention to an issue or problem (global warming is a hoax!), they worry less about the potential negative impacts (um, if it isn’t, we might destroy the planet). The best answer, perhaps, is that people make decisions by weighing “pro” and “con” arguments — but if you hang with a group that leans only one way, the information you are exposed to is biased in your direction, accelerating your viewpoint (since you really aren’t consuming a broad enough array of data to make a truly informed decision).

This explains the Tea Party, 2010’s healthcare arguments, Fox News, MSNBC, global warming deniers, oil company haters, and the pendulum swing in U.S. politics between conservatives and liberals every two to four years. Fragmented consumer media and feedback from social media have accelerated this, as we can subscribe to only the data sets that reinforce our bias. We’re shifting opinions, and that may be risky.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Original posted on Google+. Image: Sadie Hernandez.

Consumers spend more time on mobile, spelling trouble for ads

Flurry, a mobile application analytics firm, has published a report that U.S. consumer usage of mobile apps now exceeds web use in minutes per day. Flurry compared data it tracks from 85,000 apps with comScore and Alexa data on Internet use (a perhaps fuzzy bit of methodology) and claims the average consumer spends 9% more time each day using smartphone or tablet apps than old-school Internet windows — 81 minutes on mobile device apps, altogether.

Beyond this consumption shift, which seems inevitable given smart phones and iPads everywhere, lies scarier data for marketers. When consumers are using mobile, they spend the majority of their time on games or social networks that typically do not carry advertising — and only 16% of their time reading news or entertainment, the traditional channels that push paid marketing messages. Tiny screens already have less visual inventory for ad space; now, the modality of consumers has moved away from content that holds ads at all.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.