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Daily Archives: November 10, 2012

Behavioural Economics

Wendy Gordon gives an introduction to all the main principles of behavioural economics, and explains why it is of fundamental importance to the practice of qualitative research.

Part 1

Part 2

Tom Wujec: Build a tower, build a team

Tom Wujec presents some surprisingly deep research into the “marshmallow problem” — a simple team-building exercise that involves dry spaghetti, one yard of tape and a marshmallow. Who can build the tallest tower with these ingredients? And why does a surprising group always beat the average?

Tom Wujec studies how we share and absorb information. He’s an innovative practitioner of business visualization — using design and technology to help groups solve problems and understand ideas. He is a Fellow at Autodesk.

Why you should listen to him:

Tom Wujec is a Fellow at Autodesk, the makers of design software for engineers, filmmakers, designers. At Autodesk, he has worked on software including SketchBook Pro, PortfolioWall and Maya (which won an Academy Award for its contribution to the film industry). As a Fellow, he helps companies work in the emerging field of business visualization, the art of using images, sketches and infographics to help teams solve complex problems as a group.

He’s the author of several books, including Five-Star Mind: Games and Puzzles to Stimulate Your Creativity and Imagination.

 

Cameron Herold: Let’s raise kids to be entrepreneurs

Bored in school, failing classes, at odds with peers: This child might be an entrepreneur, says Cameron Herold. In his talk, he makes the case for parenting and education that helps would-be entrepreneurs flourish — as kids and as adults.

An entrepreneur since childhood, Cameron Herold wants parents and teachers to recognize — and foster — entrepreneurial talent in kids.

Why you should listen to him:

For 20 years, Cameron Herold has been coaching entrepreneurs on five continents, helping them build their companies. He started BackPocket COO to coach and mentor young, fun companies — and help them make their dreams happen.

Herold was a leading force behind one of the most successful new business ventures of the last decade, 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. He was Chief Operating Officer for nearly seven years. Prior to that, he was VP of Corporate Development at Ubarter.com.

“Start building a network of fellow entrepreneurs that understand your passion and don’t make you feel guilty about always chasing it.”  Cameron Herold

 

Bonnie Bassler: How bacteria “talk”

Bonnie Bassler discovered that bacteria “talk” to each other, using a chemical language that lets them coordinate defense and mount attacks. The find has stunning implications for medicine, industry — and our understanding of ourselves.

Bonnie Bassler studies how bacteria can communicate with one another, through chemical signals, to act as a unit. Her work could pave the way for new, more potent medicine.

Why you should listen to her:

In 2002, bearing her microscope on a microbe that lives in the gut of fish, Bonnie Bassler isolated an elusive molecule called AI-2, and uncovered the mechanism behind mysterious behavior called quorum sensing — or bacterial communication. She showed that bacterial chatter is hardly exceptional or anomolous behavior, as was once thought — and in fact, most bacteria do it, and most do it all the time. (She calls the signaling molecules “bacterial Esperanto.”)

The discovery shows how cell populations use chemical powwows to stage attacks, evade immune systems and forge slimy defenses called biofilms. For that, she’s won a MacArthur “genius” grant — and is giving new hope to frustrated pharmacos seeking new weapons against drug-resistant superbugs.

Bassler teaches molecular biology at Princeton, where she continues her years-long study of V. harveyi, one such social microbe that is mainly responsible for glow-in-the-dark sushi. She also teaches aerobics at the YMCA.

“She’s really the one who’s shown that this is something that all these bacteria are doing all the time. And if we want to understand them, we have to understand quorum sensing.”  Ned Wingreen, Princeton, on Nova ScienceNOW

 

Jessica Green: Are we filtering the wrong microbes?

Should we keep the outdoors out of hospitals? Ecologist and TED Fellow Jessica Green has found that mechanical ventilation does get rid of many types of microbes, but the wrong kinds: the ones left in the hospital are much more likely to be pathogens.

Jessica Green wants people to understand the important role microbes play in every facet of our lives: climate change, building ecosystems, human health — even roller derby. This University of Oregon professor (also known by her derby name “Thumper Biscuit”) is using non-traditional tools — like art, animation, and film -– to help people visualize the invisible world.

Why you should listen to her:

Jessica Green is an engineer and ecologist who specializes in biodiversity theory and microbial systems. As a professor at both the University of Oregon and the Santa Fe Institute, she is the founding director of the innovative new Biology and the Built Environment (BioBE) Center that bridges biology and architecture. Jessica envisions a future with genomic-driven approaches to architectural design that promote sustainability, human health and well-being. She is currently spearheading efforts to model buildings as complex ecosystems that house trillions of diverse microorganisms interacting with each other, with humans, and with their environment. This framework uses next-generation sequencing technology to characterize the “built environment microbiome” and will offer site-specific design solutions to minimize the spread of infectious disease and maximize building energy efficiency.

 

Sheena Iyengar: How to make choosing easier

We all want customized experiences and products — but when faced with 700 options, consumers freeze up. With fascinating new research, Sheena Iyengar demonstrates how businesses (and others) can improve the experience of choosing.

Sheena Iyengar studies how people choose (and what makes us think we’re good at it).

Why you should listen to her:

We all think we’re good at making choices; many of us even enjoy making them. Sheena Iyengar looks deeply at choosing and has discovered many surprising things about it. For instance, her famous “jam study,” done while she was a grad student, quantified a counter-intuitive truth about decision making — that when we’re presented with too many choices, like 24 varieties of jam, we tend not to choose anything at all. (This and subsequent, equally ingenious experiments have provided rich material for Malcolm Gladwell and other pop chroniclers of business and the human psyche.)

Iyengar’s research has been informing business and consumer-goods marketing since the 1990s. But she and her team at the Columbia Business School throw a much broader net. Her analysis touches, for example, on the medical decision making that might lead up to choosing physician-assisted suicide, on the drawbacks of providing too many choices and options in social-welfare programs, and on the cultural and geographical underpinning of choice. Her book The Art of Choosing shares her research in an accessible and charming story that draws examples from her own life.

The Art of Choosing explores the cultural, social, and biological forces on the complex process of decision-making but is also deeply personal.”  “Books to Read Now,” Seed magazine

Every day we make choices. Coke or Pepsi? Save or spend? Stay or go?
Whether mundane or life-altering, these choices define us and shape our lives. Sheena Iyengar asks the difficult questions about how and why we choose: Is the desire for choice innate or bound by culture? Why do we sometimes choose against our best interests? How much control do we really have over what we choose? Sheena Iyengar’s award-winning research reveals that the answers are surprising and profound. In our world of shifting political and cultural forces, technological revolution, and interconnected commerce, our decisions have far-reaching consequences. Use THE ART OF CHOOSING as your companion and guide for the many challenges ahead.

 

Absolute beginners: behavioural economics and human happiness

In Absolute Beginners by The Jam, Paul Weller sang “I need the strength to go and get what I want”. The problem is that we often want things that do not improve our wellbeing. Or at least that is what we think the evidence is telling us. This lecture explores the sources of our mistakes and the robustness of the evidence. It considers the implications for public policy of us being absolute beginners about the sources of our wellbeing. Paul Dolan is a Professor in the Department of Social Policy, LSE. He is the chief academic advisor on economic appraisal to the Government Economic Service and a seconded member of the Behavioural Insight Team in the Cabinet Office.

 

Explorations of the Mind: Intuition

Daniel Kahneman is an internationally renowned psychologist whose work spans cognitive psychology, behavioral economics, and the science of well-being. In recognition of his groundbreaking work on human judgment and decision-making, Kahneman received the 2002 Nobel Prize. In this program he explores the idea of intuition.

The Origin of the Human Mind: Brain Imaging and Evolution

UCSD cognitive scientist Martin Sereno takes you on a captivating exploration of the brain’s structure and function as revealed through investigations with new advanced imaging techniques and understandings of evolution.

 

Brain Mind and Behavior: Defining the Mind

Take a look into our current understanding of the function of the human brain and some of the important diseases that cause nervous system dysfunction. On this edition, Dr. Sophia Vinogradov of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center explores the mixing of visual perception, emotion, and memory and the interplay of the different functions of the brain.