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Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Twinkie Diet of Management

The Twinkie Diet of Management
by Bryan Neva and Allen Laudenslager


In 2010, Dr. Mark Haub, a Professor of Human Nutrition at Kansas State University, tried to show his students that pure caloric intake is the only thing that mattered for weight loss. So for ten weeks Dr. Haub only ate sugary convenience store snacks like Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos, Nutty Bars, and Powdered Donuts, but he limited his daily caloric intake to just 1800 calories a day. The results, you guessed it, he actually lost 27 pounds, his Body Mass Index (BMI) dropped from 29 to 25, his bad cholesterol (LDL) dropped 20 percent, his good cholesterol (HDL) increased 20 percent, and his triglycerides (fat in the blood) decreased 39 percent! Those are jaw-dropping results. 

However, Jackson Blatner, a Dietitian and Spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA), does not recommend The Twinkie Diet. She said, "It's a great reminder for weight loss that calories count...[But] there are things we can't measure...How much does that affect the risk for cancer? We can't measure how diet changes affect our health." And of course, if you have diabetes, eating too much sugar like in The Twinkie Diet can't be good for your blood sugar not to mention the lack of nutrition. Even Dr. Haub knew The Twinkie Diet wasn't nutritious so he supplemented his diet with a multivitamin, a protein shake, and salad. 

The whole point of The Twinking Diet was to show that only the number of calories counted in weight loss (calories in minus calories out). If you have a caloric deficit (regardless of what you eat), you'll lose weight and vice versa. In much the same way in business, only the margin counts in profitability (revenue in minus expenses out). If you have a revenue deficit, you'll lose money and vice versa.

In much the same way that eating just Twinkies helped Dr. Haub drop 27 pounds and the other health improvements he documented, those management quick fixes can show impressive short-term results. But the ADA's concerns about the increased long-term health risks parallels the long-term risks from short-term management decisions.


One clear and obvious example might be cutting employees during a business downturn. Over the last 20 years, layoffs seem to have become the “immediate action” response to any economic slow down. Just like the Twinkie Diet, the idea of cutting expenditures tastes good and shows a real, and immediate change. But just like the Twinkie Diet the long-term effects can be unclear and unhealthy. Layoffs have to be carefully crafted or you can decimate your workforce and devastate morale.

Some companies do an across the board percentage cut. Every department has to cut some arbitrary percentage of employees. While you might be able to cut 3% of the purchasing department since you are buying fewer raw materials, can you really cut 3% of your maintenance staff without risking the future expense of replacing worn out equipment or facilities? Obviously some businesses could idle equipment with little risk of damage and others would have to carefully craft a storage plan.

With many businesses there are subtleties that take an employee time to learn. This is called "institutional knowledge." One example might be in the building trades. Contractors not only need to know how to build a home, they also need to know the ins and outs of the local building codes. Yes, there is a model “International Building Code” but each jurisdiction can implement those ideals differently and not knowing those differences can cause expensive rework to satisfy building inspectors. The point, of course being, that some employees have institutional knowledge that would take time and cost money to recreate.

Maintenance seems to be another place that looks like an easy cut. If a machine is idle, we don’t need to keep monitoring its status so we can cut maintenance staff. Anybody who has left their bicycle out in the yard for the winter should understand that equipment needs to be preserved when its not in use. That idle equipment can rust, lubricants can dry out and gum up the machinery so it needs to be “exercised” by running every few days or weeks. Someone has to do those checks and cycle the machines.

In every single case, layoffs lose some capacity and when the crisis ends and production goes back up. Recreating the institutional knowledge of veteran employees and bringing the machines back on line can often end up costing more than keeping the existing people on staff. And here's a thought, rather than cull your workforce, start  by cutting salaries across the board especially among high-paid executives and managers. Sure everyone from the CEO to the lowest paid employee will make less, but you'll preserve your institutional knowledge base.

Of course you don’t get the immediate wonderful taste of doing something, and often the investors (who by the way usually have a completely different goal than management) can’t can’t see any dramatic changes that will impress them with your creative management. But maybe, just maybe, the real place to cut is the junk food. No more candy, no more prepared foods, start buying fresh produce and taking the time to cook it yourself.

What might the management equivalents be? How about cutting costs by making your own parts rather than buying your parts from another source? This is called insourcing as opposed to outsourcing. Then the parts manufacture profit margin stays on your books. Some might think they can’t do that because the investors won’t see the dramatic change. 

Downturns don’t happen in a vacuum. Usually there are warning signs and good management works hard at staying ahead of that curve. If you were “eating healthy” all along, you would have  been looking for these saving long before the downturn hit and you would be ready to cut in the savings. You already know you are a labor-intensive business that requires trained workers so you have a plan ready to preserve that capacity in the face of a slowdown.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Your voice matters, free speech does too




September 27, 2018

 Life

Dr. Keith Whittington gives a speech at the Konover auditorium as to why free speech is an important tool to be used on college campuses. He then answered questions from students, some of which discussed tolerance and the effects of hate speech. (Brandon Barzola/The Daily Campus)

Dr. Keith Whittington’s discussion of free speech on college campuses Wednesday night came on the heels of a string of controversial speakers that came to the University of Connecticut last year. Dr. Whittington, a professor of politics at Princeton University and author of the book “Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech,” offered a relevant and neutral take on the role of the modern university has in the complicated task of accommodating opposing views and the value of higher education in general.

“It is difficult to listen to those who disagree with us,” Dr. Whittington said, an idea which he reiterated throughout his presentation. “(But) it is important to accept ideas even if we do not tolerate them ourselves.” He made a distinction that the problems society faces are not unique to our generation. Instead, they are the general problems of Americans living in a liberal society.

Dr. Whittington spoke of the unique role of colleges in inviting speakers and, in general, being a learning community in which all kinds of ideas can be expressed and discussed.

“Essential to the core mission of a university, it is important to advance the truth” Dr. Whittington said. “(Universities) are all about trying to understanding the world better… trying to improve our understand the world, and trying to communicate what it is that we’ve learned about the world.”

According to Whittington, the cultivation of an environment that exposes students to diverse ideas as well as offering them the opportunity to express different ideas, is what makes the college campus crucial to the social maturation of a student body. Dr. Whittington explains the importance of avoiding speakers who may be delivering more dangerous speech, such as the harmful spreading of misinformation by Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, in comparison to more controversial speakers who should still be allowed to speak on campus, despite the disapproval of others.

“Universities should provide security to events with controversial speakers, instead of altogether shutting down the event,” Dr. Whittington said. Ultimately, the tricky task of determining who should be allowed to speak at the university is a controversial matter. This was seen at UConn last fall, when the presence of Ben Shapiro, a conservative political commentator, and Lucian Wintrich, a far-right political speaker, made waves in the UConn community, especially considering the violent and controversial aftermath.

Wintrich’s event last November ended with his arrest, as well the shattering of a window and a smoke bomb being set off. Following Shapiro’s speech in January of this year, protests were held outside the room and, counseling was not offered to anybody negatively affected by his presence on campus. Thus began the discussion of how free speech operates on campus. This was furthered by Dr. Whittington’s insights on the overall benefits a student may experience when encountering ideas in opposition to their own.

Dr. Whittington’s presentation was followed by a robust question and answer section with the audience. Many of the students’ questions centered around the concern they had for the hate speech they may encounter under the principle of free speech on campus, and where to draw the line at information that is helpful or hurtful. Overall, Dr. Whittington addressed the question with openness to both sides of the argument. He reiterated that all kinds of ideas should be considered and to learn for oneself what will help enrich a student’s learning.

Director of the Human Rights Institute, Kathryn Libal, raised the question of a university’s faculty involvement and learning of free speech on campus. She spoke of a class at her university that was shut down because of its topic: sexual orientation. Faculty should have as much of a role advocating for free speech as students and administrators.

Students that attended the event appreciated Dr. Whittington’s openness and neutrality when discussing free speech.

“What he discussed is very relevant to us as college students, and it’s important to understand and listen to opposing ideas,” Corey Akel, a third-semester economics major, said.

“Even if none of my classes deal with politics, I definitely understand the importance of free speech, especially when so many other people have different ideas on campus.” Katarina Rothstein, a first-semester marketing major said in agreement with Akel said, “I liked how he addressed both sides, which doesn’t normally happen,”

In our tumultuous political environment, Dr. Whittington’s idea of political awareness and the learning and open environment of universities raises important points for students on college campuses as they transition to American society and face more controversial ideas of free speech.




Hollie Lao is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at hollianne.lao@uconn.edu.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Scientists identify 4 personality types...

MOVEABLE TYPES —

Study: people tend to cluster into four distinct personality “types”

New sorting algorithm yields more robust, replicable results than other methods.





People love taking online quizzes; just ask Buzzfeed and Facebook. A new study has sifted through some of the largest online data sets of personality quizzes and identified four distinct "types" therein. The new methodology used for this study—described in detail in a new paper in Nature Human Behavior—is rigorous and replicable, which could help move personality typing analysis out of the dubious self-help section in your local bookstore and into serious scientific journals.
Frankly, personality "type" is not the ideal nomenclature here; personality "clusters" might be more accurate. Paper co-author William Revelle (Northwestern University) bristles a bit at the very notion of distinct personality types, like those espoused by the hugely popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Revelle is an adamant "anti-fan" of the Myers-Briggs, and he is not alone. Most scientists who study personality prefer to think of it as a set of continuous dimensions, in which people shift where they fall on the spectrum of various traits as they mature.
What's new here is the identification of four dominant clusters in the overall distribution of traits. Revelle prefers to think of them as "lumps in the batter" and suggests that a good analogy would be how people tend to concentrate in cities in the United States.
"We're not saying that everyone is in one of those four categories."
Divide the country into four regions—north, south, east, and west—and then look at how the population density is distributed. You will likely find the highest concentration of people living in dense cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or Houston. "But to describe everyone as living in one of those four cities is a mistake," he says. Similarly, "What we're describing is the likelihood of being at certain parts of that distribution; we're not saying that everyone is in one of those four categories."
The Northwestern researchers used publicly available data from online quizzes taken by 1.5 million people around the world. That data was then plotted in accordance with the so-called Big Five basic personality traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. The Big Five is currently the professional standard for social psychologists who study personality. (Here's a good summary of what each of those traits means to psychologists.) They then applied their algorithms to the resulting dataset.

The four “types”

Revelle admits that when his Northwestern colleague and co-author Luis Amaral came to him with the initial findings using traditional clustering algorithms, he had found 16 distinct clusters. Revelle was instantly skeptical: "That was ridiculous," he says. He didn't think there were any types at all lurking in the data, and challenged Amaral and another co-author, Martin Gerlach, to better refine their analysis.
"These statistical learning algorithms do not automatically produce the right answer," says Revelle. "You need to then compare it to random solutions." That second step made all the difference, by imposing extra constraints to winnow down the results. The researchers ended up with four distinct personality clusters:
Average: These people score high in neuroticism and extraversion, but score low in openness. It is the most typical category, with women being more likely than men to fit into it.
Reserved: This type of person is stable emotionally without being especially open or neurotic. They tend to score lower on extraversion but tend to be somewhat agreeable and conscientious.

All the young dudes: teenage boys are most likely to fall into the Self-centered category.
Enlarge / All the young dudes: teenage boys are most likely to fall into the Self-centered category.
Paramount Pictures

Role Models: These people score high in every trait except neuroticism, and the likelihood that someone fits into this category increases dramatically as they age. "These are people who are dependable and open to new ideas," says Amaral. "These are good people to be in charge of things." Women are more likely than men to be role models.
Self-Centered: These people score very high in extraversion, but score low in openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Most teenage boys would fall into this category, according to Revelle, before (hopefully) maturing out of it. The number of people who fall into this category decreases dramatically with age.
The team used one data set on the first analysis and then replicated the same result on two other independent data sets, meaning their methodology is replicable—at least on similarly large datasets, which are much more common today, thanks to the Internet and rise of open access. "A study with a dataset this large would not have been possible before the web," says Amaral.

Want to measure your personality? Go to sapa-project.org

Saturday, September 15, 2018

10 Reasons to be Okay with Being Disliked

10 Reasons to be Okay with Being Disliked

Do You Like Me
“If your number one goal is to make sure that everyone likes and approves of you, then you risk sacrificing your uniqueness, and, therefore, your excellence.” ~Unknown
We all know at least one hardcore people pleaser. You know the signs: She sleeps out in the rain and gets sick so her friend's dog can fit in the tent. She's 100 percent Republican but pretends she’s Democrat solely because her friends are.
If a friend calls her stupid, she whips up a batch of cookies and makes a card that reads, “I'm sorry for disappointing you.” And despite all her efforts to be liked by everyone, many people disrespect her.
Maybe that's you, maybe it's not—but odds are, you can relate at least a little to the desire to be well-liked. Who doesn't want to feel accepted, respected, and appreciated?
For most of my life, my need to be liked overshadowed all my other needs. I was always trying to manipulate perception, adapting myself to receive validation. It was draining and counterproductive, since very few people actually knew me—the real me—which is a prerequisite to liking me.
I've since learned it's actually a good sign if there are some people who don't accept or agree with me.
I'm not suggesting we should be rude, inconsiderate, or disrespectful. This post isn't about disregarding other people's feelings.
This is about releasing our stress about other people's opinions.
When you’re comfortable not being liked by everyone:

1. It allows you to be true to yourself.

The biggest disservice you can do yourself is shapeshifting to please your “audience” of the moment. It's exhausting (even to watch) and, more importantly, pointless. No one will get to know who you really are, which will leave you feeling empty.

2. It gives you the power to say no.

I believe people are good at heart. Still, it’s human nature to test each other’s boundaries. When you're willing to risk being disliked, you're able to say no when you need to. Your yeses and nos shapes your future, so choose them wisely.

3. You're more comfortable exploring your feelings.

Doesn't it feel good to just be where you are without pretending for someone else's sake? I'm not saying you should act in anger or fear, just that it's pretty exhilarating to say, “Hell yeah—I'm terrified” (or lonely or weak or struggling) regardless of what people will think.

4. Your candor can help other people.

An angst-filled younger me made a fake voodoo doll for a middle school teacher who was hard on me, but forever changed my life (not my proudest moment). It's often the least popular people who strike the deepest chord in us. Be unpopular when necessary and push people to be their best. You just may save someone's life.

5. You can freely express your thoughts.

One of the kindest things you can do for someone else is listen without judging. You deserve that same kindness, but you won't always get it. People will form opinions as you speak. Talk anyway. Let your words be kind but fearless.

6. It prepares you for greater success.

Pick a popular Twitter user and look at their @replies. Odds are they field their fair share of harsh comments. The higher you rise, the more attention you'll receive, both positive and negative. A willingness to be disliked helps you deal with the added scrutiny.

7. It teaches you to offer kindness and compassion without expectations.

It's not difficult to offer compassion to someone who treats you with respect and kindness. What's more valuable for your personal development, and to humanity as whole, is the ability to do what's right because it's right—not because you get something in return.

8. You can inspire other people.

There is someone I know who has the uncanny ability to keep going even when others try to pull her down. I learn from her every day. To this woman, anyone who doesn't appreciate her assertive, over-the-top personality is a reminder that she is unique and unafraid.

9. You can use your time wisely.

If you want to be liked by everyone, odds are you're spreading yourself way too thin trying to keep them all happy. We need to use our time judiciously to enrich ourselves and others instead of worrying about everyone’s perceptions.

10. You can choose to smile anyway.

You could use your energy to make daily inventories of everything that's wrong—the money you don't have, the esteem you didn't earn, the people you disappointed. Or you could commit to being your best, and then just sit back and smile. Life will always be a balancing act. Learn to teeter in serenity.
Do you like me image via Shutterstock

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest book, Tiny Buddha's Worry Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on TwitterFacebook & Instagram.

FAIR TRADE VS FREE TRADE

Published by "Globe In" April 27, 2015

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FAIR AND FREE TRADE?

Hint: fair trade isn't fair; 
free trade isn't free.
They may sound similar, but fair trade and free trade are often arch enemies.
Fair trade places restrictions on farmers and producers. It forces them to pay minimum wages, adopt safe working conditions and pay lip service to planetary protection.
Free trade removes all boundaries for all parties. It affords unfettered international export and import, free from taxes, tariffs, worker protections or pesky minimum wages.
Globally: fair trade makes things more expensive, free trade makes things cheaper; fair trade means workers earn more, free trade means workers earn less. So while free does mean cheap, it also means we earn collectively less money with which to buy all that cheap stuff.
Here’s a simple explanation of the difference between fair trade and free trade.
Free-Trade-Is-Not-Fair-Trade_20161

FAIR TRADE PAYS A PREMIUM.

fair trade = price + premium
Fair trade standards set two payouts for producers — a “minimum price” and a “premium.”
The minimum price is meant to set a floor to keep farmers afloat in the event of a global commodities collapse. When market prices are above the minimum, which is typical, producers receive the market rate.
The premium is a bonus with restrictions. The premium doesn’t go directly to individual workers. Rather, the money must be used for worker welfare programs such as education, child care, facility improvements, etc…
Jonathan Rosenthal, Co-founder of Equal Exchange, says that “fair trade” could be more accurately described as “trade which is less unfair,” a fair criticism. In fact, going fair trade can actually mean less money for a producer. It costs a fair amount of money for producers to maintain fair trade certification. Meanwhile, market demand for fair trade products may not be high enough for producers to sell all of their crops under a fair trade label, forcing them to sell their remaining crops sans premium.
Fair trade is certainly not egalitarian, but it’s fair-er than free.

FREE TRADE COSTS

free < fair
Free trade is a bilateral agreement between countries to allow unrestricted import and export of goods.
The advantage to free trade is that it taps into the efficiency of global markets. Free trade can spur economic growth while making goods less expensive.
The downside is that all those goods get less expensive for a reason. It may be cheaper to build solar panels in China the US, which is all well and good (Who doesn’t want cheaper solar panels!), but those panels may be cheaper because workers are cheaper. So in addition to importing affordable Chinese solar panels, we’re exporting affable American jobs.
Especially frightening for the fair trade movement, free trade threatens to forgo worker protections and environmental standards Far from emancipating, free trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic Partnerships threaten to force the world’s least empowered workers into feudalism.

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