Saturday, December 19, 2009

Nurture Shock by Po Bronson ***

Some challenging food for thought for all parents to consider. The first section deals with Carol Dweck’s Mindset – See . Another section reveals the surprisingly simple solution to making your kid both a near genius and fit at the same time; just let them sleep as much as possible. You’ll be surprised at how often, and why your kids constantly lie – even to your face. And you’ll learn to how to prevent it. Also, for you new parents, you can save a lot of money in not investing in those baby videos. It will only retard your babies development. Old fashioned interaction is what they need with a real live human being. And educational TV does educate after all. Except it teaches your kids to be verbally and physically aggressive as much or more than violent TV. Read on to learn more…

False praise doesn’t help

For college students on the verge of failing in class, esteem building causes their grades to sink further. Continued appeal of self esteem from parents is largely tied to parents’ pride in their children’s achievements: it’s so strong that when they praise their kids, it’s not that far from praising themselves. P19

Praising kids in the class can hurt

Children believe by age 12 that earning praise from the teacher is not a sign you did well – its actually a sign you lack ability and the teacher thinks you need extra encouragement. They’ve picked up on the pattern that kids who are falling behind get drowned in [false] praise. P20

How we teach our kids to cheat

Students turn to cheating when they haven’t developed a strategy for handling failure. The problem is compounded when a parent ignores a child’s failures and insists he’ll do better next time. The child comes to believe that failure is so terrible, that the family can’t acknowledge its existence, depriving the child any opportunity to discuss mistakes or learn from them. P22

American mothers should be more fluent in Chinese mothering

In an experiment of Chinese and American mothers whose children were given a failing test grade, and then allowed to retake the test after speaking with their mothers, it was found that American mothers carefully avoided making negative comments to their children when they failed. They remained fairly upbeat and positive with their child. The majority of the time was spent talking about something other than the testing. But Chinese mothers said you need to improve your concentration, or lets look over your mistakes, and the majority of the time was spent discussing the test and its importance. After the discussion, the Chinese kid’s score the 2nd test jumped 33%, more than twice the gain of the Americans… The stereotype that the Chinese mothers were cruel or harsh didn’t hold up either. While the words were firm, the mothers smiled and hugged their children every bit as much as the American mothers, and were no more likely to frown or raise their voices. P23

No snoring in the back row

60% of high school kids report extreme daytime sleepiness… Studies show anywhere from 20 to 33% are falling asleep in class at least once a week. P30

Back to the 4th grade you dunce

A loss of 1 hour of sleep is equivalent to the loss of 2 years of cognitive maturation and development for 6th graders. P32

Sleep disorders can impair childrens IQ as much as lead exposure. P33

Hey C students, become an A student in just 30 minutes!

Teens who received A’s averaged 15 min more sleep that B students, who in turn averaged 15 min more than C students… Every 15 min counts. P33

A tired brain just can’t change

Tired children can’t remember what they just learned, because tired neurons lose their plasticity, becoming incapable of forming new synaptic connections necessary to encode a memory. P34

Because it doesn’t get enough energy

Sleep loss debilitates the body’s ability to extract glucose from blood. Without this stream of basic energy, one part of the brain suffers more than others – the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for “Executive Function”. So tired people have difficulty with impulse control, and abstract goals like studying take a back seat to more entertaining diversions. And a tired brain gets stuck on a wrong answer and can’t come up with a more creative solution, repeatedly turning to the same answer it already knows. P34

Seeing the glass ½ empty

Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive and neutral by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdale. The result is that sleep deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine… Sleep deprived college students could remember 81% of words with a negative connotation, like ‘cancer’. But they could remember only 31% of words with a positive or neutral connotation like ‘sunshine’ or ‘basket’. P35

World's best, cheapest and proven SAT prep – way better than Kaplan!

The best known study is from Edina, MN where an affluent HS changed its start time from 7:25 to 8:30. In the preceding year, the math/verbal SAT scores for the top 10% of the schools 1600 students was 683/605. A year later, it was 739/761… While the evidence is compelling 85% of high schools start before 8:15am, and 35% before 7:31am p36

Watching TV doesn’t lead to fat couch potatoes

Obese kids watch no more TV than non-obese kids… Kids don’t trade TV for physical activity. If the TV is off, then don’t play soccer, they do some other sedentary activity. P40

How Sleep Loss makes you fatter

Sleep loss increases the hormone ghrelin, which signals hunger, and decreases its metabolic opposite, leptin, which suppresses appetite. Sleep loss also elevates the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is lipogenic, meaning it stimulates your body to make fat. P40

2 hours can make you 3 times as likely to be a fatty

All studies point in the same direction: on avg, children who sleep less are fatter than children who sleep more… In a study of Canadian, Japanese and Australian young boys, they showed that having less than 8 hours of sleep led to a 300% higher rate of obesity than those who get 10 hours… Among middle and high schoolers, the odds of obesity went up by 80% for EACH hour of lost sleep. P41

Lying like clockwork

In a study observing children in their homes, 4 year olds will lie once every 2 hours, while 6 year olds will lie once every hour. And 96% of all kids studied offered up lies. P80

The literal truth

Kids don’t believe a mistake or something forgotten is acceptable excuse. The only thing that matters is that the information is wrong. So if you promise to come to his game, and you get into an accident and miss it; you missed it and you lied about coming. Any false statement - regardless of intent or belief – is a lie. P81

Be proud of your budding little liar

Kids who start lying at age 2 or 3 do better on tests of academic prowess. Lying is related to intelligence. P82

Lying is addictive – because it works

Lying is a symptom – often of a bigger problem behavior. It is a strategy to keep themselves afloat… In studies of 6 year olds, many simply grow out of it. But if lying has become successful for handling difficult social situations, she’ll stick with it. And 1/3 of kids do. If they continue lying at 7, then it seems likely they’ll continue. They’re hooked. P83

Crying wolf doesn’t help anyone including the reader

Which story will have a bigger impact on preventing kids from lying? The boy who cried wolf, or George Washington and the cherry tree? 75% said the Wolf. But this story did not cut down on lying at all in a study, and in fact, kids lied a little more than usual. Meanwhile, the Cherry tree story reduce lying a whopping 75% in boys and 50% in girls. Why does that happen? The shepherd boy pays the ultimate price in being eaten, but that lies get harsh punishment is not news to children. When asked if lies are always wrong, 92% of 5 year olds say yes. And if asked if why they are wrong, it is because they get punished! Young kids process the risk of lying by considering only their self protection. It isn’t until age 11 that the majority demonstrate awareness of its harm to others. At 11, 48% say the problem with lying is that it destroys trust, and 22% say it carries guilt, but even then 33% still say the problem is being punished. P84

How to get your kid to stop lying to you

What really works is to tell the child ‘I will not be upset with you if you [did something bad] AND if you tell the truth, I will be really happy.’ This is an offer of both immunity and a clear route back to good standing. Young kids are lying to make you happy – trying to please you. So telling kids that the truth will make a parent happy challenges the kid’s original thought that hearing good news – not the truth – is what will please the parent. That’s why the George Washington and the Cherry Tree works so well. P86

Giftedness doesn’t seem to be a permanent condition

If you picked 100 kindergartners as gifted, by 3rd grade only 27 would still deserve that designation. P97

Oh brother, how we love to argue 18% of the time

Studies show that siblings between ages 3 & 7 clash 3.5 times per hour, adding up to 10 minutes spent arguing… Only 1 in 8 conflicts end in a compromise or reconciliation… Siblings made 7 times as many negative and controlling statements to their siblings as they did to friends. P120

And he just keeps coming back for more

Kids don’t have an incentive to behave nicely to their siblings, compared to friends, because the siblings will be there tomorrow, no matter what. Sibship is a relationship in which the boundaries of social interaction can be pushed to the limit. Rage and irritation need not be suppressed, whilst politeness and toleration can be neglected. P121

He who dies with the most toys is the winner after all

In a survey of 108 sibling pairs asking exactly what they fought about, parental affection was ranked dead last at just 9%. The most common reason was the sharing of toys by 80%. Nothing else came close. P127

Let them sort it out

Notes from p257: Scholars have found that parents’ intervention in their children’s argument can actually make things worse. Often their focus is on forcing the children to share a fought over toy, or to divert one child from the conflict – but then they deprive the kids of an opportunity to learn negotiation or respect for other’s needs. Even worse is when a parent just ends the argument with ‘That’s enough – I’ve had it with you two!’ Because the parent is then exhibiting the same sort of self centered, unilateral power play that the children are attempting.

They all lie, even the good students

96% of teens reported lying to their parents. Being an honors student doesn’t change these number by much, nor does being really busy. No kid is too busy to break a few rules. P139

Because they don’t want to hurt you

The most common reason for deception was ‘I’m trying to protect the relationship with my parents. I don’t want them to be disappointed in me.’ P139

Don’t be their friend. Be a parent.

Kids who go wild and get in to the most trouble have parents who don’t set rules or standards. Their parents are loving and accepting no matter what the kids do. But the kids take a lack of rules as a sign that the parent doesn’t care, that the parent doesn’t really want the job of being a parent. P139 Kids, even teens, want parental protection.

And face it, they won’t ever tell you EVERYTHING

78% of parents were sure their teens could talk to them about anything. However teens disagreed. To seek out a parent for help is a tacit admission that he’s not mature enough to handle it alone. Having to tell parents about it can be psychologically emasculating, whether the confession is forced out or if it is volunteered. It’s essential for some things to be ‘none of your business’. P140

Beware of your rebellious preteen

The big surprise is when this need for autonomy is strongest. It’s not mild at 12, moderate at 15, and most powerful at 18. It actually peaks at 14 to 15, and is in fact slightly stronger at 11 than at 18! P140

How you lead them to depression

For those unfortunate kids who have oppressively strict parents, the teens don’t rebel and are obedient. But they are depressed. P140

How to stay connected

Set a few rules over key areas of influence, and explain those rules. Expect your child to obey them, and support their autonomy outside these areas. The kids of these parents lied the least. P141

Controlling them leads to drinking and drugs

Studies confirm that kids turn to drinking and drugs because they are bored in their free time… But even the really busy kids could be bored, for 2 reasons. First they were doing lots of activities only because their parents signed them up – there was no intrinsic motivation. Second, they were so accustomed to their parents filling their free time that they didn’t know how to fill it in on their own. The more controlling the parent, the more likely the child is to experience boredom. P142

Argue alot and have a happy family

In families with less deception, there was a much higher ratio of arguing/complaining. Arguing was good – arguing was honesty… But 46% of mothers rated their arguments as destructive to the relationship, while only 23% of their daughters felt that way. Far more believed that arguing strengthened the relationship with their mother. They saw fighting as a way to see their parents in a new way, as a result of hearing their mother’s point of view be articulated… The daughters who rated arguing destructive had parents who stonewalled rather than collaborated. The daughters heard ‘Don’t argue with me!’ before even uttering a word. P149

Bend but don’t break

Parents who negotiate ultimately appear to be more informed about their children. Parents with unbending, strict guidelines make it a tactical issue for kids to find a way around them. P150

Why looking into their eyes and asking for the truth doesn’t help

Notes from p251: Study after study show that gaze aversion (look into my eyes and tell me the truth) has little if any relation to a person’s lying. Gaze aversion is even less of a signal for children: they frequently look away from a conversation partner when they are concentrating… Scholars hypothesize that gaze aversion comes from a different emotional state altogether: around the world, people look down at the ground as an indication of shame. Therefore, there’s an errant assumption that liars are ashamed of their falsehood and thus will look away.

Why driver’s ed is deadly

School districts that eliminated Driver’s Ed experienced a 27% drop in auto accidents among 16 and 17 year olds… States which delay the age at which a teen can drive at night or with friends decrease crashes by 20 to 30%. P158

The power of imagination

In a famous study, children were told to stand still as long as they could – they lasted only 2 minutes. Then a 2nd group was asked to pretend they were soldiers on guard who had to stand still at their posts – they lasted 11 minutes! P166

Why she can’t focus

One subsystem of the brain is supposed to measure how well you’re doing on whatever you’re supposed to be doing. When it senses you’re not doing well enough, it signals another subsystem, which allocates more cognitive control: it improves your concentration. Many children first subsystem is not well developed, and thus the child is not only not able to concentrate, she’s not even aware that she needs to concentrate. P172

It’s vital for children to develop an awareness of how well they’re doing and when their work is completed accurately. This sensitivity is required for the feedback system to function, and for concentration to be increased. P172 Kids should check each other’s work, and check their own work against scoresheets.

The adult brain has a specialized region in the frontal lobe devoted to regulating rules. This rules region allows people to be proactive: the recognize circumstances where rules will apply, as if glancing ahead in time, preloading the brain for what to do. School children however don’t yet have this region to draw upon; rather than proact, their brains react. Stumbling, trying to get the rules straight, their error rate is high. P173

How to get them addicted to self motivation

When a child gets to choose his own activity or work, they choose activities they’re motivated to do. This motivation is crucial. It is experienced in the brain as a release of dopamine, where it is spritzed onto large areas of the brain, which enhances the signaling of neurons. The motivated brain literally operates better, signals faster. When children are motivated they learn. P173

Steps to a better kid

Have your child write down a plan for how they’ll spend their day or afternoon. When they get distracted, refer them back to their plan. When children make an error, rather than correct it, point to the line or the page containing the mistake and ask the child to find it. This makes them think critically about what they’re doing rather than mechanically completing an assignment. When doing something repetitive (like writing practice) have them choose their best example to show you. When learning something new, especially for younger children, have them use private speech ‘Start at the top and go around to draw a C’. Use buddy reading, where you take turns reading from a book, and having the child describe what you’ve read to hone their listening and talking skills as well as reading. Lastly, prompt the child to encourage them to extend the imagination in play. When the child is playing, and comes to stop ask what they were doing earlier, and then encourage the scenario to continue by providing some good ideas. “Why don’t you wake up your baby now so she can go to school on a field trip?” This can lead to another hour of imaginative play. P174 Tricks from Tools of the Mind to encourage self directed play and work.

We should ban Sesame Street and Sponge Bob

The more educational media (TV/video) the children watched, the more relationally aggressive they were. They were increasingly bossy, controlling and manipulative. This wasn’t a small effect. It was stronger than the connection between violent media and physical aggression… In fact, watching education TV also increased the rates of physical aggression, almost as much as watching violent TV… The more the kids watched, the crueler they’d be to their classmates. This correlation was 2.5 times higher than that between violent media and physical aggression… Researchers theorized that many educational shows spend most of the ½ hour establishing a conflict between characters and only a few minutes resolving that conflict. Preschoolers have a hard time being able to connect information at the end of the show to what happened earlier. It is likely that the child doesn’t learn the overall lesson, but instead learns from each behavior shown. P180

Just pull the plug

96% of children’s programming includes verbal insults and put downs, averaging 7.7 incidents per ½ hour. Even 67% of ‘prosocial’ programs contained insults… Of the over 2628 put downs the team identified in their survey of shows, in only 50 was the insulter reprimanded or corrected – and not once in an educational show. Fully 84% of the time, there was only laughter or no response at all. P182

They know you don’t get along all the time so don’t pretend

The typical couple has 8 disputes per day. Spouses express anger 2 or 3 times as often they show a moment of affection. Children witness 45% of these disputes. P184

You have to make up – in front of them

In one study 1/3 of children acted aggressively after witnessing a staged parent conflict. But in that same study something else happened that eliminated the aggressive reaction in all but 4% of the children. What was that magical thing? Letting the child witness not just the argument, but the resolution of the argument. When the process was stopped mid-argument, it had a very negative effect. But if the child was allowed to see the contention worked out, it calmed him… If the parents pause mid-argument to take it upstairs – to spare the children – and then forget to tell the kids that they worked it all out – then may make the situation far worse. P185

Resolution leads to a better kid

Researchers have recently shown that being exposed to marital conflict can actually be good for children – if it doesn’t escalate, insults are avoided, and the dispute is resolved with affection. This improves the sense of security, over time, increases their prosocial behavior at school. But the resolution has to be sincere, not manipulated for their benefit – or they’ll see through it. Kids learn a lesson in conflict resolution: the argument gives them an example of how to compromise and reconcile. P185

Why spanking really hurts them

When physical discipline (spanking) was saved only for the worst offenses, the parent was usually very angry, and had lost his/her temper. The implicit message was ‘What you have done is so deviant that you deserve a special, harsh punishment, which is spanking.’ It marked the child as someone who has lost his place within traditional society. When spanking was done as an accepted practice in a culture, it becomes the normal thing, and the kid is not traumatized by being considered a deviant. P187

Why Disney’s Baby Einstein had to pay everyone back their money

Babies brains don’t learn to recognize foreign language phonemes off a video or audio tape [eg. Baby Einstein] at all. They absolutely do learn from live human speech. In an experiment, American babies were taught to recognize Mandarin phonemes in just twelve 20 minute sessions over 1 month with Chinese speaking graduate students. The babies were virtually as good at recognizing Mandarin phonemes as the brains of native born Chinese infants. But when American infants were put in front of audio and video tapes of Mandarian speech, their brains absorbed none of it. They might as well have heard meaningless noise. This was true despite seeming to be quite engaged by the videos… Why the difference? Studies have shown repeatedly that seeing a person’s face makes huge difference in how the baby learns speech. P202

Early response

Studies have shown that there is great variability within a sample, with some tots hitting some language development milestones far earlier, and others far later. The variable that best explained these gaps was how often a mom rapidly responded to her child’s vocalizations and explorations. The toddlers of high responders were a whopping 6 months ahead of low responders, saying their 1st words at 10 mos, and reaching other milestones at 14. p204

Don’t expect them to be thankful

Children will not experience gratitude unless they recognize 3 things about the bounty in their lives: that they are intentional, costly, and beneficial. Younger children may not be able to comprehend this, and thus may not show improvements in happiness from conducting gratitude exercises… Also, not everyone benefits from gratitude exercises as it turns out. Only those who are low in positive affect – or people who rarely experienced excitement, hope, strength, interest, and inspiration. In fact, for people who are highly positive, the gratitude exercises can make them feel worse or less happy. Why is that? Well, for people with a strong need for autonomy and independence, it might be demoralizing to recognize how much they are dependent upon others or grownups. P235

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

**** Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin

This book will challenge everything you know about talent. The Webster definition of talent is “the natural endowments of a person” not the skills learned through hours and hours practice and experience. Well, perhaps it’s time to rewrite the dictionary, and redefine what it takes to be a talented individual. Now don’t get your hopes way up and think that if you’re lacking talent, that you can simply follow some quick formula and acquire it. Oh no, it may not be inborn as you thought previously, but it’s the next hardest thing from that. It’s gained via laborious, obsessive, deliberate, mindful practice. Hour after hour, day after day, year after year for at least ten years for most vocations. Yes, TEN years! Maybe it would have been easier to have chosen the right mom and dad after all. So what are you waiting for? Get to work, and in only 10 years you’ll be talented!

Don’t we all believe that some folks are just gifted?

More than 75% of education professionals believed that singing, composing, and playing concert instruments requires a special gift or talent; which is a higher proportion than for any other field. p17

There are no short cuts

257 music students were divided into 3 groups based upon achievement; top, middle, bottom. Judged by early signs of special talent, all 3 groups were highly similar, and they all started playing around age 8... The avg hours of practice needed by the most elite group and the least elite group was the same to graduate to the next level achievement - about 1200 hours of practice for each group member to reach level 5. The elite group members reached the higher level simply because they practiced more each day. They practiced 2 hours/day vs. 15min/day for the lowest group... Nothing it turned out, enabled any group to reach any given level without putting in those hours. "There's absolutely no evidence of a fast track for high achievers." p19

What about Mozart? Surely he was talented at birth?

Mozart's 1st 4 piano concertos were composed at age 11, but they actually contain no original music by him. He put them together by combining works by other composers. His next 3 at 16, also contained no new music but were arrangements of Bach, whom Mozart had studied under. Today, none of these are regarded as great music, and they are rarely performed or recorded... His 1st work regarded as a masterpiece was composed when he was 21. An early age, but one must remember that he had been trained in music since age 3 for 18 years... For 200 years people believed that he had a miraculous ability to compose entire pieces in his head. This view is based upon a famous letter that it turns out is a forgery. Mozart didn't conceive whole works in his mind, perfect and complete. Surviving manuscripts show he was constantly revising, reworking, crossing out and rewriting whole sections, and putting them aside for months or years. He wrote music the way ordinary humans do. p26-27

What about Tiger Woods then?

Tiger was born into the home of an expert golfer who loves to teach. His mother doesn't work outside the home, and he's an only child. Tiger is the 1st priority in the marriage. He received his 1st putter at 7 months (not years!). He'd watch his dad hit balls into a net for hours on end, while in his high chair... At age 19, he became a member of the Walker cup (though he didn't win). At that point he had been practicing intensely for 17 years... Asked to explain his uncommon success, father and son always gave the same reason: hard work. p30-31

High IQ doesn’t equal High Achievement

Among workers, the avg IQ increases with the complexity of the work, which seems totally unsurprising... The trouble starts when we dig beneath the averages... A wide range of studies shows that the correlations between IQ and achievement aren't nearly as strong as the data on broad averages would suggest, and in many cases there's no correlation at all. p42

Nor does it equal great sales people or chess or scrabble players

Bosses tend to think that smarter sales people will sell more, but when compared to actual sales results, they found no such correlation... In games like Chess, scrabble, and go, you'd think IQ would correlate with performance. Yet researchers have found some chess grand masters with lower than normal IQs. It's a similar story for Go, the japanese game equivalent in complexity to chess. And some top Scrabble players score below avg on test of verbal ability. p44

IQ helps for UNFAMILIAR tasks

The strength of IQ as a predictor of chess achievement dropped drastically as children worked and got better, and IQ was of no value in predicting how quickly they would improve. Many studies of adults in the workplace have shown the same pattern. IQ is a decent predictor of performance on an unfamiliar task, but once a person has been at a job for a while, IQ predicts nothing about performance. p45

Go figure?

The Czech chess master Richard Reti once played 29 blindfolded games simultaneously. Afterward he left his briefcase at the exhibition site, and commented what a poor memory he has. p46

They’re mere mortals after all

Chess masters don't have incredible general purpose memories. What they have was an incredible ability to remembe real chess positions and patterns, honed from hours of practice and study. If you scramble the chess board randomly (not with actual chess positions), the chess master can barely perform better than a non-player in remembering where the pieces are placed. p47

You better learn to work around that personality of yours. You’re stuck with it

Are you stuck with the personality traits you have? Research going back decades suggest that personality dimensions don't vary much over the course of a person's life. But this doesn't limit a person's ability to achieve; it may limit only the fields in which a person is most likely to excel. p48

What have discovered about what makes people excel?

- It's not experience. There's some evidence that some people in a wide range of fields actually get worse after years of doing something.

- It's not inborn talents. Many untalented folks have achieved amazing things.

- It's not general abilities like IQ and memory. p51

Practice early and often. And then goto sleep early and often.

Let's go back to the study of the 257 violinists. All 3 groups were spending the same total amount of time on music related activities - 51 hours/week. All 3 agreed that solo practice was the number one activity to improve performance. They all knew it, and had the time, but they all didn't do it. The 2 top groups solo practiced 24 hours/week vs. 9 hours/week for the bottom group. As for pleasure, solo practice ranked near the bottom of all activities, including formal performances... The top 2 groups did most of their practicing in the late morning or early afternoon, when they were still fairly fresh. The bottom group group practiced mainly in the late afternoon, when they were more likely to be tired. The top 2 groups also slept more at night and took more naps. All that practicing seems to demand a lot of recovery. p59

If practice equals better performance, then why isn't the best group practicing any more than the middle group?.... The answer lies in the student's histories. By age 18, the 1st group had accumulated on avg 7410 hours of lifetime practice vs. 5301 hours for the middle, and 3420 for the third. p60 1 5, 2 4

The 10 year rule

In a famous study of chess players, the researchers proposed the 10 year rule, that no one reaches the highest level w/o 10 years of intensive play and practice... Subsequent research in a wide range of fields has substantiated the 10 year rule in math, science, music, swimming, x-ray diagnosis, tennis, literature - no one, not even the most 'talented' performers became great w/o at least 10 years of very hard preparation. p61 3 1

A study of 76 composers from many historical periods looked at when they produced their 1st notable works or masterworks. Of over 500 works, only 3 were composed before year 10 of the composer’s career, and those 3 were produced in years 8 and 9… In a similar study of painters, the same pattern although the period was shorter – 6 years. A study of 66 poets found a few who produced notable works in less than 10 years, but none in less than 5; 55 of the 66 needed 10 or more years. P152

Like a fine wine, you’re still getting better after 19 years

Many scientists and authors produce their greatest works only after 20 or more years of devoted effort, which means even after 19 years, they are still getting better! p62 1 2, 2 2

It’s never too late to learn to get better

By the late 19th century, research was showing that ordinary people in various lines of work could keep getting better even after their performance had apparently plateaued. These highly experienced workers, whose performance hadn't improved in years, suddenly got markedly better when they were offered incentives or given new kinds of training. 63 1 2,

Experts are made, not born

The differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain... This explains high achievement without the concept of talent playing any role. p63 4 3, 5 1

4 hours total practice per day – max with 90 minute max sessions

A finding that is remarkably consistent across disciplines is that 4 or 5 hours a day seems to be the upper limit of deliberate practice, and in sessions lasting lasting no more than 90min... This is true of violinists, chess champions, swimmers.71 2 2

Why companies don’t create talent very well

In fact, life at most companies seems almost intended to defeat all the principles of deliberate practice. What we generally do at work isn't designed by anyone to make us better at anything. Usually it isn't designed at all; we're just given an objective that's necessary for the employer;s goals... And second, the activities that would make us better are usually not highly repeatable. When we face a new or unusual challenge - a competitor's innovation, a shift in customer attitudes - we typically find little past experience to guide us because we've had so few chances to deal with those situations... Deliberate practice demands that we push ourselves to the point where we break down and then develop a solution, in our business lives the cost of mistakes is high. Every incentive urges us to stick with what's safe and reliable… We weren’t hired so we could spend time improving our own abilities; we were hired to produce results p72 b1 2

73 1 1

A better way to develop talent

Companies tend to assign people based on what they’re already good at, not what they to work on. It’s difficult to pull accomplished employees out of jobs they do extremely well and put them into positions where they may struggle. 128 3 3

… One technique to mitigate this: short term work assignments. Managers don’t leave their jobs, but they take on add’l assignments outside their field of expertise. This increases the burden on the employee, but most don’t seem to mind because they realize that they’ve been identified for extra development. p130 3 2

Most employees will never serve on the company’s board, but many can serve on a local non-profit’s board, and the experience is an excellent opportunity to develop strategic thinking, financial analysis, and many other skills. p131 2 3

A telling indicator of future managerial success is how interns get others to work with them when they have absolutely no authority… Another is if the candidate played team sports and what their role was (captain?). p133 3 b4, b1

At AMEX, 25% of an executives pay depends on people development. 135 2 b2

The difference between an amateur and a pro

A study of singers found that when amateurs took a voice lesson, they experienced it as an enjoyable release of tension, but when pros took a lesson, they experienced it as an intense, difficult effort. On the outside, they were doing the same thing, but on the inside they were doing completely different things, and that’s what mattered. p80 2 8

You’re not getting better when its automatic

When we see a great performance, it strikes us that they’ve practiced so long that they can do it automatically. But in fact, what they have achieved is the ability to avoid doing it automatically. When we learn to do anything new, we go through 3 stages. The 1st demands a lot of attention as we try out the controls, and learn the rules. In the 2nd stage, we being to coordinate our knowledge, linking movements together, and more fluidly combining our actions with our knowledge, the situation, and the rules. In the 3rd stage, we perform with barely a thought. And with that we stop improving… Great performers never allow themselves to reach stage 3 in their chosen field. That is the effect of continual deliberate practice – avoiding automaticity. p82 4 2, 5 1

Find a mentor, or you’re on your own

If you want to play the piano, the exact skills and the order in which to learn them have been worked out by many generations of teachers. It’s similar in highly structured professions for lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc. But in a great many careers, and in the advanced stages of all of them, there is no published curriculum that must be studied and mastered. You’re on your own… Yet in all practice it is highly valuable to get other’s views about you should be working on and how you’re doing. 109 2 3 3 1

Basic skills acquisition

The most obvious way to improve for work involves presentations and speeches. For most people, practice consists of a few run throughs. But now think of all of the ways that practicing could be done much better. One could analyze the text and in each section determine the most important idea to be conveyed – passion, logical inevitability, bonding with audience, humor – and then work on each section repeatedly, constantly striving to express that key idea more effectively, with feedback after each repetition, from a coach or watching a video playback… Is this way more work than anyone you know has ever put into a presentation? But it is exactly the type of practice that great performers put into whatever they do. p110 3 5

Why giving performance reviews suck for everyone involved

One the most dreaded tasks for managers is giving job evaluations. The message can be broken down into pieces and each piece analyzed for intent, then practiced repeatedly with feedback from a coach or video. Even being interviewed during job search or by the media can be practiced in this way. You probably know the key messages you wish to convey regardless of the questions you’re asked. p111 3 2 3 7 4 4 4 6

Watch and learn

Watch a presentation that you consider especially well done, and make note of its various points; later after you’ve forgotten most of it,use your notes to create a talk making the same points, video it, and compare it to the original. P111

The case for the free MBA

Take business classes that apply the case method… Since the correct response isn’t always clear, it’s helpful to hear the perspectives of other students and especially the teacher… You don’t have to go to biz school either; many of the case studies are for sale online. Ask ‘what would you do?’ while reading the paper and listening to the news. Then WRITE IT DOWN and KEEP IT. Comparing your response to what the protagonist actually did is the only way this exercise can yield genuine learning, and that learning will be considerable. 113 2 2, 3 5, 3 8, 3 13, 3 18

Rebuild your foundation

Review your old textbooks that are related to your field so that your fundamental skills become faster, more facile, and more confident… Do math by hand instead of via calculator or worse a spreadsheet. Pencil edit magazine articles. You won’t learn new skills, but you’ll be building the strengths that make your skills possible. 114 b1 1

Web-based simulation games in marketing, stock trading, negotiating, corp strategy, and many other disciplines are widely available. Use these to practice.116

Set goals related to the process necessary for achievement, not the outcome

Mediocre performers set goals that are general and are often focused on simply achieving a good outcome. The best performers set goals that aren’t about the outcome but about the process of reaching the outcome. Don’t set the goal on winning the sale, but on discerning the customer’s unstated needs. P117

Focus on what your doing; don’t tune everything out

Average runners tend to think about anything other than running. Elite runners focus intensely on themselves; they count their breaths, simultaneously count their strides in order to maintain certain ratios. P118

Pick stretch goals, not comfortable ones

Average performers are content to tell themselves that they did great or poorly or OK. The best performers judge themselves against a standard that’s relevant to what they’re trying to achieve like comparing against a personal best, or a competitor, or the best performance in their field… The key is to pick a goal that stretches you just beyond your current limits. Research tells us that too high a standard produces no advancement. 119 2 b3, 3 3, 3 b4

Stop blaming others, and start blaming yourself

Average performers believe that their errors were caused by factors outside their control; bad luck, task was too hard, I don’t have natural ability. Top performers believe they are responsible for their errors. P119

Figure what went wrong, and how to fix it – then test your theory by doing it again

You reflect on something major and significant that you performed at work. Odds are strong that it was not perfect, and that parts of it were unpleasant. Excellent performers respond by adapting the way the performed to negative outcomes; average performers avoid the negative situations in the future. Average performers with no clear idea why things didn’t go perfectly, and attribute the failures to vague forces outside their control. As a result they’re clueless about how to adapt, so they just avoid going through anything like that again. Which means they have zero chance of getting better… Excellent performers are therefore more likely to repeat the task with a new strategy, and thus perform better next time. p120 2 7, 2 10 3 4

How to become an expert

If you set a goal of becoming an expert in your business, you would study the history of your business, identify the leading experts, read everything you could find, interview people inside and outside your company who could provide new perspectives, track key statistics and trends. It’s quickly apparent that you could make yourself impressively more knowledgeable in short order. With time your knowledge advantage will become large. 121 3 2

Create filters to remove the noise

In a study of top and apprentice pilots who listed to air traffic recordings, the apprentices actually recalled more of the filler words that had no practical significance. But the experts recalled far more of the important concept words. They had heard the communication as part of a rich mental model, they could focus brainpower on what counted. 123 b1 b5

Two groups of firefighters, experts and novices, were shown photos of fires. The novices saw what was obvious – intensity and color of the flames. The experts saw a story; using their mental model to infer what must have led to the current state and to predict what was likely to happen next. 124 1 6

Seeds of trust; become vulnerable

Reciprocal vulnerability is the beginning of trust; so sharing personal stories or revealing feelings is a way to foster that in the workplace. 139 3 b2

Revenge of the Right Brain

For 300 years, the source of economic dominance has clearly been leadership in science and technology, but now that era may now be ending. Technology will be commoditized by China and India, being dispersed and adopted immediately after its created. Economic value will arise instead from the powers of the right brain – creativity, imagination, empathy, aesthetics. Exhibit A – the iPod vs MP3 predecessors. Exhibit B – Target over Walmart. P147

This phenomenon is sufficiently widespread that the MFA degree is gaining ground on the MBA, and some schools are offering a joint MFA/MBA degree. P148

In many creative fields the person who pursues the advanced degree has consciously chosen a path that leads to a professorship not a life of innovating in that domain; those with most formal education are less eminent as innovators. In science and technology it is different. Advanced education is absolutely required; no one is going to cure cancer as a sophomore in high school. P156

No flashes of genius; just more hard work

James Watt didn’t invent the steam engine; he made it more efficient so it could become the engine behind the British industrial revolution… Eli Whitney didn’t invent the cotton gin. In fact, many had been invented to remove seeds from long staple cotton, which wasn’t economical to grow on a large scale. His genius was to invent a device that would work on short staple cotton using what came before... The aha moments grow out of hours of thought and study. The idea of an epiphany is a dreamer’s paradise, where people want to believe that things are easier than they are. P159

And what about those legends of great creative products appearing suddenly and fully formed? The answer is simple: they aren’t true. Samuel Coleridge claimed that 100s of lines of came to him in an opium haze for his famous work, Kublai Khan. But an earlier version of the poem was found, and worse, another previous book has passages similar to his own… Abe Lincoln didn’t write his famous address on the back of an envelope while riding a train to Gettysburg as the legend goes. A number of drafts have been found. And as for the original Eureka moment – nothing in Archimedes writings or in writings of his contemporaries supports or hints at the bathtub story. Scholars have concluded that it is a myth. P161

Blind at the top

In a survey of 600 executives, those at the top thought the main reason why their company wasn’t more innovative was that it didn’t have enough of the right people. Lower level managers held a markedly different view – that the right people were present but that the culture kept them from innovating. P163

Blah, blah, blah

Organizations can take 2 steps that are especially effective in light of how innovation really happens: telling people what’s needed, and giving them freedom to innovate… Leaders exhort the troops to be innovative, but no one understands clearly what that means. Unsure where to go, they go nowhere. P164

It’s CYA that rules the day

Most organizations are not intellectually stimulating, even the field itself is fascinating; rather than offering opportunities to learn and rewarding curiosity, it leaves inquisitive employees to find their own ways to learn. And instead of furnishing structure and support – meaning clear roles and responsibilities in a positive, forward looking, build on success environment – many operate in a cover you ass culture. P175

What about starting in the womb?

Starting early holds advantages that become less available later in life… Violinist’s brains devote more territory to the workings of the left hand – the one that plays the notes – than do other people’s brains. This effect is much more pronounced in people who started at an early age. A separate effect involves myelin, the substance that wraps around neurons with practice, insulating and strengthening key connections. Practice in childhood cause myelin to build up more than does practice in adulthood. P171 Oh what a horribly dangerous statement this is. Now many over the top parents are going to start educating their children at the moment of conception in trying to get a head start. What a sad state of affairs for childhood in the 21st century. L

How to be a good parent

The most stimulating home environments had parents who encouraged the curiosity of their children at an early age, and answered their questions with great care – and who were structured and supportive, with everyone have clear roles, and tasks, and parents going to some lengths to support their children’s practice. P174

You can bet that this will happen to kids in China and India

It would seem possible to train young people several hours a day over years for high achievement in a specific business. It would be possible – but would it be good? The evidence suggests we could do it, yet most of us instinctively reject that idea. Why? We all feel that there is more to life than work, and providing a well rounded education for your child is our hope enriching their life and making them fulfilled . And yet our society has very little problem with kids being directed toward fields other than business at an early age, and having those same kids give up the notion of a broad education by having them focus on a particular field (think Olympic gymnast or Tiger Woods as a child). If other cultures and govt’s decide to focus on turning out managers who are whizzes at age 21, and who will just keep getting better, we will have to confront that reality, and perhaps think again about our own views. P179

Don’t even think about it

Any adult thinking of starting a professional career in any field where participants begin their development as small children should first get out their calculator and face the music, since many of those participants would have logged over 10,000 hours in their childhood, and accumulate over 1500 hours of additional practice each year as an adult. P172

You can age more slowly

As we age, we slow down. Remembering and solving unfamiliar problems take about twice as long in our 60s as in our 20s. So it is surprising to learn that excellent performers manage to continue achieving at high levels well beyond the point where age related declines would seem to make that impossible… Excellent performers do suffer the same age

related decline in speed and general cognitive abilities as everyone else – except in their field of expertise. P180

But it ain’t easy

Studies have shown that just continuing to work at a job is not enough to stave off age related declines… Deliberate practice is required to maintain that edge and to develop other skills and strategies to compensate for declines that can no longer be avoided. P182

It must come from within

People who rank high for intrinsic motivation consistently produce work that is judged more creative in studies. Conversely, people who work in fields demanding creativity reliably rank higher in intrinsic motivation. P189

It absolutely must come from within

Studies have shown that virtually any external attempt to constrain or control the work results in less creativity. Just being watched is detrimental. Even being offered incentives for doing the work results in less creative output than being offered nothing… Only a few certain external motivators that reinforce intrinsic motivation work effectively. Recognition that confirms competence turned out to be effective. Personal feedback – without expectation of being judged – could actually enhance creativity if was constructive, kind hearted, non threatening, and work focused rather person focused. Rewards that involve more time, freedom, or resources to pursue creativity could be helpful as well. Summary: Intrinsic motivation is best, and extrinsic motivation that’s controlling is detrimental, but extrinsic motivators that reinforce intrinsic drives can be highly effective. P192

What starts the ball rolling?

Instead of compulsive practice producing high ability, high ability leads to compulsive practice. Some kids are born with an ability to learn far more quickly in a particular domain. They practice all the time, setting new goals, and increasing their skills because their ability to learn makes it so rewarding. P196

Getting a head start means nothing if you don’t do the work

Even those cases of child prodigies with proclivities that appear to be innate, studying them doesn’t get us very far. That’s because the large majority don’t grow up to be great performers. A few do, but most don’t maintain the intensely focused daily work for the many years necessary to achieve at the highest levels... Many gifted kids eventually fall apart. They are told they are smart, when they inevitably hit the wall and get stuck, they think they must be dumb. P197 See Carol Dweck’s Mindset.

A very small advantage in some field at an early age can spark a series of events that produce far larger advantages… Each increase in competence is matched to a better environment, and in turn, the environment will be expected to further enhance their competence. P200

Slow and steady wins the race

The beginner’s skills are so modest that he can manage only a little bit of deliberate practice, since its highly demanding. But that little bit, increases that person’s skills making it possible to practice more, which increases the skill level more… This theory fits the evidence… In virtually every field, beginners can’t manage more than 1 hour of practice per day. But by the time they become top performers, they’ve built up a tolerance for 4 to 5 hours per day. P201

Compare yourself to your peers to feel good; intrinsic motivation must be fostered

Researchers have observed that as people start learning skills in virtually any field, they’re typically compared against other’s their own age – not the world’s greatest in that field… One way to get better than others your age is to start training earlier, thus accumulating more deliberate practice. Standing out any age is an excellent way to attract attention and praise, fueling the multiplier effect... Another way to ignite this multiplier effect is to begin learning skills in a place where competition is sparse. It’s a lot easier to stand out as a math whiz in a town of 100 than 100,000. p202

Reprogram your beliefs, and believe that if you put in the work, you’ll achieve – no matter your talent

If you believe that performance is forever limited by your lack of a specific innate gift, or by a lack of general abilities at a level you think must be necessary, then there’s no chance at all that you’ll do the work. That’s why the belief is tragically constraining. Everyone who has achieved exceptional performance has encountered terrible difficulties along the way. There are no exceptions. If you believe that doing the right kind of thing can overcome the problems, then you at least a chance of moving on to ever better performance. Those who see the setbacks as evidence that they lack the necessary gift will give up – they will never achieve what they might have… Above all, what the evidence shouts most loudly is striking, liberating news: that great performance is not reserved for a preordained few. It is available to you and to everyone. P206

Saturday, July 04, 2009

** Drunkards Walk by Leonard Mlodinow

Life is random. Now you have proof. I always like to ponder that my existence has to do with the fact that the sperm on the left or right of the egg didn’t conceive first, otherwise someone else would’ve taken my place. So you are conceived in randomness, and it will rule your life from that moment on. You’d think that owing our existence to randomness would clue us into how to handle it and how to take advantage of it. But it turns out we’re pretty bad at dealing with random things. We always seek patterns, so we weave superstitions and ignore facts to buttress our delusions.

Maybe if I yell louder that will help?

Why do we think that yelling and getting mad at people improves performance, when all studies show that encouragement is the key to change behavior and train others, including animals? The answer lies in regression towards the mean… Here’s how it works in the example of fighter pilots… Any especially good or poor performance was mostly a matter of luck. So a landing far above his normal level of skill would mean that the odds are good that he would perform closer to his norm – that is worse – the next day. And if the instructor praised him, it would appear that the praise did no good. But if a pilot made an exceptionally bad landing, then the odds would be good that the next day he would perform closer to his norm – that is better. And if the instructor screaming ‘you clumsy ape’ when a student performed poorly, it would appear that this harsh criticism did some good. In this way an apparent pattern would emerge: student performs well, praise does no good; student performs poorly, instructor berates student, student improves. P8

When you put it that way it seems to obvious!

Which is greater? – The number of 6 letter English words having an N as their 5th letter OR 6 letter words ending in ING? Most people choose the ING option. Why? Because such words are easier to think of. But you don’t have to survey the dictionary to prove that guess wrong. The group of words ending in ING are contained in the group of words with N as the 5th letter. P28

The Greeks had math problems.

The order in which ones, tens, and hundreds didn’t really matter: sometimes all order was ignored. Finally, the Greeks had no zero. The concept of zero (really just the absence of a number) came to Greece when Alexander invaded the Babylonian empire in 331BC, but the idea of zero as we know it (anything multiplied by it equals 0 and anything added to it equals the number you started with), wasn’t introduced until 9th century by the Indian mathematician Mahavira. P30

And the Romans had Greek problems

The Romans generally scorned math, especially the math of the Greeks… A Greek textbook focused on the proof of congruences among abstract triangles, a typical Roman text focused on such issues as how to determine the width of a river when an enemy is occupying the other bank… The Romans didn’t produce even one mathematician. In Roman culture it was comfort and war, not truth and beauty, that occupied center stage. So while finding little value in abstract geometry, Cicero wrote that “probability is the very guide of life”. P31

Let’s examine DNA trial evidence:

The probability of a lab error is 1 in 100. The probability of someone else matching your DNA is 1 in 1 billion. That is given by our sum rule: the probability of an error is 1% + .000001%. That the latter is 10 million times smaller, we can just round this to 1%. Given both possible causes we should ignore the fancy expert testimony about the odds of accidental matches and focus on the lab error rate – the very data courts often don’t allow attorneys to present! P37

Does the best team always win the World Series?

If one team is good enough to warrant beating another in 55% of it matches, the weaker team will nevertheless win a 7 game series 4 times out of 10. And if the superior team could be expected to beat its opponent on average 2/3 of the time, the inferior team will still win a 7 game series about 20% of the time. In the lopsided 2/3 probability case, you’d have to play a series of 23 games to determine the winner with statistical significance, meaning that the weaker team has less than a 5% chance of winning the series. In the 55% probability, a tedious 269 games would be warranted. P71

Isn’t this a reality TV game show?

Everyone who plays pays a dollar. One will win a fortune, and one will be put to death in a violent manner. Would anyone play this game? Is this from ancient Rome? No, it’s called the California Lottery… Applying highway statistics, many millions of contestants drive to and from their local ticket vendors to purchase tickets, and a reasonable estimate is that 1 of them will die in an accident per game. P78

Would you believe it?

A faithful husband, with a great job, and charming daughter, one day discovers that he is missing something in his life. One night as he returns home he spots a beautiful woman gazing with a pensive expression out the window of a dance studio. Each night as his train passes her studio, he falls further under her spell. Finally, one evening, he impulsively rushes off the train, and signs up for dance lessons, hoping to meet the woman. He finds that his haunting attraction withers once his gaze from afar gives way to face to face encounters. He does fall in love, however, not with her but with dancing. He keeps this new obsession from his wife and colleagues. Eventually his wife discovers he’s not working late. She figures the chances of his lying about after work activities is far greater if he’s having an affair than if he isn’t, so she concludes he is. But the wife is mistaken not just in her conclusion, but in her reasoning: she confused the probability that her husband would sneak around IF he were having an affair with the probability that he is having an affair IF he was sneaking around. P107

This makes no sense whatsoever until you read it

What is the probability of a family having 2 daughters if you are told that one of the children is a girl? It’s 1/3 because this additional fact eliminates the possibility of the family having 2 boys, so the only remaining combinations are (girl, boy), (boy, girl), and (girl, girl). So (g,g) is 1 out of 3. Simple really. Now, what is the probability if I tell you instead that the family has a daughter named Florida? Would you believe it improves to 1 in 2? Take a seat, this is complicated. First, there’s only a 1 in a million chance that a family has girl named Florida. And thus you can assume that the family will not name 2 daughters Florida. So now the combinations become (boy, girl named Florida – girl F), (boy, girl-NotF), (girl-NotF, girl-F), (girl-F, girl-NF). Of these 4 possible combinations, 2 have 2 girls, or 50%. P113

Don’t freak out – yet.

If you take an HIV test with 1 in 1000 false positive rate, and you come out positive, is it time to panic because the chances are 999 out of 1000 that you’ll be dead from this disease? Not quite yet… Assume that only 1 in 10,000 heterosexual, non IV drug using males is infected in the general population, and a false negative rate of 0 (that means if you do have HIV the test doesn’t miss it). This means that 1 in 10,000 will test positive. And in addition, since the false positive rate is 10x higher, there are 10 others who are not infected who will test positive as well. So now you’ll have 11 positives of which 10 are false. So the chances are really only about 9% not 99.9%. Make sure to demand a 2nd test to confirm. P116

Urine testing for performance enhancing drugs for Olympic athletes has a 1% false positive rate. This probably makes many people comfortable that an athletes chance of guilt is 99%, but as we have seen that is not true. Suppose you test 1000 athletes. 1 in 10 is guily (doing the drug), and the guilty had a 50/50 chance of the drug being revealed in the test. Then for every 1000 athletes, 100 are cheating, the test would find 50 of them. Meanwhile, the other 900 who are not cheating, 9 of them will be found positive falsely. So the chance of guilt is not 99% but only 50/59=84.7%. p118

The nose knows not

Hold a chunk of horseradish under your nose, and you’d probably not mistake it for a clove of garlic or the inside of your sneaker. But if you sniff clear liquids, all bets are off. In the absence of context, there’s good chance you’d mix up the scents. At least that’s what happened when researchers presented experts a series of 16 random odors: the experts misidentified about 1 out of 4 scents. P133

Another reason to stick with beer
Given all these reasons for skepticism regarding wine experts discrimination, one method to test an expert is the wine triangle; each expert is given 3 wines, 2 of which are identical. The mission is for them to choose the odd one out. In a 1990 study, the experts could do this only 2/3 of the time. P133

A 1000 fallen 9/11 victims whom we’ve not recognized

After 9/11/01, when travelers were afraid to take airplanes, their fear translated into about 1000 more highway fatalities. The hidden casualties from the 9/11 attack. P159

Researchers concluded: “That people have a very poor conception of randomness; they don’t recognize it when they see it and they can’t produce when they try.” And we routinely misjudge the role of chance in our lives and make decisions that are demonstrably misaligned with our own best interests. P174

Since there’s no difference, why have one?

A Columbia/Harvard study of large corporations whose bylaws made them vulnerable to shareholders’ demands that they respond to rough periods by changing management. They found on avg that in 3 years after firing there was no improvement in operating performance. No matter what the difference in CEOs ability, they were swamped by the effect of the uncontrollable elements of the system. P188

How to avoid confirmation bias

The human brain evolved to be very efficient at pattern recognition, but the as the confirmation bias show, we are focused on finding and confirming patterns rather than minimizing our false conclusions… We should spend as much time looking for evidence that we are wrong as we spend on searching for reasons that we are correct. P191

Get out there, and get lucky

In the real world, if several similar sized firms entered a market, small fortuitous events – unexpected orders, chance meetings with buyers, managerial whims – would help determine which one received early sales and over time, which came to dominate. Economic activity by individual transactions that are too small to forsee, and these small random events could accumulate and become magnified by positive feedback over time. P204

There are many high quality but unknown books, singers, actors, and what makes one or another come to stand out is largely a conspiracy of random and minor factors – that is luck. In this view, traditional media executives and talent hunters are just spinning their wheels. And thanks to the internet this has been tested… Participants were divided into 8 separate ‘worlds’ and could only see the data on music downloads of the people in their own world. All artists in all 8 worlds began with 0 downloads… If the deterministic view is true, the same songs ought to have dominated in each of the 8 worlds, and popularity rankings in those worlds ought to have agreed with the intrinsic quality as determined by the isolated individuals. But researchers found exactly the opposite: the popularity of individual songs varied widely among the different worlds, and different songs of similar intrinsic quality also varied widely in their popularity. P206

Maybe the editors knew something that the prize committee didn’t?

The Times of London conducted an experiment. Its editors submitted typewritten manuscripts of the opening chapters of 2 novels that had won the booker prize to 20 major publishers. The submissions were made as if they were the work of aspiring authors, and none of the publishers appeared to recognize them. How did they fare? All but one of the replies were rejections. P215