Research: Watching an Expert Do Something Makes You Think You Can Do It Too

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Cultura/Phil Fisk/Getty Images

You can find just about any skill you want to learn on the internet. Steve Jobs’s captivating presentation style, Steph Curry’s jumper, Michael Jackson’s moonwalk — all of these are easily accessible. Clearly, instructional videos, how-to guides, and online tutorials have changed the way we learn.

Or have they? Watching expert performances might make you feel that you could perform similar skills. But new evidence suggests that learning by observation may, at times, be illusory. Observers come away feeling confident that they’re well prepared to try the task out themselves, but when they do, often they’re not better than they were before.

Many Skills Are Easier Seen Than Done

In six experiments, recently published in Psychological Science, we tested the hypothesis that people overestimate how much their abilities improve after extensively watching others perform. In one experiment, 193 University of Chicago students visited our lab for a dart-throwing

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How Nextdoor Addressed Racial Profiling on Its Platform

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chuttersnap/unsplash

On March 3, 2015, hyperlocal social network Nextdoor announced that it had raised $110 million in venture capital. The deal valued the company at more than $1 billion—revered, unicorn status. It had to be a giddy moment for CEO Nirav Tolia and co-founders David Wiesen, Prakash Janakiraman, and Sarah Leary. But just three weeks later, all of that celebrating must have seemed like a distant memory.

The news site Fusion ran an article explaining how Nextdoor “is becoming a home for racial profiling.” Reporter Pendarvis Harshaw detailed how presumably white members were using Nextdoor’s crime and safety forum to report “suspicious” activities by African Americans and Latinos. Jennifer Medina of The New York Times followed up, reporting that “as Nextdoor has grown, users have complained that it has become a magnet for racial profiling, leading African-American and Latino residents to be seen as suspects in their own neighborhoods.”

Facebook is Exxon of the Internet

“…the utopian view of social networking connecting everyone for good is coming to end across the political spectrum. Now it’s seen less as a hopeful tool and more as a weapon that everyone thinks is in the wrong hands. In many ways, Facebook is like the Exxon of our time — an indispensable tool that everyone despises — Exxon, maybe Comcast, and now Facebook; there’s not a lot of brands like that. After enough oil spills, we started investing in solar and battery technology … now we need to find our digital solar and batteries to invest in.”

Moxie Marlinspike, a security researcher & former head of security at Twitter. Via

The Thing I Love Most About Uber

In spite of all the ink that journalists, analysts, and pundits have spilled on Uber over the years, no mainstream article has focused on what I consider to be the most elegant feature of this now ubiquitous, high growth global service — no driver-partner is ever told where or when to work. This is quite remarkable — an entire global network miraculously “level loads” on its own. Driver-partners unilaterally decide when they want to work and where they want to work. The flip side is also true — they have unlimited freedom to choose when they do NOT want to work. Despite the complete lack of a “driver-partner schedule” this system delivers pick-up times that are less than 5 minutes (in most US cities (with populations over 25K) and in 412 cities in 55 other countries. The Uber network, along with Mr. Smith’s invisible hand, is able to elegantly match supply and demand, without the “schedules” and “shifts” that are the norm in most every other industry.

Some have raised questions and concerns about the “gig” economy and the rise of these new independent and autonomous work types. Detractors frequently highlight that these work types lack some of the structured benefits that are frequently attached to traditional full time job offerings. However, what they fail to consider is that there is one critical and fundamental feature of the “gig” economy that is completely absent from traditional job types. That feature — worker autonomy of both time and place — simply does not exist in other industries. One cannot show up for work at Starbucks on a Monday and then decide not to work at all on Tuesday, and for only 2 hours on Wednesday. Oh yeah, and then on Thursday let’s just “play it by ear.” One cannot get a job at Walmart or McDonalds or ironically even as a taxi cab driver without agreeing to some sort of shift or schedule. It is unheard of for an employee to say “I want to work 3 hours this week, 45 the next, and then take 2 weeks off.” This autonomy and freedom of the “gig” work type, which is highly valued by millions and millions of people, would be impossible to implement for the overwhelming majority of companies.

In November of 2014, the Morgan Stanley sell-side research team that focuses on the auto industry, headed by Adam Jonas, made a trip to Detroit to visit the big three automakers. In their own words, “the highlight of the trip, however, was three Uber trips we took between meetings.” They chronicled these three trips in a report they published titled, Confessions of an Uber Driver: Rollin in the ‘D.

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The Thing I Love Most About Uber

In spite of all the ink that journalists, analysts, and pundits have spilled on Uber over the years, no mainstream article has focused on what I consider to be the most elegant feature of this now ubiquitous, high growth global service — no driver-partner is ever told where or when to work. This is quite remarkable — an entire global network miraculously “level loads” on its own. Driver-partners unilaterally decide when they want to work and where they want to work. The flip side is also true — they have unlimited freedom to choose when they do NOT want to work. Despite the complete lack of a “driver-partner schedule” this system delivers pick-up times that are less than 5 minutes (in most US cities (with populations over 25K) and in 412 cities in 55 other countries. The Uber network, along with Mr. Smith’s invisible hand, is able to elegantly match supply and demand, without the “schedules” and “shifts” that are the norm in most every other industry.

Some have raised questions and concerns about the “gig” economy and the rise of these new independent and autonomous work types. Detractors frequently highlight that these work types lack some of the structured benefits that are frequently attached to traditional full time job offerings. However, what they fail to consider is that there is one critical and fundamental feature of the “gig” economy that is completely absent from traditional job types. That feature — worker autonomy of both time and place — simply does not exist in other industries. One cannot show up for work at Starbucks on a Monday and then decide not to work at all on Tuesday, and for only 2 hours on Wednesday. Oh yeah, and then on Thursday let’s just “play it by ear.” One cannot get a job at Walmart or McDonalds or ironically even as a taxi cab driver without agreeing to some sort of shift or schedule. It is unheard of for an employee to say “I want to work 3 hours this week, 45 the next, and then take 2 weeks off.” This autonomy and freedom of the “gig” work type, which is highly valued by millions and millions of people, would be impossible to implement for the overwhelming majority of companies.

In November of 2014, the Morgan Stanley sell-side research team that focuses on the auto industry, headed by Adam Jonas, made a trip to Detroit to visit the big three automakers. In their own words, “the highlight of the trip, however, was three Uber trips we took between meetings.” They chronicled these three trips in a report they published titled, Confessions of an Uber Driver: Rollin in the ‘D.

Continue reading "The Thing I Love Most About Uber"

Facebook Is Changing How Marketers Can Target Ads. What Does That Mean for Data Brokers?

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kelly bowden/Getty Images

Last month, Facebook announced in a brief statement that it will be shutting down Partner Categories, a feature that allows marketers to target ads on the company’s universe of platforms by using third-party data provided by data brokers. The move, which comes during a period of intense scrutiny over the social media giant’s privacy and security practices following the Cambridge Analytica revelations, marks a first-of-its-kind pivot among internet companies. This development could have major repercussions for internet companies and the broader digital advertising ecosystem if the firms at the center of this industry follow suit, collectively distancing themselves from data brokers and increasing transparency into their practices with personal data.

Traditionally, marketers on Facebook — and on most major platforms that allow targeted ads — have had three types of data streams they could leverage for targeting. First, they could use data they have collected themselves,

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How to Think for Yourself When Algorithms Control What You Read

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beastfromeast/Getty Images

With the flick of a switch, a handful of tech giants can change the nature and extent of mankind’s ingestion of information. In 2013, Google took a step towards understanding the intent of their users with the Hummingbird algorithm. Twitter replaced most-recent with most-important tweets when they introduced their algorithmic timeline in 2016. Facebook claimed they’ll be replacing clickbait with more meaningful interactions on their feeds earlier this year.  These changes are almost always met with public uproar for a few weeks, soon after which humanity acquiesces. The ability for an elite to instantly alter the thoughts and behavior of billions of people is unprecedented.

This is all possible because of algorithms. The personalized, curated news, information and learning feeds we consume several times a day have all been through a process of collaborative filtering. This is the principle that if I like X, and you and

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Online Reviews Are Biased. Here’s How to Fix Them

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ryccio/Getty Images

In the age of the internet, reputations are almost never a blank slate. Consumers are surrounded by online reviews thanks to other consumers who’ve gone to the trouble of posting opinions about products and services online.

But online reviews are a dual-edged sword. On the one hand, they’re a blessing if they help consumers to make more informed decisions. On the other hand, there is a systematic problem with many online reviews — they tend to over-represent the most extreme views.

To see why, consider the last time you purchased a product. Perhaps you were asked to provide a review afterward. Did you do it? If so, our research suggests you most likely really loved the product, or absolutely hated it. If instead you had a moderate view, you’re likely to have left no review at all, finding it not worth the time and effort.

That problem generalizes

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The 4 Dimensions of Digital Trust, Charted Across 42 Countries

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Fanatic Studio/Getty Images

The year 2018 is barely underway and, already, digital trust initiatives have captured headlines. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has said his platform will de-prioritize third-party publisher content to keep users focused on more “meaningful” posts from family and friends. Google has led off the new year by blocking websites that mask their country of origin from showing up on Google News. And the European Union’s upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will affect every organization around the world that handles personal data for EU residents. The regulations will also, no doubt, inform data protection laws and corporate trust-building strategies elsewhere.

Even China’s opaque behemoths have started the year with unprecedented acknowledgements of the need to address trust concerns: Tencent had to publicly deny that it collects user WeChat history after it was openly challenged; Alibaba’s Ant Financial apologized to users of its mobile-payment service for automatically enrolling them in

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Study: Replying to Customer Reviews Results in Better Ratings

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hbr staff/john swope/life/Getty Images

Every now and then, firms make mistakes that leave their customers unsatisfied: a restaurant misplaces an order, a hotel’s air conditioning breaks down, or a dry cleaner damages a garment. With increasing frequency, disappointed customers share these negative experiences by writing online reviews, and many potential customers take these reviews into account when making choices about which firms to frequent. Because of this, even small service failures can have a lasting negative impact on a firm’s reputation — and financial performance.

In the age of consumer reviews and digital word-of-mouth, how can a firm participate in shaping its online reputation? There are standard service recovery strategies, such as offering perks and discounts to disappointed customers. Many managers have also started publicly responding to consumer reviews as a way to apologize and outline steps the firm has taken to avoid future service failures. Review platforms claim that

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Study: Replying to Customer Reviews Results in Better Ratings

feb18-14-tlp918866-john-swope-life.jpg
hbr staff/john swope/life/Getty Images

Every now and then, firms make mistakes that leave their customers unsatisfied: a restaurant misplaces an order, a hotel’s air conditioning breaks down, or a dry cleaner damages a garment. With increasing frequency, disappointed customers share these negative experiences by writing online reviews, and many potential customers take these reviews into account when making choices about which firms to frequent. Because of this, even small service failures can have a lasting negative impact on a firm’s reputation — and financial performance.

In the age of consumer reviews and digital word-of-mouth, how can a firm participate in shaping its online reputation? There are standard service recovery strategies, such as offering perks and discounts to disappointed customers. Many managers have also started publicly responding to consumer reviews as a way to apologize and outline steps the firm has taken to avoid future service failures. Review platforms claim that

Continue reading "Study: Replying to Customer Reviews Results in Better Ratings"

Why Every Company Should Consider Creating a “Cyber No-Fly List”

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Luerat Satichob/Getty Images

We’ve all heard of the No-Fly List. Managed by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the list bans people on it from boarding commercial aircraft within, into, or out of the United States. The No-Fly List is only one tactic that the U.S. uses in its fight against terrorism, but since its inception there haven’t been any plane-based attacks within U.S. borders. Although the list is certainly not perfect — it has been criticized for profiling and false positives, among other things — its effectiveness makes this type of intelligence-based defense worthy of consideration by all organizations that are regularly targeted by cyberthreats.

The Transportation Security Administration’s machines, checkpoints, and rules are analogous to many of the security devices that enterprises use, which include network monitoring tools, firewalls, and endpoint management systems. Like air travel, enterprise networks play host to millions of “passengers” each day, in

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Can Anyone Stop Amazon from Winning the Industrial Internet?

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Alfred Eisenstaedt/Hayon Thapaliya/Getty Images

Just the announcement that Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Jaime Dimon will be entering the health care space has sent shock waves for industry incumbents such as CVS, Cigna, and UnitedHealth. It also puts a fundamental question back on the agendas of CEOs in other industries: Will software eat the world, as Marc Andreessen famously quipped? Is this a warning shot that signals that other legacy industrial companies, such as Ford, Deere, and Rolls Royce are also at increased risk of being disrupted?

To start to answer that question, let’s tally up the score. There are three types of products today. Digital natives (Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM) have gained competitive advantage in the first two, and the jury is still out on the third:

Data Can Enhance Creative Projects — Just Look at Netflix

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Neasden Control Centre for hbr

Nearly five years ago, a show that followed the lives of inmates in a women’s prison shook up television. Orange Is the New Black became an unexpected hit, helping to put Netflix on the map as a creator of innovative original entertainment. The show pushed boundaries with its dark humor and diverse cast, becoming Netflix’s most-watched original series. Uzo Aduba has won two Emmys for her nuanced, empathetic portrayal of a black lesbian woman struggling with mental illness, a character rarely seen on mainstream television.

Orange Is the New Black isn’t just great television — it’s also an example of data-driven creativity in action. With the recent explosion of shows produced by Silicon Valley companies like Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix comes a fear that entertainment will increasingly be shaped by analysts crunching numbers rather than creatives following their artistic vision. Five years in, Netflix’s foray into original

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Research: How Customers Decide Whether to Buy from Your Website

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Caroline Stirling/Getty Images

Sally’s finger hovered over the “Purchase” button. After hours of online sleuthing, she was pretty sure the green chair would complete her living room. It was the style and color she wanted, home delivery was guaranteed within three days, she had money in the bank to pay for it, and both the website and this particular chair appeared to be highly rated by customers. But Sally hesitated. Maybe she would take one more look at the local furniture outlet…

This fictional example is all too common. Global e-commerce sales exceeded $2 trillion in 2017, and are on pace to more than double by 2021. Yet average online conversion rates have remained doggedly low: Fewer than 4% of consumers arriving from desktop browsers buy, and the number is lower still for tablet and smartphone users (3% and 1%, respectively). These are a far cry from offline retail conversion

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“Customer First” Healthcare

The subject of the “consumerization of healthcare” has been around for many years. Most frequently people use this phrase in association with personal technology devices (heart-monitors, exercise accessories, sleep monitors, etc) that allow consumers to take direct control of their health information. There is however, a more important trend that relates alternatively to the consumerization of the “business” of healthcare. While other industries often speak of being “customer centric” or “putting the customer first,” the U.S. healthcare system rarely thinks of the patient as a customer. One could go even farther, and suggest that the U.S. healthcare market is the least customer centric of any customer service industry.

David Goldhill, in his enlightening book Catastrophic Care, declared:

“…a guiding principle of any reform should be to put the consumer, not the insurer or the government, at the center of the system. I believe if the government took on the goal of better supporting consumers-by bringing greater transparency and competition to the health-care industry, and by directly subsidizing those who can’t afford care-we’d find that consumers could buy much more of their care directly than we might initially think, and that over time we’d see better care and better service, at lower cost, as a result.”

David makes a powerful assertion — allowing the patient to rise to the forefront and to be truly be seen as a customer — will lead to not only more satisfied patients, but patients with better medical results and much lower costs. This would be a remarkable three-way victory. The good news is we are already headed down this path. The combination of new technologies, data availability, information transparency, shifts in insurance coverage, regulatory reform, and consumer frustration has set the stage for a new era of healthcare service in the U.S. where the patient truly comes first. This powerful trend will gain momentum as it builds, will reshape the current landscape, and will result in the launch of many new and exciting companies.

One overt sign of a lack of traditional market forces is any industry where basic customer service is not a requirement to stay in business. If you asked 100 people to name a place where you frequently wait, even when you are on time for your appointment, how many would say the doctor’s office? The consumer has come to accept waiting at the doctor. We are so numb to the pain, that we rarely object or complain, and the doctor’s indifference to the consumer’s time is so common and widespread, that it is a frequent meme in jokes and cartoons.
Other U.S. industries, once subject to far less competition, have been forced by the market

Continue reading "“Customer First” Healthcare"

“Customer First” Healthcare

The subject of the “consumerization of healthcare” has been around for many years. Most frequently people use this phrase in association with personal technology devices (heart-monitors, exercise accessories, sleep monitors, etc) that allow consumers to take direct control of their health information. There is however, a more important trend that relates alternatively to the consumerization of the “business” of healthcare. While other industries often speak of being “customer centric” or “putting the customer first,” the U.S. healthcare system rarely thinks of the patient as a customer. One could go even farther, and suggest that the U.S. healthcare market is the least customer centric of any customer service industry.

David Goldhill, in his enlightening book Catastrophic Care, declared:

“…a guiding principle of any reform should be to put the consumer, not the insurer or the government, at the center of the system. I believe if the government took on the goal of better supporting consumers-by bringing greater transparency and competition to the health-care industry, and by directly subsidizing those who can’t afford care-we’d find that consumers could buy much more of their care directly than we might initially think, and that over time we’d see better care and better service, at lower cost, as a result.”

David makes a powerful assertion — allowing the patient to rise to the forefront and to be truly be seen as a customer — will lead to not only more satisfied patients, but patients with better medical results and much lower costs. This would be a remarkable three-way victory. The good news is we are already headed down this path. The combination of new technologies, data availability, information transparency, shifts in insurance coverage, regulatory reform, and consumer frustration has set the stage for a new era of healthcare service in the U.S. where the patient truly comes first. This powerful trend will gain momentum as it builds, will reshape the current landscape, and will result in the launch of many new and exciting companies.

One overt sign of a lack of traditional market forces is any industry where basic customer service is not a requirement to stay in business. If you asked 100 people to name a place where you frequently wait, even when you are on time for your appointment, how many would say the doctor’s office? The consumer has come to accept waiting at the doctor. We are so numb to the pain, that we rarely object or complain, and the doctor’s indifference to the consumer’s time is so common and widespread, that it is a frequent meme in jokes and cartoons.
Other U.S. industries, once subject to far less competition, have been forced by the market

Continue reading "“Customer First” Healthcare"

“Customer First” Healthcare

The subject of the “consumerization of healthcare” has been around for many years. Most frequently people use this phrase in association with personal technology devices (heart-monitors, exercise accessories, sleep monitors, etc) that allow consumers to take direct control of their health information. There is however, a more important trend that relates alternatively to the consumerization of the “business” of healthcare. While other industries often speak of being “customer centric” or “putting the customer first,” the U.S. healthcare system rarely thinks of the patient as a customer. One could go even farther, and suggest that the U.S. healthcare market is the least customer centric of any customer service industry.

David Goldhill, in his enlightening book Catastrophic Care, declared:

“…a guiding principle of any reform should be to put the consumer, not the insurer or the government, at the center of the system. I believe if the government took on the goal of better supporting consumers-by bringing greater transparency and competition to the health-care industry, and by directly subsidizing those who can’t afford care-we’d find that consumers could buy much more of their care directly than we might initially think, and that over time we’d see better care and better service, at lower cost, as a result.”

David makes a powerful assertion — allowing the patient to rise to the forefront and to be truly be seen as a customer — will lead to not only more satisfied patients, but patients with better medical results and much lower costs. This would be a remarkable three-way victory. The good news is we are already headed down this path. The combination of new technologies, data availability, information transparency, shifts in insurance coverage, regulatory reform, and consumer frustration has set the stage for a new era of healthcare service in the U.S. where the patient truly comes first. This powerful trend will gain momentum as it builds, will reshape the current landscape, and will result in the launch of many new and exciting companies.

One overt sign of a lack of traditional market forces is any industry where basic customer service is not a requirement to stay in business. If you asked 100 people to name a place where you frequently wait, even when you are on time for your appointment, how many would say the doctor’s office? The consumer has come to accept waiting at the doctor. We are so numb to the pain, that we rarely object or complain, and the doctor’s indifference to the consumer’s time is so common and widespread, that it is a frequent meme in jokes and cartoons.
Other U.S. industries, once subject to far less competition, have been forced by the market

Continue reading "“Customer First” Healthcare"

What Small Businesses Stand to Lose in a Net Neutrality Rollback

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Jorg Greuel/Getty Images

Deep in the golden corn fields of Iowa, technology is transforming life on the farm. For decades, the production of corn has been led by family-based businesses who operate their farms with a time-tested mix of traditional agriculture tools. But now many of them have added something new to their arsenal: a mobile app called FarmLogs.

FarmLogs is a simple way for a family farm to move its fields from the pre-internet age to the cutting edge. Farmers who used to trudge down long rows of cornstalk are now using FarmLogs’ satellite imagery and algorithms to turn raw agricultural data into powerful insights. Instead of jotting down notes about plant dates, weather conditions, soil nutrients, and crop yields, farmers are crunching big data sets to better forecast profits, track expenses, and schedule operations.

These “connected farms” are not just making life easier for those who run them,

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How Digital Tools and Behavioral Economics Will Save Retirement

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ryccio/Getty Images

In my work as a behavioral economist, I’ve thought a lot about how nudges can drive lasting behavior change. In the domain of retirement savings, Nobel laureate Richard Thaler and I devised a program called Save More Tomorrow back in the mid-1990s that used nudges to help people make better decisions about their long-term financial future. That program invites employees to gradually increase their savings rate over time, and it has been a success: according to my latest estimates, it has boosted the savings rates of as many as 15 million Americans.

Unfortunately, it took us 20 years to help that many people. The slow pace of this process has led me to become increasingly interested in digital nudging, which seeks to identify online designs that help people make smarter choices. The advantages of digital nudging are two-fold. First, the digital space allows us to conduct research much faster, as

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