Rewarding performance — and luck

July 22, 2014

Eitan Zemel passes on this wonderful story about psychologists Kahneman and Tversky. Early in their careers, back in the 1960s, they reviewed a performance reward system used by the Israeli air force. The air force adopted a consistent policy of praising trainees who performed well on a series of maneuvers. They found, to their surprise, that performance deteriorated, on average, in this group. The other group was criticized for poor performance and typically improved.

What was going on? Did we need to rethink the laws of human behavior? Kahneman and Tversky report that graduate students suggested explanations based on overconfidence of high-performing pilots and perceptual biases of instructors. What would you say?  Read the rest of this entry »

Avoiding bad publicity, European edition

July 20, 2014

I know, it’s not fair to make fun of Europe — but it’s so much fun! I hope Europeans will do the same for us, if there’s anything left after Stewart, Colbert, and Oliver are done. (Oliver’s American now, right?)  Read the rest of this entry »

Trucks and chickens, continued

July 17, 2014

Stan Zin weighs in. You’ll recall: In the early 1960s, Europe placed tariffs on US chickens. The US retaliated by placing a 25% tariff on imported trucks, which is still in place. Stan, and the trusty Wikipedia, adds:   Read the rest of this entry »

Foreign trucks and frozen chickens

July 16, 2014

Larry White brought this up at lunch and no one believed him. Here’s the story, courtesy of the Washington Post (lightly edited):  Read the rest of this entry »

Should business students learn to code?

July 12, 2014

I’d say yes, and convinced a journalist to quote me. Maybe not for everyone, but I think even basic familiarity with Python would increase your productivity dramatically relative to Excel and give you an advantage in the job market. That said, I think a course focused explicitly on business applications would be more helpful — and less painful — than a traditional intro to computer science course.

Electronic money in India

July 9, 2014

Here’s another one from Leo Mirani at Quartz. It seems e-money has failed to take hold in India, not for lack of need, and not for lack of suppliers. The bottleneck is a regulation that prohibits telecom companies from entering the business without bank partners. The irony is that e-money is largely a response to failure by the banking system to provide the services people need.

If you know more about this, please let me know, either by email or in the comments.

Electronic money in Africa

July 8, 2014

Bitcoin is always a popular topic in class, but some of the most interesting experiments with electronic money are in Africa. With Kenya’s M-Pesa, people pay bills with mobile phone minutes. It’s a simpler technology than Bitcoin, but perhaps more useful for precisely that reason. This striking map shows similar innovation throughout Africa and the developing world.

So next time I’m asked whether electronic money has a future, I have a better answer:  Yes, it does, and the future’s already here in Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, India, Indonesia, …

Traffic in Dhaka

July 4, 2014

One of the many challenges of doing business in a developing country is the (typically) low level of public services and infrastructure. Anyone who’s spent time in India, Brazil, etc will recognize some version of this wonderful description of Dhaka from Michael Hobbes (lightly edited):   Read the rest of this entry »


June 30, 2014

Legendary Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll had an old school view: “I will never give a motivational speech. If I have to motivate you, I will fire you.” Now get back to work.

Why no French Google?

June 23, 2014

From Frederic Filloux (lightly edited):  Read the rest of this entry »


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