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I'm a psychologist turned technologist, with 16+ years' experience in management consulting.
Interests: Economic psychology and behavioral economics, mapping, historical maps, demographics, genealogy, graphic design, mythology, anything to do with technology, reading (fiction, non-fiction and anything in between), movies, travel, international affairs, music (tastes range from classical to hip-hop), satire, yoga, and swimming.
Recent Activity
Learn how Sara Wedeman, consulting wiz, uses Timeful to help her make the most of her day: @saraw1 #TimefulMVP — Timeful (@timefulapp) January 23, 2015 Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2015 at BECG theblog
I had so much fun taking Dan Ariely's online course, entitled A Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behavior, that I was inspired to create a playlist. It follows. BE principle - followed by link to the creative work that brings it to life: Time discounting: The Contours - First I Look at the Purse. Procrastination: Procrastination, the Musical. Loss Aversion: Eminem, Not Afraid to Lose Yourself. The beauty in irrationality: Phase: Irrational Funk. Complexity: Annette Moreno, Complicado. The "What the Hell" effect: The Grass Roots, Let's Live for Today. Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2014 at BECG theblog
Posted Mar 24, 2014 at BECG theblog
Wearable device policy template ready for download Wearables, such as Google Glass and the Pebble smartwatch, are gaining popularity with consumers and are beginning to make their way into the workplace and onto the corporate network. We've put together a downloadable policy template to help you ready your company for the coming wearable flood --Bill Detwiler, Managing Editor Dear Mr. Detwiler, I don't normally respond to advertising emails, but in this case I feel compelled. The subject header, "Wearable device policy template ready for download" really got my attention. You appear to be recommending that people start wearing downloadable templates - and not just any type of template, but policy templates in particular. The fashion implications of this suggestion strike me as reckless. Would it not cause the most innovative among your valued customers to dress in ways that are drab, dull, or worse? Digitally - transmitted policy templates are, IMHO, far too flimsy for a work environment and more appropriately worn in private. Then, I did a double take and read the email again. (Oops - never mind.) STILL, I'm not putting on a wearable policy template (or any other kind of template for that matter) until I can independently verify that it enhances my “look” and gets me promoted, not fired. Yours in sincere concern, Sara Wedeman Well I thought it was funny. Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2014 at BECG theblog
In light. In gratitude. Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2013 at BECG theblog
Have you ever participated in a survey or research study? It's hard to imagine that anyone would not have. Survey results cover the pages of most newspapers, Web sites, and just about any other medium. Most of them make me sputter in horror. Why? No, they're not scary. They are merely scarily bad - meaning that there are fatal flaws in the design that render the results DOA. Alternatively, the data are "analyzed" by people who don't know the difference between good and bad quality data, or do not realize that there is more to data analysis than knowing how to do the math. Here's an example. In December 2011, a study was published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, purporting to show that the sound made by valuable, old Stradivarius and Guarneri violins was no better than that produced by brand-new, stainless steel violins. Articles subsequently appeared first The New York Times ("In Classic vs. Modern Violins, Beauty Is in Ear of the Beholder") then in Ars Technica ("Old, million-dollar violins don't play better than the new models"). The story was picked up and featured everywhere from NPR to The DW Academie. There was just one small problem: the study was so badly done, and the math used so inappropriate for the tiny, non-random sample (21 people attending one conference), that there was no basis for drawing any conclusion(s) at all. As I wrote to Ars Technica at the time: .... the Big Mistake was to publish This Article under This Title (Old, million-dollar violins don't play better than the new models) without knowing anything about research design or inferential vs descriptive statistics. As a result, Ars Technica has shared with the public a piece of research that fails utterly to support the claim made in the title. To wit: The number of subjects in the study is: 21. This is too small a number of cases to merit computation of anything other than very simple descriptive statistics (e.g., "The number of people in the group is; their ages are," etc.). You may note that the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 11, 2013 at BECG theblog
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Jul 20, 2013
Watching tonight's news about the bizarre, scary posturing of North Korea's latest monarchical communist, I was struck by two enduring truths: No system that requires the deprivation of the many - to permit the gorging of the few - can survive. Saber rattling is akin to the 'death rattle:' a plea for help in the form of a threat. The economists in Washington and the defense-information-industrial complex may wish to take note: this is not just about North Korea. Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2013 at BECG theblog
This morning's New York Times features a terrific article, Social Change's Age of Englightenment by David Bornstein. In the post, Bornstein shows how the growing realization that "we are not econs," combined with rigorous, disciplined collection/analysis/use of empirical data, can help us reframe intractible dilemmas in ways that allow breakthrough change. Worth reading! Continue reading
Posted Oct 17, 2012 at BECG theblog
Chuck Schumer: There are two tests in life, more important than any other test. Continue reading
Posted Aug 18, 2012 at BECG theblog
Le jour de la Bastille: the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, which dealt a death blow to feudalism in France (& to quite a few individuals as well). Yet, like a virus, the feudal spirit seems to be coming back in the form of "legal" economic bondage. Let's hope this time the revolution is a velvet one and that a Reign of Terror (la Terreur) does not arrive on its heels. People want to be connected, and they want to be genuinely free. It is always time for liberty, equality, and mutuality. Vive la France! Continue reading
Posted Jul 14, 2012 at BECG theblog
The light of hope lives in this world. عالي وعالي وعالي الصوت.الي حـ يهتف مش حيموت alee wa 3alee wa 3alee assawt.illee 7ayahtif mish haymoot: Raise, raise, raise, your voice. Those who cheer will never die. Continue reading
Posted Feb 17, 2012 at BECG theblog
Watching the State of the Union address Tuesday night, I sometimes felt the urge to shout at the TV set. Although the President seems to want to do right by people, his repeated mentions of "responsible homeowners" told me that he does not understand borrowers' motivations, nor does he 'get' what underlies most late- or non-payment of debt. The reality is: If people do not make their mortgage payments, it is rarely because they are irresponsible.' Obama is not alone in his lack of understanding. Both Robert Manning (2000) and David Graeber (2010) have noted that, in our society, to be in debt is to be judged morally wanting - even if that judgment has no basis in reality. Take a look at the facts - the main causes of consumer bankruptcy are: Shocks to income in the form of job loss, death of a wage earner, or divorce, and Shocks to expenses in the form of medical crises. Either one of these catastrophes would be bad enough to bring a famly down, but they are prone to co-occur since in the US, loss of employment typically translates into loss of health insurance. That these 'drive' non-payment, particularly for homeowners, was documented in As We Forgive Our Debtors (Sullivan, Warren & Westbrook, 2000) and has been corroborated by numerous rigorously-conducted studies by economists (see citations in the embedded links). Even a decade ago, the harbingers of today's debt crisis were lurking in plain view. On a systemic level, things are now much worse. Yet, there are many answers to be found. They lie neglected because so many people can't get beyond their counter-factual moral judgments. Ironically, it is the moral judgment that causes the harm, and it is they who would punish the suffering that carry the disease. Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2012 at BECG theblog
It is the 148th anniversary of the date upon which President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address:* Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. To me, this event - and these words - are sacred. Think about it: " we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Never have they been more relevant. * Hay version Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2011 at BECG theblog
In honor of my upcoming attendance at the ISOC Philadelphia's session on Trust, I am reposting something I wrote on my previous blog, concerning trust and the Web (hint: trust is a big mistake if the counterparty is not trustworthy. My conclusion: to be worthy of another's trust is far more important). Once, back in the ancient past (2002), AKMA commented on Brent Glass's question as to "why the companies that vociferously demand that we trust them are themselves the least trustworthy." My response follows: Because they are the only ones stupid enough (in the world of emotional intelligence) to believe that trust is a commodity that can be bought and sold; that trustworthiness is a pose to strike in the service of competitive advantage rather than a stance in life. In this construction, trust is a product feature that encourages customers to do what you want them to do in spite of their better judgement or economic self-interest. Paradoxically, in urging us to trust them, they reveal an utter absence of understanding of the concept. This, in turn, lets us know they are entirely untrustworthy. Three years later, amidst all the speeches, the debates, the attempts at definition, and the caterwauling about the cost of establishing trust online, I still believe this to be true. Indeed, it appears that the most vital question of all has received little or no attention. That question is: "Are you trustworthy?" If trust is the willingness to place oneself in a position where one is to some extent vulnerable to another (whether economically, emotionally, or physically),trustworthiness is the willingness, ability, and commitment to honor that trust, through a combination of good will, competence, and follow-through. In any successful trusting relationship, be it commercial or personal, the risk taken by the trustor is necessarily matched by the will and ability of the trusteeto deliver on the promise(s) they have made. Also inherent in any trusting relationship are an experience-based, mutual assumption of benevolence and a congruence of expectations. When these characteristics are present, risk is minimized and both parties benefit. The relationship in question... Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2011 at BECG theblog
Time Flies when you're having fun, or so they say. As the global economy tanks and the fun fund implodes, does this imply that time slows down? Me thinks not. This morning, Ben Bernanke spoke to Congress's Joint Economic Committee concerning the outlook for the US economy. The unsurprising but discouraging conclusion: it's not good. I don't know about you, but I am not just watching the news about our lousy economy; I am experiencing it. I do not know a soul who isn't. From this vantage point it seems to me that our economic chieftains, governmental and corporate, as well as the media pundits, have got the thing all wrong. Consumers not spending is not the problem. Consumers aren't spending because they do not have the money. Small businesses, which according to the Economic Census, make up 99% or more of all businesses,1 cannot get credit from The Banks. Technology illiteracy is not the problem. I can't tell you how many knowledge workers I know who can't find work and have either lost, or are on the verge of, losing everything. It's not just young people: it's everyone. People over fifty, who conscientiously undertook the slow, careful climb to greater job satisfaction, professional status, and income — suddenly find themselves out on the street, but with an expense structure that reflects their investment in their career(s). Cut back?! You can't lay off your children. It's great to fund infrastructure projects — heaven knows we need to upgrade — but that is not enough. The problem is far bigger, and - I dare say — more sinister. Two years ago, I briefly held a consulting position at NTIA - the National Telecommunications and Information Agency. Setting aside the bizarre management climate of the place (my role was not one that required a security clearance, but I was prohibited from even speaking to any other employee at any level), I witnessed the following: The Stimulus program (at least the part administered by Commerce) was a gigantic give-away from the gargantuan, wealthy US government (funded by taxpayers but controlled by monied interests),... Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2011 at BECG theblog
As Frank Rich points out, censorship is alive and well in the United States. In the end, it matters not one whit whether the news is distorted and truncated by a frightened despot, or by "corporate gatekeepers." Censorship is censorship: it is anti-democratic, it harms economies, and it stunts the human spirit. Unable to watch Al Jazeera English, and ravenous for comprehensive and sophisticated 24/7 television coverage of the Middle East otherwise unavailable on television, millions of Americans last week tracked down the network’s Internet stream on their computers. Such was the work-around required by the censorship practiced by America’s corporate gatekeepers. You’d almost think these news-starved Americans were Iron Curtain citizens clandestinely trying to pull in the jammed Voice of America signal in the 1950s — or Egyptians desperately seeking Al Jazeera after Mubarak disrupted its signal last week. This spectacular blooper, shown by Fox News on July 27, 2009 is a Rorschach Test. It tells us plenty about the broadcaster's world view -- but it certainly does not tell us about the world. Fox, creator of this fabulous depiction of unconscious reality, is part of the Rupert Murdoch News Corporation Empire. See a partial map below. The "value chain" is brought to fruition when global media conglomerates - newly permitted to extend their reach beyond national, state, and local borders - master the business of sponsoring political candidates. I can't possibly do justice to Paul Krugman's brilliant Fear and Favor, but I do hope you'll read it. Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2011 at BECG theblog
IQ, 'the score,' was never designed to measure intelligence. French psychologists, most notably Alfred Binet of Stanford-Binet fame, developed the test to assess the current level of functioning among people who were struggling with their schoolwork. Americans took this schema and twisted it beyond recognition, turning it into what it was never intended to be: a measure of 'intelligence'/'aptitude.' If nothing else, it is a superb measure of our national obsession with comparing ourselves to one another--the goal being to determine whether the other is "above" or "beneath" us. This is in part due to our historic legacy of having rejected explicit systems of social stratification based on kinship, such as a caste system (India is not the only place that has one) or monarchy. The fact is that nobody knows what constitutes intelligence. It is one of the great mysteries of life. It is context-dependent, synchronicity-dependent, group-dependent, time and place-dependent and a bunch of other things that we can't possibly grasp because we are limited by our inability to accurately perceive that which we do not understand. The same is true of aptitude. We can grope around and hope we learn something, and we probably will. However, the certainty that we know how to assess the intelligence (read: worth) of our fellow humans or to predict how they will perform (or even to pretend we know what constitutes performance) is one of the surest signs of stupidity I can think of. BTW, everything I've said about intelligence applies to stupidity, too. Continue reading
Posted Dec 22, 2010 at BECG theblog
Thanks, Alex! I can't agree with you more about the importance of execution. If, as some say, "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration," the statement is just as true if we simply substitute "entrepreneurial success” for “genius.” By the same token, having launched a venture, entrepreneurs are successful only when they continue to innovate (writ small more often than large), while drawing their inspiration from their customers and their own experience. That said, unless they follow through with action, it's all for naught. Yours is a very important point, and I am glad you made it. Best, Sara
1 reply
This is a wonderful TED talk by Steven Johnson, prolific author and inventive, provocative thinker. To Johnson's talk, I would add only this: if you want to find the soul of innovation, you need to look outside the academy as well. Per Plato, necessity is the mother of invention (1). (Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention were nothing if not innovative. Sample lyric: "Movin' to Montana soon. Gonna be a Dental Floss tycoon") I've done several of my trademark academic, rigorously researched-type papers on this topic, and Johnson's comments resonate very much with what I learned. I also learned a few things that are not covered in Johnson's TED talk but are interesting, counter-intuitive, and useful. So much baseless mythology surrounds the acts of innovation, invention, and their commercial counterpart--entrepreneurship. The first among these is that it is all about a brilliant individual having a personal epiphany. This is almost never true on both counts: it is rarely an individual phenomenon (although individuals, out of greed -- financial or narcissistic --or simply out of lack of insight, often do take credit for breakthroughs that have many parents). Also, breakthroughs are rarely brief, blinding and/or sudden. Sometimes thay are only recognized as such only in retrospect. I titled one of the papers I wrote: The Opportunity Beyond the Obvious. This is because so often, breakthroughs (and their commercial counterparts) come via simple observation, often made by people who don't fit well into the consensus reality of the day (2). Benefiting from limited-to-no access to standing within conventional society, they thus enact the above-named principle (viz, necessity is the mother of invention), relying on instinct and experiential learning rather than on formal education (3). The Republic, approx. 360 BC Consensus reality: another topic for another day, but certainly an interesting one. This is among the multitude of reasons for my firm opposition to "creativity training," which I deem to be a foolish practice--an exercise in Idiocy of the highest order. Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2010 at BECG theblog
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Mar 15, 2010
To the "Focus Financial Professional Blogging Team," whoever you may be: Thank you for your comment, but I am wondering whether you may have posted it to the wrong site. The reason is simply that you mention judges and public opinion, but there is nothing about either in the above post. Please explain to me how you see your comment as relevant to what I have written, otherwise I will be forced to conclude that your comment is either an advertisement for your company, or spam, or both. I await your response. If I do not hear back from you, or your response is unsatisfactory, my suspicions will be confirmed and I will remove your comments from my site. Sara --------------------------------------------------------------------------- Note: as of 2/27/2010, I had not heard back from the writer and, concluding that the comment was indeed spam, deleted it.
1 reply
If you set out to write the "killer app," aren't you doomed from the start? Aren't most killer apps accidents that somebody had the imagination to put to as-yet-unforeseen uses? Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2010 at BECG theblog
I just finished reading Eric Schmidt's article on innovation in yesterday’s WAPO. Directionally, the article is fine, but it missed some major points. 1) Most, like Commerce Secretary Locke, focus on 'breakthrough' innovations. However, having done a ton of research about innovation and innovators, I know that innovation begins with tweakage: tinkering with something you already know. 2) Innovative people usually don't quite 'fit in.’ Typically, organizations 'kill off' this sort of person, sending them to corporate Siberia and/or simply extruding them. 3) The stereotype of the innovator as ‘lone wolf'” is inaccurate. This is where connectivity and the Internet fit in. A geographically dispersed minority, high-speed access has given innovators a way to find and connect with one another. 4) Not all innovation occurs in the high-tech sector: au contraire. Myopia alert! I got a very innovative plastic pot scraper for 59¢ at my local hardware store recently. 5) I am confident Paul Budde would back me up on this: trans sector thinking knows no size. 6) In short, I REALLY wish the people who hold the power to facilitate innovation writ large, like Schmidt and Locke, knew some of these things. It would definitely make for greater effectiveness in "erasing our innovation deficit." Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2010 at BECG theblog