In search of the perfect phone
I've been looking for a great phone for a number of years, and watching how I
look tells much about how my mind gets changed.
A long time ago I bought a Nokia with one of the first touch screens. It had
a camera. It played MP3. It was pretty neat. I could drop it and put it back
together again and it would still work fine. In fact it's still working, though
the old Nokia Symbian operating system means there are no new apps, and those I
have are, well, limited. I replaced it recently, but more about that later.
Phones these days are of course more than phones. They are multi-functional
tablets too. Tablets have been something of a revolution and have replaced PCs
for many, though not for me. As a writer and photographer, I need big screens
and a proper keyboard where I can write quickly. Nevertheless, I had an iPad
early, and it's still working just fine, though now seems a big heavy when
holding for more a few minutes. I got tendon problems in my hand about it, so I
got a Google Nexus 7 2013. Much quicker, higher resolution and a better camera.
Accessible file system and easy to connect with PC. But it died, taking with it
some writing I was doing.
So recently I decided to get an all-in-one device. After much chewing (notice
how I was persuaded here), I got a Nokia 1520 phablet. Largely because it has a
fabulous 20Mpx camera and a good GPS navigation system built in. Also because my
old Nokia worked so well. And because I thought Microsoft, being further behind,
would build a good operating system be trying hard and ensuring there are good
apps out there. And there are some, though with appalling omissions (no proper
Dropbox, for example). There are also vastly annoying missing features (no
'select all') and design flaws (many apps have the 'save' right next to the
'back' button, which closes the app without saving your work or asking you about
it). Bafflingly, even the much-vaunted 'Microsoft Office' on the phone has a
version of MSWord with hardly any features at all. And as a writer, that's very
I've been looking to have my mind changed, to be as happy with a new phone as
I was with my old Nokia. But sadly not. I was drawn in by glossy features and
glowing reviews. Now I'm stuck for a few years. If I could, I'd put Android on
the phone, which suited me far better than the dumbed-down interface that
Microsoft seems to think the world needs.
The Conformance-Consulting Dilemma
There are a number of people and even whole business departments who face a daily dilemma, based in
an often unrealized role conflict situation. HR, Quality, Finance, IT and others
all fall into this trap, and as a result find they face an uphill path when
getting people in the rest of the company to change.
Let's look at it from the viewpoint of an average manager, Jo Soper. Jo has a
very busy job to do in creating real value for the company that leads directly
to profits. This helps make her feel important and good about herself. Then HR
come along and tell her that she's got to fill in various forms to help
recruitment, employee surveys, performance management and so on. In other words,
they eat into Jo's 'real' job. So Jo looks at HR as something of a nuisance. But
Jo is a loyal employee and goes along with this, perhaps grumbling to her
colleagues about the waste of time. Then HR next come along, brightly
telling Jo that they can help her be a better manager with employee development
planning and so on. They even want to be her 'trusted advisor' on employee
matters. You might forgive Jo for being rather suspicious about all this. After
all, HR are the people who make her do all that form-filling (and nag or
threaten her until she does).
The problem is because HR is trying to be both police and friend, regulator
and helper. On one hand they say 'Do this' and on the other say 'Let me help'.
Jo is left confused. Are HR the bad people who make her do stuff or are they
friends who help? Who is in charge? Are HR friend or foe?
Jo may also be a bit crafty. She knows that HR like helping, and that in this
mode, they are playing the consultant and she is the client, and that the boot
is now on the other foot. So when HR put on
the conformance hat, telling her how she must follow company policy, Jo talks
back as if they are wearing the consultant hat, and that their demands are
actually offers. She has now retained control and can, if she likes, refuse or
delay her responses. And Jo is not the only one. The result is that HR are left
baffled by lots of managers who seem to be in covert or even open revolt, and
even the slightest change seems not to work.
An answer for HR, and any other department who want to both dictate and help,
is to pick one role and not try to do both. If you want both, then you must
organizationally separate them. HR, then, for example, could be the regulators,
defining and policing employee policy. They may be seen as the bad guys, but at
least they are keeping everyone on the straight and narrow way. The company
could then set up a separate Personnel Development department, whose job is
about helping people in their people-based work. The PD person comes along and
effectively says 'Yes, I know HR are making you do this stuff. I can help lessen
Parents, teachers, police officers and others also face the same dilemma. On
the one hand they need to tell, and on the other to sell. A parent may have strict
rules about how their child behaves, but then they also want to hug them and coax them
onto the right path. Sometimes parents handle the dilemma by splitting the
roles, with one as the 'strict parent' and the other as 'nice one'.
When you cannot be both boss and friend, you have to choose where you stand.
Effective teachers handle this by being mostly the person in charge. Even when
they are helping out, there is no question of the pupil turning around and
dictating terms. If this happens (and it does) the result is classroom anarchy.
Teachers 'lose' classes by trying to be too friendly and getting too close.
There is a lesson here that if you have to both control and help, then you can never let go of
the reins. Even when you are being friendly, you cannot be friends. Everyone
must know what is optional and what is not.
In fact whatever your roles are, it can be a good idea to look hard at them.
Are you on the one hand telling people what they should do and then wanting to
help them? Are you having problems in one or both of these where people are not
really going along with you? Oh look. You've got the conformance-consulting
The winkler's dilemma
Imagine you are a part of a town planning team and need to get people out of
their houses and into new accommodation, as the area where they are living is
being redeveloped. How would you go about this? This job of getting people out
of their houses has been called 'winkling' and the band Genesis wrote a
scathing song about this many years ago.
Perhaps you would talk up the new location and all the advantages of the new
housing. Perhaps you would offer incentives to move. These are typically done.
In fact a common scenario is where some people delay and refuse. A dilemma here
is that the more they push back, the more desperate you get, and the the more you end up offering to get them to move. In
the end, you can still end up with one or two tree-huggers and it has been known
for huge developments to be built around one small house.
This dilemma has been faced in China, where an interesting reversal was used.
Those who moved first were given the nicest houses and reasonable financial
payments. However, the longer you took to agree to move, the less you got, until
the last to leave were unceremoniously kicked out of their houses, got the worst
new accommodation and received no compensation payments at all.
Yes, you may say, but we're not in China (unless you are, of course) and
things are different around here. But that's not the point. Rather than dismiss
the Chinese approach, we can find useful ideas there for creating
change, perhaps in an organisational situation. The basic principle is to give
bigger rewards to those who go first. Early people may have to cope with
teething problems (which is one reason others want to leave it to later) and it
seems reasonable that they get some advantage for this. The sliding scale of
benefit also encourages later people to get on the bus as they look around them
and conclude that even late is better than later. Whenever you get on the bus,
you will always be competing with the people around you as even the person just
in front of you gets more benefits. And as with any laggards, you will
probably need a coercive sweep to get the last few on board, but by then they
will have little options and less support for dragging their heels.
The weirdly level playing field of social media
One of the best ways of getting ahead in business and life is to be
different. If you are the same as everyone else, then you will get lost in the
crowd and your message with it. It's all about attention, of course, which is a
critical early step in changing minds.
However, standing out can be a bit of a problem. Imagine yourself in a party and you
want to be noticed. So you speak louder. But then other people can't be heard,
so they speak louder too, maybe a bit louder than you, so you have to up your
volume as well. Before long, all you can hear is noise. This is the standout
problem. As everyone tries to stand out and be noticed, there is an
escalation of increasing effort. This can happen more slowly, too, for example
in the clothes people wear. A person at a party wears high fashion clothing to
get noticed. So next time, other people go fashionable too. Before long, the
level playing field effect comes into play, where everyone wears expensive
fashionable clothes but nobody gets the attention they seek. All that has
happened is that the status quo has become more expensive. This effect also
helps to create a ratchet on the level playing field, where nobody wants to go
backwards. Wearing unfashionable clothing when everyone is looking smart may get
you noticed, but in the wrong way.
A related problem is that, when trying to be different, rather than being
attractive, you may end up in the weird effect. There is a fine line
between interestingly different clothing and just plain kooky. People like
others who are similar to them. They admire others who are bold and who they'd
like to emulate. But they don't like people who are really different. If
a person comes to an ordinary party wearing a rabbit outfit, would you notice
them? Almost certainly. But would you go and chat with them? Perhaps not.
This happens in all kinds of places, including with social media. First of
all it was just a place to chat and meet friends. Then businesses, large and
small, realized that it was a good place to 'fish where the fish are',
advertising and engaging with their customers. Some of the early adopters had
huge success with this and were widely reported in the traditional media. Now
it's kind of mandatory to have a wide range of social media campaigns, and those
who do not tramp the fields of Facebook and treadmills of Twitter are considered
out of touch. But how successful are these activities? Some, no doubt, work
well, yet many will leave marketing managers floundering. The social media
playing field is becoming level as everyone and their cat jumps into the pond.
Consumers are drowning in the noise and the novelty that once drew them in is
becoming boring and stifling.
The game never stops as the search for attention-getting fashion and novelty
marches on. Things still go viral, and it's more than just cats and babies that
get attention. Fashions evolve and you have to be wide awake to stay on the
leading edge. You've got to be creative, too, yet whenever you step beyond the
familiar, you run into the danger of just being weird. So you've got be brave,
On July 6th 2013, Asiana flight B772 from Seoul, South Korea, crashed at San
Francisco as it came in to land. Coming in at
a high pitch angle, it touched down short of the runway, the landing gear and tail section broke off, sending the
Boeing 777 skidded along the runway. The left wing hit ground equipment,
spinning the aircraft
around and breaking off the engines as the plane burst into flames.
Some were lucky. Others were not. Remarkably, only 2 occupants were killed,
though 10 were left in a critical condition, 38 had serious injuries, 82 had
minor injuries and 175 escaped uninjured. The two killed were Chinese 16 year
old girls on a school outing.
So what happened?
Amongst other errors, when they realized they were too low on the approach,
they decided to do a 'go around', flying around in a circle to get more height
for a better approach. The pilots pulled back on the controls to go upwards.
Doing this actually reduces lift and the plane will drop unless it is
accompanied by a boost to the engines. This normally happens automatically, but
this time it did not, and the plane dropped to a point where the go-around could
not happen and they were forced to an emergency landing with the results as
A key part of the problem was poorly written documentation. Even Boeing
admitted in its subsequent report that 'the complexities of the autothrottle
and autopilot flight director systems that were inadequately described in
Boeing’s documentation and Asiana’s pilot training, which increased the
likelihood of mode error.' The autothrottle is a system that normally cuts
in to keep up the speed of the aircraft and stop it dropping when the pitch
angle is changed. However, there are situations when it is automatically turned
off. Pilots are told about this through a statement tucked away in the
1600-page operation manual, which states:
When the pitch mode is FLCH or TOGA, or the airplane is below 400 feet
above the airport on takeoff, or below 100 feet radio altitude on approach, the
autothrottle will not automatically activate.
Just look at the linguistic complexity of this. It is of the form 'When X or
Y or Z then Q'. This needs care in reading. It also includes a negative ('not
automatically activate') which the brain does not easily activate. A better
phrasing that might have saved lives and injuries would be to warn early about
non-activation of the autothrottle.
Warning: The autothrottle system will NOT
automatically activate in ANY of the following conditions:
The pitch mode is FLCH or TOGA
The airplane is below 400 feet
above the airport on takeoff
The airplane below 100 feet radio altitude on approach
When you write anything, do consider how people will read it. Consider also
the impact of their misunderstanding and make appropriate effort to ensure they
are alerted to factors that could lead to significant risks. In this, consider:
- Clarity that avoids ambiguity
- Accuracy so everything is correct
- Simplicity for ease of understanding
- Emphasis of critical points
Oh look. That spells 'CASE'.
About thinking about thinking about...
Perhaps uniquely, the human species can not only think and know that they
think, but in 'self-aware metacognition' we can look in the mirror and think
about thinking and the thoughts we have. This is the critical ability that is
used in much therapy, as patients are asked to consider causes of their damaging
thoughts. Perhaps this endless circle of thinking about thinking about thinking
also contributes to our neuroses. In a current long-running advertising
campaign, a mobile phone company urges us to 'Be more dog',
which in effect means not thinking so much and just getting on with things.
Maybe it's not bad advice sometimes, though sometimes reflecting on what's going
on upstairs can be a useful exercise.
Nicholas Shea and colleagues looked at this through the lens of Daniel
Kahnemann's 'System 1 and System 2' automatic and effortful thinking (which is
itself related to Petty and Caccioppo's
Likelihood Model). While the process may start in the unconscious, we may
notice we are consciously thinking about our thoughts. And once we think
consciously, we can then feed the reflections into other cognitive processes,
such as decision-making. Conscious thought can also lead to verbalisation and
consequence communications and socialization. We can discuss our thoughts with
others in ways that no other creatures can achieve and so grow closer with
others while also improving our thought processes.
In other words, thinking about thinking is good for us, which perhaps
explains its evolutionary
benefit (which is always a good question to ask). It is also very helpful in
persuasion, where you can get people to think about how they are thinking and
hence see how that thinking is incorrect or in appropriate.
Reframing is a classic
method for getting people to see things differently and shows a practical way to
persuade by reflection and thinking change.
Nicholas Shea, Annika Boldt, Dan Bang, Nick Yeung, Cecilia Heyes, & Chris D.
Frith (2014). Supra-personal cognitive control and metacognition Trends in
A rather intense night at the opera
This last week, I was in Athens, helping a friend do up his flat there. It
was an interesting experience, including watching Greek negotiation, which seems
to involve high-volume discussion and a lot of hand waving. It was also amazing
experiencing the local driving, where road rules seemed more advisory than
Anyway, I got the chance there to go to see Mozart's Don Giovanni in Herodes
Atticus, the ancient Greek amphitheatre on the side of the Acropolis. I'm not
really an opera buff but the location made it an unmissable pull. And indeed it
was spectacular and something I will never forget. It also got me thinking about
why people like opera.
The goal of all art is, arguably, to stimulate emotion. It's to make you feel
something, whether it is anger, fear, sadness, happiness or some combination of
these. When we experience emotion, we feel aroused and alive, as opposed to the
dull and numbed state that we often find ourselves in. Music achieves these
through complex patterning of sound frequencies, that range from the familiar to
the novel. Theatrical productions tell stories of human emotion that provoke
Opera combines both music and theatrical stimulation in a way that
intensifies the emotional experience. Operatic stories and singing also tend to
be rather exaggerated, leading to further intensification. Bright lights,
spectacular costumes, complex sets, all are designed to make you feel more
deeply. And putting on the show in an ancient amphitheatre added to all this.
The drama even got accidentally heightened more when a woman in front of me
fainted and the parametics swooped in. The show did not stop and the lady
recovered, but on top of everything else I was close to emotional overload.
So will I remember it? Of course. We remember things that have strong
emotions attached, which can be both a boon and a bane, depending on how
positive or negative the experience was. In this case, I have intensely happy
The corrosion of fear, the corruption of greed
greed seem to be quite
different emotions (if indeed greed is one). And yet so often, they are found
together. A classic situation is corruption, which is often driven by greed and
controlled by fear. Uday Vir Singh was an Indian forestry officer who stumbled
upon and then exposed a multi-billion-dollar operation involving selling iron
ore to China, involving many corrupt officials and heavyweight criminals. Singh
now lives in fear of his life. Without the protection of the law, such
operations work through fear and greed. If you cannot bribe a person, then you
scare them so much they stay quiet. And any transgressors or whistleblowers,
internal or external, are subject to extreme measures as a signal to everyone
involved to stay afraid.
This is also bad for entire countries. According to the Economist, a recent
poll showed that 96% of Indians said that corruption was holding back their
economy and 92% thought it was getting worse. The missing element is real trust,
where you have confidence that the other person is acting with integrity. In a
corrupt context, nobody really trusts anyone else, other than knowing that fear
of recrimination will keep most people in check, which is surely a poor way to
Fear and greed also appears in bubbles, such as in the stock market and in
housing. When people think they can make a fast buck, they become driven by
greed. Other people fear being left behind, so they buy in too. Decisions such
as these, that are driven more by emotion than reason, pay little attention to
the real risks involved, with the result that when the bubble bursts, many are
Greed energises and corrupts. A person sees something that will get them
something they want with relatively little effort. They focus closely on this,
and in doing so focus less on the happiness of others. This single-mindedness
leads to a greedy determination that steps outside common social
values. Fear corrodes,
sapping the will and draining the desire to fight for what is right. In doing so
those who are constrained by fear feel they have betrayed themselves and others
and their self-esteem spirals downward.
It is perhaps a damnation of humanity that greed and fear are so widespread.
All we can do is understand what is going on beneath the surface, including in
our own heads, and respond accordingly.
Touching underwear, risks and money
What gets you turned on? It's different for men and women and there can be
many differences within this. For many men, just seeing an attractive woman in a
state of partial undress is enough. The are a relatively uncomplicated gender
when it comes to sex, with an easily aroused drive to spread their seed. Men
fundamentally seek just two things: health and fertility. Health can be seen in
such as shiny hair and clear skin and eyes. Fertility can be seen in big
breasts, wide hips and youth.
Women are more involved in childbirth and nurture, so are more selective.
They broadly seek power and kindness ('protect me but don't hurt me') yet, like
men, can also be turned on by relatively simple things, including healthy,
attractive men, though not as quickly and easily as men.
Sex sells. While the generalized statement can be contested, the drivers
above are often used in advertising, which is why you see attractive women and
powerful-looking men in all kinds of adverts.
It has been shown that after looking at sexual images, men, but not women,
become more impatient for financial rewards and will take more risks in doing
so. Such knowledge is gold dust for people selling finance a carefully designed
ad can hook in an awful lot of money.
But how about women? Can you use subtle sexual cues to get them to take more
risks when making decisions? Anouk Festjens and colleagues faked
a demonstration of clothing, including getting women to handle t-shirts or men's
boxer shorts, then afterwards gave them a test that included options for shorter
or longer-term financial reward. The women who handled the boxer shorts tended
to go for the shorter-term benefits, which in selling you usually want.
In further tests, women who handled boxer shorts were willing to pay more for
products (men only had to look at a bra to get them to pay more).
Does this mean women are more tactile? Perhaps. It certainly has relevance
for those who use sexual imagery to sell to women. Perhaps one way of improving
things would be to get the women in the adverts to engage in sexually arousing
touching, for example showing a woman doing washing handling her partner's
Anouk Festjens, Sabrina Bruyneel, and Siegfried Dewitte (2013). What a
feeling! Touching sexually laden stimuli makes women seek rewards. Journal
of Consumer Psychology
In the UK news this week is the proposed
merger of two big companies, each with a history of daft naming that I
suspect has affected sales. Yet both companies have still been successful and I
am left wondering about the real reasons for the merger, beneath the predictable
Dixon's were the big tech retailer
on the high street. If you needed a TV or computer, you went to Dixon's. Then
along came the internet and internet prices. Dixon's wanted to compete in this
market but didn't want to have shop and internet prices conflicting. So in a
crazy move (that I blogged about at the
time), they changed the name of the retail store while using the Dixon's name
online (while, oddly, retaining the name their airport stores). Worse, they
called the stores 'Curry's, which was the name of a white goods retailer they
owned, with a little '.digital' postfix. Confused customers? You bet.
got into the mobile/cell phone business really early. You guessed it: when there
were those clunky big things in cars. And then when things went properly mobile,
rather than biting the bullet and re-branding, they dragged the clunking name
with them. The original smart name then became something of a millstone. More
So when I heard these two behemoths were merging, I groaned. The market
groaned too as both their share prices fell at the news.
I've worked in M&A and there's no such thing as a merger. There's always a
'leading partner', and I suspect it will be Dixon's, who are more dominant in
their sector as they have little real high street competition, although they
have already failed with a phone retail chain (in a rising market, how??). On
the other hand, Carphone Warehouse is the newer company and may have more
youthful drive. Sometimes even acquired companies do a reverse on their
purchaser. Both companies have relied on strong marketing, and no doubt this
will continue, though merging the two marketing departments will likely be
horribly messy and political as people fight for power or just to keep their
Unless somebody wakes up, I'd predict another high street train wreck in a
couple of years, perhaps starting with more naming weirdness. I just wonder how
big companies survive without that most important of abilities: a deep
understanding of human psychology.
The power of other people
When we are trying to persuade, it is easy to think that it is all about the
methods we use and the messages we send. But while this is important, it is
far from the whole story. There are always at least two people in a
communication. You and the person (or perhaps many people) you want to persuade.
And what you say is not as important in persuading them as how it makes them think
and feel. This makes an understanding of general psychology as well as the
specific make up of your target demographic important.
There is also a third group of people who can have a huge effect.
Whether you write, sell or just want to influence a decision, one of the most
powerful ways you can do this is to get other people to praise you or your
products. Just look at the effect that reviews on Amazon and other sites have.
Effectively what happens is that people who have gone before you are offering
you their sage advice based on real experience. They presumably have no
particular motivation to persuade you and so you are likely to accept their
Third parties are also helpful for providing information about things that
could help you even before you know you need it. Blogs and websites act in this
way, telling you about other sites and otherwise giving you useful information.
References are the lifeblood (or at least a shot in the arm) for many of us,
from sales people to web writers. So I was rather pleased to get
referenced in a
posting on no less than Fast Company magazine. It was also rather nice that I
was told about it by my hotshot consultant daughter, who was impressed that her
dad was getting such good press. The author was one
Kevan Lee who writes for the
estimable Buffer blog. So thanks, Kevan!
For more, see the ChangingMinds Blog! Archive or
the Blogs by subject. To
comment on any blog, click on the blog either in the archive or in the column to
Click below to view & comment on any blog
27-Jul-14: In search of the
13-Jul-14: The winkler's
06-Jul-14: The weirdly
level playing field of social media
29-Jun-14: Deadly language
22-Jun-14: About thinking
about thinking about...
15-Jun-14: A rather intense
night at the opera
01-Jun-14: The corrosion of
fear, the corruption of greed
underwear, risks and money
18-May-14: Brand collision
11-May-14: The power of
boundaries and drawing the line
vouchers and free draws
20-Apr-14: Negative online
reviews: the surprising effects
16-Mar-14: Thinking about
14-Mar-14: The Value of
02-Mar-14: Mindfulness and
Messages and Rants
16-Feb-14: Lesson Plans
09-Feb-14: Pretend to
sleep: it's good for you!
19-Jan-14: Signal to Noise
12-Jan-14: How to make a
video go viral
05-Jan-14: Passion and
22-Dec-13: The Flight of
15-Dec-13: What is 'easy'?
08-Dec-13: All day
24-Nov-13: Apology and
17-Nov-13: How about that,
10-Nov-13: Culture, Courage
03-Nov-13: Smile and
27-Sep-13: The Garden of
20-Sep-13: Weird old tips
13-Sep-13: The Business
29-Sep-13: Line breaks and
22-Sep-13: How to remember
15-Sep-13: Email spam and
08-Sep-13: Remember your
01-Sep-13: A Tale of Two
25-Aug-13: How to handle
men in three easy steps
18-Aug-13: I'm glad I'm not
11-Aug-13: Be more dog
04-Aug-13: How the Mighty
Fall: The Three Ages of the Great Company
28-Jul-13: The formation of
21-Jul-13: How to
demotivate children (and teachers)
14-Jul-13: Why science and
religion are the same
07-Jul-13: Sell food to
30-Jun-13: Principles of
16-Jun-13: What's in a
name? It depends how you make it
09-Jun-13: Gripping fun
02-Jun-13: To hell with it
26-May-13: The smell of
19-May-13: Happiness, Busy-ness
12-May-13: The simple
complexity of avoidant instructions
05-May-13: Asking for the
21-Apr-13: Blue Lights
14-Apr-13: What is winning?
07-Apr-13: The three Ls of
a good marriage
31-Mar-13: Extremism and
24-Mar-13: The Cult of the
17-Mar-13: Being Welsh
10-Mar-13: The Purpose of
03-Mar-13: Selling to
24-Feb-13: The flattering
17-Feb-13: Does money make
'Keep Calm and Carry On'
03-Feb-13: More Good
27-Jan-13: Hey, your
computer booted up 102% quicker!
20-Jan-13: Air fresheners
13-Jan-13: Famous for
06-Jan-13: Doggy game