The World Isn’t Ready for Gross National Happiness

By Noah Smith – Humanity has puzzled over the meaning of happiness for millennia, but now it’s being asked by economists.

The focus on happiness represents a philosophical shift for the economics field, but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Economists’ traditional measures of well-being are based on utility, or the degree to which people get what they want.

Economists who study happiness have begun to entertain the notion that perhaps what matters isn’t the degree to which people get what they want, but how much they like what they get. Good emotions may be more important than satiation of desires.

That’s not a crazy idea. There’s one huge problem with happiness research, however.

There is really no good way to measure what people are actually feeling. more>

How To Build A Culture Of Listening

By Karin Hurt – There are a few signs that your company has a culture founded on listening.

It takes time to develop, but here’s how to tell when it does.

  • People at all levels are thinking about the business and sharing ideas, and solutions to challenges show up in surprising places—not just every blue moon, but regularly.
  • A great idea is a great idea, regardless of who thought of it, and your company rewards whoever does—fairly.
  • Employees at all levels are really listening to what customers are saying, and that includes negative feedback.
  • When the call for questions goes out, the room doesn’t fall silent.
  • No one freaks out when an exec shows up unexpectedly.
  • No one is shocked by the employee engagement survey results.
  • Employees don’t feel like value-generating machines, but actual humans who have mutually respected relationships with their employer.

Listening is one of the most important behaviors to build in a company’s culture. more>

Updates from GE

Aubrey de Grey: Can We and Should We Give Ourselves Indefinite Youth? Oh Yes
By Aubrey de Grey – Aging is a hot topic among the chattering classes these days.

What with biotech companies like Calico and Human Longevity Inc. being founded with the mission to defeat aging, and venerable institutions such as Prudential proclaiming the imminence of superlongevity on billboards, there’s no denying that this is a time of great interest in our oldest and deepest-held dream — to escape from the tyranny of inexorable and ultimately fatal physiological decline.

But hang on — is the buzz around aging really reflective of what’s being done to realize this goal? The briefest dispassionate analysis reveals a different story altogether.

The proportion of government spending allocated in the industrialized world to diseases and disabilities of old age is appropriately high, but it is overwhelmingly dedicated to the transparently quixotic approach of attacking those ailments directly — as if they were infections — rather than attacking their lifelong accumulating causes. more>

How Activist Hedge Funds Turn Others Into Vultures

By Steve Denning – What has changed is that in the 1980s, the corporate raiders were acting by themselves in extracting value from corporations.

Now the raiders are leading the whole business world in an unabashed dash for short-term cash in the form of winnings from the raids.

“Today,” writes Joseph Fuller, “university endowments and state pension funds invest with activists, corporate directors discuss how activists will view their strategy, and the business media even treat them as celebrities.” Even schoolteachers’ pension funds have joined the raids.

The fact that university endowments and state pension funds have been getting into bed with the corporate raiders has helped. These public institutions could hardly tell their stakeholders they were engaged in “corporate raids.” They became co-conspirators with the raiders to change their label to “activist investors.”

The corporate raiders also learned how to present their vulture-like activities in a more positive light.

Now they are not engaged in corporate raids or sucking the blood from once valuable corporations. Instead they are merely performing the public service of “unlocking value.” more>

How Corporate America Is Cannibalizing Itself

By Steve Denning – The cost of excessive financialization: 2% of GDP per year. Now here’s the really bad news.

Share buybacks are not just a moral problem for executives or a financial problem for mismanaged corporations. Excessive financialization is a macro-economic problem of the first order.

It creates a massive drag on activities in the real economy, by misallocating financial and human resources. People and money that could have been deployed in activities benefiting real people, are instead deployed in socially unproductive activities that are no more useful than gambling in Las Vegas.

Throughout history, periods of excessive financialization have coincided with periods of national economic decline, such as Spain in the 14th century, The Netherlands in the late 18th century and Britain in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The focus by elites on “making money out of money” rather than making real goods and services has led to wealth for the few, and overall national economic decline. more>

4 Types of CIO-CEO Relationships

By Sneha Jha – Uncertainty is the new certainty in the CIO world.

“Partnering CIOs” don’t actually enjoy peer status. This matters because the mission- critical decisions get made among peers. And this is where CIO can have real impact.

The “trusted ally” CIO is a disruptor, strategist and pioneer. Such CIOs have a business alliance with their CEOs hence they enjoy a high level of trust from his business peers.

“To be a trusted ally a CIO need to develop an “outside-in” of his business,” Mary Mesaglio [2] says. more>

Updates from GE

How to Restore a Touch of Humanity to the Online World
By L. Mark Carrier – We need a new set of social norms for the Internet era to prevent online interactions from doing more harm than good.

What makes it psychologically easy for a human to remotely pilot a drone and use it to assassinate another human on the other side of the world?

What makes it easy for one person to unleash a piece of malware that infects millions of computers around the world?

Or, closer to home, what makes it possible for one adolescent to post vicious lies about another adolescent online to the point where the victim would want to commit suicide?

Normal human relations — those done face to face — require a whole set of rules of engagement that keep our innate selfish instincts in check. Social norms develop around our interactions, based on the context in which they occur and the culture that we come from. In the Internet era, however, the traditional norms often no longer apply — creating a need for a new set of rules on behavior …

Traditional social norms run deep, having been established over long periods of time. more>

We Need to Talk About the Global Economy

By Jeff Black – Seven years after the financial crisis brought world output to a standstill, economists can’t agree on why the recovery is still so meager, let alone what to do about it.

The global policy debate is messy, but for the sake of argument, let’s say there are two dominant views.

The first is more orthodox and says the world is just in a long post-debt-crisis hangover complicated by cyclical developments in commodities markets. A little more monetary stimulus, a bit of time to fend off deflation, and it’ll be fine.

The second, darker scenario posits that we’re entering a fundamentally different place in the world economy—where inflation and unemployment no longer behave the way they used to, where an aging population creates a permanent downer for output, where the more than $7 trillion that developed-market central banks have spent on quantitative easing has failed to banish deflation fears. more>

In Arbitration, a ‘Privatization of the Justice System’

By Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkerynow – Over the last 10 years, thousands of businesses across the country — from big corporations to storefront shops — have used arbitration to create an alternate system of justice. There, rules tend to favor businesses, and judges and juries have been replaced by arbitrators who commonly consider the companies their clients.

The change has been swift and virtually unnoticed, even though it has meant that tens of millions of Americans have lost a fundamental right: their day in court.

“This amounts to the whole-scale privatization of the justice system,” said Myriam Gilles, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “Americans are actively being deprived of their rights.”

All it took was adding simple arbitration clauses to contracts that most employees and consumers do not even read. more>


Robots may shatter the global economic order within a decade

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard – We are coming close to the crucial “inflexion point” when it is 15pc cheaper to use a robot than to employ a human worker.

This threshold has already been crossed in the American, European and Japanese car industries, where it costs $8 an hour to employ a robot for spot welding, compared to $25 for a worker.

Hence the eerie post-human feel of the most up-to-date car plants. “We are facing a paradigm shift, which will change the way we live and work,” said the report’s author, Beijia Ma.

Productivity will soar but wages will not rise at the same pace, if at all.

The owners of capital will take an even bigger slice of global income, pushing inequality to yet greater extremes. Labor’s share of the pie peaked at 65pc in 1975 in the rich countries and has already dropped to 58pc. more>