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燦榮 | 31st Mar 2009 | 管理學 | (29 Reads)
Newly energized Japanese companies are once again grabbing worldwide market share. They provide crucial technology for iPods, and the innards of Boeing's new jets are made largely in Japan. One reason the revival hasn't garnered much attention is that the companies leading the way aren't consumer-product firms, as in earlier decades, but component and materials providers.
Nevertheless, the book does not tell a simple story of convergence in Western and Japanese business practices. After all, choosing where to focus, or deciding how much to emphasize profitability, still involves a lot of executive judgment. And such judgment is inevitably influenced by the remaining differences across countries in the legal frameworks that bind corporate decisions. Financial and employment rules are tighter in Japan than in many other developed economies, but the country has gone further than its peers in deregulating telecommunications and reducing barriers to hostile takeovers.
Differences with the West will become more important as the downturn forces many countries and companies to rethink their faith in markets. As we've seen, it can be as dangerous to maximize profits as to maximize stability.
Although Schaede finished writing this book before the financial crisis hit, she persuasively argues that Japan's reforms are too far-reaching to be undone even in a deep recession. Instead, we can expect a fresh rethinking in Japan of how to preserve the advantages of focus while maintaining certain limits on competition. The world's second-largest economy will be one of the major sources of evolving management practice. As Schaede remarks, Japanese business is once again exciting to watch.

燦榮 | 31st Mar 2009 | 管理學 | (33 Reads)
Like Hercules, Luke Skywalker, and Jack Welch, we all struggle with five recurring challenges as we journey through work and life: We wander without knowing where we're going. Data and circumstances confuse us. Fear blocks us from acting. Change paralyzes us. And despite our best intentions, we talk more than we listen.
An examination of business writing from the past 30 years shows that these challenges emerge again and again -- and the best books offer simple yet profound lessons for overcoming them: Find a clear purpose. Be aware that past experience and a mass of information can interfere with wise decisions. Maintain a bias toward action. Be open to change. Seek feedback.
In the 1980s, for instance, Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman's In Search of Excellence showed how exemplar companies instilled a bias for action by replacing reports, committees, and protocols with frequent conversation and relentless prototyping. In the 1990s, Robert Kaplan and David Norton's The Balanced Scorecard demonstrated how the careful use of data can support good judgment. And in 1999, Thomas Friedman's The Lexus and the Olive Tree described how change -- in the form of globalization -- can be freeing rather than paralyzing.
The five lessons feed into one another. Clarity of purpose provides wisdom in decision making, which informs action, which creates change, while feedback makes everything work better. They also resonate with the stages of the "hero's journey" made famous by mythology scholar Joseph Campbell. The archetypal heroes of myth and popular culture walked more or less the same path as Jack Welch.
It's painfully obvious that companies continually fail to absorb these simple lessons. The question is, What will it take for us to internalize the insights won by our heroes?

燦榮 | 31st Mar 2009 | 心理 | (24 Reads)

Attractive faces hold no power over people in love
If your loved one claims to "only have eyes for you" this Valentine's Day, it might be truer than you think. Research shows that people in a committed relationship who have been thinking about their partner actually avert their eyes from attractive members of the opposite sex without even being aware they are doing it.
Psychologist Jon Maner of Florida State University and his colleagues flashed pictures of faces on a computer screen for half a second, following it immediately with a square or circle, which participants had to identify by pushing the correct button. Earlier research using this method has found that it takes longer for viewers to shift their attention away from attractive faces of the opposite sex.
Maner, however, took subjects who were married or living together monogamously and asked half of them to write about feelings of love for their partner and the other half to write about a happy experience. Those who wrote about love actually turned their attention away from attractive members of the opposite sex even more quickly than they looked away from average-looking people. Subjects who wrote about being happy, however, remained as distracted by a pretty face as ever.
This unconscious attentional bias probably evolved to help men and women stay in monogamous relationships, which in humans tend to have a reproductive advantage, Maner explains: "This whole research area is guided largely by an evolutionary perspective. These biases have been built into our psychology to enhance people's reproductive success."
By Kurt Kleiner

燦榮 | 31st Mar 2009 | 心理 | (16 Reads)
How Things "Feel"
Psychologists are very interested in the complex interplay of effort, motivation and cognitive crunching — the ease with which we think about a task in our mind. Is it possible that the simplicity (or complexity) of how a task is described and processed — whether it feels "fluid" or "difficult" — actually affects our attitude toward the task itself and ultimately our willingness to put our head down and work?
Two psychologists at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor decided to investigate this idea in their lab. Hyunjin Song and Norbert Schwarz wanted to see if they could motivate a group of 20-year-old college students to exercise regularly. They gave all the students written instructions for a regular exercise routine, but they used a simple yet ingenious method to make the how-to instructions either cognitively palatable or challenging: some received instructions printed in Arial typeface, a plain font designed for easy reading; others got their instructions printed in a Brush font, which basically looks as if it has been written by hand with a Japanese paintbrush — it is unfamiliar and much harder to read.
There are many ways to make something mentally palatable — or not. You can use clear, straightforward language or arcane vocabulary words; simple sentences or convoluted sentences with lots of clauses.
The psychologists chose to vary the font, because it is easy to manipulate in the lab. After the students had all read the instructions, the researchers asked them some questions about the exercise regimen: how long they thought it would take, whether it would flow naturally or drag on endlessly, whether it would be boring, and so forth. They also queried the students about whether they were likely to make exercise a routine part of their day.
Give It to Me Plain
The findings were remarkable. Those who had read the exercise instructions in an unadorned, accessible typeface were much more open to the prospect of exercising: they believed that the regimen would take less time and that it would feel more fluid and easy. Most important, they were more willing to make exercise part of their day.
Apparently the students' brains mistook the ease of reading about exercise for the ease of actually doing push-ups and crunches, and this misunderstanding motivated them to think about a life change. Those who struggled through the Japanese brushstrokes had no intention of heading to the gym; the reading alone tired them out.
Song and Schwarz decided to doublecheck these results with another experiment, this one involving a completely unrelated activity: cooking.
Again they used easy-and hard-to-read typefaces, but in this case the instructions were for making a Japanese sushi roll. After the volunteers had read the recipe, they estimated how long it would take them to make the dish and whether they were inclined to do it. They were also asked how much skill a professional cook would need to prepare the sushi roll.
The results were basically the same as before. As reported in the October 2008 issue of the journal Psychological Science, those who read the instructions in the mentally challenging script saw the task as time-consuming and requiring a high level of culinary skill; they were not apt to try it themselves. They, in effect, viewed the alien writing as a proxy for the actual task and as a result ended up avoiding it. Those who received the more digestible instructions were much more likely to head for the kitchen and sharpen their knives.
Our brains employ all kinds of tricks and shortcuts to get us through the day with the least mental and physical effort, but it is good to be wary of these automatic judgments. If unchecked, our tendency to confuse thoughts and actions can make dubious choices seem easier and more desirable than they ought to be, or it can discourage us from healthy habits and creative exploration. After all, most of the time using a "self-operating" napkin is just as simple as it appears to be.
• For more insights into the quirks of human nature, visit the "We're only Human …" blog and podcasts at

燦榮 | 31st Mar 2009 | 心理 | (19 Reads)
FAST FACTS Scientists are finding that the adult human brain is far more malleable than they once thought. Your behavior and environment can cause substantial rewiring of your brain or a reorganization of its functions.
Studies have shown that exercise can improve the brain's executive skills, which include planning, organizing and multitasking. What you eat can also influence how effectively your brain operates.
Activities such as listening to music, playing video games and meditating may boost cognitive performance as well.

燦榮 | 29th Mar 2009 | 心理 | (21 Reads)
In 1980 Brooklyn College health scientist Erika Friedmann designed a survey to assess how social support affects survival after a heart attack. Just for fun, she threw in a question about pet ownership. When she analyzed her results months later, she was startled to find that pets — more than support from family and friends — kept people alive. Patients who owned pets were 22 percent more likely to be alive a year after their heart attack than those who did not.

燦榮 | 29th Mar 2009 | 管理學, 心理 | (18 Reads)
A generation ago, Richard Titmuss claimed that paying people to donate blood reduced the supply. Economists were skeptical, citing a lack of empirical evidence. But since then, new data and models have prompted a sea change in how economists think about incentives -- showing, among other things, that Titmuss was right often enough that businesses should take note. Experimental economists have found that offering to pay women for donating blood decreases the number willing to donate by almost half, and that letting them contribute the payment to charity reverses the effect. Consider another example: When six day-care centers in Haifa, Israel, began fining parents for late pickups, the number of tardy parents doubled. The fine seems to have reduced their ethical obligation to avoid inconveniencing the teachers and led them to think of lateness as simply a commodity they could purchase.

燦榮 | 29th Mar 2009 | 管理學 | (24 Reads)
 From 1978 to 1989, the pay of the CEOs at the largest U.S. companies went from 35 times the average worker's salary to 71 times. It ballooned to 300 times at the end of the 1990s, the decade of heroic leadership, as the media made CEOs into superstars. With stock options, it was very easy for companies to boost pay.

燦榮 | 28th Mar 2009 | 心理 | (17 Reads)
A new study shows that accelerated thinking can improve your mood. In six experiments, researchers at Princeton and Harvard universities made research participants think quickly by having them generate as many problem-solving ideas (even bad ones) as possible in 10 minutes, read a series of ideas on a computer screen at a brisk pace or watch an / Love Lucy video clip on fast-forward. Other participants performed similar tasks at a relaxed speed.
Results suggested that thinking fast made participants feel more elated, creative and, to a lesser degree, energetic and powerful. Activities that promote fast thinking, then, such as whipping through an easy crossword puzzle or brainstorming quickly about an idea, can boost energy and mood, says psychologist Emily Pronin, the study's lead author.

燦榮 | 28th Mar 2009 | 心理 | (61 Reads)
Cloaking oneself in a new identity — even for only a few minutes — can disrupt long-established patterns of behavior, new research suggests. Stanford University psychologists staged an online game in which players represented by on-screen avatars competed to solve a series of math problems. Subjects' real gender didn't affect their scores, but those who were arbitrarily assigned to a female avatar and who competed against two male avatars performed worse and gave up on difficult problems more quickly than did those who were assigned a male avatar and whose opponents were female. A large body of work shows that when women are reminded of their gender, their math performance suffers — but this study is the first to suggest that the effect of identity may not be tied to a lifetime of experiences