Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

The confidence of a novice

(or Learning a little about something makes us over confident)

Anne says: Have you ever asked someone (at work or elsewhere): “Can you do xyz?” or “Do you know how to use xyz?” and the answer is: “Sure, I know how to do that!”

In a recent study reported in this article, over 60% of US College students believed they were capable of working in teams, applying critical thinking skills and had proficient communication skills. Their employers, however, disagreed – citing less than 40% had adequate capability in these skills. Why such a discrepancy?

Well, according to the research, it’s about the optimism and over confidence experienced by a novice. Typically, an absolute beginner recognises what they don’t know. It’s when a little experience is gained that the false sense of competence arises.

The article quotes Alexander Pope: a little learning is a dangerous thing. This position was backed up by the research study – a little learning was enough to increase confidence and judgements to the highest level – they call this a “beginner’s bubble”. And yes, bubbles will burst – most of the time. There is frequently a correction phase as errors are experienced, but post-adjustment, confidence rises quickly again.

Taking this research into an organisational context, it’s a timely reminder about how we are distributing information to others, how we are consuming (mostly scanning briefly) the masses of information sent to us, and most importantly, our expectations about people’s levels of expertise.

Beware of the beginner’s bubble and beware of confidence exhibited by people who may have only been exposed to a brief “training course” on subjects that require in-depth knowledge. And avoid castigating people for claiming capability when it could be the organisation’s responsibility to ensure people are adequately skilled to perform a task or role – not relying on self-assessment (i.e. the beginner’s bubble).


Wanted at Chinese start-ups: Attractive women to ease coders’ stress

Nat says: I stumbled across this article on Twitter, and learned two things from reading it. The first is that apparently in China, it is common (but not exactly legal) for businesses to advertise for a specific gender for a job. In this case, attractive females are wanted to help with shy and overwhelmed male programmers. The women are being sought to relax the men with massages, listen to their frustrations, order snacks, and to calm them down with the mere presence of their physical beauty. Even though some of these women, as is the case with the person in the shared photo for this article, have university degrees! It seems their skills are going to waste in favour of keeping their male colleagues happy…  

The second thing I learned was that gender stereotypes and gender equity don’t seem to be of concern for tech companies in China, but in Western contexts the discussion seems to be rampant. As quoted in the article:

In tech (in China), men dominate the top ranks. Just one woman sits on the 11-member board of Alibaba, the e-commerce giant. At Baidu, a search company, none of its five board members is a woman. At Tencent, a games and social media conglomerate, there are none. By comparison, Twitter has three women on its nine-person board. At Facebook, two of its nine directors are women.

I should probably add that overall, my impression of this article was also somewhat concerning. In our digital programming age, some big tech companies are seeking to hire in-house chief philosophy officers (something I previously discussed in an earlier Friday Fave) — a person to challenge the ethics, thinking and purpose behind both business and technology. This seems to be missing in the Chinese context. Instead of questioning the why and how of the programming, the focus seems to be on the literal grooming of it. Let’s see how this pans out…


What smartphone photography is doing to our memories

When it comes to taking photos, the question of (cognitive) offloading becomes more complicated: How much of my life do I want remembered purely by my brain?”

Emilio says: Is our appetite for capturing moments with our mobile phones and sharing them on social media diminishing our memories and experiences?

I found this article about cognitive psychology and the use of technology and media fascinating – because just as technology is constantly evolving so is our use of technology, in particular, our smartphones, and these can have short and long-term effects on our memory. 

Social psychologists at Stanford, Princeton, Dartmouth and Austin, Texas Universities recently conducted a series of experiments to determine how devices can aid, or impair, participants’ recollection of people, places and events. One of their experiments involved a guided tour of the delicately ornate Stanford Memorial Church with two groups: one that carried cameras who were asked to post on social media whilst on tour, and another with no devices on hand. After a few hundred participants and a surprise quiz conducted post-tour, the researchers found that those without devices scored higher than those who took photos, proving that the very act of documenting and sharing experiences instantaneously online can affect memory scores.

It got me thinking about my own use of my mobile phone as storage of information and how I use social media as a repository of experiences – my travels, milestones and literally my own view of my life. I am reminded that in my desire to capture and share those moments and immortalise them in my Instagram gallery, perhaps I needed to pay closer attention and be more in the moment so I could immortalise the details of those experiences better in my mind.

While ruminating on that point, a raw and exhilarating memory popped in my head. In December 2014, I visited my cousins in Southern California and on a glistening sunny day we drove to the European inspired city of Solvang in Santa Ynez Valley in a convertible, taking down the vehicle’s roof. En route, we zoomed along the 101 Freeway, full speed, taking in the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean to our left. Due to the speed of the drive and the strong wind, I could not take photos. I was fully immersed on the road trip. To this day, I clearly remember the blinding brightness of the late afternoon sun juxtaposed with the deep blue ocean views, the wind on my hair, and the feeling of being on cloud nine. It was glorious!

No doubt, smartphone photography has revolutionised visual imagery and how we consume, share and document experiences. But it can also become a distraction and a memory stealer. If we focus on the visuals and the sharing on social media too much, we end up with filtered appearances and we lose the real, meaningful bits of those experiences forever. And those moments can never be relived nor remembered again.


Healthier screen time

Helen says: I was vigilant when it came to limiting my son’s screen time but after the introduction of BYO laptops at high school and with access to a smart phone, the recommended two hour a day limit became impossible to achieve. I have to admit I couldn’t meet this standard either! I’m not exactly a device junkie, but they have become integral to our work and for many, our private lives. So if we can’t keep screen time to two hours a day, what can we do to avoid consequences such as poor eye health, posture and sleep?

Take a look at the article by Brendon Hyndman and Noella Mackenzie, from Charles Sturt University published in The Conversation – Eight things that should be included in screen guidelines for students. Student or not, this is worth a read. Adopting behaviours to minimise the physical risks associated with excessive screen time is important for us all.


Garlic bread sent to edge of space comes back less appetising

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Joel says: My piece this week is coming from more of a comedic entertainment view rather than a ‘Robots are taking over’ view, and who doesn’t love garlic bread?

Garlic bread fresh out of the oven is a delightful treat. Garlic bread fresh from the edge of outer space, not so much.

YouTube user Tom Scott went from having a random conversation in a pub to sending a chunk of garlic bread nearly 22 miles (35 kilometres) up to the “edge of space.” But the experiment didn’t end there. The team recovered the bread and ate it.

Scott recruited Random Engineering, a company specialising in high-altitude balloons, to get the bread up to the edge of space. The bread, made with a cheese and parsley garlic butter, came from YouTube cooking star Barry Lewis of the My Virgin Kitchen channel.

The bread was tied down onto a piece of Styrofoam, but was left exposed to the atmosphere during its journey. It hit temperatures well below freezing along the way. A parachute brought it safely back to the ground.

The team kept half of the baguette on Earth for a comparison taste test. While it was a lot of fun to watch the bread on its travels, what we really want to know is how it tasted afterward. The verdict? Cold and chewy.

I think it’s safe to say that sending your garlic bread into the stratosphere probably won’t become the next hot culinary trend.

Check out the video of the whole process here:


Pinterest just redesigned its app for blind people

Jakkii says: As this article itself points out, Pinterest might not be the first app that comes to mind when thinking about accessibility and inclusive design – after all, it’s a visual bookmarking tool, and for many of us it might be hard to imagine how or why blind people would want to use the site.

Fortunately, the design team at Pinterest haven’t been so blinkered (or at least, they’ve now taken these blinkers off). This piece is a good overview of why and how the Pinterest design team has improved their design in order to make their app more accessible and inclusive – something we should all be striving for. From planting trees with roots that crack and raise footpaths making them difficult to navigate, to websites with colour palettes that are impossible for some to read, both on and offline we are still a long way from a fully inclusive world that considers how those with disabilities will or will want to use our designs in services, products and spaces.

Inclusive design is a process, not a destination.

There’s some great stuff in this piece to consider for those of us wanting to ensure our design practices are more inclusive, from internal inclusivity pop-up labs to automated accessibility testing built into all app updates moving forward, and a recognition of the need to build an ‘inclusivity-first’ design mindset across the organisation.


Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast


This week: what we learn from digital business, feeling lonely, and making rain the size of Spain in other news. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

The stories this week:

The traditional CEO-CIO relationship is changing

Employee loneliness, and how it hurts companies

Other stories we bring up:

Energy Australia’s Chief Information Officer Anne Weatherston on the changing role of the CIO

Netflix’s CEO on months when he doesn’t have to make a single decision

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos still personally reads customer complaint emails

Work and the loneliness epidemic

Research article on the link between workplace loneliness and job performance

U.K. appoints a Minister for Loneliness


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