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

Twitter users are analytical in the morning, angsty at night

Anne says: This article captured my attention this week – it was different but related to so many of the Twitter articles circulating. Why we tweet, when we tweet, fake news tweets, why we share and so forth. However, this is different – this study analysed 800 million tweets, 7 billion words published to Twitter between 2010 and 2014. It’s a UK-based study that spanned 54 of the largest cities to see if they could identify the ways the British population think and feel over a 24-hour cycle. Fascinating!


What’s Behind the Employee Revolts at Amazon, Microsoft and Google?

Nat says: For a number of years, but for what now seems like a lifetime ago, I worked in employee engagement. One of the key mantras of the engagement code is the idea that employees, fundamentally, can only be happy at work if their values align with the company’s. I remember having this conversation recently with a student in my class who worked for Coca Cola. He told me he viewed his job not as ‘bad’, despite the negative health effects of sugar and sustainability issues with single-use plastic bottles, but as a potential for good. He saw the brand of Coke as having status in society and could therefore influence change in the world — a somewhat catch-22 of a company selling a ‘bad’ product but the byproduct, so to speak, being positive. It seems that what the student had done was turn the negative aspects of the company he worked for into a positive that he saw himself as being able to influence.

This brings me to the shared article, as employees working in the mentioned tech giants of Amazon, Microsoft and Google are revolting against the direction their company is headed. Earlier this year, for example, Google announced that they will be supporting a military program that uses artificial intelligence (AI) in drones to capture images of people, which saw the resignation of twelve employees who believed the tech would be misused. Similarly, Amazon employees have recently written a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos (pictured) expressing their concerns over the company selling facial recognition software to police and Government agencies; with employees believing the software will harm already marginalized communities. It seems that the use of new technology has become a point of ethical concern for the people who work to create and support said technology.

So why is it these employees have focused on the ‘bad’ when the companies they work in, much like my student’s attitude, also have immense power to do good? Recently, Elon Musk and his ‘Boring Company’ launched their ‘not-a-flamethrower’ product, which is obviously a flamethrower and very much not a boring thing to play with. The reason Musk had to brand the product this way was because legally that was the only way he could sell it. The terms and conditions even stated:

I will not use this in a house
I will not point this at my spouse
I will not use this in an unsafe way
The best use is crème brûlée…

…and that exhausts our rhyming ability.

The reason I mention Musk is because of the similarities his Boring Company has with the employee disagreement in the mentioned tech giant companies. Musk might not be selling ‘software’ in this instance, but a flamethrower is still a piece of technology that has the potential to do and cause harm, yet there were no employee concerns (at least made publicly) about the product. Further still, employees of The Boring Company were personally delivering the flamethrowers to buyers as a way of getting around delivery issues of transporting propane, but also as a way to promote the idea of a united Musk brand. This, however, seems to somewhat contrast the recent news in which Musk sent an email to his employees discussing the sabotage made by a Tesla employee; someone who allegedly tweaked the code on products and sold company data to competitors. On the one hand Musk is presenting his workforce as fun and engaged, yet in another instance, as untrustworthy.

In terms of employee engagement, it seems that company direction, versus the employees within a company, present a somewhat complex relationship. Employees might make, create and support the delivery of the products and services of their company, but their work is also situated in a broader social and technological context. As an employee, you have likely faced, or will face, similar dilemmas. It seems that the question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you see, much like my student did, your position in that company as a possibility for influencing change for good. Or, you decide to vote with your feet and disassociate yourself with its unethical direction. But who’s to say which option is better? This reminds me of an Alan Watts video in which he explores good and bad as always being an outcome of ‘maybe’.


Work in the decade ahead

Helen says: The workplace is rapidly changing and probably faster than many anticipated. A Gartner research note looks at how we will work in 2027 and what this means for workplace leaders. Some of the assumptions presented are outlined below.

  • Middle management will become redundant, replaced by the We Working philosophy of self-organised, highly performing teams of experts.
  • Seventy five percent of jobs will be non-routine and creative thinking, along with ongoing up-skilling, will be necessary to solve complex problems.
  • With avatars and language software, communication across borders and cultures will occur without loss of context or meaning.
  • We will assign tasks to our personal smart machines with AI software fulfilling many of our team and project activities.
  • Purpose and passion will be what drives workers and businesses will find ways to fuel this through work.
  • The work life balance will be increasingly difficult to achieve and technology will be used to monitor us and help us better manage this.

The note provides some recommendations for successful leadership into the next decade and for everyone, learning and adapting will be the key to success in the 2027 workplace. To make this point Alvin Toffler is quoted: “The illiterate of the 21stcentury will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”


Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new book aims to teach astrophysics to kids at the speed of light

Joel says: In recent years STEM principals (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) have begun taking a more prominent role in school curricula, targeting younger and younger kids to not only teach great skills they’ll need in later life but also planting the seed that could get the children interested in pursuing a career in one of those fields.

Now it seems Neil deGrasse Tyson could add an extra letter into the STEM acronym as he is planning to target the younger generation with a reworking of his book to teach them Astrophysics.

Neil deGrasse Tyson believes kids can learn astrophysics, too, and he’s adapting his time-saving best-seller on the topic to teach them. Tyson’s 2017 book Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is being adapted for children as Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry and is scheduled to publish in February 2019.

The original book tackled astrophysics in a streamlined style, aiming to explain the complex study in a more casual way. This adaptation will reportedly use color photos and infographics to explain astrophysics concepts to younger readers.

Astrophysics can be quite a tricky topic to get your head around, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if plenty of adults out there plan to pick up the ‘young people’ edition to better grasp many astrophysics concepts.


The Psychology of Dread Tasks

Jakkii says: This piece really speaks to me. (wink)

There are things you want to do. There are things you need to do. Sometimes these are the same. This post is how to handle life when they aren’t.

We’re all familiar with dread tasks – even if we haven’t necessarily thought about it in those terms, or contemplated the psychology behind them. As the quote suggests, this article doesn’t dwell for too long on the why, but rather on providing some tips on how to navigate the thought patterns behind dread tasks and avoidance.

The sensation of thinking of a task can be pleasant or painful. This is because your brain is always predicting how rewarding any future scenario will be. … A dread task is an exceptionally bad case when the prediction is so painful, you can’t even properly contemplate what you need to do. … Thankfully, these predictions are frequently wrong. All you need to do is reverse engineer your thought patterns.

 There are five suggested strategies:

  • Make it stupidly small
  • Re-label
  • Visualisation
  • Talk to others
  • Find another way

Simple, right? Not always, so conveniently some willpower boosters are also offered to help you power through those dread tasks – and maybe turn them into ‘not so bad’ tasks in future.

I don’t think it’s sustainable to “boost” your willpower forever, but you can get a temporary jolt. You need to learn what things put you in a great mood and use those as tools.

Are you an avoider of ‘dread tasks’? Give these strategies a whirl next time you come up against a dread task – and let us know how effective you found them!


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