Monday, October 04, 2010


My favorite Stanford professor, Bob Sutton, gave a talk at the Friday HCI seminar about his new book Good Boss, Bad Boss. If you search my blog for Sutton you'll see how often I refer to him (probably more than to Malc and T-Fried combined :)

You can see the video here. During the Q&A, about 77 minutes into the video, he talks about one of my favorite psych papers that made its way into my research and software engineering in general: "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments"

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Growing your own

Classic (2004) HBR article (via LeaderLab) about "The Risky Business of Hiring Stars". Great teaser:
Odds are, the superstars you eagerly and expensively recruit will shine much less brightly for you than for their previous employers. Research shows why -- and why you're usually better off growing stars than buying them.
Lots of good stuff to think about for anyone interested in how we develop as co-workers. Another quote, first something that sounds straight out of Fred Brooks' The Mythical Man-Month:
The arrival of a highflier often results in interpersonal conflicts and a breakdown of communication in the group. As a result, the groups's performance suffers for several years. Sometimes, the team (or what is left of it) returns to normal only after the star has left the company.
then, the money side:
The money that stars make isn't the only problem. Their coworkers often become demotivated because they feel they must look outside the organization if they want to grow or to occupy leadership positions. Their suspicions are fueled by the fact that senior executives provide more resources to a newly hired star than to a company stalwart even if both have performed equally well.

Speaking is not an act of extroversion

I've posted quite a bit about Gladwell (I call him "Malc"), and this week I'm having my graduate HCI class watch his TED video on spaghetti sauce and his 2004 PopTech talk about chairs (and Coke vs Pepsi).

In this brief interview (in which the interviewer has crazier hair than Malc), he talks about being a shy public speaker, and how we are spend more money to see performers live than buy their material (since it is downloadable "free"), which is flipped from the way it was when he grew up. It used to be that concerts were cheap, and you paid for media (vinyl audio recordings, books), now we spend hundreds of dollars for a concert ticket and little for the media.

Fresno State Myths to Live By

Last week I was walking to my car and overheard three frustrated students loudly discussing a professor who is late for class. The students recounted how you "only have to wait 15 minutes" for a full professor. Everyone knows that, right? I heard about in the late 1970s when my dad was teaching part time at Fresno State.

This rule -- The Obligatory Wait -- about how long Fresno State students are expected to wait (based on the academic rank of the instructor) is famous enough for Jan Harold Brunvand to document in one of his books or urban legends, The Baby Train.

You probably know the punchline: there is no such rule :)
One question that seems to puzzle all new college freshmen is "How long are students expected to wait for a tardy professor?" Fortunately, most of the more-experienced students are ready with an answer. Unfortunately, their answers vary wildly, and most of them are wrong.
Also interesting, "The Myth of the Lazy Professor" from the Chronicle.