JEFF IMMELT: On May 20th, I delivered the keynote at New York University’s Stern Business School convocation. Here are excerpts from my message to the graduates. 

Preparing for What’s Next

We’re in a volatile, global economy – the most uncertain I have ever seen. There is distrust of institutions. Protectionism is rising. Globalization is being attacked as never before. For those looking to succeed, the playbook from the past just won’t cut it. It’s time to pivot, be bold, and not fear criticism. 

I built my career at GE in a time when productivity, innovation and globalization were the way to win. When I joined the company in 1982, 80 percent of our revenue came from the U.S. Now, 70 percent of our revenue will be global. We have customers in more than 180 countries. We export over $20 billion worth of goods to the world each year. We have become woven into the global economy.

http://breakingenergy.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2014/02/138888099.jpg

You would think that companies like GE that give people good jobs, make good products, and contribute to their communities would be valued. That governments would try to nurture growth and address big problems like income inequality and unemployment. That global integration would be seen as a force of good and would continue to grow.

You would be wrong. Today, big companies are distrusted; governments and global institutions are failing to address the world’s challenges; and globalization is being attacked as never before.

This is not just true for the U.S., but everywhere. These sentiments have traction in Europe and Latin America, on both the right and the left. The future of the EU is an open question. Protectionist barriers are rising in Asia and Africa. China is repositioning its economy to be more sustainable and inclusive.

The global economy is growing too slowly, and many people feel left behind. Some workers have been displaced by outsourcing, the middle class has been squeezed, and income inequality has risen to unacceptable levels. As technology and globalization race forward, people understandably fear their impact on jobs and incomes, and distrust the motives of companies and government.

There are many causes, and business bears some blame. Productivity has slowed to a crawl and capital investment is declining. Financing is more difficult to get, particularly for infrastructure projects. Investment is required for productivity, which in turn, supports higher wages.

Part of the fault also lies with technology. Innovation has driven growth but also leads to greater instability. The internet can connect people, but doesn’t necessarily give them jobs. Technology has raised the competitive requirements for companies and people. This exacerbates economic insecurity.

Finally, Government is also responsible. In the U.S., regulation has expanded while infrastructure has lagged. Our trade deals are languishing in Congress, and we remain the only developed country in the world without a functioning Export Bank. Our tax code is 30 years old; our immigration system is broken; and a huge structural deficit clouds the future. In the face of this headwind, we are having a raucous Presidential election where every candidate is a protectionist, and globalization is being blamed for unemployment and wage inequality.

Globalization is still essential to growth. But, the globalization I knew, based on trade and global integration, is changing, which is why it’s time for a bold pivot. And in the face of a protectionist global environment, flexible thinking is required, and companies must navigate the world on their own. We must level the playing field, without government engagement. This requires dramatic transformation. This is how we will lead:

We will localize. In the future, sustainable growth will require a local capability inside a global footprint. At GE, we will always be a strong American manufacturer, but we also have built factories in China, India, South Africa, Nigeria, Hungary and elsewhere around the world. We are managing extended supply chains. We are not pursuing low wages; we are using a manufacturing strategy to open markets. We will produce for the U.S. in the U.S, but our exports may decline. At the same time, we will localize production in big, end-use markets like Saudi Arabia.

Our competitive advantage is digital productivity. When we digitize power plants and hospitals by connecting them to the Industrial Internet, we improve global productivity. In Pakistan, we are using analytics to improve energy efficiency and expanding capacity. In India, we can use the internet to deliver healthcare to remote regions. In China, engine analytics are improving airline productivity. Every industrial company must also be a digital leader. This is the next wave of competitiveness.

We accelerate growth by solving local problems. We can make the world work better when we innovate to solve problems with local capability. Our GE technologists around the world have come up with new ways to produce cleaner energy that’s more accessible and to give remote communities access to healthcare. Solutions from the developing world improve outcomes in developed markets.

Financing is the new oxygen of global growth. Capital is the fuel for globalization of the future. We have positioned GE to capitalize on investment flows from new sources. China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative is building new relationships in Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Most countries are increasing their export financing. We’ve learned how to invest in these countries, access those pools of capital to support export growth. This is critical as we cannot count on the U.S. EXIM Bank. Companies need to globalize on their own and control our destiny.

Winning requires simpler organizations. Change requires new business models that are leaner, faster, more decentralized. Complex and centralized bureaucracies are obsolete. GE is pushing capability to local teams who are empowered to take risks without second guessing.

We tend to think of globalization as a philosophy, but it is much more about what you do on the ground. Success requires hundreds of little things, and decisions made with a local context. A good global leader has an appreciation for how people do their work in a local culture. They try to make a teams’ work meaningful to their country. This allows us to hire the best talent in every country where we compete.

By taking these bold actions – by pivoting – I am confident we can continue to grow. One thing I know about globalization is that there will always be plenty of critics. Early in my career, I worried way too much about what people thought. Over time I realized that progress counts for more than perfection and that anything worthwhile takes persistence and resilience.

My shield consists of competency, hard work and fairness. I run a meritocracy with the highest standards. Discrimination has no place in business – in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world. Similarly, our factory teams know that, while we cannot guarantee markets, we can guarantee effort; we always play to win.

So be flexible, be bold, don’t fear criticism. We are going through a transformational change in globalization, which will require fresh, new thinking. Our goal is to build an economic ecosystem that is the most competitive in the world. To create great jobs through private enterprise and ingenuity. To give back competency and innovation directed at solving the world’s toughest problems. There is nothing elitist, or establishment, about this task. Only by being in the arena can you create work for others.

The discord we see in the U.S. today is primarily due to slow growth and the wealth discrepancy it creates. This problem will not be solved by any bureaucracy. It requires leaders who see the world as it is and are willing to drive change.

FROM:  MEDIUM CORPORATION:

•• Estimated reading time: 12 minutes. It’s worth it to save your sanity!!

Tristan Harris is an expert on how technology hijacks our psychological vulnerabilities. That’s why he spent the last three years as Google’s Design Ethicist caring about how to design things in a way that defends a billion people’s minds from getting hijacked 。。。

 

When using technology, we often focus optimistically on all the things it does for us. But I want you to show you where it might do the opposite.

Where does technology exploit our minds’ weaknesses?

I learned to think this way when I was a magician. Magicians start by looking for blind spots, edges, vulnerabilities and limits of people’s perception, so they can influence what people do without them even realizing it. Once you know how to push people’s buttons, you can play them like a piano.

 

That’s me performing sleight of hand magic at my mother’s birthday party

And this is exactly what product designers do to your mind. They play your psychological vulnerabilities (consciously and unconsciously) against you in the race to grab your attention.

I want to show you how they do it.

Hijack #1: If You Control the Menu, You Control the Choices

 

Western Culture is built around ideals of individual choice and freedom. Millions of us fiercely defend our right to make “free” choices, while we ignore how we’re manipulated upstream by limited menus we didn’t choose.

This is exactly what magicians do. They give people the illusion of free choice while architecting the menu so that they win, no matter what you choose. I can’t emphasize enough how deep this insight is.

When people are given a menu of choices, they rarely ask:

  • “what’s not on the menu?”

  • “why am I being given these options and not others?”

  • “do I know the menu provider’s goals?”

  • “is this menu empowering for my original need, or are the choices actually a distraction?” (e.g. an overwhelmingly array of toothpastes)

 

How empowering is this menu of choices for the need, “I ran out of toothpaste”?

For example, imagine you’re out with friends on a Tuesday night and want to keep the conversation going. You open Yelp to find nearby recommendations and see a list of bars. The group turns into a huddle of faces staring down at their phones comparing bars. They scrutinize the photos of each, comparing cocktail drinks. Is this menu still relevant to the original desire of the group?

It’s not that bars aren’t a good choice, it’s that Yelp substituted the group’s original question (“where can we go to keep talking?”) with a different question (“what’s a bar with good photos of cocktails?”) all by shaping the menu.

Moreover, the group falls for the illusion that Yelp’s menu represents a complete set of choices for where to go. While looking down at their phones, they don’t see the park across the street with a band playing live music. They miss the pop-up gallery on the other side of the street serving crepes and coffee. Neither of those show up on Yelp’s menu.

 

Yelp subtly reframes the group’s need “where can we go to keep talking?” in terms of photos of cocktails served.

The more choices technology gives us in nearly every domain of our lives (information, events, places to go, friends, dating, jobs) — the more we assume that our phone is always the most empowering and useful menu to pick from. Is it?

The “most empowering” menu is different than the menu that has the most choices. But when we blindly surrender to the menus we’re given, it’s easy to lose track of the difference:

  • “Who’s free tonight to hang out?” becomes a menu of most recent people who texted us (who we could ping).

  • “What’s happening in the world?” becomes a menu of news feed stories.

  • “Who’s single to go on a date?” becomes a menu of faces to swipe on Tinder (instead of local events with friends, or urban adventures nearby).

  • “I have to respond to this email.” becomes a menu of keys to type a response (instead of empowering ways to communicate with a person).

 

All user interfaces are menus. What if your email client gave you empowering choices of ways to respond, instead of “what message do you want to type back?” (Design by Tristan Harris)

When we wake up in the morning and turn our phone over to see a list of notifications — it frames the experience of “waking up in the morning” around a menu of “all the things I’ve missed since yesterday.”

 

A list of notifications when we wake up in the morning — how empowering is this menu of choices when we wake up? Does it reflect what we care about? (credit to Joe Edelman)

By shaping the menus we pick from, technology hijacks the way we perceive our choices and replaces them with new ones. But the closer we pay attention to the options we’re given, the more we’ll notice when they don’t actually align with our true needs.

Hijack #2: Put a Slot Machine In a Billion Pockets

If you’re an app, how do you keep people hooked? Turn yourself into a slot machine.

The average person checks their phone 150 times a day. Why do we do this? Are we making 150 conscious choices?

 

How often do you check your email per day?

One major reason why is the #1 psychological ingredient in slot machines: intermittent variable rewards.

If you want to maximize addictiveness, all tech designers need to do is link a user’s action (like pulling a lever) with a variable reward. You pull a lever and immediately receive either an enticing reward (a match, a prize!) or nothing. Addictiveness is maximized when the rate of reward is most variable.

Does this effect really work on people? Yes. Slot machines make more money in the United States than baseball, movies, and theme parks combined. Relative to other kinds of gambling, people get ‘problematically involved’ with slot machines 3–4x faster according to NYU professor Natasha Dow Shull, author of Addiction by Design.

But here’s the unfortunate truth — several billion people have a slot machine their pocket:

  • When we pull our phone out of our pocket, we’re playing a slot machine to see what notifications we got.

  • When we pull to refresh our email, we’re playing a slot machine to see what new email we got.

  • When we swipe down our finger to scroll the Instagram feed, we’re playing a slot machine to see what photo comes next.

  • When we swipe faces left/right on dating apps like Tinder, we’re playing a slot machine to see if we got a match.

  • When we tap the # of red notifications, we’re playing a slot machine to what’s underneath.

 

Apps and websites sprinkle intermittent variable rewards all over their products because it’s good for business.

But in other cases, slot machines emerge by accident. For example, there is no malicious corporation behind all of email who consciously chose to make it a slot machine. No one profits when millions check their email and nothing’s there. Neither did Apple and Google’s designers want phones to work like slot machines. It emerged by accident.

But now companies like Apple and Google have a responsibility to reduce these effects by converting intermittent variable rewards into less addictive, more predictable ones with better design. For example, they could empower people to set predictable times during the day or week for when they want to check “slot machine” apps, and correspondingly adjust when new messages are delivered to align with those times.

Hijack #3: Fear of Missing Something Important (FOMSI)

Another way apps and websites hijack people’s minds is by inducing a “1% chance you could be missing something important.”

If I convince you that I’m a channel for important information, messages, friendships, or potential sexual opportunities — it will be hard for you to turn me off, unsubscribe, or remove your account — because (aha, I win) you might miss something important:

  • This keeps us subscribed to newsletters even after they haven’t delivered recent benefits (“what if I miss a future announcement?”)

  • This keeps us “friended” to people with whom we haven’t spoke in ages (“what if I miss something important from them?”)

  • This keeps us swiping faces on dating apps, even when we haven’t even met up with anyone in a while (“what if I miss that one hot match who likes me?”)

  • This keeps us using social media (“what if I miss that important news story or fall behind what my friends are talking about?”)

But if we zoom into that fear, we’ll discover that it’s unbounded: we’ll always miss something important at any point when we stop using something.

  • There are magic moments on Facebook we’ll miss by not using it for the 6th hour (e.g. an old friend who’s visiting town right now).

  • There are magic moments we’ll miss on Tinder (e.g. our dream romantic partner) by not swiping our 700th match.

  • There are emergency phone calls we’ll miss if we’re not connected 24/7.

But living moment to moment with the fear of missing something isn’t how we’re built to live.

And it’s amazing how quickly, once we let go of that fear, we wake up from the illusion. When we unplug for more than a day, unsubscribe from those notifications, or go to Camp Grounded — the concerns we thought we’d have don’t actually happen.

We don’t miss what we don’t see.

The thought, “what if I miss something important?” is generated in advance of unplugging, unsubscribing, or turning off —  not after. Imagine if tech companies recognized that, and helped us proactively tune our relationships with friends and businesses in terms of what we define as “time well spent” for our lives, instead of in terms of what we might miss.

Hijack #4: Social Approval

 

Easily one of the most persuasive things a human being can receive.

We’re all vulnerable to social approval. The need to belong, to be approved or appreciated by our peers is among the highest human motivations. But now our social approval is in the hands of tech companies.

When I get tagged by my friend Marc, I imagine him making a conscious choice to tag me. But I don’t see how a company like Facebook orchestrated his doing that in the first place.

Facebook, Instagram or SnapChat can manipulate how often people get tagged in photos by automatically suggesting all the faces people should tag (e.g. by showing a box with a 1-click confirmation, “Tag Tristan in this photo?”).

So when Marc tags me, he’s actually responding to Facebook’s suggestion, not making an independent choice. But through design choices like this, Facebook controls the multiplier for how often millions of people experience their social approval on the line.

 

Facebook uses automatic suggestions like this to get people to tag more people, creating more social externalities and interruptions.

The same happens when we change our main profile photo — Facebook knows that’s a moment when we’re vulnerable to social approval: “what do my friends think of my new pic?” Facebook can rank this higher in the news feed, so it sticks around for longer and more friends will like or comment on it. Each time they like or comment on it, we’ll get pulled right back.

Everyone innately responds to social approval, but some demographics (teenagers) are more vulnerable to it than others. That’s why it’s so important to recognize how powerful designers are when they exploit this vulnerability.

 

Hijack #5: Social Reciprocity (Tit-for-tat)

  • You do me a favor, now I owe you one next time.

  • You say, “thank you”— I have to say “you’re welcome.”

  • You send me an email— it’s rude not to get back to you.

  • You follow me — it’s rude not to follow you back. (especially for teenagers)

We are vulnerable to needing to reciprocate others’ gestures. But as with Social Approval, tech companies now manipulate how often we experience it.

In some cases, it’s by accident. Email, texting and messaging apps are social reciprocity factories. But in other cases, companies exploit this vulnerability on purpose.

LinkedIn is the most obvious offender. LinkedIn wants as many people creating social obligations for each other as possible, because each time they reciprocate (by accepting a connection, responding to a message, or endorsing someone back for a skill) they have to come back to linkedin.com where they can get people to spend more time.

Like Facebook, LinkedIn exploits an asymmetry in perception. When you receive an invitation from someone to connect, you imagine that person making a conscious choice to invite you, when in reality, they likely unconsciously responded to LinkedIn’s list of suggested contacts. In other words, LinkedIn turns your unconscious impulses (to “add” a person) into new social obligations that millions of people feel obligated to repay. All while they profit from the time people spend doing it.

 

Imagine millions of people getting interrupted like this throughout their day, running around like chickens with their heads cut off, reciprocating each other — all designed by companies who profit from it.

Welcome to social media.

 

After accepting an endorsement, LinkedIn takes advantage of your bias to reciprocate by offering *four* additional people for you to endorse in return.

Imagine if technology companies had a responsibility to minimize social reciprocity. Or if there was an “FDA for Tech” that monitored when technology companies abused these biases?

 

Hijack #6: Bottomless bowls, Infinite Feeds, and Autoplay

 

YouTube autoplays the next video after a countdown

Another way to hijack people is to keep them consuming things, even when they aren’t hungry anymore.

How? Easy. Take an experience that was bounded and finite, and turn it into a bottomless flow that keeps going.

Cornell professor Brian Wansink demonstrated this in his study showing you can trick people into keep eating soup by giving them a bottomless bowl that automatically refills as they eat. With bottomless bowls, people eat 73% more calories than those with normal bowls and underestimate how many calories they ate by 140 calories.

Tech companies exploit the same principle. News feeds are purposely designed to auto-refill with reasons to keep you scrolling, and purposely eliminate any reason for you to pause, reconsider or leave.

It’s also why video and social media sites like Netflix, YouTube or Facebook autoplay the next video after a countdown instead of waiting for you to make a conscious choice (in case you won’t). A huge portion of traffic on these websites is driven by autoplaying the next thing.

 
 

Facebook autoplays the next video after a countdown

Tech companies often claim that “we’re just making it easier for users to see the video they want to watch” when they are actually serving their business interests. And you can’t blame them, because increasing “time spent” is the currency they compete for.

Instead, imagine if technology companies empowered you to consciously bound your experience to align with what would be “time well spent” for you. Not just bounding the quantity of time you spend, but the qualities of what would be “time well spent.”

Hijack #7: Instant Interruption vs. “Respectful” Delivery

Companies know that messages that interrupt people immediately are more persuasive at getting people to respond than messages delivered asynchronously (like email or any deferred inbox).

Given the choice, Facebook Messenger (or WhatsApp, WeChat or SnapChat for that matter) would prefer to design their messaging system to interrupt recipients immediately (and show a chat box) instead of helping users respect each other’s attention.

In other words, interruption is good for business.

It’s also in their interest to heighten the feeling of urgency and social reciprocity. For example, Facebook automatically tells the sender when you “saw” their message, instead of letting you avoid disclosing whether you read it (“now that you know I’ve seen the message, I feel even more obligated to respond.”)

By contrast, Apple more respectfully lets users toggle “Read Receipts” on or off.

The problem is, maximizing interruptions in the name of business creates a tragedy of the commons, ruining global attention spans and causing billions of unnecessary interruptions each day. This is a huge problem we need to fix with shared design standards (potentially, as part of Time Well Spent).

Hijack #8: Bundling Your Reasons with Their Reasons

Another way apps hijack you is by taking your reasons for visiting the app (to perform a task) and make them inseparable from the app’s business reasons (maximizing how much we consume once we’re there).

For example, in the physical world of grocery stories, the #1 and #2 most popular reasons to visit are pharmacy refills and buying milk. But grocery stores want to maximize how much people buy, so they put the pharmacy and the milk at the back of the store.

In other words, they make the thing customers want (milk, pharmacy) inseparable from what the business wants. If stores were truly organized to support people, they would put the most popular items in the front.

Tech companies design their websites the same way. For example, when you you want to look up a Facebook event happening tonight (your reason) the Facebook app doesn’t allow you to access it without first landing on the news feed (their reasons), and that’s on purpose. Facebook wants to convert every reason you have for using Facebook, into their reason which is to maximize the time you spend consuming things.

In an ideal world, apps would always give you a direct way to get what you want separately from what they want.

Imagine a digital “bill of rights” outlining design standards that forced the products used by billions of people to support empowering ways for them to navigate toward their goals.

Hijack #9: Inconvenient Choices

We’re told that it’s enough for businesses to “make choices available.”

  • “If you don’t like it you can always use a different product.”

  • “If you don’t like it, you can always unsubscribe.”

  • “If you’re addicted to our app, you can always uninstall it from your phone.”

Businesses naturally want to make the choices they want you to make easier, and the choices they don’t want you to make harder. Magicians do the same thing. You make it easier for a spectator to pick the thing you want them to pick, and harder to pick the thing you don’t.

For example, NYTimes.com lets you “make a free choice” to cancel your digital subscription. But instead of just doing it when you hit “Cancel Subscription,” they send you an email with information on how to cancel your account by calling a phone number that’s only open at certain times.

 

NYTimes claims it’s giving a free choice to cancel your account

Instead of viewing the world in terms of availability of choices, we should view the world in terms of friction required to enact choices. Imagine a world where choices were labeled with how difficult they were to fulfill (like coefficients of friction) and there was an FDA for Tech that labeled these difficulties and set standards for how easy navigation should be.

Hijack #10: Forecasting Errors, “Foot in the Door” strategies

 

Facebook promises an easy choice to “See Photo.” Would we still click if it gave the true price tag?

Lastly, apps can exploit people’s inability to forecast consequences of a click.

People don’t intuitively forecast the true cost of a click when it’s presented to them. Sales people use “foot in the door” techniques by asking for a small innocuous request to begin with (“just one click to see which tweet got retweeted”) and escalate from there (“why don’t you stay awhile?”). Virtually all engagement websites use this trick.

Imagine if web browsers and smartphones, the gateways through which people make these choices, were truly watching out for people and helped them forecast the consequences of clicks (based on real data about what it actually costs most people?).

That’s why I add “Estimated reading time” to the top of my posts. When you put the “true cost” of a choice in front of people, you’re treating your users or audience with dignity and respect. In a Time Well Spent internet, choices could be framed in terms of projected cost and benefit, so people were empowered to make informed choices by default, not by doing extra work.

 

TripAdvisor uses a “foot in the door” technique by asking for a single click review (“How many stars?”) while hiding the three page survey of questions behind the click.

Summary And How We Can Fix This

Are you upset that technology hijacks your agency? I am too. I’ve listed a few techniques but there are literally thousands. Imagine whole bookshelves, seminars, workshops and trainings that teach aspiring tech entrepreneurs techniques like this. They exist.

The ultimate freedom is a free mind, and we need technology that’s on our team to help us live, feel, think and act freely.

We need our smartphones, notifications screens and web browsers to be exoskeletons for our minds and interpersonal relationships that put our values, not our impulses, first. People’s time is valuable. And we should protect it with the same rigor as privacy and other digital rights.

Tristan Harris was Product Philosopher at Google until 2016 where he studied how technology affects a billion people’s attention, wellbeing and behavior. For more resources on Time Well Spent, see http://timewellspent.io.

 

Nothing has changed the business environment more than the WWW, in the last 20 years. With the Apple platform and its glittering array of devices supporting the online Google, Facebook and Twitter portals the customer is not only right … the customer rules!

24-7-visibility

Customers today, in their own right, are global publishers, broadcasters, niche marketers, content-providers and network producers and they are well aware of the fact. It’s business heaven 24/7.

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A thinker is a sovereign individual who consciously values the natural rights of thinkers. The School of Thinking supports the natural rights of thinkers. Here are ten thinkers rights which are supported by the School of Thinking.

A Universal Declaration of Thinkers Rights

 

1. As thinkers, we have the right to use thinking in a quiet and confident manner.
2. As thinkers, we have the right to have pride in our thinking skill.
3. As thinkers, we have the right to use that skill and to consider a “thinking reaction” rather than a reaction based on emotion or experience alone. The thinking might make use of experience and emotion, but these would be part of the thinking instead of controlling it.
4. A thinker has the right to escape from current views of situations and to search for much better views of situations.
 
5. A thinker has the universal right to be wrong.
6. A thinker does not have to defend a point of view at all costs. There is the right to see other points of view and the right to design a much better decision.
7. A thinker has the right to acquire wisdom or to seek it out wherever it may be found. Wisdom is quite distinct from the sort of cleverness that is taught in school. Cleverness may be useful for dealing with set puzzles or defending local truths but wisdom is required for designing a safer future.
8. A thinker has the right to get on with his or her own work and to get along with other thinkers and if things go wrong a thinker has the right to think things through and to fix them without creating a fuss.
9. A thinker has the right to spell out the factors involved in a situation and also the reasons behind a decision.
10. Above all, a thinker has the right to be asked to think about something, to focus thinking in a deliberate manner upon any subject. Thinking can be used as a tool by the thinker at will. The use of this tool can be enjoyable whatever the outcome. This applied thinking is practical–the sort of thinking that is required to get things done.
- Adapted from the Learn-To-Think Coursebook and Instructors Manual © 1982 Michael Hewitt-Gleeson and Edward de Bono, Capra New USA.