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Do you realise you make about 35,000 decisions a day?  Quick ones like whether to have cereal or toast, other bigger ones like should I change accountants?   The skill of being decisive is highly valued and the one most desired in leaders.

Yet, according to a new book on How Women Decide by Therese Huston,  there is a  big double standard regarding the way men and women are perceived as decision makers.    Women often tend to be more collaborative and get more information before deciding.  Ironically this is seen as a weakness yet the decisions coming with collaboration are far better than those without.

Women also perform better under pressure and in fact the closer they get to a deadline or stressful event , the better their decision making skills.  What is happening then if men are respected as the better decision-makers more than women?  

What does this mean?  We have unwittingly taken on beliefs that women are poor decision makers but the reverse is in fact true.  Women may take more time to decide and get more input but this leads to stronger more effective decisions.  

Changing this stereotype will take awareness and time.  Just reading this article is one way to start. 

 Therese Huston  How Women Decide: What's True, What's Not, and What Strategies Spark the  Best Choices              Houghton Mifflin Harcourt               2016

The way humans interact is something that researchers have been observing for years.  The advent of technology has made this an even more interesting area.  At Yale's Human Nature Lab they have worked out four ways that online networks are different to real-life communications.  

The first is the much larger scale and number of relationships that can be tracked.  Secondly, technology allows for greater specificity in searches eg a retired Danish veterinarian!  Thirdly large groups of people can be organised to work together.  Lastly,  virtuality allows people to use avatars, switch genders and reinvent themselves.

They have also found that although technology has changed communication in incredible ways that the basis of our networking has not changed.

You might be familiar with the "Six degrees of separation rule".  This means that on average every person on the planet is six handshakes away from any other person.

The interesting finding from Yale is what they call a "three-degrees-of-influence-rule".  This means that when you take an action it doesn't just impact the people to whom you are directly connected.  A form of social contagion takes place and your behaviour affects your friend's friends at two degrees of separation and your friend's friend's friend at three degrees of separation.  It then fades away.

It is the "three-degrees-of -influence rule" that fascinates me as we are often not aware of the impact, positively or negatively of our actions on others.  It is perhaps one reason why gossip is so dangerous and why we might take on being more responsible for our actions.

Source:    The Sydney Morning Herald 16/9/2016 p  3               Marcus Strom  Six Degrees of Separation
Cognitive reservoir
Congratulations all of you in reader land who are reading my these items.  In reading and thinking about my comments you are increasing your cognitive reservoir.

In case you didn't know, the cognitive reservoir  is a brain 'capacity' that is thought to increase with complicated brain activity like education.  The reason this could be important to you is that it may be protective against the onset of dementia. 
Brain activity such as improving one's education and thinking outside the box means that extra connections (synapses) and pathways are produced by the brain. 

It is thought that these activities might enable people to compensate for the onset of pathology caused by neurodegenerative diseases like dementia.

Dementia is emerging as a significant global health issue with the ageing of populations around the world. If preventing dementia or delaying its onset is of interest to you then you might like to check out the University of Tasmania's free online Preventing Dementia course.  

This is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).
The MOOC examines the evidence for potentially modifiable risk factors for dementia. By addressing such risk factors, it may be possible to reduce the ageing-related prevalence of dementia.

Challenging the brain with new ideas helps to develop new neural pathways and it seems that the more pathways we have in our brains the better able we are to cope when some fail and continuing education is an excellent way to build our cognitive reservoir.
Can you stop at a couple of cashews?

There is a wonderful story about the economist Richard Thaler.  One night in 1975 he invited a group of his graduate students to dinner.   While they waited for dinner he put out some cashews. 
After a while he noticed that the cashews were disappearing at a rapid rate and his guests were unlikely to then be hungry for the meal he cooked.  He took the cashews away.  His dinner guests thanked him for doing so.

This was a light-bulb moment.  He wondered if we are all rational human beings and we have control over our appetites and urges then why did they eat more cashews than they needed?  

He concluded that contrary to conventional thinking of the time, we all have trouble stopping ourselves from doing what we'll regret.  In one part of our lives or another we have a problem with self-control.  And if someone stops us we are usually grateful rather than resentful when people hold us to account.  This thinking inspired Thaler to develop the school of behavioural economics.

In politics, globally and in our own lives it is likely we are aware that we have non-rational behaviour that is predictable,  and we would be wise to take it into account when judging ourselves or others.

Source:                                                                                              Ross Gittins Lessons from the cashew binge good to digest           The Sydney Morning Herald 22/4/2016
Is gender language coming to a finish?    

The  Finns think that their gender neutral language has helped them establish equality of the sexes.    

Teachers in Finland are instructed to adopt principles of collectivity, responsibility and equality.  Absence of lack of of gender in the Finnish language means that the language only has one pronoun not only for first and second person but also in the third person and plural.

Finnish nouns have no gender, in fact people have no gender.  The word for 'he' and 'she' is the same, the masculine ' han'.  The word 'it' is even becoming more prevalent eg "It is getting married next week' and  'it loves skiing'. 

When it was first brought in to Finland and Sweden,  gender-neutral language was  frustrating and cumbersome.  But this was because it was new, not because it was difficult to use.  When the public service established gender-neutral language, they helped this language become part of the common usage.  This then sets an example demonstrating that gender-neutral language is just as easy to use as gendered language.

The introduction of gender-neutral pronouns in Sweden for example,  was  firstly met with hostile reactions and negative attitudes, but over the course of only a couple of years, attitudes became largely positive. 

Sweden and Finland have more than 40% of women in their political ranks.  Spain has 40%, Slovenia 33%, China 23%, Indonesia 17%,  Turkey 15%, Australia 14%, Romania 13% and India 12%.  The use of gender neutral language is considered a major contributor to the empowerment of women.  And women do account for more than 50% of the population! 

What is it going to take for women to break through this glass ceiling and reach for the sky? 

Gender neutral language seems to be  part of the solution. 

Facts and Figures: Leadership and Political Participation

I help people to communicate with generosity, responsibility and integrity.

Roz Townsend