2 Strategies for Stress Response
Stress-related diseases claim the lives of millions of people every year. And the number is, unfortunately, only going up.
And for every person who dies because of chronic stress, there are many more who suffer and can’t enjoy their lives to the fullest.
Stress in itself is not going to make your heart fail. It’s our stress response systems that have the potential to do a lot of long-term damage. One important thing to note is that stress response systems are perfectly tuned for short-term activation (e.g. running away from a stressor) but were not built for being activated continuously and in absence of physical activity. This is why continuous worrying combined with the lack of bursts of physical activity can make you sick.
Bottom line at this point:

Worry less, Run more.


The details of how we respond to stress are even more interesting and add a second layer of complexity to the picture.
Broadly speaking, scientists have so far identified two major “strategies” for stress-response that humans employ:
Fight or Flight (Walter Cannon)
Tend and Befriend (Shelley Taylor)
Fight-or-flight, as the name suggests, assumes that you will either have to fight with the stressor (e.g. predator) or run away from it as fast as you can. Both require your muscles and heart to work harder, pain to feel less painful etc. This makes a lot of sense for the short-term, but if youturn this mode on too often or for too long, then your heart and associated systems start to wear out.
Tend and befriend, on the opposite, assumes that in order for you and your offspring to survive the stressor you need to hug your loved ones, tell them everything is going to be all right, and then try to cooperate with others so that you can all survive together. This also makes a lot of sense and while it may be less efficient in case you are alone and the lion is hunting you down it may be way more efficient in a lot of other circumstances.
The most wonderful thing is that - we all have capacity for both strategies. It’s true that there is a statistically significant gender difference: men are much more likely to rely on fight-or-flight and women on tend-and-befriend. But in reality both men and women show ability to do both.
We can combine two strategies, alterate between them depending on the circumstances and so on. Too much of any of the response strategies is probably not good, but a little bit of everything can depending on the circumstances, I believe, help us cope better with the modern kind of stress (we don’t run away from predators too often, but instead worry about our economy while on a couch too much).
Bottom line:

When in trouble (especially if you happen to be a male) double check if fight-or-flight is the right way to respond, or may be a little bit of tend-and-befriend is going to work better.


We are just scratching the surface and vastly oversimplifying here.
For much more details please check Robert Sapolsky’s excellent book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”.
And his Stanford Course on Human Behavioral Biology (available on Youtube) will totally blow your mind.
Editable version of this OneSlide is available as a Google Slides and you can print it from there as well:
https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/19Cl1BB85D4zvv3ltt224BHi7Nugp003GCt1_e2sy1NY/edit?usp=sharing 

2 Strategies for Stress Response

Stress-related diseases claim the lives of millions of people every year. And the number is, unfortunately, only going up.

And for every person who dies because of chronic stress, there are many more who suffer and can’t enjoy their lives to the fullest.

Stress in itself is not going to make your heart fail. It’s our stress response systems that have the potential to do a lot of long-term damage. One important thing to note is that stress response systems are perfectly tuned for short-term activation (e.g. running away from a stressor) but were not built for being activated continuously and in absence of physical activity. This is why continuous worrying combined with the lack of bursts of physical activity can make you sick.

Bottom line at this point:

Worry less, Run more.

The details of how we respond to stress are even more interesting and add a second layer of complexity to the picture.

Broadly speaking, scientists have so far identified two major “strategies” for stress-response that humans employ:

  1. Fight or Flight (Walter Cannon)
  2. Tend and Befriend (Shelley Taylor)

Fight-or-flight, as the name suggests, assumes that you will either have to fight with the stressor (e.g. predator) or run away from it as fast as you can. Both require your muscles and heart to work harder, pain to feel less painful etc. This makes a lot of sense for the short-term, but if youturn this mode on too often or for too long, then your heart and associated systems start to wear out.

Tend and befriend, on the opposite, assumes that in order for you and your offspring to survive the stressor you need to hug your loved ones, tell them everything is going to be all right, and then try to cooperate with others so that you can all survive together. This also makes a lot of sense and while it may be less efficient in case you are alone and the lion is hunting you down it may be way more efficient in a lot of other circumstances.

The most wonderful thing is that - we all have capacity for both strategies. It’s true that there is a statistically significant gender difference: men are much more likely to rely on fight-or-flight and women on tend-and-befriend. But in reality both men and women show ability to do both.

We can combine two strategies, alterate between them depending on the circumstances and so on. Too much of any of the response strategies is probably not good, but a little bit of everything can depending on the circumstances, I believe, help us cope better with the modern kind of stress (we don’t run away from predators too often, but instead worry about our economy while on a couch too much).

Bottom line:

When in trouble (especially if you happen to be a male) double check if fight-or-flight is the right way to respond, or may be a little bit of tend-and-befriend is going to work better.

We are just scratching the surface and vastly oversimplifying here.

For much more details please check Robert Sapolsky’s excellent book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”.

And his Stanford Course on Human Behavioral Biology (available on Youtube) will totally blow your mind.

Editable version of this OneSlide is available as a Google Slides and you can print it from there as well:

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/19Cl1BB85D4zvv3ltt224BHi7Nugp003GCt1_e2sy1NY/edit?usp=sharing 

I came across the notion of the “Circle of Empathy” in Jaron Lanier’s writing. You can get a taste of Jaron’s brilliance here: http://edge.org/conversation/one-half-a-manifesto and here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9eFZpdSeRU. Broadly speaking, the concept itself is simple: there are things (and people) you care about, and things that you don’t care about. Circle size is arbitrary. The border is blurry. A lot of what we think, feel and do can be explained or made sense of through this simple frame. One aspect of the concept though caught my attention: if asked whether you care about other people you don’t know - most of us would say yes. I definitely like to think that I care about every being in the universe and wish them all the best. Yet this caring very rarely translates into any action. I actually do (or even have potential to do) anything good or useful for very few people. The reason is - even though I care about all, I don’t really know the vast majority of them or spend time interacting with them or even thinking about them. My attention is (disproportionately) consumed by very few things or people. Which is probably good. If it was spread equally across the universe I would cease to exist. So now we have two circles: Circle of Empathy and Circle of Attention. And where they intersect - what we find is a territory that we can call Active Compassion Zone. If you care for somebody and pay a lot of attention to them at the same time - this is where you have real potential to make a difference. This (obviously oversimplified) venn diagram provokes a few interesting questions. To name a few: Why do we spend so much of our limited attention on people and things that we don’t care about? Most people, unfortunately, don’t empathise a lot with their Clients, or bosses. Yet they spend most of their lives paying attention to them. Assuming that human ability for both attention and empathy is limited, what could we do to align the circles better and thus maximize the area of active compassion? Is it true that both attention and empathy are limited resources? I.E. Is there a limited volume of attention, empathy or both? If yes - it would mean that if you spread it further and extend the reach, then you have to make it thinner. It sounds reasonable to say that if you try to pay attention to more things, each thing gets less attention. But is the same true for Empathy as well? I hope not. But that’s a different topic. If we put Buddhist concepts into the framework, then reaching Nirvana can be seen as extending both your Circle of Empathy and your Circle of Attention to the infinity. Bodhisattvas then choose to shrink their circle of Attention back to a sizeable scale and through Active Compassion start to help others. It’s beautiful when people bring what’s in the Circle of Empathy into their Circle of Attention, and vice versa. A lot of great art is doing just that. Good human-centered design can also be seen through this framework. Education has a long way to go. It’s over-focused on attention and doesn’t pay nearly enough attention to empathy. Anyway, you see where I’m going with it. I will be working hard to align my own circles better in the future. Editable Google Slide: http://goo.gl/fbqfkI

I came across the notion of the “Circle of Empathy” in Jaron Lanier’s writing.
You can get a taste of Jaron’s brilliance here: http://edge.org/conversation/one-half-a-manifesto and here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9eFZpdSeRU.

Broadly speaking, the concept itself is simple: there are things (and people) you care about, and things that you don’t care about. Circle size is arbitrary. The border is blurry.
A lot of what we think, feel and do can be explained or made sense of through this simple frame.

One aspect of the concept though caught my attention: if asked whether you care about other people you don’t know - most of us would say yes. I definitely like to think that I care about every being in the universe and wish them all the best.

Yet this caring very rarely translates into any action. I actually do (or even have potential to do) anything good or useful for very few people. The reason is - even though I care about all, I don’t really know the vast majority of them or spend time interacting with them or even thinking about them.
My attention is (disproportionately) consumed by very few things or people. Which is probably good. If it was spread equally across the universe I would cease to exist.

So now we have two circles: Circle of Empathy and Circle of Attention. And where they intersect - what we find is a territory that we can call Active Compassion Zone. If you care for somebody and pay a lot of attention to them at the same time - this is where you have real potential to make a difference.

This (obviously oversimplified) venn diagram provokes a few interesting questions. To name a few:
Why do we spend so much of our limited attention on people and things that we don’t care about? Most people, unfortunately, don’t empathise a lot with their Clients, or bosses. Yet they spend most of their lives paying attention to them.
Assuming that human ability for both attention and empathy is limited, what could we do to align the circles better and thus maximize the area of active compassion?
Is it true that both attention and empathy are limited resources? I.E. Is there a limited volume of attention, empathy or both? If yes - it would mean that if you spread it further and extend the reach, then you have to make it thinner. It sounds reasonable to say that if you try to pay attention to more things, each thing gets less attention. But is the same true for Empathy as well? I hope not. But that’s a different topic.

If we put Buddhist concepts into the framework, then reaching Nirvana can be seen as extending both your Circle of Empathy and your Circle of Attention to the infinity.
Bodhisattvas then choose to shrink their circle of Attention back to a sizeable scale and through Active Compassion start to help others.

It’s beautiful when people bring what’s in the Circle of Empathy into their Circle of Attention, and vice versa. A lot of great art is doing just that. Good human-centered design can also be seen through this framework.
Education has a long way to go. It’s over-focused on attention and doesn’t pay nearly enough attention to empathy.

Anyway, you see where I’m going with it. I will be working hard to align my own circles better in the future.

Editable Google Slide: http://goo.gl/fbqfkI

"Want" is a funny word. In reality my attitude changes depending on whether the thing that I want is in the future, in the present or in the past. After you’ve eaten too much you probably wish you haven’t. But you ordered your food while you were hungry and then you wanted to finish it all because it was too tasty. So there are 3 horizons of “want” and it’s interesting to be aware of all of them. When I am making a decision whether to do something or not - I am naturally before it and so I get biased and make decisions that in the aftermath are of no satisfaction. But if while making a decision I am aware of all the 3 horizons, then I’m likely to do better. After all, why eat this extra food now if in the “after” I will not want to have done it? Or if I know that for certain things most enjoyment comes “before” through anticipation, then why ever rush that part? Applying “Total Want” thinking has helped me make better choices on a daily basis, maximizing total satisfaction / impact from things that I buy and do, not just the immediate one. It may help you too. Editable .svg: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/OneSlide_3_Horizons_of_Want.svg Printable .pdf: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/OneSlide_3_Horizons_of_Want.pdf

"Want" is a funny word. In reality my attitude changes depending on whether the thing that I want is in the future, in the present or in the past.

After you’ve eaten too much you probably wish you haven’t. But you ordered your food while you were hungry and then you wanted to finish it all because it was too tasty.

So there are 3 horizons of “want” and it’s interesting to be aware of all of them. When I am making a decision whether to do something or not - I am naturally before it and so I get biased and make decisions that in the aftermath are of no satisfaction.

But if while making a decision I am aware of all the 3 horizons, then I’m likely to do better.

After all, why eat this extra food now if in the “after” I will not want to have done it?
Or if I know that for certain things most enjoyment comes “before” through anticipation, then why ever rush that part?

Applying “Total Want” thinking has helped me make better choices on a daily basis, maximizing total satisfaction / impact from things that I buy and do, not just the immediate one.

It may help you too.

Editable .svg: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/OneSlide_3_Horizons_of_Want.svg

Printable .pdf: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/OneSlide_3_Horizons_of_Want.pdf

Simple methodology for screening ideas, by Blueshift. It’s important to notice the ‘triple bottomline’ approach. Because both cost and impact have to be discussed not just in terms of money, but also in terms of how it will affect individual people, whole societies and the planet as well. Remix, share & build upon. Printable .pdf: https://db.tt/iC89BHFB Google slide source: http://goo.gl/o3p3ak

Simple methodology for screening ideas, by Blueshift.
It’s important to notice the ‘triple bottomline’ approach. Because both cost and impact have to be discussed not just in terms of money, but also in terms of how it will affect individual people, whole societies and the planet as well.

Remix, share & build upon.
Printable .pdf: https://db.tt/iC89BHFB
Google slide source: http://goo.gl/o3p3ak

Traditional economists think of me as of somebody who makes only rational decisions, somebody entirely driven by a brain, calculating optimal utility functions. That’s obviously far away from being true. A slightly better model would account for the fact that I have two more things on top of (or below?) the brain: 1) a body and 2) a soul. My decisions are a result of some arguments between the three of them, strongly influenced by context and chemistry inside me. This slightly better (but still oversimplified) theory helps me approach designing products, services and communications that trigger more of the driving forces behind people’s decision-making, not just one. You may find this useful as well. As always, feel free to reuse, remix & build upon. Google Slide: http://goo.gl/O3csSp PDF: https://db.tt/I5m5jLdo

Traditional economists think of me as of somebody who makes only rational decisions, somebody entirely driven by a brain, calculating optimal utility functions. That’s obviously far away from being true.

A slightly better model would account for the fact that I have two more things on top of (or below?) the brain: 1) a body and 2) a soul.
My decisions are a result of some arguments between the three of them, strongly influenced by context and chemistry inside me.

This slightly better (but still oversimplified) theory helps me approach designing products, services and communications that trigger more of the driving forces behind people’s decision-making, not just one.

You may find this useful as well.

As always, feel free to reuse, remix & build upon.

Google Slide: http://goo.gl/O3csSp
PDF: https://db.tt/I5m5jLdo

Here is a beautiful urban legend for you: Once a tribesman asked an anthropologist what the key difference was between people of their tribe and the modern, ‘civilized’ men. The anthropologist answered, that a modern man can feel one thing, think another thing and say something else altogether. The tribesman had a hard time understanding what the anthropologist meant. Once he finally got it, he said: “Oh, don’t you ever do that, my friend. You’ll get very sick very soon if you do”. I think this story should be taken more seriously by a lot of modern brands (let alone people). Too many of them have a wide gap between (a) what they feel and believe in [their heart], (b) what they think [their brain], (c) what they make [their hands] and (d) what they say [their mouth]. I wish more people and more brands spoke from their heart. Hell, I wish more brands had a heart in the first place. As a marketer, I know that more often than not, brands actually do have a heart, but they tend to forget about it too often. Then what they think, what they make and what say gets disconnected, lost and heartless. And then they get sick. ============================= As always, feel free to share, remix and build upon. Printable .pdf: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/Oneslide_Brand_anatomy.pdf Editable source .svg: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/Oneslide_Brand_anatomy.svg

Here is a beautiful urban legend for you:

Once a tribesman asked an anthropologist what the key difference was between people of their tribe and the modern, ‘civilized’ men.
The anthropologist answered, that a modern man can feel one thing, think another thing and say something else altogether.
The tribesman had a hard time understanding what the anthropologist meant. Once he finally got it, he said: “Oh, don’t you ever do that, my friend. You’ll get very sick very soon if you do”.

I think this story should be taken more seriously by a lot of modern brands (let alone people).
Too many of them have a wide gap between (a) what they feel and believe in [their heart], (b) what they think [their brain], (c) what they make [their hands] and (d) what they say [their mouth].

I wish more people and more brands spoke from their heart. Hell, I wish more brands had a heart in the first place.

As a marketer, I know that more often than not, brands actually do have a heart, but they tend to forget about it too often. Then what they think, what they make and what say gets disconnected, lost and heartless. And then they get sick.

=============================
As always, feel free to share, remix and build upon.

Printable .pdf: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/Oneslide_Brand_anatomy.pdf

Editable source .svg: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/Oneslide_Brand_anatomy.svg

This is the ultimate behavior change brief, a distilled version of everything that I’ve used over the years as a planner. (C) and (D) are important. For (C) - understanding what our Target Audience currently does (instead of doing what we want them to do) gives critical insight into what we are competing against. In today’s world we are very likely to find ourselves competing for the audience’s time, attention and money outside the category. As for (D) - understanding (or having a working hypothesis of) the drivers or circumstances that can trigger behavior change is vital. In fact if the hypothesis is right - your job is half done, since you know what you need to accomplish with your communications (or whatever else you may choose as your behavior-changing weapon). An excellent planner will give you all: (A), (B), (C) and a few options for (D). An average planner will give you just (A) and (B). But that’s good enough. You can start exploring from there. A useless planner will only give you some non-essential information about (A) and a lot of other largely useless data. Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion and in no way does it represent an opinion of any company I work for or ever worked for. Feel free to comment, remix, and reuse freely. Printable .pdf: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/Oneslide_Ultimate_behavior_change_brief.pdf Editable .svg: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/Oneslide_Ultimate_behavior_change_brief.svg

This is the ultimate behavior change brief, a distilled version of everything that I’ve used over the years as a planner.

(C) and (D) are important.

For (C) - understanding what our Target Audience currently does (instead of doing what we want them to do) gives critical insight into what we are competing against. In today’s world we are very likely to find ourselves competing for the audience’s time, attention and money outside the category.

As for (D) - understanding (or having a working hypothesis of) the drivers or circumstances that can trigger behavior change is vital. In fact if the hypothesis is right - your job is half done, since you know what you need to accomplish with your communications (or whatever else you may choose as your behavior-changing weapon).

An excellent planner will give you all: (A), (B), (C) and a few options for (D).

An average planner will give you just (A) and (B). But that’s good enough. You can start exploring from there.

A useless planner will only give you some non-essential information about (A) and a lot of other largely useless data.

Disclaimer:
This is my personal opinion and in no way does it represent an opinion of any company I work for or ever worked for.

Feel free to comment, remix, and reuse freely.

Printable .pdf: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/Oneslide_Ultimate_behavior_change_brief.pdf
Editable .svg: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/Oneslide_Ultimate_behavior_change_brief.svg

One of the greatest pleasures in life is finding things out. Especially finding how things work. I believe there are two general strategies / methods for active learning that we (humans) use. Note the word ‘active’. Passive learning is different and in my experience dramatically less effective. Now back to the 2 methods of active learning. 1. Taking things apart. This is the obvious one: if you want to know how something works - take it apart and see what it’s made of. Taking things apart has allowed us as a species to dive deep into what matter is made of. We’ve been creatively braking things to figure out what they are made of and how they work for quite a while. Small children start doing that way before they learn how to speak. Yet there are a few shortcomings to this method. Let me highlight 2 that I find most interesting: a) First, sometimes as soon as you take a thing apart - you break it completely and all the traces of behavior you were interested in - are gone. b) Second, sometimes you simply can’t figure out how a thing works by taking it apart. Because the exhibited behavior of the thing and of its parts (in a rich and complex environment) seems to be too complex to give you hints of how the whole thing actually does what it does. Human brain is a good example - even with the recent advances of mapping activities to individual neurons fundamental questions about how we think are still up there, largely not answered. This is where Computational / AI methods of research come into play. Methods that instead of taking the real brain apart, try to put an artificial one together and through that learn how thinking in general works. 2. Putting things together. Putting things together to learn how something works - this may sound counterintuitive and yet is extremely powerful. Consider a toddler, trying to learn how language works. Taking language apart and identifying underlying grammatical structure is beyond her capability of concentration and logical thinking. Yet she is fully capable of (gradually) grasping the language by putting what she already has (sounds of her baby-speak) together in a variety of ways and applying it to where adults usually apply language. Over time and after much trial and error - she gets it. Just like toddlers, scientists now have to use this method more and more whenever they are faced with behaviors that are too complex to analyze by taking them apart. Human brain? A lot of our current understanding of how it works comes not from just taking it apart, but from putting crude models together and seeing where they fit and where they break. ‘Putting things together’ method is, in my view, undervalued. Given Braitenberg’s law of ‘uphill analysis and downhill synthesis’, it can often get us to better results more efficiently. The major problem with this method though is that one can always put up a ‘qualia’ argument. How do we know that your model that seems to exhibit the same behavior as our object of study, is internally similar as well? There is no answer. People around you may well be zombies pretending that they think, but ‘actually’ not doing it at all. Personally I have a pragmatic viewpoint on this. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then most likely it’s a duck after all. Now the most important thing. I believe active learning at its best is always a combination of 2 approaches described above. The process can start anywhere, but has to go through the cycles of ‘putting things together’, ‘taking them apart’ and in always looking carefully at how things brake (because those edge cases are pointing us to the essential components of complex behavior that we are studying). As we learn how to think and investigate the world better (and teach our kids to do it as well), let us not forget about the power of putting things together as a way of learning how things work. Let’s build models (if only mental ones) & watch them brake. Making something may very well be one of the most powerful ways of learning how it works. P.S. As you may have noticed, this approach is applicable not only to finding how existing things work, but also to designing new things. Because essentially design process is an exploration of how something (that doesn’t exist yet) should work. And if viewed from this angle, design process is simply learning how the thing you are trying to design works. You can take a vague idea (or a possibility) of a new thing and try to take it apart in your mind’s eye. Then you can switch over to putting (already available) things together in a way that would crudely represent the thing you are trying to design. Then you see where your model fits and pay particular attention to where it breaks. This gives you more insights about how the ‘real’ thing should work. Repeat this process over and over and you may end up with a good new thing. But that’s a different topic altogether. Read more: Lev Vygotsky, Jean Piaget, Valentino Braitenberg, Seymour Papert Download this Oneslide source: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/Oneslide_2_ways_of_finding_how_things_work.svg Download printable A4 version: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/Oneslide_2_ways_of_finding_how_things_work.pdf

One of the greatest pleasures in life is finding things out. Especially finding how things work.
I believe there are two general strategies / methods for active learning that we (humans) use. Note the word ‘active’. Passive learning is different and in my experience dramatically less effective. Now back to the 2 methods of active learning.

1. Taking things apart.
This is the obvious one: if you want to know how something works - take it apart and see what it’s made of.
Taking things apart has allowed us as a species to dive deep into what matter is made of. We’ve been creatively braking things to figure out what they are made of and how they work for quite a while. Small children start doing that way before they learn how to speak.
Yet there are a few shortcomings to this method. Let me highlight 2 that I find most interesting:
a) First, sometimes as soon as you take a thing apart - you break it completely and all the traces of behavior you were interested in - are gone.
b) Second, sometimes you simply can’t figure out how a thing works by taking it apart. Because the exhibited behavior of the thing and of its parts (in a rich and complex environment) seems to be too complex to give you hints of how the whole thing actually does what it does. Human brain is a good example - even with the recent advances of mapping activities to individual neurons fundamental questions about how we think are still up there, largely not answered. This is where Computational / AI methods of research come into play. Methods that instead of taking the real brain apart, try to put an artificial one together and through that learn how thinking in general works.

2. Putting things together.
Putting things together to learn how something works - this may sound counterintuitive and yet is extremely powerful. Consider a toddler, trying to learn how language works. Taking language apart and identifying underlying grammatical structure is beyond her capability of concentration and logical thinking. Yet she is fully capable of (gradually) grasping the language by putting what she already has (sounds of her baby-speak) together in a variety of ways and applying it to where adults usually apply language. Over time and after much trial and error - she gets it. Just like toddlers, scientists now have to use this method more and more whenever they are faced with behaviors that are too complex to analyze by taking them apart. Human brain? A lot of our current understanding of how it works comes not from just taking it apart, but from putting crude models together and seeing where they fit and where they break.
‘Putting things together’ method is, in my view, undervalued. Given Braitenberg’s law of ‘uphill analysis and downhill synthesis’, it can often get us to better results more efficiently.
The major problem with this method though is that one can always put up a ‘qualia’ argument. How do we know that your model that seems to exhibit the same behavior as our object of study, is internally similar as well? There is no answer. People around you may well be zombies pretending that they think, but ‘actually’ not doing it at all.
Personally I have a pragmatic viewpoint on this. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then most likely it’s a duck after all.

Now the most important thing.
I believe active learning at its best is always a combination of 2 approaches described above. The process can start anywhere, but has to go through the cycles of ‘putting things together’, ‘taking them apart’ and in always looking carefully at how things brake (because those edge cases are pointing us to the essential components of complex behavior that we are studying).

As we learn how to think and investigate the world better (and teach our kids to do it as well), let us not forget about the power of putting things together as a way of learning how things work. Let’s build models (if only mental ones) & watch them brake. Making something may very well be one of the most powerful ways of learning how it works.

P.S.
As you may have noticed, this approach is applicable not only to finding how existing things work, but also to designing new things. Because essentially design process is an exploration of how something (that doesn’t exist yet) should work. And if viewed from this angle, design process is simply learning how the thing you are trying to design works. You can take a vague idea (or a possibility) of a new thing and try to take it apart in your mind’s eye. Then you can switch over to putting (already available) things together in a way that would crudely represent the thing you are trying to design. Then you see where your model fits and pay particular attention to where it breaks. This gives you more insights about how the ‘real’ thing should work. Repeat this process over and over and you may end up with a good new thing.
But that’s a different topic altogether.

Read more:
Lev Vygotsky, Jean Piaget, Valentino Braitenberg, Seymour Papert

Download this Oneslide source: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/Oneslide_2_ways_of_finding_how_things_work.svg

Download printable A4 version: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/Oneslide_2_ways_of_finding_how_things_work.pdf

This is a little visual improvisation on my favorite Broken Windows Theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_windows_theory), which provides an interesting insight into human collective behavior. We behave like crowds even if we don’t see each other and are separated by time, provided that there is a common environment that we can all affect and that affects us all. As always, feel free to remix, reuse and share. .svg source: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/Oneslide_broken_windows_theory.svg .pdf printable edition: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/Oneslide_broken_windows_theory.pdf

This is a little visual improvisation on my favorite Broken Windows Theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_windows_theory), which provides an interesting insight into human collective behavior. We behave like crowds even if we don’t see each other and are separated by time, provided that there is a common environment that we can all affect and that affects us all.

As always, feel free to remix, reuse and share.

.svg source: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/Oneslide_broken_windows_theory.svg

.pdf printable edition: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/552834/oneslide/Oneslide_broken_windows_theory.pdf

3 Circles of Customer Value  Imagine you are an owner of a small restaurant. One day a guy walks in and orders a soup. Here are 3 horizons (circles) for you to think about the value of this person for your business: This guy is going to pay me 10 bucks, but my total costs to make and serve the soup are 8 bucks, so I’ve just made 2 bucks. Cool! According to the above I’ve just made 2 bucks, but if this guy likes the soup and he is a local, he can come for lunch every day for the coming 45 years. That’s a fortune. Awesome! 45*365*2 = 32850 bucks that I’m going to make in profits from this guy (forget inflation for a second). Now what if on top of coming every day for the next 45 years, he also wears our branded T-shirt and tells all his friends & colleagues at work to come try our soup… 100 of his colleagues, coming for lunch every day for the next 45 years and telling their friends in turn… - that’s too many zeroes to count. Unbelievable. The example is oversimplified and unrealistic, but you get the point. What’s interesting is that the 3 horizons would urge you to do different things (e.g you may want to suggest this guy to try your not-so-good-cake for dessert if you only think of the guy’s value on the 1st horizon, but you won’t do so if you think further). Another interesting thing to point out is that while the first horizon is a reality, the second and third are chances. This guy may be a tourist flying out tomorrow. This means that investment, aimed at maximizing the value beyond the first horizon, will only work at scale. In any case, I believe that many businesses (especially in the retail sector) pay too little attention to the 2nd and 3rd horizons focusing all their efforts on the 1st. Shelf design and trade marketing is generally the investment in maximizing the 1st circle of value. CRM and Social CRM would be investments into 2nd and 3rd. But how many retail businesses do you know that focus on those things properly? We live in the age when, thanks to technology, not only Wanamaker’s problem can be solved, but also you can easily know exactly which 20% of customers generate 80% of your profits. Unfortunately CRM (not to mention Social CRM) is still (with rare exception) too hard for retail businesses to grasp and execute upon, so they continue to rearrange shelves, chasing the first horizon, while the second and third are left to chance and hopes for great TV commercials magically creating loyalty and buzz. I hope one day, somebody finally makes it easy for businesses to connect and stay in touch with their customers in a simple, smart & responsible way, maximizing long-term value for everybody involved. As always, feel free to comment, share, re-mix & build upon. Source Slide in Google Presentation: http://goo.gl/gbL7l Printable .pdf: http://db.tt/oafoN7KM

3 Circles of Customer Value

Imagine you are an owner of a small restaurant.

One day a guy walks in and orders a soup.
Here are 3 horizons (circles) for you to think about the value of this person for your business:
This guy is going to pay me 10 bucks, but my total costs to make and serve the soup are 8 bucks, so I’ve just made 2 bucks. Cool!
According to the above I’ve just made 2 bucks, but if this guy likes the soup and he is a local, he can come for lunch every day for the coming 45 years. That’s a fortune. Awesome!
45*365*2 = 32850 bucks that I’m going to make in profits from this guy (forget inflation for a second). Now what if on top of coming every day for the next 45 years, he also wears our branded T-shirt and tells all his friends & colleagues at work to come try our soup… 100 of his colleagues, coming for lunch every day for the next 45 years and telling their friends in turn… - that’s too many zeroes to count. Unbelievable.
The example is oversimplified and unrealistic, but you get the point.
What’s interesting is that the 3 horizons would urge you to do different things (e.g you may want to suggest this guy to try your not-so-good-cake for dessert if you only think of the guy’s value on the 1st horizon, but you won’t do so if you think further).
Another interesting thing to point out is that while the first horizon is a reality, the second and third are chances. This guy may be a tourist flying out tomorrow. This means that investment, aimed at maximizing the value beyond the first horizon, will only work at scale.

In any case, I believe that many businesses (especially in the retail sector) pay too little attention to the 2nd and 3rd horizons focusing all their efforts on the 1st. Shelf design and trade marketing is generally the investment in maximizing the 1st circle of value. CRM and Social CRM would be investments into 2nd and 3rd. But how many retail businesses do you know that focus on those things properly?
We live in the age when, thanks to technology, not only Wanamaker’s problem can be solved, but also you can easily know exactly which 20% of customers generate 80% of your profits. Unfortunately CRM (not to mention Social CRM) is still (with rare exception) too hard for retail businesses to grasp and execute upon, so they continue to rearrange shelves, chasing the first horizon, while the second and third are left to chance and hopes for great TV commercials magically creating loyalty and buzz.
I hope one day, somebody finally makes it easy for businesses to connect and stay in touch with their customers in a simple, smart & responsible way, maximizing long-term value for everybody involved.
As always, feel free to comment, share, re-mix & build upon.
Source Slide in Google Presentation: http://goo.gl/gbL7l
Printable .pdf: http://db.tt/oafoN7KM