Month: May 2010

How to give good blog…

Breaking the second rule here by shamelessly reposting this as an aide de memoire here on my blog…but its bloodywell 1 am in the morning and there’s no brain juice left to perculate some well-written original content…so apologies Liz….but consider it flattery!

May 26, 2010

Write For A Blog Reader And Not A Book Reader

terez wrote this at 12:55 pm

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When you sit down to read a book, you read from left to right, paragraph to paragraph, page one to page two. That’s how I read a book, anyways.

When you read a blog, how do read it? I scroll like I’m looking for something, even if I don’t know what I’m looking for or what I’m going to find. I go up and down like a yo-yo, deciding whether or not a post is worth my time to read it. I check out subheadings, bullet points, bold characters, italics, a discernable font, and I love short paragraphs.

Time for a new paragraph. That last one was getting too long for my eyes. Why should you care how people read blogs?

First impressions – the worst impressions?

Because if readers don’t like the way your blog looks, even if you’re a first-rate writer, they are not going to read what you write. I do it all the time. I discover a post with an interesting headline and excitedly click on that link. When I see huge clumps of text and yellow-colored, size 8 font on a black background, I’m done.

It doesn’t matter what that blogger wrote. I’ve made a judgment call. Slap my wrist and tell me that I’m wrong. I don’t care. I’ve decided that if that writer doesn’t know the basics about blogging, then he/she couldn’t possibly have anything worthwhile to say.

It’s not the nicest way to be. I wasn’t always like this, tough. I’ve stumbled upon poorly constructed blogs that I have attempted to decipher. A deeper dig reveals typos galore, poor English and terrible content again and again. So why waste my time trying to translate?

You never get a second chance to make a first impression

Make a good first impression on your readers. First and foremost, you need original, well-written content. That is the foundation of a great blog.

Second, and this may seem ridiculous to say, but please make sure that people can read the size and style of your font. If you try to be too fancy, say with a script-type font, people will click away. If your words are too small for the average pair of eyes, people will click away. If the font is too big and overbearing, people will click away.

Either while you write or after you write and edit, you should try to include:

  • Subheadings. These break up text and summarize what readers can expect as well as build anticipation.
  • Bullet points/numbered lists. These are my favorites to read and write. They, too, break up text so well. I notice that if I read nothing from a blog post, I will read the list.
  • Bold, italics, underline, etc. Pepper your post with these font features when you want to stress something. But do not inundate a post with them. No need for the entire post to be bold.
  • Short paragraphs. Don’t write an entire blog post with just one paragraph. Staring at a computer screen with one long block of text is rough on the eyes. You can’t see anything. Experienced bloggers recommend three to four sentences per paragraph.

Use common sense

When you write for blog readers, don’t be a stickler to any rules. You’re thinking, And what’s the reason for this post if I can do whatever I want?

Well, of course you can do whatever you want. I’m saying that you don’t have to count the number of sentences per paragraph or include a bulleted list in every single post. Be natural. Think about your audience. Remember, write how you read.

A computer screen looks much differently than a book. Make it easy for people to read your blog.

How do you write for blog readers?

—-
Terez Howard operates TheWriteBloggers, a professional blogging service which builds clients’ authority status and net visibility. She regularly blogs at Freelance Writing Mamas . You’ll find her on Twitter @thewriteblogger

Thanks, Terez!
–ME “Liz” Strauss via successful-blog.com

 

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The sex life of ideas: The minds of many are connecting in every way imaginable!

By MATT RIDLEY

[EVOLUTION] Masterfile

Human evolution presents a puzzle. Nothing seems to explain the sudden takeoff of the last 45,000 years—the conversion of just another rare predatory ape into a planet dominator with rapidly progressing technologies. Once “progress” started to produce new tools, different ways of life and burgeoning populations, it accelerated all over the world, culminating in agriculture, cities, literacy and all the rest. Yet all the ingredients of human success—tool making, big brains, culture, fire, even language—seem to have been in place half a million years before and nothing happened. Tools were made to the same monotonous design for hundreds of thousands of years and the ecological impact of people was minimal. Then suddenly—bang!—culture exploded, starting in Africa. Why then, why there?

The answer lies in a new idea, borrowed from economics, known as collective intelligence: the notion that what determines the inventiveness and rate of cultural change of a population is the amount of interaction between individuals. Even as it explains very old patterns in prehistory, this idea holds out hope that the human race will prosper mightily in the years ahead—because ideas are having sex with each other as never before.

The more scientists discover, the bigger the evolution puzzle has become. Tool-making itself has now been pushed back at least two million years, and modern tool kits emerged very gradually over 300,000 years in Africa. Meanwhile, Neanderthals are now known to have had brains that were bigger than ours and to have inherited the same genetic mutations that facilitate speech as us. Yet, despite surviving until 30,000 years ago, they hardly invented any new tools, let alone farms, cities and toothpaste. The Neanderthals prove that it is quite possible to be intelligent and imaginative human beings (they buried their dead) yet not experience cultural and economic progress.

Scientists have so far been looking for the answer to this riddle in the wrong place: inside human heads. Most have been expecting to find a sort of neural or genetic breakthrough that sparked a “big bang of human consciousness,” an auspicious mutation so that people could speak, think or plan better, setting the human race on the path to continuous and exponential innovation.

Trade was the most momentous innovation of the human species; it led to the invention of invention.

But the sophistication of the modern world lies not in individual intelligence or imagination. It is a collective enterprise. Nobody—literally nobody—knows how to make the pencil on my desk (as the economist Leonard Read once pointed out), let alone the computer on which I am writing. The knowledge of how to design, mine, fell, extract, synthesize, combine, manufacture and market these things is fragmented among thousands, sometimes millions of heads. Once human progress started, it was no longer limited by the size of human brains. Intelligence became collective and cumulative.

In the modern world, innovation is a collective enterprise that relies on exchange. As Brian Arthur argues in his book “The Nature of Technology,” nearly all technologies are combinations of other technologies and new ideas come from swapping things and thoughts. (My favorite example is the camera pill—invented after a conversation between a gastroenterologist and a guided missile designer.) We tend to forget that trade and urbanization are the grand stimuli to invention, far more important than governments, money or individual genius. It is no coincidence that trade-obsessed cities—Tyre, Athens, Alexandria, Baghdad, Pisa, Amsterdam, London, Hong Kong, New York, Tokyo, San Francisco—are the places where invention and discovery happened. Think of them as well-endowed collective brains.

Trade also gave way to centralized institutions. Around 5,200 years ago, Uruk, in southern Mesopotamia, was probably the first city the world had ever seen, housing more than 50,000 people within its six miles of wall. Uruk, its agriculture made prosperous by sophisticated irrigation canals, was home to the first class of middlemen, trade intermediaries.

As with traders ever since, increasingly it came to look like tribute as Uruk merchants’ dwellings were plonked amid the rural settlements of the trading partners in the hills. A cooperative trade network seems to have turned into something more like colonialism. Tax and even slavery began to rear their ugly heads. Thus was set the pattern that would endure for the next 6,000 years—merchants make wealth; chiefs nationalize it.

Primitive Progress

Click to enlarge.

[PrimitivePromo]

 

Agriculture was invented where people were already living in dense trading societies. The oldest farming settlements of all in what is now Syria and Jordan are situated at oases where trade routes crossed, as proved by finds of obsidian (volcanic glass) tools from Cappadocia. When farmers first colonized Greek islands 9,000 years ago they relied on imported tools and exported produce from the very start. Trade came before—and stimulated—farming.

Go even further back and you find the same thing. The explosion of new technologies for hunting and gathering in western Asia around 45,000 years ago, often called the Upper Paleolithic Revolution, occurred in an area with an especially dense population of hunter-gatherers—with a bigger collective brain. Long before the ancestors of modern people first set foot outside Africa, there was cultural progress within Africa itself, but it had a strangely intermittent, ephemeral quality: There would be flowerings of new tool kits and new ways of life, which then faded again.

Recently at Pinnacle Point in South Africa, Curtis Marean of Arizona State University found evidence of seafood-eating people who made sophisticated “bladelet” stone tools, with small blades less than 10 millimeters wide, and who used ochre pigments to decorate themselves (implying symbolic behavior) as long as 164,000 years ago. They disappeared, but a similar complex culture re-emerged around 80,000 years ago at Blombos cave nearby. Adam Powell of University College, London, and his colleagues have recently modeled human populations and concluded that these flowerings are caused by transiently dense populations: “Variation in regional subpopulation density and/or migratory activity results in spatial structuring of cultural skill accumulation.”

The notion that exchange stimulated innovation by bringing together different ideas has a close parallel in biological evolution. The Darwinian process by which creatures change depends crucially on sexual reproduction, which brings together mutations from different lineages. Without sex, the best mutations defeat the second best, which then get lost to posterity. With sex, they come together and join the same team. So sex makes evolution a collective and cumulative process in which any individual can draw on the gene pool of the whole species. And when it comes to gene pools, the species with gene lakes generally do better than the ones with gene ponds—hence the vulnerability of island species to competition with continental ones.

It is precisely the same in cultural evolution. Trade is to culture as sex is to biology. Exchange makes cultural change collective and cumulative. It becomes possible to draw upon inventions made throughout society, not just in your neighborhood. The rate of cultural and economic progress depends on the rate at which ideas are having sex.

Dense populations don’t produce innovation in other species. They only do so in human beings, because only human beings indulge in regular exchange of different items among unrelated, unmated individuals and even among strangers. So here is the answer to the puzzle of human takeoff. It was caused by the invention of a collective brain itself made possible by the invention of exchange.

Once human beings started swapping things and thoughts, they stumbled upon divisions of labor, in which specialization led to mutually beneficial collective knowledge. Specialization is the means by which exchange encourages innovation: In getting better at making your product or delivering your service, you come up with new tools. The story of the human race has been a gradual spread of specialization and exchange ever since: Prosperity consists of getting more and more narrow in what you make and more and more diverse in what you buy. Self-sufficiency—subsistence—is poverty.

This theory neatly explains why some parts of the world lagged behind in their rate of cultural evolution after the Upper Paleolithic takeoff. Australia, though it was colonized by modern people 20,000 years earlier than most of Europe, saw comparatively slow change in technology and never experienced the transition to farming. This might have been because its dry and erratic climate never allowed hunter-gatherers to reach high enough densities of interaction to indulge in more than a little specialization.

Where population falls or is fragmented, cultural evolution may actually regress. A telling example comes from Tasmania, where people who had been making bone tools, clothing and fishing equipment for 25,000 years gradually gave these up after being isolated by rising sea levels 10,000 years ago. Joe Henrich of the University of British Columbia argues that the population of 4,000 Tasmanians on the island constituted too small a collective brain to sustain, let alone improve, the existing technology.

Tierra del Fuego, in a similar climatic and demographic position, experienced no such technological regress because its people remained in trading contact with the mainland of South America across a much narrower strait throughout the prehistoric period. In effect, they had access to a continental collective brain.Further proof that exchange and collective intelligence are the key to human progress comes from Neanderthal remains. Almost all Neanderthal tools are found close to their likely site of origin: they did not trade. In the southern Caucasus, argues Daniel Adler of the University of Connecticut, it is the “development and maintenance of larger social networks, rather than technological innovations or increased hunting prowess, that distinguish modern humans from Neanderthals.”

The oldest evidence for human trade comes from roughly 80,000 to 120,000 years ago, when shell beads in Algeria and obsidian tools in Ethiopia began to move more than 100 miles from the sea and from a particular volcano respectively. (In recent centuries stone tools moved such distances in Australia by trade rather than by migration.) This first stirring of trade was the most momentous innovation of the human species, because it led to the invention of invention. Why it happened in Africa remains a puzzle, but Steve Kuhn and Mary Stiner of the University of Arizona have argued that for some reason only Africans had invented a sexual division of labor between male hunters and female gatherers—the most basic of all trades.

There’s a cheery modern lesson in this theory about ancient events. Given that progress is inexorable, cumulative and collective if human beings exchange and specialize, then globalization and the Internet are bound to ensure furious economic progress in the coming century—despite the usual setbacks from recessions, wars, spendthrift governments and natural disasters.

The process of cumulative innovation that has doubled life span, cut child mortality by three-quarters and multiplied per capita income ninefold—world-wide—in little more than a century is driven by ideas having sex. And things like the search engine, the mobile phone and container shipping just made ideas a whole lot more promiscuous still.

Matt Ridley writes about evolution and genetics. His latest book is “The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves.”

 

Announcing AMPLIFY11: “EVERYTHING CONNECTS” Sydney, 13-17 June 2011

 

Amplify_document_banner

About AMPLI FY 11, 13-17 June 2011, Sydney, Australia  

“From a humble experiment in knowledge exchange in 2005, AMPLIFY has grown into a week-long biannual festival enjoyed by more than 3500 employees, leaders, board members and invited guests, and that’s not counting the online audience. This unique learning event has become a powerful amplifier of our organisational thinking, learning and culture. This is one of many reasons why the AMP Leadership Team continues to invest in and grow AMPLIFY year on year. 

For our people, AMPLIFY creates a powerful ‘knowledge market’ where we can openly exchange ideas with the foremost thinkers in the world, dabble with futuristic concepts and experiences way beyond our comfort zones, and experiment with emerging technologies to understand how these could add value for our customers and our business.”  Lee Barnett, CIO

Link to AMPLIFY 09 here  http://www.amplify.amp.com.au ( Website for AMPLIFY 11 is currently under construction)

Theme for 2011: EVERYTHING CONNECTS

Following on the 2007 theme of Collaboration, and the 2009 theme of Convergence and Emergence, AMPLIFY 11 will be themed “EVERYTHING CONNECTS”. AMPLIFY 11 will explore how ubiquitous and pervasive connectivity, real-time streams of data, mobility, networks, relationships and data visualisation, augmented reality and the “internet of things” are transforming human interaction, services and transactions and redefining business models. 

AMPLIFY 11 will examine these trends through the lens of our business as pre-eminent Financial Services and Wealth Management company in Australia.

Who speaks at AMPLIFY?

AMPLIFY attracts an enviable blend of the foremost thought leaders from all over the world and across a range of disciplines to share the cutting edge of research and technological evolution, and implications for financial services. Past speakers ( a small selection shared here) include:

  • Jamais CascioResearch fellow at the Institute for the FutureSenior Fellow for the IEET, Foreign Policy Global top 100 thinkers
  • Dr Jane McGonigal, Director of Games Design, Institute for the Future- a global thought leader in future scenarios forecasting and mass collaborative problem-solving
  • Michael Schrage, Author “Serious Play”, Research Fellow MIT eMedia Lab
  • Chris Shipley, Executive Producer of DEMO, co-founder Guidewire Group
  • Dr BJ Fogg, Researcher, Innovator, Founder Persuasive Technologies Lab, Stanford University
  • Dr Richard Satava, Programme Manager bio-medicine DARPA, Prof of Surgery, Washington Univ and Medicine Futurist
  • Dr Peter Gloor, Research Scientist, MIT Centre for Collective Intelligence
  • Pete Williams, Partner & Chairman Deloitte Innovation Council, CEO Deloitte Digital
  • Dr Amantha Imber, PHD in Science of Creativity, Chief Inventologist and Inventium
  • Dr James Gardner, Author “How to Future-proof a bank”, Chief Technology Officer for largest Public Service Dept in UK, Thought Leader Gov 2.0
  • Spike Jones, Social Media Strategist, Storyteller second to none, Board of WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association of America)
  • David Vaskevitch, Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft Corporation

Beyond the keynote presentations, we also offer a number of workshops for those wanting a deeper learning experience, and the popular EXPO on Friday 17 June will again buzz with emerging technologies and face-to-face experimentation, many of which ultimately make their way to adoption by our organisation.

Who attends AMPLIFY?

AMPLIFY is pretty unique. It’s NOT a commercial conference and AMP does not run it as a revenue exercise- its an investment in our organizational learning and an “open innovation exercise”. We offer this rich land immersive earning opportunity to everyone and anyone of AMP’s 3500 leaders and employees, our 2000 Financial Planners, our clients and business partners. Anyone can register, and sessions run throughout the day- from pre-work hours through lunch times till after hours –providing freedom of choice and flexibility, with some repeats. About 300 places are made available to the public on an application basis.

We converge both the physical and the virtual AMPLIFY through our website where anyone can subscribe to and participate in blogs, video content and twitter conversations throughout and beyond the AMPLIFY Festival, no matter where they are in the world. We plan to link up with the TEDX programme in 2011.

Curatorial approach to AMPLIFY

The programme is designed to engage both heart and mind, logic and emotion, theory and practice, serious learning and fun. Here is what we typically offer in the mix:

  • The Speaker Stream offers 45-minute keynote presentations followed by Q&A, supplemented by live streamed audio-casts and twitter streams
  • The one-day EXPO transforms AMP office common areas into a vibrant market of ideas and emerging technologies for participants to try out – presented by employee teams, partners, vendors, entrepreneurs and R&D institutions.
  • Deep-dive workshops with specialists in selected areas of particular interest to our business.
  • The Technology on Tap pub night offers after-hours infotainment as Australia’s leading PhD researchers explain what they’re studying, why we should care and how it will help make the world a better place-in 2 minutes! Audience votes determine a cash prize to help fund ongoing research.
  • We actively partner to amplify AMPLIFY, and in 2011 we will by partnering with the Lowy Institute and the Vivid Sydney and Creative Sydney Festivals produced by Events NSW, The City of Sydney as well as the Lowy Institute.
  • Creativity Tapas offering hands-on learning workshops looking at cultural trends, decentralised production and creative execution enabled by mass collaboration technologies, and immersion in creative pursuits, eg music, crafts, art, multimedia
  • We also offer sponsorship opportunities for brands who want to be associated with specific elements of the programme or the festival at large. Past sponsors include CSC, KPMG, Microsoft. For 2011, we are also in negotiation with Events NSW, Tata Consulting Services, Cisco, and TEDX.

My research interests

Given the theme of AMPLIFY 11 as “Everything Connects”, I am interested in how emerging technologies are opening up new ways of doing things, interacting, connecting, communicating, transacting, sharing, collaborating, creating, producing, learning, working. Particularly, the way this shifts and disrupts social constructs like privacy, choice, control, security, methods of production, organization of labour, corporate structures and leadership models, geographical boundaries, intellectual property, competition, community and civic participation, design of physical spaces,  governance, and behavioral economics.

The advances in search (speed, sentiment, scale, filters, type of content, real time news streams), storage and secure access (cloud), and connectivity via networks in real time from any device anywhere anytime and anyhow – and the ability to track that connectivity visually, as well as nano-and bio-medicine and synthetic solutions have application to our business in the following areas:

  • commercial building & shopping centre management,
  • actuarial calculation of risk, design of new financial products and services,
  • value and speed of information and speed of share market trades for our trading rooms,
  • re-imagining distribution channels,
  • bundling of services with other industries,
  • design of business models
  • how we design and organise work,
  • how we attract, re-train and retain the right skills,
  • how we operate for scale advantage AND for agility and speed to market.

I am interested in seeing how some of these ground-shifting technologies work, and in discussing these with social scientists and anthropologists to understand what it could mean in terms of social impact and our business, as well as venture capital firmsIn the context of the above explanation, specific R&D themes include:

  • computer-assisted persuasion,
  • eHealth solutions, nano-medicine, social health networks
  • human + machine intelligence and interaction,
  • algorithmic analysis of streaming news, social and location-based networks,
  • data mining and visualisation and real-time intelligent search,
  • innovation in devices for interaction eg mobile, speech recognition, sensing, haptics, speech indexing and enhanced human-human interaction,
  • automation of low value routine tasks

My research trip: 30 June to 27 July 2010

I will be visiting San Francisco, Seattle, Aspen (Ideas Festival), Boston (World Future Society Conference) , London, Oxford (TED Global), Bangalore, Chennai, Beijing and Shanghai (World Expo). I have opportunities in my schedule to meet up with our existing business partners, Thought leaders, visit R&D Centres and universities.My itinerary can be viewed at http://www.tripit.com/trip/public/id/A604F3B98AF1                                                                       

About AMP 

More at www.amp.com.auAMP is a leading wealth management company operating in Australia and New Zealand, with selective investment management activities in Asia (through AMP Capital Investors) and a growing banking business in Australia. AMP has two core business units:

  • AMP Financial Services which provides financial planning advice,superannuation, retirement savings and income products, investments, risk insurance and selected banking products; and 
  •  AMP Capital Investors which manages investments for clients across all themajor asset classes including equities, fixed interest, infrastructure, property including a number of shopping centres, diversified funds and multi-manager funds.

In Australia, AMP is a leading provider of retail and corporate superannuation and retirement income products. We have one of the largest planner forces in Australia and New Zealand. AMP is one of the region’s largest investment managers, with more than $114 billion in assets under management (as at 31 December 2009). AMP has:

  •      around 795,000 shareholders
  •      more than 3.6 million customers
  •      more than 3,500 employees
  •      more than 2,000 financial planners in Australia and New Zealand.

About my role

I specialise in change. Specifically, change to achieve a quantifiable shift in an innovative business culture, employee engagement and business performance and growth. Through the AMPLIFY Innovation & Thought Leadership Festival that I curate and produce every 2 years, we set imagination on fire with fresh and futuristic thinking. This is a major catalyst for change leading to business innovation, adoption of emerging technologies, entrepreneurial growth.

Through the Idea Frontier employee innovation programme, employees can effect change by planting their ideas into a smart system where they can grow, be pruned, expanded, bundled, propagated, weeded, harvested and/or taken to market by tapping into the collective intelligence and joint efforts of the entire organisation.

Through social media inside the company we ignite new relationships, collaboration and productivity. Change is catalysed through early experimentation with emerging technologies eg hardware/ devices/ interfaces and software eg Cloud-solutions, SaaS, Twitter, Yammer, wikis, blogs, team collaboration spaces, podcasts, and other community-based initiatives including Social Media Cafes, Blogger meet-ups, barcamps, innovation campaigns, employee short film festivals and other User-generated Content campaigns.

We set hearts and minds on fire by providing immersive experiences for creative learning, team bonding, personal growth and skills development. Examples include storytelling workshops, music jam sessions, group collaboration challenges, painting, scuplting, dancing, improv theatre and rich media production. This creates a change of heart!

We douse the skeptics with measurable ROI- the adoption of new strategy, implemented ideas, new products and services, business process improvements, our innovation pipeline, and a 43% positive change in employee engagement and culture over a period of 10 years to a high-performance culture benchmarked to world’s best companies.

In a nutshell, we catalyse a little magic every time.

My contact details: 

(My LinkedIn profile is here: http://au.linkedin.com/in/innovationculturechange ).

Annalie Killian, AMP, Sydney, Australia. Tel: +61(02) 92575000 email: annalie underscore killian at ampdot com dot au

 

Interesting correlations between 2 studies on behaviour and neural processes

I read this story on “Near misses” by Jonah Lehrer last night http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2010/05/the_near_miss.php – it deals with the brain’s desire to figure out a pattern and the chemical (dopamine)process that accompanies the moment of insight ( and also triggered in scenarios of close failure) and this explains gambling addiction). Here’s an extract: 

Henry Chase and Luke Clark of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute in Cambridge have previously found that the brain responds to near miss gambling outcomes in much the same way it does to as winning. In moderate gamblers, both types of outcome activate the reward circuitry, and although near miss events are experienced to be somewhat less rewarding than wins, they nevertheless increase the desire and motivation to gamble. For games involving skill, near misses indicate an improvement in performance and spur the player to try again. But gambling is a game of chance, which distorts gamblers’ thought processes – near misses cause them gambler to overestimate both the level of skill involved and their chances of winning. This spurs them to continue gambling.

The new study extends these earlier observations to regular gamblers, with the aim of establishing whether or not the response to near misses is related to gambling severity. Chase and Clark recruited 24 regular gamblers, The participants were asked to perform a computerized gambling task while their brains were scanned by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Two slot machine reels, each with the same six playing icons, were presented to the participants on the screen inside the scanner. In one condition, they were required to select an icon on the left reel and then spin the right reel. In another, the icon was randomly selected for them by a computer. If the icons matched after the reels stopped spinning, they were rewarded with a small amount of money.

After collecting the fMRI data, the researchers focused on the midbrain, which contains neurons that signal reward by releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine. They again found that near misses activate the reward circuits, confirming the results of their previous study. Significantly, they also found that gambling severity, as measured prior to scanning by the South Oaks Gambling Screen, could predict the midbrain’s response to a near miss. The more severe a participant’s gambling habit, the stronger was the midbrain response to a near miss. In other words, near misses were most rewarding for the pathological gamblers, who experienced them as being almost as rewarding as a win. The participants who gambled less severely also found near misses rewarding, but to a lesser extent.

Then, this morning I read the article below on the sudden transitions in neural states as subjects try and figure out the patterns applicable in new scenarios by trial and error, leading to sudden insights.

To my untrained non-scientific brain ….there appears to be a link. How could these two pieces of information be tested together to figure out a way to accelerate underlying behaviour change?

Am I making sense?  Who knows about this stuff? 

Eureka! Neural evidence for sudden insight (5/13/2010)

A recent study provides intriguing information about the neural dynamics underlying behavioral changes associated with the development of new problem solving strategies. The research, published by the Cell Press in the May 13 issue of the journal Neuron, supports the idea of “a-ha” moments in the brain that are associated with sudden insight.

Our daily lives are filled with changes that force us to abandon old behavioral strategies that are no longer advantageous and develop new, more appropriate responses. While it is clear that new rules are often deduced through trial-and-error learning, the neural dynamics that underlie the change from a familiar to a novel rule are not well understood.

“The ability of animals and humans to infer and apply new rules in order to maximize reward relies critically on the frontal lobes,” explains one of the researchers who led the study, Dr. Jeremy K. Seamans from the Brain Research Centre at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute. “In our study, we examined how groups of frontal cortex neurons in rat brains switch from encoding a familiar rule to a completely novel rule that could only be deduced through trial and error.”

Specifically, Dr. Seamans with colleagues from UBC and collaborator Dr. Daniel Durstewitz from the Central Institute of Mental Health in Germany were interested in determining whether networks of neurons change their activity in a slow gradual way as an old strategy is abandoned and a new one is learned or whether there is a more abrupt transition.

Using sophisticated statistical techniques to study ensembles of neurons in the medial frontal cortex on a trial-by-trial basis as rats deduced a novel rule in a specially designed task, they found that the same populations of neurons formed unique network states that corresponded to familiar and novel rules. Interestingly, although it took many trials for the animals to figure out the new rule, the recorded ensembles did not change gradually but instead exhibited a rather abrupt transition to a new pattern that corresponded directly to the shift in behavior, as if the network had experienced an “a-ha” moment.

Taken together, these findings provide concrete support for sudden transitions between neural states rather than slow, gradual changes. “In the present problem solving context where the animal had to infer a new rule by accumulating evidence through trial and error, such sudden neural and behavioral transitions may correspond to moments of ‘sudden insight,'” concludes Dr. Durstewitz.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by the Cell Press 

via brainmysteries.com

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The Most Important Leadership Quality for CEOs? Creativity

Media_httpimagesfastc_wdzzt

Hooray- finally Creativity gets its dues….thanks for reporting this Fast Company. Based on the ranking of qualities, how many CEOs do you know that fit this pattern? OK, now name them! That’s right- hit the comment button below! 

For CEOs, creativity is now the most important leadership quality for success in business, outweighing even integrity and global thinking, according to a new study by IBM. The study is the largest known sample of one-on-one CEO interviews, with over 1,500 corporate heads and public sector leaders across 60 nations and 33 industries polled on what drives them in managing their companies in today’s world.
Fast Company’s annual list of the 100 Most Creative People in Business just took on a whole new depth. And this year’s list will be revealed later this month.
Steven Tomasco, a manager at IBM Global Business Services, expressed surprise at this key finding, saying that it is “very interesting that coming off the worst economic conditions they’d ever seen, [CEOs] didn’t fall back on management discipline, existing best practices, rigor, or operations. In fact, they [did] just the opposite.”
About 60% of CEOs polled cited creativity as the most important leadership quality, compared with 52% for integrity and 35% for global thinking. Creative leaders are also more prepared to break with the status quo of industry, enterprise and revenue models, and they are 81% more likely to rate innovation as a “crucial capability.”

Innovating the presentation

Great speakers hold the power to captivate and inspire. This collection highlights speakers who go one step further — and innovate on the form itself.

Doctor and researcher Hans Rosling‘s eye-catching statistics don’t stand still: they mutate, morph and crackle with color. Medical illustrator David Bolinsky takes us into the nano-scale workings of living cells with animated computer graphics that mesmerize. And Internet art wizard Jonathan Harris‘ ongoing study of emotion in the blogosphere turns web stories into sunrays, whirlpools and fireworks.

Don’t miss Blaise Aguera y Arcas‘ debut of Photosynth, an astonishing web application that can recognize the content of photographs and stitch them into three-dimensional tapestries. And make sure to catch computer scientist Jeff Han‘s enthusiastic demo of his new multi-touch user interface — it will change the way we interact with computers.

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One of the reasons I undertake an international research tour every 2nd year is not only to source great speakers for the AMPLIFY Innovation & Thought Leadership Festival, but to in fact look for innovation on the theme of conferences, presentation, human interaction and knowledge transfer, storyteling and capturing the imagination. Whilst AMPLIFY is delivered at a fraction of the cost of the most of the events I attend, its often not the copying of ideas as much as the re-imaginaging of what could be that I find most valuable- and in translating these ideas into reality on a shoestring budget.

There is something perversely pleasurable about creating a HUGE WOW effect with minimal resources- its the realm of magic…supernatural powers, and I thrive on it. ( Bit like finding a genuine Chanel handbag in a second hand shop in the backwaters of a little country town for $50, when you know its worth around $3000!)