September 18, 2011

Hostage Negotiation 101

Posted in Behaviour, Society, Strategy at 21:24 by graham

I recently finished Gary Noesner’s Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator, by the F.B.I.‘s former head of and founder of their hostage negotiation unit. The book is a great read (and I suspect heavily ghost-written). Here’s what I learnt:

Your goal as a negotiator is to get the target(s) (the person or people you are trying to arrest) to surrender peacefully to law enforcement.

Sometimes there are hostages, and then your priority is securing their release, but usually there are not. By getting them to put down their weapons and come out you are usually saving their lives, and also protecting your colleagues.

The last resort is an armed assault by the SWAT team. Prior to negotiation being taken seriously by law enforcement, this was the only option.

Make exclusive contact

First and foremost, you need to get in contact with them. Usually they are keen to talk, and most often you can use the phone line. Sometimes you have to get the SWAT team to bring them a field telephone. Sometimes you stand outside the window or at the foot of the stairs, and shout. And occasionally, as in the Beltway sniper case you have to ask the media to say things and hope the target hears.

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December 20, 2010

No managers, no meetings: Why working from home is so much more productive

Posted in Behaviour at 23:09 by graham

Jason Fried at a TEDx event, 17minute video.

The key concepts:

Ask people where they go to “get work done”, where they are at their most productive: They almost never say ‘the office’. Or if they do, it’s before or after hours.

Work is like sleep, it proceeds in cycles. You have to go through the light-sleep / light-work cycles to get to the meaty stuff. Every time you get woken up / interrupted, you start from scratch.

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November 20, 2010

Psychology for your webapp at BarCamp 2010

Posted in Behaviour, Software at 07:15 by graham

Update I also presented a 5 minute version at DjangoCon US 2011, as a lightning talk.

Tomorrow morning I will be going to BarCamp Vancouver 2010, and, assuming I get a slot, presenting this:

See also my full Behavior Change Toolkit.

November 16, 2010

Quote: We want Freedom, not Ping-Pong tables

Posted in Behaviour at 20:16 by graham

It’s too bad that companies are still hiding behind glitzy buildings with on-site amenities, flexibility programs and knitting clubs when what people really want are their lives back.

From the ROWE blog.

ROWE stands for Results Only Work Environment, and means each person is free to do whatever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done. It is being used by Best Buy, Gap, and (small) parts of the US government.

Daniel Pink mentions ROWE near the end of his TED talk here Dan Pink on Motivation

On a personal note, I’ve been working from home (freelance) for two years now, since my son was born. Not only do I get a lot more (a lot more) done than I used to in the office, even better, I’m getting to see my son grow up. And no commuting. And getting to know my neighbors. And and …

October 28, 2010

Question: Income Distribution

Posted in Behaviour at 21:43 by graham

Perform the following thought experiment. Remove yourself for a moment from your present socioeconomic circumstances and imagine that you are to be replaced randomly into society at any class level. Now, before you know your particular place in society you are told that it is within your powers to redistribute the wealth of that society in any way that you choose. What distribution would you choose?

Read more on Dan Ariely’s blog

October 16, 2010

Quote of the day: Materialism

Posted in Behaviour at 00:18 by graham

Materialism and the behaviors that go with it – desiring and buying brand-name clothes and luxury items – are symptoms of insecurity and a coping strategy used to alleviate feelings of self-doubt or bolster a poor self-image. But if what [we] are really seeking is greater happiness and fulfillment, materialism is a terrible coping method. At best it provides only short-term relief; in the long run it is likely to deepen feelings of insecurity.

From Christine Carter in Raising Happiness, referencing research in The High Price of Materialism

If you read Raising Happiness (and if you are a new parent, I recommend it), skip the first chapter, because it will put you off. The other chapters are very good, and cover key Positive Psychology research.

May 23, 2010

You'd be happier without your television. Sell it on Craigslist.

Posted in Behaviour at 01:29 by graham

A quote by Martin Seligman, from his book Authentic Happiness.

In the nightly choice between reading a good book and watching a sitcom on television, we often [make the wrong choice] – although surveys show again and again that the average mood while watching sitcoms on television is mild depression.

May 13, 2010

Scientific proof: You need to get rid of that TV

Posted in Behaviour at 06:46 by graham

Two observations found in the literature on social psychology, which explain succinctly why, whatever you personally think about it, you would be mentally much better off without your TV.

Mean World Syndrome

People who watch a lot of television believe the world is more violent and intimidating than it actually is.

If you are growing up in a home where there is more than say three hours of television per day, for all practical purposes you live in a meaner world – and act accordingly – than your next-door neighbor who lives in the same world but watches less television.

Our surveys tell us that the more television people watch, the more they are likely to be afraid to go out on the street in their own community, especially at night. They are afraid of strangers and meeting other people.

George Gerbner

Third-person effect

The belief that the mass media has a greater effect on others than it does on oneself. I like to call this the “adverts-don’t-affect-me” effect.

March 5, 2010

Television and your brain maps

Posted in Behaviour at 20:03 by graham

The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge is a fascinating book about brain plasticity, the ability of our brain to re-wire itself to cope with changing conditions. In a chapter about culture’s influence on our brain maps, he says:

Television watching, one of the signature activities of our culture, correlates with brain problems.

How do we know this?

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January 16, 2010

Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely

Posted in Behaviour at 08:12 by graham

My short notes on Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely. An excellent book. Entertaining, and covers much fascinating ground from social psychology and behavioral economics. Some of the experiments Dan and his team designed are fiendish!


Value is relative

We only know what we want when we see it in context. The bike the Tour de France winner rides. A set of speakers compared to another.

We only know what something is worth, or how much we like it, when comparing to other similar things (purchases, partners, jobs, etc..

We tend to choose the middle option. A high price option on a restaurant menu increases average order price, because it makes the rest seem cheap in comparison.

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