I am writing from the Treasury Department of the Bona Vacantia Division (BVD), our agency has the mandate to recover unpaid inheritance and our duty is to ensure that the beneficiaries receive their funds as approved.
We discovered that the total sum of Ten Million Pounds was approve in your favor and the said fund is yet to be communicated/paid out to you as the beneficiary hence this estate has remain unclaimed since its approval.
My agency has completed arrangement to have this fund paid out to you by a special cash delivery at any of our nearest paying offices in your region or by a direct wire transfer to your account.
To ensure that the fund is paid out to you as approved and attached to your email address, you are required to get back to us ASAP for the payment modalities.
Dept of Treasury.Belfast,UK. 2/11
As a senior professional in financial services — an industry with comparatively few women in the executive ranks — Ive spent a lot of time thinking about why there aren’t more women at the top-most levels of companies. I’ve read the studies and heard the theories that women don’t network well; don’t have the ‘vision thing’; communicate too passively; don’t ask for bigger jobs and the top clients; and have fewer sponsors who are willing to use political capital to advocate for them the way they do for their male colleagues. There’s a lot of agreement and repetition when talking about the problem. It’s when discussing solutions that things get quieter.
As a mother watching her 18-year old college freshman daughter contemplate her summer job options and future career, I want her to be exposed to success stories — not to what women lack or havent done or cant do — because I know these successes exist and we need to share more of them. If young women everywhere went into the workforce steeped not only in the message that ‘you cant have it all’ and inundated not only with data on the lack of senior women, but armed instead with all the accumulated advice and wisdom of experienced women who have thrived in and enjoyed their careers, then they — and the organizations theyre joining — would be much better served.
Here is the advice Ill give my daughter — and all young women like her eagerly anticipating building a career — as she starts to make decisions about her life. These are some truths that I know now, twenty-plus years into my career, but wish someone had told me earlier. And though I didnt always follow these guidelines, my career has been more successful — and I got to where I am today — because of them. Maybe my daughter will embody these early on and be ahead of the game.
Its time for us to change the narrative of why there arent more women at the top. Can we simply whip up a ‘how to’ and change the trends we all see? Likely not — because there is no Secret Formula X for success. We each bring a varying mix of talents, ideas and experience to the equation, as well as differing life circumstances. Thats why we need to start sharing our success stories, instead of focusing on all the reasons why women opt out or dont live up to their potential in the workforce. On this Mothers Day, share your story with someone who needs to hear it.
Not long ago, Teresa Amabile revealed in an HBR blog post that while she had spent much of her career as a research psychologist showing how constraints can undermine creativity, she had discovered that the right sort of constraints can in fact ‘stoke the innovation fire.’
Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer offered the same opinion writing for Businessweek in 2006: ‘Constraints shape and focus problems, and provide clear challenges to overcome as well as inspiration. Creativity loves constraints, but they must be balanced with a healthy disregard for the impossible.’
The idea that boundaries and limits can produce boundless and limitless thinking seems counterintuitive and paradoxical. But if we further examine the mechanisms at work when we face constraints, perhaps we can identify which kinds best promote, rather than diminish, creativity.
A starting point is to acknowledge that although many activities traditionally considered creative, from the arts to design to athletics, all seem to be free-form in nature, in reality they are anything but. Each has its own set of limits that governs the performance.
Take comedy improvisation. It is the audience that sets the initial limits by throwing out suggestions (often surprising and contradictory ones) to the performers. The actors then perform with no further planning, and the skit emerges with help from a new, simple rule: accept without question what is given to you by your fellow performers. Every line you produce must build on one that came before, and you can never second-guess that line.
This is a daunting constraint, because you cannot plan, prepare or in any way rehearse. Your only choice is to remain focused and attuned to everything that is happening on stage, ready to react. But this limit makes for nearly infinite possibility and actually frees the performer to be even more imaginative.
That’s anecdotal evidence that well-designed constraints lead to creative success. But there’s academic research data on this phenomenon too. For example, a study conducted at the University of Amsterdam’s Department of Social Psychology proved that tough obstacles can prompt people to open their minds, look at the ‘big picture,’ and make connections between things that are not obviously connected. This is an ability is called ‘global processing,’ which is the hallmark of creativity.
Participants in the study played a computer maze game. One group played a version that had an obstacle blocking one of the routes, which significantly limited options and made it much harder to discover an escape. A second group had an easier maze with no obstacles. Both groups were then given a standard creativity test containing what psychologists call remote associates puzzles. Three words appeared on the screen (for example, ‘plate,’ ‘shot,’ and ‘broken’) and the subjects were asked to find a fourth word that connected them all.
Those who had played the harder maze game solved 40 percent more of the remote associates puzzles than those whose mazes had not contained obstacles. The constraint had forced members of the former group into a more creative mindset; their imaginations benefited from struggling in the first task. (The answer, by the way, is ‘glass.’)
An intelligent obstacle or constraint is one laden with creative tension, whether stated in the form of a well-defined problem (‘How might we simultaneously decrease both inventory and backorders?’) or a challenging goal (NASA’s 1990s mission to land a rover on Mars in half the time and a tenth the budget of the previous mission). An intelligent constraint informs creative action by outlining the ‘sandbox’ within which people can play and guides that action not just by pointing out what to pursue but perhaps more importantly what to ignore.
The pressing question for managers here is this: Are constraints preventing or propelling your innovation efforts? There is only one right answer.
Just because a new fact or idea seems right, doesnt mean it will spread like wildfire. Evolution, hand washing in hospitals, the inevitability that personal computers were the future of technology — none of these ideas were accepted immediately, even though they seem obvious today. Change takes time. But why?
The short answer is we’re intellectually stubborn. We don’t always weigh all the evidence before we make a decision, and this is especially true if a change of opinion requires a wholesale overhaul of our worldview. Usually, we’re defensive in the face of change, spouting alternative theories and contradictory data. Although this type of resistance can help keep everyone honest, it can also produce very bad effects.
Just take Ignaz Semmelweis — a physician who recommended doctors clean their hands prior to delivering babies — who was ignored and essentially driven mad by his colleagues refusal to accept the truth. But eventually, in the face of overwhelming evidence, the majority will generally accept the new theory, before their recalcitrance becomes too counterproductive.
Shifting from an old view to a new one is never a clean and seamless process. As numerous scientists have experienced, trying to get a new idea accepted is usually a messy process — and a long one. In fact, it could take until the retirement or death of the holdouts and the influx of younger and more open minds for the new idea to become accepted. The physicist Max Planck seems to have summed up the issue with this maxim: ‘New scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.’
This seems intuitively obvious. Since science and business are human affairs, we can’t expect the old stalwarts to change their minds when a new idea comes along. We just have to wait for them to die. Seems rational enough.
But here’s the thing: Planck’s Principle turns out to be wrong.
Consider Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Several decades ago, a study (PDF) examined sixty-seven British scientists from Darwin’s time and found that only about three quarters of them had accepted Darwinian evolution ten years after On the Origin of Species was first published in 1859. So evolution was not the rapid change we thought it might have been.
Why? If events had unfolded according to Plank’s principle, then young scientists would have rapidly accepted Darwin’s ideas while older scientists would have resisted them. But it didn’t happen that way. Although it’s true that those who accepted evolution were younger on average than those who still rejected it after ten years, age explained only 5% of the variation of acceptance or rejection of this theory. The younger scientists didn’t necessarily accept it rapidly; they accepted it at a rate similar to the older scientists who accepted it, over the course of a decade.
So it turns out we can’t even rely on common sense for understanding how this factual inertia works. This is encapsulated in the work of Duncan Watts, a principal researcher at Microsoft Research. Watts has demonstrated, in numerous studies that explore everything from how certain songs become popular to how marketing works, that we are very good at telling stories to ourselves that sound true (e.g. Plank’s Principle). But when we subject our ‘common sense’ to the rigors of quantitative analysis, it doesn’t always pan out. So while our factual inertia is a big problem, we need to be cautious when we hear good stories about how it actually works.
Clearly, science and business, and others fields of knowledge are not abstract ventures. They’re human affairs, so they’re prone to passions and biases. Scientific discovery, in particular, occurs through hunches and chance recognition of relationships, and is enriched by spirited discussion and debate around the lab. But science is also subject to our baser instincts. Data are hoarded, scientists refuse to collaborate, and grudges can play a role in peer review. There’s a lot at play.
So new ideas take time to be accepted. And how they are accepted is far from common sense. But one thing’s for sure: Don’t write off the old folks. They have a lot to teach us.