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Friday, October 20, 2017

How to defend against your own mind 20-10



Image credit: Shyam's Imagination Library


New project to use podcasts, video to illuminate bias, improve decision-making. 

When it comes to some of the most important decisions we make — how much to bid for a house, the right person to hire, or how to plan for the future — there is strong scientific evidence that our brains play tricks on us.




Luckily, Mahzarin Banaji has a solution: Understand how your mind works so that you can learn to outsmart it.

The Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics and chair of the Department of Psychology is launching a new project — dubbed Outsmarting Human Minds — aimed at using short videos and podcasts to expose hidden biases and explore ways to combat them.

“The behavioral sciences give us insights into what gets in the way of reaching our professional goals, of being true to our own deepest values,” Banaji said. “The science is not new, but its message is still one most people have difficulty grasping and understanding.”

Banaji and research fellow Olivia Kang, with funding from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and a grant from Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, developed Outsmarting Human Minds as a way to deliver up-to-date thinking about hidden biases in an engaging way.

“Everyone wants to know what’s happening in their minds, and they want to know what they can do to make better decisions,” Kang said. “The science is out there; the challenge is getting it to the public in a way that captures their interest.”




The impetus for the project came in part from Banaji’s perspective as a senior adviser on faculty development to Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith.

Speaking of that role, Banaji said, “I try to expose what the mind sciences have taught us about how we make decisions. The hope is that the faculty will put this information to use … in decisions about how to imagine the future of their disciplines.”

Banaji has taught on decision-making to any number of organizations, including corporations, nonprofits, and the military. Questions about how to confront hidden biases are common.



“I want to put the science in the hands of people — or rather, in the heads of people — and have them ask: How can I outsmart my own mind? How can I be the person I want to be?”

She emphasized that watching a video or listening to a podcast isn’t enough to address hidden bias.
“Learning brings awareness and understanding. It cannot itself put an end to the errors we make,” she said. “To achieve corrections that will matter to society, we must learn to behave differently.”

Said Kang: “We want to deliver this information to people in a way that doesn’t make them feel that they’re a bad person if they have these biases. The fact is, we all do. This is about acknowledging that hidden biases are a product of how we’re wired and the culture we live in. And then agreeing that we want to do something about it — that we can use this knowledge to improve the decisions we make in life and at work.”

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The Future of AI and Big Data with Quantum Computing 10-20






With the boom in digital technologies, the world is producing over 2.5 exabytes of data every day. To put that into perspective, it is equivalent to the memory of 5 million laptops or 150 million phones. The deluge of data is forecast to increase with the passing day and with it has increased the need for powerful hardware that can support it.

This hardware advancement refers to faster computing or processing speed and larger storage systems. Companies worldwide are investing in powerful computing with the R&Ds constantly in the race for making improved processors. The current stream of data needs computers that can perform complex calculations within seconds.

Big data and Machine learning have pushed the limits of current IT infrastructure for processing large datasets effectively. This has led to the development of a new and exciting paradigm of quantum computing that has the power to dramatically increase the speed. But before that, let us understand the current technology and the need for quantum technology.

Current Computing Technology and Its Limitations
The technology of processing has come a long way in the past couple of years with the development of finger-nail sized microprocessors (single-chip computer packed with millions of transistors) called integrated circuits. Standing true to Moore’s law, the number of transistors packed in a single chip has doubled every 18 months since the past 50 years. Today, it has reached 2 billion transistors in one chip.

The semiconductor technology is now making smallest chips with 5 nanometer-sized gates below which it is said the transistor will not work. Now, the industry has simply started increasing the number of processor “cores” so that the performance continues on Moore’s law predictions. However, there come many other software-level restraints to keep this relevant.

In 2016, two researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory created the world’s smallest transistor with gate size of one nanometer. This is a phenomenal feat in computing industry but making a chip with billions of such transistors is going to face many challenges. The industry has already prepared for transistors to stop shrinking further and Moore’s law is likely to come to a stagnant halt.

As the computations pertaining to current applications like big data processing or intelligent systems get more complex, there is a need for higher and faster computing capabilities than the current processors can supply. This is one of the reasons why people are looking forward to quantum computing.

What is Quantum Computing
Quantum Computing merges two great scientific revolutions of this century: computer science and quantum physics. It has all the elements of conventional computing like bits, registers, gates, etc. but on the machinery level, it does not depend on boolean logic. The quantum bits are called qubits. The conventional bits can store 0 or 1 but quantum bits can store 0, 1 and all the possible values (states) between it simultaneously. As it can store the values, it can also process them simultaneously. It can work in parallel doing multiple things at the same time which makes it million times faster than the current computers.

The working of these computers is little complex and the entire field of quantum computing is still largely abstract and theoretical. The only thing we really need to know is that qubits are stored by atoms or other particles like ions that exist in different states and can be switched between these states.

Application in Big Data
The progress in these fields critically relies on processing power. The computational requirement of big data analytics is currently placing a considerable strain on computer systems. Since 2005, the focus has been shifted to parallelism using multiple cores instead of a single fast processor. However, many problems in big data cannot be solved simply by using more and more cores.  Splitting up the work among multiple processors is used but its implementation is complex. The problems need to be solved sequentially where the preceding step is equally important.

At the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, Geneva particles are accelerated, traveling at almost the speed of light within a 27km ring such that 600 million collisions take place in a second wherein only one of the 1 million collisions chosen for preselection. In the preselection process, only 1 out of 10,000 events are passed to a grid of processor cores that further choose 1 out of 100 possible events, hence, making the data process at 10GB/s. At LHC, 5 trillion bits of data is captured every second and after discarding 99% of the data, it still analyses 25 petabytes of data a year!

Such is the power of quantum computing but the current resources make the application of it in big data, a thing of the future. If it were possible, the computing would be useful for specific tasks such as factoring large numbers that are useful in cryptography, weather forecasting, searching through large unstructured datasets in a fraction of the time to identify patterns and anomalies, etc. The developments in quantum computing could actually make encryption obsolete in a jiffy.
With such computing powers, it would be one day possible to make large datasets that would probably store complete information such as – genetic of every single human that existed and machine learning algorithms could find patterns in the characteristics of these humans while also protecting the identities of the humans. Also, clustering and classification of data would become a much faster task.

Looking Forward
The initial results and developments in quantum technologies are encouraging. In the last fifteen years, quantum computers have grown from 4-qubits to 128 qubits. Google’s 5-qubit computer has demonstrated certain basic calculations; that if scaled up, can perform many complex calculations that will make the quantum computing dream come true one day. However, we are unlikely to see such computers for years or even decades.

The future says quantum computers will allow faster analysis and integration of our enormous data sets which will improve and transform our machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Why Entrepreneurs Should Care Less About Disrupting and More About Creating 10-18





Featured excerpt from WTF? What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us by Tim O’Reilly


If you’re an entrepreneur or aspiring to become one, Tim O’Reilly is the kind of mentor you should try to enlist. He’s been there and done that in the New Economy since, well, pretty much since there’s been a New Economy.

O’Reilly started writing technical manuals in the late 1970s, and by the early 1980s, he was publishing them, too. His company, O’Reilly Media Inc. (formerly O’Reilly R. Associates), based in Sebastopol, California, helped pioneer online publishing, and in the early 1990s, it launched the first web portal, Global Network Navigator, which AOL acquired in 1995.

Since then, O’Reilly has been an active participant in a host of developments from open source to Gov 2.0 to the maker movement. He is founding partner of San Francisco-based O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures LLC, an early stage venture investor, and he sits on a number of boards, including Code for America Labs Inc., PeerJ, Civis Analytics Inc., and Popvox Inc. He has also garnered a huge Twitter following @timoreilly.

In his new book, WTF?, O’Reilly takes issue with the vogue for disruption. “The point of a disruptive technology is not the market or competitors that it destroys. It is the new markets and the new possibilities that it creates,” he writes. “I spend a lot of time urging Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to forget about disruption, and instead to work on stuff that matters.” In the following excerpt, edited for space, O’Reilly shares “four litmus tests” for figuring out what that means to you.

1. Work on something that matters to you more than money.

Remember that financial success is not the only goal or the only measure of achievement. It’s easy to get caught up in the heady buzz of making money. You should regard money as fuel for what you really want to do, not as a goal in and of itself.

Whatever you do, think about what you really value. If you’re an entrepreneur, the time you spend thinking about your values will help you build a better company. If you’re going to work for someone else, the time you spend understanding your values will help you find the right kind of company or institution to work for, and when you find it, to do a better job.

Don’t be afraid to think big. Business author Jim Collins said that great companies have “big hairy audacious goals.” Google’s motto, “access to all the world’s information,” is an example of such a goal.

There’s a wonderful poem by Rainer Maria Rilke that retells the biblical story of Jacob wrestling with an angel, being defeated, but coming away stronger from the fight. It ends with an exhortation that goes something like this: “What we fight with is so small, and when we win, it makes us small. What we want is to be defeated, decisively, by successively greater beings.”

The most successful companies treat success as a by-product of achieving their real goal, which is always something bigger and more important than they are. Former Google executive Jeff Huber is chasing this kind of bold dream of using technology to make transformative advances in health care. Jeff ’s wife died unexpectedly of an aggressive undetected cancer. After doing everything possible to save her and failing, he committed himself to making sure that no one else has that same experience. He has raised more than $100 million from investors in the quest to develop an early-detection blood test for cancer. That is the right way to use capital markets. Enriching investors, if it happens, will be a by-product of what he does, not his goal. He is harnessing all the power of money and technology to do something that today is impossible. The name of his company — Grail — is a conscious testament to the difficulty of the task. Jeff is wrestling with the angel.

2. Create more value than you capture.

It’s pretty easy to see that a financial fraud like Bernie Madoff wasn’t following this rule, and neither were the titans of Wall Street who ended up giving out billions of dollars in bonuses to themselves while wrecking the world economy. But most businesses that prosper do create value for their community and their customers as well as themselves, and the most successful businesses do so in part by creating a self-reinforcing value loop with and for others. They build or are part of a platform on which people who don’t work directly for them can build their own dreams.

Investors as well as entrepreneurs must be focused on creating more value than they capture. A bank that loans money to a small business sees that business grow, perhaps borrow more money, hire employees who make deposits and take out loans, and so on. An investor who bets on the future of an unproven technology can do the same. The power of this cycle to lift people out of poverty has been demonstrated for centuries.

If you’re succeeding at the goal of creating more value than you capture, you may sometimes find that others have made more of your ideas than you have yourself. It’s OK. I’ve had more than one billionaire (and an awful lot of start-ups who hope to follow in their footsteps) tell me how they got their start with a couple of O’Reilly books. I’ve had entrepreneurs tell me that they got the idea for their company from something I’ve said or written. That’s a good thing.

Look around you: How many people do you employ in fulfilling jobs? How many customers use your products to make their own living? How many competitors have you enabled? How many people have you touched who gave you nothing back?

3. Take the long view.

The musician Brian Eno tells a story about the experience that led him to conceive of the ideas that led to the Long Now Foundation, a group that works to encourage long-term thinking. In 1978, Brian was invited to a rich acquaintance’s housewarming party, and as the neighborhood his cab drove through became dingier and dingier, he began to wonder if he was in the right place. “Finally [the driver] stopped at the doorway of a gloomy, unwelcoming industrial building,” he wrote. “Two winos were crumpled on the steps, oblivious. There was no other sign of life in the whole street.”
But he was at the right address, and when he stepped out on the top floor, he discovered a multimillion-dollar palace.

“I just didn’t understand,” he said. “Why would anyone spend so much money building a place like that in a neighborhood like this? Later I got into conversation with the hostess. ‘Do you like it here?’ I asked. ‘It’s the best place I’ve ever lived,’ she replied. ‘But I mean, you know, is it an interesting neighborhood?’ ‘Oh — the neighborhood? Well ... that’s outside!’ she laughed.”

In the talk many years ago where I first heard him tell this story, Brian went on to describe the friend’s apartment, the space she controlled, as “the small here,” and the space outside, full of winos and derelicts, as “the big here.” He went on from there, along with others, to come up with the analogous concept of the Long Now. We need to think about the long now and the big here, or one day our society will enjoy neither.

It’s very easy to make local optimizations, but they eventually catch up with you. Our economy has many elements of a Ponzi scheme. We borrow from other countries to finance our consumption, and we borrow from our children by saddling them with debt, using up nonrenewable resources, and failing to confront great challenges in income inequality, climate change, and global health.

Every new company trying to invent the future has to think long-term. What happens to the suppliers whose profit margins are squeezed by Walmart or Amazon? Are the lower margins offset by higher sales or do the suppliers faced with lower margins eventually go out of business or lack the resources to come up with innovative new products? What happens to driver income when Uber or Lyft cuts prices for consumers in an attempt to displace competitors? Who will buy the products of companies that no longer pay workers to create them?

It’s essential to get beyond the idea that the only goal of business is to make money for its shareholders. I’m a strong believer in the social value of business done right. We should aim to build an economy in which the important things are a natural outcome of the way we do business, paid for in self-sustaining ways rather than as charities to be funded out of the goodness of our hearts.
Whether we work explicitly on causes and the public good, or work to improve our society by building a business, it’s important to think about the big picture, and what matters not just to us, but to building a sustainable economy in a sustainable world.

4. Aspire to be better tomorrow than you are today.

I’ve always loved the judgment of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Mother Night: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” This novel about the postwar trial of a Nazi propaganda minister who was secretly a double agent for the Allies should serve as a warning to those (politicians, pundits, and business leaders alike) who appeal to people’s worst instincts but console themselves with the thought that the manipulation is for a good cause.

But I’ve always thought that the converse of Vonnegut’s admonition is also true: Pretending to be better than we are can be a way of setting the bar higher, not just for ourselves but for those around us.

People have a deep hunger for idealism. The best entrepreneurs have the courage that comes from aspiration, and everyone around them responds to it. Idealism doesn’t mean following unrealistic dreams. It means appealing to what Abraham Lincoln so famously called “the better angels of our nature.”

That has always been a key component of the American dream: We are living up to an ideal. The world has looked to us for leadership not just because of our material wealth and technological prowess, but because we have painted a picture of what we are striving to become.
If we are to lead the world into a better future, we must first dream of it.

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North Korean doomsday weapon could kill up to 90% of Americans, experts warn experts, 10-17




US officials have been given a stark warning about the potential dangers of a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) bomb triggered by reclusive North Korea .

According to experts, such a blast could end up killing 90% of Americans indirectly by knocking out the power grid and all electrical devices within the blast radius.

Dr. William R. Graham and Dr. Peter Vincent Pry from the EMP Commission outlined to the US House of Representatives the dangers faced by a detonation - which is when a hydrogen bomb is detonated at an altitude of between 30 and 400km above a target. Such a weapon would knock out things like refrigeration for food storage, electrical lights and communication and water processing.

"With the development of small nuclear arsenals and long-range missiles by new, radical U.S. adversaries, beginning with North Korea, the threat of a nuclear EMP attack against the U.S. becomes one of the few ways that such a country could inflict devastating damage to the United States," the pair warned in a written statement .

"It is critical, therefore, that the U.S. national leadership address the EMP threat as a critical and existential issue, and give a high priority to assuring the leadership is engaged and the necessary steps are taken to protect the country from EMP."

Dr. Graham, a former science advisor to president Reagan and Dr. Pry, a former CIA officer, urged president Trump to prepare for a possible EMP strike.

They also warned that North Korea's weaponry is becoming more of an issue as the reclusive nation continues to schedule ICBM missile tests.

"The EMP Commission finds that even primitive, low-yield nuclear weapons are such a significant EMP threat that rogue states, like North Korea, or terrorists may well prefer using a nuclear weapon for EMP attack, instead of destroying a city."

The higher an EMP bomb is detonated, the wider the range of destruction.

At 400km (250 miles), an EMP bomb would be just under the orbit of the International Space Station and the resulting detonation would be enough to affect the majority of the US mainland.

View at the original source 



Please read thses also on north Korea



North Korea 'could kill almost four million people in Seoul and Tokyo with retaliatory nuclear attack' 

“Creative diplomacy is vital to defuse Korean crisis”




Time to Accept Reality and Manage a Nuclear-Armed North Korea   




Sunday, October 15, 2017

45 Junior Engineering Assistant Vacancy at Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) – Last Date 31 October 2017



Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) invites Application for the post of 45 Junior Engineering Assistant on contract basis at Mathura Refinery, Uttar Pradesh. Apply Online before 31 October 2017. Official website is iocl.com – Qualification/ eligibility conditions, how to apply & other rules are given below…

Advt. No. : MR/HR/RECT/JEA(ALL INDIA)/2017

IOCL Job Details :
  • Post Name : Junior Engineering Assistant
  • No of Vacancy : 45 Posts
  • Pay Scale : Rs. 11900-32000/-
Discipline wise Vacancy : 
  1. Chemical : 15 Posts
  2. Electrical : 07 Posts
  3. Mechanical : 13 Posts
  4. Instrumentation : 09 Posts
  5. Fire & Safety : 01 Post
Eligible Criteria for IOCL Recruitment :
  • Educational Qualification : 3 years Diploma in Electrical/Mechanical/Instrumentation/Instrumentation & Electronics / Instrumentation and Control Engineering from a recognized Institute/University OR 3 years Diploma in Chemical/Refinery & Petrochemical Engg. Or BSc (Maths, Physics, Chemistry or Industrial Chemistry) from a recognized Institute/University.
  • Age Limit : Minimum & Maximum age limit is 18 to 26 years as on 31.10.2017
Job Location : Mathura (Uttar Pradesh)

IOCL Selection Process : Selections will be based on Written Test and a Skill/Proficiency/Physical Test(SPPT).

Application Fee : General and OBC candidates have to pay Rs.150/-  though Online mode using either Debit/Credit Card or through Net-Banking only. SC/ST/PwD/ExSM candidates are exempted from payment of application fee.

How to Apply IOCL Vacancy : Interested candidates may apply Online through the website https://www.iocl.com form 09.10.2017 to 31.10.2017. Candidates may also send hard copy of Online application along with self attested copies of all supporting documents by ordinary post to DGM(HR), HR
Dept, Administration Building, Mathura Refinery, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh-281005 on or before 07.11.2017.
Important Dates to Remember :
  • Starting Date for Submission of Online Application : 09.10.2017
  • Last Date for Submission of Online Application : 31.10.2017
  • Last Date for Submission of Hard Copy of Online Application : 07.11.2017
Important Links :

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Will Human Innovation Save Us From Future Extinction? 10-15





Does the human ability to innovate suggest an immunity to total extinction?

Yes and no. Currently, innovation reduces our chance of extinction in some ways, and increases it in others. But if we innovate cleverly, we could become just about immune to extinction.


The species that survive mass extinctions tend to share three characteristics.They're widespread. This means local disasters don't wipe out the entire species, and some small areas, called refugia, tend to be unaffected by global disasters. If you're widespread, it's more likely that you have a population that happens to live in a refugium. 

They're ecological generalists. They can cope with widely varying physical conditions, and they're not fussy about food.

They're r-selected. This means that they breed fast and have short generation times, which allows them to rapidly grow their populations and adapt genetically to new conditions.

Innovation gives humans the ability to be widespread ecological generalists. With technology, we can live in more diverse conditions and places than any other species. And while we can't (currently) grow our populations rapidly like an r-selected species, innovation does allow us to adapt quickly at the cultural level.

Technology also increases our connections to one another and connectivity is a two-edged sword. Many species consist of a network of small, local populations, each of which is somewhat isolated from the others. We call this a metapopulation. The local populations often go extinct, but they are later re-seeded by others, so the metapopulation as a whole survives. 

Humans used to be a metapopulation, but thanks to innovation, we're now globally connected. Archaeologists believe that many past civilizations, such as the Easter Islanders, fell because of unsustainable ecological and cultural innovations. The impact of these disasters was limited because these civilizations were small and disconnected from other such civilizations.

These days, a useful innovation can spread around the world in weeks. So can a lethal one. With many of the technologies and chemicals we're currently inventing, we can't be certain about their long-term effects; human biology is complex enough that we often can't be absolutely certain something won't kill us in a decade until we've waited a decade to see. We try to be careful and test things before they're released, and the probability that any particular invention could kill us all is tiny, but since we're constantly innovating, it's a real possibility.

Pandemics pose the same problem for a well-connected species. There are certain possibilities where species extinction is really hard to avoid; fortunately, they're also very unlikely, but we are definitely not immune from this.

The most likely cause of our extinction, in my opinion, is innovation in machine learning/AI. This could destroy the planet, but even if it doesn't, humans will be ultimately redundant to the dominant systems. They might keep us alive in a zoo somewhere, but I doubt it. A happier scenario (to me at least) is transhumanism, where humans become extinct in a sense because we've managed to liberate ourselves from biology.

So how could innovation prevent our extinction? We seed the galaxy with independently evolving human populations to create a new metapopulation. These local populations would hopefully be sufficiently isolated that some would survive an innovation or disaster that wipes out the rest. They would, of course, evolve in response to local conditions, perhaps creating several new species. So you could say this is still extinction, but it's as close as we'll come to persistence in our ever-changing universe. 

How to find Happiness at work 10-15








Image: Shyam's Imagination Library

Happiness is in short supply at work these days. Deadlines, staff shortages, productivity pressures and crazy stress push even the most talented and temperate people to want to quit their jobs. But that’s not a realistic option, even for folks in the C-suite. Annie McKee, director of the Penn CLO and Medical Education programs at the University of Pennsylvania where she teaches leadership and emotional intelligence, has a better idea. In her book, How To Be Happy At Work, she outlines three requirements that workers need to feel more fulfilled on the job. McKee spoke about the concepts in her book on the Knowledge@Wharton show on SiriusXM channel 111. (Listen to the podcast at the top of this page.)

 The following is an edited transcript of the conversation.

Knowledge@Wharton: How many people do you think are not happy at work?

Annie McKee: I don’t think we even have to guess. Gallup has been studying people for years, and upwards of two-thirds of us are either neutral, which means we don’t care, or we’re actively disengaged. Disengagement and happiness go hand in hand, so an awful lot of people are not happy at work. Unhappy people don’t perform as well as they could. When we’re negative, cynical, pessimistic, we simply don’t give our all, and our brains don’t work that well just when we need people’s brains to be working beautifully.

Knowledge@Wharton: Has this problem ramped up in the last two decades or so? As much as digital is phenomenal for us, a lot of people feel under pressure because of what digital does to accelerate change.

McKee: The world is changing at a rapid pace, obviously. As much as we love our always-connected world, it can mean that we work all of the time. We’re always one minute away from that next email that’s going to bring tragedy or crisis to our working lives. Some of us never turn it off, and that’s not good for us.

Knowledge@Wharton: Where did your idea for the book come from?

McKee: I’ve worked in organizations all over the world for decades now. I’ve looked at leadership practices, emotional intelligence, culture and all of those things that impact the bottom line and people’s individual effectiveness. I decided to take another look and see what people were trying to tell us. All of these studies that we did around the world were practical studies. People were telling us, “I want to be happy, I want to be fulfilled, I want to love my job, I’m not as happy or as fulfilled as I could be, and here is what I need.” And then they went on to tell us what they need.

Knowledge@Wharton: Are executives aware of their employees’ problems? Are they also aware that they may susceptible to this?
“Unhappy people don’t perform as well as they could.”
McKee: It doesn’t matter where you sit in the organization, you are susceptible to disengagement and unhappiness even at the very top. We think if you’re making all of that money and you’ve got all of that power and that great job, it’s going to be perfect. The best leaders in our organizations, at the very top and all the way down to the shop floor, understand that people matter, feelings matter, and it’s job number one to create a climate where people feel good about what they’re doing where they’re happy, engaged and ready to share their talents.

Knowledge@Wharton: What are the key ingredients to finding that happiness?

McKee: From my work, I’ve discovered three things. Number one, people feel that they need to have impact on something that is important to them, whether it’s people or a cause or the bottom line. They need to feel that their work is purposeful, and it’s tied to values that they care about.
Number two, we need to feel optimistic that our work is tied to a personal vision of the future. The organization’s vision isn’t enough. As good as it may be, we have to know that what we’re doing ties to a personal vision of our future.

Number three, we need friends at work. We’ve learned over the course of our lives you shouldn’t be friends with people at work, that it’s dangerous somehow, that it will cloud your judgment. I don’t agree. I think we need to feel that we are with our tribe in the workplace, that we belong, that we’re with people that we respect and who respect us in return. We need warmth, we need caring, and we need to feel supported.

Knowledge@Wharton: I would think most people looking for a job, whether they are coming out of college or shifting careers mid-life, are looking for that area that would make them happy. When you have that expectation of being in the right sector to begin with, you hope that you have the happiness to go along with it.

McKee: We do hope that we get into the right organization and there’s a good fit between our values and the organization’s values. We really try hard. But we get in there and the pressures of everyday life, and the crises and the stress can really tamp down our enthusiasm and our happiness.

Also, a lot of us are susceptible to what I call happiness traps. We end up doing what we think we should do. We take that job with that fancy consulting firm or that wonderful organization not because we love it and not because it’s a fit, but because we think we should. Frankly, some of us have ambition that goes into overdrive. Ambition is a great thing, until it’s not.

Knowledge@Wharton: Is that part of the reason why we see more people who have been with a company for 20 years, 25 years and suddenly pivot? They may be going to work for a nonprofit. You see these stories popping up, especially with people in the C-suite.

McKee: You do see that. You see senior leaders all of a sudden saying, “Enough is enough, I [want to do] something different.” But I really want to be clear, you don’t always have to run away. In fact, you want to run towards something. If you feel you’re not happy in the workplace, quitting your job is probably not the first answer, and some of us can’t. What we need to do is figure out what we need, what we want, how to have impact, what will make us feel hopeful about our future, what kind of people we want to work with and for, and then go find that either in our organization or elsewhere.

Happiness starts inside each of us. It’s tempting to blame that toxic boss or that horrible organizational culture, and those things may be true. But if you want to be happy at work, you first have to look inside and ask what is it that you want? What will make you feel fulfilled? Which happiness traps have you fallen prey to? And get yourself out.

Knowledge@Wharton: What are the happiness traps?

McKee: There’s what I call the “should” trap. We do what we think we should do. We show up to work acting like someone we’re not. That is soul-destroying, and it’s fairly common. [There’s also] the “ambition” trap. When our ambition drives us from goal to goal and we don’t even stop to celebrate the accomplishment of those goals, something is wrong.

Some of us feel helpless, stuck. The “helplessness” trap may be the most serious of all. It’s really hard to get out of because we don’t feel we have any power. My message is we have a lot more power and control over not only our attitude but what we do and how we approach our work on a daily basis and in the long term than maybe we think we do.
“Ambition is a great thing, until it’s not.”
Knowledge@Wharton: Earlier in your life, you found yourself fitting into these patterns as well.
McKee: I did. Early in my life I wasn’t teaching in a wonderful institution like Penn. I didn’t even have what you would call a professional career. I had jobs like waiting tables and cleaning houses and taking care of elderly people. I was making ends meet. And it wasn’t easy.

I had two choices, I could either say to myself this is miserable and I hate it, or I could look for something that was fulfilling in what I did. I tried to do that. I did find aspects of my job, whether it was cleaning houses and feeling like I was doing a good job or finding a mentor in some of these workplaces, that really made it worthwhile to me.

Knowledge@Wharton: Do you have to be 100% happy all of the time? I think if you can find areas of happiness, it can make your job or your life so much easier to go through.
McKee: Happiness isn’t just about feeling good every moment of the day, and it’s not just about pleasure. That’s hedonism, and we’re not seeking that. Frankly, a little bit of stress is a good thing. It pushes us to be innovative and to do things differently and to push harder. So, it’s not about just feeling good. But we do need a foundation of purpose, hope and friendships. We do need to know that what we do matters at work, that we are doing something that is tied to our future, and that the people we work with are great.

Knowledge@Wharton: You mentioned taking the time to recognize your accomplishments, but there are companies that want you to push on to the next project. They don’t give you the opportunity to slow down even for an hour to enjoy it.

McKee: Most of our organizations are really hard-driving, especially publicly traded organizations. I’m not even sure they’re that different than other institutions these days. The pressure is on everywhere, and the reality is we do move from project to project, goal to goal. What choices can we make in the middle of that culture? We don’t have to be victims of our organizational culture, and we don’t have to be victims of that bad boss you might have or maybe you’ve had in the past. We can make choices about what we do with our time, our energy and our emotional stance.

Knowledge@Wharton: Going back to the friends component in the workplace, does it matter where those friends come from within the structure of the company? A lot of people say you have to be careful if you want to try to be friends with the boss.

McKee: It doesn’t matter where your friends are, but it does matter whether or not you have your eyes open and recognize what people are thinking about how you are behaving and who you are friends with. You’ve got to be aware of your organization’s culture and the rules of the road.
If you’re violating some of those rules — for example, going up the hierarchy and building friendships with people who are a couple levels above you or maybe in another division — you need to understand what the implications of that are. And you need to be maybe a little bit careful.

Knowledge@Wharton: How does the middle manager deal with this?

McKee: Middle managers get it from all sides. They are pulled in every direction, and it is probably the hardest job in any organization. They, more than anybody, need to hear this message. Life is too short to be unhappy at work. Middle managers have a tremendous impact on the people who work for them, and recognizing that you more than anybody are the creator and the curator of the culture in the organization is an important place to start.

Knowledge@Wharton: Sometimes managers forget about the life people have outside of work.
McKee: We’re here at the Wharton School, and we’ve been studying management now for over 100 years. Some of the early approaches to managing organizations are really destructive, and one of the aspects of that early research has been the attitude that people don’t matter and that private lives ought to be left at the door of the office. It’s impossible to leave our private lives at the door of the office. It doesn’t mean that we talk about it all of the time, but we bring our experiences with us and we bring our feelings with us. Managers need to recognize that.

It’s also hard to find what is commonly called work-life balance. By the way, I don’t like that phrase. I think it’s a myth. I don’t think there is any magic formula that says if we get it just right we’re going to be happy at work and happy at home. It’s more about understanding that the lines are blurred between work and home now, and we need to learn how to manage our choices and our attention.

Knowledge@Wharton: What about those who work remotely and can feel very isolated and disconnected?

McKee: I understand the isolation and feeling kind of left out. The reality is that it takes a lot more effort to build relationships when we work remotely. We need to take time. When we’re working remotely, we get on the phone, we do the work that needs to be done, we talk about the project, and we get off the phone. That leaves us feeling kind of empty. We need to take that extra five minutes to have a chat, have a laugh, feel like we are in a relationship with somebody. It takes effort and self-management because the temptation is to just do the work. You talk about the gig economy, right? We’re all sort of working in a portfolio manner these days. We take on this bit of work and that bit of work, and much of it is virtual.
“Life is too short to be unhappy at work.”
I think we need to figure this out because the bottom line is that we have not changed as human beings. We still need to feel like we belong, we need to feel that we’re cared for, and we need to be able to care for others in return. If we’re working far away, we’ve got to take extra time and make a concerted effort to build those relationships in a different kind of way than if we’re in person.
I’m a big proponent of working from home or working remotely. I think it’s really helpful to individuals and companies. People who are able to work at home feel trusted, and when you feel trusted you are more committed to your organization. A lot of people report being able to get more done away from the office because you don’t have the interruptions. The downside is that you have to find a way to keep the relationships fresh and alive because that’s as important as getting that project done.

Knowledge@Wharton: Companies seem to be more aware of employee happiness than they used to be, which is a good thing. Do you think we’re going to continue down that path?

McKee: Companies are more aware, so are enlightened CEOs and enlightened leaders. I think we will continue down the path for the following reasons. It’s not just nice-to-have, and it’s not just about feeling good. We’ve got solid research coming out of positive psychology, neuroscience and management that tells us that feelings matter. When we feel good, we’re smarter. And we need smart employees now. We need people who are committed, who are engaged. The research is pretty clear. Happiness before success. If we want our employees to be at their best, we need to care about their emotional well-being as well as their physical well-being.

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