And so another year has passed since my last review. It’s been a busy year of learning a new language in my equally new country of residence, changing jobs (and everything that entails) and, of course, writing 200 posts here on Lone Gunman (and thanks again to you: there’s been hundreds of comments… and 49,810 spam comments).
The passing of another year can mean only one thing… Lone Gunman is three, and this is Year Three in Review.
Items definitely not to miss are highlighted (probably not through an RSS feed reader). [LG] denotes my original post.
- So what exactly is this “creativity” thing, anyway? I looked at the theories of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (author of Creativity), highlighting the five stages of creativity: preparation, incubation, insight, evaluation and elaboration.
- I discovered the wikis that accompany O’Reilly’s ‘97 Things…‘ series of books: there’s one for programmers, software architects and project managers.
- A favourite quote on creativity came from a wide-ranging interview with Ira Glass on creativity and being wrong. [LG]
- I make no secret of loving sleep; it’s a fascinating thing with many physiological and psychological benefits. Another benefit: dreaming is extremely important for creativity and insight. [LG]
- Did someone mention sleep? Here’s a summary of the surprising and drastic physiological and cognitive effects of sleep deprivation. [LG]
- If the benefits described in those last couple of links aren’t enough to persuade you to get back into bed, how about the correlation between a lack of quality sleep and an increase in premature death?
- So off to bed, and don’t forget the importance of a stable daily routine in getting a good night’s sleep. [LG]
- If you’re new to happiness studies (subjective well-being, as it’s often called in the literature), a fantastic introduction is David Brooks’ comprehensive yet succinct summary of some of the most interesting research into what does and does not make us happy. [LG]
- In addition to all that, another study looking at ‘technological affluence’ concludes that ownership of almost all types of technological goods increases our happiness… except for televisions. [LG]
- So with these (and many other) factors influencing our happiness, I guess it’s time to ask the question, How much of our happiness can be attributed to our genes? [LG]
- And what about happiness in our work life? I summarised the findings from three separate sources showing that autonomy, complexity, mastery, purpose and a connection between effort and reward are the major factors leading to job satisfaction.
- And after you’re satisfied, how to keep motivated? Clay Shirky and Daniel Pink let in on the secrets of workplace motivation. [LG]
General Personal Development
- Looking for further motivation, life satisfaction or useful advice? Clayton Christensen’s advice on how to apply management theory principles to one’s personal life is full of excellent little insights to help you along. [LG]
- Have goals you would like to achieve? Contrary to some conventional wisdom, research suggests that in some circumstances we should keep our goals secret [LG] and concentrate on the ‘big picture’ [LG].
- Then again, Leo Babauta tells us that goals are something we should ‘let go of’. [LG]
- So what shall we do instead? Chad Fowler’s growth philosophy is worth keeping in mind: are you better than yesterday? [LG]
- If you ever feel uncomfortable turning people down or requesting anything, discovering the difference between ‘Askers’ and ‘Guessers’ could very well change your social life. [LG]
- Michael Lopp’s advice for writing that just happens to be relevant in all walks of life: become comfortable with incompleteness. [LG]
- When the author of Wrong educated us on the merits and pitfalls of being wrong, we also discovered how to spot bad advice: it’s simplistic, definite, universal and certain. My accompanying post highlighted some depressing facts about being wrong.
- It’s also worth keeping in mind Dan Buettner’s TEDx talk on the myths of living and the nine common lifestyle habits of those who live to be active at ages of 100+. [LG]
Physical Health and Fitness
- On the topic of keeping sharp into old age: physical exercise and various other leisure activities have a “very clear” correlation with mental acuity and the reduction of mental decline. [LG]
- Another way to help reduce mental decline: language. Bilingualism has been found to correlate nicely with a lower incidence of dementia. [LG]
- A great selection of other body-based advice came from veteran trainer Mike O’Donnell’s extensive list of assorted health and fitness tips. [LG]
- My favourite post from the last year is an easy one to choose. It is also an extremely important one: Information is Beautiful‘s comprehensive data visualisation mapping the the effectiveness (or not) of a wide range of health supplements. If you read and share one thing; make it this. [LG]
- Do you want to know what else doesn’t work? Hand sanitisers; ignore them and get a flu shot and wash your hands sensibly instead. [LG]
- So exercise is good, right? We’ve agreed on that? So how to make ourselves do it? If we’re trying to persuade ourselves (not just for exercise and likely not just ourselves, of course) interrogative self-talk is more motivational than declarative statements (“Will I…?” is superior to “I will….”). [LG]
- Made to Stick was one of the best books I read last year, and the authors have provided an outline of the six principles of creating ‘sticky’ ideas: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, stories. [LG]
- Rand Fishkin, co-founder of SEOmoz, created the Illustrated Guide to the Science of Influence and Persuasion, based on six principles from Robert Cialdini’s much lauded Influence (reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, scarcity). [LG]
- There’s also the ten timeless influencers of conformity to help understand why people are influenced in the first place. [LG]
- Is someone or something wrong? Remember that corrections only ‘work’ if we already believe the corrected information, otherwise they reinforce our incorrectly held beliefs.
- Experimenting with pricing or sales?
- Giving a portion of voluntary payments to charity could be worthwhile. [LG]
- And closely related to an old favourite, scarcity marketing, is the influence of sold-out products on our purchasing behaviour. [LG]
- This year I first heard of the denomination effect: the phenomenon whereby we are more willing to spend the same sum of money in coins than in bills (because there are fewer psychological barriers).
- And finally, when prices are reduced, the harder the mental computation required to determine the magnitude of that reduction, the smaller we beilieve the reduction to actually be. That’s cognitive fluency in action. [LG]
- So that’s one specific way cognitive fluency influences behaviour. For more, PsyBlog provided a summary of cognitive fluency research. [LG]
- And practice your accent: cognitive fluency combined with accents suggests: as non-native speech is harder to process than native speech, we trust it less. [LG]
- And be wary of neuro-babble: irrelevant neuroscience jargon added to an argument persuades us… even if we’re neuroscience students. [LG]
- Dealing with ‘sacred values’? To persuade describe tradeoffs in terms of “costs and benefits” and “analysis” and definitely not in terms of financial incentives. [LG]
- Wondering whether to use numbers or stories to persuade. One study suggests that numeric and normative feedback (scores and comparative information) is more persuasive and effective than text feedbcak. [LG]
- This brings into perspective the idea of furthering scientific causes by moving away from the holier-than-thou mindset of facts, data and the scientific method and toward personal, persuasive stories. [LG]
- So how about persuasion through design patterns?
- Behavioural game design is a hugely fascinating topic that gained a lot of followers throughout 2010. The theories apply to a lot more than gaming, but it’s one of the best ways to approach the topic. To that end, every link on my post introducing behavioural game design is worth a read.
Business and Entrepreneurship
- After reading about the amount of information large consumer segmentation businesses track and use I researched it myself and found some fascinating consumer segmentation resources.
- I also spent some time following Patrick McKenzie’s journey as a one-man Micro ISV: the compilation of his best posts is a worthwhile list of practical advice for small companies. [LG]
- For shorter attention spans and those with less time, all of Om Malik’s chosen ten essential startup essays are worthwhile reads. [LG]
- After Joel Spolsky retired his hugely popular blog, Jan Willem Boer summarised each Joel on Software post into one or two sentences: that became an essential summary of business and technology wisdom. [LG]
- I discovered the wikis that accompany O’Reilly’s ‘97 Things…‘ book series: there’s 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know, 97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know and 97 Things Every Project Manager Should Know. [LG]
- And moving away from the business side of technology, Nicholas Carr argued for the ‘delinkification’ of web-based articles as a way to decrease the cognitive load of online reading, thereby increasing our attention span. An intriguing idea. [LG]
- For those with attention spans conducive to reading books, you may well be interesting to hear of the fascinating study (pdf) suggesting that the mere presence of books in the household can help a child’s intellectual development. [LG]
- So get buying books! And for a quick list of excellent reads, it’ll be tough to beat Derek Sivers’ book list. [LG]
- Talking of intelligence development, this year I learnt that simply knowing that intelligence can improve, improves intelligence. [LG]
- A great resource for those looking to actively increase their own knowledge through study are these nine evidence-based study tips. [LG]
- However, if you don’t have to time for deliberate practice, remember that passive exposure has been shown to be as effective as practice. [LG]
- One of my most visited posts was the UK Government’s series of accessible yet comprehensive ‘statistical literacy guides’.
- But why should you care about statistics? Clive Thompson believes that statistical literacy (“the language of data”) is crucial to public life and functioning successfully in our future society. [LG]
- And if you’re a designer? You absolutely must become statistically literate in order to be an honest designer, says Smashing Magazine. [LG]
- And business education? If you go to business school, you’ll likely hear seven or so influential and game-changing speeches. Save some time and money with The Seven Keynote MBA. [LG]
Other (Typography, Psychology, Writing, etc.)
- A fascinating study came to my attention looking at how the physical properties of objects we touch influences our judgement and decision-making. [LG]
- And any talk even related to language can’t pass without pointing out another fascinating article courtesy of researcher Lera Boroditsky; this time on how language can influence entire cultures. [LG]
- FontShop‘s collection of educational typography ebooks. [LG]
- With only twelve tips, Stephen King promises to teach us all we need to know about writing in ten minutes. [LG]
- For the future there’s Douglas Coupland’s enjoyable prophesising on what the coming ten years hold for society and some new words to help us cope with the transition.
- In terms of personal relationships, I enjoyed the insightful post looking at the differences between male and female friendships. Amusing, perceptive and very accurate. [LG]
Now that my life is starting to resemble something close to “normal”, expect a much more regular posting schedule over the next twelve months.