Tag Archives: analysis

Alumni Series: Health Trends (Part 1)

qSample and Alumni Reader Panel conducted a survey to discover health related trends of alumni of top national universities (please refer to the previous blog post for details regarding demographics). The findings from this survey will be divided into two blog segments:

Part 1. Basic preventive health measures/healthy lifestyle

Part 2. Spending habits on healthcare

According to a 2016 study by Mayo Clinic Proceedings, less than 3% of Americans meet the basic qualifications for a “healthy lifestyle”. In order to qualify as living a healthy lifestyle, following four requirements must be met: moderate or vigorous exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, a diet score in the top 40% on the Healthy Eating Index, a body fat % under 20 for men or 30 for women, and not smoking. Unfortunately, survey respondents were not aware of the qualifications set by Mayo Clinic, rather they were asked to answer best to their knowledge. Chart below reveals their knowledge and awareness of healthy lifestyle:


Average of 62.7% of the respondents either have some degree of expertise or are trusted from peers with advice on health-related issue. Moreover, in the survey, 74.1% agreed that they are constantly looking for new ways to live a healthier life. Following three charts confirm that majority of the respondents do indeed take preventive health measures (diet, exercise, and regular check-ups):

eatt habits

reg ex

reg check

In summary, 88.1% follow a healthy diet, 75.2% follow a regular exercise routine, and 84.8% visit the doctor for regular check-ups.




Alumni of top national universities: Buying Habits

A survey was conducted by Alumni Reader Panel and qSample to investigate the buying habits of alumni of top national universities. 1,964 respondents completed the survey. Universities represented in this survey are: University of Chicago, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Harvard,  Dartmouth, Cornell, and Brown. Succeeding three charts summarize the demographics of the respondents by each school:




In a bigger picture, 4.4% were Millennials, 23% were Generation X, 72.6% were a mix of Boomers and Silent Generation. In addition, survey respondents were predominantly males (66.5%). Prior to discussing the buying habits of alumni, an important limitation to acknowledge is that there is an insufficient amount of data to categorize the demographic of respondents from the results. For instance, if respondents were asked a question about brand loyalty and given four choices, the results were simply netted by counts. Thus, we could not identify what percentage of the total counts stemmed from which generation or gender. With that in mind, here are the findings (note: data are shown in average of eight schools as there were no significant statistical outliers – margin of error is approximately +/- 5%):

They are brand loyal:


91.6% of respondents agreed that when they find a brand they like, they will stick to it. Furthermore, 90.4% agreed that if a product is made by a company they trust, they are willing to purchase at a premium price. These two independent results revealed a correlation coefficient of 0.994. What this indicates is that brand loyal consumers become price desensitized, allowing the brands to obtain greater pricing power. In addition, 66.1% of consumers are aware that brand name is not the best indication of quality (see below):


Although the survey revealed that these consumers are highly brand loyal, behavioral data portion of the survey showed what might be advantageous to competitors with potential substitute products. 99.1% of respondents indicated that they value “curiosity wanting to explore and learn about new things”. Since a mere 25.8% agreed that they are one of the first among their friends to try new product, word of mouth (through peers) would likely be their most trusted source of advertisement.

They are willing to pay at premium for quality not image:


Respondents were asked to answer the following: “I am typically willing to pay more for high-quality items” and “I would pay extra for a product that is consistent with the image I want to convey”. As there is no direct correlation between these two factor, the correlation coefficient is 0.224. Although we do not have to access to the respondents’ income distribution, as 88.7% of respondents are willing to pay at premium for quality, it may be safe to assume that price is not much of a concern as long the product quality meet their standards. Interestingly, even though only 42.8% agreed to buy products to convey self-image, a striking 65% had expressed that they buy from brands that reflect their style (see below):

styleTherefore, it is critical for brands to identify the lifestyles of their target audience to effectively form bonds and trust with the consumers.

They prefer American products:


60.5% of respondents agreed that purchasing American-made products is an important factor. “Made in America” label has its strong manufacturing reputation, and considering that majority of these consumers value trust and quality, they are most likely willing to pay premium price for American-made products. As a matter of fact, 82.9% agreed that their purchase decision is solely based on quality rather than price.

Moving forward, blog posts will focus on buying habits and decision factors in specific industries (technology, travel/hospitality, healthcare, etc.).







Branding Trust in Healthcare


Trustworthiness is a major player in brand sustainability. According to 2015 Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report, 62% of global consumers reported that “brand trust” is the primary purchase decision driver. Of which, 72% are willing to pay a premium. Trust seems to act like a magical remedy to minimize the anxiety of risk-averse (or price-sensitive) consumers, which in turn leads to brand loyalty. Speaking of risk-aversion, there is one particular industry that absolutely cannot “screw-up”. The healthcare industry.

A 2014 study on healthcare branding found that “trust is a key variable in establishing affective commitment in consumer brand relationships” (Becerra, Jillapalli, and Kemp 133). In building a sustainable brand, trust is especially critical in this sector due to the fact that individuals surrender sensitive information to the healthcare provider, and also his or her physical and psychological well-being.

Even though trust is a critical aspect in healthcare, consumer’s industry perception begs to differ. According to 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer – Healthcare Sector Results, 61% of general population trusts the healthcare industry, which is on the lower end compared to other industries (technology being the most trusted at 75%, followed by manufacturing at 67%). What measures could be implemented to tackle this problem? Kelly Michelson, Associate Professor of pediatrics and Director of the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at Feinberg School of Medicine states the following:

“Research shows that open lines of communication create trust, and vice versa, and that trusting relationships are key to better healthcare outcomes. One study, for example, has shown that poor communication among the staff in a pediatric hospital influenced their trust levels and how they cared for patients. In another study, clinicians who worked in an intensive care unit were trained in how to conduct a family meeting, specifically in empathetic listening.”

Internal change is vital to cultivating a brand’s trust. As stated in Nielsen 2015 report, “Global Trust in Advertising”, with respect to earned advertising format, 83% of global consumers reported that they trust the recommendations of peers, followed by consumer opinions posted online at 66%. In terms of owned (brand-managed) format, online channels are considered to be the most trusted. 70% of global consumers trust branded websites, and more than half of respondents (56%) trust emails they signed up for.


Becerra, Enrique, Ravi K. Jillapalli, and Elyria Kemp. “Healthcare branding: Developing emotionally based consumer brand relationships.” Journal of Services Marketing 28.2 (2014): 126-137. Print.

2015 Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report

2015 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising

2016 Edelman Trust Barometer – Healthcare Sector Results

Trusting Healthcare Providers and Institutions: Key Findings


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qSample-Physician-Panel-Book.pdf (5634 downloads)

Unique Success Insights From Today’s Greatest Entrepreneurs


In a crowded “nothing new under the sun” world, being successful no longer means having more or being at the apex of a vocation. That narrative is a dime a dozen. The richest man on earth is as forgettable as the average speaker at a TED Talk is memorable.

Being successful in a digital, multichannel age means transcending the constraints of your field, the expectations of your culture, and even the guarded borders of your identity. It means reinventing yourself to the point few will forget your brief tale in this universe. That context of achievement is easy to grasp when thinking of such modern “success” stories as Steve Jobs, Tim Ferris, or Reed Hastings.

How to do these lords of transcendence do it? Is there a code? If there is one today, it might be found in a book aptly called The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, written by Vishen Lakhiani. Although known as the founder of Mindvalley, trying to label Lakhiani is as hard as labelling the complex figures mentioned above—individuals who can thrive as both entrepreneurs and social activists, captains of commerce and spiritual servants of the common good.

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind is also hard to pigeonhole. You could say the book is a manual on how to upgrade and reboot your existence with an equal mixture of common sense and mysticism. You could say the book is transcendent.

Lakhiani’s work provides a blueprint for any individual to find his or her potential without having to run to a cave in Tibet (although that is optional). He is no mere guru of anecdotal experience dressed in New Age lingo. His writing is brutally honest, humble and intimate. At the same time, the book’s content is laser-like in its practically—drawing partially from Lakhiani having 17 jobs in 17 years, from washing dishes to founding (and losing) companies. He also draws heavily from many of today’s “success” stories.

Thus, I present here the wisdom Lakhiani learned from other lords of transcendence and revealed in The Code of the Extraordinary Mind.


Elon Musk



Lakhiani asked the famed founder of Tesla this questions: “Elon, you’ve done some pretty epic things, stuff most people would never even dream about. Yet what makes Elon Musk? I mean, if we could put you in a blender and blend you to distill your essence, what would that essence be?”

Lakhiani writes that Musk laughed at the blender metaphor and then thoughtfully answered:

When I was just starting out, I walked into Netscape to get a job. I just sat in the lobby holding my résumé, waiting quietly for someone to talk to me. No one did. I waited and waited. But no one spoke to me. So I said: ‘F**k it! I’ll just start my own company.’

Obviously, few of us can be like Musk. He also did tell Lakhiani that “I have a high tolerance for pain.” In any case, many us forget that before we can think outside the box, we must understand we’re trapped inside one.


Richard Branson



While spending time together on the beach at Richard Branson’s private island, Lakhiani shared openly about various philosophical issues with Branson.

At one point, Branson interrupted him and stoically said, “You should write a book.”

That was it. Lakhiani took the suggestion. Why? Because Branson found him interesting? Maybe or maybe not. It was likely that Branson simply knew everyone has an important story to share. Lakhiani had merely been brave enough to take the first step of disclosing one’s soul to later expand it.

Later on, Lakhiani asked Branson why he always seemed happy. Was he ever sad? Branson answered, “I can’t remember the bad times. I only remember the good things that happened in my life.”

Branson’s view reminds me of a Tom Robbins quote: “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” The past is a stern classroom, sure, but eventually the bell needs to ring and we need to venture into the playgrounds of our positive experiences. Your mileage and metaphors may vary.


Arianna Huffington



Lakhiani recalls asking Arianna Huffington the same questions offered to Musk: “What makes you Arianna? If we could distill you and try to extract your essence, what is it that makes you you?”

Arianna replied:

I would say trust. I have an incredible trust in life. One of my favorite quotes is a little misquote: ‘Live life as though everything is rigged in your favor.’ I really profoundly believe that whatever has happened in my life, including the biggest heartbreaks, the biggest disappointments, was exactly what was needed to help me get to the next stage of my own personal evolution and growth. I always had a sense of that, but now I believe that so profoundly. I can literally see the hidden blessing in every bad thing that happened.

In essence, I would say, every person has a history and that history is unique—filled with wonder and insight.


Peter Diamandis



Lakhiani recalls in his book a quote by Peter Diamandis, founder and chairman of the X Prize: “If you can’t win, change the rules. If you can’t change the rules, ignore them.”

Not much can be commented on this quote, especially once you’re involved in writing the script that is your life (as with Musk and Branson) and are enraptured in the lessons of your past (as with Branson and Huffington).





In The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, Lakhiani proffers his own insights that correlate with the figures mentioned. He furthermore presents his personal journey, as Rudyard Kipling wrote, of meeting with “Triumph and Disaster” and treating those two impostors as they were one. It is quite a journey, and he calls for each one of us to take that journey.

As mentioned, being successful today means transcending until you find the best, unique, and helpful version of yourself. It’s not so much about reinventing, though, but rediscovering who you were meant to be—and that is a person whose tale is unforgettable in this universe.


A Practical Visionary: Success Insights From Netflix Founder Reed Hastings


Netflix is undoubtedly one of the premier brands today. The Los Gatos, California company is so culturally revolutionary it’s even made the action of abusing television something cool. The phenomenon of “binge watching” has become a clarion call for Millennials and often a mating call for Hipsters. The vast wasteland that was television is now a vast paradise of streaming on mobile devices.

Netflix has changed many perceptions as well as overcome many societal and economic shifts—remaining at the top of the brand food chain.

Much of the success of Netflix can be attributed to founder and CEO, Reed Hastings. The essence of this former vacuum cleaner salesperson and Peace Corps volunteer can be found in Scott Smith’s book, Extraordinary People. The work uses primary and secondary interviews to mine the synergetic history of Netflix and Hastings. It showcases Hastings as a complex visionary, yet at his core with a practical approach to improving the lives and experiences of those around him.


A Common Sense Visionary



In his book, Smith reveals that the conception of Netflix didn’t begin so much with market research but a mixture of common sense and anger—the kind many of us perhaps felt decades ago when being wallet-raped by video companies like Blockbuster. A Smith writes:

The genesis of Netflix came in 1997, when Hastings misplaced a rented videotape, Apollo 13, and was hit with a late fine of $40. Afterwards, on his way to the gym, he wondered why a rental service couldn’t work like the gym: a flat fee for members to use it as much as they wanted with no late fees.

This thought-process led to the creation of Netflix. In May 1998, Hastings offered a free trial to initial adopters of DVDs for $4 rental and $2 postage. Few signed up to pay. However, a year later, he experimented with a flat monthly subscription with no late fees. The tweak worked. By the end of 2000, Netflix boasted 239,000 customers.

The company exploded, but still needed to overcome many hurdles in those early years such as:

–  The dot-com bubble bust.
–  9/11 and the ensuing soft economy.
–  Fierce competition from giants like Amazon, Blockbuster, and Walmart.

Nevertheless, in 2002 Netflix started setting up regional warehouses to speed up DVD distribution and went public after reaching 857,000 members by the end of the year. By 2004, membership ballooned to 2.6 million.

Eventually and not too long ago, Blockbuster went out of business. In retrospect, that Apollo 13 video Hastings rented might be the most expensive video in history.


A Daring Visionary



In 2007, inspired by the rise of YouTube videos, Hastings made a concerted effort to make Netflix into a streaming service. He saw the writing on the proverbial wall, but unfortunately missed a step when it came to execution, and the fall was hard. To this day, many Millennials and Hipsters must shudder when thinking of the disaster, which happened as follows:

Soon after being hailed the 2010 Company of the Year, being the U.S. Postal Service’s biggest customer, and being the largest source of Internet traffic in the evening—Netflix announced it was going to restructure its DVD business as a subsidiary called Qwikster. Customers who had been receiving disks and streaming movies under the same subscription would be forced to buy the services separately with higher prices. This business shift was done to accelerate the transition of Netflix from a company renting DVDs to a streaming service.

The reaction was vastly negative. The company’s stock dropped from its all-time high of $305 the day before to $64 in November of 2011. Close to a million customers cancelled subscriptions.

“I screwed up,” Hastings admitted soon after in a blog post. “If our business is about making people happy, then I made a big mistake. I slid into arrogance based on past success.”

He also called off the plan.

We all know how the story ends, of course (binge-watching reigns supreme). Fast Company called the turnaround “the biggest comeback in entertainment history.” And here we are, with Netflix being one of the most innovating, expanding and successful companies in the world.


A Company Culture Visionary



Beyond good ideas and reputation management, Hastings’ other achievement is creating a “culture of entrepreneurship” in his company. Netflix is notorious for paying and treating its employees well.

As Smith writes in his book, Netflix emphasizes the qualities it seeks in employees upfront in the hiring process:

1. Judgment—You identify root causes and get beyond treating symptoms.
2. Innovation—You keep us nimble by keeping things simple.
3. Impact—You focus on great results, rather than the process.
4. Curiosity—You contribute effectively outside of your specialty.
5. Communication—You listen well so that you understand before reacting.
6. Courage—You make tough decisions without excessive agonizing.
7. Honesty—You only say things about fellow employees you would say to their face.
8. Selflessness—You share information proactively.
9. Passion—You inspire others with your thirst for excellence.

Lastly, Extraordinary People presents real life lessons for all us lesser mortals who never swore revenge on a video store:

–  Imagine your industry in 10 years and work towards that vision.
–  Deliver a high-quality customer experience no matter what. For most companies, that’s a slogan on a wall trumped by political infighting and treating front line workers as the least important.
–  Screen recruits for personality and values, not resume and technical skills. The specifics of a business can be learned by smart outsiders.
–  Don’t be afraid to admit mistakes quickly and learn lessons to prevent future errors.
–  Have a passion for whatever you do—making money is not a sufficient motive to get you through tough times.





Not everyone can be Hastings, and not everyone will work for a company like Netflix. However, everyone can use common sense marketing to find the needs of customers; and every company should understand that treating employees exceptionally more often than not fosters exceptional employees.

Stream that, Blockbuster.


Trust, Joy, Sadness And Fear. Primary Election Emotions In 2016

Picture of Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders


graph on candidates

Click for full view


I decided it might be interesting to analyze the tweets of the main political players in the run-up to Super Tuesday. The methodology was simple, follow their official twitter accounts and then analyze the tweets for emotional word content. 1029 tweets from official twitter accounts for Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were collected. The collection started on February 23rd and continued through to midnight February 29th, the day before Super Tuesday. A breakdown of the volume of tweets per politician is shown on the right.

Obviously, there were a huge amount of other tweets relating to the individual politicians but I wanted to see what their core message was in terms of the use of emotionally related words. It’s of note that Cruz , the youngest of all the candidates analyzed , sent out the most number of tweets, followed by Sanders. Cruz was also the only one to use no capital letters in his screen name “tedcruz”.

Words were categorized using 8 types of emotion, which could overlap. The types were fear, anger, sadness, disgust, anticipation, surprise, joy and trust. It’s an approach which treats text as a “bag of words”, no attempt is made to parse the text for grammatical constructions in this case.

As an example I searched for the word “food” in a collection of 1.5 million random tweets. The search revealed 7319 tweets with the word “food” in them, the analysis of these tweets for emotional content is shown below:


graph on candidates2

Click for full view

This ring is like a pie chart, except its thickness is in proportion to the numbers of words which could be classed as emotional out of all the words in a tweet. The percentage in the center is the value for this, so 33% shows that 33% of words in the tweets with the word “food” in them could be put into one of our emotional types. This is a measure of how emotionally expressive the tweets were. The circle on the lower right shows the percentage of emotional words that are either classed as positive or negative within all the words classed as emotional. Blue means positive, red means negative. In way of contrast a search for the word “death” shows a very different result:

graph on candidates3

Click for full view

For our candidates, we see some subtle differences. Both Trump and Cruz share the same level of “positivity”, with a score of 59% but it would be useful to remember nothing is exact with any analysis of language.


graph on candidates rectangle

Click for full view


Cruz uses fewer words that are classed as emotional words in total, yet with more tweets overall.

Turning to Clinton and Sanders we see this:


graph on candidates rectangle2

Click for full view

Here we see a different pattern. Levels of positivity are slightly above those of Cruz and Trump at 64% for both candidates with Clinton using less emotional words overall in a similar way to Cruz.

The top three emotional categories for Clinton and Sanders are trust, anticipation and joy. For Cruz the top two are trust and anticipation. In contrast, Trumps’ top two categories are trust and joy. Trump and Cruz also differ in the third highest. For Trump, his third category is sadness, for Cruz fear.

Bag of words approaches to text analysis are well established in the realm of content analysis of huge text collections. It’s interesting to see that they might have some application to smaller problems. The key point to remember is that this is one way of looking at text, there are many more. None of them can be said to be correct, it all depends how useful the results are.


Andrew Jeavons is Founder and CEO of Mass Cognition – a company that specializes in helping clients understand the deeper meanings in text and social media data.  He was previously the CEO of Survey Analytics, a major survey software vendor serving Fortune 500 customers and the international community.  He was one of the founders of e-tabs and has a (too) long history in the market research technology industry. He is a well-known award winning speaker and blogger.

Voter Panel Meme

Work Meetings Are Destroying Business (and how to destroy them back)

Frustrated workers in a business meeting


My brother is a vice president of a large company. He often tells me he gets anxiety on Sundays because of an incoming Monday of long, byzantine meetings. I asked him once who was responsible for all these work meetings. He answered, “I schedule most of them.” When I asked him why, he dully answered, “Well, it’s just what you’re supposed to do.”

Welcome to corporate America, a parody so accurate of itself you don’t even need movies like Office Space or Working Girl to understand it.

It’s a parody, sure, but the reality is that workplace meetings are often counterproductive (surprise!) and waste inordinate amounts of money. As renowned economist John Kenneth Galbraith once quipped, “Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.”

Beyond the common wisdom, the statistics on the absolute bleed that are business meetings are so alarming you might never attend your next meeting:


workplace meetings meme


How bad is it, really?



It’s bad. Larry Kim, CEO of Wordstream, presented several studies in an Inc. article to expose the black hole that is the workplace meeting. Here are some of the takeaways:

–  Executives spend more than two days a week in meetings (like my brother).
–  Organizations spend 15% of their time on meetings, a number that’s increased progressively since 2008.
–  Over $25 million is wasted per day on unnecessary meetings, resulting in $37 billion thrown away on meetings that simply aren’t productive.

Before you schedule a meeting on this crisis of meetings, it gets worse. Research from the Harvard Business Review found that one executive meeting from a typical company devoured a dizzying 300,000 hours a year. Yes, that’s a year, by Jove! And yes, a year only has 8,700 hours. How did that happen without a Skynet time machine? Simple: The preparation and collateral (aka more meetings) for a meeting burns additional time from many employees including the executives. Meetings cost time and resources before and after they happen.

Ready for more, as you fall through a dimensional hole and into a Dilbert comic? Okay, here are some more soul-numbing statistics:

–  Sixty-three percent of meetings have no planned agenda.
–  Most executives attend 62 meetings a month.
–  Seventy-three percent of meeting participants admit they do other work during meetings. (This would be multitasking, and our research shows it’s as negative on the mind and business economics as bad workplace meetings).

Before your next meeting is an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting after you binge drink due to this information, the problem with work meetings is being addressed as we speak and your boss is scheduling another meeting.


workplace meetings meme2


Yes, give me the solutions to work meetings!



Okay, the problem with meetings has sorta been addressed. As Kim writes in the Inc. article, Jeff Bezos at Amazon.com employs the tactic of not planning a meeting in which two pizzas aren’t enough to feed everyone. Business leaders like Donald Trump and Steve Jobs screamed a lot during meetings; maybe that wasn’t for efficiency, but they kept attendees on schedule and on track.

In between stuffing your mouth with pizza and stuffing your ears cotton balls, well-used technology like Uberconference and iMeet can trim the fat of meetings. On the other hand, companies such as LinkedIn are creating meetings that are more productive by using less technology. In other words, those slide presentations that lull you into a coma or ignite golf fantasies are being ditched—instead offered before or after the meeting. Yes, PowerPoint just ain’t what she used to be.

In the end, what is truly necessary to have productive meetings is a change in thinking and culture.

This transformation is covered in Al Pittampalli’s groundbreaking book Read This Before Your Next Meeting. Pittampalli explains that meetings create a culture of compromise and speculation, which is the anathema to the battleground that ought to be a company’s boardroom. In fact, Pittampalli says, “Like war, meetings are a last resort.”

This attitude of war is key to reforming the workplace meeting. Fighting is a minor part of winning a war. Preparation and decision-making are the major elements of winning a war. A meeting should be first and foremost about making decisions. By the time participants sit in a meeting, they all should have all the pertinent information necessary. It’s really up to the “generals” attending to make decisions, based on that information, which will move the company forward. It’s as simple as that, and Jobs and Trump would agree.

Pittampalli outlines seven principles for a successful meeting:

1.  Supports a decision that has already been made
2. Moves fast and ends on schedule
3. Limits the number of attendees (only two pizzas!)
4. Rejects the unprepared
5. Produces committed action plans
6. Refuses to be informational. Reading memos is mandatory
7. Works only alongside a culture of brainstorming

Good meetings are indeed wars. All good wars are won before the first shot. Good generals make quick decisions as soon as they have all the available data. If the war motif is too much for you, then maybe you don’t belong in a competitive business society. Just sayin’.

Other suggestions from Pittampalli include having everyone walk around even if they’re not speaking, allowing people to come and go, and giving everyone a bloody time limit. Brainstorming and conversations have their places, but never at a workplace meeting.

In the end, an executive makes an unpopular decision is nothing more than a leader, and leaders are rare in workplace meetings.

Today, too many executives are more like politicians. That is tantamount to kicking the can down the proverbial road, and we’re back to wasting those 300,000 hours a year.

Instead, kick that bad addiction that is bad meetings.


workplace meetings meme3





This article or anyone cited doesn’t make a case for vanquishing workplace meetings altogether. Meetings matter. As Pittampalli says in his book:

We work in a business of complex problems. Meetings were the invention created to provide the needed coordination. We need meetings to ensure that intelligent decisions are made and to confirm that our teams are interacting effectively on complex projects.

What we don’t need, though, are standard meetings, the mediocre meetings and the meetings that actually and actively cripple our organization.

Furthermore, it was famed economist Peter F. Drucker who said, “Meetings are a symptom of bad organization. The fewer meetings the better.”

In summary, efficient meetings should rest upon these four cornerstones:

1.  Meetings are only about decisions. In fact, their sole existence is to foster decisions.
2. The same fervor, urgency and agility we manifest in our jobs should manifest in meetings. Let’s go to war.
3.  Meetings shouldn’t take time, but more like destroy time.
4.  Mix it, shake it up, try something weird at meetings. At least a decision will come about from this, and that’s already a good meeting.

These type of changes are not easy. A culture of compromise just seems sooo sensible, but radical change is certainly necessary for any company that wishes to fully be a member of this age of information…including my brother’s.


As a bonus, please check out this infographic. Multitasking is also another work-destroyer:

The Negative Effects of Multitasking

Download this infographic.

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The Most Accurate Parody Movies Of The Workplace


To parody the workplace one doesn’t necessarily have to leave the workplace. The American workplace is largely a self-fulling, eternal loop of satirical moments—from byzantine meetings to black hole paperwork, from faltering tech originally meant to save time to Wonderland jargon spoken by so many management emperors wearing no clothes.

At least this seems to be the case on a bad day at work. However, one can also look at some of the data:

–  Over $25 million is wasted per day on unnecessary meetings, resulting in $37 billion thrown away on meetings that aren’t productive.
–  $650 billion are lost yearly because of multitasking, mainly due to the fact most companies will not embrace automated prioritization solutions.

I’m sure you have your own statistics and empirical evidence. Sometimes it’s a wonder any of us gets bored during work once we open our eyes and notice the quirks of the workplace (or move our eyes away from watching the same YouTube video for the tenth time at work).

We always have movies to showcase existential realities, and when it comes to satirizing the workplace no shortage exists. Most of these films are comedies, although their “Ha-ha!” is more of the sad type of “Ha-ha!” and not the funny “Ha-ha!” type.

In the spirit of work sanity and this weekend’s Academy Awards, here are the ten most accurate parody movies of the workplace.


Office Space (1999)



office space






Mike Judge’s creation is as close as you can get to nailing it when it comes to the Mad Hatter aspect of the workplace. The film was not a hit, but quickly blossomed into a cult flick and documentary of sorts, because it’s so bloody true! It contains all the keynotes of a sanity-sucking job: the jammed printer, the soulless but suave boss, the Kafkaesque memos, the cubicles-as-coffins, and much more. In the end, the lesson of Office Place is clear: mediocrity tends to rise to the top of the business world and a postal, pyrotechnic mindset wins the American Dream.

Same as it ever was, as the Talking Heads song goes.

Notable quote: Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements.


9 to 5 (1980)



nine to five






Not only does this film reveal the absurd side of the workplace, but it’s also a groundbreaking feminist exposition. Dolly Partner, Lilly Tomlin and Jane Fonda—a trinity of the female plight in business—go up again Dabney Coleman in all his genius as an actor and all his misogyny and bigotry as a character. We’ve all resented our bosses, but kidnap and torture one? Mmm…certainly a plausible fantasy long before sexual harassment, verbal abuse, and racial discrimination laws were actually enforced.

Notable quote: What are you, a man or a mouse? I mean, a woman or a wouse?


Working Girl (1988)



working girl






Melanie Griffith makes a dream move to forge her own deal at a Wall Street Investment bank, regardless of her lowly position and education. She goes up against the dark side of feminism: a haughty Sigourney Weaver in between fighting Aliens. This movie is more of a romantic comedy, with Harrison Ford playing her love interest and business ally. Yet Griffith’s narrative as someone attempting to break the bonds of business fate and caste systems is touching and uplifting.

Notable quote: You can bend the rules plenty once you get to the top, but not while you’re trying to get there. And if you’re someone like me, you can’t get there without bending the rules.


Fight Club (1999)



fight club






The story doesn’t exactly center on the workplace. However, one of the chief quests of the main character, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), is to deprogram all the other characters of their views on careers and the business world in general. The movie takes pointed shots at American consumerism, runaway brand loyalty and modern masculinity. But it’s the day at work that is the great tumor at the center of the human imagination—according to Durden—even as he tries to bring all of society crashing down around him in an act of global terrorism. I’m sure none of us have imagined bringing the system down after a long day of paperwork and bureaucratic nightmares.

One has to wonder what kind of team the women from 9 to 5 and Durden would have made if they joined forces in 2016.

Notable quote: We’re consumers. We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don’t concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy’s name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.


Up In The Air (2009)



movie shit






Many of us wonder at times if this will be the day we will lose our job. Even Steve Jobs was fired once, when he was head of Apple. This movie deals with the downsizing issue in nuanced and moving ways—as George Clooney and Anna Kendrick fly around the country as firing consultants during our never-ending reality of continuous corporate layoffs. The hunter must become the hunter, as they say, and Clooney finds himself a firing expert threatened to be fired.

History and art portray many heroic versions of those who face death, but so far very little heroism on how to gallantly fire someone or handle being fired. Up In The Air at least makes a noble attempt.

Notable quote: On a street level, I’ve heard that losing your job is like a death in the family. But personally, I feel more like the people I worked with were my family and *I* died.


The Devil Wears Prada (2006)



devil wears prada






Bosses are scary and demanding. If they’re not, our imagination and office gossip can make them scary and demanding. Meryl Streep plays a scary and demanding in both reality and her company’s imagination. She is the true archetype of the severe boss, ruthlessly pilling tasks on the Anne Hathaway character. Whether it’s getting coffee or retrieving a pirated version of the latest Harry Potter book for Streep, Hathaway takes a licking and keeps on ticking as many of us wished we could until it’s time to leave for a better professional world.

But does that world exist? Some say you have to make a deal with the real Devil for this…

Notable quote: You sold your soul to the devil when you put on your first pair of Jimmy Choo’s, I saw it.


High Fidelity (2000)



 high fidelity





Of course, owning your business is viewed as the solution to not having a boss. However, running your company is not like Humphrey Boggart in Casablanca—wearing a nice tux and waltzing around with the clientele. It’s more like High Fidelity, based on the Nick Hornby book of the same name. John Cusack plays the protagonist who owns a struggling vinyl record shop, with all the nonromantic pains of a staff and bills. Worse, he’s stuck in a post-grunge world where being the boss is as much of an existentialist quandary as being an employee.

As a companion, certainly watch Clerks (1994).

Notable quote: My friend here’s trying to convince me that any independent contractors who were working on the uncompleted Death Star were innocent victims when it was destroyed by the Rebels.


Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)



 glengarry glen ross





Based on David Mamet play, the story accurately captures the intensity and often nihilism of the sales aspect of business. Death of a salesman is easy if you just place him in a system that only rewards the top one percent (sound familiar in overall society?). On one spectrum, Jack Lemmon’s character is so simultaneously pathetic, poignant and passive we wonder how anyone could embrace the sales life. On the other spectrum, Al Pacino’s character is so transcendental and elegantly predatory, it’s apparent there is a metaphysical component to a good salesperson that can never be trained in business. In between, welcome to the passion narrative of the average sales team.

Notable quote:  We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.


Gung Ho (1986)



 gung ho





Before Batman, Michael Keaton was a brilliant comedic actor. Here he plays an out-of-work foreman who convinces a Japanese company to take over his town’s shuttered plant. As a warning, this Ron Howard vehicle is rather politically incorrect for these days with its views of Asians. Nonetheless, the movie is timeless in its showcasing the struggles of the American factory against cheaper labor and rising foreign interests. It is nice, though, to see working class individuals on both sides of the ocean rise to heroism.

Notable quote: I do not understand American workers. They come five minutes late, leave two minutes early. They stay home when they are sick. They put themselves above company. You seem to feel the same way as they do.


Monsters, Inc. (2001)



 monsters inc





This mention might seem odd, considering the narrative revolves around warring department beasts in tech business during an incoming recession. Wait, it’s perfect for our times! From the worker eccentricities to the boardroom savagery for the bottom line, this Pixar hit holds life wisdom for adults as much as children. In the end, the real monsters aren’t the anxious managers or insecure employees, but any individual who attempts to screw over customers, clients or the overall brand vision for a little extra profit.

Notable quote:  I’ll kidnap a thousand children before I let this company die, and I’ll silence anyone who gets in my way!

Honorable mentions: Boiler Room, The Leggo Movie, Empire Records, Social Network, You’ve Got Mail, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Baby Boom. I’m sure you might have others, and please let us know through Twitter (@qSample).

Now back to your YouTube video or listening to your boss drone on about a mission statement. See you at the Oscars!

Paul DePodesta And The Power Of Analytics


Statistics are much more than numbers. They drive major business decisions, engineering, and everyday life. They fuel testing of new medicine, protect our borders, push the Warriors to the NBA title, and even guide personal decisions, whether used consciously or not.

Over millennia, military leaders employed data and analysis to defeat enemies. Today, major business leaders all over the world employ the same methodology in delivering cherished goods and services. Even the world of sports and entertainment understands this aspect of modern business. For example, The Cleveland Browns recently made headlines by hiring Paul DePodesta, a former collegiate wide receiver, rose to fame through a dramatization of Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball,” which chronicled his ability to use baseball statistics to aid the Oakland A’s in competing against better financed teams.

After moving to the NFL, the Cleveland Browns collected three championship trophies in their first 5 years in the league. Unfortunately, their performance slipped into mediocrity by the 70’s, and in subsequent eras, their lackluster performance continued. While the Browns have a history of making bad personnel decisions, the Browns tapped DePodesta not due to their situation, but rather out of the need for a guide in transforming their organization, and remaining competitive.

This article explores analytics, big data, and their impact in and outside of sports; and why the Browns joined countless organizations in exploiting the power of data.


The Analytics Machine Driving Modern Business



Analytics or business intelligence (BI) owes its substance to military intelligence and serves the same essential purpose. At every stage of a campaign, intelligence gives commanders a clear picture of battle with pros and cons of options. In business, leaders maintain a picture of operations and status, and the factors affecting outcome.

Before computer use in business, business intelligence primarily involved legal spying (like military spies). It began to mature by the 1800s when Richard Miller Devens wrote about a banker exploiting data to outperform competitors. In the 1950s, commercial computers hit markets, and modern business intelligence officially began. Hans Peter Luhn, an IBM researcher and leading computer scientist, created foundational business analytics systems, and laid the groundwork for analyzing and distributing documents. Some consider him the father of BI.

Business intelligence advancement developed parallel to computer technology development, exploiting every viable tool available to private organizations and individuals. Through various innovations, its main resources actually remained the same: big data, analysis applications, and statistical theory. Cultural shifts within business led to more and deeper business intelligence use. Business, like sports, possesses a macho culture with great minds exploiting their instincts and natural talent. This environment wrestled with accepting analysis, however, the cold, hard facts won them over, cementing and advancing its role.

Analytics In Action:



Virtually every industry employs analytics including, but not limited to the following examples.

–  As it relates to marketing and advertising, analytics determine the effect of campaigns and channels including their ROI.
–  Analytics is widely used in politics to determine the best way to access, motivate and interact with political supporters.
–  Analytics is widely used in the military to understand the enemy or to go as far as anticipating or counter attacks. Some military applications even analyze an enemy’s facial expressions.
–  In medicine, along with improving profits and reducing waste, data predicts epidemics, aids in curing disease, and aids in avoiding preventable deaths.

IBM surveyed over 1,000 international executives from 67 countries. The survey reveals 63% of organizations achieve a positive return on analytics investment within one year, and 26% realize it in as little as 6 months. Businesses across sectors clearly recognize the transformative effect of analytics with customer service, operations efficiency, and financial or risk management as the main areas of application. Out of those surveyed, 49% of organizations report employing big data exceeded their expectations for returns, and 40% of organizations (up from 25% in 2013) focus analytics on operations.

CIO magazine surveyed over 300 professionals, and 65% credited analytics with driving business process change. These professionals represent manufacturing, financial services, telecoms, government, nonprofits, and healthcare. 100% of respondents stated their organization used analytics; furthermore, 57% claimed their organization would increase analytics spending.

Research has shown that more than 80% of the world’s major business leaders pursue big data projects to remain competitive.

Case Study: Nate Silver

Nate Silver, a statistician, skyrocketed to fame on the back of his baseball and election analysis. He initially became known for his PECOTA system, a statistical forecasting system for major league baseball player performance. His system grabbed the attention of major sports media entities and publications such as ESPN, the New York Times, and Sports Illustrated. Others recognized Silver’s talent after he correctly predicted 49 out of 50 states in the 2008 US presidential election. This earned him a spot on Time’s “100 Most Influential People” list. Four years later, he correctly predicted all 50 states in the 2012 election.

Quality data and analysis form the foundation of powerful analytics. The data must tell a story, and provide all the information needed to spot trends or support critical decisions. Any other data offers no insight. The size of big data proves its weakness and strength. Analysts unfortunately spend more time aggregating a sea of data than analyzing it. Many organizations also realize, like sports organizations, data analysts must partner with experts in the field to achieve quality analysis.


Rebuilding Cleveland’s Machine



Analytics might not get the Browns to the superbowl anytime soon, however, the organization has a different goal. They simply want to leverage an excellent resource in tuning operations, a move the NBA, MLB, and many other major leagues agree works. Many know about the general results of these efforts, but much of it remains hidden like the trade secrets of successful businesses.

Analytics on the Field

The Red Sox exploited analytics and emphasized on-base percentage, something which proved critical to developing a championship contender, and which currently fuels huge salaries. Nor (number of walks) caused baseball to reevaluate hitters and pitchers, and control the metric given its value both in prevention and draw. Analytics also caused a drop in base stealing attempts, which fell by 30% between 1993 and 2013. The NBA flocked to the 3-point corner shot on the strength of its performance in analysis, increasing the attempts by over 100 percent. Analysis also revealed optimal lineups and tactics.

Analytics offers more than game actions, and extends to player health. Many organizations use data to monitor, prevent, and manage injuries.

The Team

Data influences picks and coach selection, and goes even deeper. In football, a single statistic can be created to encapsulate the performance of a player, merging quantitative and qualitative characteristics. This aids in building a well-designed, devastating team instead of assembling a pack of men or women who display a bit of talent.

Analytics also goes further than the field and into more practical aspects of an organization’s business performance including areas like ticket sales and fan engagement. Data aids in reaching fans, supporters, and investors.


Cleveland’s Future



Ultimately, analytics make the Browns a stronger organization with better performance, a firmer foundation, and enhanced longevity in a competitive space. Despite this reality, a certain amount of reluctance exists in the NFL due to the very nature of the game. Many consider football too complex for analysis. Box score statistics accurately describe 90% of a baseball game compared with 40% of a football game, however, simple adjustments overcome this such as placing chips and sensors in football pads to gather data, or placing analysis equipment on the field (as in basketball and baseball).

The financial and cultural dynamic in the NFL also affects attitudes. The longtime owners of the NFL are extremely risk-averse, and along with owners who fear change, many coaches and managers also feel threatened. They fail to understand analytics as support for their decisions rather than a replacement for them.


The Main And Overlooked Reason Star Wars Is So Popular

Leia and Luke kissing while Han Solo looks angry at them, from The Empire Strikes Back


Talking about the cultural impact of the Star Wars franchise is like talking about the effects of the sun on the planet. It’s that big and encompassing…sometimes life changing. I know the first two movies of the series affected me deeply. I remember the day I first saw Star Wars as a seven-year-old almost as clearly as 9/11 as a thirtysomething. Perhaps it’s a bit of hyperbole on my part, but I think many of you get the point.

Many pop culture auditors have explained the quantitative “how” of Star Wars success, but few in any arena have intimately dealt with the qualitative “why.” The central reason of “why,” overlooked by pretty much everyone and their droids, is actually obvious—especially when connected to the other “tropes” George Lucas utilized while captaining the first six movies of the franchise.


First, some of the “How”


The statistics on the commercial supernova that is Star Wars are nothing but eye-watering. Mentioning them is akin to shooting Moby Dick in a barrel:

At the writing of this article, the seven Star Wars movies have grossed $6,359,492,838.
More than 14 billion Star Wars toys and collectibles have been sold (with $1.5 billion in sales just in 2015).
If one includes merchandise sales, movie tickets, and other products like video games, among many other items, Star Wars nets out at $42 billion. That’s more than the combined total sales fromthe James Bond and Harry Potter franchises.

That’s popular. That’s high-school-quarterback-popular, but more…religious heights popular.


Attempting the “Why?”


Attempts have been made to understand the behemoth popularity of Star Wars. These theories include:

Star Wars taps into the Joseph Campbell “Hero with a thousand faces” formula—a dependable narrative about a young protagonist journeying to alien lands to become an adult, then returning home a champion eternal. As a timeless example, this literary blueprint worked with Odysseus, who in Greco-Roman times was part of a franchise that was the Star Wars of its epoch.
Star Wars is a stew of revered cinema genres, pumped with budget steroids. From cowboy westerns to World War II epics, from space operas like Flash Gordon to venerable Saturday matinees, Lucas didn’t miss an appropriation beat for his “original” science fiction saga.
Star Wars weaponized the passion for the summer blockbuster, already started by earlier films like Jaws and The Exorcist (before their arrival, winter was traditionally for movies and summer was for the outdoors…go figure). More than the two movies mentioned, Star Wars and its sequels commercialized films beyond the big screen.
Star Wars is the archetypal Manichaean tale of light vs darkness, set in a western culture era of duality (“You’re either with us or against us,” echoed both Anakin Skywalker and George W. Bush).

These theories have merit, certainly, especially when spliced together. However, marketers or movie studio gurus have never been able to truly replicate the success of Star Wars (and it’s doubtful the upcoming sequels for Avatar, the highest grossing film in the world, will fare better).

There has to be more, then, to the allure of Star Wars. There has to be a core element, a missing stone the movie moguls rejected.


The true “Why?”


Here it is the main reason Star Wars is so popular:

Family issues.

In that action cheesiness? Family issues? Yes.

At its soul, Star Wars is the story of a family—the trinity of Luke, Anakin and Leia Skywalker. They hold the narrative together. In the prequels, the trinity shifts to Padme Amidala, Anakin and two brotherly Jedi’s). The family unit struggling with its internal dynamics while navigating a perilous world is an eonian theme that never gets old. Why? Because everyone relates deeply and often desperately. Everyone is in a family having difficulties in a perilous world. This keynote certainly harkens to Tolstoy’s classic quote: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Even more fascinating, Lucas distilled some of the more enigmatic and gripping elements of family issues:

The Oedipus tension between parent and child (son Luke and patriarch Darth Vader, destined to ruin each other).
The ancient Egyptian/Game of Thrones tension of incestuous/forbidden fruit attraction (the siblings Luke and Leia, although as with Oedipus, their intimacy is out of ignorance).
The modern soap opera tension of dysfunctional relationships (Leia and Han Solo; or Padme’s jailbait attraction to Anakin).

How could you lose with this type of plot hot sauce?

Don’t take my word on any of this, though. Lucas himself explained the essence of Star Wars:

People don’t actually realize it’s actually a soap opera and it’s all about family problems – it’s not about spaceships.

(Bolded mine)

It’s that simple. It’s not simplistic, mind you, and that’s the mistake Hollywood continues to make: producing facile family plotlines set in complex backdrops.

Not so with Lucas in Star Wars. By blending complex and even taboo family issues with the four formulas mentioned earlier, he gave birth to a commercial and cultural juggernaut the world will feel for a long time—maybe not after the sun finally burns out, but surely until the day the last family ceases to exist.




I disavowed the Star Wars franchise after stomaching the three prequels. Federation ships and Jar Jar stones broke my bones. Words from bad acting before green screens broke my heart. I’ve heard that The Force Awakens is simply a PC reboot of A New Hope, and that’s fine if it wishes to remain financially supreme. Yet to become a memorable narrative, the film will have to successfully engage in those sticky and uncomfortable family affairs.

Of course, we should put things in perspective. None of the Star Wars films will ever receive a major movie talent award. Star Wars has sold a lot of tickets, but in numbers is still second to Gone With the Wind. At the end of the day, the Star Wars franchise is ultimately extroverted entertainment with inspiring but prosaic messages.

It does have one profound message, though: Family problems started a long, long time ago and will continue even in a galaxy far, far away…