Section 002, Instructor: Larry Dignan

Weekly Question #1: Complete by January 30, 2017

Leave your response as a comment on this post by the beginning of class on January 30, 2017. Remember, it only needs to be three or four sentences. For these weekly questions, I’m mainly interested in your opinions, not so much particular “facts” from the class!

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Here is the question:

“Conventional wisdom” are statements people generally accept as true but are never really tested. One example is the belief that a company should avoid hiring people with criminal records. These can be supported or disproven through data – i.e., Evolv’s discovery that people with criminal records are up to 1.5% more productive than the average worker.

Give an example of a piece of conventional wisdom you’ve heard and explain what data you would collect to test it.

47 Responses to Weekly Question #1: Complete by January 30, 2017

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I have heard is that if you work hard in life, you can be anything you want. This isn’t necessarily true because there are a lot of different factors playing in into your success. You could, however, test this by following people from a young age all the way through their schooling see if they are successful in a career. It would be hard because this study is longitudinal study that would last 20 years and be nearly impossible to prove.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I have heard is that “money can’t buy you happiness.” However, depending on how a person spends their money, they may be in a better state than those without money. For example, buying healthier food (which costs more) can lead a person to feel healthier and better overall. This could be tested by polling people from multiple socioeconomic classes and have them rate how happy they are. There may be issues in this process since people may lie about their happiness or may rate their happiness differently depending on the specific day or their mood.

  • When I read this question i immediately thought of the saying, “The early bird catches the worm” meaning that people who wake up early and start their day, are giving them selves an advantage to competitors. Lets say a person goes to the grocery store and picks up the last bag of chips. If that person woke up later or procrastinated for even just five minutes, that last bag of chips could easily be taken by someone else who simply beat them to it. It would be difficult to collect data on something like this but you can have people wake up at different times and see what they are able to accomplish each day and note how much free time people have.

    • The data may not be that hard with wearable technology. You could see what time people woke up and maybe narrow it down to health and activity levels. Main thread here is to narrow the project. As one of those early birds who will wake up 5 a.m. to work out or run I’m a bit partial to the saying.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom I have heard over and over in the business world is “You have to pay your dues to get ahead.” This is sometimes true; however, sometimes luck, a great interview, or knowing the right person can get you your dream job. In fact, one could argue that a long term of service doesn’t necessarily preclude a raise or promotion. One way we could test this is to do a survey of employees who recently got promoted and survey them about their previous work experience as well as the difficulty of their previous position.

    • Generally speaking I think it’s more true than not. The bigger question is what dues are paid, how fast and what projects you ran to get you someplace. You make your own luck in many cases and a contact only gets you so far. Most of the time you have to deliver the goods once the who you know plays out.

  • It is generally inferred that organization will correlate directly with performance and success; however, there have been many cases where bearers of substantial knowledge have displayed a lack of organization in their daily lives. You could test this by pulling a sample from an online database of students and comparing on the basis of organization and GPA. Organization is a difficult variable to assign a numerical value for, so it would have to be a boolean option.

  • Conventional wisdom states that having an impairment of some sort (hearing, reading, etc.) is a setback, due to which the Goliaths of the World will always triumph over the Davids. However, in his book, ‘David and Goliath,” Malcolm Gladwell identifies that over 30% of the most successful and well known business leaders have suffered such “setbacks,” characteristics that would otherwise deem them Davids. Through anecdotes of exemplary people and statistics, Gladwell disproves this commonly held notion that obstacles and seeming disadvantages are setbacks. The data that can be collected to further prove this is to assess what percentage of agreed upon “successful” individuals have suffered perceived obstacles/setbacks, which is what Gladwell did

  • A piece of conventional wisdom I have heard is that lazy people make good leaders. The thought behind this statement is that driven people are working to hard to lead and that lazy people have the time to delegate tasks as a leader. I would interview various groups from a class and see which member of a particular group that their fellow piers thought of as the leader. I could also research various sports teams to see which player their teammates view as a leader of the team. I could then research the GPA of the person thought of as the leader, as well as other organizations the perceived leader may be apart of to see how “driven” they are.

    • Very interesting. I don’t think it’s lazy as much as knowing what to delegate and building a team that you can hand off to. Delegation is an important skill. I think the conventional wisdom comes from a few dolts that delegate everything and do little. Given we’re all bound by KPIs and data I’m not sure how long a lazy leader can hide.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom I have heard recently is that violent tv and video game makes kids more likely to act out. I think this would be an interesting theory to test with data. One potential option would be to collect data from xbox live to see what kids are playing which games, and cross tabulate it with crime records and school disciplinary records. A second option would be to collect information from kids known to act out about what games/shows are their favorites.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom I have heard is the saying “good things come to those who wait.” A statement this general is difficult to prove or disprove; there are even other pieces of conventional wisdom which exemplify a completely polarized idea. In trying to test whether or not this statement is true, data could be collected in a specific area where people have a clear defined concept of success, such as relationships. A study could be done using 12 singles that all define success in love as marriage, and they may be split-up in to two groups- one group that actively engages in activities to try and find a significant other and one that does the “waiting.” At the end of 5 years the results of the singles’ relationship statuses may be compared to draw a conclusion, but many issues may exist in this experiment considering the multitude of variables that cannot be controlled and will affect outcomes such as individual personality, how a compatible partner defines success in love, or unpredictable events that impact a desirable relationship timeline.

  • I have always heard moms warning their kids not to go out in the cold with wet hair so as to avoid being more likely to catch a cold. I imagine that having wet hair in the cold could lower someones body temperature and thus have an effect on the immune system but considering that colds spread between people simply leaving your hair wet in the cold could not make you sick. To measure the potential validity of this conventional wisdom I would poll students in Winter climates regarding the time of day they shower, if they dry their hair before leaving the house, and how often they get colds during the winter.

  • It is said that drunk people are more likely to tell the truth. This can be tested by examine a group of people’s words when they are sober and drunk, and compare whether their words are more reliable when they are drunk than when they are sober. However, it is difficult to judge if a person tells a truth or a lie, which may affect the result of the test, and different people may have different results.

  • One form of conventional wisdom I’ve heard of describes individual’s behavior in a given environment. For instance, “behavior is controlled more by the environment rather than someone’s willpower.” To a point I believe this is true, especially in a business setting and when someone is in an uncomfortable environment. In order to test this statement, a group of individuals could run a simulation that outlines a specific situation or environment, and have that same person undergo a similar situation in a different environment to see if their behavior changes.

  • It is widely regarded that in the NFL, defense wins championships. This is very testable, because all the data is open for anyone to use. One could take defensive stats from each Super Bowl winning team and compare them to other playoff teams, the team they beat, and every other team in the league. Another way to test it would be to compare regular season performance with postseason performance. Do teams that win the Super Bowl increase their defensive play come playoff time? there are many defensive metrics currently used to test defensive productivity and these could be compared to see if defense truly wins championships.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom that I heard before, “left handers are smarter than right handers.” These can be supported by scientists because according to research that left-handedness is associated with superior divergent thinking. There are also can be supported by self-reported, like divided left handers and right handers into two groups and do IQ test.

  • The first example of conventional wisdom that came to mind would be, to not go to sleep right after eating a big meal because it causes indigestion. The data that needs to collected would be the duration of time a person needs to spend resting before going to bed after a big meal. The data can be collected by conducting surveys from people and showing when indigestion happens and how often it happens after a big meal. Showing when indigestion happens can prove/disprove whether or not sleeping right after eating causes indigestion or if indigestion just happens at random times.

  • I think it is a very common sentiment that free trade is bad for America. Americans are quick to blame economic globalization for job and income loss in America. For some Americans, there is no doubt that American firms shipping jobs overseas has been financially harmful. However, at the birds-eye level… I believe data would quite easily support otherwise. Direct counter-points to this claim would argue that free trade has resulted in lower prices for American consumers and has contributed to a greater need for American-supplied advanced producer services. In order to prove these points correct or incorrect… data would need to be collected on how much American consumers spend on how many units of purchased product. Data would also need to be pulled on how much Americans make income-wise for each unit of labor output. Comparisons could then be made on the comparative income and expenses of American workers. This analysis could also be overlaid on a free trade index for America. Then, a correlation could be either proven or disproven between whether, as free trade has increased, American consumers are either financially worse or better off.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom is that in basketball, players who are shooting well will continue to shoot well. For example, if a player has made four three pointers in a row, most people will assume he has an increased chance of making the next one (hot hand fallacy). This wisdom is testable through examining data on shots made in the NBA. A researcher could find a player’s overall shooting percentage and then compare it to their shooting percentage after they had made three shots in a row.

  • Conventional wisdom states that the smarter you are (IQ wise) the better you will do in school. I would collect the IQ’s and GPA’s of a random sample of students in a collection of high school’s from around the country. I would then run a regression analysis to find the correlation between IQ and GPA. Although correlation just tells whether or not there is a relationship between two variables, I would want to conduct interviews and further experiments before concluding that one does or does not truly have an affect on the other.

  • The old adage goes “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. This here can be taken in two ways. Let’s go teach Old Yeller(probable Old Yeller IV) a few new tricks. This may be very interesting. On the other hand people are referring that when people are set in their patterns, beliefs, and getting older they are unable to change. According to American Institute for Economic Research 82% of people surveyed reported making a successful transition to a new career after age 45. I think that a variety of factors need to be looked at; Is there a deep desire to make the change, Is there support, Is the person able to learn still(have all mental faculties), Is the person given an opportunity to try a new task, Does the person have the resources available? During testing we would identify a specific age group of people. Identify specific topics/concepts(computes for 50 year olds would be good example) that the people will try to learn in a specific amount of time. You can separate the groups into different topic groups to see how each group measure up to the other. In addition, you will have a younger group who do not know the specific topics to measure how that group measures up to the old/younger.

    • Great point George, I personal had an experienced with an older man that i work with. We were talking about innovation and changes to our employer system, but this older guy that i work with had no interest in any technological change. He always said oh well we have been doing this foe decade and everything works well. My team and i were talking about an update in SharePoint where all employees can view their time and vacations hours, and also doing training online, but this one older gentlemen never like our idea.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom I have come across is that the more TV children and adolescents watch, the more likely they are to gain excess weight. There have been studies throughout the years that link TV consumption with obesity. To support this, a survey can be conducted, in which questions on TV viewing habits, height and weight are asked to both parents and children. Another option would be to test obesity-related measures on children and adolescents after a period of TV-reduction.

  • One form of ”conventional wisdom” that I have come across was the phrase “Do not mix business with pleasure!” However, I know people who have met their husband/wife where he/she has worked and live a very comfortable and happy life. However, mixing pleasure and business is now a trend. I guess it has become a trend maybe because the individuals love the field they are in so much that they just marry a person who shares the same perspective of the field. If the case is to “not mix business with pleasure”, why is it rare to find a doctor that is not married to another doctor? I feel as though, if someones job requires him to be at work more than home, its acceptable for someone to mix business with pleasure.

  • An example of conventional wisdom I’ve heard numerous times is “Nowadays, it is nearly impossible to be successful without a college degree.” Many people believe the only way to be successful is to be born rich, go to college and earn success or to run into a lucky situation. As a student at Temple University, I often hear students saying that they went to college because their parents made them go or because it is required for their field. To test this belief, I would consider looking at people who own their own small businesses, are in involved in family business, those who have attended a trade school or alternative school or those who have found other ways to make money. There are many ways to go about comparing one’s success to other people, but may be difficult to achieve because everyone has their own opinion of what being successful means.

  • A piece of conventional wisdom I heard growing up was even a broken clock is right twice a day. It would be interesting to test this on people who have little to no knowledge of a subject and see how often they succeed at it. One idea on how to gather data would be to pick a thing that anyone can do like the investing in the stock market. Have people with little knowledge of the market invest along with top investors and see how well they perform and if any of them were successful without having experience in the market.

  • A common belief is that one shouldn’t pick-up hitchhikers as they may be dangerous. I think without a doubt, as compared to the option of simply driving on, one would be taking on a risk when they pick up a hitchhiker. The real question though is just how dangerous would it actually be? Ignoring the problems of gathering such data one would merely need to find the number of times a hitchhiker was picked up which didn’t result in a serious crime (Speeding probably shouldn’t be counted) then compare it to the number of times it did result in a serious crime.

  • A form of conventional wisdom I have learned throughout my years of growing up is ‘What is done in the dark, always comes to the light.’ Meaning in the due time of everything and everyone shows their true colors. Every time I would hear something someone has done, that was not the best decision, I would be disappointed. Everyone hides things they are not proud of, but sometime you cannot hide everything ‘in the dark.’

  • One of the conventional wisdoms I have heard is that if you get better grades in school, you are smarter than others and will be more successful in the future. I do not believe this is true. Because there are so many different factors that can influence students’ grades and their future careers. This can be tested by following a group of students who are doing very well in school and a group of students who are not doing very well in school. Then compare them periodly. This would be hard because the study needs to lasts very long time. Or we can research historical records about current successful people.

  • Conventional wisdom: Tattoos are bad for business or Tattoos look unprofessional. People say that having a visible tattoo will hurt your chances of getting a good job. But in reality, depending on the culture of a workplace that may not be true. I would like to see data on business professionals that have visible tattoos. We could use data that shows average income and average amount of applications before getting hired and see how that data compares to someone that is not tattooed.

  • I hope I don’t get in trouble for this but “the Pole goes before the hole” to test this, I would gather data for men and women, that included at which age men begin to complain of ED, and at what age do women begin to complain of Vaginal dryness. It should include data of any conditions that may cause these issues, for both men and women, and data for men and women without any conditions that may cause these particular issues.

  • I think that free trade’s impact on American economic prosperity is a great example of conventional wisdom in our society. To many, free trade is viewed as bad because of it’s impact on American workers and American job loss. However, by leveraging data, it is entirely possible that we could prove that free trade’s “negative” impacts are actually much less than we perceive. This is primarily because free trade is able to provide Americans with lower prices on goods and services which results in greater buying power. It also allows the American workforce to specialize in whatever trades will make us most prosperous as aligned with our labor force’s skills. In order to test this, data would need to be collected on: American income relative to the number of labor hours worked and American spending relative to the number of units of product purchased. These two data analyses could then be overlaid with a free trade index in America. It would be very interesting to see whether or not (as free trade increased) American wages and spending power also increased.

  • One conventional wisdom I have heard is that marijuana users are lazier or less productive than non-marijuana users. Users of the drug are thought to be employment liabilities which is why the drug is screened for in pre-employment drug tests along with other harsher, addictive drugs. This conventional wisdom could be tested by comparing the work productivity of marijuana users (users who use outside of the workplace) against the work productivity of non-marijuana users.

  • An example of conventional wisdom is “actions speak louder than words”. Words can be more harmful in many instances the effects politicians can have with merely their words can anger millions or harm ties they have with other countries. It can harm personal relationships or end them from what someone has said. Testing this would be difficult but perhaps looking at politicians and the effects their words have caused, how many responses have just their words alone caused.

  • Conventional wisdom is generally passed onto younger generations from communication with parents, teachers, or managers. In reference to my own personal life one of the most frequently mentioned phrases of conventional wisdom was that you can achieve anything at all through hard work. Although this is a ‘feel-good’ and motivational piece of verbal culture, there are some harsh realities to it. There are several professional outcomes that can not be achieved through mere hard work and determination. For example – professional sports are sometimes only going to be available to those who were born with a certain assortment of genetics.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom that I have heard is that spending your free time watching television or playing video games will “make your brain rot”. I think it would be fairly easy to test whether or not extended use of these entertainment products has a negative impact on how intelligent people become. One could simply have a standardized test and collect data on how much time watching T.V or playing video games a person does. Afterwards they could see if there is a correlation between high amounts of time on these activities and lower test scores.

  • Could conventional wisdom also be things like “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” or “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”? Though these are more cliched than some of the things others have suggested, I think they do shape our thoughts and values. On apples, I would look at fruit consumption in individuals – if consistently meeting the daily recommended value of fruits actually has substantial health benefits on its own, or if it is only effective in addition to other healthy habits like exercise and other habits. As for books, I would look at book sales and popularity based on color or other specific design elements. This could possibly be compared to reader satisfaction, ratings and reviews, or even try to find some measure of substance or worth of content.

  • An example of conventional wisdom that comes right to mind is “Video games system and televisionthat many people think of it contributing to violent in our society todayt”. Obviously this isn’t true, as well as this has been tested and proven wrong recently. The data that I’d take to test this is observing kid’s behavior that do watch TV and play violent games and observe kids that don’t watch TV and play video games. Essentially I’d see how they react and find information that way.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom that I have heard is “You need to go to college in order to be successful.” While people have many different views on what it means to be successful, I would consider most successful people to be wealthy. In this experiment, I would compare and contrast the salaries of people who have college degrees with those who do not have a college degree. I could even take this further by comparing salaries of people with MBA’s and PhD’s against people with bachelors degrees.

  • An example of conventional wisdom that is often said is “you get what you pay for.” It is debatable whether this holds true or not. For example just because you are paying a high price does not necessarily mean you are getting a top of the line item. For many products, you are not paying for the quality, you are paying for the brand name. The best way to test this piece of conventional wisdom would be through clothing. You could compare the quality of cheap verses expensive causal clothing or activewear and see how they hold up when put through the same wear.

  • One conventional wisdom I have heard is that the millennials are lazy, selfish, and unproductive. I think this is completely wrong because older generation are failing to understand the way we think and find ways to engage with millennials. We no longer value the traditional workplace rules. We just want to get maximum result in the most efficient, last time consuming way possible. We also think that work is not everything, we don’t want to spend 80 hours per week at work. We want to work at the flexible hours because we have the ability to set up office anywhere, anytime at our own flexible hours. We want to have time for family, friends, and hobbies. There are many ways to test that we aren’t being the lazy generation by collecting date from age 19-29 that how many hours we work per work and comparing with how many hours generation X work per week.

  • One piece of conventional wisdom that I have heard is “Out of sight, out of mind”. This means that is you do not see someone for awhile, you will forget about them because you will not have a constant reminder when seeing them. Data you would collect to test this would include how much time is spent away from the person and also how close you were before that. If you were best friends or in a relationship with someone, it might take longer for them to be out of your mind than if it was someone you were not as close to.

  • An example of conventional wisdom i often hear is “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat forever.” I find this wisdom useful and somewhat truthful. In the obvious sense, there are many more ways to gather food other than fishing but the general sense is true. Some data you can collect is by teaching a skill to a man and see how successful he is with that skill compared to a man without that skill.

  • The idea that “money is not everything” is a piece of conventional wisdom that does not hold true very often. By this idea, if you ask a homeless person if they would want five dollars they would deny it. This is not the case however, as many of us have been approached by those in need. Furthermore, it can be tested by asking numerous people on and near Broad street in Philadelphia, if they would like the extra five dollars. Speaking for myself I would not turn down that offer.

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Larry Dignan Alter Hall 232 267.614.6467 Class time: 5:30-8pm, Mondays Office hours: Monday half hour before class, half hour after class or by appointment. ITA: Nathan Pham. Contact via email at