#58 Our Problem With Polls. Gary Langer: How Do We Fix It?

Are opinion polls accurate?  Did they miss the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders?  Do they properly measure America's increasingly sharp political and cultural divisions?  What's the difference between a well-designed poll conducted with careful methodology and a sloppy opt-in online survey?

Our guest is Gary Langer, an internationally recognized opinion researcher and longtime director of polling at ABC News. He has overseen and analyzed more than 750 surveys on a broad range of topics.

Gary has a passion for numbers and explains what listeners should know about polls.  He tells us that surveys taken at least a year ago - when many pundits dismissed Trump as an outlier - clearly showed that his views on banning oversees Muslim visitors and building a wall along border with Mexico had substantial support among Republican voters. Trump led the  GOP field throughout the lead-up to the primary season.  

"The news media have for far too long indulged themselves in the lazy luxury of being both data hungry and math phobic," Gary tells us.  "I would suggest polls are anti-pundit. A good quality poll ... holds a pundit's feet to the fire "

In this episode we get some vital takeaways on how well researched randomized polls are conducted and what changes have been made recently to ensure that a representative sample is reached.

#54 Fixing Our Habits: Smarter, Faster, Better Charles Duhigg

This podcast is all about how to have better habits and use them to be more productive in our projects, careers and everyday lives.  

We talk about to-do lists, email, mental models and making the most of our time with best-selling author,  Chares Duhigg.  His latest book is "Smarter, Faster, Better:  The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and In Business."  Charles is also the author of "The Power of Habit."

"Keeping your eye on that thing that matters most to you is the secret to success," Charles tells us.  "We need a mental model: a story we tell ourselves about how we expect our day to unfold."

Whether it's the importance of stretch and smart goals or our need to get out a rut or shed bad habits, this fun episode has smart solutions for all of us. Building on cutting-edge science and deep reporting, Charles uses storytelling to explain how productivity relies on making smart choices. 

Just one example: "We can turn a to-do list from a memory aid into a device that forces us to think a little bit more deeply about our priorities." Find more on this episode. 

Cynicism is a poverty of curiosity and imagination and ambition. -- Maria Popova. of BrainPickings

During their conversation in this episode, Richard and Jim mention the inspirational commencement address by Maria Popova - curator of brainpickings.org -  on the soul-sustaining necessity of resisting self-comparison and fighting cynicism.  

#50 Building a Better Workplace: Social Psychologist Ron Friedman

The numbers are alarming.  A 2015 Gallup poll found nearly 70% of U.S. employees say they're either bored or disengaged at work.

The cost to employers has been put at more than $500 billion in lost productivity. The cost to workers is incalculable - in human misery, unnecessary stress and lost opportunity.

Workplace psychologist Ron Friedman is the author of "The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace." Ron says there's an astonishing gap between the latest science and most the modern workplace.  He has some great tips for both employers and employees.  

Ron's solutions for employers:

  • An engaged workforce is more creative, focused and stay with their company for a long period time. This saves money.
  • Employees need to be competent and connected to one another, yet they need to have autonomy - feeling they have choice in how they go about doing their work.
  • Invite employees to share their ideas.
  • Encourage learning: give your employees a quarterly reading budget. Establish an office library.
  • Invite employees to take their vacation time and switch off from work at night, so they can live a balanced, healthy life.
  • Workplace design and hiring a diverse workforce play a very important role in creating a better workplace.

Ron's solutions for employees:

  • Reframe the way you look at your job. Present a case that could add value to your employer.
  • Get out of your comfort zone. Greater variety often leads to more work satisfaction.  
  • Look for ways to re-create your job to allow yourself to do more of the things you enjoy doing more often. 
  • Regular exercise. It makes you smarter, more focused and creative at work.

 

#45 The Case for Children's Free Play: Lenore Skenazy

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You can't have too much of a really good thing.  That's why we decided to invite Lenore Skenazy,founder of Free Range Kids, to make a welcome return to "How Do We Fix It?"  She was a guest on an earlier show. 

Lenore is the passionate and playful campaigner, who says most American kids don't have nearly enough unstructured free time, when they can be curious and engage the world on their own terms. 

"Free time is unsupervised time," Lenore tells us. "It's not a parent sitting there saying 'oh, that was really good, or try it this way.' Sometimes you've got to do things that are really bad and try it the wrong way, because that's the creative process." 

Lenore says parenting styles have changed in the past 30 years, especially for many urban and upper-middle classes Moms and Dads. Risk avoidance seems more important than stimulating a child's imagination. 

"Think back on your own childhood. Your parents loved you and they let you go. And it's a new thing not to give children any freedom."

From the Free Range Kids statement of where it stands:  "Fighting the belief that are children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of the non-organic grape." 

#42 Neighbors Divided Over Politics: Joan Blades: How Do We Fix It?

This show is another response to the deep partisan divide in America - part one of a fascinating conversation with Joan Blades. 

Much of our political campaign has been dominated by personal insults, name-calling and dogma.  Voters have rewarded politicians who use anger and blame others for the country's problems.  Individual citizens are part of the problem and the solution. 

"We live with the dysfunction of partisan behaviors and believe we must and can do better," says Joan, co-founder of Living Room Conversations She makes the case for personal dialog across party lines, arguing that it's a key part of changing the way all of us think about politics.

A strong progressive, who co-founded the liberal activist group, MoveOn.org in  the late 90's, Joan makes the case for listening to those you don't agree with. 

"It's actually really fun having a living room conversation," she tells us."They're more fun than if you have a bunch of people around and you what they're going to say."

#41 Mark Earls Explains Donald Trump: Emotions & The Power of "We"

Let's face it.  Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have won far more votes than almost any "expert" forecast. 

The reason may well be that emotions and learned behavior from others play a far bigger role in our decision making than most of us realize. 

Our "Fix It" guest Mark Earls - the HERDMeister - is an award-winning British writer and consultant on marketing, communications and human behavior. In his latest book, "Copy, Copy, Copy," Mark shows how we vote and buy stuff by copying others - our friends, family and our neighbors.

"Donald Trump is "much smarter than we give him credit for," says Mark.. "He gets that people need to feel stuff rather than think about it." 

In his advertising work, Mark has used the lessons of behavioral science and marketing success to advise clients.  He shares his fascinating, if somewhat frustrating insights with us.

As voters and consumers we can learn from what his research tells us - even when he go to the supermarket or spend time with friends. 

"I would not recommend buying grocery shopping when you're hungry," Mark tells us. And...  "If I find myself in a British bar I tend to have a glass of beer and that's how it goes, unless somebody else around me goes 'ooh, a gin and tonic. I haven't had a gin and tonic for a long time'. So we both have the same thing."

Original Photo taken by Gage Skidmore: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/8566727275