#75 How Can We Get Better At Forecasting the Future: Mark Earls

Almost all of us do a poor job of predicting the future. 

This show looks at how we can adapt to the disruption and change the future inevitably brings.  Using examples from business and our personal lives, we consider how to be smarter and more successful.

"We over-estimate how bad we might feel if we lose something, and under-estimate how we will feel if something good happens,” says our guest, Mark Earls.

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Mark joins Jim and Richard at our living room table in New York. Usually Mark is based in London where he's a well-known author and consultant on marketing, communications and behavioral change.  His books include “Copy Copy Copy”, "HERD: How to Change Mass Behavior by Harnessing Our True Nature” and “I’ll Have What She’s Having

"We have to realize…we have to prepare for multiple futures," Mark tells us in this episode. Some additional takeaways:

Solutions:
Start small. For example Spotify began in a small market (Sweden) and it was able to be more agile, make mistakes and react to its competition more effectively than a larger company.
 
Product plus: some of the most successful companies are the ones that make a product AND deliver a service; Dollar Shave Club is a good example of this.  
 
Customer service is more important than ever. “You can’t have that ‘take a ticket and wait in line’ attitude towards customers; you need to fix it.
 
In our personal lives prepare for multiple future scenarios: what would happen if you had an unexpected expense, how would you deal with a serious illness or a absence from work, or a major housing expense?

#74 Fixes for an Insular World: Talk to Strangers. Kio Stark

"There are genuine emotional benefits when we connect with strangers," says our guest, Kio Stark. These fleeting interactions are important interruptions in the steady routine of our lives. "They bring connectedness and belonging."

Kio is the author of "When Strangers Meet: How People You Don't Know Can Transform You."  Her popular TED Talk has received more than 1,450,000 views. "My own interactions with strangers resonate with meaning for me," she writes in her book. "You find questions whose answers you thought you knew. You reject the ideas that make us so suspicious of each other."

"We live in pretty insular ways," Kio tells us in this episode of "How Do We Fix It?"  "When you talk to somebody who is different than you, you are forced to see this person as an individual in a way that you wouldn't have done before." 

This speaks to our divided politics at a time when it is often far to easy to vilify people we don't agree with.  Being more open to people of different races, social class and age groups can open us up to surprising moments of pleasure and transformative possibilities. 

Kio explains how shy, frightened or suspicious people can benefit from being more open to briefly allowing strangers into their lives.  We discuss how dogs and babies can make it easier to speak with people you don't know.

"There's an amazing power in being seen.  We live in cities we don't see each other," Kio tells us.  "When you are seen, when you notice someone is acknowledging you it's a momentary bond."

#6 Fix It Shorts: Election 2016:The Problem is Us.We The Voters

The news media have bombarded us with stories about the candidates, the contest and - to a lesser extent - the crucial issues America faces as people vote for the next President.

This podcast is about the voters.

We went back to four past episodes of "How Do We Fix It?" pulling extracts about how we make decisions and why the information that you and I receive from internet search engines and other sources may be radically different than the news and views our friends and neighbors are hearing.

On episode 24 podcast host and author David McRaney told us "we are not so smart," using confirmation bias as a defining example. "It would do us all good to actually think what are we wrong about," said David, who argues in favor of challenging our own personal biases. "Whenever you have an understanding of something, create an alternate explanation."

Psychologist Robert Epstein joined us on episode 11 to discuss whether Google is too powerful for our democracy. The former Editor-in-Chief of "Psychology Today" has done extensive research on Google's search rankings and algorithms. "There is a problem is the monopoly in search" that Google holds in most of the world, Robert said. "They're customizing what people see." 

Search rankings can have a big influence on how people vote. We are not getting challenged by ideas that we haven't heard before.

Joan Blades of Living Room Conversations aims to bring people together.  A progressive herself, Joan has engaged with evangelical conservatives and leaders of the tea party in lively, but respectful dialog about climate change, criminal justice reform and other questions. 

"We've become increasingly divided," Joan told us on episode 43. "We don't even share the same facts." Joan explained some of the ground rules of having conversations with those you disagree with. 

This brief "Fix It Shorts" podcast also features John Gable of AllSides. This news website puts stories from different sources next to each other -  columns from left, right and center-leaning news newspapers and online sites. 

"We want people to be able to see quickly the differences," John said in episode 49. "What we started doing with All Sides is breaking that filter bubble."

#67 How Gratitude Can Transform Your Life - Janice Kaplan

On New Year's Eve, journalist and former Parade Editor-in-Chief Janice Kaplan made a promise to herself to be grateful during the coming year and look on the bright side of whatever happens.

As we find out in this episode, it made a big difference to her life. Janice discovered that how she feels has less to do with events than with her own attitude and perspective on life.

Her recent book "The Gratitude Diaries" began after a survey she had done found that 94% of Americans thought people who are grateful live richer lives.  But less than half those surveyed say they practiced gratitude on any regular basis. 

"It struck me that we have this great big gratitude gap," Janice tells us on "How Do We Fix It?" If we change our attitude, she says, "we're going to be a lot happier."

Solutions:

  • Say thanks to someone you love. It's easy to forget to appreciate your partner and your family. But the daily practice of saying something positive can transform almost any relationship.
  • Gratitude is an attitude, but it's also a daily practice. Each day write down something that you are grateful for.
  • Express gratitude at work. Many of us feel unappreciated at work, but we can change that for ourselves and our colleagues.  The start of the work week is a great time to tell fellow workers that they matter to you. 
  • At family dinners or when you are putting your kids to sleep at night, ask your kids what they were grateful for today. This can become part of what families do and how they think about their lives.