When Simplicity Is the Solution; From tax forms to medicine bottles to store shelves, we are facing a crisis of complexity. But there’s a way out.

March 29, 2013, 8:22 p.m. ET

When Simplicity Is the Solution

From tax forms to medicine bottles to store shelves, we are facing a crisis of complexity. But there’s a way out.

Alan Siegel, author of “Simple” explains that America and the world are suffering from a crisis of complexity. WSJ’s Ryan Sager asks what this crisis is costing us and how we can achieve more simplicity.

By ALAN SIEGEL and IRENE ETZKORN

At the beginning of “Walden,” Henry David Thoreau makes a concise case against the complexity of modern life. “Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!” he writes. “[L]et your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail….Simplify, simplify.”

Every facet of our lives is complicated by an ever-widening array of choices, including dozens of options for jam or mustard or frozen foods.

That was the 19th century, though, and we live in the 21st. In a typical day, we encounter dozens—if not dozens upon dozens—of moments when we are delayed, frustrated or confused by complexity. Our lives are filled with gadgets we can’t use (automatic sprinklers, GPS devices, fancy blenders), instructions we can’t follow (labels on medicine bottles, directions for assembling toys or furniture) and forms we can’t decipher (tax returns, gym membership contracts, wireless phone bills).

Every facet of our lives, even entertainment and recreation, is complicated by an ever-widening array of choices delivered at a frantic pace. Read more of this post

Have We Evolved to Be Nasty or Nice?

March 29, 2013, 9:15 p.m. ET

Have We Evolved to Be Nasty or Nice?

It is futile to ask whether people are naturally cooperative or selfish. They can be either, in different circumstances.

By MATT RIDLEY

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A new study by Dirk Helbing at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and colleagues has modeled the emergence of “nice” behavior in idealized human beings. It’s done by computer, using the famous “prisoner’s dilemma” game, in which a prisoner has to decide between cooperating with a comrade to get a mutual reward or avoiding a punishment by being the first of the two to defect to the other side. The Zurich team found that so long as players in the game stay near their (modeled) parents, the birth of a nice guy predisposed to cooperate can trigger “a cascade” of generous acts.

In other words, more togetherness and physical proximity across the generations allows the development of more prosocial behavior. “The clustering of friendly agents, which promotes other-regarding preferences, is not supported when offspring move away.” They also argue that networking via social media can promote niceness, which might surprise regular users of Twitter. Read more of this post

Does Blame Predict Performance of Investment Managers?

Does Blame Predict Performance?

March 2013 | Jason Hsu

As an econometrician and a fund-of-funds portfolio manager, I spend much time researching quantifiable metrics to help me identify managers who can outperform consistently. There is, in fact, a rich body of literature exploring different manager selection criteria. Academic papers have considered portfolio manager attributes, such as tenure, the CFA designation, advanced degrees, and even SAT scores; they have also examined fund characteristics, such as portfolio turnover, expense ratios, and assets under management. Practitioners, especially investment consultants, have additionally focused on more nuanced and qualitative elements such as investment philosophy, compensation scheme, turnover of key professionals, ownership structure, and succession planning.

Ironically, perhaps, most people have given up on the hope that past positive alpha can predict future outperformance with any reliability.1 Some might even go as far as asserting that manager outperformance is mean-reverting due to cyclicality in styles and “luck.”

Some of the above-mentioned attributes may provide very incremental information on the true quality of the manager. However, most econometricians, asset owners, and investment consultants confess (although not all publicly) that effective methods for picking top quartile performers remain elusive. As one of my friends at a large Middle Eastern sovereign wealth fund famously proclaimed, “We are convinced that managers who can consistently deliver alpha exist. We are, however, also convinced that we do not know how to find them.” Perhaps, then, the science of manager selection really is about winning what Charley Ellis calls “the loser’s game.” Read more of this post

Due Diligence Disasters

Top-Due-Diligence-Disasters

Bing Gordon’s Founder Checklist: Animal Energy, Blind Confidence, And A Toupee.

Bing Gordon’s Founder Checklist: Animal Energy, Blind Confidence, And A Toupee.

DEREK ANDERSEN

posted 1 hour ago

Editor’s note: Derek Andersen is the founder of Startup Grind, a 40-city community bringing the global startup world together while educating, inspiring, and connecting entrepreneurs.

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As an Electronic Arts’ intern eight years ago, I asked Bing Gordon then the chief creative officer and the only remaining early founding team member, a question about vision. “How can I know where the puck is going to be?” While he delivered a satisfactory response, two weeks later I received an email from Bing saying, “I answered that question poorly a few weeks and I wanted to try again.” A few weeks ago Bing joined me at Startup Grind in Silicon Valley where he delivered some videogame history and founder advice. In 2010 Mark Pincus called KPCB general partner Bing Gordon (look for a bald guy on the front row) one of the world’s “great CEO coaches” supporting founders on the boards of companies like Amazon, Zynga, Klout, and Zazzle. Here are some excepts from our recent interview. Read more of this post

Sequoia Capital In Singapore After A Year, Has Yet To Invest In A Local Startup

Sequoia Capital In Singapore After A Year, Has Yet To Invest In A Local Startup

VICTORIA HO

posted yesterday

When Sequoia Capital India landed in Singapore quietly in 2012, the buzz around town was that a big-name US fund being in the country was going to really jolt the market and provide serious cred to the startups here.

The Indian team running operations here, however, appears to have spent the last year of its time in the island state helping startups in its India portfolio expand into Singapore, rather than directly investing in startups here. Read more of this post

How Digital Technologies Change the Game: A Discussion with Five Leaders

How Digital Technologies Change the Game: A Discussion with Five Leaders

MARCH 25, 2013

During the dot-com era, “The Internet changes everything” was a popular refrain. The line was not wrong—just premature. Today, the Internet finally is changing everything.

The way we learn, form friendships, communicate, and do business has been permanently altered. Major industries, such as traditional media, have been disrupted, but all industries have felt the effects of big data, Internet connectivity, and social media. The Internet does not just change everything. It is everywhere, too. Asia and now Africa are quickly catching up with the rest of the world in terms of connectivity.

To understand what has changed and how businesses can respond, The Boston Consulting Group hosted a breakfast panel called “Digital Game Changers” at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The august group of panelists included the following:

  • Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce.com, a leader in enterprise cloud computing
  • Matt Brittin, Google vice president of Northern and Central Europe
  • Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post 
  • Steve Mollenkopf, president of Qualcomm, an innovator in wireless and next-generation technologies
  • Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia

The quintet discussed the disruptive force of the Internet on industry economics and the transformative effect of connectivity on organizations and customer interactions. They also ranged over the rapid entry of emerging markets into the connected world, the delivery of mobile health care, the dangers of cyber attacks—and the need to unplug from it all from time to time. In short, the panelists knew how to pack a punch. Read more of this post

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