TIME Careers & Workplace

1 Trick to Remember Even the Most Boring Information

125529676
Katie Black Photography—Getty Images/Flickr RF

If you're not curious, you should be

Facing the unpleasant task of having to commit some dull facts or figures to memory? Now you don’t have to be that person fumbling for their notes or clicking frantically through slides during an important presentation. To kick your ability to recall information into overdrive, try piquing your curiosity, a new study suggests.

People are better at learning and remembering information they’re genuinely interested in, but researchers have discovered that a state of curiosity has a kind of halo effect on other, incidental or unrelated information we’re exposed to at the same time.

An NPR article points out this principle is useful for teachers who want to engage students by framing a lesson as a story or riddle, but as it turns out, the idea also might benefit grown-ups in the workforce.

“I think there are some useful ideas that can come out of our study with regard to adult learning,” says Charan Ranganath, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis and one of the study’s authors, although he does caution that this is speculative.

Ranganath and his co-authors presented experiment subjects with both interesting and incidental information, and watched how these people processed it using MRIs. They found that a state of curiosity stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers.

What’s so special about curiosity that it has such a powerful effect? Ranganath suggests it’s an evolutionary response. “We are starting to think that the feeling of curiosity reflects a natural drive to reduce uncertainty in your understanding of the world,” he says. “So when you know something about a topic, but then find there is a gaping hole in your knowledge, you will feel the itch to get to the bottom of it,” he says.

Ranganath and his colleagues theorize this might be why we’re more receptive to remembering ancillary details unrelated to the object of our curiosity. “Our work suggests that the motivational state of high curiosity can help you more effectively retain what you learn,” he says.

If you’re faced with a memory task that doesn’t grab your attention, Ranganath suggests tricking your brain into engaging with the information by pinpointing a gap in your knowledge about a topic that interests you, then investigating it, before tackling the chore at hand. “If you have to learn something, it is important to stimulate your curiosity,” he says.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Justifiable Ways to Be Completely Ruthless

Business meeting
Getty Images

Want to get to the top? You can't be nice all the time

Inc. logo

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

It’s often said that even the most respected leaders are considered by many to be ruthless, even brutal at times. Of course, often when leaders are perceived as merciless, that hard perception belongs to those who did not deserve any mercy.

Great leaders have to be tough and decisive. Often their decisions will displease many, but they can’t effectively lead if every decision is the result of democracy or consensus. This is the difficult path for the leader. It’s easy to stay popular when you appease everyone, but rarely will that drive a large organization to success. They must make the best decision taking all the needs and wants into account. Ultimately, they have to lead the way or step aside.

Here are five ways a leader must be uncompromising and perhaps ruthless in order to benefit a loyal following. See if you have the strength to be tough when needed.

1. Drive the vision.

Despite the arguments from proponents of flat management, most companies can’t move forward without strong vision and a leader ready to move the organization forward despite the risks and stress. Great leaders know when to push or pull the team down the road in order to break the inertia.

2. Protect the team.

Not everyone is a great fit on every team. Well-meaning people can be disruptive and difficult given the wrong set of circumstances. A great leader understands when dysfunction is beyond repair and must make the cut so the team can survive despite individual consequences.

3. Weather the storm

Business can be unpredictable. Just when you think things are calm, something like the financial crisis of 2008 comes along and destroys every bit of safety you built over decades. Great leaders know that this is the time to make decisions that may hurt the few in order to save the many. They must maintain strength at the expense of collateral damage so that all don’t perish.

4. Maintain morale.

Great leadership requires strength, structure, stability and decisiveness. When a team is surrounded by chaos, inaction and indecision productivity drops along with morale. Strong leaders know that running a tight ship allows for the team to be more carefree and opens the door for enjoyment and, ultimately, the kind of innovation that breeds genuine excitement making small personal sacrifices of freedom worth the price.

5. Preserve the culture.

Not every team can survive a wide variety of personality traits. Companies that scale tightly define their culture and use it as a tool to weed out those who may cause growth to slow. Great leaders continuously define and refine the culture to reward those who can conform and excel while ruthlessly eliminating those who won’t be a fit for the long haul. On the bright side, those people will be free to find an environment where they can thrive and be happy rather than living in frustration and mediocrity.

TIME technology

7 Ways Satya Nadella’s Microsoft Is Completely Transformed

Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Officer Satya NadellaSpeaks At Company Event
Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

It’s not even nine months into the Satya Nadella era of Microsoft and the new CEO is making his mark. Notably, his Microsoft is smaller after completing this week most of the 18,000 job cuts he announced in July. Whether Nadella’s plans for Microsoft succeed, it’s clear the company is dramatically different from the Microsoft that ruled the technology industry in the 80s and 90s. The Microsoft that Nadella leads has strayed so far from its original incarnation that it seems in some ways to have become nearly its opposite. Here are seven examples of how today’s Microsoft is different from the juggernaut Bill Gates built.

1. Microsoft has a kinder, gentler CEO. Bill Gates frequently hurled verbal abuse at employees and was coldblooded about deploying predatory practices against competitors. Steve Ballmer had a reputation for hurling chairs and inspiring the rank and file in manic, sweat-soaked diatribes. Both heightened Microsoft’s image as a hard-charging software giant.

Nadella is cut from a different cloth entirely. Yes, his mansplaining about salaries revealed an ability to insert his foot in his mouth, but most accounts of his temperament describe a low-key and humble personality at odds with those of his predecessors. He communicates not in fist-pumping speeches but lengthy memos on strategy.

2. The tables have turned in the Microsoft-Apple rivalry. For decades, Apple had but a sliver of the market share for personal computers. In 2014, Apple is not onlyshipping more personal computers – counting the ones that fit in our pockets – it’s making much more money from them. Apple made $156 billion in revenue from iPhones, iPads and Macs in the last year. And Microsoft? Between Windows and Office software, Nokia phones and Surface tablets, it saw about $23 billion in revenue.

3. Microsoft isn’t a monopoly, but it competes with some. Gates never got the stranglehold he wanted on the Web, thanks to antitrust lawsuits and the Internet’s decentralized structure. And today, Microsoft is just one more company fighting for turf in a variety of markets: enterprise software, game consoles, search and, yes, personal computers.

And anyway, monopolies in the Internet era aren’t quite what they used to be. Yes, Amazon is bullying publishers but it’s pushing prices down, not up. Yes, Google dominates in search but it costs consumers nothing to find a perfectly good alternative like Bing. Neither of those companies is exactly stifling innovation but rather investing heavily in new technologies.

4. Microsoft isn’t really a Windows-driven company. And not just because PC sales have been declining for years. It’s more because Microsoft under Ballmer expanded into gaming and enterprise software markets. Under Nadella, these are becoming an even bigger part of the business. Enterprise offerings like server and storage software, cloud computing and consulting services made up 53% of revenue last quarter. Xbox made up 7%. Windows and Office were only 18%.

5. Microsoft has stopped worrying and learned to love open. Or at least it’s trying. Where Ballmer called the Linux open-source operating system a “malignant cancer,” Nadella proclaims, “Microsoft loves Linux.” All along, Nadella has said Microsoft needs to develop its own platform while playing well with others. Thefitness tracker Microsoft announced Thursday works with Windows as well as Android and iOS phones. Its Office programs work on those platforms too, even though that approach is leaving Microsoft vulnerable to upstarts.

6. It’s not exactly a growth company anymore. In the mid-90s, Microsoft’s revenue was growing by nearly 40% a year. It’s risen an average of 8.5% a year over the past two years, although that pace could increase this year under Nadella. Wall Street demands from Microsoft the kinds of hefty payouts older, slow-growth companies offer: Last year, Microsoft spent $4.9 billion on buybacks and $9.3 billion on dividends. Taken together, that’s more than Microsoft spend on R&D.

7. But it’s slowly gaining cachet among young geeks. A generation of software engineers grew up in the 80s and 90s loathing Microsoft – calling it evil, the Borg, or worse. But for those who came to know Microsoft not through Windows but the Xbox console and Halo franchise, the feelings range from indifferent to positive.

The $2.5 billion purchase of Mojang may or may not make Microsoft a cool brand. But it will wash away the hostility that the Microsoft brand inspired only a dozen years ago. Most kids who love Minecraft seem to think of Microsoft as a big corporation that won’t hurt and might even help Minecraft develop. That generational shift in sentiment may be the most dramatic evidence of how Microsoft has changed.

TIME Food & Drink

Starbucks Announces Plans for Coffee Delivery Service

Paper cups of different sizes are seen on display at Starbuck's first Colombian store at 93 park in Bogota
Paper cups of different sizes are seen on display at Starbuck's first Colombian store at 93 park in Bogota July 16, 2014. John Vizcaino—Reuters

The service will launch in select markets during the second half of 2015

If you’re one of those people that can’t start their day without a cup of Starbucks coffee, you may soon have to go no further than your front door.

During the company’s Thursday earnings conference call, CEO Howard Schultz outlined plans to begin a food and beverage delivery service late next year, according to NBC.

The deliveries will be available to the chain’s loyalty program customers in a few specific markets at first, and will be integrated into a new Starbucks mobile app set to debut in Portland, Ore., next month before expanding to the rest of the country. The app will also allow users to order and pay with their phones.

“Imagine the ability to create a standing order of Starbucks delivered hot to your desk daily,” Schultz said, calling the initiative their version of “e-commerce on steroids.”

TIME Apple

6 Things to Know About the iPhone 6

A new design, digital payments, better camera and more

The iPhone 6 has been one of Apple’s biggest product introductions in years. Here’s a closer look at the device’s main features.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Horrible Habits You Need to Stop Right Now

Author Tim Ferriss suggests some common bad habits you should definitely add to your not-to-do-list


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

For the full list, click here.

TIME Fortune 500

America’s 500 Biggest Companies

See who rose and fell in this year's ranking of the Fortune 500

Wal-Mart stayed on top as its sales crept closer to half-a-trillion dollars. Apple moved into the top five. And UnitedHealth Group continued its steady climb. For the full list, click here.

TIME Companies

Have a Look at Tim Cook’s Time As Apple CEO

Following Tim Cook's announcement that is gay, here is a look back at the many successes of the Apple CEO.

TIME Food & Drink

Papa John’s Now Sells a Pizza Topped With Fritos and Chili

"I can't believe I waited 30 years to put Fritos on a pizza"

In a new ad, Papa John himself admits he’s ashamed of something: “I can’t believe I waited 30 years to put Fritos on a pizza!”

A pizza topping that surely someone must have been asking for. Right? Maybe? Well, Papa John’s CMO Bob Kraut told Businessweek a chili and Fritos-topped pizza was a “no-brainer,” so clearly someone thought it was a good idea.

While we have yet to try the new dish, which is being marketed to NFL watchers, the staff of Esquire did it for us. In the words of the publication’s Anna Peele, “Eating this pizza is like having sex with a coworker: Primarily intriguing because it’s transgressive, then instantly regrettable.”

American fast-food chains have a long way to go before entering the same league as its Asian-based locations’ weird fusions — Pizza Hut Korea literally put shrimp, calamari, bacon, steak and sausage on a pizza and then stuffed the crust with either cranberry or cinnamon apple nut and cream cheese filling — but it’s good to know America is putting its hat in the ring.

TIME Iran

Western Companies Hope For a Bonanza in Iran

An Iranian worker assembles a Peugeot 206 at the state-run Iran-Khodro automobile manufacturing plant near Tehran, Iran, Oct. 11, 2014.
An Iranian worker assembles a Peugeot 206 at the state-run Iran-Khodro automobile manufacturing plant near Tehran, Iran, Oct. 11, 2014. Ebrahim Noroozi—AP

With only weeks to go until a November 24 deadline for a deal between Iran and the West over Tehran's nuclear program, Iranian and Western investors have their fingers crossed

If you just looked at the numbers, the deal revealed last week by the aerospace and defense giant Boeing seemed insignificant: $120,000, for some data, aircraft manuals and navigation charts. But symbolically, the sale to Iran Air, revealed on Oct. 22 was a big deal—the first time that an American aerospace company had done business with Iran since the U.S. began its sanctions there in 1979.

The Boeing sale, which was sanctioned by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control under a temporary sanctions relief deal that began in January, is just one sign that Iran might soon be open for business with the West for the first time since the Islamic Revolution. As the clock ticks down towards November 24, the deadline for a deal between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear program, both Iranian and Western business communities are hoping for a gold rush. Tehran throngs with Europeans jockeying for business, such as this winter’s planned visit to Iran of a hundred French executives, or the Italians, Chinese and Germans browsing the Tehran construction and mining trade show in August. Many international companies, from Samsung to Renault are already in Iran, trading in sectors permitted under the sanctions, such as food, cars and pharmaceuticals. In 2013, E.U. countries made 5.4 billion Euros ($6.8 billion) worth of exports to Iran. Emerging market experts make breathless comparisons to Russia just after the Berlin Wall’s fall. “Iran,” said Charles Robertson, global chief economist at Renaissance Capital, “is the biggest opportunity of the next 10 years.”

It’s easy to see why it could be. New markets of nearly 80 million people are rare indeed. Rarer still are emerging markets with oil and gas, educated work-forces and lively stock-markets — all humming with pent-up potential from Iran’s thirty-five years as an economic pariah. Iranian boosters reject comparisons with Vietnam and Burma, other newly open economies.”We like to think of it as Turkey on steroids,” quipped an Iranian investor at the Europe-Iran Forum, a recent London conference that brought together European investors and Iranian businessmen.

But challenges remain. If the Forum was designed to showcase Iran’s possibilities, it also underscored the hurdles in tapping them. Few business conferences ban “negotiation, deal-making, or commercial transactions,” but this one did, mindful of the Obama’s promise to “come down like a ton of bricks” on anyone breaking sanctions. The former foreign ministers of Britain and France delivered speeches — even as the British Foreign Office reiterated to Reuters that its policy remained “not to encourage trade with Iran.” Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of the world’s largest marketing group, WPP, gave the keynote — though some pro-Israel groups had petitioned him not to, citing Iran’s human rights record, support for terrorism and anti-Semitism. On the first day of the Forum, there were protesters outside filming participants on their way into the venue.

Inside, European business people listened to presentations on sectors from oil to healthcare to consumer goods. But even the most bullish Iran-watchers admitted that a November 24th deal over the country’s nuclear program, should one be agreed, would just mark the first hurdle. One unintended effect of sanctions has been what’s amounted to a de facto boycott of Iran; companies are reluctant to do business with Iran even if it’s technically legal, in areas such as food or humanitarian aid. “The spirit of the law is even more burdensome than the letter of it,” said Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, a founding partner of the Europe-Iran Forum. “The effect on banks has undermined the idea that sanctions aren’t meant to hurt the Iranian people.” This June’s record $8.9 billion fine on BNP Paribas for breaking U.S. sanctions on Iran and other countries spooked banks anew, and Iranian investors realize that even if sanctions are lifted, Iran needs to rebuild its relationships with the international banking community. “Any number of good political outcomes may occur by November 24,” said Amir Ali Amiri of investment company ACL, “but even then, in the parallel universe of business, if European banks continue to lack confidence in putting together a letter of credit for Iran, they’re not going to touch the opportunity.”

Both within Iran and outside of it, there are vested interests who stand to lose if sanctions lift. China has benefitted from Iran’s sanctions, which delivered “the Iranian market to the Chinese on a silver platter,” notes Ali Fathollah-Nejad, a political science fellow at the German Orient Institute. Iran could rival Russia as a major supplier of oil and gas if it is allowed to export freely. Then there are the Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s ideological protectors of the Islamic Revolution, who have emerged as pivotal economic players. An open Iran would challenge their position, notes Fathollah-Nejad, “But the Supreme Leader Khamenei’s decision to go for a deal with the West signals that he’s been able to keep those guys at bay.” Not all commentators agree that Khamenei is certain to support a deal.

With around three weeks till the deadline, it’s not just oil and gas executives and sanctions-weary Iranians hoping for a deal. In a speech last week, the U.S. chief negotiator Wendy Sherman urged Iran to “finish the job,” while U.S. officials say President Obama may try and bypass a vote on suspending sanctions in Congress, where support for Israel is strongest, the New York Times recently reported. Congress, however, may not allow the President to bypass it.

“It’s the last large untapped market in the world,” says Ramin Rabii, of Iranian investment firm Turquoise Partners. “The future is very exciting.” The only question that remains — at least until November 24th — is whether all the hurdles can be overcome.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser