TIME psychology

Creative Thinking Exercises: 8 Steps to Workplace Creativity

A while back I rounded up a lot of the research and posted my four fundamental rules for increasing creativity.

But those aren’t all easy to do at the office.

The list includes getting drunk, taking naps and showers, and other stuff that could lead to a visit from the HR Hitman.

What are some research-backed creative thinking exercises that address the challenges of the modern workplace?

Here are 8. They’re unconventional, but they work.

 

#1) Hide From The Boss

Yeah, you heard me. Creative thinking exercise #1 is run and hide from your boss.

Not 24/7, mind you, but definitely when you’re trying to knock out something new and original.

As Stanford MBA school professors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Bob Sutton point out,bosses can hurt creativity.

Via Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-based Management:

…when a group does creative work, a large body of research shows that the more that authority figures hang around, the more questions they ask, and especially the more feedback they give their people, the less creative the work will be. Why? Because doing creative work entails constant setbacks and failure, and people want to succeed when the boss is watching–which means doing proven, less creative things that are sure to work.

 

#2) Actually, Hide from EVERYBODY

Research shows that individuals who generate ideas on their own and then meet with a group afterward come up with more (and better) ideas.

Via Imagine: How Creativity Works:

Not only did the solo students come up with twice as many solutions as the brainstorming groups but their solutions were deemed more “feasible” and “effective” by a panel of judges. In other words, brainstorming didn’t unleash the potential of the group. Instead, the technique suppressed it, making each individual less creative.

As group size goes up, creativity and effectiveness goes down.

Via Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking:

The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” writes the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.”

 

#3) Be Creative At The Office By Not Being At The Office

You’re more creative when you work from home.

If you can do creative projects there, you might be up to 20% more productive:

On the uncreative tasks, people were 6% to 10% less productive outside the lab. The fall-off was steepest among the least productive third of workers. (People who reported procrastinating on their homework were also, unsurprisingly, poor telecommuters—as were men.) On the creative tasks, by contrast, people were 11% to 20% more productive outside the lab.

 

#4) Mess Up Your Desk

Research shows an organized office might make you behave better but a messy office can lead to more creative breakthroughs:

Experiment 2 showed that participants in a disorderly room were more creative than participants in an orderly room.

 

#5) Do Not Procrastinate

What’s that you’re saying? You work better with that last minute time pressure?

Harvard’s Teresa Amabile says no, you don’t:

We found that on days of the most extreme time pressure, the professionals in our study were 45 percent less likely to come up with a new idea or solve a complex problem. Even worse, there’s a kind of “pressure hangover,” with lower creativity persisting for two days or more.

(Here are more tips on beating procrastination.)

 

#6) Relax, Get Happy, And Daydream

Watch comedy videos on YouTube. Seriously, it works.

(Tell people it’s another one of your “very serious creative thinking exercises.”)

Via Imagine: How Creativity Works:

After watching a short, humorous video— Beeman uses a clip of Robin Williams doing standup— subjects have significantly more epiphanies, at least when compared with those who were shown scary or boring videos.

More happy = More creative.

Via The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work:

Our diary study revealed a definitive connection between positive emotion and creativity. We looked at specific emotions as well as overall mood (the aggregate of a person’s positive and negative emotions during the day). Overall, the more positive a person’s mood on a given day, the more creative thinking he did that day. Across all study participants, there was a 50 percent increase in the odds of having a creative idea on days when people reported positive moods, compared with days when they reported negative moods.

People whose minds frequently wander are more creative and better problem solvers.

Via 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People:

Mind-wandering allows one part of the brain to focus on the task at hand, and another part of the brain to keep a higher goal in mind. Christoff (2009) at the University of California, Santa Barbara has evidence that people whose minds wander a lot are more creative and better problem solvers. Their brains have them working on the task at hand but simultaneously processing other information and making connections.

 

#7) Record Good Ideas In A Notebook

“Eureka!” moments are bunk.

Research shows strokes of genius emerge over time, and the greats often kept track of them in notebooks.

Via Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity:

Creativity started with the notebooks’ sketches and jottings, and only later resulted in a pure, powerful idea…Instead of arriving in one giant leap, great creations emerged by zigs and zags as their creators engaged over and over again with these externalized images.

And don’t write down every idea “no matter how crazy.” Rules help.

Focusing your efforts on being as creative as possible reduces the number of ideas but increases the number of good ideas.

Via Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration:

Researchers next looked for idea-generating rules that would work even better than Osborn’s. They told their subjects: “The more imaginative or creative your ideas, the higher your score will be. Each idea will be scored in terms of (1) how unique or different it is— how much it differs from the common use and (2) how valuable it is— either socially, artistically, economically, etc.” These instructions are very different from those given for classic brainstorming because people are being told to use specific directions in judging which ideas they come up with. Groups working with these instructions have fewer ideas than brainstorming groups, but they have more good ideas.

 

#8) Present Your Ideas To Colleagues — and FIGHT

This might be the shift from “creative thinking exercises” to “creative shoutingexercises.”

Don’t be open and accepting. When people debate, they’re more creative.

Via Imagine: How Creativity Works:

Which teams did the best? The results weren’t even close: while the brainstorming groups slightly outperformed the groups given no instructions, people in the debate condition were far more creative. On average, they generated nearly 25 percent more ideas.

(Here’s more on why everything you know about brainstorming is wrong.)

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

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Creative Teams – What 7 elements do they all share?

5 quick things you can do today to boost your creativity

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME Business

10 Networking Tips That Will Make You a Success

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Dimitri Vervitsiotis—Getty Images

Everyone needs to network. And I mean everyone.

What determines whether a drug dealer dies or becomes a kingpin? Yup – the size of his network.

Networking is one of the 10 things I recommend people do every week.

Research shows networking is vital to staying employed, salary growth and job satisfaction. It also makes you more likely to land a job.

Via The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference:

In his classic 1974 study Getting a Job, Granovetter…found that 56 percent of those he talked to found their job through a personal connection.

It makes you more likely to be successful at your job.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

MIT researchers…found that the more socially connected the IBM employees were, the better they performed.

It makes you more likely to become an expert at your job.

Via Achieving Success Through Social Capital: Tapping the Hidden Resources in Your Personal and Business Networks:

As much as 70% of learning in the workplace takes place via informal interactions according to a 1998 study by the center for Workforce Development.

And it makes you more likely to be creative on the job.

Via Imagine: How Creativity Works:

…businesspeople with entropic networks full of weak ties were three times more innovative than people with small networks of close friends…

Having a big network even makes you luckier.

Alright, alright… Networking is essential. But how do we do it? I’ve read the books, talked to the experts and I’ve got some answers.

And if you’re one of those people who hates the word “networking” because it seems sleazy, rest assured I’ve got that covered too. Let’s get started:

 

1) If Connecting Seems Hard, Start By Re-Connecting

You hate networking. Or you’re bad at it. Or you’re hopelessly lazy and have the attention span of a gnat. Then just go play on Facebook.

I’m being serious. An excellent first step, backed by research, is toreconnect with old friends:

These findings suggest that dormant relationships – often overlooked or underutilized – can be a valuable source of knowledge and social capital.

Give and Take” author Adam Grant points to research showing in many cases friends you haven’t kept up with are even more helpful than current contacts.

(For a dead simple way to reconnect with people, click here.)

Okay, but this is supposed to be networking, right? How do you meet new people? Well, that can be crazy simple too.

 

2) Move Your Desk

Most people constantly make excuses: “I’m shy. Talking to new people makes me break out with hives, boils and open sores.”

It’s really not that hard and it needn’t be awkward. In fact, it can be as simple as moving your desk.

Via Achieving Success Through Social Capital: Tapping the Hidden Resources in Your Personal and Business Networks:

Jeffrey Pfeffer tells a powerful story of a manager who attributes his success to his decision of where to sit… He noted that during the course of the day, people walked to the cafeteria and to the washrooms. He found where the two paths tended to intersect, near the center of the open plan office layout, and took that position as his work location. He attributes much of his subsequent success to that simple move, since it gave him much better access to what was going on in his department.

Not good at going up to new people? Then situate yourself so they’ll come to you.

(For more insights on networking for introverts, click here.)

Okay, clever tricks. But what if we really want to scale this? And be strategic? Then it’s time to bring out the big guns…

 

3) Find Your “Superconnectors”

A disproportionate number of friends and opportunities came your way through a handful of people. These are “superconnectors.”

Who helped get you your current job? Your previous job? Through whom did you meet the majority of your friends? Seeing any patterns?

Brian Uzzi and Sharon Dunlap discussed this in the Harvard Business Review:

After you identify your key contacts, think about how you first met them. In the center column of the work sheet, write the name of the person who introduced you to your contact (if you met the person yourself, write “me”). This column will reveal the brokers in your network and help you see the networking practices you used to connect with them.

If you only send a few emails or make a few calls it should be to those people, because a small investment there can pay off big.

Who’s an easy first superconnector? Contact your mentor.

(Don’t have a mentor? All successful people have mentors. To get the perfect mentor for you, click here.)

So you’re starting to build up a healthy network now. But all these meetings might get expensive. And that can lead to second thoughts…

 

4) Start An “Interesting People Fund”

Set aside money so there’s no reluctance or guilt and you can jump on opportunities to meet new people.

Ben Casnocha, bestselling author of The Start-up of You and The Alliance, says designating this money can make networking much less stressful.

Pre-committing $100 or $1,000 reduces the likelihood that when it comes time to actually do the thing you know you ought to do, you bail.

What about making time? Top networker Keith Ferrazzi sums up the answer with the title of his bestseller: Never Eat Alone.

(For more on setting up an “interesting people fund”, click here.)

You’ve got a burgeoning network and have set aside time and money to meet with them. Great. But what do you actually say when you’re there?

 

5) Three Golden Questions

You want meetings to be friendly and personal but you also want to lay down the foundation of a relationship that is mutually beneficial.

Judy Robinett, author of How to Be a Power Connector has a great short list of questions to make sure you make the most of even brief meetings.

Via How to Be a Power Connector:

Before you leave any meeting or encounter, you always should ask what I call Three Golden Questions.

First, “How can I help you?” This gives you an opportunity to add value immediately with a suggestion, a referral, or an opportunity, and it will establish you as a giver and potentially someone they want to know.

Second, “What ideas do you have for me?” Asking for ideas allows the people you are talking with to add value to you as you have (hopefully) added value to them.

Third, “Who else do you know that I should talk to?” The very connection you need may be in this individual’s network, and the only way you can find out is with this question.

(For more on what to say and do in the moment, click here.)

But this is the kinda strategic behavior some people see as sleazy and shallow. What keeps networking sincere?

 

6) How To Not Be Sleazy

When it comes to business relationships, stop thinking about the word “business” and focus on “relationships.”

So what should we keep in mind when it comes to being a friend to new people we meet? I always think of “warmth, curiosity, and generosity.”

Research shows people evaluate everyone they meet in terms of warmth and competence. And of the two guess which mattered more? Yup, warmth.

And then there’s curiosity. Actively showing interest in other people is powerful — and kind.

Merely listening to what they have to say and asking them to tell you more is all it takes.

When people speak, the best responses are both active and constructive. What’s that mean?

It is engaged, enthusiastic, curious and has supportive nonverbal action. Ask questions. Be excited. Ask for details. Smile. Touch. Laugh.

People who create this kind of positive energy are higher achievers. They get promoted earlier and also improve the performance of those around them.

(For more on how being sincere and positive can boost your career, click here.)

Hey, there were three things: warmth, curiosity and generosity. Where’s generosity? That one is so important it gets its own section…

 

7) The Five Minute Favor

One of the most common problems people have in networking is how to follow up: Great, I met someone. Now what do I do?

The answer to that is: give. Think of the other person first.

Top Wharton professor Adam Grant, author of Give and Take, offers a piece of advice on how to network he learned from Adam Rifkin.

It’s The Five Minute Favor:

One of my personal favorites is probably Adam Rifkin’s idea of the “Five-Minute Favor” (if you can do something for someone that will take less than five minutes, just do it.) A lot of people look at the idea of helping others and say, “Gosh, that’s going to be time consuming, or exhausting, or put me at risk of being exploited.” I think that Adam’s idea enables us to a sense of, “What if I just took a couple minutes every day to try to help someone in a way that a small commitment to me, but could be of large benefit to them?”

You know that hippie-sounding bumper sticker “Practice random acts of kindness”? Corny as it may sound, you should actually do that.

(For more on the five minute favor, click here.)

You’re giving. You’re even making a game out of it, trying to figure out the best way to help others. Now it’s time to flip that on its head.

 

8) Cement A Relationship By Asking For A Favor

Asking people for favors can actually strengthen the bond between you.

My friend Michael Simmons mentions a great networking method used by none other than Benjamin Franklin.

There was somebody who really did not like Ben. And as much as Ben tried to be nice to the guy, nothing worked.

So instead of trying to help his detractor, Franklin took the opposite route — he asked his enemy for a favor. Ironically, that made them friends.

Via The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin:

Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him expressing my desire of perusing that book and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days.

He sent it immediately – and I returned it in about a week with another note expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility. And he ever afterward manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death.

What happened? When someone does something for you they need to justify it — maybe by changing their mind about you.

How can you do this without coming off like a selfish taker? Judy Robinett says to stick to the “rule of two”: give two favors before asking for one.

And don’t be afraid. Research shows we tend to underestimate just how helpful people are.

(For more on how to be a giver the smart way, click here.)

Now it’s all starting to come together. What do the experts say we need to know when looking at the big picture?

 

9) Tips From The Best

Fortune Magazine called Adam Rifkin the most networked guy in Silicon Valley. He has a few things anyone can do to be a better networker:

1. Do something every single day. Make it a habit. The more of it you do, the better you can get at it. Every day is an opportunity to get better, but do not try to do too much at once. Take the longview, and connect with at least one person professionally every day. Could be following up with someone you already know; could be asking for an introduction from a mutual connection.

2. Once in a while, think of two people who should know each other but don’t, and introduce them. Follow through with them later to learn from whether that introduction was worthwhile, so you can get better at making introductions. Practice!

3. Imagine you got laid off today. Who are the 5-10 people you’d write to for advice? Make sure to invest in those relationships regularly, not just when you have an urgent need.

4. Look at the 5-10 people you’ve spent the most time with in the last 3 months. Are you happy with the way they’re influencing you? If so, find another person who belongs in that group and invest in that relationship. (If not, change the way you’re spending your time! How you spend your time determines so much in your life.)

(For more insights from networker extraordinaire Adam Rifkin, click here.)

So you’ve got tons of contacts now. But how can you possibly maintain them all? There just isn’t enough time. Unless you do something very fun…

 

10) PARTY!

Good networkers build bridges, becoming a linchpin between disparate networks. But as Michael Simmons notes, great networkers form communities.

They make sure that their contacts get to know each other, exponentially increasing the connections and opportunities.

And forming communities actually makes managing networks easier – have regular get-togethers with a rotating group of your contacts.

It’s a trend you see again and again among top networkers:

  1. Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, throws a monthly breakfast, introducing his connections to each other.
  2. Adam Rifkin hosts his “106 miles” gatherings where Silicon Valley power brokers and newcomers mix and mingle.
  3. Harvard’s Gautam Mukunda regularly gathers the most interesting thought leaders in Boston for steak dinners.

I’ve attended the latter two and can’t say enough positive things.

(To learn more about how you can turn your network into a community, clickhere.)

So where does all this take you in the end? Let’s look at the key point that makes all of this so powerful.

 

Sum Up

Here are the ten networking tips that bring success:

  1. If Connecting Seems Hard, Start By Re-Connecting
  2. Move Your Desk
  3. Find Your “Superconnectors”
  4. Start An “Interesting People Fund”
  5. Three Golden Questions
  6. How To Not Be Sleazy
  7. The Five Minute Favor
  8. Cement a Relationship By Asking For A Favor
  9. Big Picture Tips From The Best
  10. PARTY!

Old people, economists and insurance adjusters all say the most valuable thing in life is relationships. They make you happier – and healthier.

Via Achieving Success Through Social Capital:

…according to a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “More diverse social networks were associated with greater resistance to upper respiratory illness,” conclude researchers from Carnegie Mellon University.

It’s the first day of kindergarten again, folks. Go make some friends.

What’s the best next step? Send these five simple emails.

I’ll have more tips from networking experts in my next weekly update so join the community of over 90,000 readers here.

Related posts:

How To Be Resilient: 8 Steps To Success When Life Gets Hard

What 10 things should you do every day to improve your life?

How To Make Your Life Better By Sending Five Simple Emails

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

Being a Good Person: 5 Things That Can Help You Make the Right Choices

Man standing hesitating to make decision
Getty Images

In case you aren’t getting your RDA minimum of irony lately, I’m here to inform you that ethics books get stolen more frequently than other books:

Overdue or missing, as a percentage of those off shelf:

  • Ethics: 21.0%
  • Non-ethics: 10.0%

Missing, as a percentage of those off shelf:

  • Ethics: 8.2%
  • Non-ethics: 6.4%

Research shows that in a multitude of ways bad truly is stronger than good.

Via Good Boss, Bad Boss:

In everyday life, bad events have stronger and more lasting consequences than comparable good events.

Being a good person can be soooooooo inconvenient at times.

Here are five research-backed tips that can help you be good when doing the right thing isn’t easy.

 

#1) Reminders

The first step to being a good person is establishing reminders.

Seems too simple but reminders have powerful effects.

  • Mentioning the Ten Commandments before a tempting situation reduced cheating on a test.

 

#2) Supervision

Obviously, a boss standing over your shoulder can keep you in line but justfeeling like you’re being supervised is quite powerful.

How do you pull that magic trick off? Have a mirror nearby.

From Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

Charles Carver and Michael Scheier, who arrived at a vital insight: Self-awareness evolved because it helps self-regulation. They had conducted their own experiments observing people sitting at a desk where there happened to be a mirror. The mirror seemed a minor accessory—not even important enough to mention to the people—yet it caused profound differences in all kinds of behavior. If the people could see themselves in the mirror, they were more likely to follow their own inner values instead of following someone else’s orders. When instructed to deliver shocks to another person, the mirror made people more restrained and less aggressive than a control group that wasn’t facing a mirror. A mirror prompted them to keep working harder at a task. When someone tried to bully them into changing their opinion about something, they were more likely to resist the bullying and stick to their opinion.

 

#3) Get Enough Sleep

Lack of sleep is correlated with unethical behavior:

In a cross-sectional field study examining unethical behavior in a variety of work settings, low levels of sleep, and low perceived quality of sleep, were both positively related to unethical behavior…

 

#4) Hang Out With Good People

Seeing others behave dishonestly makes you more likely to be dishonest.

Seeing people behave altruistically makes you more likely to be altruistic:

…these results provide evidence that witnessing another person’s altruistic behavior elicits elevation, a discrete emotion that, in turn, leads to tangible increases in altruism.

Research shows you become like the people you surround yourself with, so spend more time with the type of people you want to be.

From Charles Duhigg’s excellent book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business:

In a 1994 Harvard study that examined people who had radically changed their lives, for instance, researchers found that some people had remade their habits after a personal tragedy, such as a divorce or a life-threatening illness…Just as frequently, however, there was no tragedy that preceded people’s transformations. Rather, they changed because they were embedded in social groups that made change easier… When people join groups where change seems possible, the potential for that change to occur becomes more real.

 

#5) Think About Your Childhood

Being a good person can be as easy as keeping a teddy bear nearby.

No, I’m not saying you should carry around stuffed animals but reminders of children make you more honest.

Via Harvard Business Review:

Half the participants were either in a room with children’s toys or engaged in children’s activities. Across the board, those participants lied less and were more generous than the control subjects.

Taking a minute to recall memories from your childhood can improve your behavior.

Four experiments demonstrated that recalling memories from one’s own childhood lead people to experience feelings of moral purity and to behave prosocially.

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here

Related posts:

What 10 things should you do every day to improve your life?

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What five things can make sure you never stop growing and learning?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME relationships

Sigh: Men Think Women Who Listen to Them Are Sexier

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Listening woman Image Source RF/Wonwoo Lee—Getty Images/Image Source

A new study shows that men think women who are aware of their feelings are attractive, but it didn't necessarily work the other way around

Dusty Springfield was right all those years ago when she said the best way to a man’s heart was to “show him that you care.” A new study shows that men are more sexually attracted to “responsive” women who tend to their needs, but the same can’t be said about what attracts women to men.

The study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found that after just meeting, men were more likely to be sexually attracted to a woman who was “responsive,” which meant “aware of what I’m thinking and feeling” or “listening to me.” Men perceived responsive women as more feminine, and therefore more sexually attractive.

Dr. Gurit Birnbaum, one of the authors of the study, said that “responsiveness” could also indicate which women would be viewed as long-term partners vs. short term hookups. “A responsive partner may be perceived as a warm and caring and therefore a desirable long-term partner,” she said in an email.

Unsurprisingly, the female attitude towards male “responsiveness” was more complicated. On the one hand, some women saw responsiveness as an indication that the man would be a desirable mate, while others suspiciously viewed it as a ploy to manipulate them into sex. Still others thought that “responsiveness” was un-masculine, and therefore not sexy.

So there might be actually some science behind the whole “nice guys finish last” thing.

What a bummer.

TIME psychology

What People Learn About You From Your Selfies

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Woman looking at reflection Vintage Images—www.jupiterimages.com

The pictures you post online could affect the way people treat you in person

According to new research, there are scientific reasons why you judged that girl who posted a selfie on Instagram last night.

It’s no secret that people make snap judgments about each other, but the study, conducted by researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of York, was able to accurately predict what those judgments would be based on facial measurements such as “eye height” and “eyebrow width.”

Previous studies have shown that first impressions often fall into three categories: approachability, dominance, and attractiveness. The researchers at the University of York took 1,000 photographs from the Internet, analyzed the facial features of the subjects (who were all Caucasian), and studied how people reacted to each photograph. They were then able to develop a statistical model that predicted what the viewer’s impression of the face would be based on the measured facial features.

The findings of this study help illuminate the importance of these impressions in an age of social media, in which pictures of faces proliferate and people meet, talk, and even date online. According to the researchers‘ report, curating the perfect photo for these websites isn’t as trivial as it seems. “Some of the features that are associated with first impressions are linked to changeable properties of the face or setting that are specific to a given image,” they wrote. “So things like expression, pose, camera position, lighting can all in principle contribute alongside the structure of our faces themselves.”

Perhaps the most surprising finding was that snap judgments based on a photo could shape the way we respond to a person even after we’ve met them in person. The researchers explain it this way in the introduction to their report: “Although first impressions are formed rapidly to faces, they are by no means fleeting in their consequences. Instead… facial appearance can affect behavior, changing the way we interpret social encounters and influencing their outcomes.”

Less surprisingly, the research showed that “masculine” faces, determined by factors such as cheekbone structure, eyebrow height and skin texture, were seen as dominant, whereas more feminine faces were perceived as more attractive and youthful.

But the researchers also found that the shape and size of a person’s mouth directly affected his or her perceived approachability, and that larger eyes tend to predict higher levels of attractiveness.

So it’s time to stop making fun of people who obsess over choosing their profile picture. Richard Vernon, a PhD student who worked on the study, said, “Showing that even supposedly arbitrary features in a face can influence people’s perceptions suggests that careful choice of a photo could make (or break) others’ first impressions of you.”

TIME

Negotiation Tactics: The 10 Minute MBA Course on Negotiation

Want to learn the negotiation tactics of an MBA?

I’ve cleaned up and distilled notes from the excellent negotiating course I took in MBA school taught by MIT lecturer John Richardson.

 

Preparation

  • Always, do your homework. Success in negotiation is strongly correlated with time spent preparing.
  • Preparing in a group helps; others will come up with things you didn’t.
  • Be ambitious. There’s usually a connection between aspiration level and what people get. (Obviously, you can go too far, so look at your benchmarks.)
  • It’s very valuable to have things you don’t want in a negotiationso you can give them away for things you do.

 

Early In The Negotiation

  • Focus on influencing them, not being passive and waiting for them to decide. If you want to influence them be clear and consistent. Influencing is like teaching. You are teaching the other group to negotiate. Explicitly talk with the other side about not just substance (making money) but also process (rules of the game.)
  • Act with a purpose, don’t react. Most people act without thinking. Decide how you want them to act and what you need to do to encourage that. People’s behavior is not to be predicted, it’s to be affected.
  • Small talk before a negotiation is good.
  • Be careful what behavior you reward.
  • Your first goal in every negotiation should be to find out more.
  • Always begin with the frame “Should this deal be made?” not “How should I make this deal?”

 

Smart Things To Do

  • Any time someone presents a benchmark number, evaluate it, don’t just accept it. Ask “Where did that number come from?” If they don’t have a good reason, they’ll need to come up with another number. If you’re not sure about it, a good response is always “Let me look at this and call you back.”
  • In ongoing relationships concealing things becomes very stupid because the chance of getting caught and retaliation are too big. Be less concerned with what you get in any one round. If either side wins all the time it will not be a successful ongoing relationship. You should want to win each one, but not to win them all.
  • Being perceived as fair is key. People don’t respond well to being treated unfairly, even if the alternative is, objectively, even worse.
  • Sometimes people don’t know what their problem is; you need to figure it out and solve it for them. Being purely positional and transactional can hurt you here. Making efforts to understand them and help them solve their problem can be win-win.
  • Let them talk and explain their story. If you can show them you understand their reasons, you take away the “you don’t get it” defense. And if you still disagree with them after, it makes them curious to know where you’re coming from.
  • If you can explain their argument even better than they can it shows you understand and they’ll be much more receptive to your POV. Don’t make their argument sound stupid.
  • Always attach a fairness argument to whatever you propose: “Here’s what I’m offering and here’s why it works for you.” This is much better than a positional “I want $100,000 because I deserve it.” A fairness argument allows you to be flexible. If they give you new information, you can alter your reasoning versus being stuck with an arbitrary number that no longer makes sense.
  • In salary negotiations: using third party information, verify what other comparable people in the field are making. It will make it much harder for them to justify giving less. If they can’t do better, work on bonuses and perks.
  • What should you ask for? The most aggressive thing you can request with a straight face. And you need a reason why it’s fair.

 

Things That Help In A Negotiation

  • Accurate information sharing.
  • Structure the negotiation so there is no incentive to bluff (starting with what you don’t want works here).
  • Simultaneous revelation (write down and show offers at same time).
  • Keeping commitment for the end.
  • Creating multiple options.
  • Both sides like each other and want the other person to be happy.

 

Fisher’s 7 Elements Definition Of Success

  • You want no deal or a deal that meets your interests, not your positions. Interests are why you want things, positions are what you say you want. (Interests: “I want a job that makes me happy”, Positions: “I want 100K a year.”) Failure is when the result fulfills your positions but not your interests (“Got the salary but also got a crappy boss, little vacation time and a dead-end role.”)
  • Leverage negotiation tactics that create value. Work with the other person to create more options and opportunities for both sides to be happy, not just settling on the first thing everyone says.
  • All proposals should be supported by valid criteria. What’s the story of why this offer makes sense?
  • Know your alternatives and make sure this deal is better than those alternatives.
  • Use negotiation tactics that build a working relationship. You end up dealing with the same people often so lay the groundwork for smooth negotiations going forward.
  • You want a deal that leads to a clear reliable commitment. The result has to be something they can and will do, not something that will fall apart.
  • You want to reach a deal with efficient communication so everyone is on the same page.

 

Strategies and Dealing With Dirty Tricks

  • Remember Schelling: One of the most powerful negotiation tactics can be to make it impossible for you to do the deal on terms less than you want (“The money is in the hands of a third party who will not release the funds unless you do XXX”) But there is a cost to doing this, which is you throw away ability to change your mind.
  • Paint a vivid picture of their pain.” Explain what it might be like if they lose this deal. What’s better is to paint a picture of how bad it will be for both of us if this does not work out… “Nobody wants this result.”
  • You need to have a strategy for un-committing people who use self-limiting options. People will back themselves into a corner, “I absolutely cannot go lower than $50!” But they can. You have to allow them to save face so they can reverse that statement, otherwise you both lose.
  • How do you know if they’re lying? Make them talk a lot. Long, involved lies are harder to tell than short lies.
  • If someone says “take it or leave it”, don’t respond. Wait. If they’re still there a minute later, you know it wasn’t legit. A good strategy here is to change the subject because you don’t want them to feel embarrassed and then have to do something even more stupid.

 

How To Keep Improving As A Negotiator

  • Review your negotiations afterward. Make it a habit to prep, do, review.
  • After a negotiation, always ask, “What did the other side do well that I can learn?”
  • Practice with a partner, don’t just read theory.
  • Get feedback from the opposition.
  • Have a particular skill goal in mind that you want to work on and improve.

 

Want To Learn More?

To get my exclusive full interview with former head of FBI international hostage negotiation Chris Voss (where he explains the two words that tell you a negotiation is going very badly), join my free weekly newsletter. Click here.

Related posts:

My interview with Robert Cialdini on the six ways to influence people

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What are the 6 things that can make you dramatically more persuasive?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

Creativity at Work: 6 Ways to Encourage Innovative Ideas

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Harvard’s Teresa Amabile, author of The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work, says there are three components to creativity at work:

  • Expertise (People who aren’t any good at physics rarely come up with relativity theory.)
  • Creative thinking skills (Are you even trying to think outside the box?)
  • Motivation (Personal interest like curiosity beats monetary bonuses.)

Her research produced 6 things that companies and managers can do to support and inspire creative work:

 

1) Challenge

It’s all about assigning the right person to the right project — but most companies don’t bother to get to know their employees well enough to do that.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

Of all the things managers can do to stimulate creativity, perhaps the most efficacious is the deceptively simple task of matching people with the right assignments. Managers can match people with jobs that play to their expertise and their skills in creative thinking, and ignite intrinsic motivation. Perfect matches stretch employees’ abilities. The amount of stretch, however, is crucial: not so little that they feel bored but not so much that they feel overwhelmed and threatened by a loss of control.

That final sentence, I think, is key. Amabile doesn’t reference the word, but it sounds like what this does is help engineer “flow“.

creativity-at-work

 

2) Freedom

Companies should define goals but let workers have some autonomy in how to get there.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

When it comes to granting freedom, the key to creativity is giving people autonomy concerning the means–that is, concerning process–but not necessarily the ends. People will be more creative, in other words, if you give them freedom to decide how to climb a particular mountain. You needn’t let them choose which mountain to climb. In fact, clearly specified strategic goals often enhance people’s creativity.

 

3) Resources

Too little time or money can both dampen creativity at work.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

Organizations routinely kill creativity with fake deadlines or impossibly tight ones. The former create distrust and the latter cause burnout. In either case, people feel overcontrolled and unfulfilled–which invariably damages motivation. Moreover, creativity often takes time…They keep resources tight, which pushes people to channel their creativity into finding additional resources, not in actually developing new products or services.

 

4) Work-Group Features

Companies kill creativity by encouraging homogenous teams.

These groups do find solutions more quickly and have high morale–but their lack of diversity doesn’t lead to much creativity.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

If you want to build teams that comes up with creative ideas, you must pay careful attention to the design of such teams. That is, you must create mutually supportive groups with a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds. Why? Because when teams comprise people with various intellectual foundations and approaches to work–that is, different expertise and creative thinking styles–ideas often combine and combust in exciting and useful ways.

 

5) Supervisory Encouragement

Support and recognition by bosses isn’t just nice, it’s essential to creativity at work.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

Certainly, people can find their work interesting or exciting without a cheering section–for some period of time. But to sustain such passion, most people need to feel as if their work matters to the organization or to some important group of people.

 

6) Organizational Support

Companies that mandate information sharing and collaboration while discouraging politics will see creativity thrive.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

Most important, an organization’s leaders can support creativity by mandating information sharing and collaboration and by ensuring that political problems do not fester. Information sharing and collaboration support all three components of creativity… That sense of mutual purpose and excitement so central to intrinsic motivation invariably lessens when people are cliquish or at war with one another. Indeed, our research suggests that intrinsic motivation increases when people are aware that those around them are excited by their jobs.

 

Final Note

Of the three big factors in creativity that Amabile calls out, where most companies go wrong is motivation.

They either ignore it or try to achieve it by money — a very inefficient mechanism at best.

The best employees are motivated from inside and companies that nurture that passion see the best results.

Amabile calls upon Michael Jordan as a perfect example.

Via The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next:

And Michael Jordan, perhaps the most creative basketball player ever, had “a love of the game” clause inserted into his contract; he insisted that he be free to play pickup basketball games anytime he wished.

For more tips on creativity from “Family Guy” writer Andrew Goldberg sign up for my free weekly email update here.

Related posts:

Creative companies: What are the 10 secrets of innovative offices?

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

Knowing Yourself: 3 Keys to Leveraging Ancient Wisdom

“Know Thyself”

The Oracle at Delphi said “Know thyself.” And that is deep and profound.

It’s also a pain in the ass because as with every cliche, the difficulty is in the execution and nobody ever bothers to tell you how to do it properly.

I guess they’re too busy brainstorming new fortune cookie wisdom while we sit around thinking they’re smart for coming up with it and we’re dumb for not being able to follow through.

Knowing yourself is the hardest thing in the world because nobody lies to you about you more than you do.

We need answers. Good answers. Ones we can achieve simply — without a PhD, a wrench or elective surgery.

What does “knowing yourself” really take?

 

What “Knowing Yourself” Means

It’s amazing to me how much real insight about life is coming from business books and business schools these days.

In Management Challenges for the 21st Century, Pete Drucker, probably the most influential thinker on the subject of management, says to be successful throughout your entire work life — one that will likely span numerous jobs, multiple industries and wholly different careers — it all comes down to knowing yourself.

And knowing yourself, in terms of achieving what you want in life, meansknowing your strengths.

But the reason I like Drucker is because he doesn’t stop there or just bury you in self-help platitudes. He gives a definition:

What are you good at that consistently produces desired results?

It’s not necessarily what you enjoy or what a test says you have aptitude for, it’s the things you do that result in crossing the proverbial finish line.

These are your strengths. Other research I’ve posted shows they’re tightly tied to happiness and fulfilling work.

You need to know what your strengths are to make the right choices.

 

Ignore Weaknesses. Double Down On Strengths.

If you’re one of those people who is skeptical about change, or who find it really hard, Drucker is for you.

He doesn’t believe we can overhaul who we are, turning introverts into extroverts and thinkers into feelers.

He believes in doubling down on the areas where you’re strong, bringing up the areas that get in the way of executing your strengths, and utterly ignoring the places where you show little aptitude.

There’s no sense striving for mediocrity in multiple categories. Figure out what you’re naturally good at and go all in.

Via Management Challenges for the 21st Century:

…do not try to change yourself — it is unlikely to be successful. But work, and hard, to improve the way you perform. And try not to do work of any kind in a way you do not perform or perform poorly.

It’s only by having a clear vision of your strengths that you can make good decisions.

You know those people we’re all jealous of who can confidently pick something, say they are going to be awesome at it, and then calmly go and just be awesome at it?

This is their secret: They’re not good at everything but they know where their strengths lie and choose things that are a good fit.

Via Management Challenges for the 21st Century:

(This) enables people to say to an opportunity, to an offer, to an assignment: “Yes, I’ll do that. But this is the way I should be doing it. This is the way it should be structured. This is the way my relationships should be. These are the kind of results you should expect from me, and in this time frame, because this is who I am.”

 

How To Do It

Drucker calls it “Feedback Analysis” but I think that’s way too formal and intimidating a term.

From now on when you undertake projects, write down what you expect to happen, then later note the result.

Yes, as I’ve mentioned time and again, notebooks are powerful. They are a shield against poor memories, rationalization and outright lying to yourself.

Just as a great first step for networking is to trace back your relationships to the handful of “superconnectors” you know, looking at successful and unsuccessful projects will tell you what makes you achieve and fail.

Review the results and think about 3 things:

  • What your strengths are.
  • Under what conditions you perform well.
  • What your values are.

 

Knowing Yourself Helps Everything

That vague Oracle was right. Knowing yourself benefits your whole life.

And while Drucker’s method is only focused on career, you’d be smart to extend it to romantic relationships, happiness, friendships, etc.

  • HappinessI’ve noted the things that make me happy over time. I’ll schedule time to do them more often.
  • RelationshipsMy good dates/great relationship moments all had these things in common so I’ll make those things deliberate from now on.
  • FriendshipsAll my close friends have these things in common. I’ll use that to know who to spend time with.

So what’s the next step? Get that notebook.

Then develop your strengths with Cal Newport’s expert advice.

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME psychology

Team Building: How to Use Moneyball at the Office to Build Great Teams

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, his exhaustive study of great teams and leaders.

He holds Nucor up as a prime example of perfect team building. These guys were so devoted they chased lazy employees out of the factory.

Via Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t:

The Nucor system did not aim to turn lazy people into hard workers, but to create an environment where hardworking people would thrive and lazy workers would either jump or get thrown right off the bus. In one extreme case, workers chased a lazy teammate right out of the plant with an angle iron.

And the best people are worth it.

Yes, they’re that much better. There are Michael Jordans in every industry.

Via Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management:

There are enormous and well-documented differences between the best and worst performers in numerous endeavors. Psychologist Dean Keith Simonton, who has spent his career studying greatness and genius, concludes: “No matter where you look, the same story can be told, with only minor adjustments. Identify the 10 percent who have contributed the most to some endeavor, whether it be songs, poems, paintings, patents, articles, legislation, battles, films, designs, or anything else. Count all the accomplishments that they have to their credit. Now tally the achievements of the remaining 90 percent who struggled in the same area of achievement. The first tally will equal or surpass the second tally. Period.”

Office workers are no different.

Via Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management:

…superior workers in jobs requiring low skill produced 19 percent more than average workers, superior workers in jobs requiring high skill were 32 percent more productive, and for professionals and managers, superior performance produced 48 percent more output than average performers.

And the above is probably just worthless and depressing information to almost everyone reading this.

You know why?

 

Most people don’t work with the top 2 percent

You’re probably shocked some of your co-workers can dress themselves and find the door out of the house in the morning.

With good reason. A lot of people are just plain dumb.

Via Competitive Advantage Through People: Unleashing the Power of the Work Force:

In an article reporting the declining position of the United States in world trade in telecommunications equipment, the New York Telephone company reported that “it tested 57,000 job applicants in 1987 and found 54,900, or 96.3%, lacked basic skills in math, reading, and reasoning.” A human resource planning document prepared at the Bank of America in 1990 reported that “Chemical Bank in New York must interview 40 applicants to find one who can be successfully trained as a teller”; “at Pacific Bell in Los Angeles, 95% of the 3,500 people who recently took a competency test for entry-level jobs not requiring a high school education failed”; and “at Motorola,80% of its applicants cannot pass a simple 7th grade English comprehension or 5th grade math test. At Bell South in Atlanta, fewer than 1 in 10 applicants meet all qualification standards.”

This is why team building can be a nightmare and most advice is useless: Everyone says “get the best” and that’s rarely an option.

What’s a far more realistic approach?

How do you find diamonds in the rough?

How can you do Moneyball in the average workplace and find the undervalued players who already surround you?

 

Look For The Round Peg In The Square Hole

Research shows we give too much weight to individual personality and efforts and too little to context.

Put an A player in an impossible role and PRESTO! — watch them become indistinguishable from a C player.

This is what the investigative commission realized after the Columbia space shuttle tragedy — NASA was so badly organized that it made good employees into poor performers.

Via Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management:

…the Columbia Accident Investigation board was dismayed to see that, although most of the people had been changed, the same system produced the same mistakes 17 years earlier–it was a system that made it difficult for smart people to do smart things.

Look for the obviously bright people who are struggling in spots where they’re all but set up to fail.

When you’re team building, those are the people you want to steal.

This is how Brad Bird made the Pixar film “The Incredibles.” He targeted the brilliant but floundering.

In an interview with McKinsey Quarterly he said:

I said, “Give us the black sheep. I want artists who are frustrated. I want the ones who have another way of doing things that nobody’s listening to. Give us all the guys who are probably headed out the door.” A lot of them were malcontents because they saw different ways of doing things, but there was little opportunity to try them, since the established way was working very, very well. We gave the black sheep a chance to prove their theories, and we changed the way a number of things are done here.

And with that he made a great movie and helped keep innovation alive at Pixar.

 

He Makes Ten Times As Many Errors? PERFECT!

You might want to consider that employee who makes ten times as many errors.

Seriously.

Teams that reported 10 times the number of errors had the best leadership and best coworker relationships.

Via Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management:

In the mid-1990s, Harvard Business School’s Amy Edmundson, and the Harvard physicians funding her research, were flabbergasted when nurse questionnaires showed that the units with bestleadership and best coworker relationships reported making 10 times more errors than the worst.

Huh?

Everybody makes errors. These teams actually reported them all. So they learned. And got better. And trusted each other.

The real danger was the people who were sweeping errors under the rug — but those are the people who got the best reviews from bosses.

Via Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense: Profiting From Evidence-Based Management:

Edmondson and colleague Anita Tucker concluded that those nurses whom doctors and administrators saw as most talented unwittingly caused the same mistakes to happen over and over. These “ideal” nurses quietly adjust to inadequate materials without complaint, silently correct others’ mistakes without confronting error-makers, create the impression that they never fail, and find ways to quietly do the job without questioning flawed practices. These nurses get sterling evaluations, but their silence and ability to disguise and work around problems undermine organizational learning.

We rarely get the obvious A players.

But the true A players are not always obvious.

Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

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TIME Disasters

Fear of Flying: Don’t Be Fooled By the Scary News—Air Travel Is as Safe as Ever

If you're like most people, the temptation is to swear off air travel, at least for a while. But you've reached the wrong conclusion.

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The news from the skies couldn’t get grimmer. In just the week since Malaysian Airlines flight 17 was brought down by a missile strike in Ukraine, killing 298 people, two more planes have gone down or gone missing: On July 23, a TransAsia flight crashed off Taiwan, killing 58 people, probably due to turbulence caused by typhoon Matmo; this morning an Air Algerie plane with 116 people aboard disappeared from radar and is thought to have crashed off of Mali, another possible victim of weather. And all of this comes in the wake of the still-mysterious March 8 disappearance of Malaysian Air flight 370, with 239 people aboard.

If you’re like most people, the temptation is to swear off air travel, at least for a while. And, like most people, you’ve reached the wrong conclusion.

Human beings are very good at a lot of things, but we’re terrible when it comes to risk assessment. That’s not our fault; we’re wired that way. If the tiger comes from one patch of the forest, you avoid that patch. If snakes are in one fruit tree you never return to it. But the modern world presents a whole lot more complexity than our still slowly developing brains are equipped to handle. And few things flummox us more than airplanes.

Start with the fact that we can’t wrap our brains around how they work in the first place. Yes, there are engines and lift and flaps and who-knows what all keeping them up. But the fact is, a fully loaded 747 weighs 975,000 lbs and attains a top speed of 570 mph at altitudes exceeding 6.5 mi. That kind of machine just shouldn’t work and so we always half-assume it won’t.

There is, too, the much discussed helplessness attendant to buckling yourself into an airline seat, obeying all the rules about seat backs and tray tables and turning off electronic equipment and when you can jolly well get up to go to the bathroom. When you’re behind the wheel, you feel like you’re in control. When an anonymous pilot is at the stick, you feel like little more than cargo.

The occasional rash of disasters like the recent ones don’t help matters any. But the fact is, those are just statistical clusters — the airline equivalent of a few people in one country developing a rare form of cancer, which gets people looking for an environmental toxin or some other cause, when in fact it may just be random numbers at play. Yes, flying into a war zone or the teeth of a typhoon is going to increase the danger that something very bad is going to happen to you. But avoid those obvious no-go zones and the odds are very good you’ll be just fine.

In 2010, according to a report by the U.N.’s Civil Aviation Organization, there were a breathtaking 30,566,513 commercial departures worldwide. Yet, according to an authoritative site that tracks all departures and arrivals, there were only 12 crashes of planes carrying more than 18 people and only three of them resulted in more than 99 fatalities. Those deaths were an unspeakable tragedy for the people who lost their lives and the families they left behind, but in the cold calculus of probability, they’re less than a rounding error compared to all the people who flew aboard those 30.5 million flights.

Despite such low individual odds, one thing that scares us off of airplanes is the unavoidably uneven distribution of the crashes that do occur. So the 35 commercial accidents in 1968 and 1969, the 34 in 1972 and 1973, and the 33 in 1989, would have likely had a lot of people reaching for their car keys and hitting the roads instead. And it’s worse when one of the crashes is especially notorious — such as the Dec. 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which directly preceded 1989’s string of comparatively bad luck.

The Sept. 11 attacks, of course, are the darkest example of all. The two flights that brought down the World Trade Towers alone top the list of the world’s worst air disasters, with the 2,907 deaths easily outdistancing the two-plane runway accident that claimed 583 lives on Tenerife in the Canary Islands in 1977.

Air travel suffered badly in the wake of Sept. 11, but so, it turned out, did some of the people who avoided the planes. From October to December 2001 there were 1,000 more highway fatalities than there had been in that same period the year before — the simple result of more people being on the road. “It was called the 9/11 effect,” David Ropeik, an independent risk consultant and a former professor of the Harvard School of Public Health, told me for my 2007 book Simplexity. Nearly 3,000 people died as a direct result of the attacks and a third again as an indirect one.

Air travel, surely, is not risk free, but it’s hardly a new observation to say that nothing is. Statistical clusters do smooth out over even a relatively short period of time and what feels like a grave danger today will seem relatively benign again tomorrow. The tragedy of the lives lost on the recent crashes is a very real thing; but so is the low likelihood of any one person suffering the same sorrowful end.

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