Archive for February, 2017

Amazon, ObamaCare … and the “power of free”

February 28, 2017

Since “repeal & replace” is in play, it’s time to update a prior ObamaCare posts …


Everybody knows that Amazon’s free shipping program has been a resounding success.

The free shipping program’s success was highly predictable based an an apparently inadvertent “matched market test” that Amazon did.


Early-on, Amazon launched  free shipping on $25 orders in the U.S. and sales skyrocketed.

In the UK, Amazon launched “nominal shipping” (think, 99 cents) for orders totaling the equivalent of $25.

Sales increased … but only by a fraction of the U.S. sales gain.

Proof-positive of the “power of free” … and evidence an equally important dynamic: there’s a big difference between “free” and “almost free” … when you slip a price on something – even a small one, people recoil.

Now, what’s the link to ObamaCare?


Starbucks brand image takes a hit…

February 27, 2017

And, this time it’s not about higher latte prices.


According to  Yahoo Finance, channeling a recent YouGov survey …

Starbuck’s brand image has gotten slammed.

The coffee giant’s consumer perception levels – measured by the YouGov BrandIndex — have fallen by two-thirds since late January.



The timing of the drop coincides with CEO Howard Schultz’s response to President Trump’s executive order … the one intended to slow the flow refugees entering the US.

Schultz announced — with great fanfare —  that Starbucks would hire 10,000 refugees worldwide in the next five years.

Take that, Donald!

Err …

Also according to YouGov, 2 days before Starbucks’ announcement, 30% of consumers said they’d consider buying from Starbucks the next time they were craving coffee.

Now, the percentage is down to 24%.


What’s going on?


Michigan State University bans whiteboards … say, what?

February 24, 2017

This one gave me a false-positive flashback …


First, the flashback…

When we moved into our new business school building a decade ago (yeah, it has been that long), I was assigned a new office.

It was at the end of a corridor (as far away from the academic action as they could put me) with a clear view of the building’s commercially-sized air conditioners and the Jesuit graveyard (no kidding).

One complete wall in the office was floor-to-ceiling with book shelves.

Since I only had 6 books (5 of them borrowed), I took out all but the top book shelf (which was suitable for displaying memorabilia) and installed a self-purchased whiteboard (a necessity, right?).


In short order, I got visit from the Dean.

One of my colleagues had ratted me out for making an unauthorized alteration to my office.

Apparently, my whiteboard had violated some common law community standards.

I got off with a slap on the wrist (remember, Gtown is a Catholic school) … but still have occasional nightmares.


OK, fast forward to today in Lansing, Michigan where whiteboards are now officially contraband.


So, are you left-brained or right-brained?

February 23, 2017

Yesterday’s post prompted some questions re: what exactly is left-brained and right-brained thinking, so … 

For decades cognitive psychologists has characterized folks as being either left brain dominant  – logical – or right brain dominant – creative.

Browse the lists below and pick your dominant brain side – left or right.


= = = = = 
So what? What to do?
= = = = =


Why Right Brainers Will Rule the World …

February 22, 2017

In class, we touched on left-brain, right-brain thinking and I made reference to a book I’d read:  A whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the World.

As a hard core left-brainer, I found the title ominous ….

Amazon link


Here’s the crux of the book …

The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind — computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers.

But, the future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind — creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers.

We are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computerlike capabilities of the Information Age …

… to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age.

Why the shift?

Because any kind of work that be reduced to repeatable rules and defined processes can be automated or shipped off-shore – even so-called knowledge work

Survival in the Conceptual Age requires thinking skills utilizing the right-side of the brain.

Specifically, “high concept” involves the capacity to:

  • detect patterns and opportunities
  • create artistic and emotional beauty
  • craft a satisfying narrative

…. and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into something new and distinctive.



What’s required to to succeed in Conceptual Age?


Nums: A world of battling algorithms

February 21, 2017

In my SBA course, we explored how human judgment and decision-making can often be outperformed by out-performed by algorithms, especially in oft-repeated data-rich situations which are largely rules-based.

In a cool 15 minute TED Talk (my all time favorite), tech entrepreneur Kevin Slavin tells how algorithms have reached across industries and into every day life.

A couple of lines caught my attention:

  • There are more than 2,000 physicists working on Wall Street developing operational algorithms
  • Massive scale speed trading is dependent on millisecond read & respond rates …
  • So, firms are physically literally locating right next to internet routing hubs to cut transmission times
  • And, of course, there isn’t time for human intervention and control
  • “We may be building whole worlds we don’t really understand, and can’t control.”

Worth listening to this pitch … a very engaging geek who may be onto something big.

click  to view video

* * * * *
Follow on Twitter @KenHoma        >> Latest Posts

Where do you get your news?

February 20, 2017

Your answer says a lot about you.


Before you look at the chart below, jot down the  channels/shows or web pages that you trust as your primary sources for news.

No cheating.



OK, now check where your news sources fall along this ideological continuum crafted by Pew Research.

confirmation bias - media ideology
Your news sources align with your political ideology, right?

It’s a psychological dynamic called “confirmation bias” … soliciting and internalizing information that is consistent with one’s current beliefs.

Said differently, confirmation bias is a natural stress-reduction tendency to avoid or resist any information that is contrary to or inconsistent with one’s current thinking.

One of the major solidifiers of our current political polarization is the “echo chamber effect” … we all tend to consult sources and hang with people who share, reinforce and exaggerate our ideological leanings.

So what to do?


Tell me again: When did Dems start thinking that Russia was a threat?

February 17, 2017

This recent brouhaha about General Flynn chatting up the Russian ambassador seems  to have stoked new flames for hair-on-fire Dems.


Let’s go back a few years.

Remember the 2012 Presidential debates?

A key moment was when President Obama ridiculed Gov. Romney’s knowledge of foreign affairs.

Given Democrats reaction to recent events, this clip is a classic …  try to stay calm when it


Here’s more that’ll make make you scream …


Democrats and the “wasted vote” phenomenon …

February 16, 2017

Two states and a handful of cities do not a country make.


Ran across an interesting article in the Boston Globe titled “The Democrats’ demographic dilemma.”

The punch line of the article:

Democrats have carried the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, an unprecedented run.

But, Democrats are confronted by the “wasted vote phenomenon”.

They roll up huge margins in blue enclaves, but political polarization and demographic sorting control the electoral map.



Here are a few highlight snippets from the article …


Another Chicago flashback …

February 15, 2017

Long ago, I was community organized.


The sour-grape Dems who have taken to mass-disrupting GOP town halls brought some memories out of long-term storage …

Way back in the 70s, we moved to Chicago (for a 2nd time).

We bought a cute little ranch that backed up to a large vacant parcel of land.

The real estate agent said that it was wetlands that couldn’t ever be developed.

If you can’t believe your real estate agent, who can you trust, right?

Well, as soon as the moving trucks pulled out, a couple of our next door neighbors came walking up the drive.

Friendly neighborhood, I thought.

But, their first words: “What do you think of the apartments that are going to be built on the vacant parcel – starting 10 fee from our lot lines?”

Uh-oh. Panic city.

Got an invite to meet more neighbors at a “stop the apartments” get together.

We went, and got to meet Father Greg – a young Catholic priest who said he was a community organizer and could help us stand up to the town chieftains and the developer.

Sounded good to me.

His prescription: start barging into town meetings, making a big ruckus.

“Bring babies if you have any … bring ‘em hungry and, if necessary, pinch them – not to hurt them, but  to make them cry.”

He told us that those were some of the “Rules” of community organizing.

At the time, I didn’t think to ask: “What Rules?”

But, now I know …

Father Greg  wasn’t preaching from the Good Book, but right out of  Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”.




As a public service, just in case you’re unfamiliar with Alinsky’s rules, here’s a short-form version that’ll help you understand the Dems strategy….


Constitution says “All men are created equal, not just Americans” … say, what?

February 14, 2017

Liberal talking point has a few holes …


A near-viral liberal assertion these days is that the Constitution protects all people, not just Americans.

Sorry, Charlie … that’s just not true.

For openers, glance at the Preamble to the Constitution



Note that it says “We the people of the United States  … not “We the people from everywhere around the globe”

And it says “… to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” … not “… to anybody from anywhere on the planet who may sneak across our borders.”

Seems like a clear (and narrow) definition to me.

Some may not like that proclamation, but that’s the way it reads, folks.


OK, let’s give the libs some slack …


Remembering Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley…

February 13, 2017

Kellyanne’s gaffe brought back memories of Boss Daley.


Big bruhaha last week when Kellyanne Conway — the first woman to ever run a successful Presidential campaign – was asked in an interview:

“So, what do you think of Nordstrom dropping Ivanka’s Trump’s line of fashions?”

“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff is what I would say,” Ms. Conway said in an interview with Fox News, speaking from the White House briefing room.

“I’m going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody; you can find it online.”


Double oops in this time of political correctness and diminished senses-of-humor.

According to the NY Times: “Legal experts said Ms. Conway might have violated a federal ethics rule against endorsing products or promoting an associate’s financial interests.”

Certainly an ill-advised comment, but strikes me as a molehill being elevated to mountain status.



The ruckus brought back memories of my days living in Chicago…


In praise of math, logic, and Latin … say, what?

February 10, 2017

Classical educators argued that these disciplines are the building blocks of reasoning, problem-solving and critical thinking.


The courses that I teach contain a heavy dose of problem-solving skills.

Early on, I assert my belief that that problem-solving skills can be taught – and, more importantly, learned – and set about to prove the point.




I’ve been doing some summer reading on the topic of reasoning & problem-solving and learned:

“For twenty-six hundred years many philosophers and educators have been confident that reasoning could be taught.”


Why are tech companies hyperventilating over Trump’s travel ban?

February 9, 2017

Are they drawing that much intellectual capital and talent from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen?


According to ABC News: “Silicon Valley’s biggest companies are taking a strong stand against President Donald Trump’s travel ban, saying high tech needs immigrants’ creativity and energy to stay competitive.”

“About 58 percent of the engineers and other high-skill employees in Silicon Valley were born outside the U.S.”


OK, I get that tech companies need foreign talent …

But, silly me, I thought they were coming from places like India, China, Russia, Korea.


We’re talking about some of the science centers of the world: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen.



All of which begs another question.

Are the schools and technical training that much better in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen than they are in the U.S.?

If that’s the case, why aren’t the tech companies ‘all in’ to fixing the American education system.

Strikes me that would be a better use of tech company time & money than rallying to keep a constant flow coming from 7 Obama-identified terrorist hotspots.

This one really baffles me.



Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts


Tell me again why Duncan was good, but charter-advocate DeVos is bad …

February 8, 2017

Math scores dropped since 2009 … U.S. now trails 39 countries.

Strikes me that Duncan is an easy act for DeVos to follow as Education Secretary..


The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) recently released its 2015 survey results for math “literacy” … and, the results aren’t pretty.

The average for 15-year-old U.S. students slipped to 470 on the PISA scale … down about 3.5% from 2009 … ranking the U.S. #40 among developed nations (see list at end of this post) … 20 points lower than the average of the 35 OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.

The scores differential versus the OECD countries is roughly equal for the average, 25th percentile and 90th percentile … refuting claims that “our” best are head-to-head competitive with the the rest of the world’s best.




Digging a bit deeper into the numbers ….


Digital amnesia: Is Google dulling your memory?

February 7, 2017

Don’t memorize anything that you can lookup (<=bad advice!)


First, some background …

The tests I give my students always include some questions that can reasonably be tagged “memorization”.

Some students are repulsed by them them and shout the cultural refrain: “Don’t memorize anything that you can look up.”

The apparent thinking: You’ve only got a limited amount of space in your brain, so don’t clog it with an overload of information … only store the stuff you can’t look-up.


What’s wrong with that argument?


As if forgetting stuff wasn’t bad enough …

February 6, 2017

Study: Half of people “remember” events that never happened


According to a recent study, once a person hears that a fictional event happened, there’s a 50/50 chance that they will believe that it took place and start to embellish it with details, even if the imaginary event is of a personal nature.

For example, researchers “primed” subjects with fake (but relatively harmless) memories, such as taking a childhood hot-air balloon ride or pulling a prank on a friend.

Researchers intimated that the imaginary events  were real.


And, the result …


Should you put your extracurricular activities and interests on your resume?

February 3, 2017

More than you think, they may impact your chances of getting an interview.


Interesting study reported in HBR

The study investigated whether applicants got invited to interview at highly prestigious law firms (though the findings are probably generalizable to other top-notch professional firms).

Here’s the drill:

Imagine four applicants, all of whom attend the same, selective second-tier law school.

They all have phenomenal grade point averages, are on law review, and have identical, highly relevant work experiences.

The only differences are whether they are male or female and if their extracurricular activities suggest they come from a higher-class or lower-class background.

Who gets invited to interview?

More specifically, the researchers used a technique — known as the resume audit method — randomly assigning different items to the resumes and sending applications to real employers to see how they affect the probability of being called back for a job interview.

All applicants were from 2nd tier schools (where top firms don’t typically do on campus interviewing).

All educational, academic, and work-related achievements were identical between the fictitious candidates.

To test gender effects, the applicants were first-named James or Julia.

To “signal” social status, last names were either prestigious sounding “Cabot” or more common “Clark” … and commonly used and and often required portions of resumes were varied: awards and extracurricular activities:


The experiment confirmed some expectations, but there were also surprises …


Trump: Inspired by the 1972 Cuban Olympic boxing team?

February 2, 2017

The AP calls it “unsettling” …   “governing-by-upheaval” to recast the role of government.

A historian says that Trump’s style is a mixture:  “a whiff of Reaganism”  with “plays reminiscent of Richard Nixon”,

My take: President Trump’s 1st week in office calls for a reprise of a HomaFiles post from August 2015 … slightly ahead of its time !


Many of you may be too young to have witnessed and remember, but…

In the 1972 Olympics, the polished U.S. boxing team was predicted to sweep the competition.

But, something happened on the way to the medals’ platform that shocked the sporting world.



Here’s the story and why Trump’s first days in office jogged my memory of the 1972 Olympics …


Reuters: Plurality favors the travel ban …

February 1, 2017

But, you have to read beneath the headline !


Reuters issued one of the 1st polls on attitudes towards Trump’s travel ban on people from President Obama’s list of 7 terrorist hotspots: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen.

The headline:


Of course, we hate to get picky, but if you add together “make you safer” and “keep you safe”, the headline would read “majority think travel plan keeps America safe (or safer)”

But, that doesn’t fit the narrative, I guess.

Here’s the bigger story (that should have been in the headline).