Interesting and Amusing Research on Sexual Cues

Defend your research!

Defend your research!

One of my favourite sections in the Harvard Business Review is “Defending Your Research” where researchers literally have to defend their (PhD) research to the reader. In April Anouk Festjens had to defend her research.

The challenge: “Does touching men’s underwear really make women more likely to indulge in risky, rewards-seeking behaviour?”

Ms Festjens indicates there is a long history of research showing that Men clearly indulge in more risky economic decisions after exposure to sexual cues (pictures of female models, etc.) BUT women did/do not. However, her research project uses touch as the trigger of a sexual cue (touching grey or black boxers vs. touching grey or black T-shirts). Women who handled boxers were more likely to spend money on wine and chocolate.

So, next time you are folding laundry… be careful what you touch last before you go online to manage your investment portfolio or pursue some serious online shopping!


Learning, Performance

High Quality: Going Beyond the Rules


A recent study found that many of the traditional strategies used to improve quality (e.g. incentives, training, sharing best practice) DON’T REALLY work. Quality is all about going beyond rules: “developing a grassroots, peer-driven approach to develop a culture of quality.”

A culture of quality is about everybody living and breathing a quality drive – only the best is good enough. It is this intrinsic drive that can’t be beaten and – more importantly – can’t be achieved by simply following any program or strategy. It is about who you are and about what you want to be. How do you manage that?

This study provides some predictors of a culture of quality:

  1. Leadership Emphasis;
  2. Message Credibility;
  3. Peer Involvement; and
  4. Employee Ownership.

The issue with these predictors is that correlation of these predictors and having a culture of quality does not guarantee causation. In a recent business case I came across a team of ten people. Leadership emphasised quality and communicated that only the best is good enough for our customers. All team members were involved with this process and the team was the decision unit for quality improvement. However, nine of the team were of the relative hardworking, ‘stay-within-the-legal-parameters’ kind and  one was of the only-the-best-is-good-enough-professional kind. What do you think is happening here? The odds are the latter person will find a new and better team.

However, how do we keep this person and change the team to reach this much better quality?

We have found that really hands-on team development workshops can help to determining what is keeping most from top quality, but in the end nothing can replace an intrinsically professional attitude. A real professional is always inquiring for insight and understanding of their ‘practice’.  A professional always identifies what works and what does not and then improves… constant learning. It’s like Mike Hammer says in Beyond Reengineering: The worker is trained; the professional learns…


Leadership, Learning

It’s How You Say It…


I admit it. I am a content person. I am fascinated by what people say and do. Of course, how you say it, is important too. However, for me it is better to be high on content and low on presentation, then the other way around. Unfortunately, science does not back this up.

Alex Pentland – and his wizardry science gadgets recording people’s social signals – measured executives ‘honest signals’ (nonverbal cues) at a party five days prior to a business plan contest in which they all presented. Pentland predicted the winners only using the data from the party.

How accurate is this type of research? 87% (pretty accurate!)

I don’t like it :-)



Learning, Performance, Team

Rewards and Creative Performance: WHAT are you rewarding?


Continuing on the quest for how to motivate for creative performance we zoom in on whether and how rewards work. In an earlier post we established that we can increase the number of good ideas (and a few exceptional ones) by providing low-powered rewards to employees for ideas.

In a meta-analysis Kris Byron and Shalini Khazanchi found that the context in which  rewards are offered is important. In a context where rewards are offered for creative performance (creativity-contingent rewards) rather than for general performance (no explicit creativity criterion) creative performance increases.

This effect is amplified when  “when individuals are given more positive, contingent, and task-focused performance feedback and are provided more choice (and are less controlled)”.

In a general performance or completion oriented rewards tend to have a slightly negative effect.

What are you rewarding?

Learning, Performance, Team

Hiding Information is Bad for You


It is quite easy to understand how keeping information from your colleagues would be negative for their creativity and for the organisational creativity as a whole.  However, could it be that hiding information would be bad for the creativity of the hider?

Recent research says: YES!

Hiding triggers a so-called reciprocal distrust loop, which works much like a boomerang. Your hiding of information or knowledge leads to distrust and this distrust leads to reciprocated hiding… And this – in turn – impedes your own creativity. Moreover, if you work in a performance climate (where normative ability, social comparison and intrateam competition is emphasised) this negative effect is further amplified.

From recent research we know that helping and having a so-called giving culture is a great predictor of a successful organisation. However, if that is not a good enough reason to help… not helping is also bad for your personal success.