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Innovation isn’t a new idea.

March 15th, 2017

Not long ago, a person could make a decent living by simply having a strong work ethic, good skills and the willingness to put in the time. People who showed up and completed their regular daily tasks were valued; strength and a willingness to get dirty didn’t hurt either. But today, everyone is expected to be a creative thinker; an innovator. And why shouldn’t they be?

Technology has overtaken many of the jobs centered on labor and basic production, and almost anything we could ever possibly need is at our fingertips – information, ideas, home-delivered groceries and products (soon to be delivered by drones). According to Brown University’s Mark Blyth, we live in a world where everything we need could be easily supplied by 10% of the world’s population. Those odds aren’t great for average-Joes who are just looking to get by.

Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella recently wrote, “our industry does not respect tradition — it only respects innovation.” Although Satya is specifically referring to the technology industry, this statement applies to almost any category of business today. Consumer packaged goods companies are constantly looking for innovative new products to meet consumer desires; health professionals are working on innovative new cures and technologies; gas and oil companies are looking for new innovative fuel sources; and on it goes.

Innovation is simply a different way of looking at things. Anyone can be innovative. It’s a mindset. It also helps if you know how to use data to your advantage. It doesn’t matter if you are just trying to get ahead at work or if your aim is to develop the latest “bright and shiny thing”. Never be satisfied with the status quo and always engage your brain in the world around you. You’ll be amazed at what you see.


We’re not all about that bass.

March 8th, 2017

We’ve seen an inspiring and monumental movement in our culture encouraging the acceptance and promotion of realistic body images and beauty standards. Dove and American Eagle launched campaigns with only real women featured, instead of models. Dozens of celebrities have spoken out against Photoshop or unrealistically altered images, and who could forget Meghan Trainor’s music chart topper, All About That Bass? The lyrics are so catchy; it’s hard not to sing along…

‘Yeah it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two

But I can shake it, shake it like I’m supposed to do

‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase

All the right junk in all the right places…

…You know I won’t be no stick-figure, silicone Barbie doll

So, if that’s what’s you’re into, then go ahead and move along…

I’m bringing booty back. Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that…’

A catchy and motivating message encouraging women to love themselves, unless of course they’re one of those ‘size two, skinny bitches’.

Somewhere along the way, the body acceptance movement derailed from ‘curves are beautiful’ to ‘only curves are beautiful’ or ‘real women have curves’. Pop culture has started to villainize skinny women. The truth is, this skinny shamming can be just as damaging as fat shamming. Putting one body type down in favor of another is a direct contradiction of the entire movement.

Some women are naturally thin with a high-metabolism that they can’t change, but wish desperately they had curves. It’s not because they don’t eat, or obsess over achieving a skinny figure, it’s just the body type they were born with and they should be allowed to love it. Some women exercise, eat healthy, and work hard to maintain a body that makes them feel healthy and beautiful. We should celebrate their hard work, and they should be allowed to love their body.

Some women have natural curves and love them, and they should be allowed to love their body and feel beautiful just the way they are. Some women have natural curves that they wish they could change, but can’t. It’s not because they eat too much, or they’re unhealthy, it’s just their natural body type, and they should be encouraged to love their bodies, too! All women, no matter what their body type, should be encouraged to love themselves, just they way they are.

So instead of calling skinny girls the ‘bitches’, let’s agree that the only real ‘bitches’ are those who shame others for their appearance, regardless of their body type.


The Selfie Paradox

March 1st, 2017

Nearly from the dawn of social media and digital cameras, the phenomenon of the ‘selfie’ was born. It’s become so popular that the word ‘selfie’ was Oxford Dictionary’s international Word of the Year in 2013. According to Google, 93 million selfies are taken per day and females aged 16 to 25 spend five hours per week taking selfies – are we a bunch of egomaniacs, or what ?

With the booming popularity of selfies, it’s safe to assume that people love seeing them; similar to the way they love YouTube cat videos and hilarious memes, right? But no… A recent study by Ludwig-Maximilians-University found that 82% of respondents said they would like to see fewer selfies and more of other kinds of photos on social media. Interestingly, 50% of those same respondents admitted to taking and posting selfies themselves.

Why the paradoxical results? According to researchers, these discrepancies suggest that selfies fulfill some basic psychological needs in terms of self-representation and self-image. To justify this need, people have created a selfie-bias; convincing themselves that their own selfies are authentic, genuine and at the same time ‘self-ironic’ with little emotional commitment. Conversely, they view other people’s selfies as fake, narcissistic, manipulative and annoying. For example, 90% of respondents said other people’s selfies were crafted to project a specific image and 40% of respondents perceived self-irony in their own selfies, compared to just 13% for other people’s selfies.

But how can so many people be habitually participating in a behavior they essentially see as ridiculous? Researchers say it’s a classic case of ‘cognitive dissonance’ — but to the average Joe, it sounds downright irrational, incoherent and batty.

Why would anyone rationalize that their selfies are somehow more favorable or enjoyable than the other 93 million taken on any given day? Do they really think they’re that special? It’s time to accept that everyone’s selfies are regrettable and no one likes seeing them (except of course for the person taking the selfie). Let’s stop the selfie madness and spend all of that extra time doing something productive, like capturing more adorable cat videos.


The fake news blame game.

February 22nd, 2017

We’re all in a hurry – a hurry to get to work; a hurry to get home; a hurry to meet the deadline; a hurry to get to bed, so we can wake up early to hurry through another day. This accelerated pace of life has not only affected our actions, but the way we learn and communicate too. We want brief meetings and short emails. We want our information fast and condensed, often in 140 characters or less. If it’s not possible to pare the information down to a tweet, the resulting article better contain short paragraphs, bulleted lists and key points in bold, because we’re in a hurry.

But what are we missing between the bulleted lists and abridged conversations? Recently there has been a public outcry against ‘fake news’ invading the Internet and social media channels. People are blaming news outlets, ‘biased’ reporters, social media channels, and political leaders. And while these entities have certainly played their part in the spread of fake news, many of them are taking steps to mend mistakes, as exhibited by this article from The Wall Street Journal: Facebook and Google Step Up Efforts to Combat Fake News. But what part has the average citizen played in the spread of fake news, and what are they doing to correct it? Many people read hyped-up headlines and tweets and take them at face value. They skim the bold sections of news articles, never bothering to read the details or think critically about the information presented. They’re quick to form an opinion, respond to a tweet, or share the information, without doing their due diligence as a responsible citizen who is spreading news and information.

A perfect example is the Wall Street Journal article referenced above. The headline seems straightforward and the source is legitimate, so someone may read this blog and share that information with their own networks; but does the headline actually give the facts? Was there a pause to think critically about the issue? The article is actually about measures being taken in France by Facebook and Google-financed nonprofit First Draft News. They’re working with about 15 news organizations to flag fake news and prevent it from appearing in searches or Facebook newsfeeds. Someone who is thinking critically and being responsible about their news intake might ask – which news organizations are they? How do they deem a story ‘fake’? Is it up to tech companies to filter or decide the information people receive? Who’s watching the tech companies? The net being: it’s probably best to read the article, instead of just relying on the headline.

Our hurried pace of living has created a culture where we’re quick to skim through information and in a hurry to form and share an opinion. Perhaps it’s time to slow down and take a personal responsibility for the information we read and share.


Technology is outpacing democracy.

February 15th, 2017

Most would agree a democracy is a favorable government structure with many benefits and advantages over other types of government. However, like anything else it has its downfalls, which include its sluggish pace. Today’s world moves quickly and is constantly evolving, but many of our laws are failing to keep up.

One prime example is the recent tweet by President Trump about Nordstrom. Nordstrom recently dropped his daughter Ivanka’s products from its department stores. First, the President tweeted from his personal Twitter handle, “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!” Then the official government @POTUS account re-tweeted Trump’s original tweet. According to Fast Company, the tweet and especially the retweet raised plenty of concerns among lawyers and ethics experts. “This is not trivial,” says Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University who is an expert of government ethics. “Trump is using government power for his personal purposes.” Many experts argue that government officials are encouraged to maintain their own identity and opinions, so there was no issue with Trump’s tweet from his personal account; it was the re-tweet on the @POTUS account that raised legal and ethical questions. However, the law has simply not caught up with technology, so the legal implications are fuzzy. Is the @POTUS handle an official government platform? What’s the distinction between a personal Twitter handle and a company Twitter handle for the President of the United States? Is it ‘illegal enough’ for congress to intervene? Could Nordstrom sue the President? All of theses questions remain debated and unanswered.

In another technology vs. law debate, the Trump administration reportedly began monitoring and censoring federal agencies’ Twitter accounts sharing scientific research including accounts for the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, National Parks, and other bureaus. Tweets about climate change and other federal research were deleted from these Twitter accounts at the order of the President’s administration. Also, Trump administration interior department staff were told to stop posting on Twitter after an employee re-tweeted posts about relatively low attendance at Trump’s swearing-in, and about how material on climate change and civil rights had disappeared from the official White House website. Some argue that it’s completely legal since these are government agencies and employees that fall under the executive branch of government, and the leader of the executive branch has the right to censorship. Others argue it’s comparable to a dictatorship. In protest, a set of “rogue” and “alt” accounts were created to tweet banned content. Non-government employees with no government sponsorship run the accounts, but government scientists, in their off-hours, supply the information. The employees are currently remaining anonymous. Again, there are gray areas pertaining to both the ethics and legality of these Twitter accounts. Should the President have power to stifle the use of Twitter accounts? Should personal social media accounts of government employees be censored? If Trump’s personal account can be used for influence and opinions, should the same rules apply to employees? Are there any legal implications for the rogue accounts?