Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Good Deeds Gone Bad: Poor Self Rewards for Good Behavior

The HBR article Reusable Bags Make People Buy Organic—and Junk: An Interview with Uma Karmarkar makes interesting reading. The same study is also quoted in a recent Economist article: Eco-waverers: When people feel good about themselves, they do bad things .
The study highlights the fact that we like to reward ourselves for good behavior and often that reward is contrary to the positive benefits of the good behavior (a few scoops of ice-cream after an extra mile on the treadmill- we've all been there).
Uma Karmarkar's (@uma_karma) study finds that people who take reusable bags to their grocers also buy more junk food. This comes about as a result of the "feel good" feeling they get from using reusable bags.
In my opinion what would be interesting is to see if the behavior changes if the perceived root cause goes away. Will the shoppers be as likely to "reward" themselves with junk if there was no feel good feeling associated with bringing their own bag ?
Another point is that while the limited facts about the study shared in the interview indicate a "correlation" between purchase of junk food and bringing their own bags, I am not so sure that "causation" has been clearly established - bringing own bag led to purchase of more junk food.
It could be possible that the basket of purchases for the individuals in question skewed towards junk foods even when they were not bringing their own bags in. When the historical purchase behavior is studied then only a more definitive conclusion that the bag being brought in is influencing the purchase decision can be drawn.
Right now the facts as presented in the HBR article are equivocal and not conclusive enough to draw the inferences implied in the article.
I asked these questions to Uma and here's what she had to say:
I think the interviewer for the HBR article just cherry picked aspects of the study and so the correlation vs. causation question is not adequately answered in the piece.

From McKinsey&Co: Why CIOs should be business-strategy partners

Interesting article from McKinsey&Co. Though the article title says “CIO” I think it is relevant for all roles in the IT organization esp. at the leadership level.

It starts off with a very troubling finding :
few executives say their IT leaders are closely involved in helping shape the strategic agenda, and confidence in IT’s ability to support growth and other business goals is waning.
Another interesting disconnect the article highlights:
Nearly half of technology respondents see cost cutting as a top priority—in stark contrast to the business side, where respondents say that supporting managerial decision making is one of IT’s top priorities”.
One may wonder why IT is more pessimistic about its funding than the business itself is. I guess most IT organizations have been through one too many boom and bust cycles and so are a tad bit more skeptical about budgetary prospects even as the economy recovers.
They talk about:
Despite downbeat assessments of IT effectiveness, the results suggest one clear element of high-performing IT organi­zations: active CIO involvement in the business.
Here’s what they suggest as remedial actions:
  • Reimagine the CIO’s role. The survey results suggest that companies would do well to empower and require their CIOs and other technology leaders to play a more meaningful role in shaping business strategy.
  • Develop IT’s business savvy.
  • Build a distinctive recruiting engine.
Food for thought. Many IT teams do a great job of engaging with the business and participating in their strategy formulation, this article provides some bench-marking/self-assessment criteria.

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