Unicorn dreams — more on well-being (in a stream-of-consciousness style)

It’s not like I *expected* to have a vivid dream last night after taking a bath with “Unicorn Dreams” bubble bath. Certainly not a weird dream about (of all things) eyebrows. Eyebrows! But there you go.

I suspect the catalyst for this eyebrow dream was not a quirky bubble bath product but subconscious advertising (read: Instagram ad) for a fad du jour: the boy brow (fun fact: there’s a Boy Brow Room in NY…look it up).

ICYMI, eyebrows are an industry (approximately $160 million worldwide) and, the best I can tell, the boy brow is a natural brow. We spend a huge amount of money to have natural brows. It’s all about androgyny apparently. It’s as hysterical as nude makeup.

But I digress…

This whole bathing in “unicorn dreams” stream of consciousness piece is supposed to be about well-being! It’s real. Yale University even studied the benefits of a bath for well-being and mental health.

Now that I know this, I’m not upset that I spent $8,000 to have a bathroom redone for myself. I had it done while I was out of town. Seriously. No one goes in there but me and it’s always clean. A place where unicorns can poop glitter if they want. Or dream about boy brows.

What’s the point of all of this? It’s the little things of course. Like a bath. With bubbles made of unicorn dreams.

Pro tip: In the event you are a thrifty shopper, Unicorn Dreams bubble bath can be purchased for as little as $2.97. So, drop a nickle of it in your $2,000 bath tonight and dream a little and take care of you. Thanks for reading.

Maybe this is my one blog post for 2019? Or, maybe not? We’ll see…

I just received my web hosting invoice from Laughing Squid so decided to check on my blog to see if it was still “here.” It is.  I noticed I blogged exactly once in 2018 and it wasn’t even an interesting post. This post might end up being the only one I publish in 2019 and I’m already pretty sure it’s not going to be very interesting either. At least it’s starting out that way.

Well-being:the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about well-being lately. It’s hard to avoid because it is a 4.2 trillion dollar industry. I can’t validate that or even tell you what is considered “well-being.” You’ll have to read the study. Spoiler: it includes thermal springs (56 billion). By comparison, the workplace well-being industry is 47 billion. I feel like I’ve been missing out on the whole thermal spring thing.

For most of 2018 I was neither happy nor healthy for any substantial length of time (prosperity is more relative term). I drank too much, became reliant on benzos for crippling anxiety, was obnoxious to my family, and was mediocre at best in others areas of my life. I decided in December to take care of that with a bit of a respite for the entire month. In some circles this is known as a 28-day stint in rehab. I prefer respite.

Having an illness of the brain is not an embarrassment any longer. There is help and life can be better if go out and find it.

I returned home in January healthier but, as the truism goes, “wherever you go, there you are.” (I don’t mean that in the context of mindfulness which, by the way, is a 1 billion dollar industry which I have contributed to with yoga mats, satin eye masks, massages, and several apps).

You can’t escape yourself by going somewhere else (although sunshine does a girl good).

It took just over three months for me to lapse. It happened at a conference  (a real trigger for me) because it’s easy to make a bad decision when you’re alone. I’m doing better now. Happy enough. Healthy enough. And now googling “thermal springs near me.”

An algorithms tour

A year ago, I never would have thought I would be relying on a staff of eighty data scientists to dress me. But, I do.

A year ago, in preparation for attending a conference, for example, I would’ve been trying on a stack of clothes in a dressing room and relying on a total stranger to tell me if what I had on looked good and fit well.

Today, many of the outfits I wear are personally chosen for me and delivered in a box –- 5 pieces at a time –- based on my dimensions, my style preferences, and collaborative filtering algorithms. There are actually 85 data points captured.

The clothing box service I subscribe to uses these algorithms not just on my preferences but also for warehouse assignment, cost calculation, and inventory. Trained neural networks are used to describe pictures on my Pinterest board. Natural language processing is used to score items based on my textual feedback. After all the calculations, a request gets routed to a human stylist and pick the five things they will send me and write me a short note. I can contact my personal stylist if I want to. It’s very personalized. It’s unified with other areas of my online presence. Its mobile app is simple – I just have to click keep or return.

THIS is thinking differently about the shopping experience.  Check out the tech here.

If you want to flip HR on its head, you have to think differently about the experience we provide workers. You need to think differently about the learning experience.

How we ended up in an era of intentional ignorance

Here’s a six-month old essay about online media that resonated with me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because I was an early-ish analyst blogger in the learning space (2006) and blogged the same way the writer did back then (quick commentary vs in-depth analysis) and secondly, it’s a sad and accurate story of how we got to where we are today – from WordPress-powered “Hello World” reflective blogs to memes and to trolls on Reddit – basically, a whole bunch of garbage. Perhaps I’m just part of the noise. Definitely.

“…instead of this promised blossoming of the modern mind, instead of education in an instant, we snapped our fingers and got entertainment, a medium without prerequisites, perplexity, and exposition.”

Big Wide Logic | Internet Stone Soup | July 10, 2017

If you didn’t see that job ad, maybe you’re too old (age discrimination on digital platforms)

PROPUBLICA and The New York Times co-published an article about several companies that are recruiting applicants for jobs using targeted ads that exclude particular age groups. I’m not talking about millennials. At a time where companies look to remove unconscious hiring bias by utilizing talent acquisition software, this is alarming.  An employment lawyer calls it blatantly unlawful. Facebook defends it as an accepted industry practice. And it’s not just them. We’ll have to wait and see how the legal challenges pan out. Meantime, you want to remove your age from social media platforms. You’ll lose some cake emojis once a year but oh well.

PROPUBLICA | Dozens of Companies Are Using Facebook to Exclude Older Workers From Job Ads | December 20, 2017

What does it take to become a Data Scientist?

Fun facts: Data Scientist is listed as the #1 job to have in the US in 2017, according to Glassdoor. The median base salary is $110,000.  There will be about 2,270,000 data science positions in the US by 2020. There is a need for female data scientists!

This article breaks down the data from 1,001 LinkedIn profiles of people working as Data Scientists and gives you a game plan for getting your foot in the door. Note that 40% of data scientists have attached online courses to their resume so that might be a good place to start since it’s such a new field. It’s also a good to know how to code in R or Python.

SmartDataCollective | Here’s the Data on How You Can Become One of 2.7 Million Data Scientists by 2020 | December 21, 2017

Creation spaces are a key vehicle to accelerate learning

John Hagel writes about coming together in creation spaces – “a cell, a small group of people, typically somewhere between 3 to 15 people, who come together on a very frequent basis and share a common goal to have an increasing impact in some domain.” These small groups, he notes, connect to expanding networks with no limit to scaling potential. The cells, he goes on to say, embody the levels of a knowledge pyramid: skills, knowledge, capabilities and passion. On the power of passion: The best place to start is by cultivating capabilities, especially curiosity and emotional and social intelligence. “Those capabilities will help you to explore an expanding array of domains until you finally find the domain that draws out your passion.”

Edge Perspectives with John Hagel | The Hidden Dimension of the Learning Pyramid | December 20, 2017

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace

Gallup has released its State of the Global Workplace report. You can access the executive summary by supplying your contact information. The full report is available for purchase. Here are a few interesting points:

  • Businesses that orient performance management systems around basic human needs for psychological engagement, such as positive workplace relationships, frequent recognition, ongoing performance conversations and opportunities for personal development, get the most out of their employees
  • Higher levels of autonomy promote the development and implementation of new ideas as employees feel empowered to pursue entrepreneurial goals that benefit the organization — that is, to be “intrapreneurs”
  • At 31%, employees in the U.S./Canada are more likely to be engaged than are those in any other region, though there remains ample room for improvement
  • As employers in the U.S./Canada focus on organic growth and competition for talent, they aim to engage employees who feel optimistic about their ability to find a new job and who are seeking better career and development opportunities. To retain their workforces, organizations in North America need to consider how they are creating a future that employees want to be a part of, and how they can help employees feel innovative, fulfilled and optimized.

Gallup News | Good Jobs, Great Workplaces Change the World | December 19, 2017

The shift in how software and hardware is being built

I was pulled into this article when I read “a gigantic shift in computing is about to dawn upon us.” The gist – the US and China are investing heavily in designing high-powered AI chips to handle the linear algebra computations used in AI and this represents a fundamental change in how we build software and hardware. There are some examples of how these chips are being used – for face recognition, map street view, chatbots, and self-driving cars to name a few. Of course data is needed to train AI algorithms and that has come from private companies. Top AI talent will also come from those companies too ( I wish I paid attention to algebra in school). Worth a read is the link to China’s strategy and agenda for “intelligentization.” All that said, in my opinion anyway, the most interesting aspect of all of this is going to be ethics: robots rights, threats to privacy, discrimination, moral considerations, etc.

O’Reilly On Our Radar | The artificial intelligence computing stack | December 20, 2017

Thinking of implementing AI technologies?

Here’s a great (kinda wonky) article by Ben Lorica on O’Reilly’s “On Our Radar.” Ben shares slides from a recent presentation, offering an overview of the state of adoption of AI and suggestions to companies interested in implementing AI technologies. Ben also shares a sketch of a typical tech stack for intelligent applications.

Notable is a recent survey of 3,000 executives, managers, and analysts conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review that suggests low adoption (54% have not started adopting AI technologies). The author recommends the following:

Educate yourself on the current state of tools and technologies, identifying use cases in your domain or industry starting with small pilot projects.

Maybe start with this article.

O’Reilly On Our Radar | The state of AI adoption | December 18, 2017

Is competency more important than credentials? A warning against degree inflation

This US-focused HBS article discusses “degree inflation” – the practice of employers demanding bachelor’s degrees for job that don’t require them.

Because the pool of graduates is limited, the author explains, this practice can cause a misalignment between supply and demand, especially for middle-skills positions.  Complicating matters are automated hiring tools often exclude applicants without college degrees.

There are some great stats based on a review of 26 million job postings and a survey of 600 HR executives:

  • Only about one-third of the US population have earned a four-year degree
  • For typical middle skills job titles, sixty-seven of job postings required a bachelor’s degree or higher; yet just 16% of workers in those jobs held such a degree

The author suggests organizations invest in work-based learning opportunities, co-op programs, or paid apprenticeships. The article gives one example from a healthcare company that reviewed all job descriptions to identify skills associated with each position. The author closes with this:

“Competency is more important than credentials. Degree inflation is not just hurting individual workers; it undermines American competitiveness. American companies can’t let that happen.”

Harvard Business School, Working Knowledge | Why Employers Must Stop Requiring College Degrees For Middle-Skill Jobs | December 18, 2017