On Positive and Negative Feedback

This week’s book learning is from ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman.

Daniel Kahneman was amidst giving the Israeli flight cadet instructors a passionate speech about ‘right methods’ of training. His thesis revolved around the theory that rewarding good performance works better than punishing mistakes.

Hearing this, a seasoned instructor stood up and said “I find the reality to be precisely the opposite. When I praise a cadet for flawless execution of a manoeuvre, it’s always worse the next time while a yelling at poor performance always results in better performance. So, yelling gets better results!”

Kahneman recognized immediately that he was right and, at the same time, very very wrong.

The instructor had just pointed out a very basic statistical concept – Regression to the mean i.e. inevitable fluctuations to a process! Essentially, if a cadet executed a near flawless manoeuvre in the first attempt, the second was likely to be worse, and vice versa! The ‘feedback’ changed very little..

I found this to be an amazing insight. As Kahneman shows from time to time in his book, we human beings have a habit of trying to find patterns where (often) none exist!

Here’s to examining ‘regression to the mean’ when evaluating performances this week!

Even Moderation in Moderation

It’s amazing how much of life is a paradox of sorts, full of contradictions.

Amidst all these contradictions, balance is probably the one principle that governs them all. Do things in moderation and we feel in balance, in sync with the world.

The funny thing here is that even balance needs to be in moderation.

How would we enjoy the feeling of balance if we don’t feel the pain of being unbalanced?

PS: I will be off the grid for a week from this moment on. I am scheduling a post a day thanks to Windows’ lovely ‘Windows Live Writer’. Please forgive me for responding to your comments only once I’m back online next Sunday!

Feel Good Friday: Share a Coke campaign

My yearly consumption of Coke is not likely to be above 10 cans. I am not a fan of aerated drinks in general and generally much prefer a glass of water to any kind of drink.

That said, I do think Coke’s the most recognizable brand in the world for a reason. They really get their marketing spot on and they engender an enviable amount of brand loyalty.

An example of a genius marketing campaign was the ‘Share a coke’ campaign. The underlying concept is simple – Appeal to the importance of names in our lives. A very old principle popularized by Dale Carnegie principle applied beautifully.


Enjoy! And happy Friday!