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At a conference in London in October, Boeing, a big American aeroplane-maker, described how it was using AR glasses to give workers in its factories step-by-step instructions on how to assemble components, as well as to check that the job had been done properly. The result, said Paul Davies of Boeing’s research division, is faster work with fewer mistakes.
While visiting America, the thing that most impressed Taiichi Ohno, a Toyota engineer, was a trip to the local supermarket. He’d never seen such perfectly stocked shelves. The supermarket, instead of ordering and stocking vast quantities of everything, had on hand only what their customers tended to purchase. Ohno realized that such an approach could greatly improve Toyota’s assembly line – and thus Kanban, aimed at optimizing industrial production, was born.
Since Ohno’s goal was to cut costs while maintaining the quality of the finished product, the obvious area to target was inventory; storing things is expensive and doesn’t mean better cars.
So how did Toyota tackle this problem?
To cut warehousing costs they started making cars on demand. And to streamline production, Ohno designed a billboard-like display system showing the workflow of the entire factory; instead of waiting around for assignments, employees could simply glance at the billboard and know what was next. As a result, tasks were tackled faster and fewer managers were required to control workflow.
The method worked so well that companies everywhere began using it. It went down in history as “Kanban” – or “Billboard.”
Do you remember, back in 2006, when NASA sent the New Horizon space shuttle to Pluto? To get where it was going, the spacecraft needed to correct its trajectory, mid-flight, by a precise 5m/sec. If the shuttle’s path hadn’t been adjusted, it would have missed the planet by 80,000 km!
Sometimes small adjustments made early mean major effects down the line.
MIT researchers once conducted an experiment in which three groups of students were required to submit papers; each group had a different deadline. The first group had a clear due date, the second was allowed to choose their own and the third was told to submit their paper anytime during the semester.
The group given an exact date got the best grades, while the one that determined their own deadline came in second; the group with no concrete deadline did the worst.
How to Write by David Ogilvy
On September 7th of 1982, advertising legend David Ogilvy sent an internal memo to all employees of his advertising agency, Ogilvy & Mather. The memo was entitled “How to Write,” and consisted of the following list of advice:
The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.
Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.
Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:
1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing*. Read it three times.
2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.
6. Check your quotations.
7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning—and then edit it.
8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.
Have you ever wondered why the Japanese begin a telephone conversation by saying “moshi moshi”? This started from the belief that this nonsense phrase couldn’t be pronounced by fox-spirits, so when you say it to someone over the phone, you’re proving you’re a human and not a mischievous fox spirit!
The rise of tea coincided with – and perhaps even drove – the Industrial Revolution. Tea, like coffee, helped keep workers awake. But it had another benefit of its own: it reduced waterborne diseases because of its antibacterial properties. The industrial workers of Britain could now sleep in crowded living spaces without being so vulnerable to the spread of disease. In turn, more people could join the workforce, and more workers meant more factories.
Nursing mothers also produced healthier milk thanks to tea, which lowered infant mortality rates and grew the working class population even more.
Tea itself also spurred industrial growth.
Coca-Cola supplies three percent of all human liquid intake.
Coca-Cola began its international journey when the United States abandoned its policy of isolationism.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, however, American troops were dispatched all over the globe – and Coca-Cola went with them. Servicemen came to associate Coca-Cola with patriotism and American identity. The company saw an excellent marketing opportunity and issued an order that “every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for five cents, wherever he is.”
Coca-Cola began building bottling plants in other countries to meet the growing demands of the servicemen, particularly in strategic regions like North Africa. The operations of the plants were then turned over to locals after the war, and the drink became a global favorite.
In the post-war period, anti-American groups ascribed a very different character to the drink.
Communists hated the brand in the Cold War, seeing it as the symbol of American capitalism and imperialism. French Communists even tried to get it banned on the grounds that it was poisonous.
One Soviet General by the name of Georgy Zhukov adored Coca-Cola, but was wary of being associated with something so American. He thus asked if it could be made clear, so it would look like vodka!
Coca-Cola even influenced Middle Eastern politics. In the 1960s, Israel came to believe that Coca-Cola was deliberately staying out of the Israel so as not to offend the Arab market, which was potentially much larger. Pro-Israeli groups began considering a boycott across the United States, so the company agreed to license a bottling franchise in Tel Aviv. This, in turn, provoked an Arab boycott, which only ended in the 1980s.
Renowned psychologist Hans Eysenck performed a test on over 1,000 students to determine who were extroverts and who were introverts. It turned out that students with an “extrovert” astrological sign (such as Aries and Leo) scored as extroverts on the test. The same held true for students who were born under “introvert” signs, like Virgo and Scorpio.
But Eysenck suspected that the students’ knowledge of what their sign supposedly means had an influence on their answers. So he performed another test, this time with children, and the results showed that there was no relationship between personality and astrological sign.
As we can see, astrological predictions are often wrong, and even when they aren’t, this is because we tend to unconsciously change our behavior in order to make them seem right.
In one study, researchers asked people to make a decision based on two scenarios:
In the first, participants were asked to imagine that they’d gone to a store to buy a £20 calculator; right before making the purchase, however, they learn that the calculator will be on sale the next day for just £5.
In the second scenario they were asked to imagine buying a computer for £999 – and then learning that, the next day, it will be on sale for £984.
In both scenarios the price difference is the same: £15. But 70 percent of participants said they would wait for the sale to buy the calculator but not the computer. Irrationally, people only regard a savings of £15 as important when compared to the overall price.
Irrationality isn’t limited to shopping, however; it happens when we meet new people as well.
It turns out that a person’s name can lead to a lifetime of irrational reactions.
For example, studies have shown that teachers grade a student’s work more favorably if they have a popular name like “David,” as opposed to a less common name like “Hubert.” Something similar can happen in college, where students with less popular names end up socially isolated.
Psychologist Richard LaPiere traveled through the United States with a young Chinese couple, visiting 66 hotels and 184 restaurants. Wherever they went, they were treated with courtesy and respect.
In the second part of his study, La Piere’s assistant sent out questionnaires to each of the businesses, asking them if they would accept Chinese customers. Troublingly, over 90 percent said no. Of the other 10 percent, most answered that they were unsure of how they’d react and only one woman replied that she would welcome the customers.
It turned out she had enjoyed a recent visit from a nice professor and a young Chinese couple!
So it turns out people are often friendlier than they think they’ll be. This is because it’s nearly impossible to predict how we’ll behave until we know all the details of a situation.
Examining selfish behavior, the author conducted another experiment. A cashier at a large corporate store was told to give the unwitting participants too much change after they’d made their purchases. While keeping the extra money would be considered selfish and wrong, most people did just that. Some even wore a big smile as they walked away!
Then, the author conducted the same experiment at a small, independent local shop. But here the customers reacted differently: they gave the money back. The customers identified with the cashier of the small shop and felt wrong about cheating him out of his money.
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