Career Spaces

The Problem: The separation between work and the rest of our lives is slowly disintegrating. Longer working hours, fewer vacations, smart phones, email and a greater expectation to be always connected is making work life balance difficult to achieve.

The Concept: Why not create spaces that allow entertainment, work and housing in one location. This idea is to expand on the Google Campus model (which is just a slightly less paternalistic version of the Company Town) and create spaces where people can work, play and live with easy transitions between each. Combined with a Results Only Work Place this might allow people to balance their work and their lives more effectively. This idea is to come up with how this would be structured without it devolving into a paternalistic Company Town or simply a more robust way of controlling employees time.

Similar Ideas: Googleplex

The Rise Of Macro Investing

The Problem: As computerized trading, ETFs, derivatives and more complex financial instruments make asset markets more interconnected, it is becoming more and more common for multiple, previously uncorrelated asset classes to move in lock step during major market movements. As a result, major shocks to investor confidence ripple through the entire stock market rather than being localized. This has made it difficult for previously successful portfolio strategies to continue to work.

The Concept: Since correlations between price movements in asset classes are so high, perhaps a more successful strategy would be to track market sentiment and devise investment techniques that rely strictly on the psychology of the market. While Macro Investing (investing based on geopolitical, psychological and economic news) has been a common strategy for quite some time, the idea here is that macro investing may be becoming a much more valid and successful means of tracking market movements (and will continue to improve in the future) whereas other forms of investing may be losing out due to the factors described above.

Similar Ideas: Macro Investing

Personal Power Plant

The Problem: We use too much energy and we under use currently available sources of alternative energy. As it stands, many companies have developed viable, inexpensive means of generating power from solar electricity (among others). Finding better ways to integrate these technologies into our lives may have a significant (and increasing) impact on our energy consumption.

The Concept: By stitching together currently available, off the shelf, technologies you could power an apartment-sized residence without having to rely on installing cumbersome solar cells or significantly altering your lifestyle. You could do all of this for under $1000.

Similar Ideas: Earth Tech Products

Multiple Attention Span Publishing

The Problem: As a society we are reading fewer books, in fact, we are reading less in general. As more of our time is spent absorbing small packets of information, it has been argued that we are becoming less inclined to devote continuous attention to longer form content. However, even in a world where people read fewer, shorter texts information still needs to be transferred, perhaps more than ever before.

The Concept: Writers and publishers should begin to see their role as content creators rather than book producers. As content creators, they should package their ideas in multiple ways for different audiences. Instead of one 300 page book, a content package might contain the book, a series of infographics, the “cliff notes” version of the text (laid out in blog-sized snippets) and a short video explaining the major concepts.

The package might also contain a mobile phone application or an audiobook depending on the material. Consumers would be able to select the channel that they would prefer to receive information, so that someone with a “short” attention span might take the blog posts and infographics while someone who wants deeper insights might take the full text. This is not simply publishing across multiple channels (transmedia publishing), it’s publishing for different cognitive styles.

Similar Ideas: Transmedia Requires Need Breed Of Writers, Publishers

Incentive Based Educational Reform

The Problem: For students where culture, capital or educational quality is not a problem, sometimes the issue is that they do not proper incentives to excel at school. Either they feel that education itself is not relevant or they don’t feel appropriately challenged or engaged by the educational material. For them, adding an incentive-based system might provide them with the nudge they need to excel.

The Concept: Incentive systems typically fail when the incentive is too hard to receive, to easy to receive, or there is not an appropriate amount of feedback within the system to make it fun to participate in. I propose incentivizing students by giving them a debit card and providing them with a large list of pro-education behaviors, everything from conduct to grades to class participation.

This list would be broken into positive and negative goals, when a student accomplishes a positive goal they receive a certain amount of real money on their debit card. When a student does something negative, money is removed. The balance on the card can fall below zero so that continued negative behavior continues to have consequences. Negative balances would be periodically cleared to avoid futility setting in. The amount that can be earned would be calibrated to make it relevant for different grade levels.

Similar Ideas: Good Grades Pay Off Literally

Bias Tracker

The Problem: Everyone is an “expert” and everyone has an opinion. In an era where we rely more and more on talking heads and pundits to provide us with news and opinions, it is difficult to know what biases drive their musings. Personal and professional biases can have significant impact on the perspective an expert uses when coming to a conclusion, and simply accepting (or rejecting) an experts opinion at face value can lead to bad decision making.

The Concept: A wiki-like site should be developed that brings together known professional and personal biases of public figures. These biases may include membership in organizations, donation patterns, specific public statements, or current/previous employment which would color their perceptions. Ideally, public figures would be allowed to make their biases known in a public forum in the same way journalists writing a story do. This would not only increase the level of trust we have in these figures, but would also allow us to make better decisions and fact-check previously held beliefs.

Context Based Educational Reform

The Problem: Typically we approach the problem of education reform by either seeking to increase the amount of money spent per student (in hopes that better equipment equals better education) or improving the output of the teachers teaching those students (in hopes that stronger educators can impart more knowledge). However, we have seen limited success relying exclusively on these two models. An additional problem may be that poor performing schools may exist in environments that are not conducive to creating cultures of higher education. If children in these areas do not have parents and peer groups that promote higher education as a value, it is unlikely that they will be willing to devote the time and effort to excelling at education.

The Concept: Let’s take a look at education reform from the perspective of educational context and develop school systems structured around scholarship during and after normal school hours. In environments not traditional conducive to higher education, the school systems should attempt to separate the students from these negative influences by providing them with highly engaging activities outside of the classroom that will create a “bubble of scholarship.” Instead of simply educating students, make them feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves that they can be proud of, and provide them with peer role models that reinforce this belief. This is as much culture reform as educational reform and requires a high degree of sensitivity to whichever culture the school finds itself in.

Similar Ideas: Harlem Children’s Zone

Peak Attention

The Problem: We have a limited number of hours in the day, yet we have a nearly unlimited amount of information to process thanks to digital technologies. From blog posts, to hyper-targeted advertising, to Youtube to text messages, more and more of our attention is being taken up by the passive acquisition of data. When you include the influence that the “smart phone” culture of constant emails and constant connectivity has introduced into business you have to ask yourself when we will hit the natural limit of our attention spans.

The Concept: We need to determine whether or not we have arrived at or near “peak attention,” the point where we simply do not have enough time in the day the deal with the demands of the information that is being pushed at us. What affect will peak attention have on businesses whose main product is information, and how will peak attention affect the way we sort, filter and synthesize knowledge from information? Does “peak attention” even exist, or are we more adaptable than we think we are to new demands on our cognitive faculties? What can we do to improve our tolerance for information? A study could be designed to answer these questions.

Similar Ideas: Information Overload

Results Only Workplace

The Problem: For many professions, especially project or creativity-based ones, the 8 hour work day is increasingly becoming inefficient. Since business resources (copy machines / computers) are no longer expensive, predicating the need to localize them in an office setting, many times actually being in the office when not actively collaborating serves no purpose.

The Concept: Introduce a Results-Only Workplace. Every quarter, each employee will be held to a set of objectives. Other than meetings and certain important events, they would be able to schedule the times that they would physically be in the office. Their performance would be judged exclusively on their ability to accomplish the goals they set out. This would expand ROWE beyond retail and sales into other office environments.

Similar Ideas: ROWE

Collaborative Work Spaces

The Problem: As more and more of our infrastructure becomes automated, ideas and creativity are becoming the coin of the realm. For many types of workers, traditional single-business offices have become echo-chambers and tele-commuting is too insular. The efficiencies produced by a traditional 9-5 work schedule are also becoming more and more difficult to pin down, leading to “8 hour work days” that really only contain 2-3 hours of real work.

The Concept: Replace traditional offices with colloborative working spaces, where multiple businesses in disparate industries can work together under the same roof. It should be designed to maximize the opportunities for knowledge transfer and “coffee house” collaboration. Like coffee houses they would be commoditized, allowing workers to use them as a more community-oriented version of telecommuting.

Similar Ideas: Coworking