Founder Title Gives Dorsey “the Leeway to Make Significant Changes”

(p. B1) Twitter Inc. is handing the chief executive reins back to Jack Dorsey, entrusting its founding architect to reassure investors and revive the social-media service’s sagging user growth.
. . .
(p. B10) Company insiders say there was nothing interim about the way Mr. Dorsey carried himself since July 1, when Dick Costolo stepped down as CEO. He initiated debates about fundamental product features, including Twitter’s trademark 140-character limit per tweet. He frequently sends companywide emails late at night, which include news stories that highlight Twitter’s value in the world. These messages and his close involvement have shifted the tone and boosted morale, according to these people.
. . .
His reputation as a product visionary will be tested as he tackles his priority: to figure out how to make Twitter easy enough to use by anyone. More than his product ideas, however, Mr. Currie endorsed Mr. Dorsey’s leadership skills as the reason the board decided to bring him back on a permanent basis.
In the eyes of employees and users, the founder title gives him the leeway to make significant changes that weren’t afforded by Mr. Costolo.

For the full story, see:

YOREE KOH. “Dorsey Is CEO of Twitter Once Again.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Oct. 6, 2015): B1 & B10.

(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article has the date Oct. 5, 2015, and has the title “Twitter Names Co-Founder Jack Dorsey CEO.”)

Some Heroes Are Punished for Doing What Is Right

At some point in the last few months watched, and jotted a few notes, on a C-SPAN presentation by Ralph Peters related to his historical novel Valley of the Shadow, that I caught part of. C-SPAN lists the show as first airing on June 23, 2015. My attention was drawn when Peters started talking about Lew Wallace. I had a minor curiosity about Lew Wallace for two obscure reasons. The first is that in young adulthood my favorite actor was Charlton Heston, one of whose most notable movies was Ben Hur, which was based on a novel by Lew Wallace. The other was that as an adult Lew Wallace lived in Crawfordsville, Indiana where there is still a small museum in his old study, a museum that holds memorabilia related to the Heston Ben Hur movie. The reason I know about the museum is that I graduated from Wabash College, which is also located in Crawfordsville, Indiana.
Peters said that he was fascinated by forgotten figures and that one of these was Lew Wallace. According to Peters, Lew Wallace saved the union during the Civil War. A confederate general named Jubal Early would have seized Washington, D.C., if Wallace and an officer named Jim Ricketts had not taken the initiative to lead a force to stop Early. For doing what had to be done, Wallace risked court martial, and Wallace was indeed fired from the army. After Ricketts gave a full account of what had happened, Wallace was re-instated, but Lincoln did not approve of his receiving a new command. Peters said that this was because Wallace was unpopular with some powerful Indiana Republicans, and that Lincoln was facing an election in which he needed to win Indiana.
The above is a rough summary of Peters’s account. I don’t know if any of it is disputed by other experts. But it is a good story, and I hope that it is true.

The Peters historical novel discussed on C-SPAN, was:
Peters, Ralph. Valley of the Shadow: A Novel. New York: Forge Books, 2015.

“Good News for the Grumpy”: Happiness Does Not Lengthen Life

(p. A6) A study published on Wednesday [Dec. 9, 2015] in The Lancet, following one million middle-aged women in Britain for 10 years, finds that the widely held view that happiness enhances health and longevity is unfounded.
“Happiness and related measures of well-being do not appear to have any direct effect on mortality,” the researchers concluded.
“Good news for the grumpy” is one way to interpret the findings, said Sir Richard Peto, an author of the study and a professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford.
He and his fellow researchers decided to look into the subject because, he said, there is a widespread belief that stress and unhappiness cause disease.
Such beliefs can fuel a tendency to blame the sick for bringing ailments on themselves by being negative, and to warn the well to cheer up or else.
“Believing things that aren’t true isn’t a good idea,” Professor Peto said in an interview. “There are enough scare stories about health.”
The new study says earlier research confused cause and effect, suggesting that unhappiness made people ill when it is actually the other way around.
. . .
Professor Peto said particularly important data came from 500,000 women who reported on their baseline surveys that they were in good health, with no history of heart disease, cancer, stroke or emphysema.
A “substantial minority” of these healthy women said they were stressed or unhappy, he said, but over the next decade they were no more likely to die than were the women who were generally happy.

For the full story, see:
DENISE GRADY. “Happiness Doesn’t Bring Good Health, Study Finds.” The New York Times (Thurs., DEC. 10, 2015): A6.
(Note: bracketed date added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 9, 2015, and has the title “Happiness Doesn’t Bring Good Health, Study Finds.”)

The research summarized in the passages quoted above, appeared in:

Liu, Bette, Sarah Floud, Kirstin Pirie, Jane Green, Richard Peto, and Valerie Beral. “Does Happiness Itself Directly Affect Mortality? The Prospective UK Million Women Study.” The Lancet (Dec. 9, 2015) DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)01087-9.

Frustrating Failure to Cure Cancer

PiersonEmmaAndGrandfather2016-01-20.jpg“Emma Pierson as a child playing chess with her grandfather, whose cancer she is trying to fight.” Source of caption: print version of the NYT article quoted and cited below. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. D4) . . . in the four years since I learned I carried a BRCA mutation, I have watched my attempts to do something about it repeatedly miss the mark. I joined a laboratory to do cancer research, but the paper we wrote had little to do with cancer; I joined a company that offered the cheapest BRCA tests on the market, and its service was shut down a month after I arrived. I am 24 years old; at 25, I will have to choose between aggressive screening and prophylactic mastectomy. I had hoped to use my brain to protect my body, but I am running out of time.

If life’s complexities confound a 20-year-old’s desperate idealism, cancer’s do as well. The more I learn, the more I worry that we may never find a singular cure for cancer: that each cancer’s unique biological filigree necessitates a brutal and byzantine combination of treatments.
I also worry that the end goal is so far away that we sometimes lose sight of its importance, and view biological research as a competitive game rather than a means of saving lives. I feared being the worst student in my first cancer class, even though a roomful of researchers better than I am is exactly what I should want. Since then, I’ve seen many indications of the competitiveness in cancer research — a teacher who made us promise not to steal other students’ final projects, scientists who snipe at one another or falsify work — that make me think I am not the only one who sometimes forgets what is at stake.
. . .
I am not going to cure cancer, not even the BRCA cancers. And I am going to watch the people I love die from diseases I cannot understand or prevent. I would be lying if I told you I have made my peace with that. It gives me hope only to fight, as my grandfather did, for futures unseen: to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.

For the full commentary, see:
EMMA PIERSON. “Leaving No Move Untried.” The New York Times (Tues., Dec.. 1, 2015): D4.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date NOV. 30, 2015, and has the title “Seeking a Cancer-Free World.” The last words in Pierson’s commentary quote the final line of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s great poem “Ulysses.”)

Hiring Based on What People Can Do, Instead of Their Credentials

(p. B4) Compose Inc. asks a lot of job applicants. Anyone who wants to be hired at the San Mateo, Calif., cloud-storage firm must write a short story about data, spend a day working on a mock project and complete an assignment.
There is one thing the company doesn’t ask for: a résumé.
Compose is among a handful of companies trying to judge potential hires by their abilities, not their résumés. So-called “blind hiring” redacts information like a person’s name or alma mater, so that hiring managers form opinions based only on that person’s work. In other cases, companies invite job candidates to perform a challenge–writing a software program, say–and bring the top performers in for interviews or, eventually, job offers.
Bosses say blind hiring reveals true talents and results in more diverse hires. And the notion that career success could stem from what you know, and not who you know, is a tantalizing one.
. . .
“We were hiring people who were more fun for us to talk to,” says Mr. Mackey. Trouble was, they were often a poor fit for the job, according to the CEO.
So the company, which was acquired by International Business Machines Corp. last year, added an anonymous sample project to the hiring process. Prospective hires spend about four to six hours performing a task similar to what they would do at Compose–writing a marketing blog post for a technical product, for example.
. . .
The sample projects have unearthed hires who have turned out to be top performers, says Mr. Mackey.

For the full story, see:
RACHEL FEINTZEIG. “Why Bosses Are Turning to ‘Blind Hiring’.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Jan. 6, 2016): B4.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article has the date Jan. 5, 2016, and has the title “The Boss Doesn’t Want Your Résumé.”)

Open Offices Are “an Absurd Attack on Concentration”

(p. A11) Mr. Newport acknowledges the good intentions behind open offices: They are meant to encourage serendipity and teamwork. But he argues that burdening workers with perpetual distractions constitutes “an absurd attack on concentration” that creates “an environment that thwarts attempts to think seriously.” Sure, there’s collaboration–not least the unspoken camaraderie among coworkers who have shared in the cringe-inducing experience of hearing a colleague castigate her spouse over the phone.
Mr. Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown, is the unusual academic who will sully himself with matters as practical as: How can a talented employee rack up the rarefied and acute skills–writing, coding, scouring the latest mergers and acquisitions–that make someone indispensable? His answer? Expanding your capacity for “deep work,” ruthlessly weeding out distractions and regularly carving out stretches of time to sharpen abilities. Mr. Newport explains why honing an ability to concentrate can yield enormous professional payouts. Then he lays out rules for becoming one such rare bird.
Most corporate workers, Mr. Newport argues, don’t have clear feedback about how to spend their time. As a result, employees use “busyness as a proxy for productivity,” which Mr. Newport describes aptly as “doing lots of stuff in a visible manner”–blasting out emails, for instance, or holding meetings on superficial progress on some project.
. . .
The book’s best example is the Pulitzer Prize winning Lyndon Johnson biographer Robert A. Caro, known for working on a meticulous schedule in his Manhattan office dressed in a coat and tie “so that he never forgets when he sits down with his research that he is going to work,” as one profile of Mr. Caro put it.

For the full review, see:
KATE BACHELDER. “BOOKSHELF; Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?; Yes, open offices cultivate camaraderie–among coworkers who all cringe as a colleague shouts at her soon-to-be ex-husband over the phone.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Jan. 20, 2016): A11.
(Note: ellipsis added, italics in original.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Jan. 19, 2016.)

The book under review, is:
Newport, Cal. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016.

Recording a Pain of “5” and Then Leaving Without Relieving

If health care was provided by free market companies whose success depended on voluntarily attracting customers, instead of by bureaucratic, hyper-regulated, CYA incentivized, and competition-insulated bureaucracies, would the surreal experience reported below be as common as it is?

(p. 11) A FRIEND was recently hospitalized after a bicycle accident. At one point a nursing student, together with a more senior nurse, rolled a computer on wheels into the room and asked my friend to rate her pain on a scale of 1 to 10.

She mumbled, “4 to 5.” The student put 5 into the computer — and then they left, without further inquiring about, or relieving, my friend’s pain.
This is not an anecdote about nurses not doing their jobs; it’s an illustration of what our jobs have become in the age of electronic health records. Computer documentation in health care is notoriously inefficient and unwieldy, but an even more serious problem is that it has morphed into more than an account of our work; it has replaced the work itself.
Our charting, rather than our care, is increasingly what we are evaluated on. When my hospital switched to bar code scanning for medication administration, not only were the nurses on my floor rated as “red,” “yellow” or “green” based on the percentage of meds we scanned, but those ratings were prominently and openly displayed on printouts left at the nurses’ station.
. . .
We need to streamline our records so that they serve just one master: the patient. We should focus on the most important information in guaranteeing accuracy of diagnosis, efficacy of treatment, continuity of care and patient safety. Otherwise the content of our care will be increasingly warped by the demands of our e-record systems — and patients like my poor friend will lie in hospital beds in pain, uncomforted by the knowledge that the electronic record of that pain is satisfyingly and exactingly complete.

For the full commentary, see:
THERESA BROWN. “Patients vs. Paperwork.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., DEC. 20, 2015): 11.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date DEC. 19, 2015, and has the title “When Hospital Paperwork Crowds Out Hospital Care.”)