“Cognitive Flexibility” and “Openness to Experience” Promote Creativity

(p. C3) In a 2011 study led by the Dutch psychologist Simone Ritter and published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers asked some subjects to make breakfast in the “wrong” order and others to perform the task in the conventional manner. Those in the first group–the ones engaged in a schema violation–consistently demonstrated more “cognitive flexibility,” a prerequisite for creative thinking.
. . .
Exceptionally creative people such as Curie and Freud possess many traits, of course, but their “openness to experience” is the most important, says the cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman of the University of Pennsylvania. That seems to hold for entire societies as well.
Consider a country like Japan, which has historically been among the world’s most closed societies. Examining the long stretch of time from 580 to 1939, Dean Simonton of the University of California, writing in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, compared Japan’s “extra cultural influx” (from immigration, travel abroad, etc.) in different eras with its output in such fields as medicine, philosophy, painting and literature. Dr. Simonton found a consistent correlation: the greater Japan’s openness, the greater its achievements.
It isn’t necessarily new ideas from the outside that directly drive innovation, Dr. Simonton argues. It’s simply their presence as a goad. Some people start to see the arbitrary nature of many of their own cultural habits and open their minds to new possibilities. Once you recognize that there is another way of doing X or thinking about Y, all sorts of new channels open to you, he says. “The awareness of cultural variety helps set the mind free,” he concludes.
History bears this out. In ancient Athens, foreigners known as metics (today we’d call them resident aliens) contributed mightily to the city-state’s brilliance. Renaissance Florence recruited the best and brightest from the crumbling Byzantine Empire. Even when the “extra cultural influx” arrives uninvited, as it did in India during the British Raj, creativity sometimes results. The intermingling of cultures sparked the “Bengal Renaissance” of the late 19th century.

For the full commentary, see:
ERIC WEINER. “The Secret of Immigrant Genius; Having your world turned upside down sparks creative thinking.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Jan. 16, 2016): C3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 15, 2016.)

The above commentary by Weiner is related to his book, which is:
Weiner, Eric. The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016.

The paper mentioned above as co-authored by Ritter, is:
Ritter, Simone M., Rodica Ioana Damian, Dean Keith Simonton, Rick B. van Baaren, Madelijn Strick, Jeroen Derks, and Ap Dijksterhuis. “Diversifying Experiences Enhance Cognitive Flexibility.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 48, no. 4 (July 2012): 961-64.

The paper mentioned above by Simonton on Japanese openness, is:
Simonton, Dean Keith. “Foreign Influence and National Achievement: The Impact of Open Milieus on Japanese Civilization.” Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 72, no. 1 (Jan. 1997): 86-94.

Chinese Industry Using Robots to Automate Routine Tasks

(p. B1) China’s appetite for European-made industrial robots is rapidly growing, as rising wages, a shrinking workforce and cultural changes drive more Chinese businesses to automation. The types of robots favored by Chinese manufacturers are also changing, as automation spreads from heavy industries such as auto manufacturing to those that require more precise, flexible robots capable of handling and assembling smaller products, including consumer electronics and apparel.
At stake is whether China can retain its dominance in manufacturing.
. . .
(p. B2) China, in 2013, became the world’s largest market for industrial robots, surpassing all of Western Europe, according to the International Federation of Robotics. In 2015, Chinese manufacturers bought roughly 67,000 robots, about a quarter of global sales, and demand is projected to more than double to 150,000 robots annually by 2018.

For the full story, see:
Robbie Whelan and Esther Fung. “China’s Factories Turn to Robots.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., August 17, 2016): B1-B2.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date August 16, 2016, and has the title “China’s Factories Count on Robots as Workforce Shrinks.”)

Dogs Know More than We Knew

(p. A14) Dr. Andics, who studies language and behavior in dogs and humans, along with Adam Miklosi and several other colleagues, reported in a paper to be published in this week’s issue of the journal Science that different parts of dogs’ brains respond to the meaning of a word, and to how the word is said, much as human brains do.
. . .
A trainer spoke words in Hungarian — common words of praise used by dog owners like “good boy,” “super” and “well done.” The trainer also tried neutral words like “however” and “nevertheless.” Both the praise words and neutral words were offered in positive and neutral tones.
The positive words spoken in a positive tone prompted strong activity in the brain’s reward centers. All the other conditions resulted in significantly less action, and all at the same level.
. . .
In terms of evolution of language, the results suggest that the capacity to process meaning and emotion in different parts of the brain and tie them together is not uniquely human. This ability had already evolved in non-primates long before humans began to talk.

For the full story, see:
JAMES GORMAN. “For Dogs, It’s What You Say and Also How You Say It.” The New York Times (Tues., AUG. 30, 2016): A14.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 29, 2016, and has the title “With Dogs, It’s What You Say — and How You Say It.”)

The scientific article on canine cognition, mentioned above, is:
Andics, A., A. Gábor, M. Gácsi, T. Faragó, D. Szabó, and Á Miklósi. “Neural Mechanisms for Lexical Processing in Dogs.” Science 353, no. 6303 (Sept. 2, 2016): 1030-32.

Startup Entry and Scaling Are Easier and Faster Due to Internet

(p. B1) The world might be a mess, but look on the bright side: Men’s shaving products are much better than they used to be.
. . .
The same forces that drove Dollar Shave’s rise are altering a wide variety of consumer product categories. Together, they add up to something huge — a new slate of companies that are exploring novel ways of making and marketing some of the most lucrative (p. B7) products we buy today. These firms have become so common that they have acquired a jargony label: the digitally native vertical brand.
These kinds of online brands aren’t new. Dollar Shave is five years old, and Warby Parker, the online eyewear company, began selling glasses over the web in 2010. But over the last few years there’s been a proliferation of such companies — into underwear, children’s clothing, cosmetics and more — and the Dollar Shave deal suggests their growing importance. These firms could become an emerging problem for consumer products conglomerates like Procter & Gamble, and they might also spell trouble for television, which relies heavily on brand advertising for its revenue.
. . .
“We think it’s a unique moment in history where you can create brands that can be scaled quickly thanks to technology, but you can still maintain a one-to-one connection that delivers an elevated level of customer experience,” said Philip Krim, chief executive of Casper, which sells mattresses online.
Mr. Krim and four friends started Casper two years ago after studying the traditional mattress industry. They discovered it was plagued by inefficiencies and annoying gimmicks. Customers had to trudge to a mattress store and awkwardly prostrate themselves on numerous surfaces before choosing one to use for a decade. There were too many choices and brands, and mattresses were expensive.
With Casper, you simply buy the mattress online and it’s shipped to you in a comically small box (the compressed foam expands into a full-sized mattress, like a magic trick). You have three months to try it out, and if you don’t like it, the company will come pick it up free.
Casper’s business model offers a break from the annoyance of offline mattress shopping. It also works out for the company. Casper advertises on social networks, on Google, podcasts and a variety of other places online; the ads are creative, convincing, targeted and cheap. By selling directly rather than through retail middlemen, the company also creates a connection with customers that allows it to test and develop new products — it now sells sheets and pillows, too.
After two years in business, Casper is on track to book $200 million in sales over the next year, but its success isn’t ensured. Precisely because the internet has lowered barriers to entry, Casper is facing a surge of new mattress start-ups like Helix Sleep, Tuft & Needle and Leesa, among others.

For the full commentary, see:
Manjoo, Farhad. “STATE OF THE ART; How Companies Like Dollar Shave Club Are Reshaping the Retail.” The New York Times (Thurs., JULY 28, 2016): B1 & B7.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date JULY 27, 2016, and has the title “STATE OF THE ART; How Companies Like Dollar Shave Club Are Reshaping the Retail.”)

Patent Holder of Piggly Wiggly Self-Service Method Sued Hoggly Woggly for Infringement

(p. A11) A typical U.S. supermarket carries 42,000 items: Grab a cart, stroll the aisles and help yourself to an extravagant assortment of goods. Today it’s hard to imagine buying groceries any other way. But self-service was a game-changer when Clarence Saunders opened the first Piggly Wiggly in Memphis, Tenn., 100 years ago this month.
Before then a shopper would hand his grocery list to a clerk, who would fetch the merchandise while the customer lingered up front. That might sound appealing in this era of big-box stores with no help in sight, but at busy times the wait could stretch uncomfortably long.
Saunders, a school dropout who worked as a flour and grain salesman, had observed firsthand the inefficiencies of the rural grocers he supplied. Many of these stores, he became convinced, failed for two reasons: credit losses from customers’ charge accounts (which were then customary), and labor costs from clerks and delivery boys.
. . .
Eager to protect his invention, Saunders applied for multiple patents. His first, for a “Self Serving Store,” was granted in 1917. It wasn’t long, though, before imitators like Handy Andy and Helpy Selfy made their debut. Saunders successfully sued an especially brash copycat, Hoggly Woggly, for infringement.
. . .
Saunders didn’t integrate circuits or sequence the human genome. An observer once noted that coming up with a self-service grocery was “as simple as looking out the window or scratching your ear.” Still, it was Saunders who gambled on the unconventional approach, doggedly spread self-service across the nation and shaped the grocery industry we know today.

For the full commentary, see:
JERRY CIANCIOLO. “The Man Who Invented the Grocery Store.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Sept. 8, 2016): A11.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 7, 2016.)

The only book I could find about Clarence Saunders, is:
Freeman, Mike. Clarence Saunders and the Founding of Piggly Wiggly: The Rise & Fall of a Memphis Maverick. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2011.

Did Feds Try to Sully Sully’s Reputation?

(p. B3) Even before this weekend’s release of the Hollywood movie “Sully,” about the pilot who safely landed a disabled US Airways airliner on the Hudson River on a frigid January day in 2009, a rebuttal campaign is already underway by some of the participants in the real-life story.
The federal investigators who conducted the inquiry into the flight contend that “Sully” tarnishes their reputation.
. . .
Allyn Stewart, a producer of the film, said it was not a case of taking creative license to ratchet up the drama. “The story is told through the experiences of Jeff and Sully, and so they felt under extreme scrutiny and they were,” Ms. Stewart said.
Jeff is the co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, played in the film by Aaron Eckhart.
Captain Sullenberger, who retired from US Airways in 2010, said in an email that the tension in the film accurately reflected his state of mind at the time. “For those who are the focus of the investigation, the intensity of it is immense,” he said, adding that the process was “inherently adversarial, with professional reputations absolutely in the balance.”

For the full story, see:
CHRISTINE NEGRONI. “Safety Agency Challenges True’ Story told in the Film ‘Sully’.” The New York Times (Sat., SEPT. 10, 2016): B3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date SEPT. 9, 2016, and has the title “‘Sully’ Is Latest Historical Film to Prompt Off-Screen Drama.”)

Sully’s book, on which the movie is loosely based, is:
Sullenberger, Chesley B., III, and Jeffrey Zaslow. Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009.

Executive Job-Hopping Increases

(p. B8) Corey Heller often finds himself ordering fresh business cards. The human resources executive has switched employers nine times since 1996–and spent less than three years at six of those workplaces.
In any other era, the 51-year-old Mr. Heller would be viewed as an unstable job hopper. But today, that stigma is starting to fade amid greater pressure for rapid results and decreased workplace loyalty, according to executive recruiters and coaches. The change suggests that companies increasingly believe high-level hires with multiple recent employers bring fresh insights and a mix of experience.
. . .
Brief stints will spread “because of the explosion of online recruiting and opportunistic offers to candidates with strong profiles,” predicts Stefanie Smith, a New York executive coach.

For the full story, see:
JOANN S. LUBLIN. “Job-Hopping Is Losing Its Stigma.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., July 27, 2016): B8.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 26, 2016, and has the title “Job-Hopping Executives No Longer Pay Penalty.”)