Play for Good


Play for Good’s Spin for Good is a new kind of social gaming site that combines the passion of gaming with the motivation to do good.

Put together some brainy academics to solve the world’s biggest problems and you may think they’d come up with a blizzard of white papers filled with obscure hypotheses and foot-long equations that would give you flashbacks of tests you failed in high school.

But you’d be wrong.

Amee Kamdar and Janet Moehring, two young University of Chicago economists, were having Thai takeout in Moehring’s Lincoln Park apartment in Chicago, brainstorming how to start a business with a pro-social bent when the idea hit them. Continue reading

An Internet for Robots


Twenty-five years ago Tim Berners-Lee first proposed the World Wide Web–perhaps man’s greatest source of shared knowledge, connecting several billion users worldwide. Now robots are getting their own.

RoboEarth, the so called Internet for robots, does for automated machines what the Internet does for humans–offering users the ability to both teach one another and learn. RoboEarth, funded by the European Commission, is the work of researchers at Eindhoven University in the Netherlands and five other European institutes, who have been working on the system for over four years. And last week they unveiled RoboEarth’s first live public demonstration of robots working collaboratively together.

Most robots exist to perform tasks more efficiently and cheaper than humans. Or to do things that humans can’t. But when it comes to learning most robots are no smarter than the parts they are made from. In fact, most robots are designed to perform a single routine task. And if that task changes or the conditions in which it’s being performed change, the robot can become useless.

Heico Sandee, RoboEarth’s project manager, discussed this limitation of robots, describing the situation of a company that told him that when they make even a small change in one of their products, they have to reprogram and reinstall all of the robots they use for automation. “This adds up to 80% of what it would cost them to simply buy all new robots,” Sandee said.

RoboEarth was created to solve this problem of robot inflexibility. By allowing robots to learn from one another, the robots can engage in a dynamic evolutionary process. They can adapt to their changing environment and learn the more subtle and sophisticated behaviors and actions required to work with humans. Continue reading

How To Be A Superachiever: The 10 Qualities That Matter

Forbes created this video and a feature article based on an interview with us.

What do actor Alec Baldwin game-show champion Ken Jennings and baseball icon Yogi Berra have in common? That’s what husband-and-wife duo Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield set out to discover. For their upcoming book The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well, they interviewed 36 star performers that climbed to the tops of their various fields.

The full article is here.


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No Managers Required How Zappos’s is Ditching Old Corporate Structure for Something New


After making its move to the new downtown Las Vegas campus as part of Tony Hsieh’s Las Vegas revitalization quest, Zappos is making another radical change. 

No more job titles. No more managers. No more hierarchical decisions. By this time next year, Zappos’s 1,500 workers will be organized into something called a holacracy.

Holacracy is a little known organizational management system that’s is gaining a toehold in the business world. Zappos, so far, is its biggest adopter. Holacracy takes its name from the Greek word holos, a single, autonomous, self-sufficient unit, that is, at the same time, dependent on a larger unit. Think of a human cell’s relationship to the entire body.

Brian Robertson, founder of HolacracyOne and advisor to Zappos and other companies on how to adopt holacracy describes human beings as sensors who observe errors and inefficiencies in systems, and can intuit possible fixes. He describes the gap between what is (current reality) and what could be as a “tension.”

In traditional corporate hierarchies Robertson found that employees who observed inefficiencies or had ideas for improvements would have to go to a boss, who would go to their boss, who would go to their boss and so on. Often this critical information that could lead the company to meaningful change simply slipped through the cracks.  “When there is lack of clear and effective channels for processing tensions,” Robertson says, it can leave people frustrated, burnt-out, and disengaged.

So how does holacracy work?  Continue reading

Do You Have What It Takes To Be the Most Fabulous You? Simon Doonan Wants to Know


“Why the hell wouldn’t you want to be one of the fabulous people, the life enhancers, who look interesting and smell luscious and who dare to be gorgeously more fascinating than their neighbors?” Simon Doonan asks, rhetorically of course.

Part-pixie, part-provacateur, Doonan, is Creative-Ambassador-At-Large for Barneys New York, an author, bon vivant, window dresser, fashion and style commentator with the soul of an artist and the DNA of Diana Vreeland.

Although it may be the last thing on our minds as we race out the door to our jobs or important meetings or—gasp—the office holiday party, Doonan encourages us to stop. Think. “Dressing down,” he says, “is a crime against humanity.” (What would he say to the scandalous Silicon Valley hoodie mob?)

Instead, Doonan encourages us to evolve our own brand of unique glamour. “It’s a process of self-discovery,” he told us in an interview for our bookContinue reading

Why Do Millions of Us Drive Ourselves Crazy Over a Crossword? Will Shortz, Puzzle Master, Has A Clue

Thinking of clues keeps Will Shortz up at night. After all as Puzzle Master at NPR and puzzle editor of The New York Times, he has to come up with 16,000 clues a year—that’s nearly 50 twisty clues a day.

“Just as I’m about to drift off to sleep I may think of a terrific clue,” says Shortz. ”It’s the eternal writer’s dilemma. I have to either wake up and write it down, or think really really really hard and hope the idea will still be there in the morning.”

He opts for the latter. And the chances that he remembers? Not bad, he insists.

To say that Shortz is interested in puzzles is to call World War 2 a skirmish. Shortz has been constructing puzzles since he was 8 when his mother handed him a blank grid to occupy him while her friends came to play bridge. He sold his first puzzle at 14. And in lieu of a regular college degree, he followed an independent course of study in puzzles, graduating as the world’s first enigmatologist. Continue reading

Giftopia: How to Innovate Your Gift-Giving


Get creative with the act of gift giving

American adults will spend on average nearly $800 on gifts this holiday season according to the Gallup poll. That’s a decent chunk of change that we shell out in cash or put on our credit cards to express our affection, gratitude or commitment to our loved ones, friends and co-workers. But in this era of technological disruption and entrepreneurial innovation why has the act of gift giving changed so little?

We might not always think of it this way, but most gifts in a market economy such as ours, are economic exchanges. Say you walk into a store or go online and find the perfect Marc Jacobs bag. And then you pay for the bag.  Now you own it. And then–Happy Birthday! or Merry Christmas!–the act of giving the bag, properly wrapped and carded, transfers the ownership of the gift from you to the giftee.

But is that all there is? Why not get creative with the act of gift giving instead of devoting all of our cognitive energy to choosing between the reindeer sweater and the iTunes gift card? Continue reading

Superachiever Connie Rice on Partnering with Enemy Number One

Constance Rice

How to fight for Justice

When we spoke to civil rights activist and lawyer, Connie Rice (second cousin to Condaleezza), for our book, Rice gave us a manifesto on how to fight for justice.

In her mission to serve what she calls the impoverished “invisible people” of L.A., Rice had waged war for decades against the entrenched power centers of L.A.—the city, the LAPD— with innovatively crafted lawsuits. But after time she saw that although she was winning in the courts, she was losing in the streets.

Rice told us: “If you see a need for change, you have to ask yourself, ‘Who has the power to get it done?’” Continue reading

Superachiever Secret Power: Humility


Illustration of Alec Baldwin, Robert Carlock and the "30 Rock" writers by Josh Gosfield

Despite his often bombastic personality, Alec Baldwin was the epitome of humility when it came to the writers of “30 Rock” Illustration by Josh Gosfield

The very concept of humility can make us queasy. In this self-promotional era of social media flaunting and positive thinking, to be humble can seem to put us at a competitive disadvantage or seem hollow. As Jane Austen put it, “Nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility.”

To understand humility, it’s helpful to first take a look at its mirror image, pride. Not the kind of pride in which we maintain a healthy self-regard or feel satisfaction in a job well done, but the excessive pride of what 17-century philosopher Spinoza described as “thinking more highly of oneself than is just.”

In Christian teachings pride was condemned as one of the Seven Deadly Sins. But according to modern research, pride is the result of a dizzying array of cognitive distortions from illusory superiority to egocentrism, including a host of skewed tricks of the mind such as the confirmation bias, hindsight bias, overconfidence phenomenon and gambler’s fallacy. Numerous studies have shown that we construct and reconstruct our opinions, memories and self-worth relative to others in order to flatter ourselves. In other words, pride is our default setting, causing us to warp the raw data of reality in order to convince ourselves that we are better than we actually are. Continue reading

The Art of Spending: Don’t Spend Less, Spend Smarter


Our Q & A with behavioral scientists Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton

There’s no escaping the avalanche of advice from financial gurus on how to make, save and invest our money. But when it comes to spending money, you’re mostly on your own. In their book “Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending,” behavioral scientists Elizabeth Dunn of the University of British Columbia and Michael Norton of Harvard Business School set out to fill that need. With data-driven research, they give us practical advice on how, why, when and where people can spend money to help them achieve the ultimate goal of happiness. Continue reading