Tag Archives: Research

Making the business case for dedicated truck lanes

Our project team, which has been studying the business case for designing and building dedicated truck lanes on 800 miles of I-70, have just  submitted our project nomination for a Transportation Planning Excellence Award.

This biennial awards program is sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), in partnership with the Transportation Research Board (TRB).

Our nomination is focused on the innovative planning goals and strategies we employed on the I-70 Dedicated Truck Lanes Feasibility Study, which was sponsored by Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

The Transportation Planning Excellence Awards (TPEA) Program recognizes outstanding initiatives across the country to develop, plan, and implement innovative transportation planning practices. Winners represent a variety of planning organizations from across the county, and will be published in an Excellence in Transportation Planning resource report for their peers.

 

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Ignore the bull behind you and think of Spain

How do you sell others, let alone yourself, on going to Pamplona?

One approach is to focus on the things that are easier to understand – the beauty of Spain, for example, charm of Pamplona itself or the vibrant, colorful experience of the Festival of San Fermin.

The cost of emotionally investing in the fun and pageantry is so much lower than investing in the possibility of death or dismemberment, and it makes it so much likelier that you, friends and family may actually be in Pamplona in July 2012.

Face to face still #1 in neighborhood communication

Coalitionists looking to get the word out about their endeavors abandon or minimize face-to-face community communication at their peril, according to a Pew Internet poll.

Although electronic communication continues to grow in importance, personal contact (face-to-face and phone) is three times more frequently used than Internet tools, at least in terms of neighborhood issues..

Without Comment: Seven ways to get what you want

7 Ways to Get What You Want: “Influence is the key to any leadership role. Some folks do not like talking about it, but power and influence are natural phenomena in organizations and in leadership roles. People who want power and influence often try not to appear as if they are seeking it, and some people who have power and influence are reticent about how they actually got it.

Research into the area of power and influence is fascinating. In one notable study, 165 managers were asked to write short descriptions of occasions when they influenced their bosses, co-workers, or employees. (See Kipnis, Schmidt, Swaffin-Smith, and Wilkinson, ‘Patterns of Managerial Influence,’ Organizational Dynamics.) The responses from these 165 managers were condensed and rewritten into a 58-item questionnaire that was then administered to over 750 managers. In this questionnaire, the managers were asked both how and why they influenced people in the workplace.

This research identified seven key influence tactics:

(1) Reason: Using facts and data to bolster your request.

(2) Assertiveness: Using a direct and forceful approach, such as demanding compliance, ordering others to do what is asked, and pointing out rules that must be followed.

(3) Friendliness: Creating goodwill by being affable and acting humble prior to making your request.

(4) Sanctions: Doling out punishments or distributing rewards.

(5) Coalition: Getting the support of others to back your idea, proposal, or request.

(6) Bargaining: Negotiating with others for the exchange of benefits or favors.

(7) Higher authority: Gaining the support of others at higher levels in the organization to back up your idea, proposal, or request.

The researchers discovered that the managers did not rely equally on the seven influence tactics. When the managers were interacting with their superiors, the most commonly used tactics (in order of frequency) were reason, coalition, friendliness, and bargaining. When the managers were interacting with their subordinates, the most commonly used tactics (in order of frequency) were reason, assertiveness, friendliness, and coalition. Interestingly, the use of sanctions was the least popular influence tactic by the managers. What’s more, the managers who controlled resources valued by others, or who were perceived to have more power than others, used a greater variety of influence tactics and employed assertiveness more often than did managers with less power.

To be an effective leader, you need to know which influence tactic to use in which situation. This leadership skill often separates the great leaders from the rest.

So, what influence tactics do you use?

Scott Derrick is the Director of Professional Development at the Senior Executives Association, a nonprofit professional association of career federal executives. Scott is also an executive coach and leadership consultant with the Federal Executive Development Group LLC, a consulting company specializing in leadership development in the federal sector. The views expressed here are his own.

(Via GovLoop.)

Rdrs wnt lss sez AW

As king of the one-sentence paragraph, not surprisingly I agree with Ann Wylie. Shorter is better (usually) when it comes time to engage and inform stakeholders. As she noted recently:

“Size does matter. All things else being equal, your readers would rather read a short piece than a long piece.

In writing — as in eating, imbibing, reality TV viewing and so much else in life — it’s good to set limits. In other words, establish an appropriate length limit for each piece you write. Here are some ideas for inspiration:

  • The recommended length of the average press release has dropped from 400 words B.I. (before Internet) to 250 words A.I. (after Internet), according toB.L. Ochman. What have you done to respond to the obstacles of screen reading in your PR and other communications?
  • What’s the best length for a tweet? While Twitter cuts you off at 140 characters, the better limit is actually 129 characters, according usability expert Jakob Nielsen. That allows for the average 11-character attribution that gets added whenever anyone retweets your status update.
  • Sandra Oliver, a researcher at Thames Valley University in London, found that employees would read about 400 words of their CEO’s message. How long is your CEO’s message? If it’s longer than 400 words, did you put the words you don’t want employees to read after the first 400?

The right length for each piece, of course, depends — on the topic, audience, medium, vehicle, budget and other matters of judgment. But using these ideas and observations, you can establish general copy length limits.”

And if you aren’t convinced, see this post from Ann:

“How long is too long?

When it comes to paragraphs, the shorter the paragraph, the better, according to The Poynter Institute’s Eyetrack III study.

“The bottom line is that stories with shorter paragraphs got more than twice as many overall eye fixations than those with longer paragraphs,” the Poynter researchers wrote. “These data suggest that the longer-paragraph format discourages reading and that short-paragraph format overwhelmingly encourages reading.”

That’s not really surprising to anyone who’s studied the effects of paragraph length in print or online: People tend to skip long paragraphs in either medium. What is surprising is what constitutes a “short” paragraph on the Web.

The Eyetrack researchers measured this way:

  • Short paragraphs: one or two sentences long
  • Medium paragraphs: up to six sentences long
  • Long paragraphs: up to 18 sentences long

Bottom line: Online, hit return every paragraph or two.”

Without Comment: The Unreliability of Expertise?

(Via The Frontal Cortex.)

The WSJ discovers the unreliability of wine critics, citing the fascinating statistical work of Robert Hodgson:

In his first study, each year, for four years, Mr. Hodgson served actual panels of California State Fair Wine Competition judges–some 70 judges each year–about 100 wines over a two-day period. He employed the same blind tasting process as the actual competition. In Mr. Hodgson’s study, however, every wine was presented to each judge three different times, each time drawn from the same bottle.

The results astonished Mr. Hodgson. The judges’ wine ratings typically varied by ±4 points on a standard ratings scale running from 80 to 100. A wine rated 91 on one tasting would often be rated an 87 or 95 on the next. Some of the judges did much worse, and only about one in 10 regularly rated the same wine within a range of ±2 points.

Mr. Hodgson also found that the judges whose ratings were most consistent in any given year landed in the middle of the pack in other years, suggesting that their consistent performance that year had simply been due to chance.

It’s easy to pick on wine critics, as I certainly have in the past. Wine is a complex and intoxicating substance, and the tongue is a crude sensory muscle. While I’ve argued that the consistent inconsistency of oenophiles teaches us something interesting about the mind – expectations warp reality – they are merely part of a larger category of experts vastly overselling their predictive powers.

Look, for instance, at mutual fund managers. They take absurdly huge fees from our retirement savings, but the vast majority of mutual funds in any given year will underperform the S&P 500 and other passive benchmarks. (Between 1982 and 2003, there have only been three years in which more than 50 percent of mutual funds beat the market.) Even those funds that do manage to outperform the market rarely do so for long. Their models work haphazardly; their success is inconsistent.

Or look at political experts. In the early 1980s, Philip Tetlock at UC Berkeley picked two hundred and eighty-four people who made their living ‘commenting or offering advice on political and economic trends’ and began asking them to make predictions about future events. He had a long list of pertinent questions. Would George Bush be re-elected? Would there be a peaceful end to apartheid in South Africa? Would Quebec secede from Canada? Would the dot-com bubble burst? In each case, the pundits were asked to rate the probability of several possible outcomes. Tetlock then interrogated the pundits about their thought process, so that he could better understand how they made up their minds. By the end of the study, Tetlock had quantified 82,361 different predictions.

After Tetlock tallied up the data, the predictive failures of the pundits became obvious. Although they were paid for their keen insights into world affairs, they tended to perform worse than random chance. Most of Tetlock’s questions had three possible answers; the pundits, on average, selected the right answer less than 33 percent of the time. In other words, a dart-throwing chimp would have beaten the vast majority of professionals. Tetlock also found that the most famous pundits in Tetlock’s study tended to be the least accurate, consistently churning out overblown and overconfident forecasts. Eminence was a handicap.

But here’s the worst part: even terrible expert advice can reliably tamp down activity in brain regions (like the anterior cingulate cortex) that are supposed to monitor mistakes and errors. It’s as if the brain is intimidated by credentials, bullied by bravado. The perverse result is that we fail to skeptically check the very people making mistakes with our money. I think one of the core challenges in fixing our economy is to make sure we design incentive systems to reward real expertise, and not faux-experts with no track record of success. We need to fund scientists, not mutual fund managers.

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Without Comment: Average Internet User Now Spends 68 Hours Per Month Online

(Via Mashable!.)

stats-generic

The Nielsen Company issued a report on the top U.S. web brands and Internet usage in the U.S. As expected, Google is the #1 web brand based on unique audience.

The statistic that really jumped out for us, however, was that in September 2009, the average U.S. Internet user spent an estimated 68 hours online (both at home and at work).

Although that still trails television usage by a significant margin, it’s clear that the Internet is carving out a greater and greater role in our lives each month.

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In addition to spending an average of 68 hours online, the average user visits nearly 2700 websites and averages 57 seconds per site.

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For the larger web brands, users spend an average of 1 hour 53 minutes a month on Google, 3 hours 8 minutes on Yahoo and 5 hours 24 minutes on Facebook. The usage study compliments another Nielsen report issued yesterday that reported a 25% increase in online video viewing year-over-year.