Most violence in the world is motivated by personal morality — Tage Rai

MIT Sloan Lecturer Tage Rai

MIT Sloan Lecturer Tage Rai

From Quartz

What motivates someone to be violent? This is a question many people are asking in the wake of the recent mass shootings in California. Most explanations tend to revolve around the core assumption that violence is wrong. If someone is violent, something must be broken in their moral psychology—they are intrinsically evil, they lack self-control, they are selfish, or they fail to understand the pain they cause. However, it turns out that this fundamental assumption is mistaken. It is not the breakdown of their morality at all, but rather the working of their moral psychology. Most violence in the world is motivated by moral sentiments.

I began studying this issue by asking why people disagree when and if violence is appropriate. Intergenerationally, I looked at why spanking children was more acceptable 50 years ago than today, and why it is still more acceptable in certain parts of the country. Cross-culturally, I looked at why it is incomprehensible to Westerners to kill women for sexual infidelity, yet other parts of the world encourage this practice.

Read the full post at Quartz.

Tage Rai is a lecturer at MIT Sloan.

Keystone Pipeline Foes Should Face Reality — Chris Knittel

MIT Sloan Prof. Christopher Knittel

From Bloomberg

Opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline warn of its potentially catastrophic consequences. Building it, climate scientist James Hansen says, would mean “game over” for the climate.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman hopes that, if it’s given a green light, “Bill McKibben and his 350.org coalition go crazy.” And he means “chain-themselves-to-the-White-House-fence-stop-traffic-at-the-Capitol kind of crazy.”

Are they all just crying wolf and using Keystone XL as a proxy battle against oil?

I hope so, because the economics behind laying a pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast would make it difficult for the pipeline to have any effect on greenhouse-gas emissions. I trust that if opponents dug a little deeper into the issues and the market for oil, they would agree — at least privately.

Three things would need to be true for Keystone to lead to more emissions. Otherwise, the pipeline could actually reduce them. Read More »

Brady, Patriots & NFL come out on top — Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

From USA TODAY

It may seem unlikely today, but when all is said and done with Deflategate and Tom Brady returns to the field, the Patriots, the NFL and even Brady all stand to emerge as winners in business over the long-term.

To be sure, the Deflategate crisis has been fraught with controversial questions. Was the “more probable than not” evidence cited in the Wells Report strong enough to convict Tom Brady? If so, what is a reasonable punishment?  How serious of an offense is deflating footballs? How should Brady’s cooperation (or alleged lack thereof) in the investigation, including the recent revelation of his destroyed cell phone, factor into the punishment and appeal process?  Fans and the media have been deliberating these and other issues with the same fervor as ranking the greatest quarterbacks of all-time (which, naturally, has been complicated by the allegations against Brady).

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How Bob McDonald can (really) fix the VA’s health care system — Steven Spear

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steven Spear

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steven Spear

From Fortune , August 8, 2014

The former Procter & Gamble CEO recently confirmed to head the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs must go beyond government reforms that Congress recently struck and address how the troubled agency measures performance.

On Thursday, President Obama signed into law a $16.3 billion measure to help overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs, an agency that in recent months has been plagued with criticisms for long wait times for health care and manipulation of records. While the extra funds are substantial and may be necessary for a system that serves some 8.5 million veterans each year, it won’t be enough to fix the problems at one of the nation’s largest health providers.

Newly-confirmed Veterans Secretary Bob McDonald, a former CEO of Procter & Gamble, must create a new dynamic if the reforms are to succeed; he has to go beyond Congresses’ prescriptions and change the agency’s internal dynamics by focusing on what is measured, why it is measured, and what is done in response to the results.

One of the reasons for the VA’s current crop of problems has to do with the way the VA measures performance. The metrics that former administrators focused on pushed people in the direction of highlighting (sometimes exaggerating) what was going right and playing down what was going wrong.

Consequently, systemic problems — which might have been addressed early on before they caused harm — built up until they caused a crisis. It didn’t help that many of the metrics, such as wait times, were beyond the control and influence of the managers being evaluated, so there was even more incentive to game the system.

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General Motors should expect more failed parts — Steven Spear

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steven Spear

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steven Spear

From USA Today

General Motors CEO Mary Barra appeared before a Senate panel once again Thursday to discuss the company’s flawed ignition switches and vowed that GM will “do all it can to make certain that this does not happen again.”

In terms of damage control, much of what Barra and GM appear to be doing right now is positive: fessing up about product failures, bringing in outside investigators and firing employees that failed to take appropriate measures.

And while these are important steps, they amount only to a good, if somewhat belated, crisis management strategy. In fact, these efforts pale against the very real organizational challenges that lay ahead for GM and Barra. In order make good on her promise to Congress, Barra must prevent the kinds of engineering failures that caused the ignition problems in the first place and the organizational failures that propelled the problem to its current tragic magnitude. And that will mean changing the culture at GM.

Engineers like to be right. They like to prove that they have the correct answer.

Highly trained and highly motivated to solve problems, at the point of releasing a design or demonstrating a model or a prototype, everything in them is wired to prove that they’ve arrived at the right answer. The premium is so high on being “right” that even when data starts proving them wrong, they work to show that they are right somehow. They seek to explain what is happening is an exceptional outlier or an aberration; not that it is a sign of a problem. Read More »