The Busy Trap: How Keeping Busy Became a Status Symbol/article by Lisa Tolin


Why You Brag About Being Busy 1:23

Being busy isn’t an excuse or a lament anymore. It’s a sign of status — maybe even a humblebrag.

At some point, the standard answer to “how are you” changed from “fine, thanks” to “busy!” Researchers at Columbia and Harvard set out to understand why.

In a series of studies recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research, they analyzed thousands of Tweets from celebrities for “humblebrags,” and found about 12 percent of those were about being busy — “having no life” or needing a vacation, for example.

Then they created a fictional Facebook user and asked volunteers to look at her posts. When she posted about working nonstop, people thought she had higher status and more money than if she posted about her leisure time.

The researchers, led by Silvia Bellezza, a professor of marketing at the Columbia Business School, found that people were even impressed by the use of products aimed at busy people — like the grocery delivery service Peapod, or a Bluetooth headset.

RELATED: Think You’re a Great Multitasker? Your Brain May Disagree

Previous research at the University of Chicago found that people actually prefer being busy, even if it hurts their productivity.

“People dread idleness, and their professed reasons for activity may be mere justifications for keeping busy,” University of Chicago professor of behavioral science and marketing Christopher Hsee observed. For example, they might respond to non-urgent email instead of finishing a big project.

And while we may legitimately feel busy, Americans’ working hours have steadily decreased over the last seven decades. In 1948, when the government started keeping track, Americans worked an average of 42.8 hours a week. Today we average 38.7, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey.

The finding that busyness has become a status symbol turns Thorstein Veblen’s idea of conspicuous consumption among the “leisure class” on its head. Veblen theorized that the absence of work, or conspicuous leisure, was the ultimate status symbol.

But at some point, our popular conception of wealth changed from something like Thurston Howell III with a yacht and plenty of downtime, to a mega-mogul working around the clock.

Bellezza and her colleagues write that traditional status symbols like luxury cars or handbags also make people seem less likeable, so busyness may be “a potentially more socially acceptable and efficient way for people to signal their social status.”

They theorized that Americans might be more impressed by being busy than would Europeans because of our belief in social mobility — that if we just work hard enough, we can achieve the American Dream.

Sure enough, when they tried similar research with Italians, the results flipped. Italians considered people with more leisure time to have higher status than those who were working all the time.

So next time you’re feeling crazy busy, think about whether what you’re busy doing is really accomplishing your goals. And if all else fails, consider Italy.


Why You Brag About Being Busy 1:23


From FastCo – 5 Tips For Creatives From Lee Clow And George Lois

Two advertising legends talk creativity and how it happens. (One of them swears a lot.)


One is the creative leader behind Apple’s “Think Different” campaign. The other has been dubbed the original Mad Man.

Lee Clow, the chairman of TBWA Worldwide, made the iconic “1984” commercial that launched the Apple brand. He also helped create the Taco Bell Chihuahua and the Energizer Bunny and received a lifetime achievement award, the Lion of St. Mark, in Cannes this year.

George Lois, 81, hates Mad Men. But he loves the big idea, which was very much in evidence in the campaigns he created for Xerox, MTV, and Robert F. Kennedy, as well as the series of iconic covers he designed for Esquire magazine. Both have dedicated their lives to great advertising. Here, at times at odds with conventional wisdom, is their advice on how to make it.

Lee Clow and George Lois


Lois is fed up with everyone chattering about tech. “Everybody talks about technology, technology, technology, and I talk creativity, creat-fucking-tivity, creat-fucking-tivity,” he says. “Jesus Christ, figure out how to do great ideas, that’s what it’s all about.. . . . You’re not going to be great by figuring out the technology. Someone else will figure out the fucking technology.”

Clow, though not driven to as much swearing, is equally wary of the current attitude toward technology. He notes that the proliferation of “new media touch points” has created a lot of confusion that can steer brands off track. “The beginning is the idea and the media falls out of that,” he says. He believes technology should to be part of the next creative revolution and sees social media as an “amazing new frontier.” But, he warns, creatively, we’re not there yet. “The creativity is still kind of missing, even though the opportunity of new media is huge,” Clow says.


George Lois is not known for his modesty. And he’s not much for our modern views on collaboration. “I look in the mirror and I work with the brightest person I know,” he says. He advises that you need to trust and believe in yourself and do your own work in order to be great. If you think that surrounding yourself with bright people will allow you to make good work, then “you’re in trouble,” he says. Great advertising happens when the copy and visuals work together, so if you can be your own art director and copywriter, all the better, Lois believes. “It’s a lot easier if you can do it all by yourself,” he says. But most important, don’t let anyone force you to do bad work. In Lois’s words: “If you’re working and you’re not trying to be great, give up.”


Despite all the criticism of the industry awards circuit, public acknowledgment of great work is instrumental in fueling creativity in Clow’s view. Awards have driven “the art and product of creativity” and worked as “a tool to celebrate and push the work forward,” he says. But we still need to figure out the right way to award great thinking in the digital sphere. “Awards are going to have a big role in allowing new media to become more artful,” he says.

“Think Different” campaign.


It’s a tough time to start a career in advertising, Clow believes. This, he puts down to an explosion of new media forms that make it difficult to know which “door to go into.” He predicts a shakeup, led from the front by creativity. “There is always going to be creative energy coming out of the next generation,” he says. People need to figure out the best entry point, be it a design company or ad agency, to become what Clow calls, a “media artist.” “Creative people, by virtue of them being creative people, will find a creative way to sort out the business,” he concludes, with the caveat: “It might be after George and I are done working.”


Clow puts his ability to think creatively down to his genes. “I think some of us are lucky enough to be born with more right brain than left brain. Our intuition and admiration for thinking out of the box creatively starts very young,” he says. “I think it’s more genetic than anything else.”

Lois calls his talent for communication a “weird gift.” But it’s not a gift that every creative person has, not even the greats. In his own inimitable, expletive-ridden way, Lois muses: “Picasso, one of the greatest of all, could not do fucking advertising. . . . Assholes like us do great advertising.”


To Motivate Employees, Show Them How They’re Helping Customers/in HBR


Francesca Gino/Mar 6, 2017

Think back to your first day on the job. If you’re like most people, you felt excited and were eager to get down to work. But, based on the results of field research I recently conducted, I am willing to guess that just a few months later that excitement dissipated and you began to feel dissatisfaction, even boredom, with some aspects of your job. You’ve probably witnessed a similar trend among the employees you’ve hired and managed as well.

Hundreds of studies in management and psychology have examined how organizations can increase worker motivation. Most theories, grounded in the job design literature, argue for redesigning or recrafting jobs — for example, by adding variety or increasing autonomy to people’s work. As I discussed in another post, Brad Staats of the University of North Caroline at Chapel Hill and I demonstrated the success of these approaches by analyzing 2 ½ years of transaction data from a unit at a Japanese bank that processes applications for home loans. Mortgage processing involved 17 distinct tasks, including scanning applications, inputting application data, and doing a credit check. We found that adding variety to the tasks workers completed from day to day (by having them working on different distinct tasks rather than focusing on the same one) improved their motivation and productivity. These workers helped the bank process loan applications more quickly, managers told us, and improved the bank’s ability to secure new customers.

More recent research points to another key factor in increasing worker motivation: leveraging the social aspect of work. In particular, interactions with the beneficiaries of one’s work can be highly motivating because they heighten workers’ perceptions of the impact of their work.

In one field study, Adam Grant of the Wharton School found that fundraisers who were attempting to secure scholarship donations felt more motivated when they had contact with scholarship recipients. In another study, Grant found that lifeguards were more vigilant after reading stories about people whose lives have been saved by lifeguards. In fact, the words of beneficiaries of one’s assistance can be more motivating than those of inspirational leaders, Grant showed in another series of studies with his colleague Dave Hofmann of the University of North Caroline at Chapel Hill. Similarly, when cooks see those who will be eating their food, they feel more motivated and work harder, Harvard Business School’s Ryan Buell and colleagues found.

Across these studies, the key factor that improved worker motivation was a direct connection to those who benefit from one’s work, including customers and clients. But this type of direct relationship can be hard to achieve in some jobs. Consider an assembly-line worker installing screws in a car’s electrical system. Clearly, the screws are vital, but the worker’s distinct impact on the future driver of the car is distant and abstract — and just one aspect the driver’s overall experience with the car.

How can managers motivate such workers? By leveraging relationships that are internal to the organization. In one field study, Paul Green of Harvard Business School, Brad Staats, and I asked employees harvesting tomatoes at a tomato-processing company in California to watch a short video from a colleague within the firm telling them about the positive impact they had in the factory. Others did not watch such videos (our control condition). In the weeks after the intervention, the employees who watched a video from a colleague achieved a 7% improvement in productivity, on average, as measured by tons of tomatoes harvested per hour, relative to those in our control condition. In a follow-up laboratory study, a similar intervention increased employees’ performance, because people felt a greater sense of belonging.

Both at work and away from work, all of us seek to fulfill a fundamental human need to belong. In our studies, positive words from internal beneficiaries of employees’ work — their colleagues — served as an important source of motivation by strengthening the workers’ sense of belongingness.

The existing research on motivation tells a clear story: There are both psychological and performance benefits to connecting employees to the beneficiaries of their work. As a manager, you just need to ask a simple question: What opportunities are there in your organization to create such connections? The answer may not be difficult to find and implement.


Worth reading – Debenhams boss to unveil radical refashioning of shops

From Business (UK Edition) on Flipboard

The new boss of Debenhams will unveil plans this week to overhaul the retail chain’s 165 shops and cull some in-house brands in a bid to lure…

Read it on Flipboard

Read it on


NZ – very appealing to business – article in NY Times

As New Zealand Courts Tech Talent, Isolation Becomes a Draw


Continue reading the main storyShare This Page

Continue reading the main storySlide Show00newzealand-ss1-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600.jpg


New Zealand Showcases Its Appeal

New Zealand Showcases Its Appeal

CreditDavid Maurice Smith for The New York Times

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — In the South Pacific, software no longer needs a hard sell.

New Zealand has long wanted to be a tech hub, but distance was an issue. Now, at a moment of political upheaval around the globe, that isolation has become a selling point.

A municipal program to fly in 100 developers next month — wine them, dine them and offer them jobs — was expected to draw 2,500 applications. But the recruitment effort, called LookSee Wellington, was besieged with more than 48,000 entries, including workers at Google, Amazon, Facebook, M.I.T. and NASA. At one point so many people checked out the program that the website failed.

For all sorts of reasons, New Zealand suddenly makes sense. The cost of living is less than in San Francisco. Commuting is less wearying. And American politics, “Brexit” and the Islamic State are on the other side of the world.

“It’s just one of those things where the stars are aligned,” said David Jones, general manager at the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency.

New arrivals describe New Zealand as more idealistic and less frustrating than other places.

“In the U.S., I feel extremely disconnected,” said Alanna Irving, 33, who came here from San Francisco to start two companies. “Things happen all the time that I don’t agree with or understand or think are really good for most people, and I just don’t see any way that I can change that.”

Continue reading the main story


This is the second time New Zealand has tried to use Silicon Valley to jump-start its fledgling tech economy. The current effort is in some ways an outgrowth of the first, featuring the same players.


An employee in the lunchroom at Xero, an online accounting software firm, in Auckland, New Zealand, last month. CreditDavid Maurice Smith for The New York Times

The first time, there were big promises that were never fulfilled. It was a typical Silicon Valley story, in other words, which makes it a bit of a cautionary tale even as everyone assumes that this time will be different.

The story began more than a decade ago when a billionaire entrepreneur came here to visit and, like so many others, fell in love with the majestic mountains and sweeping vistas. New Zealand is where Peter Jackson filmed “The Lord of the Rings,” a beloved text for many techies. It is the real Middle-earth, a fantasy come to life.

Fantasies are rarely free. People applying for citizenship here are required to have spent 70 percent of the previous five years living in the country, and to commit to living in it afterward. Even humanitarian exceptions are rare.

Peter Thiel, the contrarian investor who made his fortune with PayPal and Facebook, made an irresistible financial proposal to New Zealand in early 2011. He would bring the local economy — whose biggest exports were concentrated milk and the meat from sheep and goats — into the high-tech era. Mr. Thiel would serve as the country’s roving tech ambassador, opening doors around the world that are closed to mere government officials.

Even before applying, he set up Valar Ventures, an investment fund named after the gods in “The Lord of the Rings.” Valar put about $3 million into Xero, an online accounting software firm, and was part of a $4 million infusion of cash into Pacific Fibre, which proposed a trans-Pacific undersea cable.

And that, Mr. Thiel signaled, would be just the beginning.

“I intend to devote a significant amount of my time and resources to the people and businesses of New Zealand,” he wrote in his citizenship application. He donated about $750,000 to earthquake relief after the city of Christchurch was struck in February 2011.


Rod Drury, the chief executive of Xero, is the biggest name in New Zealand’s tech scene, a local version of Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.CreditDavid Maurice Smith for The New York Times

New Zealand, with a population below five million, gets around 30,000 applications for citizenship annually. Fearful of the potential for corruption and exploitation, it expedites only a handful. Mr. Thiel was one of them. The process was so painless that when the news came out about the investor’s dual New Zealand/American citizenship two months ago, the official in charge said he remembered nothing about it.

“We were so blown away that Peter Thiel was interested,” said Rod Drury, the chief executive of Xero. “Him getting a passport wasn’t a big deal at the time. No one really thought about it.”

In fact, no one even mentioned it — including Mr. Thiel, despite his declaration in documents submitted for his application that “it would give me great pride to let it be known that I am a New Zealand citizen.”

When the secret was revealed, it created a small uproar.

“Someone being able to invest and get citizenship goes against that important New Zealand value of equality,” Mr. Drury explained. “That’s why it has played so much in the media here.”

Mr. Drury is the biggest name in New Zealand’s tech scene, a local version of Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. He recommended Mr. Thiel for citizenship, and Xero was held up as a model of what, with the investor’s help, all the new start-ups could become.

The New Zealand government was so enthusiastic about Mr. Thiel’s investing prowess that it became a partner with him in early 2012, putting about $7 million into a Valar fund. The fund did well, primarily because of its big position in Xero.


“I’d say the timing is coincidental but fortuitous,” said Nick Piesco, a programmer at Xero who moved from Austin, Tex., after the election of Donald J. Trump. CreditDavid Maurice Smith for The New York Times

But the government did not share in the profits. The deal had a clause that said Valar could simply return the government’s investment with a little interest, which it did. Mr. Thiel quadrupled his money, The New Zealand Herald reported in February. Steven Joyce, the minister of finance, did not respond to an email request for comment.

Valar is now based in New York, where it has been investing in European and Brazilian companies. Mr. Thiel declined to comment.

“It’s sad for New Zealand that Thiel and Valar didn’t follow on with more investments,” Lance Wiggs, a local investor, said. “We are starved for cash.”


Get the latest technology news and buzz from around the web.

Sign Up

Receive occasional updates and special offers for The New York Times’s products and services.

Mr. Thiel has been focused elsewhere, including on a long-shot donation of $1.25 million to President Trump’s campaign last year. When Mr. Trump unexpectedly won, that paid off for Mr. Thiel in a wide-ranging portfolio. Last month his top aide, Michael Kratsios, became the White House’s deputy chief technology officer.

Xero, which has 1,400 employees and customers in 180 countries, took a different path. Its goal is to turn accountants into “growth consultants,” becoming a platform that soars above national borders.

“Gay marriage, cultural tolerance, refugees, active strategies to address diversity — more than ever our leadership here is important,” Mr. Drury wrote in an email to his staff immediately after the election. He proposed setting a moral example by bringing “some refugee groups into our Wellington office.”

Continue reading the main story


From the Devonport ferry, passengers can get a view of downtown Auckland.CreditDavid Maurice Smith for The New York Times

A postelection arrival at Xero from the United States is Nick Piesco, 40, who was writing code for a start-up in Austin, Tex. “I’d say the timing is coincidental but fortuitous,” the programmer said of his move 7,437 miles west. Already he and his wife, Reneau Skinner, 39, are talking about becoming citizens.

“One of the things that attracted me to Xero was the culture — how they make people feel welcome,” Mr. Piesco said.

That means those barred from the United States under the new administration’s policies, or who think they might be, are ripe for recruitment, Mr. Drury said.

“Especially in the U.S. technology industry, where something like 50 percent of the billion-dollar companies have been built by immigrants, it’s nuts that you make it difficult for engineers to come in,” he said. “It’s crazy for us not to exploit that.”

The LookSee Wellington initiative to bring in 100 software engineers was initially focused on Americans. Then word began to spread. By the time the contest was finally cut off on March 30, India had overtaken the United States in applications.

“We’re in a global talent war,” said Chris Whelan, chief executive of the Economic Development Agency in Wellington.

Mr. Drury is already looking to make LookSee an annual affair. After all, it takes the expensive problem of recruitment off Xero’s hands and lets the government do it.

“It’s boom time for the next 10 years,” Mr. Drury said. The more immigrants, the better. “We’ll take a lot. We’ll take hundreds.”

Correction: April 14, 2017

An earlier version of this article misstated the surname of a local investor. He is Lance Wiggs, not Biggs.

Correction: April 14, 2017

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article attributed incorrectly a quotation about immigration and tech labor. It was Rod Drury, the chief executive of Xero who said, “It’s crazy for us not to exploit that,” not Nick Piesco.


In a single minute on the Internet…


How a picture talks like a thousand words – instant communication that makes you keep thinking on the subject


We're already living in the future. It's just not evenly distrbuted yet.

The JAY Group

Insight, observations, and opinions on everything about loyalty marketing.


Thoughts on "marketing to people" and polls to share opinions

Lexicon Blog

Thoughts and insights on name branding.

Calling All Storytellers...

The new social network, Medium, is the perfect place for you.

#SocialMedia #Marketing #Technology


Silicon Valley news about tech money and innovation

imagine change

Just another site


Your source for news, information & resources


Business Process Modeling Software

Jeffbullas's Blog

Just another site

Gods of Advertising

We make you want what you don't need.


Business Development & Offshore outsourcing

White Elephant in the Room

random insight from an unwanted houseguest

Tradesmen Insights

Marketing to the professional tradesman in the Construction, Industrial and MRO markets

%d bloggers like this: