The True Measures of Success

Harvard Business Review • October 2012

Answering the right questions. As Michael Lewis demonstrated in Moneyball, organizations can easily get off track by using wrong metrics to support decision making or validate success. Check out investment strategist Michael Mauboussin's advice on how to avoid the pitfalls of overconfidence and "we've always done it this way" syndrome.

A litany of the biases we allow to shape our choice of metrics and the deployment of statistical analyses—availability bias, overconfidence, etc. The authors suggest a blank slate approach that begins with the definition of your governing objective. The difficulty in finding the meaningful connection of library objectives to the governing objectives of home institutions is one of the foundational challenges in all library assessment activities. (Michalko)

The Survival of the Fittists

American Scientist • September-October 2012

Repeat after me. The cornerstone of scientific research validity is replicability, but the expense and time required—not to mention the lack of prestige in merely reproducing someone else's findings—have stacked the deck against robust results. Check out this critique of current scientific literature for insight into why it "is littered with an embarrassing number of remarkable results that were later shown to be anomalous," and beware that latest scientific breakthrough.

Some good examples that kept me reading—imagine if we had used modern scientific methods to "test the efficacy of using leeches to draw blood"—and an introduction to the "Tower of Babel bias" with which I was unfamiliar. My favorite takeaway is a quotation from Julian Jaynes, "[Psychology] is less like a mountain than a huge entangled forest in full shining summer, so easy to walk through on certain levels, that anyone can and everyone does." True of the humanities generally? Discuss. (Michalko)

Leave the Thinking to Us

Times Higher Education • 30 August 2012

The algorithmic academy. A recent flurry of articles has highlighted ways that sophisticated algorithms are supplanting human decision-making in fields ranging from financial investment to bioinformatics. Now University of York sociologist David Beer sounds a wake-up call for the academic research community, warning that "the ease of researching in a world where the research materials 'find' us" could also spell profound changes in funding and collection decisions.

Speaking of cognitive biases, recommender systems must breed and feed a bunch of them. And there's plenty be had, he said, exercising his very own bias blind spot. (Michalko)

Don't Look for Inventions Before Their Time

The Wall Street Journal • 14 September 2012

Timing is everything. Check out journalist Matt Ridley's musings on the phenomenon of multiple discovery (think Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace on natural selection). "Invention is incremental rather than revolutionary, inevitable rather than idiosyncratic, and it emerges unplanned from the cross-fertilization of ideas." Great ideas like the can opener and roll-aboard luggage evolved decades after the widespread adoption of the can and air travel; the next bold innovation may be percolating out there right now.

I'm persuaded about incrementality in invention. But some things are just made and stay that way. Check out some of them in my favorite New York Times Magazine feature "Who Made That (fill in the blank)?" (Michalko)

Why Do People Share?

The Content Economy • 17 September 2012

Spreading the word. People are motivated to share information for a variety of reasons, including a desire to self-reveal and build trust with others. "The act of sharing something tells our colleagues something about us and that we think and care about what they might be interested in," writes blogger Oscar Berg. Cultural communities are natural sharers—wouldn't it be nice if every organization encouraged and supported information dissemination?

In some settings recognition seems to be an important driver. In our world of social media that seems to be the crucial component of establishing a personal brand. My colleague, Lorcan Dempsey, has been giving this some thought and recently shared a presentation titled "Managing our online profersonal lives" that is worth your attention. (Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, what are the top 10 most requested monographs through WorldCat Resource Sharing?

Get the answer.