Monday Mornings with Madison

Making the Most of LinkedIn – Part 1

Word Count: 1,451
Estimated Read Time: 5 min.

Leveraging LinkedIn to Supercharge your Career

Launched in 2003 and acquired by Microsoft in 2016, LinkedIn has grown into one of the premier professional social media websites in the world.  Of its current roughly 610 million users in over 200 countries, about a quarter of LinkedIn users — 146 million – are located in the U.S.[1] Keep in mind that of the 326 million people in the U.S., about 157 million are employed.  So one could deduce that most working people are on LinkedIn.  And for those wondering how many of those 610 million are “regular users”, note that LinkedIn has 260 million “monthly unique active users”.[2] That’s about 44%.  There’s no way to know how many of the active users are in the U.S. vs. the rest of the world, but one could speculate that the percentage of U.S. users is likely somewhat higher than those in other countries.  That means that probably at least half of all U.S. workers on active on LinkedIn every month.  That is a HUGE potential network. Continue reading

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Perception and Reality

Word Count: 1,387
Estimated Read Time: 5 ½ min.

Cambridge English Dictionary defines perception as a thought, belief, or opinion often held by many people and based on appearances.  So a perception is based on how things appear… how we ‘see’ them with our senses and interpret that information with our minds. However, what we perceive is not always fact.  Depending on the context, our interpretation of what we see can give an impression that is different from reality.  These can happen with or without malice or intent to deceive.

This happens a lot with design.  Something might be made to look either much bigger or much smaller depending on the context in which it is presented.  That would be considered an illusion, and there are many different kinds of illusions.   Here are some common ones.

The Delboeuf Illusion – is an optical effect related to relative size perception. If the same circle is placed inside two different concentric circles, its size will apparently vary.  This illusion is named after Franz Joseph Delboeuf, a Belgian philosopher, who first recognized the effect.  In the best-known example of the illusion, two circles of identical size are placed near each other.  One is surrounded by an annalus (or little ring) which is a region bounded by two concentric circles.  The surrounded circle then appears larger than the non-surrounded circle if the annulus is close, while appearing smaller than the non-surrounded circle if the annulus is distant. 

How might the Delboeuf Illusion be applied in business in a positive way?  One positive application might be for weight loss apps and programs.  The Delboeuf Illusion has been found to help people moderate how much food they put on their plate for a meal.  A 2014 study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that due to the Delboeuf illusion, participants overestimated the diameter of food on plates with wider rims compared with those with thinner rims.  And, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, in which researchers asked participants to serve themselves soup in bowls of different sizes, found that individuals poured more soup in larger bowls, on average, than in smaller bowls.  The researchers believed the Delboeuf Illusion explained the different behavior.  By advising clients to use smaller plates and bowls, weight loss apps could help clients put less food on their plates, thereby eating less and possibly reaching their target weight faster.

Now, how might the Delboeuf Illusion affect businesses and consumers in a negative way?  In the case of food packaging, the effect could be used to make something smaller seem bigger.  A decade ago, peanut butter manufacturers did just that… not with a circle but with a half-sphere or dimple.   In 2008, Skippy peanut butter added a "dimple" in the design of their jars.  Instead of having a flat bottom like any normal plastic jar, their jars were suddenly concave — denting inward. The weight of the jar, which had previously been 18oz, became 16.3oz. However, the price did not change.  The buyer received 9.44% less peanut butter.  Providing nearly 10% less peanut butter in one jar meant the buyer would run out sooner than usual, and buy it more frequently throughout the year without knowing why.  In quick succession, the rest of the major peanut butter manufacturers copied Skippy’s design dimple.  This is a classic example of the Delboeuf Illusion… making something that was smaller seem bigger by altering the space around it.[1]  This benefited manufacturers and grocery chains who had customers returning to the store more often.  It did not, however, benefit consumers or businesses that used peanut butter as part of what they provided to customers. 

Peanut butter manufacturers weren’t the only food packagers who made use of the Delboeuf Illusion.  In Priceless: The Hidden Psychology of Value, William Poundstone explained that consumers might switch peanut butter brands if the price went up, but did not switch brands if the jar shrunk but the price stayed the same.[2]  That would explain why, that same year, Kellogg also made thinner cereal boxes for brands such as Cocoa Krispies, Fruit Loops, and Apple Jacks.  However, they kept the width, height, and price the same.  The result is that no one really noticed.  There was no major public outcry.  Consumers did not examine the label to see how much food was in the box compared to before.  People trusted their eyes and the price seen over and over again.

The Ebbinghaus Illusion – Another common optical effect is the Ebbinghaus Illusion, also referred to as the Titchener circles.  This effect is related to relative size perception.  When two circles of identical size are placed near to each other, and one is surrounded by large circles while the other is surrounded by small circles, the result of the juxtaposition of the circles is that the central circle surrounded by large circles appears smaller than the central circle surrounded by small circles.  


This illusion was named after its discoverer, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850-1909).  However, it became well-known in the 20th century when Professor Edward Titchener added it to his 1901 experimental psychology textbook. 

There seems to be two critical factors involved in the perception of the Ebbinghaus illusion.  These are the distance of the surrounding circles from the central circle and the completeness of the annulus, similar to the Delboeuf Illusion.  Regardless of relative size, if the surrounding circles are closer to the central circle, the central circle appears larger and if the surrounding circles are far away, the central circle appears smaller. While the distance variable appears to be an active factor in the perception of relative size, the size of the surrounding circles limits how close they can be to the central circle.

The Ebbinghaus Illusion is often used in a negative way in TV and printed media advertising. In 2008 in the UK, a furniture store owner was told by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to withdraw his advertisement from TV broadcast because of the false impression it gave to the viewers about the true size of the sofa. DFS used green screen technology to manipulate the size of actors superimposed into the advertising video, which made the sofas placed next to the actors look larger than they really were. However, interventions by government entities in the U.S. and abroad on the grounds of an illegitimate use of Ebbinghaus Illusion in advertising is rare.  Advertisers get away with similarly blatant manipulation of product size for marketing purposes.  That said, the use of the Ebbinghaus Illusion is not limited to marketing.

Also, it has been used in a positive way by companies to reflect the value of money.  The perceived value of money is determined by the comparison between the subject (money) and the anchor or context in which a valuation takes place. Therefore, the perceived value of money can be affected by influencing the context in which the valuation takes place. For example, a brand-name purse priced at $100 might seem expensive in a suburb of Newark.  But, if that same purse were sold in Manhattan, then it might seem like a bargain if found at a shop on Fifth Avenue.

Perception versus Reality
Given that what we see, hear and read in the world is just a perception – one that can be distorted by our own experiences, thinking errors and optical illusions of which we are likely not aware – then leaders must careful with the decisions they make based on what seems to be real.  The key is to seek other validation that confirms that what seems real is in fact true.  As companies look to shape perception of their own brand and make business decisions based on perceptions, the key is to dig a little deeper – and look beyond the surface – to validate if the perception is reality.  After all, things are not always what they seem.

Case in point.  Recently, Kathryn Minshew, CEO of The Muse – a career platform and job discovery tool serving more than 5 million professionals — said “People actually aren’t moving on from companies much more quickly than in the past, but there’s a perception that they do, so companies are investing less in talent on the assumption that young employees won’t stay long.”  The perception of high Millennial turnover is causing companies to invest less in people, which could in turn increase turnover thereby turning a perception that was not true into an unfortunate reality. 

Quote of the Week
"Your opinion is your opinion, your perception is your perception – do not confuse them with “facts” or “truth”.  Wars have been fought and millions have been killed because of the inability of men to understand the idea that EVERYBODY has a different viewpoint." John Moore

[1]September 28. 2016, Lee Breslouer, You’re Getting Cheated Out of Peanut Butter, Thrillist,

[2] Poundstone, William, The Hidden Psychology of Value, Published by Oneworld Publications, 2010.

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Beware the Dangers of the False Consensus Effect on Business

Word Count: 1,504
Estimated Read Time: 6 min.

False Consensus Effect

Everyone has certain thinking errors or biases.  A common one is dubbed False Consensus Effect.  That’s when people overestimate the degree to which their own behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and viewpoints are shared by others.  Basically, a person will think ‘I believe this is so and I believe most other people also believe the same thing’ or ‘I dislike something so I think most other people also dislike the same thing.’ Continue reading

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How to Handle Mistakes at Work

Word Count: 1,794
Estimated Read Time: 7 min.

Imagine this scenario.  Bob, a good employee, messed up a transaction/job/task/project.  It was an honest mistake.  Those happen to people in every job title, at every level and in every industry.  From chefs to cashiers and from deliverymen to doctors, people make mistakes.  It is why they put erasers on pencils.  But, this particular mistake affected customers and coworkers, and created a safety hazard.  (When doctors and pharmacists make mistakes, those can even put people’s lives at risk.)  Mistakes happen but those mistakes can also have serious repercussions.  Now what? Continue reading

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Increase Your Brand’s Stickiness

Word Count: 1,225
Estimated Read Time: 5 min.

At the very least, every entrepreneur wants his company’s products and services to be known and remembered.  But, there is so much noise in the market place — promotional clatter, advertising din, sales racket and marketing roar — that it may seem pert near impossible to be heard.  How can anyone hear anything with such constant commotion begging for each person’s attention?  It definitely makes it hard for consumers to remember specific messages. In an ocean of noise, it can be a challenge to retain a new concept or idea for more than a moment.   Very little sticks.  Consumers have learned to shut it out.  There is just too much information competing for their attention.  Ironically, the noise causes businesses to raise their volume and increase the frequency of their blare hoping to be noticed.  It becomes a vicious cycle that feeds on its own ineffectiveness. Continue reading

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Want To Make a Business Blossom? Encourage Laughter!

Word Count: 1,356
Estimated Read Time: 5 1/2 min.

Laughing feels good.  From a sly snicker to a hearty chuckle, laughing can be refreshing.  A good ole’ from-the-gut guffaw can wash away worries.  A head-turning belly laugh can clear away mental cobwebs.  And a tear-emitting, sidesplitting, torso-shaking laugh can flood the body with a tidal wave of endorphins.  Laughter is good for the mind, body and soul.   In fact, Lord Byron said, “Always laugh when you can.  It is cheap medicine.” Continue reading

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Controlling your First and Last Hour of the Day to Amp Up Productivity

Word Count: 1,750
Estimated Read Time: 7 min.

Some of the most prolific workaholics in the U.S. – people famous for it like Jeff Bezos, Mark Cuban, Elon Musk, and Oprah Winfrey — work an average of 12-14 hours a day which comes to a max of about 3,750 hours a year (12 hours a day, six days a week, every single week of the year).  According to an article in Professional Athletes Foundation this year, “Musk infamously blocks his day in five-minute increments, which also includes inhaling lunch. His 85- to 100-hour work weeks are split between Mondays and Fridays at SpaceX in Los Angeles and Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at Tesla in the Bay Area. It’s unclear when he makes time for his other projects, including The Boring Company and OpenAI.  Musk doesn’t take phone calls, instead only responding to email.”[1] Continue reading

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How to Increase Work Excellence, Part 2

Word Count: 1,434
Estimated Read Time: 6 min.

Organizations everywhere – from the smallest mom-n-pop shops to the largest, multi-national corporations and government entities– want efficient, effective and accomplished workers.  They want every employee to excel at what they do.  In a dog-eat-dog marketplace, employees who bring their A-Game every day and produce the highest-caliber work separate and elevate companies that are thriving and transforming the world from those who are just barely getting by or keeping up.   So, organizations are always highly focused on how to get excellent work from every employee every day.  At most companies, big or small, the approach has been to hire, reward and promote employees who perform best. Continue reading

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How to Increase Work Excellence, Part 1

Word Count: 1,323
Estimated Read Time: 5 ½ min.

According to Publishers Weekly, 15,473 business books were published in the U.S. in 2013 and 16,604 were published in 2014.[1] At that pace, there have been over 300,000 business books published in the last two decades in just the U.S. alone.  More than half of them were focused on human resources and productivity issues…  recruiting, hiring, training, and managing people in order to generate an excellent work product.  There is a profound desire to know the best way to help employees do their best work possible.   And, there has been a lot of scientific research in this area.   That’s because organizations everywhere – whether for profit, not-for-profit or even charitable – want to have the most efficient, effective and accomplished workforce.  They need employees to produce first-rate work just to stay competitive.  This is true regardless of industry or sector.  From athletes playing a professional sport to the surgeons operating on patients to programmers writing complex algorithms, we want people to do excellent work. Continue reading

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The Halo Effect in Business and Brands, Part 2

How the Halo Effect Impacts Business and Brands

The “Halo Effect,” a cognitive bias in which one person’s overall impression is influenced by assumptions based on unrelated, concrete information.   If a person likes one aspect of something, he tends to be predisposed to think positively about other aspects of it, even if they’re totally unrelated.   For example, Amazon offers a convenient way to order products online.  Therefore, Amazon is awesome and features the lowest prices.  It is the tendency to judge something (a person, place or thing) through the filter of a single, narrow perception.  And then, perception becomes reality. Continue reading

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