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How Do We Fix It?

Have fun figuring out fixes to real-world problems. Join Richard Davies (ABC News) and Jim Meigs (Popular Mechanics) in their playful search for solutions as they challenge authors, experts and provocateurs. Guests include Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs" fame, Lenore Skenazy, founder of "Free Range Kids" and CNBC host, Farnoosh Torabi. Shows on parenting, climate change, politics, neuroscience, human behavior and more. "How Do We Fix It," - a repair manual for the real world. Produced by DaviesContent.
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Oct 26, 2016

"There are genuine emotional benefits when we connect with strangers," says our guest, Kio Stark. These fleeting interactions are important interruptions in the steady routine of our lives. "They bring connectedness and belonging."

Kio is the author of "When Strangers Meet: How People You Don't Know Can Transform You."  Her popular TED Talk has received more than 1,450,000 views. "My own interactions with strangers resonate with meaning for me," she writes in her book. "You find questions whose answers you thought you knew. You reject the ideas that make us so suspicious of each other."

"We live in pretty insular ways," Kio tells us in this episode of "How Do We Fix It?"  "When you talk to somebody who is different than you, you are forced to see this person as an individual in a way that you wouldn't have done before." 

This speaks to our divided politics at a time when it is often far to easy to vilify people we don't agree with.  Being more open to people of different races, social class and age groups can open us up to surprising moments of pleasure and transformative possibilities. 

Kio explains how shy, frightened or suspicious people can benefit from being more open to briefly allowing strangers into their lives.  We discuss how dogs and babies can make it easier to speak with people you don't know.

"There's an amazing power in being seen.  We live in cities we don't see each other," Kio tells us.  "When you are seen, when you notice someone is acknowledging you it's a momentary bond."

Oct 19, 2016
#74 Fixes for Philanthropy: Why Some Nonprofits Work Better Than Others: Jennifer McCrea

Do you believe you can make a difference?  What improvements to the world have been made by nonprofit organizations?  What lessons have been learnt by philanthropists about delivering services and furthering their cause?

These and many more questions are answered here by our guest, Jennifer McCrea.  She's a leading global expert on giving and fundraising.  Jennifer works to transform the practice of philanthropy She discusses her important work with the Born Free Africa collaborative, which works for the eradication of mother-to-child transmission of H.I.V.

"While of course we have to get money moving in support of the work we are doing," Jennifer tells us, "it's not about money at the center of the relationship."

In her course at Harvard University, Jennifer has worked with leaders from the nonprofit and social enterprise sectors to improve their organizations results from fundraising.

"I keep the work itself at the center of the relationship and money just becomes the gas that goes in the car."  Philanthropists need to avoid "a begging bowl mentality," she says.

Solutions:
- Philanthropic groups need to be collaborative, working in concert with other organizations in their space. 
- Transparency and learning from those who these groups are trying to help should be part of their DNA. 
- For those of us who give money to nonprofits, sign up for more than donations. Be part of their cause. Monitor their mission.

- In our personal lives, when someone needs our help, listen openly and don’t always try to fix their problems.

Oct 12, 2016
Fix It Shorts #6: Election 2016: The Problem is Us. We The Voters

The news media have bombarded us with stories about the candidates, the contest and - to a lesser extent - the crucial issues America faces as people vote for the next President.

This podcast is about the voters.

We went back to four past episodes of "How Do We Fix It?" pulling extracts about how we make decisions and why the information that you and I receive from internet search engines and other sources may be radically different than the news and views our friends and neighbors are hearing.  

On episode 24 podcast host and author David McRaney told us "we are not so smart," using confirmation bias as a defining example. "It would do us all good to actually think what are we wrong about," said David, who argues in favor of challenging our own personal biases. "Whenever you have an understanding of something, create an alternate explanation."

Psychologist Robert Epstein joined us on episode 11 to discuss whether Google is too powerful for our democracy. The former Editor-in-Chief of "Psychology Today" has done extensive research on Google's search rankings and algorithms. "There is a problem is the monopoly in search" that Google holds in most of the world, Robert said. "They're customizing what people see." 

Search rankings can have a big influence on how people vote. We are not getting challenged by ideas that we haven't heard before.

Joan Blades of Living Room Conversations aims to bring people together.  A progressive herself, Joan has engaged with evangelical conservatives and leaders of the tea party in lively, but respectful dialog about climate change, criminal justice reform and other questions. 

"We've become increasingly divided," Joan told us on episode 43. "We don't even share the same facts." Joan explained some of the ground rules of having conversations with those you disagree with. 

This brief "Fix It Shorts" podcast also features John Gable of AllSides. This news website puts stories from different sources next to each other -  columns from left, right and center-leaning news newspapers and online sites. 

"We want people to be able to see quickly the differences," John said in episode 49. "What we started doing with All Sides is breaking that filter bubble."

Oct 5, 2016
#72 How to Reduce Cyclist and Pedestrian Deaths: Nicole Gelinas

“Vision Zero” is the highly ambitious plan put in place two years ago by New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio. The goal: no traffic deaths by 2024. 

America's largest city is nowhere near reducing fatal crashes to zero, but great progress has been made since 1990.  "The good news is that we've gone from 701 deaths back then to an average of 245 deaths a year under the de Blasio Administration," says urban economics and transportation researcher Nicole Gelinas in this "Fix It" episode.

Nicole is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. She writes for City Journal, The Washington Post, LA Times and a bunch of other publications.

In this show we look at why so many pedestrians and bicycle riders are killed on the streets of U.S. cities and what we can learn from safety initiatives in Sweden and elsewhere.

The bad news is that New York is far safer than almost every other American city. 

"You're three times more like to be killed in Atlanta whether you're in a car or walking - and you're two times more likely to be killed in LA," says Nicole.

We also learn the lessons of the Times Square traffic and pedestrian redevelopment initiative and why it turned critics into fans.  During our show Nicole Gelinas unpacks surprising research on the pros and cons of wearing bicycle helmets on busy urban streets. 

Solutions:

  • Data shows that redesigning streets to slow down and calm traffic is the best way to prevent injuries and deaths.
  • Lower speed limits, especially in dense urban areas.
  • Invest in a comprehensive mass transit system, which will reduce crashes and improves the quality of life for city residents.
  • The old adage, safety in numbers is true when it comes to biking in traffic: bicyclists are safer when they ride in a group.
  • Cyclists should always wear lights to make themselves as visible as possible to motorists. 
Sep 28, 2016
#71 Electile Dysfunction: A Cure For Our Campaign: Alan Dershowitz

Electile Dysfunction (is), “a terrible pun plus insightful commentary" is how TV host and wit Seth Myers describes" the new book by Professor Alan Dershowitz.

Dershowitz became a professor at Harvard Law when he was 25 years old. In his long and distinguished career, Newsweek described Dershowitz as "the nation's most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer and one of its most distinguished defenders of individual rights." We recorded this episode of "How Do We Fix It?" at his Manhattan home. "Electile Dysfunction" is his 35th book.  

Voters are anxious, frustrated and they feel impotent. In this show we look at the strangest political campaign of our lifetime and what can be done to improve the way we elect Presidents.

We are not alone in facing a threat to our democracy.  "I'm afraid of what's going on in Europe today and what's going in the United States may reflect a trend rather than a pendulum swing," Alan Dershowitz tells us. "A trend toward extremes and we have to fight back."

Jim, Richard and Dershowitz discuss the rise of extremism on the right and left, the threat to free speech on college campuses and the virtue of compromise.

"I think centrist liberals and centrist conservatives have to get together and take back the center and stop the alt right from taking over the Republican Party and the alt left from taking over the Democratic Party," says Professor Dershowitz.

We look at solutions:

- A voter's Presidential checklist. Before voting, weigh where the candidates stand on the most important issues - from who will best protect us from terrorism to who will keep America's economy strong and produce more stability.
- Shortening the nation's extremely long Presidential campaign with one national primary day in June, weeks before the party conventions.
- Reducing the destructive power of the media to hype conflict and obscure the electorate's understanding of vital issues.

- Encouraging free speech and open dialog that is now under threat at leading colleges and universities.

Sep 21, 2016
#70 Migrants and Refugees: Our Response to a Global Crisis. Leonard Doyle

Too often, migrants and refugees are viewed as "other" - not like us. In recent days Donald Trump Jr. compared the Syrian refugee problem to a bowl of Skittles

In this episode, Leonard Doyle of the International Organization for Migration walks us through the worldwide crisis of tens of millions of displaced people, from families fleeing from war and terrorism to young men and women who overstay their visas in search of a better life.  We look at the definitions of these terms - so often glossed over in our discussions of the crisis.

Using personal stories and speaking from years of experience working with migrants, Leonard makes a powerful case for all of us to see migrants as people like ourselves. This is the first small step we can take in responding immense humanitarian challenge.

"When you say the word 'migrant' people tend to have an image in their head,"  Leonard tells us.  That may be a negative image "because there is so much toxic discourse about them from our quite opportunistic political leaders." 

Established in 1951, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has offices in more than 100 nations and works with governments and non-governmental organizations to promote humane and orderly migration, for the benefit of all.

The movement of peoples from much of Africa, West Asia and The Middle East “is the global phenomenon of our time," says Leonard. "It's kind of the last flick of the globalization monster in a way.  We had free trade in global goods and services. This is the bit they didn't plan very well... But people aren't stupid. They watch television and see a better lifestyle happening somewhere else. We've kind of empowered them with our globalized media and globalized trade."

A summit of world leaders at The United Nations this week put the migrant crisis more firmly on the global agenda. In his address to the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama called the refugee and migrant crisis "a test of our humanity."

This episode also considers the views of voters in the U.S. and other nations who are fearful that the rising numbers of immigrants from nations with distinctly different cultures could lead to lower wages, rising unemployment and higher crime.  Dismissing or marginalizing their concerns can lead to to populist anti-immigrant rage.

Join Richard, Jim and Leonard for a lively and often moving conversation. 

Sep 14, 2016
#69 Why Economic Growth Is Slowing Down: Ruchir Sharma

Get ready for slower economic growth and de-globalization, says investor and writer Ruchir Sharma.

Ruchir invited us to his New York office, where he is the head of emerging markets and chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management. He is also the author of "The Rise and Fall of Nations: Forces of Change in the Post-Crisis World."

Our interview looks at Ruchir's rules for spotting political, economic and social change. They include:

  • The depopulation bomb: If the working population shrinks, so does the economy.
  • Good versus bad billionaires: Wealth inequality is exploding, but some types of tycoons are viewed very differently than others.
  • The curse of the cover story: Ruchir looked at every Time Magazine cover on the economy going back to 1980. If the cover was downbeat the economy grew faster 55% of the time. If it was upbeat, the economy slowed 66% in the following years.
  • Why democratic capitalism beats the Chinese brand: Postwar booms in democratic nations were usually stronger and longer than under authoritarian regimes.

"What's very apparent and under-appreciated is the major drop off that we've seen in the world's working age population growth rate," Ruchir tells us. "I think that is a major drag on global economic growth currently."

Sep 7, 2016
#68 How Gratitude Can Transform Your Life - Janice Kaplan

On New Year's Eve, journalist and former Parade Editor-in-Chief Janice Kaplan made a promise to herself to be grateful during the coming year and look on the bright side of whatever happens.

As we find out in this episode, it made a big difference to her life. Janice discovered that how she feels has less to do with events than with her own attitude and perspective on life.

Her recent book "The Gratitude Diaries" began after a survey she had done found that 94% of Americans thought people who are grateful live richer lives.  But less than half those surveyed say they practiced gratitude on any regular basis. 

"It struck me that we have this great big gratitude gap," Janice tells us on "How Do We Fix It?" If we change our attitude, she says, "we're going to be a lot happier."

Solutions:

- Say thanks to someone you love. It's easy to forget to appreciate your partner and your family. But the daily practice of saying something positive can transform almost any relationship.
-Gratitude is an attitude, but it's also a daily practice. Each day write down something that you are grateful for.
- Express gratitude at work. Many of us feel unappreciated at work, but we can change that for ourselves and our colleagues.  The start of the work week is a great time to tell fellow workers that they matter to you. 
- At family dinners or when you are putting your kids to sleep at night, ask your kids what they were grateful for today. This can become part of what families do and how they think about their lives.

Sep 1, 2016

How much do you know about money?  Many of us make simple mistakes that cost us hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year.

According to a recent study by The FINRA Investor Education Foundation, only 37% of Americans have high financial literacy. 29% of 18-34 year-olds with a mortgage have been late with a monthly payment and more than one in four people use high-cost forms of borrowing like pawn shops and payday loans.    
 
And even worse, many of us think we know much more about personal finance than we do.
 
In this episode we have simple fixes for money mistakes.  Our guest, ABC News Chief Business, Technology and Economics Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis, explains how a few simple steps will improve our chances of staying out debt and avoiding scams.  
 
"One of the things that drives me nuts is the number of charlatans out there who are selling products saying it can't lose it can't fail you're going to make money no matter what, " Rebecca tells us.  "Anyone who tells you that... run in the opposite direction." 
 
Solutions:
 
- Never use credit cards to borrow money.  Most have very high interest rates.
- Understand why compound interest hurts borrowers and helps savers.
- Fix it and forget it: How everyday habits automatic saving - putting a small amount of money away each week - can lead to a secure retirement.
- How employers can help workers to save money.
- Why better financial education should be a priority for schools and colleges. 
 
Useful websites:  Mint Quicken and other websites can help you with a weekly budget. Betterment and Wealthfront are savings and investment sites. Blooomoffers advice about how to improve the rate of return on 401k and other retirement savings funds.
Aug 24, 2016
#66 Moms Clean Air Force: Gretchen Dahlkemper

From "nap-time activists" and mommy bloggers to a "stroller march" on Washington, Moms Clean Air Force is using creative and highly effective ways to advance their cause to get dangerous pollutants out of the air. 

In this "How Do We Fix It?" episode we speak about solutions with the group's National Field Director, Gretchen Dahlkemper, a Pennsylvania mom who became an activist - fired up about the threat to her children's health.  Her daughter has asthma. So for her this campaign is personal. 

"I think the more that we connect the average citizen with their elected officials, the better off our entire system is going to be," says Gretchen. "We have forgotten that we can pick up the phone and call our elected officials."

Moms Clean Air Force fights back against climate change, fossil fuel, methane leaks and other issues that cause health problems. But this movement of mothers is about more than the environment and childrens' health.  It's also a way of revitalizing our democracy. 

"That to me is one of the key solutions to eliminating this huge partisan divide that we're seeing in the country right now," says Gretchen.

Aug 17, 2016

Following on from our recent episodes about high schools and  playdates, this week we explore children's learning, technology and play with three "How DO We Fix It?" guests. 

Science evangelist Ainissa Ramirez explains why all young kids are fascinated by science.  But school often gets in the way of exploration and curiosity. Ainissa explains how parents and other caregivers can spark interest in science.

Psychology professor Abigail Baird shares insights and tips for parents about a healthy balance between computers, mobile devices and children's play.  Toy industry and play consultant Richard Gottlieb has creative and - yes - playful ideas about technology, behavior and learning. 

Aug 10, 2016
#64 A Texas City Aims to Fix Its Health Care Emergency: Dr. Rose Gowen

The obesity rate is 52% in Brownsville, Texas - far higher than the national average.  Nearly one in three residents has diabetes - three times the rate elsewhere.  Brownsville also has a very high rate of poverty where more half the residents are not covered by health insurance.

This city and other largely hispanic communities along the U.S. - Mexico border are facing a health emergency.

Brownsville decided to tackle the crisis head on, with an innovative mix of public initiatives - including a new farmer's market, many miles of bike lanes, changes to zoning regulations, and a community-wide health challenge. 

Our guest is obstetrician-gynecologist, Rose Gowen, a City Commissioner in Brownsville. We hear her personal story and what Brownsville is doing to transform itself into a more active, prosperous and healthy community.

"We have found here that even in the poorest among us they want to feel better and they want better for their family and they're willing to listen to options and ideas,"  says Rose.

 "The difference that we've made is huge."

Aug 3, 2016
#63 Do Playdates Reinforce Class Divisions? Tamara Mose How Do We Fix It

Remember when kids were allowed to play, usually without supervision, when did that change? When did play turn into a playdate?

Today many parents organize playdates. Play is arranged, supervised and has the parental seal of approval. 

"I think we could add more diversity into how our children play with other children,"says our guest, Tamara Mose, Associate Professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College. 

Tamara is the author of the new book "The Playdate: Parents, Children and the New Expectations of Play"  

In this episode we look at how the shift to structured playdates reflects changes in parenting and class.  

"Let's listen to our children's desires," Tamara urges parents. "I think we've lost the ability to do that because we're so afraid of everything our children interacts with.'

We discuss other solutions, including tips for successful playdates and being open a greater range of children from diverse backgrounds.

Jul 27, 2016
Fix It Shorts #4: Why Hacking & Online Attacks Threaten All of Us: Adam Levin Inbox x

The release of nearly 19,000 e-mails from the Democratic National Committee rocked party leaders and forced the resignation of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

We look at how this happened, why Russia was probably involved and how many other organizations, businesses and government agencies are at risk of cyber break-ins.

Adam Levin, co-founder of Credit.com and the online security firm IDT911 says the power grid and financial system are at risk.  He warns of a possible "Cyber-geddon."

In this episode of "Fix It Shorts" Adam tells Richard and Jim how all of us can reduce our threat of identity theft and hacking attacks.

Adam Levin is a well-known expert on identity theft and credit and the author of "SWIPED: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers and Identity Thieves."

Jul 20, 2016

Improving America's high schools is an exceptionally complex and difficult task. But all across the country the most enlightened educators are working to narrow the gap between student achievement and the needs of an evolving workplace.
 
Our guest, Liz Willen, is editor-in-chief of the groundbreaking  Hechinger Report. Using solutions journalism, data, stories and research from classrooms and campuses, Hechinger looks at how education can be improved and why it matters.
 
"The best high schools, whether they're charter or public, to me have a sense of purpose: A central idea and a team working together," Liz tells us in this episode of "How Do We Fix It?"
 
But there are scores of barriers to providing children with the education they need to succeed in later life.  This learning gap between where we are and where the country needs to be is one reason why so many Americans feel disillusioned about the future. 
 
"Kids are coming out of the high schools not ready for the jobs that are going to be available and often not ready for college level work."
 
⁃  How can we improve our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) instruction? Half of all U.S. high schools do not offer calculus. Only 63% have courses in physics. These are 2 concrete solutions:
 
1. The Woodrow Wilson Foundation offers a teaching fellowship for people who have a background in STEM and would like to teach in “high-need” secondary schools.
 
2. P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) is a partnership between IBM and the City University of New York. Students are taught core subjects as well as computer science. Graduates complete 2 years of college work. After graduation, alumni have the opportunity to get a job with IBM. P-TECH will be opening another 25 high schools over the next 3 years, stay tuned.
 
⁃  Why project-based learning can boost achievement and lead to greater engagement among high school students.
⁃  The need for more guidance counselors to help kids with psychological, social and academic issues.
⁃  The importance of role models in schools that struggle with violence and high drop out rates. 

We also learn a fundamental lesson: Why one-size-fits-all solutions usually don't work.

Jul 13, 2016
#60 Our World is Too Impersonal: How Do We Fix It?
When is the last time that you called a big company or government agency and a human being answered the phone?
 
From big data, complex algorithms and giant corporations to massive government bureaucracy, the everyday life can seem increasingly impersonal.  
 
Our guest, Steve Hilton, argues for radical change.  The former senior policy advisor to ex-British Prime Minister David Cameron has written "More Human: Designing a World Where People Come First."  The book is a clarion call for reform of government, law, education, welfare and business systems. 
 
"I think one of the most destructive and damaging words in the entire world right now both in government and the private sector is efficiency, " Steve tells us in this episode. "In the name of efficiency really stupid and inhuman things are often done."
 
Find out what he's talking about and what fixes he has in mind...
 
We also interviewed Hilton about Brexit, to listen to that interview click here.
Jul 6, 2016
#59 Our Problem With Polls. Gary Langer: How Do We Fix It?

Are opinion polls accurate?  Did they miss the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders?  Do they properly measure America's increasingly sharp political and cultural divisions?  What's the difference between a well-designed poll conducted with careful methodology and a sloppy opt-in online survey?

Our guest is Gary Langer, an internationally recognized opinion researcher and longtime director of polling at ABC News. He has overseen and analyzed more than 750 surveys on a broad range of topics.

Gary has a passion for numbers and explains what listeners should know about polls.  He tells us that surveys taken at least a year ago - when many pundits dismissed Trump as an outlier - clearly showed that his views on banning oversees Muslim visitors and building a wall along border with Mexico had substantial support among Republican voters. Trump led the  GOP field throughout the lead-up to the primary season.  

"The news media have for far too long indulged themselves in the lazy luxury of being both data hungry and math phobic," Gary tells us.  "I would suggest polls are anti-pundit. A good quality poll ... holds a pundit's feet to the fire "

In this episode we get some vital takeaways on how well researched randomized polls are conducted and what changes have been made recently to ensure that a representative sample is reached.
Jun 29, 2016
#58 How To Be Smarter About Risk: Karen Firestone

This show may very well save you money, boost your career and help you make smarter decisions.  

It's about risk.
 
Our guest is Karen Firestone - author of the new book “Even The Odds - Sensible Risk Taking in Business Investing and Life."  She is President and CEO, of Aureus Asset Management, an asset management firm she cofounded after 22 years as a fund manager and research analyst at Fidelity Investments. Karen is a contributor to the Harvard Business Review blog.
 
"I think that sensible risk taking is something that we should all think more about," says Karen. She argues that most of us are too gullible.  "It's more fun to be enthusiastic and positive about the outcome of something that involves some risk than be pessimistic and skeptical."
 
Karen shares her personal stories and knowledge about investments, starting a firm, changing careers, surviving in the workplace and raising kids.  
 
Karen's four principles of risk taking:
 
  • Right-sizing. Consider how big the risk is before you commit to a decision. 
  • Right timing. Is this the right time to change your lifestyle or career?  For instance, don't open an ice-cream shop in November!
  • Relying on knowledge and experience. Know as much as you can about the risk you are taking.
  • Remaining skeptical about promises and projections. "If you show up at a blackjack table and you don't know how to play, you are going to be out of money in five minutes."

 

Jun 17, 2016
Fix It Shorts #3: Should Britain Vote to Leave the European Union?: Steve Hilton

Would Britain face lasting economic and political harm if it votes to quit the European Union in June 23rd's referendum?  Our show looks at the case for Brexit.

Steve Hilton, one of David Cameron's closest friends and a former senior political advisor to the Prime Minister, is a leading member of the Vote Leave campaign.  He tells us in this episode that a bureaucratic, over-centralized EU has become far too entangled in British life and is incapable of reform.
 
Richard and Jim disagree on the best outcome for Britain and Europe.  They discuss some of the arguments for and against.
 
Note: This episode was recorded shortly before Thursday's tragic murder of British MP, JO Cox. Several campaign events were cancelled after the attack. 
Jun 15, 2016

How many times have heard somebody say that the political campaign has reached a new low?  How much worse is the 2016 race compared to previous elections?

We asked Princeton University Professor, Sean Wilentz, to give us a history lesson.

In his latest book, "The Politicians and the Egalitarians" Sean makes the case for pragmatism, arguing that politicians serve the country best through the art of compromise. 

On this episode, he tells us that "nasty, slimy stuff" is nothing new in Presidential campaigns, using the wild rhetoric of 1828 and 1860 as examples.  But what is new this year, Sean argues, is hyper-partisanship, "where you cannot imagine the other side even existing. You want to obliterate them. You want to wipe them off the face of the earth." 

The SOLUTIONS start with us.

How we talk about those we disagree with.  Are you gleefully vilifying the opposition?

  • Go beyond our information silos.  Read and listen to those we disagree with.allsides.com has daily examples, looking at the news from the left, right and center. Follow journalists who cover solutions.
  • Revitalize civil discourse. If you have a strong disagreement with friends or neighbors, consider setting up a living room conversation.  

Useful articles: "What The Decline of Partisanship Would Look Like" and"How Conservatives and Progressives Will Work Together Next Year."

Jun 8, 2016
#55 Fixing Our Habits: Smarter, Faster, Better

This podcast is all about how to have better habits and use them to be more productive in our projects, careers and everyday lives.  

We talk about to-do lists, email, mental models and making the most of our time with best-selling author,Charles Duhigg.  His latest book is "Smarter, Faster, Better:  The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and In Business."  Charles is also the author of "The Power of Habit."

"Keeping your eye on that thing that matters most to you is the secret to success," Charles tells us.  "We need a mental model: a story we tell ourselves about how we expect our day to unfold."
 
Whether it's the importance of stretch and smart goals or our need to get out a rut or shed bad habits, this fun episode has smart solutions for all of us. Building on cutting-edge science and deep reporting, Charles uses storytelling to explain how productivity relies on making smart choices. 
 
Just one example: "We can turn a to-do list from a memory aid into a device that forces us to think a little bit more deeply about our priorities." Find more on this episode. 
 
Cynicism is a poverty of curiosity and imagination and ambition. -- Maria Popova. of BrainPickings
 
During their conversation in this episode, Richard and Jim mention the inspirational commencement address byMaria Popova - curator of brainpickings.org -  on the soul-sustaining necessity of resisting self-comparison and fighting cynicism.  
 
possible tabs: habits, author, solutions journalism, podcasting
Jun 1, 2016
#54 Medical Mistakes: The 3rd Largest Cause of Death. How Do We Fix It?

Medical errors are America's third largest cause of death. Only heart disease and cancer have a higher body count. 

 
A new report estimates that about 250,000 Americans die each year because of screw-ups in hospitals, doctors' offices and other medical settings.  In 2013, research by NASA's chief toxicologist put the number at as many as 440,000.
 
In this episode of "How Do We Fix It?", Pittsburgh-based lawyer James Lieber brings a passion for practical solutions to a widespread problem. James has spent more than a decade researching medical errors after his friend and mentor died from a prescription overdose following a lung transplant. Last month, his provocative and practical op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, "How To Make Hospitals Less Deadly", caught our attention. (Note: readers can get behind the Journal's paywall by pasting the link at news.google.com).
 
His recent book is "Killer Care: How Medical Error Became America's Third Largest Cause of Death, And What Can Be Done About It" 
 
Solutions: 
 
  • Standard medical records.  All medical information about a patient should be available in the exam room with a few clicks. Despite efforts by Congress and the Obama Administration to reach this goal, many online medical records are on closed systems, unavailable to hospitals and doctors when they need them most. 
 
  • Structured handoffs. Miscommunication can happen during shift changes in hospitals or when a patient is transferred to a new room or different section of the hospital. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine suggested adverse events could be reduced 30% by structured handoffs.
 
  • Bring in pharmacists. In many cases, they have more up-to-date knowledge than doctors about how drugs interact with diet, age, disease and each other.
 
 
  • Reduce diagnostic error.  Improve communications between doctors, surgeons, nurses, pathologists and radiologists.
 
 
 
May 25, 2016
It's the biggest issue of the Presidential campaign that the candidates are not talking about: bloated government and the poor delivery of services.
 
From very long TSA airport security lines to the dysfunction at your local DMV, our interactions with government can be extremely frustrating.  Exceedingly complex rules and laws make things even worse. 
 
For decades, Philip K. Howard has been a leading voice on how to streamline government and make it work for all of us. His latest book is "The Rule of Nobody: Saving America From Dead Laws and Broken Government." He's the founder of the good government group, Common Good.
 
In this 12-minute episode of "Fix It Shorts," Philip gives alarming examples of how regulations have programmed officials and politicians of both parties to follow rigid rules that often leave very little room for human judgement.
 
Solutions: 
  • Rules and regulations need to be radically simplified. 
  • Laws based on principles and goals rather detailed rules.
  • Sunset provisions for laws: they can be re-examined every five or ten years.
  • Founding father James Madison's warning about laws should be heeded. They must not be "so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood."
 
"Four Ways to Fix A Broken Legal System." Philip K. Howard Ted Talk.
 
 
May 18, 2016
With technology in overdrive, self-driving cars are no longer a fantasy.  The first autonomous cars and trucks made by major auto manufacturers could be on the road within several years.
 
But "Fix It" guest Eddie Alterman, Editor-in-Chief of Car and Driver magazine says not so fast.  "It's a scary concept anyway you look at it," he tells us. 
 
"The autonomous car is a very inelegant, very complex and a very fraught solution to the problem of texting while driving... and of information coming into the car when people should be driving."
 
For Google, Apple, Microsoft and other big data companies, autonomous cars are a big opportunity. Instead of keeping their eyes on the road, motorists could use their driving time to consume more digital media. 
 
But Eddie Alterman says a mix of self-driving and traditional vehicles on the road would create danger. "People will deal with or accept flawed humans crashing into each other. I don't think people will accept supposedly fail-safe machines crashing into each other"
 
Solutions:
  • Encourage the use of background technology to make driving safer with improved cruise control, vehicle stability, lane departure warning systems and other innovations.
  • Pursue a cautious path with the use of autonomous vehicles in "closed" environments such as industrial sites.
  • Encourage car-sharing and other initiatives to reduce commute times.  
  • Resist the temptation to encourage drivers to surrender control of their time behind-the-wheel.
May 11, 2016
The numbers are alarming.  A 2015 Gallup poll found nearly 70% of U.S. employers say they're either bored or disengaged at work.
 
The cost to employers has been put at more than $500 billion in lost productivity. The cost to workers is incalculable - in human misery, unnecessary stress and lost opportunity.
 
Workplace psychologist Ron Friedman is the author of "The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace." Ron says there's an astonishing gap between the latest science and most the modern workplace.  He has some great tips for both employers and employees.  
 
Ron's solutions for employers:
  • An engaged workforce is more creative, focused and stay with their company for a long period time. This saves money.
  • Employees need to be competent and connected to one another, yet they need to have autonomy - feeling they have choice in how they go about doing their work.
  • Invite employees to share their ideas.
  • Encourage learning: give your employees a quarterly reading budget. Establish an office library.
  • Invite employees to take their vacation time and switch off from work at night, so they can live a balanced, healthy life.
  • Workplace design and hiring a diverse workforce play a very important role in creating a better workplace.
Ron's solutions for employees:
  • Reframe the way you look at your job. Present a case that could add value to your employer.
  • Get out of your comfort zone. Greater variety often leads to more work satisfaction.  
  • Look for ways to re-create your job to allow yourself to do more of the things you enjoy doing more often. 
  • Regular exercise. It makes you smarter, more focused and creative at work.

 

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