Behavioural Law

Classic economics started off factoring psychology and behavioural trends and shortcomings (biases) into economic understanding. However, through the ages, economic concepts and policies were built on the assumption that humans are rational beings. This was like putting a blanket over our susceptibility to biases and our irrational decision-making tendencies.

It took the path-breaking decades of work by 2002 Nobel Laureate (Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences) Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky and a few others, to identify and document common human mistakes that spring from our heuristics and biases. This led to the importance of the field of behavioural economics which should ideally replace all economic skillsets.

Going by that logic, I did a cursory check on the LLB syllabus in India and that at Harvard Law School. I also came across research papers and articles around behavioural law at institutes like Yale, Harvard, Cambridge. However, a generic search for Indian LLB syllabus and the Harvard Law curriculum did not show up any subject dedicated to psychology, behaviour, or behavioural law. Stanford mentioned it. However Yale Law did have a fair bit of behaviour covered.

Harvard Law curriculum

While the Harvard program had some 55o study modules, and while they certainly might be including aspects of behavioural law, the subjects list did not include anything related to it or behaviour, despite the importance one might associate with it.

One would imagine that given all the business and personal collaborations and disputes that occur across the world, institutes should have at least by now made human behaviour, behavioural economics and psychology a key part of learning.

You might wonder what it might include? While I wouldn’t exactly know how, I do know that legal professionals are well trained in attack and defense, both in documentation and in fighting cases. And they are adept at understanding the opposition for defense or attack; and identifying potential risk scenarios well into the future. However, armed with behavioural knowledge, they might be able to influence collaborations and solve disputes amicably simply with a better understanding of behaviour and therefore a better choice of words and strategy perhaps. One that could benefit all related parties themselves fairly in the short term, but also steadily influence a more collaborative human race in the longer term.

Many of us have seen those videos of Providence, Rhode Island’s chief municipal judge, Francesco “Frank” Caprio, who metes out ‘human’ and ‘humane’ justice. Someone receiving a judgement from him, or someone simply being spectator to his judgement might have a very different view of humankind. One that is compassionate and optimistic. In a world itching to accuse and punish, imagine the mindset change an entire global legal fraternity might bring about, if they had the superior maturity of Judge Frank Caprio.

Matchbox Design

Matchbox design

As a kid, I used to be quite fascinated by matchboxes. From the uncertainty of being shouted at by some elder, to how many tries it took to light it. And the best, how long could you hold a lit match without burning your fingers.

Pic source: link

Back then, the SHIP matchbox was commonplace. Though I don’t remember them having the jokes at the back of each pack. This standard pack had 50 matchsticks in it. A common problem with any matchbox is running low on striking surface towards the end. It takes more attempts to successfully strike a match.

Then, HomeLites came out with a significantly bigger matchbox. These had 300 matchsticks in it. These seemed to have a bigger problem with the striking surface. Maybe it was the longer striking surface strips on each side that led one to make longer strikes. As a result, you’d have a lot of matches left, but striking a match would become increasingly difficult. You’d spot some unused section towards the edges and try striking it there.

Pic source: link

Anyway, recently I noticed a tiny design change with their matchboxes. And I think it might just solve the striking surface problem.

What they simply did, was replace the two long striking surfaces on either side of the matchbox, with a tiny dividing strip. So instead of two long striking strips, you now have a total of four smaller strips.

If you are overly disciplined, you might restrict yourself to one striking surface at a time. Then use the next one. The rest of us will randomly strike a match against any one of the four surfaces. Point being, with the shorter striking surface, we will unconsciously limit our strike action to that stretch. Am quite sure these new boxes won’t have that old problem.

Just an example of how a simple change to the matchbox design solves a problem that might have left many puzzled. A tiny break in the striking surface alters user behaviour in the right direction. And without necessitating any complex redesigning of the matchbox itself.

If you want to know more about exactly how matches work, read on…

[source of the excerpt below: link]:

The heads of safety matches are composed of a single part. They contain antimony trisulfide, potassium chlorate, sulfur, powdered glass, inert fillers, and animal glue. They may also include a water-soluble dye. Antimony trisulfide cannot be ignited by the heat of friction, even in the presence of an oxidizing agent like potassium chlorate, and it requires another source of ignition to start the combustion. That source of ignition comes from the striking surface, which is deposited on the side of the matchbox or on the back cover of the matchbook.

The striking surface contains red phosphorus, powdered glass, and an adhesive such as gum arabic or urea formaldehyde. When a safety match is rubbed against the striking surface, the friction generates enough heat to convert a trace of the red phosphorus into white phosphorus. This immediately reacts with the potassium chlorate in the match head to produce enough heat to ignite the antimony trisulfide and start the combustion.

Cold Masks

Cold Masks

Late last year, the world (except probably Japan) would not have imagined that in a few months, they would not be able to see full faces in public. And yet, now most people are buying, and some people are making their own cool masks at home.

Over the last three months, I’ve on occasion thought about the design of masks. The N-95 mask (N in N-95 is for ‘Not resistant to oil’), has been recommended by some as being one of the better masks to defend against the Chinese virus.

In the world outside, we see everything from simple synthetic masks to the light blue surgical ones, fancy ones with respirators, and even handkerchiefs and dupattas being used as masks.

However, one problem with everyone wearing masks and makeshifts (kerchiefs, etc.), will be a possible deterioration of social fabric and societal behaviour. Because faces aren’t visible!
It is possible that society as we know it could slowly tend to become a bit colder and indifferent. Because social connects aren’t quite the same when you can’t see a full face and a smile. On occasion, we don’t recognize known people because they are wearing a mask. And far more often than that, a ton of non-verbal communication, the grins and smiles, all get ‘masked’. The inability to see faces could affect the quality of communication and connect. This could affect us as individuals and as a world considerably over the coming months.

Source: pic 1 and pic 2

Feel any difference when you see each Mona Lisa?

Let our masks not make us more cold and indifferent than we were.

The alternative: The only one I could think of, are Transparent masks.

Ashley Lawrence above, a college student studying education for the hearing impaired, designed this mask to help them lip read and follow expressions. Similarly, a few others around the world, a nurse included, have designed transparent masks in recent months. The current option of plastic for a mass market solution however, would be disastrous for the environment.
In labs, there seem to be some natural alternatives like transparent wood. But at the moment, they might be far from ready for deployment.

Q: How can we design an affordable mask that 
(i) protects us from the virus,
(ii) doesn’t harm the environment, and
(iii) helps retain quality of social interactions and connect (by being transparent)?

Thoughts?

Suicide Watch

Suicide Watch

Trigger Warning: This post contains thoughts on whether it is possible to identify people who might suddenly be at risk of self-harm or suicide. If this is not a topic of interest, or you are currently not in the frame of mind to read anything stressful, please close this tab.

Many of us experience helplessness when we hear of a suicide. Irrespective of if it was someone we knew, a celebrity, or a businessperson. Especially perhaps, if it was a student, a helpless farmer, or even an unknown name from some obscure corner of the country or the world. The feeling of helplessness still hits many of us.

Last week, there was a brief discussion on chat between some close friends and me. One friend was trying to find cues in old interviews of Sushant Singh Rajput. To see if there were tell-tale signs in them of any impending suicide intent. The authorities were right in saying one should not speculate based on almost no information. The helplessness, however, forces us to look for answers. To find an explanation that would turn helplessness into sadness or anger, or both. The mind prefers either to the state of not knowing coupled with helplessness.

It is also human tendency, to subconsciously look for early warning signs the person might have exhibited.
Maybe it is just our helpless attempt to undo the past.

A few things we need to remember. Firstly, depression is not the only cause of suicide. There are many other causes. They include psychosis and momentary lapses of reason (sometimes induced or aggravated by alcohol or drugs). As are helplessness in situations (a sudden financial loss, etc.), or a mistake. Native Japanese practiced Seppuku to preserve honour or as a form of self-punishment for serious offenses. Secondly, depression itself can have numerous underlying causes for it. And it is not easy for family, friends or outsiders to conclusively arrive at one or more causes for someone’s depression.

A lot of people suffer from a variety of concerns. From regrets about the past, social pressures, anxieties about the future, among many others.

Many simply learn to live with it. Some becoming increasingly numb to life itself. Others probably do not, and toy with self-harm. Some effects could range from binge eating to excessive drinking or drug abuse. And some could manifest as suicidal tendencies. That said, this post is not about identifying or helping address those suffering from depression.

The objective here, something I’ve wondered about, is a possible way to spot someone who might be close to a breaking point in dealing with their personal battles or thoughts or life itself. To see if it there is a way to identify those who might be at risk of self-harm. And to provide an intervention if possible. So that a good life would not be lost because of an unrelenting ecosystem or one’s condition or difficulties in trying to cope with it.

While one can only hope that people suffering from depression are getting the professional support they need, in my limited knowledge, I’d categorize those at risk of self-harm into two categories:
(i) those who have such thoughts from time to time, walking a tightrope; and
(ii) those who may not have considered self-harm, but a sudden change in their ecosystem suddenly makes it an option they consider

My thoughts are around possibly addressing the second kind. If one knows someone who is going through a challenging phase, and one hears of a case of suicide or self harm from someone either known to those people, or hailing from the same or similar professional field or having some other factors in common, one must consider the possibility that these people might be at risk. You could either directly or indirectly reach out even if just to check. Ideally without directly broaching the topic.

There are a few reasons I believe news of self harm by someone sharing common ground could increase risk of self-harm in some people. Firstly, in case of the same or similar professions, many people could be going through similar challenges due to either an employer or a sector slowdown or some other impact. The hundreds of farmers that have sacrificed their lives is a grim example of this. An inefficient sector with limited government support, irrational weather, scavenging money lenders and middlemen, all constantly fuel the recipe for disaster.

Similarly, a student going through a rough phase might be holding on. But on hearing of other instances of students causing self-harm, a previous never considered option might suddenly sound like a respite. Secondly, a common thread connecting two strangers could also cause one to cause self-harm on hearing about the suicide of the other. There have been a number of suicides among common citizens upon hearing of the death (even of natural causes or illness) of their favourite politician or movie star. Here, the thread linking the two is the admiration for their revered minister or actor.

Consider this: Say you had to work on a task that required a good measure of focus and skill. Would you have a greater chance of succeeding if you had an audience cheering you on? Or if the same audience repeatedly cautioned you about the risks of failure?

I think I know your answer. Similarly, words and actions of people have subconscious effects on us. More so if we share some commonality with them. A hostile crowd in a foreign playground might not affect us half as much as a hostile crowd on our home ground.

So, what can we do to intervene? While not easy, one can sometimes spot people in one’s circles who are going through a challenging phase. Even if they don’t directly tell us. We could then try reach out to them or increase the support ecosystem for them. To try and lighten the burden or ease off the scales, which might be at dangerous levels. Or we could refer or bring to them the professional support needed.

Here’s an earlier post, Death and the Maiden, where I shared some variables that might compel someone to cause self-harm.

And here’s a very well thought out post you must check out. It’s by The Depression Project, about telling signs.

Thoughts and ideas welcome!

Jane Elliott

Jane Elliott

Jane Elliott: image

Heard of Jane Elliott?
 
She’s an American schoolteacher and an anti-racism activist. She is especially famous for her truly visionary “Blue Eyes-Brown Eyes” exercise that she conducted in her classroom, 50 years ago.
 
Get a quick overview of her Blue Eyes-Brown Eyes exercise here. I first came across this a few months ago and thought it was exceptional.
 
Now, Jane recently spoke about world maps, racism, and a bit about her childhood. The stuff about maps really shakes, or at least shook my foundation about maps. Like me, you might just ask yourself what in the world is actually true, if something as fundamental as a map could be distorted that much.
 
Check out the interview here.
 
What an inspiration, this woman is!

Religious Fashion

Religious Fashion
 
Was chatting with a friend about religion.
 
I randomly correlated religion with fashion. Or people’s dressing sense, if you will.
People either have their own style, or in most cases, they follow one of the broader trends or safer dressing styles.
Which is all good.
 
Problems only arise when one or a few of them, for no reason, starts having a problem with what someone else is wearing.
If, or as long as that does not happen, everyone’s content with what they’re wearing.
 
If only that were as simple, with clothes or religion. Or race.
 

Browser Save Password Option

Browsers give you the option to save passwords.
The layout for the choice options however, should be different.
 
Firstly, we are usually in a hurry when using the phone. More importantly, our thumbs or index finger is ever-ready to click. So there is a tendency to accidentally press the ‘save password’ option in the browser, whether the option is placed on the left or right of the ‘Never’ option.

Instead, what if the options were placed one over the other? With the ‘Save Password’ option on top, ‘Never’ below it. That way, even if one is in a hurry, there would be a slightly greater chance of pressing the lower button, which would be ok. Especially to prevent the elderly, who might be averse to having their passwords saved on the browser. They might then panic and wonder how (or even if) they could undo it.
 
One could argue that the elderly might not be as quick and as hurried to press a button before reading, but it could still be confusing.
 
Should these options be reworded?
 
Right now, when you read the text of the prompt, in your head, the keywords ‘save Password’ registers. Which is also why there is a chance of accidentally pressing the ‘save Password’ option.
 
The buttons could be reworded “Don’t save Password” and “Save Password”. While the first option here is too wordy, it will push the user to pause and think. Especially since the words are not identical, and are counter to the possible intended action.
 
The word “Save” has a relatively default response in our heads. Through the years (or decades), when using a file on a computer, you most likely always want to save the file when prompted to. The question to “save” or not, can cause us to go into a similar semi-alert state, and we want to pick save. Even though we might not be alright with our passwords actually being saved by the browser.
 
Additionally, the colour scheme can be confusing. Using the same two colours in a contrasting manner looks clean but does not help. Ideally, contrasting colours will help naturally distinguish the two options.
 
Using a different set of words along with distinct colour schemes would give us just enough time to think about the choices presented to us, before we click!
 
The same could apply to other options we are presented with online. Especially if they are averse to having their passwords saved, and might panic at the thought of how they might undo that action.

Do you own, manage or work at a company, and are faced with business challenges or the need for innovation for growth? Get in touch! More here.

Also, check out my book: Design the Future – talks about innovation, customer insights & design thinking.
Ebook: Amazon. Paperbacks: Amazon & other online bookstores.

Vertical Stapler

Vertical Stapler

Image: source

Over the years, I’ve found myself wanting to staple certain paper prototypes in a particular way. The standard stapler would not allow it though.

One early need I found for a better stapler was during my venture capital days. In an effort to reduce paper wastage, whenever a draft review report needed to be printed, I’d use the book format print option available on the office printer. The printout then just needed to be folded down the centre. You then needed to open the stapler arm, put it along the fold, and press. The ends of the staple pin popping out on the other side would then need to be folded in. Having a vertical stapler (if there is such a thing) would have been so much more convenient.
Why? Because it would allow you to slide the stapler along the fold, and staple. The current design would not allow you to reach the centre fold to staple without opening the lower arm.

What’s even tougher, is when you need to staple the ends of a paper cone. A few different prototypes have had paper cones as part of it. The stapler just wouldn’t reach anywhere near the tip of the cone. Here, a vertical stapler would be very useful.

But when you think about it, the existing stapler design would not work for a vertical stapler. In the regular ones, the two ends of the pin make contact with a surface at the same time, enabling a symmetrical clip being formed.

With a vertical one, using the existing design, one end would make contact first, and this would most likely deform the pin before it is punched in.

Then I came across this interesting D-I-Y article for a vertical stapler.

Source: https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-vertical-stapler/

One alternative would be where the mould section of the lower arm of the vertical stapler is tilted upwards a bit to enable uniform contact of the two ends of the pin. However, that too would not help with accessing tough-to-reach areas and staple them. Perhaps if the finger grip moulds at the end were gotten rid off and the arms of the stapler ended slightly more pointed, it would allow a better reach.

Seen anything even remotely similar to what I described? Or can you think of any alternate solutions for stapling tough-to-reach areas on sheets of paper?

Do you own, manage or work at a company, and are faced with business challenges or the need for innovation for growth? Get in touch! More here.

Also, check out my book: Design the Future – talks about innovation, customer insights & design thinking.
Ebook: Amazon. Paperbacks: Amazon & other online bookstores.

Bitter Gourd Chips

Don’t worry, this is not a lock-down, culinary achievement post!

I recently had these bitter melon/gourd (karela in Hindi) chips. An interesting paradox – using an ingredient that’s great for health and known for reducing cholesterol, and then deep frying it is fascinating. But the result, are chips that are far better than potato wafers or banana chips. And you might even get this subtle sub-conscious reassurance that you’re eating something healthy.

The ENGESA Mercedes truck

I recently saw this video of a ENGESA Mercedes truck. Something obviously very fascinating about it. So I thought I’d attempt to recreate it in some way, using Lego. This is a quick, crude first attempt. I clearly don’t have enough relevant pieces.

 

Below was an improved variant to the earlier one. The last model was built simply to see the beauty of the multi-axle movement. But the last version hadd traction/ground clearance issues, as the wheels would hit the undercarriage at certain tilts. So I went a step further and replicated the rear multi-axle on the front too. And, the cab roof sloped up (for better aerodynamics).

And, a final variant of my idea of an ENGESA Mercedes truck, before I was done with this concept. This one has a double swivel multi-axle and a horizontal swivel link after the cab, to allow it to turn better.

Own, manage or work at a company that is grappling with business challenges, or needs more innovation for growth? Get in touch! More here.

And check out my book (‘Design the Future’) on innovation, customer insights and design thinking. Ebook: Amazon, Paperbacks: at leading online bookstores including Amazon & Flipkart.

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