India's Top 100 Digital Stars 2023

Ten interesting things we read this week

Some of the most fascinating topics covered this week are: Aviation (Legroom on planes would get shorter), Management (Domino's story — Lessons for businesses), Education (Super failure: Horrors of IIT dream), Lifestyle (Nomophobia: Fear of being without your phone and having low battery), and Anger Management (5 powerful secrets from mindfulness).

Published: Aug 3, 2019 08:38:39 AM IST
Updated: Aug 2, 2019 01:40:51 PM IST

Ten interesting things we read this weekImage: Nastyaofly/Shutterstock

At Ambit, we spend a lot of time reading articles that cover a wide gamut of topics, ranging from zeitgeist to futuristic, and encapsulate them in our weekly ‘Ten Interesting Things’ product. Some of the most fascinating topics covered this week are: Aviation (Legroom on planes would get shorter), Management (Domino’s story – Lessons for businesses), Education (Super failure: Horrors of IIT dream), Lifestyle (Nomophobia: Fear of being without your phone and having low battery), and Anger Management (5 powerful secrets from mindfulness).

Here are the ten most interesting pieces that we read this week, ended August 2, 2019.

1) Think legroom on planes is bad now? It's about to get much worse [Source: Bloomberg]
Travelling on a plane lately must have been tiresome for a few, especially on shorter distances. This might be because of the legroom; legroom is becoming lesser than what it was. Airlines are cramming more seats for shorter distances, resulting in less legroom. Less legroom is now the industry norm. In the early-2000s, rows in economy used to be 34 inches (86 centimeters) to 35 inches apart; now 30 to 31 inches is typical, though 28 inches can be found on short flights, according to Washington D.C.-based advocacy group Flyers Rights. Seats have narrowed, too, from about 18.5 inches to 17 inches on average.

Janet Bednarek, an aviation historian at the University of Dayton, Ohio, says smaller seats are less controversial in Asia, partly because Asians tend to have slighter builds than Americans or Europeans. “Where people are smaller on average it is not as big an issue,” she said. “Many people are willing to put up with discomfort in exchange for low-price tickets.” And yes, the prices have come down. Some international flights cost less than half of what they did a decade ago, according to Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd.

Some airline companies are going way beyond the norm. A one-way ticket to Shanghai from Manila, a four-hour flight, can cost less than US$100 on Cebu Air. But seats on the planes are just 16.5 inches wide, less than the width of two hand spans and short of the 18-inch minimum that the manufacturer, Airbus SE, says is comfortable. Cebu doubled down in June with a US$6.8 billion order for Airbus jets that includes 16 higher-capacity A330neos. Airbus says the plane is designed to fit 260 to 300 passengers in a typical layout that has first-class, business and economy cabins. For “higher-density configurations” -- code for bare-bones economy -- the planes fit as many as 440, the manufacturer says. Cebu is planning for 460, once the layout is certified. Air travel is surely changing; it seems like it would be better for those who are short and horrifying for those who are tall.  

2) Management lessons from the Domino’s Pizza turnaround story [Source:]
Domino’s Pizza is a great story, and all the businesses can learn from it how to bounce back with a greater impact. It started in Michigan in 1960s and pioneered in home delivery. After lackluster years of 2006 and 2007, Patrick Doyle (CEO of the firm then) and the Domino’s Pizza team needed to transform. Unlike school, there’s more than one way to solve a problem. Domino’s Pizza might have succeeded in any number of ways. What they actually did was these four things: 1) Change the culture, remove silos; 2) Improve the pizza, but don’t perfect it; 3) Use social media, don’t hog the brand; and 4) Build the future around data and technology.

Mr. Doyle knew that in order to succeed they need to change. In 2011, he had said, “Are you willing to view the dislocation we had in our economy as an opportunity to drive change and innovation in your business, or do you take a very conservative view and say, ‘Times are tough so we’re going to ride this out until things go back to how they were.’ The people who are taking that approach are going to fail.” It wasn’t that Domino’s Pizza was bad so much as badly perceived. The research said that the pizza was as good as the national competitor’s. Just that Domino’s had negative brand equity. And changing that took patience, hard work and a lot of listening.  

When Domino’s decided to change the Pizza, Mr. Doyle said, “The folks were told that you can change anything, everything is on the table. And two years they came back with the answer and the answer was that they changed everything.” And he went with it. That’s what Netflix does too. Ted Sarandos said that they don’t use their data to make shows, they use their data to find directions and director but once something is done they put it on the platform as is.  

3) Locating class, or lack of it, in India’s politics [Source: Hindustan Times]
With the 2019 elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decimated the Left. The CPI (M) and CPI had reached an all-time high of 53 Lok Sabha seats in the 2004 elections. This came down to 20 in 2009, 10 in 2014 and a mere five in the 2019 elections. Out of the five seats won by the CPI (M) and CPI, four are from the state of Tamil Nadu and probably would not have gone to these parties had they not allied with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in the state. The Left-leaning intellectuals and politicians have always argued that economic policy in India has undergone a pro-market and anti-poor shift after economic reforms were unleashed in 1991.

To be fair to the Left, it is entirely possible that it failed to exploit the growing anti-poor bias in post-reform India due to organisational handicaps outside its traditional strongholds. Other parties have employed pro-poor rhetoric to encash the political discontent among the poor in the country. After all, both the Congress, and over the past six years, even the BJP, have increasingly focused on social development and welfare schemes. Finally, it could also be that other identities such as caste and religion have prevented a class-based political consolidation in Indian politics.

The leading professionals seem to be the most benefitted from the entire post reform wage growth. Instead of there being a capitalist aristocracy where capital incomes perpetuate income inequality, India has witnessed the rise of a labour aristocracy. This could be a result of the dominance of service sector, where mangers walk away with most benefits rather than big-ticket manufacturing, where the capitalist gets most of the income, in India’s growth trajectory.

4) Americans need to take a break [Source: Economist]
It is a known fact that the Americans work more than some of the other developed countries. You can gauge this by the number of holidays the Americans take. In 2017, an average American took 17.2 days of vacation. That was a slight rise on the 16 days recorded in 2014 but still below the 1978-2000 average of 20.3 days. Around half of all workers do not take their full allotment of days off, which averages around 23 days. In effect, many Americans spend part of the year working for nothing, donating the equivalent of $561 on average to their firms. In a typical year the average American works 100 more hours than a Briton, 300 more than a French employee and 400 more hours than a German.

It is true that Americans do well in terms of public holidays; they have ten, two more than workers in Britain. But that doesn’t make them relaxing. Americans also put in more hours per week. This was not always so. In 1870, the average European worker toiled for almost 66 hours a week, and those in America averaged 62. By 1929, there was little difference between the continents, with European hours at 47.8 and American ones at 48. By 2000, American males were well ahead, grinding out 43.3 hours against a European average of 39.2 (the female gap was smaller, at 37.2 to 36.1 hours).

What the Americans need to understand is that forgoing holiday time does not always please the boss. A study by the Harvard Business Review in 2016 found that those who took 11 or more days off a year were almost twice as likely to get a raise or a bonus as those who took ten days off or fewer. Nor do extra hours automatically lead to higher productivity. An analysis of figures from the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, in 2013 found a negative correlation between GDP per hour and the number of hours worked across member countries. Humans are undoubtedly more creative when they are not feeling tired or jaded. So enjoy the break!

5) Super failure: Horrors of IIT dream [Source: Livemint]
Most of the Indian parents dream of getting their son/daughter into the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). But they forget that it’s their son/daughter who will need to spend endless hours mugging up pages after pages to pass out from an IIT in order to get a high-paying job. They don’t think what their kids would want to pursue. Every year they read articles of students stepping out of IIT and getting a six-figure monthly salary in some of the top brands of the world. And that’s what they want for their kids.

What they fail to understand is that each and every kid is different. Each and every kid’s choices are different. Many engineering students drop out because they never wanted to do engineering in first place. They took admission just because of the pressure from parents. In this piece as well, the author talks about a few examples of how most of the Indian parents think, when it comes to educating their kids.

Also, some students can’t handle the pressure and commit suicide. “There were several suicides in my time," says an investment banker who graduated in 2013, “and dozens of suicide attempts. Thankfully, the institutes have taken wiser measures to handle the students’ depression issues. Most IITs today have counselling centres where students can seek professional help. While institutes like IIT are taking steps avoid such cases, it’s the parents who need counseling.

6) Nomophobia: Fear of being without your phone and having low-battery anxiety [Source: Interesting Engineering
In today’s always-connected world, people are virtually living their lives online. Gone are the days when people used to fix a date and time for meeting, and finally meet in person. But now, cellphones have brought people closer, virtually. People meet each other, but on Skype or WhatsApp. The essence and excitement of meeting someone in person has vanished. All of our contacts, social media, GPS, car services, food ordering, games, video entertainment, banking, calendars, and family photos are now held within our handheld devices.

More than anything, nowadays people fear of their phone’s battery getting drained. The fear of being without one's cellphone has even been given an official name — nomophobia. And the cellphone manufacturers are taking advantage of this. The Android Pie operating system (OS) sends users a notification when their battery is getting low rather than just displaying the percentage of battery left. Also, people want all sorts of features on their phone even if they would be hardly using any.

The bottom line is that cell phone manufacturers could manufacture less flashy devices that would have more battery life. Instead, they are making ever more innovative and eye-catching devices that gulp power, but that also get us into the store. Why? It’s because of the high competition. If you don’t innovative give something new to the consumer, he will switch loyalties!

7) The ‘separate but equal’ rules of American music awards [Source: Washington Post]
The Pop music is changing and BTS has been at the forefront of this change. Who’s BTS? As the biggest boy band in the world, BTS has been dominating music charts and selling out tour dates. They are the first group since the Beatles to earn three No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 chart in less than a year, with the fastest YouTube video to hit 100 million views. That video, for the hit “Boy with Luv,” has now amassed 472.5 million views since its release in April — enough to have been seen by nearly the entire populations of the U.S., Canada and Mexico combined.

Recently, their fans criticized the Video Music Awards (VMA) for announcing a new category for “Best K-Pop.” Fans asked why do you need a special category? Why BTS and other K-pop groups needed to be separated from the main awards? The group’s ability to speak to youth issues attracted Qriztine de los Santos, from the Philippines, who struggles with depression and says that BTS’s music helped her overcome urges to hurt herself.

Talking about the criticism that the band is getting, Imelda Ibarra, a 29-year-old fan from Los Angeles and head of the US BTS Army fan group, says “Yes, it’s not something you’re used to. Yes, they’re very different. But just give them a chance before you judge them, and you’ll understand why they’re so famous, why they’ve accomplished so much and why they have such a devoted fanbase.”

8) How America lost faith in expertise [Source:]
Americans have reached a point where ignorance—at least regarding what is generally considered established knowledge in public policy—is seen as an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to demonstrate their independence from nefarious elites—and insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong. This isn’t the same thing as the traditional American distaste for intellectuals and know-it-alls. Today, we don’t have principled, informed arguments which are a sign of intellectual health and vitality in a democracy.

No one is an expert on everything. We prosper because we specialize, developing formal and informal mechanisms and practices that allow us to trust one another in those specializations and gain the collective benefit of our individual expertise. If that trust dissipates, eventually both democracy and expertise will be fatally corrupted, because neither democratic leaders nor their expert advisers want to tangle with an ignorant electorate.

Experts need to remember, always, that they are the servants of a democratic society and a republican government. Their citizen masters, however, must equip themselves not just with education but also with the kind of civic virtue that keeps them involved in the running of their own country. Laypeople cannot do without experts, and they must accept this reality without rancor. Experts, likewise, must accept that they get a hearing, not a veto, and that their advice will not always be taken. At this point, the bonds tying the system together are dangerously frayed. Unless some sort of trust and mutual respect can be restored, public discourse will be polluted by unearned respect for unfounded opinions. And in such an environment, anything and everything becomes possible, including the end of democracy and republican government itself.
9) If bees can prevent bad information from going viral, so can we [Source:]
We humans are social animals. Be it ordering something online or planning your next international trip, we always look out for suggestions and opinions from others. Humans copy each other every day. Our social learning ability has led to extraordinary technological success. From smart phone to Higgs Boson particle, these all have been possible not only by genius innovation, but by humans’ ability to learn from others. So social learning is seen as a source of collective intelligence.

However, crowds can also suffer from collective “madness”, when ineffective or harmful knowledge goes viral due to copying, a phenomenon called maladaptive herding. So can we reduce the risk of maladaptive herding and at the same time increase the possibility of collective wisdom? Yes, we can, but we need to learn this from the bees. Bees are also known for their ability to make accurate collective decisions when they search for food or new nest. Bees use “waggle dance” for communicating. When a bee finds a good source of food, it dances for a long time. When it finds a poor one, the duration of the dance is short.

So, the longer the dance, the more bees follow its suggestion to feed there. Collective flexibility is the key. So why can’t human crowds be flexible like bees? A study was organized to find out the reason behind it. A simple online game was launched as a psychology experiment. The results revealed that a challenging task elicited greater conformity and the copying increased with group size. The study also showed that humans can be flexible, like bees, when either conformity or copying was low. So, stimulating independent thought in individuals may reduce the risk of collective madness.

10) This is how to overcome anger: 5 powerful secrets from mindfulness [Source:]
We all have been angry for some reason or the other in our lives. And being angry is not a good place to be in. It always results in punching someone, or in a verbal fight. It’s only when you cool down after some time that you realise you were wrong, or you could have done better. So, what can you do to reduce anger? Practicing mindfulness is one way with which you can handle anger better. And here are 5 ways with which you can do that.

1) Study your anger: To come up with a solution, you first need to analyse your anger. Why are you getting angry? Who makes you angry? 2) Avoid triggers: People say that politics makes them angry, and then they go and read more political news. Why? If something makes you angry, just avoid. 3) Train your mind: think about a situation where you are angry. And instead of judging, just observe in your mind. Try to be calm. That’s it.

4) Break the loop: Anger produces physical changes, thoughts, and behavior, and in turn, those thoughts, physical changes and behavior increase your anger. So, when you notice such signals, you might want to short circuit the loop before it makes things worse. 5) Ride the wave: The emotions are going to attempt to fuse with you, taking you from “noticing anger” to “I am angry.” All you need to do is stay calm. With time, the anger will dissipate. 


Post Your Comment
Required, will not be published
All comments are moderated