Tag Archives: intelligence

Why Women Are Smarter Than Men

Trying to compare intelligence and gender doesn’t typically yield much in the way of productive discussion, but sometimes research comes along that makes it worth opening this particular can of worms.

Decades of research show unequivocally that men and women are equal in general intelligence (IQ), but that isn’t the case when it comes to emotional intelligence (EQ). There are subtle, and not so subtle, differences in men’s and women’s expression and understanding of emotions that must be explored and understood.

Gender is a common place for people to assign labels around emotion. Such generalizations have pegged women as everything from the “fairer sex” to overly emotional, and men from emotionally aloof to explosive. You’ll find that none of these platitudes are true.

There’s an enormous amount of research suggesting that emotional intelligence (EQ) is critical to men’s and women’s performance at work. Emotional intelligence is responsible for 58% of performance in all types of jobs, and 90% of top performers are high in EQ.

“Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.” -Timothy Leary

TalentSmart has tested the emotional intelligence of more than a million people, and it’s clear that women have the upper hand. While women’s overall EQ score is just a couple of points higher than men’s, this is a statistically significant difference that shows that women have greater skill in using emotions to their benefit.

It just doesn’t answer the pressing question: Why?

To understand why women outscore men, we have to look at scores for each of the four emotional intelligence skills by gender. There’s a reliable pattern in the data that points to some interesting explanations for the gap.

Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is how well you understand your own emotions in the moment, as well as how well you understand your tendencies-the people and situations you handle well and those that push your buttons. This is the one place where men and women have perfectly equal scores. It’s also a place where men have been given a bad rap. People often assume that men aren’t tuned in to their emotions or don’t understand them. Clearly, that isn’t the case. Of course, men also have a tendency to hop on this bandwagon-by feigning to have no awareness or understanding of their emotions-in the hope of avoiding any accountability for their actions. Now we know better.

Self-Management

Self-management is what you do with your emotions once you’re aware of them. Because you can’t make emotions disappear, effective self-management requires channeling your emotions into producing the behavior that you want. This is the one area where men outscored women. I believe that the best explanation for gender differences in emotional intelligence is how we are socialized growing up (reinforced by societal gender pressures we experience as adults). In the case of self-management, men are often expected to be emotionally “strong” and in control of their emotions, which may explain why they outscore women slightly.

Social Awareness

Social awareness is how well you understand the emotions and experience of other people. This requires the ability to tune in to body language and other unspoken signals, because people don’t usually come out and say what’s going on with them. This is an area where women outscore men by a fairly large margin (statistically speaking). This is also a skill that women are socialized to practice and possess from childhood in ways that men aren’t. Right or wrong, women are expected to take care of other people (and are rewarded for doing so). This gives them an upper hand when it comes to social awareness. Men, to their detriment, aren’t rewarded for social awareness in the same way that women are, and this carries over into adulthood.

Relationship Management

Relationship management is the pinnacle of emotional intelligence. It requires that you use self-awareness, self-management and social awareness in concert to better your relationships as you interact with other people. You cannot hope to get the most out of your interactions with other people until you understand your emotions, cue in to their emotions and use this knowledge to adjust your approach on the fly. Women have a slight edge in relationship management for reasons described in the social awareness section.

The Advantage

Emotional intelligence presents a significant advantage for women in the workplace. Whether you’re a man or a woman, don’t just sit back hoping that you’re one of the high-EQ types. EQ is a flexible skill that you can improve with effort. To that end, here are a few things that you can do to improve your EQ today:

Limit Your Caffeine Intake

Drinking excessive amounts of caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline, and adrenaline is the source of the fight-or-flight response. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response to ensure survival. This is great when a bear is chasing you but not so great when you’re responding to a curt e-mail. When caffeine puts your brain and body into this hyper-aroused state of stress, your emotions overrun your behavior. Caffeine’s long half-life ensures you stay this way as it takes its sweet time working its way out of your body. High-EQ individuals know that caffeine is trouble, and they don’t let it get the better of them.

Get Enough Sleep

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence. When you sleep, your brain removes toxic proteins from its neurons that are by-products of neural activity when you’re awake. Unfortunately, your brain can remove them adequately only while you’re asleep. So when you don’t get enough sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc by impairing your ability to think. Skipping sleep impairs your brain function across the board. It slows your ability to process information and solve problems, kills your creativity and catapults your stress levels and emotional sensitivity. High-EQ individuals know that their self-control, attention and memory are all reduced when they don’t get enough sleep. So they make sleep a top priority.

Stop Negative Self-Talk in Its Tracks

The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that-thoughts, not facts. When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural tendency to perceive threats (inflating the frequency or severity of an event). Emotionally intelligent people separate their thoughts from the facts to escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive, new outlook.

Appreciate What You Have

Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the right thing to do; it also improves your mood because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis, found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy and physical well-being. It’s likely that lower levels of cortisol played a major role in this.

Why do you think women outscore men in emotional intelligence? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

IoT Is Game Changer for Insurers

The Internet is now an integral part of our daily lives, and we would struggle to imagine life without it. However, to date, growth has largely been driven by access to content and by speed.

We are now moving into the new phase of growth where the everyday “things” around us will be connected to the Internet. This is the Internet of Things (IoT) – it will have a profound impact on our daily lives and change the way we interact with our environment. It will also have a big impact on how industries operate and relate with their customers. This is particularly true for insurance companies, where there is an opportunity to move from being passive and reacting to losses, to being proactive and helping prevent them.

In short, the IoT will be a game changer for insurers.

In the commercial sector, we are familiar with the benefits of connectivity in smart buildings. When we go to a hotel, door locks are controlled with smart cards, and there are links to lighting and air conditioning to save energy and improve security. Fire systems are networked to sprinklers. Indeed, I’m not sure I’d book a hotel that gave me a metal key. More significantly, most modern commercial buildings would struggle to get insurance coverage without new technology.

The IoT will bring this same level of intelligence to the home.

Standard devices such as light switches, thermostats and door locks are being networked. Smartphones allow us to monitor and control air conditioning, as well as access and monitor security and lighting, with alerts if there is a problem. The first wave of connected appliances is now starting to roll out. Just as with commercial buildings, “interoperability” will become standard in homes because it makes them safer, more energy-efficient and easier to manage.

The smart home is already going mainstream. Big-box stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot, Best Buy, Target and Sears have started to offer their own DIY smart home solutions. They are competing with the major service providers such as AT&T, Comcast, TWC and others that have developed their own consumer offerings. The entry of Apple, Google and Microsoft into the space with different consumer strategies is a clear sign that the market has arrived.

Many of these new entrants have recognized that data will be key to their future success in a connected world where devices will generate as much as we can handle and the ability to refine and exploit it will decide the winners and losers in many industries. This data is going to be particularly important to insurers, which have traditionally based their pricing on risk assessment. If a competitor has better data on which to base judgments, it will have the edge.

The IoT and access to data will reshape industry boundaries and create opportunities.

The IoT will allow insurance companies to move from the traditional passive role of underwriting risk to take a more active position by supplying smart home products and services. Other industries have already adopted this type of strategy. For example, the major cable companies and telcos now offer smart home products over the top of their broadband. These provide new revenue streams, leverage their core competencies, increase customer loyalty and provide a platform for growing new value-added services. Insurance companies could take a page out of the service providers’ playbook and offer their own solutions to realize similar benefits.

The IoT and smart home can give insurers a more direct relationship with the consumer through daily interaction using touch points in apps and messaging. Insurers could also become more competitive by adopting pricing strategies that include direct sourcing and bundling with policies. Contrast this to consumers’ traditional negative experience of bill paying on an annual or semi-annual basis for something they most likely didn’t use.

Consumers would see insurance companies as a logical source for products and services that protect people and their property. Smart home systems can be DIY, offering protection for security, fire and flood. Moreover, they bring new levels of protection with innovation. For example, low-cost leak detectors and temperature sensors can automatically shut off the water supply when triggered.

The IoT is a real growth opportunity, and any business can scale as new connected devices come along. This can be done by offering devices and sensors that improve in-home healthcare and appliances that can be remotely monitored to reduce warranty support costs. These products and value-added services can drive new revenue streams, improve customer retention and reinvent the way consumers perceive their insurance provider. More importantly, the IoT secures access to the data from the things in the home that would help insurance companies manage risk.

If there is a nervousness to step outside the traditional industry boundaries, the alternative is to forge new partnerships with the companies that are deploying smart home solutions.

These companies have access to the data that will help insurance companies manage risk. For example, Lowe’s has partnered with a number of leading insurance companies to trade data from the Iris smart home system. Clearly, data privacy is a major issue, so customers have to approve sharing. This can be achieved by offering a benefit on the policy, usually in the form of a discount.

Clearly, the IoT market is moving extremely fast, and it will challenge conventional wisdom. Just five years ago, the only connected device in home improvement retail was a smart door lock, and now there are hundreds – even dog bowls and toothbrush are becoming connected. If the IoT grows as predicted, every powered device will be IP addressable in the next 10 years. Ignoring this market is not a smart move.

While competing in the smart home space by offering consumers new products and services may seem daunting, the IoT will disrupt traditional industry boundaries, and attack is sometimes the best form of defense. Moreover, actively entering the market has the biggest upside. At a minimum, there is a need to find ways to partner to protect your position and get access to data to remain competitive. The leading insurance providers will be those that embrace the IoT and its impact.

2 Heads Are Better Than 1, Right?

Everybody knows that two heads are better than one. We’ve known it since kindergarten, where we were taught that cooperation, collaboration and teamwork are not just socially desirable behaviors-they also help produce better decisions. And while we all know that two or more people working together are more likely to solve a problem or identify an opportunity better than one person doing it alone, it turns out that’s only true sometimes.

Ideally, a group’s collective intelligence, its ability to aggregate and interpret information, has the potential to be greater than the sum of the intelligence of the individual group members. In the 4th century B.C., Aristotle, in Book III of his political philosophy treatise Politics, described it this way: “When there are many who contribute to the process of deliberation, each can bring his share of goodness and moral prudence…Some appreciate one part, some another, and all together appreciate all.”

But that’s not necessarily how it works in all groups, as anyone who has ever served on a committee and witnessed groupthink in action can probably testify.

Groups are as prone to irrational biases as individuals are, and the idea that a group can somehow correct for or cure the individual biases is false, according to Cass Sunstein, Harvard Law School professor and author (with Reid Hastie) of Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter. Interviewed by Sarah Green on the HBR Ideacast in December 2014, Sunstein said that individual biases can lead to mistakes but that “groups are often just as bad as individuals, and sometimes they are even worse.”

Biases can get amplified in groups. According to Sunstein, as group members talk with each other “they make themselves more confident and clear-headed in the biases with which they started.” The result? Groups can quickly get to a place where they have more confidence and conviction about a position than the individuals within the group do. Groups often lock in on that position and resist contrary information or viewpoints.

Researcher Julie A. Minson, co-author (with Jennifer S. Mueller) of The Cost of Collaboration: Why Joint Decision Making Exacerbates Rejection of Outside Information, agrees, suggesting that people who make decisions by working with others are more confident in those decisions and that the process of making a judgment collaboratively rather than individually contributes to “myopic underweighting of external viewpoints.” And even though collaboration can be an expensive, time-consuming process, it is routinely over-utilized in business decision-making simply because many managers believe that if, two heads are better than one, 10 heads must be even better.

Minson disagrees: “Mathematically, you get the biggest bang from the buck going from one decision-maker to two. For each additional person, that benefit drops off in a downward sloping curve.”

Of course, group decision-making isn’t simply a business challenge–our political and judicial systems rely and depend on groups of people such as elected officials and jurors to deliberate and collaborate and make important decisions. Jack Soll and Richard Larrick, in their Scientific American article You Know More than You Think, observed that while crowds are not always wise, they are more likely to be wise when two principles are followed: “The first principle is that groups should be composed of people with knowledge relevant to a topic. The second principle is that the group needs to hold diverse perspectives and bring different knowledge to bear on a topic.”

Cass Sunstein takes it further, saying for a group to operate effectively as a decision-making body (a jury, for instance) it must consist of:

  • A diverse pool of people
  • Who have different life experiences
  • Who are willing to listen to the evidence
  • Who are willing to listen to each other
  • Who act independently
  • Who refuse to be silenced

Does that sound like a typical decision-making group to you? When I heard that description, I immediately thought of Juror 8 (Henry Fonda) in “12 Angry Men”–a principled and courageous character who single-handedly guided his fractious jury to a just verdict. It is much harder for me to imagine our elected officials, or jury pool members, or even the unfortunate folks dragooned into serving on a committee or task force at work, as sharing those same characteristics.

The good news is that two heads are definitely better than one when those heads are equally capable and they communicate freely, at least according to Dr. Bahador Bahrami of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, author of “Optically Interacting Minds.” He observed: “To come to an optimal joint decision, individuals must share information with each other and, importantly, weigh that information by its reliability.”

Think of your last group decision. Did the group consist of capable, knowledgeable, eager listeners with diverse viewpoints and life experiences, and a shared commitment to evidence-based decision-making and open communication? Probably not, but sub-optimal group behavior and decisions can occur even in the best of groups. In their Harvard Business Review article “Making Dumb Groups Smarter,” Sunstein and Hastie suggest that botched informational signals and reputational pressures are to blame: “Groups err for two main reasons. The first involves informational signals. Naturally enough, people learn from one another; the problem is that groups often go wrong when some members receive incorrect signals from other members. The second involves reputational pressures, which lead people to silence themselves or change their views in order to avoid some penalty-often, merely the disapproval of others. But if those others have special authority or wield power, their disapproval can produce serious personal consequences.”

On the topic of “special authority” interfering with optimal decision-making, I recently heard a clever term used to describe a form of influence that is often at work in a decision making group. The HiPPO (“Highest Paid Person’s Opinion”) effect refers to the unfortunate tendency for lower-paid employees to defer to higher-paid employees in group decision-making situations. Not too surprising, then that the first item on Sunstein and Hastie’s list of things to do to make groups wiser is “Silence the Leader.”

So exactly how do botched informational signals and reputational pressures lead groups into making poor decisions? Sunstein and Hastie again:

  • Groups do not merely fail to correct the errors of their members; they amplify them.
  • Groups fall victim to cascade effects, as group members follow the statements and actions of those who spoke or acted first.
  • They become polarized, taking up positions more extreme than those they held before deliberations.
  • They focus on what everybody knows already-and thus don’t take into account critical information that only one or a few people have.

Next time you are on the verge of convening a roomful of people to make a decision, stop and think about what it takes to position any group to make effective decisions. You might be better off taking Julie Minson’s advice, electing to choose just one other person to partner with you to make the decision instead. Seldom Seen Smith, the river guide character in The Monkey Wrench Game by Edward Abbey, was obviously a skeptic when it came to group decision-making, but he may have been on to something when he declared:

“One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity, there ain’t nothin’ can beat teamwork.”

Insurance Industry Can Solve Cyber

Before explaining the basis for the strong statement in the headline, it’s necessary to redefine what “solve” means. After all, we live in a world where the myth of impenetrability was long ago debunked, where there are no silver bullet technology solutions and where continued cyber events are as certain as the sun rising tomorrow. Anybody who knows anything about cyber is likely thinking, “It’s impossible to solve cyber risk!” But what if we redefine “solve” as: “to provide security leaders and firms with an accurate picture of their cyber exposure, with the ability to effectively manage the risk and with resiliency when an event happens.”

With that as the definition, why is the insurance industry best-positioned to solve cyber? It’s a matter of insight and the scope of that insight. The insurance industry is the only industry that has the ability to correlate controls and protective actions (insight gained during the underwriting process) with losses resulting from the failure of such controls and protective actions (insight gained by paying claims), thus occupying a front-row seat to what is working and what is not. Most importantly, because the industry serves this function across all classes of risk, across all industry verticals and on a continuous basis, the insurance industry should be the primary source of actionable cyber risk management insight. No technology or network appliance can do that, and even the best assessment is merely a snapshot in time.

Let’s drill a little deeper by considering each element of the new definition individually.

First, the ability to provide firms with an accurate picture of their risk is a critical step toward managing it. An insurance-linked approach can help firms understand the context of their cyber exposure and do it in a way that is both easily comparable and lays a foundation to capture loss and claims data. We recommend starting with four categories of loss: 1st party financial, 3rd party financial, 1st party tangible and 3rd party tangible. Then drill deeper within each category, with subcategories tied to specific types of insurance coverage and areas of un-insurability — an incredibly helpful data point itself (meaningful areas of un-insurable cyber risk should see an overweight deployment of controls). Ultimately, this approach paints a complete picture of the cyber risk spectrum and then facilitates the easy utilization of claims data for exposure modeling and benchmarking.

Next, the ability to effectively manage cyber risk certainly trumps the other two elements based on what is most sought by the security community right now. I’ve often described the job of a cyber security leader as akin to putting together a puzzle in which one-third of the puzzle pieces are missing, another third don’t fit together and, to make matters worse, the board changes every 30 minutes. This characterization of cyber will probably never tire — hence the need to redefine “solve” — but this is the very challenge that the insurance industry is best positioned to attack. Why? Because the insurance industry underwrites the cyber security programs of firms of all shapes and sizes on a daily basis and pays claims resulting from the failure of those cyber security programs on a daily basis. If information on both fronts can be appropriately harnessed and correlated in something akin to real time, the underwriting process itself should serve not as an interrogation but rather as an actionable intelligence session for firms to understand how to best evolve their cyber programs. And why stop there? Security leaders should welcome the opportunity to call their insurance companies anytime for an update on the risk climate and for guidance with strategic planning.

Finally, the ability to provide resiliency. This is where insurance coverage itself comes into play — as it is the only type of control that can reduce, or even eliminate, the cost of an event. The ability to survive is the true measure of resiliency, so while a robust set of controls, policies and procedures wards off antigens and increases the likelihood of surviving, the financial resources to pay for an event will be most meaningful in determining the firm’s and security leaders’ fates.

Imagine the post-event press conference if the insurance industry solved cyber: “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve experienced a cyber event. It will likely be large but nowhere near catastrophic. We’ve been planning accordingly; we knew what our exposure was, and we have been continually updating our defenses in accordance with best-in-class recommendations from our insurance partners. We can validate that by virtue of the fact that we have been able to maintain a comprehensive insurance program that will cover all of our costs as well any claims against us. The organization will emerge whole.”

The insurance industry has answered the challenge before. Decades ago, insurers started to correlate the causes of events like fire and boiler explosions and subsequently provided invaluable risk-engineering insight to firms. Nobody can dispute the relevance of the industry for minimizing property risk. While some characteristics of cyber are definitely unique, all of the foundational pieces are in place for the insurance industry to do the same here. If the industry succeeds, cyber can be solved.

Seriously? Artificial Intelligence?

I don’t know about you, but when I think of artificial intelligence, I think Steven Spielberg and Arnold. That was until I saw a solution offered by Conversica, a Salesforce partner.

AI is here, it’s happening now and it’s a lot more pervasive than you think. The rise of “robo advisers” in financial services, Ikea’s “Anna” customer service rep and Alaska Airline’s “Jenn” all point to the growing adoption of technology that personalizes customer experiences….at scale.

One of the 5 D’s of Disruption in insurance is “Dialogue.” And AI is driving it.

Today, in insurance, AI is used to create natural dialogue with customers, nurture those leads, prioritize them for agents and follow through as needed. Conversica, for example, gets smarter as it interacts more with customers. And, yes, it has passed the Turing test.

It is particularly well-suited for B2C because the volume of interactions with prospects can be overwhelming for insurance agents. As insurers embrace omni-channel, new prospects can be created from any source, whether it be a contact center, social media or a face-to-face meeting. Not only is lead volume increasing, but it takes as many as six before an agent can get a prospect on the phone. This becomes a time and energy suck for agents; he is unable to follow through on every lead, and the quality of interactions goes down.

So how are insurers and agents responding? In this webinar, Eric (Conversica) and Alex (Spring Venture Group) explain to me how AI is used to nurture and convert leads.

My takeaway: AI is not just a science project. It works. It’ll become more invisible to consumers. And it creates real value to both customers and employees.

As Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, said recently in Fortune magazine, “We’re in an AI spring. I think for every company, the revolution in data science will fundamentally change how we run our business because we’re going to have computers aiding us in how we’re interacting with our customers.”