Saturday, August 21, 2010

Stressed Out? Lets put up nets to catch the jumpers!

Are you stressed at the end of each month?  Is the owner of the company in the QC department moving things around saying "work on this, this and this, screw what you told the customer about delivery" because those items with higher monetary values will make the Been Counters happy?  Have you had the misfortune of working for a boss that told a new colleague "We don't write anything down here, like product requirements or specifications, because that reduces flexibility".  Talk about stress, nothing you ever supply the boss can possible be correct, because only he knows what the requirement was, so everything is always late, and had to be redone, sometimes several times a day.  No, that boss was not worried about Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 26; Duty to Disclose; General Provisions Governing Discovery.

Maybe your wife is reading an online copy of Mr. Mean: Saving Your Relationship from the Irritable Male Syndrome by Jed Diamond Ph.D (ISBN: 978-0984260010) right now?  Due to being so stressed out from working daily with the boss that does not understand the need for requirements.

There are two items brought all of this up, to make we want to write this post.  First is this news story I just read: Foxconn Technology Group raised workers' wages and installed safety nets on buildings to catch would-be jumpers.  One thing we can say for sure is that Foxconn management is following the American Corporation way of fixing the symptom instead of fixing the root cause.

The second reason is that now even Intel is studying stress:

"Intel Scoop will feature social scientists such as anthropologists and psychologists from Intel on a thoughtful discussion about the relationship between technology and stress – how technology can elevate but also alleviate stress at the same time. Follow and join the discussion here."

Not just their tongue-in-cheek Do You Suffer From Hourglass Syndrome?, but a sincere study of psychological stress by psychologist and anthropologist.

Something that many in the world of Embedded Systems, and companies in general, often lose sight of is that our products are, in one way or the other, meant to be used by people, either directly like a Cell Phone or indirectly like a sewage treatment control system.  Losing sight of people leads to stress, or to make a case from the bottom line, stress caused by not having customers to buy our Embedded widgets (no customers eventual means no job, which is about as stressful as it can get).

Sometimes it can be good to read something seemingly completely outside our obscure Embedded area like Pizza Today Magazine or more relevantly publications from The Society for Consumer Psychology.  The SCP publishes the Journal of Consumer Psychology (JCP).  JCP publishes articles that contribute both theoretically and empirically to an understanding of consumer judgment and behavior and the processes that underlie them.  If you want to influence people to buy your products, then it is important to understand what forces control their judgment. For example:

The effect of deal exclusivity on consumer response to targeted price promotions: A social identification perspective; Journal of Consumer Psychology Volume 20, Issue 1, January 2010, Pages 78-89:


Discounts offered selectively to consumers are commonplace in the market and reflect the assumption that individuals will respond positively to targeted discounts. We consider whether exclusive deals evoke more positive responses than inclusive offers, an outcome referred to as a deal exclusivity effect. Contrary to the intuition that targeted promotions will always be evaluated more favorably than inclusive offers, we show that deal exclusivity effects (1) can be attenuated based upon factors influencing the extent to which recipients identify with other deal recipients and (2) are mediated by the offer's ability to enable the recipient to engage in self-enhancement.

Michael J. Barone, Tirthankar Roy, The effect of deal exclusivity on consumer response to targeted price promotions: A social identification perspective, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Volume 20, Issue 1, January 2010, Pages 78-89, ISSN 1057-7408, DOI: 10.1016/j.jcps.2009.10.002.  (

What is even more interesting is the timing of a customers interest:

The effect of consumers' diurnal preferences on temporal behavior;Journal of Consumer Psychology Volume 20, Issue 1, January 2010, Pages 53-65:


"The purpose of this study is to determine whether customers' diurnal preferences, tested at different times of the day, affect their responses and behavior. Three studies explore whether synchrony between the peak circadian arousal period and the time of participant testing influenced participants' temporal perception and behavior. Overall, the results imply a robust synchrony and time-of-day effects on the dependent variables. The authors discuss the theoretical significance of their findings and the managerial implications for consumer research and practice."

Jacob Hornik, Chezy Ofir, Rinat Shaanan-satchi, The effect of consumers' diurnal preferences on temporal behavior, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Volume 20, Issue 1, January 2010, Pages 53-65, ISSN 1057-7408, DOI: 10.1016/j.jcps.2009.08.002. (

The good, the bad, and the ugly: Influence of aesthetics on product feature judgments by Joseph W. Albab and Darren W. Dahla, will probably be an interesting read as well when I can my hands on a copy.

In relation to stress, can't help but to mention the effects of Full Moons on people and electronics.  See the last chapter of the book "Full Moons" by Paul Katzeff; ISBN 0-8065-0843-9.

While the boss is changing his mind about what a product should do, yet again, take deep breaths, and learn Breathing: Three Exercises.  You may exhale now...

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