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A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Just Looking at Cash Makes People Selfish and Less Social

When it comes to money, people aren’t pursuing stacks of green paper or a collection of copper disks—they’re interested in what those objects represent. The pull of money, the economy and most behavioral research agree, is symbolic.

But what if the medium of exchange—cash itself—can change the way people behave? A study to be published next month in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology points toward that possibility. Its authors found, through a series of six experiments, that people who were prompted to think about money—literally just shown a picture of bills or coins—were more likely to conceal their emotions than those who viewed non-financial imagery. This study offers only the latest addition to the list of behaviors brought on by the mere thought of money.

The idea of making people think about money and then observing how they behave first popped up in recent literature in 2006, when Kathleen D. Vohs, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, published “The Psychological Consequences of Money,” a paper describing what happened when subjects were primed with images of cash. Instead of relying on pictures, Vohs had some of her ...

How Low Would You Go to Get Ahead?

It was a couple of years ago (OK, maybe a couple of decades ago), when my wife and I took our son, then a high school student, on the pre-college tour. We visited a variety of campuses from coast to coast (and in Canada, too). At the beginning of the fall semester, we ended up in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins University.

The freshmen had just arrived, and the first edition of the student newspaper was displayed on its racks. I picked up a copy.

For the freshmen, the paper had a very practical section listing all of the unofficial Johns Hopkins slang words they needed to know to sound cool and—more importantly—to avoid appearing clueless.

My attention was quickly caught by one of these words: “throating,” as in the verb “to throat.” Throating is primarily an occupation of pre-med students, though any student could engage in this behavior.

To “throat” is to directly hinder or hurt other students’ performance. Any student can throat an individual student or an entire class.

For example, a “throat” (a student who engages in throating) might sabotage another student’s lab experiment or destroy yet another’s notes.

Or the throat could do ...

Creative Minds: Tackling Chemotherapy Resistance

For many young scientists, nothing can equal the chance to have a lab of one’s own. Still, it often takes considerable time to get there. To help creative minds cut to the chase sooner, the NIH Director’s Early Independence Awards this year will enable 17 outstanding young researchers to skip post-doctoral training and begin running their own labs immediately.

Today, I’d like to tell you about one of these creative minds. His name is Aaron Meyer, a cell signaling expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and his research project will take aim at one the biggest challenges in cancer treatment: chemotherapy resistance.

Specifically, Meyer’s work focuses on a group of proteins, called receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs), which are embedded in the outer surface of just about every cell in our body. RTKs bind various hormones and growth factors that activate internal signaling networks critical for cell communication, growth, and movement. RTKs are so fundamental to the core functions of our cells that many cancers hijack them to fuel their growth and resist certain chemotherapy drugs.

For example, breast cancers that produce too much of an RTK, called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 ...

7 Tips for Accommodating Your Older Staffers

Mary loved her job as a recreational therapist in a skilled nursing facility. Her co-workers marveled at her ability to assess the needs of residents and propose exactly the right activity for a patient recovering from a brain injury, stroke or other trauma. Her 30-plus years of experience in all manner of expressive arts therapies helped her serve her patients well. She worked efficiently and effectively with quiet compassion.

And then came the inevitable hours of paperwork. For Mary, writing long detailed notes in medical charts was a normal part of her day. But she wasn’t as speedy as she had been in the past, and documentation requirements were increasing. While a physicians’ notes are usually transcribed from a dictated recording, medical support staff still struggle through pages of writing by hand at many facilities. Her immediate supervisor, 15 years her junior, pushed her to speed up. Mary felt stressed and unable to cope with the continuing pressure. After starting to dread her job and feeling like she was getting worse instead of better, she applied for and received a medical leave of absence.

Was this the best solution for Mary and her employer? Probably not.

Mary is one ...

Creating Innovation Offices That Work

Innovation offices are being established by many governments—including cities (Austin, Philadelphia and Chicago), states (Maryland, Colorado and Pennsylvania) and federal agencies (the National Archives and Records Administration and the departments of Health and Human Services and State). But not all offices are organized the same way and not all have the same mission or metrics. In a new report from the IBM Center for the Business of Government, “A Guide for Making Innovation Offices Work,” Rachel Burstein and Alyssa Black detail how these various innovation groups fall into structural categories and how their success metrics map to their missions.


The authors identified six basic structures of innovation offices, noting that many combined two more or more of these models:

  1. Laboratory: An autonomous group charged with developing new technologies, products, fixes, or programs, sometimes in partnership with other groups and often with a public face. (Examples: New Urban Mechanics, Boston and Philadelphia; the Health and Human Services Department’s IDEA Lab)
  2. Facilitator: One person or small group working to convene government departments on internal improvements or external projects. (Examples: Governor’s Innovation Office, Pennsylvania; Chief Innovation Officer, Kansas City)
  3. Adviser: A small autonomous group or single person within government ...