Friday, April 17, 2015

The Powers of Flowers: Stress, Image, and Brain Improvements

Flowers are drawn with nature's artistic hand across a landscape canvas. With bright colors flowers offer something more than a beautiful landscape but a tantalizing feast for our eyes and food for our soul. There is something inherent in flowers that brighten our day and help us think about how beautiful the wild can really be.

Flowers are a powerful representation of emotion and beauty. They are so powerful that those who hold onto a bunch of flowers seem to have a positive aura about them. Consider a study of male and female hitchhikers holding onto flowers. Men holding flowers got a ride by both sexes more than either women with or without flowers (Gueguen, Meineri & Stefan, 2012).

Flowers seem to make us more approachable and provide a trait of aesthetic appreciation. Those that can find beauty in this world seem to carry with them traits that include empathy, kindness, and sensitivity. There is no doubt why artists, poets, and painters love flowers.

It is also beneficial to consider the stress and brain enhancements that come with flowers. According to research people who take a stroll in nature have higher brain functioning and lower levels of stress (As cited in Green, 2011). The same applies to those who look at pictures of flowers and destress from all of the days worries.

With all the benefits of flowers I am concerned that more people don't find them of interest. Putting a few pictures on your office or home wall will certainly allow for a more artistic feel to spruce up your environment while reducing stress levels. Go for a walk if you can or put some pictures of flowers on your office wall.

I engage in some hobby artistic photography and painting as one way to keep in touch with and study nature. The imagination this work entails offers cognitive flexibility and innovative creativity hard to find in other activities. If you are interested in purchasing a picture you may do so on the Creative Works page or you may buy related products like mugs or cell phone cases on Fine Art America.

Creative Works

Fine Art America

Gueguen, N. Meineri, Sebastien, Stefan, J. (2012).  "Say it with Flowers" Female Drivers: Hitchhikers Holding Flowers and Driver Behavior. North American Journal of Psychology, 14 (3).

Green, J. (2011). Research Shows Nature Helps With Stress. Dirt. Retrieved

The Effects of Accounting Practices on Derivative Based Earnings Volatility

Accounting practices can have a large impact on risk management. Understanding hedging and derivatives volatility is important for corporate investors and banks that want to reduce risks and meet investor expectations.

Because derivatives and hedging can cause calamity for banks, businesses, and societal stakeholders they make a solid subject for research. A study by Dr. Drakopoulou extended prior research on corporate risk management activities of BHCs and may effect social change by presenting new evidence on the effects of SFAS 133 economic hedges on earnings volatility.


The goal of this research was to investigate the controversy surrounding the inability of Statement of Financial Accounting Standard No. 133 (SFAS 133), Accounting for Derivative Instruments and Hedging Activities to portray the economics of hedging. This research examined whether or not the possibility of increased volatility evolved from economic hedges that do not qualify for hedge accounting under SFAS 133 prompted Bank Holding Companies (BHCs) to adjust their corporate risk management strategy to one that is more accounting responsive. Based on the results of this research, BHCs' which increased the level of accounting hedges and decreased the level of economic hedges experienced a significant decrease in earnings volatility relative to pre-SFAS 133. The findings suggest that BHCs' ability to reduce earnings volatility and increase earnings smoothing to meet analysts' expectations after the 2008 amendment of SFAS 133 has an adverse impact on BHCs' continual use of economic hedges. Analysts and investors are recommended to evaluate further BHCs' risk strategies to gain a better representation of their risk paradigm with derivatives. This study extends prior research on corporate risk management activities of BHCs and contributes to social change by presenting new affirmation to investors of the influence of SFAS 133 economic hedges on earnings volatility.

You may download the full paper HERE.

Trust? Trusting the Internet Collective over Individuals and Institutions

A new generation of people have been raised in an environment where the fundamentals of trust
between individuals and institutions are breaking down. Despite this downward trend people seem to trust the collective opinions of others on the Internet and use this information to make personal choices in their lives. The trust factor may be eroding but it isn't too late for people to consider its what this means for business and society.

A general survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago and analyzed in the Washington Post offers some interesting data on whether people can be trusted (Badger, 2015).  Since 1979 the idea of  "You Can't be Too Careful" has move from approximately 49% to around 68% while the idea of "Most People Can be Trusted" moved from approximately 45% to approximately 30%.

People trust other people  and institutions less than they did in the past. They are skeptical of the motives of others and don't believe that people act in manners that are beneficial to others. A type of selfish skepticism makes its way into the 18-24 year old population that reflects the reality of their lives and how they view the world. For them...everything is in transition.

It is hard to blame them. Considering the partisan nature of politics, scandals in the VA, the rise of identity theft,  broken homes , inability to rise through the ranks, aggressive police, poor government policies and cost of living the young Generation Y is feeling what has been a natural part of the lives of Generation X. They are only recently seeing a world where recession doesn't sit over their futures like a dark cloud hampering their hopes for the future.

This doesn't mean that they don't trust anyone. They have embraced technology, Internet, and their own value systems as a default method of navigating their lives. They trust the collective response of people who use products, rate them, and leave comments. They diligently scan over forums and purchasing outlets like Amazon to determine if their next purchase will be worthwhile.

For example, a person looking for a restaurant to eat at may search online for their particular taste. They could look for spicy Thia, seafood, etc... within a 5 mile radius of their home. Furthermore, they can see the price, menu, comments, and overall ranking of the establishment. The next click on their search criteria could include a cross reference of locality and ranking.

It makes sense doesn't it? You want something to eat or buy a product so you tern to product review. You have certain criteria and search out that criteria based upon the tens, hundreds, or thousands of people who had something to say about it. If you are going to eat somewhere or buy a product then it make sense to do that to the ones that are ranked highly.

 For society this means that trust in not a given and must be earned. People will rate and rank the services based upon their personal experience and this will impact how many people will use that service in the future. As people offer their collective input they will naturally be able to improve, break, or discard services.  It doesn't make much difference if it is a company, product, or a government office as opinions have a way of self-confirming.

As the world globalizes the product and service evaluations could be from anywhere. The opinions and how people evaluate products/services can be from any locality in the world and will form a collective international identity. The more people act and interact with other from around the world the more likely they will share similarities of perspective. Companies will not only need to look at their products from a local perspective but also an international perspective.

Businesses and institutions will need to concern themselves with these ranking systems and make amends to service failures. There have been numerous instances of conflicts between companies and customers based upon these rankings. Ultimately, it will be the collective impression of the masses that win out. Companies will need to improve upon their offerings and create greater competitiveness in their ranks to woo over the masses.

Badger, E. (April 16, 2015). Who millennials trust, and don’t trust, is driving the new economy. Washington Post. Retrieved

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Benefits of Big Data and Forecasting in Today's Economy

Forecasting is a prediction of some future event. It is used as a mechanism for strategic planning in most industries but is pronounced in marketing, economics, human resources and investing that rely on future predictions to determine the best courses of actions. Forecasting affords the ability to understand market risks as companies seek to stay ahead of changes and adjust their processes to meet market challenges.

Forecasting can be simple or it can be complex. Typically methodologies use formulas and strict processes to ensure they are giving fair weight and evaluation to the necessary factors used in making that prediction. The process is so important that people have made their living simply off of analyzing information and making usable intelligence for others.

Predictions are as much likely to be wrong as they are to be correct. The problem with predictions is that no one can truly know the exact possibility of the future or all of the outlier events that can change a course of action. However, it is possible that people can determine within a range the most likely events based upon today's influencing factors.

 How and what we see in big data makes a big difference on the quality of the prediction. Some methodologies funnel certain information into the prediction model leaving out clues that may also have relevance. Other times big data can confuse practitioners and they are unable to find any meaningful patterns in the information.

San Diego is getting up to speed on using big data to not only solve problems and make better scientific predictions. According to an article in UT San Diego biomedical community is hiring big data and software gurus to work on problems that range from cancer to Alzheimer. The collection and analysis of information can find statistical significant among events leading to better prevention of future health problems. 

Forecasting and predictions rely on the analysis of big data. Without the ability to understand past data and put it within an appropriate mental framework the patterns of past behavior cannot be used to predict future behavior. Ensuring that you have the capacity to collect information, analyze that information, and put it to good use is furthered through scientific thinking and better data management systems.

Events in Isolation: One way to evaluate likely actions is to assess the probability of events occurring not in a sequence but as stand alone events. The history of the particular problem doesn't matter as long as you have the data to understand how each factor influences the changes one route will happen over another.

Consider how the flip of a coin will either land on a head or tail regardless of previous spins. We know this is 50%/50%. Other events may be 30%/70% among two possible outcomes or 10%, 40%, 50% among three possible outcomes. Each possible outcome has an associated probability of it occurring and can be used in the prediction model.

The problem is that many people do not always see all of the outcomes or know the possible probable outcomes. Their mind and perspective skips over important data that is useful in the analysis. For example, one person may see two possible outcomes and another three. If you cannot see all the possible outcomes then your percentages are likely to be skewed making an assessment incorrect.

Events Based on History: Events don't always work in isolation and have historical outcomes. Understanding history and they way in which things turned out in the past helps to determine your current probabilities. Those probabilities are used to make an evaluation of the current situation to determine whether or not a particular outcome is likely.

For example, if we looked back at the history of a dog sniffing the grass in front of your house you may need to watch what other dogs, as well as that dog, have done over the course of a period of time. If the dog sniffs the same place 70% of the time it walks past the chances are it will do it again. This determination would not be possible without a historical evaluation.

Events Based on Trends and Momentum: Sometimes events are already in a sequence of actions and simply taking a snap shop of it like that used in a Markov chain will not produce an accurate forecast. Evaluating the trend of an action will help determine what influences are likely to either maintain its current trajectory or influence a changes in that trajectory. A ball in motion may stay in motion.

Finding trends means looking at information not only from its current place but also its longitudinal history. This often requires multiple methods of making measurements to see how things are changing. For example, over the past two years unemployment is dropping and assuming nothing in substantial in the market is changing then that trajectory will continue to move forward until other economic factors slow it down.

Events Based on Human Goal Directed Behavior: Humans have animal spirits that are led by logic, emotion, and social expectations to come to conclusion about certain events. Their natural selection and backgrounds will determine what they see in their environment and how they will evaluate that information. Their behaviors are a result of their conclusions and choices will likely be directed toward their goals.

Understanding the history of the person, what type of information they have, the medium they received it in, and the messages create a better interpretation of the individual and their likely conclusions. Such behavior is often calculated through polls, sociological/psychological studies, focus groups and marketing analysis.

Robbins, G. (2015). UCSD hiring 'big data' stars. UT San Diego. Retrieved

Monday, April 13, 2015

San Diego Becomes gets Exposure as “Smart” City in National Geographic Documentary

San Diego is being filmed as one of the “World’s Smart Cities” creating international buzz for innovation, craft beers, coastline, parks, and management. The program will be aired internationally on the National Geographic Channel and raises public awareness of the benefits to live, work and invest in San Diego. 

Modern cities are known for their local industries and lifestyles. For example Seattle and coffee, Detroit and cars, and Cancun and vacation are tied together in consumer minds. Once these associations become embedded they will influence consumer impressions in a way that leads to choices and in turn greater economic activity. 

Documentaries not only help solidify those images but also raise awareness of other local industries. San Diego may have great beaches but it also has a budding bio-technology industry that would benefit from greater international exposure. That exposure can lead to greater awareness of local investment opportunities.

San Diego draws mental associations of beaches, military bases, and palm trees but it has much more to offer.  A documentary on the advanced scientific industries in the area, craft beers, and parks adds to that image and creates new information for people to recall when they think about the city.

Consider a person in Europe watching the program that knows little about San Diego but is planning on adding a new investment to their portfolio. After watching documentary on the city and learning about the rapidly growing scientific community they decide to explore promising investment opportunities. 

The same can be said for viewers in Brazil who may be planning their next family vacation. After seeing the images of parks, beaches, craft beers, and restaurants they may just opt make San Diego their next vacation destination. A single thought or feeling stemming from the images leads to purchasing behavior.

Documentaries such as this are only the tip of the iceberg. Once viewing the program people will search out information related to their interests. Typing “San Diego” into Google recalls pages on travel, city government, parks, and hotels. A similar search on “San Diego Investment Opportunities” draws a Hodge Podge of real estate unrelated websites leaving potential investors confused.

Capitalizing on new exposure opportunities requires the ability of people to find the information they need to make decisions that are beneficial to the city. Encouraging greater search engine ranking of San Diego opportunities will rely on public conversation in the form of video, text, websites, music, etc… that draw more visitors and rank higher in search engine rankings. 

As public awareness about the city grows it takes on a form of marketing that can lead not only to additional tourism but also to more investment capital. This all spells growth for the city as that money makes its way into the local hotels, restaurants, start-up businesses, and existing industry clusters. Promoting San Diego promotes our economic opportunities. Getting in the conversation can make all the difference.

Documentary: The Worlds Smart Cities. 8PM, April 25th, May 2nd, National Geographic Channel