Notes from BbWorld 2007 in Boston, MA

I’m down in Boston, Mass. and today was day one of Blackboard’s user conference. Steven Leavitt of Freakonomics fame gave the opening keynote and did an admirable job. My takeaway points:

  • Incentives matter – For both good and bad. Leavitt opines that anything worth winning is worth cheating for. My take, if you make the prize too valuable, people will often cheat to obtain it (he sites the example of tax returns prior to the requirement to include your dependents SSNs and the overnight “disappearance” of over 7 million children that tax year). But also, folks like to feel like they are valued and therefore it is important to ensure that the incentive is relative to the task.
  • One small idea can tip the balance – In the example above, a single IRS employee made the suggestion twice over a period of years. His suggestion, once acted upon, has meant an over 30 billion dollar increase in revenue. You never know when your one simple suggestion could have such an enormous impact, so act!
  • Education is ripe for a revolution – We’re still trying to teach the same way we did 40 years ago. The corporate world has evolved, why hasn’t education? By the way, Leavitt also mentioned that the idea of tenure in the world of higher education has to go because it no longer serves it’s original purpose and now simply ensures that mediocrity is rewarded. I’m sure that will stir the pot with educators but perhaps he has a point.

I just finished listening to Tapscott’s Wikinomics, perhaps I should now add Leavitt’s Freakonomics to my list.

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3 thoughts on “Notes from BbWorld 2007 in Boston, MA

  1. Definitely read Freakonomics… I didn’t get to finish it during my semester break in May, but I’m hoping to during August. It offers an interesting perspective on things.

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