To Play or Not to Play? It’s a Management Question, Really

"Free" Time

The Overprotected Kid

The Atlantic

This week we're going to talk about play, in three takes. Seriously. 

First is the aforementioned Atlantic feature by Hanna Rosin that's less a diatribe about helicopter parenting (my fear, given the title) and more a historical and organizational look at how kids spend their free time. Rosin notes that even though women work more hours than in the ’70s, both mothers and fathers spend more time with their children today. Play is no longer a day-long reprieve from adults; rather, it's highly organized and supervised, and it takes place at the most aesthetically boring playgrounds imaginable, ostensibly to prepare our wee ones for modern middle-class life. 

This leads to the second article, from Quartz (disclosure: it's an excerpt of an HBR press book) which explains how Lego came to recognize that parents were staging their children's play — and that kids, when left to their own devices, carved out "pockets of oxygen, away from adult supervision" in the activities (and objects of those activities) that they valued most. This knowledge led to a new strategy for the struggling company. 

Last is this thickly worded essay from Heather Havrilesky about the cultural meaning of the word "play," how we enact it, and whether we've lost our way. In adultland, her examples range from the gamification fad in business and management to thirty-something kickball leagues. And when it comes to both adults and children, "play often boils down to hard work," which, frankly, it probably shouldn't. 

Name Dropping

Interactive: How Influential Is Your School?


Speaking of play (no comment on what kind of play it is), here's Time's which-school-is-more-influential game: Enter the names of two schools, and an algorithm tells you which one has had greater impact, as measured by its graduates’ renown. Along with an influence score for each, you get a fun list of famous alums. Business schools are in the database, along with undergraduate schools, divinity schools, law schools, med schools — you name it. Just don't try crossing the border to, say, McGill, or the algorithm will draw a blank. 

And how expensive is all of this educating? Take a look at The Awl's tuition-inspired NCAA bracket for more on that. —Andy O'Connell

"Project Will Be"

Better Phrasing for Online Fundraising

Free Range Thinking

The Pebble smartwatch raised $10 million, making it Kickstarter’s most successful fundraising effort. The PC-based game Ninja Baseball, on the other hand, only got to a third of its $10,000 goal. Why was one a hit and the other a bust — was it something about how the pitches were phrased?

For a study entitled "The Language that Gets People to Give," Georgia Tech assistant professor Eric Gilbert and doctoral candidate Tanushree Mitra designed software to scrape the text from the thousands of Kickstarter projects launched since June 2012. After taking into account a number of variables like project duration, they found that of the 9 million phrases they had captured, 20,391 had predictive qualities. From these they isolated the top 100 phrases that, they say, correlated significantly with funded — and underfunded — projects. The most powerful phrase (by a wide margin): “Project will be.”

What? They don’t sound like magic words to you? Gilbert and Mitra suggest that what makes the phrase so powerful is that it evokes the persuasion principles of  authority — that is, by reading that "the project will be produced by…" you will be impressed by the professionalism behind the project and be more likely to give. Or not. In any case, it’s easier to imagine what’s wrong with the biggest turn-off phrase, which was "dressed up." —Andrea Ovans

And Everyone Else

Your Kindness Is Good for You

Pacific Standard

Here at HBR, we think a lot about generosity and kindness within companies. And for good reason, as this gorgeous essay from Casey N. Cep reminds us. She weaves together a personal narrative, scholarly research, and a convocation speech from George Saunders to explore the benefits of kindness and how we can embrace it daily. She emphasizes that kindness isn't necessarily about what we say; our silence or invisible actions, particularly in our digitally driven lives, can be just as important. And when we're more mindful about this, the benefits to others — and to ourselves — can be truly outsized. 

Let's Hope So

Can Rebekka Bay Fix the Gap?


A younger incarnation of myself treasured the Gap, the only clothing store in my local Maine mall that wasn't JC Penney or Sears. Today, even as a cardigan-clad adult with backward-facing style, I’ve become aware that there's nothing special about the store. The Gap has noticed the same thing, particularly since upstarts like H&M, Zara, and Uniqlo began offering more fashionable clothing at affordable prices. As one industry analyst notes, "They had made khakis cool, but then you could get khakis everywhere. They had become a victim of their own success. Their brand became meaningless." But the company may have a secret weapon: Rebekka Bay, a Danish fashion designer who is in charge of this spring's clothing line. She's charged not only with making distinctive-yet-simple garments — "I think we can do less, and do it so much better," she explains about her philosophy of bringing integrity back to the store's clothes — but with helping the Gap get its identity back. 


What the Numbers Say

Analyzing Babysitting Price & Gender Data (Priceonomics)
The Price of Music (Re/code)
Who Had Richer Parents, Doctors or Artists? (Planet Money)

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