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By The Numbers

Workplace Survey, Findings

1.Workers are struggling to work effectively. 

When focus is compromised in pursuit of Collaboration, neither works well.

2. Effective workplaces balance focus and collaboration. 

Workplaces designed to enable collaboration without sacrificing employees’ ability to focus are more successful.

3. Choice drives performance and innovation. 

Employers who provide a spectrum of choices for when and where to work are seen as more innovative and have higher-performing employees.

 

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HOW BAGELS CAN EXPLAIN HUMAN BEHAVIOR?

Many people tend to assume that mankind is innately corrupt. If so, how corrupt? In their book "Freakonomics" Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt describe the singular story about Paul Feldman and his bagels.

While studying agricultural economics at Cornell, Paul Feldman wanted to end world hunger. Instead, in 1962, after doctoral work at M.I.T., he ended up taking a job with a research institute in Washington, analyzing the weapons expenditures of the United States Navy. After four years he was in charge of a high-level research team. Loving the arts of economics -the data-gathering, the statistical manipulation, the problem-solving-  he had ''potent research ideas,'' as he recalls them now, which the Environmental Protection Agency failed to appreciate it. He even developed a statistical means of predicting cancer clusters, but because he was an economist and not a doctor, he couldn't make headway with the National Cancer Institute. He was well paid but unfulfilled. ''I'd go to the office Christmas party, and people would introduce me to their wives or husbands as to the guy who brings in the bagels,'' he says. '''Oh! You're the guy who brings in the bagels!' Nobody ever said, 'This is the guy in charge of the public research group.'''

 

The bagels had begun as a casual gesture: a boss treating his employees whenever they won a new research contract. Then he made it a habit. Every Friday, he would bring half a dozen bagels, a serrated knife, some cream cheese. When employees from neighboring floors heard about the bagels, they wanted some, too. Eventually, he was bringing in 15 dozen bagels a week. He set out a cash basket to recoup his costs. His collection rate was about 95 percent; he attributed the underpayment to oversight. In 1984, when his research institute fell under new management, he took a look at his career and grimaced. ''I was sick of every aspect of the whole thing,'' he says. ''I was discouraged. I was tired of chasing contracts. So I said to management: 'I'm getting out of this. I'm going to sell bagels.''' His economist friends thought he had lost his mind. They thought it was a terrible "waste of talent.'' But his wife supported his decision. They had retired their mortgage; the last of their three children was finishing college.

Driving around the office parks that encircle Washington, he solicited customers with a simple pitch: early in the morning, he would deliver some bagels and a cash basket to a company's snack room; he would return before lunch to pick up the money and the leftovers. It was an honor-system commerce scheme, and it worked. Within a few years, he was delivering 700 dozen bagels a week to 140 companies and earning as much as he had ever made as a research analyst. He had thrown off the shackles of cubicle life and made himself happy. He had also -- quite without meaning to -- designed a beautiful economic experiment. By measuring the money collected against the bagels taken, he could tell, down to the penny, just how honest his customers were. Did they steal from him? If so, what were the characteristics of a company that stole versus a company that did not? Under what circumstances did people tend to steal more or less?

After 8 years his business was still thriving and Feldman had more time to indulge his economist self and tally his data. He knew, for instance, that in the past eight years he has delivered 1,375,103 bagels, of which 1,255,483 were eaten. (He has also delivered 648,341 doughnuts, of which 608,438 were eaten.) He knew a good deal about the payment rate, too. When he first went into business, he expected 95 percent payment, based on the experience at his own office. But, as  Dubner and Levitt point, "crime tends to be low on a street where a police car is parked, the 95 percent rate was artificially high: Paul F.'s presence had deterred theft. Not only that, but those bagel eaters knew the provider and had feelings (presumably good ones) about him."

In the real world, Feldman learned to settle for less than 95 percent (the current overall payment rate is about 87 percent). Now he considers companies ''honest'' if the payment is 90 percent or more. ''Averages between 80 percent and 90 percent are annoying but tolerable,'' he says. ''Below 80 percent, we really have to grit our teeth to continue.''

Interestingly he has identified two great overriding predictors of a company's honesty: morale and size. Feldman has noted a strong correlation between high payment rates and an office where people seem to like their boss and their work. He also gleans a higher payment rate from smaller offices. An office with a few dozen employees generally out pays by 3 percent to 5 percent an office with a few hundred employees. This may seem counterintuitive: in a bigger office, a bigger crowd is bound to convene around the bagel table -- providing more witnesses to make sure you drop your money in the box. But, according to Dubner and Levitt, in the big-office/small-office comparison, bagel crime seems to mirror street crime. There is far less crime per capita in rural areas than in cities, in large part because a rural criminal is more likely to be known (and therefore caught). Also, a rural community tends to exert greater social incentives against crime, the main one being shame.