Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Why Me?" - Attribution Theory of Success/Failure

I found this post by Guy Kawasaki about serial entrepeneurs (spurred by the thoughts of Glenn Kelman) surprisingly 'emperor has no clothes' for a VC.

It's also a fascinating topic when viewed through the lens of "Attribution Theory". A lot of Guy's & Glenn's comments seem to have unknowingly stumbled into Psychology's well-studied world of "Attribution Theory." In a nutshell, people attribute success or failure to luck or ability depending on their expectations for success or failure. For example, I know that passing the Bar Exam (for lawyers) is hard, so if I fail it that was expected and hence bad luck, not a measure of my innate ability. On the other hand, if I fail an exam for a driver's license (that is simple and hence expected to be easily passed)... well then i might have to attribute my failure to lack of ability.

For a dry, scholarly look at the topic you can read this.

This topic gets very interesting when you start to bring in gender differences. Most studies find that gender differences in expectations and attributions arise primarily from stereotypes about the task itself. Given that women generally have low expectations for success when completing "male" tasks (like business & entrepreneurship), they tend to attribute their success to luck and to attribute their failure to lack of ability. However, men, who generally expect success, often attribute their failure to luck and their success to ability. [paraphrased from above source]

As a woman, I have to say I have fallen into this trap myself and looked enviably at my male counterparts who, after failing right along side me, could chalk it up to just 'bad luck.' And speaking of failing - we always hear how you learn more from failure than from success... where are the VCs looking to find the 'smartest' entrepreneurs based on this metric?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Facebook for the rest of us

So the gold rush is apparently on... what applications can we build on the FB platform to achieve fame, profit and glory? Must one serve the young consumer market to succeed or is there a way to tap into the growing membership of adults with interests beyond parties and throwing sheep?

I hear other adults talking in hushed tones about using FB, despite our advanced age of 30+, and i've been checking it out myself for about 6 months now.

Conclusions thus far: it's fun! I'm sharing pictures with my friends and playing scrabble with old college buddies now far removed, and following the Twitters of friends and even family displaced by the recent fires in SoCal.

My big questions about crossing the chasm into the business-use realm:
  • Can this be useful, and not just fun/interesting, for people/companies who want to serve a business need?

  • If there's a useful app out there for business users will they expose their profile to business colleagues in order to enable the app?

  • Will we end up with 2 profiles each - one 'personal' and one 'business' - to avoid the above problem?

  • Perhaps the tools themselves will allow us to have one profile but bifurcate our selves into fun-lover versus professional for the purposes of who sees what?

More questions than answers, but given the amount of press that Facebook is receiving I believe we will see our answers quickly.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Airlines: Why we hate you

No matter your business or industry, you probably have to fly to do your job. You may even choose to fly in pursuit of fun (remember that?!). Whatever the purpose, we have all learned to accept poor customer service, dirty planes, starvation and delayed flights in exchange for the cheap fares we are now addicted to.
Despite all of these lax expectations, air carriers still manage to find ways to make the traveling public just plain hate them. To wit:

I am contemplating a trip from Denver to SoCal, and I choose to explore fares to the Ontario airport. Here's a non-stop on United for only $300 (not bad for less than 2 weeks before departure):

But since I'm searching with Kayak, I can also check-out fares to other nearby airports. Of course, I was expecting to check out other SoCal airports (San Diego, Orange County, LAX...), but to my surprise instead found this:

A flight for $173 round trip that starts and ends in Colorado Springs but has the EXACT SAME Denver/Ontario trip in the middle! So, for HALF the price I can take TWICE the flight segments. This defies all human logic.

Clearly their decision to price fares this way has no basis in costs. I couldn't even find a competing fare from COS to ONT that might explain why this fare exists from a competitive standpoint.

Meanwhile, I'm left with the choice of whether it's worth cutting our airfare in half by driving to an airport that's about 45 minutes further away than DIA and of course expanding the travel time significantly.

I choose to not divulge my decision, but to continue to hate airlines and to complain to the blogosphere instead.

Can anyone from United Airlines comment on this seeming paradox in pricing?