The Reconn Reader: Nov 18, 2018

Each week, I share some of the most interesting articles from the past seven days. Here is this week’s selection. -CA

How Managers Should Respond When Bribes Are Business as Usual

In markets with high corruption risk, front-line employees have little incentive to refuse a proposed kickback if it means failing to make their quota and risking a significant portion of their compensation. Salespeople shouldn’t receive “a financial haircut” for saying no to corruption, Bistrong says. One best practice he highlights?  The creation of an annual bonus pool for these sorts of situations. “Let’s say a foreign official is demanding a bribe. When the front-line salesperson raises the possibility that the bribe demand may cause delays, management will actually pay any accrued bonus as if the sale had been completed, drawn from the bonus pool. At that point, everybody will lean in together to fix that problem in an ethical and compliant manner, even if it takes considerably longer,” Bistrong says. “That’s enlightened management.” (Harvard Business Review)

After the Retail Apocalypse, Prepare for the Property Tax Meltdown

Fighting dark store appeals is costly, but so is acquiescence. If six properties under dispute in Wauwatosa won their appeals, local government (including the city, school district, county, and sewage district) would owe them $22.5 million in tax refunds, according to the city’s data. If West Bend reduced its assessments for Walmart and Menards by 50 percent, as both stores have basically asked, it would cost the city about $220,000 per year in lost revenue, or about 1 percent of its annual operating budget. It would also have to refund the stores $540,000 for all the years of assessments that the stores are disputing. (The city has already lost thousands from a Shopko it settled with; the local school district also had to refund $60,000 over related cases. (CityLab)

The War Inside 7-Eleven

It’s a huge headache and a public-relations nightmare for the company and its chief executive officer, Joe DePinto. But the immigration crackdown has also given 7-Eleven something potentially useful: the names of franchisees who might be in legal jeopardy. Store owners found in violation of immigration law could be in breach of their franchise agreements. And as they well know, 7-Eleven has the contractual right to take back a store from someone who’s violated his or her agreement. Which is why Sandhu’s mind went into overdrive when, on July 30, he received a letter from 7-Eleven demanding any documents alleging violations of immigration law and warning him that he risked having his store seized if he didn’t comply. (Bloomberg)


After a hard think, she concluded that, if anything, the lack of structure made the situation worse: Elite women who went to the right schools and knew the right people held power and outsiders had no viable way of challenging them. She decided to write an essay summing up her thoughts. “As long as the structure of the group is informal, the rules of how decisions are made are known only to a few and awareness of power is limited to those who know the rules,” she wrote in the piece, published in Ms. magazine in 1973. “Those who do not know the rules and are not chosen for initiation must remain in confusion, or suffer from paranoid delusions that something is happening of which they are not quite aware.” (WIRED)

Why Doctors Hate Their Computers

But three years later I’ve come to feel that a system that promised to increase my mastery over my work has, instead, increased my work’s mastery over me. I’m not the only one. A 2016 study found that physicians spent about two hours doing computer work for every hour spent face to face with a patient—whatever the brand of medical software. In the examination room, physicians devoted half of their patient time facing the screen to do electronic tasks. And these tasks were spilling over after hours. The University of Wisconsin found that the average workday for its family physicians had grown to eleven and a half hours. The result has been epidemic levels of burnout among clinicians. Forty per cent screen positive for depression, and seven per cent report suicidal thinking—almost double the rate of the general working population. (The New Yorker)

What is machine learning? We drew you another flowchart

In all of these instances, each platform is collecting as much data about you as possible—what genres you like watching, what links you are clicking, which statuses you are reacting to—and using machine learning to make a highly educated guess about what you might want next. Or, in the case of a voice assistant, about which words match best with the funny sounds coming out of your mouth. (MIT Tech Review)

Big In Japan

A sales clerk was restocking the Kit Kat display in Don Quijote when I asked her which were the most popular flavors. She shook her head. “They’re all popular,” she said. She gestured at the empty tunnels of matcha-, grape- and strawberry-flavored Kit Kats that she was filling as a small group of Chinese tourists carried armloads of glossy snack bags and boxes back to their shopping carts, undoing her work. An Australian father and son rushed by in a panic, their cart heaped with gifts to take back home. “Which one, Dad? Which one?” the child asked desperately, pointing to all the varieties. “It doesn’t matter,” the father shouted, as if the timer on a bomb were running out. “Just take one!” (New York Times)

Solving Microplastic Pollution Means Reducing, Recycling—and Fundamental Rethinking

Reducing single-use plastics will help the environment because the packaging sector more broadly is the biggest user of plastic polymers. But plastic, including some of the same polymers found in single-use packaging, is also used in construction, electronics and fabrics. The latter are the source of microfibers, which are proving to be one of the most ubiquitous forms of microplastic pollution. Scientists are concerned that focusing on single-use plastics will obscure more systemic issues around plastic that need to be addressed. “It’s a super-useful first step,” says Martin Wagner, an ecotoxicologist at Norwegian University of Science and Technology. “What I’m afraid of is that that will be it.” (Scientific American)

How history forgot the woman who defined autism

Despite her relative obscurity in the West, Sukhareva is “the most well-known name in child psychiatry” in Russia, says Alexander Goryunov, lead researcher in the child and adolescent psychiatry department at the Mental Health Research Center in Moscow. In 2011, on the 120th anniversary of Sukhareva’s birth, the Neurology and Psychiatry Journal, of which Goryunov is executive editor, reviewed her wide-ranging contributions to the field. Sukhareva published more than 150 papers, six monographs and several textbooks on topics as diverse as intellectual disability, schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder, among other conditions. She was also a gifted teacher and mentored scores of doctoral students. (Spectrum News)

An Artist’s Impressions of New York City’s Most Exclusive Funeral Home

The exhibition features eight paintings by the artist, each depicting the Frank E. Campbell funeral home from different angles in an excruciatingly detailed pointillist style that recalls the work of neo-impressionists like Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, and Henri-Edmond Cross. Accordingly, Talmadge has costumed the white cube gallery’s normally stark walls with anachronistic, mint-green wallpaper and plush gray carpeting. The result is an eerie amalgamation of funeral home finery and the extravagant details of a 19th-century French artist salon. The subtext here is wonderfully mordant, if also flip. Through her decorative details, the artist seems to ask: What’s the difference, really, between a funeral parlor and the artists’ salon? (Hyperallergic)

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