ButWhatFor? Four for Friday | No. 042

Deceiving Negotiators, Cheating Students, For Now, & Nothing Happened

June 10, 2022

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ButWhatFor? Four for Friday

  • One Quote: Deceiving Negotiators
  • One Long: My Students Cheated
  • One Short: For Now
  • One Extra: Nothing Happened

One Quote

Just as ignoramuses are not good negotiators, so there are certain minds so finely drawn and delicately organized as to be even less well suited, since they become overly subtle about everything. They are, so to speak, like those who break the points of needles by trying to make them too fine. For the best results, it is necessary that men hold themselves to a middle course. The most successful ones use their keenness of mind to prevent themselves from being deceived, having care not to use the same means for deceiving those with whom they are negotiating

One of my current bosses is very good at approaching any negotiation with an orientation to finding a win-win situation. In our work, often times a one-sided contract where there is definitively a "winner" and a "loser" just results in arguments / lawsuits / animosity / people looking to find alternatives over the medium term.

Alternatively, if the contractual relationship is mutually beneficial, both parties have an incentive to make the relationship better and stronger over time. 

As Richelieu mentions above, a lot of times negotiators approach situations with "how can I win." A "how can we win together" mental model is an exceptionally better orientation to your counterparty. 

Outside of negotiating, I find this applies to nearly every interaction you have with others - meaning, having a constant focus on "how can I make others enjoy interacting with me regardless of the situation." Over time, you find you have more and more good people around you willing to reciprocate the same. 

One Long

Last semester I witnessed the worst cheating in a course I’ve ever seen. And, I’ve seen stuff... It started in August 2021. I was about to give my first lecture of the semester online. Just as quickly as I started the lecture, one of the students used the chat to post a link to join a WhatsApp chat group for the class. I joined...

[It was] filled with hundreds of pictures of laptop screens. Not my laptop. I didn’t take those pictures. I looked closer and recognized the screenshots. My quiz and midterm questions...

OK, let’s recap. I have about 70 students on WhatsApp cheating like there is no tomorrow. I have counted what they did, I have almost filled out the forms to let them know the consequences; but, no one knows yet that I am aware of the cheating. I made the second midterm more cheat proof. I’m still on the WhatsApp chat. The day of the second midterm comes around. I log into my class so that students can talk to me while they are taking the midterm. The midterm begins, and so do the WhatsApp messages...

What happened with the second midterm?

Matt Crump, from crumplab.com

While all of us would probably agree that formal education almost always falls short of internally motivated learning, there are a lot of things that we need to learn that kind of have to be forced upon us. Yes, you might not be intrinsically enthralled with the concepts of the ideal gas laws (in middle school, for some reason, I was however :P) when you are a kid, but it is good to know that you can hurt yourself with an accidental explosion by heating a container. 

Thus, cheating in a formal education system probably doesn't make a lot of sense either. 

Matt Crump found out that cheating is increasingly a systemic problem at universities - and students view cheating as an altruistic, mutually beneficial behavior. As highlighted in the Quote above, mutually beneficial situations are strong and enduring. Thus, Crump has a rough time dealing with how unabashedly the students defend their actions or continue ever after being caught red handed. 

To steal from Byrne Hobart's review of the article:

Students were organized, helpful, and prompt, but focused on getting grades rather than learning the material. Those traits translate well to actually learning, though. Plenty of disciplines have agency and measurement problems: CEOs also have a tendency to optimize for what they're rewarded for, not what's in the best interest of the company and its stakeholders. Solving that motivation problem is tricky, but it's important: learning to avoid learning but still get good grades is worse than useless.

One Short

Stealing from last week's trend, looks like a bulleted list is needed, this time from the founder of Wired magazine, Kevin Kelly:

  • Denying or deflecting a compliment is rude. Accept it with thanks
  • Getting cheated occasionally is a small price to pay for trusting the best in everyone, because when you trust the best in others, they will treat you the best
  • The thing that made you weird as a kid could make you great as an adult
  • Just because it’s not your fault doesn’t mean it’s not your responsibility
  • If you meet a jerk once a month, you’ve met a jerk. If you meet jerks every day, you’re a jerk
  • Ignore what they are thinking of you because they are not thinking of you.

One Extra

Nothing Happened

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Have a great weekend,

— EJ

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