How to write about a trend

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Trends are great topics for writing, because they’re always changing; people are eager for advice on what to do about them. But to write persuasively about a trend, you need to know what stage it’s in. So let’s go over strategies for writing about trends. I’ll start with the Gartner Hype Cycle, which is a … Continued

Analytical thinking: Unexpected consequences of a single election

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A Democrat narrowly won a special election for an open congressional seat in western Pennsylvania. It’s only one election. But as an exercise in analytical thinking, let’s figure out what it could mean. First, the facts. Tim Murphy, the Republican in the 18th congressional district, resigned after his mistress said he’d told her to get … Continued

Coming to a better conclusion: how to end an essay, blog post, or paper

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“What should I write at the conclusion of my paper?” a student recently asked me. Endings are hard. The best ones don’t let up; they build on what you’ve already written. Beginnings are more important than endings; you need to capture the reader’s attention with your title and first few words. But as hard as … Continued

The courage of nonpartisan analysis — an interview with Len Burman

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We need nonpartisan institutions, dedicated to objective analysis. That’s what the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Policy Center does — they score and analyze tax proposals so we can figure out what they’ll mean for taxpayers. But it’s increasingly difficult for nonpartisan organizations to get heard. Unbiased analysis is a passion of mine. It’s also a passion of the respected … Continued

Optimism, group bias, fake news, and why the Patriots won the Super Bowl

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The New England Patriots heroically overcame adversity to beat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime in Super Bowl LI. That’s the story here in New England. Or, perhaps, Atlanta coach Dan Quinn’s bad decisions, tired Falcons players, penalties, the unlikeliest catch ever seen, and Patriots cheaters are what really happened. Which is it? My message today (sorry to harsh your mellow … Continued

The value of predictions (hint: it’s not accuracy)

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Thinkers Stowe Boyd and John Battelle published predictions for 2017. They’re going to be wrong about most of them. Their predictions make you think hard, though, and that’s the value of what they’ve created. If you want to make predictions and be right, that’s easy. For example, I predict that Donald Trump will become president this year, and … Continued

Science fiction and analytical thinking

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I was a science fiction fan growing up in the 60s and 70s. I was a technology analyst, predicting the future, in the 90s and 00s. Here’s what science fiction and strategic analysis have in common — and what they don’t. How science fiction challenges the mind (and “sci-fi” doesn’t) Science fiction is not the same … Continued