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Raise the Bar: Research-Based Ideas to Improve Your 2024

Harness your own creativity, learn to leverage ChatGPT, and have some fun are three of the suggestions from our faculty to help you make your new year healthier, more rewarding, and more prosperous.

Fun is, well, fun!

Zoë Chance, Senior Lecturer in Management

I’m a big believer in experimenting when you apply research findings to real life, and informal experiments are often enough. Last month, I was thinking about research by Cassie Mogilner looking at how adults’ definition of happiness changes over time from being more about excitement when we’re young to more about peace when we’re old, and realizing that in my midlife rut, I could use some more fun. I posted a 30 Days of Fun Challenge invitation to my Facebook friends, since social support always helps. Some of the fun involved wearing an axolotl costume to the airport, joining a comedy improv workshop with David Tate, goofing off with kids, and singing and dancing with students and family. My informal experiment taught me that, for me, watching things can be enjoyable but it’s not fun, and that drinking is more performative than actual fun. I’ve mostly stopped drinking, I feel great, and I’m creating opportunities for fun every day. May 2024 be fun for you too!

People are generally too reluctant to make changes, and those who do opt for a change end up better off.

Jason Abaluck

Take a chance on chance

Jason Abaluck, Professor of Economics

Most research papers by myself or others are poor sources of “advice for readers in 2024” because they concern practical things like, “What health plan should you choose?” instead of the questions people spend most of their time worrying about. The best advice helps people make life-changing decisions: it tells them “Should I quit my job?” or “Should I break up with my partner?”

I know of one paper that provides some answers to these questions by Steve Levitt, of Freakonomics fame. Levitt had people make major (and minor) life decisions by flipping coins. The result is simple but important: people who decided to make changes as a result of the coin flip ended up happier 6 months later, especially people who quit their job or broke up with their partner.

Of course, this doesn't mean that everyone should quit their job! The study looked at people who were already torn—they were considering making a change but weren't sure, and the coin flip pushed them over the line. In these circumstances, the study shows that people are generally too reluctant to make changes, and those who do opt for a change end up better off.

Don’t toss your clinician, yet

Howard P. Forman, Professor of Diagnostic Radiology, Economics, and Public Health; Professor in the Practice of Management

With the seemingly sudden introduction of large language models (LLMs) to the general public in 2022, including ChatGPT and Bard, has come yet greater democratization of medical information, making it far easier for patients to understand their own medical information. In our own research, we have found this to have great potential in allowing imaging patients to access and comprehend the results of their radiology studies. Providers and health systems are having to adapt to patients with earlier results. But whether it is “Dr. Google” or “Dr. ChatGPT”, there is still a lot of nuance in medicine and individuals should be cautious about over-estimating these systems in the short-run, particularly since they are notorious for the occasional hallucination. On the other hand, we should increasingly come to expect, if not demand, that clinicians can provide timely guidance when results are unusual, unexpected, or possibly an error.

See creatively then be patient

Jonathan S. Feinstein, John G. Searle Professor of Economics and Management

How can you make next year better? My perspective, taken from my research on creativity, including in my new book Creativity in Large-Scale Contexts published last month, is that everything is a process and we have to learn to navigate that process effectively. There are many things involved. One of the skills we work on in my class on creativity and innovation is learning to “see creatively,” which means to see like an artist does, to see what is actually there and not what we expect to see, which is a distortion. A second key skill is developing a creative vision, what I call a “guiding conception,” that provides an overarching sense for what to explore and where the opportunities lie. A third point is that it takes time to find our way and to help others find theirs. Of course there are dramatic moments in our lives when we move forward, like having an exciting new business idea, meeting a new person, or discovering a new way to help someone else. But these are set within the larger trajectories of our lives as a whole. There are long periods of time when less is happening on the surface—but a lot is happening below the surface. Learning to be patient, while also remaining open and vigilant, is key—as I have seen studying so many creatives whether it be Albert Einstein, great writers, or the founders of Twitter/X and TikTok.

We can be sure our world will continue to change in 2024. Some changes will tend towards improvement, like better health care; others can be challenging, like conflicts and losses. The healthier and more positive we can be in our attitudes and ways we approach the challenges the better everything will go. Happy New Year!

Try some AI

Balázs Kovács, Professor of Organizational Behavior

Maximize the use of GPT-4 in your research endeavors. Recent randomized studies indicate that knowledge workers’ productivity can enhance by up to 40% when they integrate GPT-4 into their processes. Additionally, my latest research suggests the feasibility of replacing human coders with GPT-4 for text coding tasks. GPT-4 demonstrates comparable efficiency in identifying and categorizing themes within text, offering a reliable and efficient alternative.