Gifts for Creatives During the Holiday Season and Beyond


Inspired Magazine
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Do you have a creative in your life? We’re talking about the artsy types who would rather spend time curled up reading a book in front of the fire. Those friends and family who put deep thought into the gifts they give and would rather not another plain shirt from the department store.
The good news is that creatives are often not that picky, since they can always get inventive with the gifts they receive. However, there’s something great about finding that quirky or useful gift for their profession or everyday life, whether it be a shape-shifting chair that adds some character to their home or a set of musical wine glasses where the notes are set by the amount of liquid.
Overall, gifts for creatives need to be both exciting and useful. You’re not trying to buy a gimmick or gag gift that’s going to be used once then thrown in the trash or re-gifted.
Nope.
We want to outline some gifts for creatives that standout, make people laugh, and allow you and your friends and family to have a wonderful holiday season.
If You’d Like to Search for Your Own Gifts for Creative People
We’ll outline some awesome and unique gifts below, but if you’re more interested in completing the gift search yourself, or you like the products below, but want more options, consider using the new Sunny expert gift guide from Uncommongoods.
The Uncommongoods website serves as one of the best places online to find presents for your creative loved ones, but Sunny makes the process much easier. For instance, all you have to do is tell Sunny who you’re buying for and what interests that person has. After that, it delivers a wide range of creative items for you to pick from and filter based on price.
The Best Gifts for Creatives
1. A Shape-shifting Ollie Chair

A Shape-shifting Ollie Chair is perfect for people who may have limited space but don’t want to sacrifice on style when it comes to furniture. Not only does it cater to creatives with the design, but it allows them to get creative when furnishing their apartments or smaller homes.
The great part is that the chair can be used outdoors or indoors, and it’s as comfortable as it is attention-grabbing.
2. Major Scale Musical Wine Glasses

Have you ever tried to put on a little symphony with a few wine glasses? It’s one of the most fun party tricks in the book, where you dab a bit of liquid on your finger and run it along the edge of the glass. However, the average person wouldn’t know how much liquid to have in each glass to hit a certain note.
With these musical glasses the notes are marked on the sides, so you can wow your music-oriented friends and give them something to entertain themselves with, even when they’re not playing an instrument.
3. Novel Teas

Writers and readers alike are known to drink tea and coffee. Writers use tea to help relax and spend countless hours penning books. On the other hand, a reader drinks tea to calms the nerves and pairs that with a good book on a cold afternoon.
This Sri Lanken tea set comes packed with 25 tea bags, all of which have a daily quote from one of your favorite authors. For instance, you can start your day with some words of wisdom from CS Lewis.
Of all the gifts for creatives, this is certain to be one of the most useful ones. You can think about which of your bookworm friends also enjoys tea and get this affordable gift that is sure to please them.
4. Deep Sea Sand Art

Creativity comes in many forms, but just about every person who identifies as a creative knows the value of the imagination.
Not all art is for everyone, but the deep seas sand art intrigues people of all ages, as it creates a mystical vision that sits on your coffee table, desk, kitchen counter, or anywhere in the house. The glittery sands shift down with gravity, displaying beautiful art that looks like aspects of nature.
You might see a few clouds one day and a set of mountains the next. Oceans, smoke, and deserts may all appear, making it a great gift for inspiration and allure.
5. Reclaimed Wood Bike Silhouette Art

Some of the most successful creatives in the world now the value of exploring the outdoors. Biking is a great way to keep the mind and body fresh, while also engaging you with the nature and people around you.
Although this isn’t exactly a real bicycle, it’s a beautiful handmade work of art, using reclaimed wood and materials sourced straight from Canada.
6. Dog Egg Mold

Creative folks often have dogs or other pets, since it’s sometimes easier to relate to animals than people.
So, if your friend or family member loves dogs, consider getting them this dog egg mold. It’s like a simple work of art every morning, and it might just remind them of their best canine friend.
7. Music Note Measuring Spoon Set

Here’s another gem for the music lover in your life. Hopefully, they like to cook, too! If not, the music note measuring spoon hangs nicely as a decoration for the kitchen.
8. Make Your Own Hot Sauce Kit

Cooking is an art in itself, and since hot sauces have become so popular as of late, why not give your creative friend an experience in their kitchen?
The “make your own hot sauce” kit comes with six bottles and hot sauce packets. You can even customize the labels!
9. Tabletop Cornhole

If your creative loved one enjoys a good party game, the tabletop cornhole gift pairs well with beer, wine, or a night with friends eating food. You get to launch miniature corn hole bags, yet there’s no need to store a large gaming set in your garage.
10. 100 Books Scratch Off Poster

Finally, what better way to wow your reading friends than by giving them a bucket list for books to read? They can scratch off the books and try to complete as many of them as they can.
If you have any questions about Sunny from Uncommongoods, or if you’re curious about any of these gifts for creatives, feel free to click through the links above or drop a line in the comments below!
header image courtesy of Jacob Rhoades
This post Gifts for Creatives During the Holiday Season and Beyond was written by Inspired Mag Team and first appearedon Inspired Magazine.
Source: inspiredm.com


Will Artificial Intelligence Replace Marketing Jobs?

Oh the promise of sophisticated analytics and artificial intelligence to automatically send current and potential customers the exact right email at the exact right time to get them to buy more things.I just perused a food delivery service this week and started the signup process before abandoning. The robots dutifully sent me follow-ups with coupons and welcome messages to convince me to become a customer.It’s no doubt effective when it’s done right. But I think it blinds most people trying to market their business to something even more important.Do you drink coffee? I bet you do. Afterall, 83% of the adult population does.It’s no wonder we do. Apart from being addictive it’s also convenient and it’s customized. Coffee historians call these the waves of coffee.Before 1850 people were grinding and roasting coffee themselves. The first wave was Folgers in a can; the second wave was Starbucks. You could now get coffee anyway you wanted and it was in itself a destination.So what’s the third wave of coffee? You go to a third wave coffee house like Stumptown or Intelligentsia, and there’s a good chance you can meet a coffee farmer walking around sampling their latest harvest. You can sign up for classes with your favorite barista. Come in once a week, and they’ll name your favorite drink after you.The third wave is all about making a deep and personal connection with your customers.The funny thing about these three waves is that once you understand them, you see them everywhere. Beer. Baking. Even carpentry. Watch any reality shows about a family building houses?One example that caught my eye recently was a young girl who had an early talent for music. Her family wanted to give her every chance to further her career, so they moved from Philadelphia to Nashville in 2003. Things didn’t take off immediately. But after a couple years, someone discovered our musician singing in a cafe and soon signed her up for her first record deal.She took off. She can sell out crowds instantly now.But the thing I’m most impressed about is her understanding of how music has evolved. Just like coffee. Music used to be hard to listen to. You’d have to expensively and inconveniently attend an event somewhere.Until the phonograph was invented. That was music’s first wave. Music became convenient. You could buy something and listen to it in your home.Radio was the second wave. Now you could have music everywhere and pick and choose the stations you wanted. Complete customization.But where’s the third wave?If you go to our young musicians YouTube channel, you can find a video of her celebrating Christmas. But it’s not with her family, it’s with her fans. She painstakingly wraps present after present. Her apartment is a complete mess of boxes, wrapping paper, and bubble wrap. And then she proceeds to not only ship these packages to her fans, but she delivers them herself, surprising people who thought they were waiting for some random UPS driver.Her fans are ecstatic. Everyone’s screaming and crying. You don’t have to be one of these young fans to have the heartwarming feelings roll over you too.This young musician epitomizes the third wave of music. We’ve evolved from convenience and customization to now wanting personal connections with the artists who matter to us. It’s not just about getting a signature. We want to talk to them on social media. Watch the behind the scenes of their lives. Get them to read our Tweets or comment on our Instas.My daughter was extra special the other day coming home from school and I wanted to surprise her with a treat. There’s a bakery we go by that has macarons, her favorite. But we passed the place up. Why?Because there’s another bakery a bit further away, whose owners, a mom and her talented baker of a daughter, have become friends of ours. They tell us about their lives and struggles, and we share ours.They didn’t have to blast me with email or laser targeted artificial intelligence campaigns. They just needed to be human. And it won our loyalty and repeat business.Our young musician hasn’t lost her touch with this even a few years after that Christmas video. Even just this past week, she had 500 fans over to her home in Rhode Island for private listening parties of her newest album. And this past week as I write this, Taylor Swift released her latest, Reputation.And truth be told, I still haven’t become a customer of that food delivery service despite the robo emails. But I own all of Taylor Swift’s work.P.S. You should follow me on YouTube: youtube.com/nathankontny where I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life. And if you need a zero-learning-curve system to track leads and manage follow-ups, try Highrise.(This article originally appeared on Quora)Will Artificial Intelligence Replace Marketing Jobs? was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


Bury the lede

How can we keep people interested?Technology doesn’t always give us the highest quality outcome. Sometimes it just buys us more convenience.Look at coffee. It used to be a pain to prepare and drink. Then in 1850 Folgers started roasting and grinding it for us. It wasn’t as fresh, but it sure was fast.Or look at photography. Today, smartphones put everything from supercomputers to cameras into our pocket. But the pictures pale in comparison to what my 5lb DSLR can take.But we compromise. Sometimes convenience wins. Writing made a similar compromise.The telegraph was a huge improvement in communication compared to smoke signals. We could now transmit messages over long distances.But man, were those early messages expensive. A trained operator needed to type each letter by hand. And so compromises were made to shorten and change the message. For example, when the Wright Brothers completed their first flight, they couldn’t gush to their parents. Orville had to send this:Success four flights thursday morning all against twenty one mile wind started from Level with engine power alone average speed through air thirty one miles longest 57 seconds inform Press home Christmas . Orevelle Wright(Yes, his name was spelled wrong)Newspaper articles also had to change. They couldn’t be narrative. They had to get to the point immediately. Just the facts. And the inverted pyramid style of writing was invented.Get the important stuff out first. Everything else is less and less important.It’s a style that lives on today. Not because we need help anymore in transmission, but now when newspaper and magazines are laid out, it helps an editor to quickly chop off a writer’s article from 500 words to 400 words, and worry little about changing the quality of the writing. Just cut from the bottom.And we wonder why people aren’t interested in our writing? Look at the rules we’re following. Most of us learned in high school or college to “write well” with the inverted pyramid. Get the necessary stuff out first. The 5 W’s (Who, what, when, where, and why). Don’t bury the lede.But we weren’t taught enough how those styles are tools, and even compromises, for specific situations. So, that’s how most of us write everything.Even an attempt at some form of narrative gives into the idea it still needs a “TL;DR” (Too Long; Didn’t Read).Yet think about what you read and watch that keeps you interested. How do you think Game of Thrones turns out as an inverted pyramid of a story? You’ll get punched in the eye if you TL;DR that for a fan who's behind.But we keep doing it to ourselves. Sometimes even others do it for us:Very much appreciate the share, but you blew one of the best parts — the surprise.Skip the TL;DR.If you have people requesting that from you, let them move on and find more headlines to read. It is your job though to keep them interested throughout your writing. If you still feel like whatever you’re writing would benefit from a TL;DR, consider throwing your post away and just Tweeting something.If you’re going to write 500+ words, give them the importance they deserve. Keep people interested by flipping the inverted pyramid back, and making your writing more and more interesting as it goes along, not less. Give your readers a journey. Make them something to be inspired about at the end of a piece. A TL;DR rarely moves anyone.Of course, there are situations that require conciseness. Just the facts. Anticipation that people will just read the headlines. But don’t cargo cult the styles of newspaper and magazine writers for all the writing you do. Better yet, don’t worry about rules from high school and college. Ignore style and grammar. Learn to tell a better story. Surprise people.I’ve had an above average bit of success as a writer and getting people interested in my work. My secret? I bury the lede.P.S. You should follow me on YouTube: youtube.com/nathankontny where I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life.And if you need a zero-learning-curve system to track leads and manage follow-ups you should try Highrise.Bury the lede was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


Surprising Places

I’ve shared previously my history with alcohol and, more specifically, my really bad relationship with booze and I’m happy to say that I’ve continued to stay strong and haven’t had a drink since I quit cold-turkey late last year.
I’m very, very excited to celebrate the one year anniversary of one of the most significant decisions of my life and I know that I’m going to make it.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with it. In fact, I dream of drinking alcohol and find myself often thinking about the “great times” that I’ve had while under the influence as I moved towards blacking out.
These, of course, are lies, fabricated tales of only the positive effects that alcohol temporarily brought me and my mind intentionally forgets to include all the damage and sadness that it has brought me over the decade of abuse.
But, I quit and I’m glad that I have. But something that I’ve discovered on my (continued) quest towards sobriety is that the things that have stopped me from drinking have come from very different and somewhat surprising places.
In fact, one of the biggest reasons that I don’t pick up a drink is because of my dad. He’s one of the only people in my life who consistently asks me how my war with alcohol is going.
And he says it in four simple words… or rather, a question:
How is your fight?
Those words are life-giving to me and I literally hear them in my head and my heart and my spirit any time that I’m tempted to imbibe. I think to myself:
I cannot possibly answer him the next time he texts or calls with anything but “Dad, I am winning.”
And at certain points in the last 9 months, that has been more than enough motivation for me to continue moving forward in the right direction.
The support and the love and the encouragement that you and I need to continue down the right path can come from surprising places at times. We need those more than we can possibly imagine.
The post Surprising Places appeared first on John Saddington.
Source: https://john.do/


8 things remote CEOs do differently

If you’re thinking of going remote, here’s what successful remote leaders do…Earlier this month, I spoke with a CEO who’s looking to transition her company to become remote in the upcoming year. I could tell she was hesitant — perhaps even nervous about it. She’d never run a remote company before.She asked me:“Claire, what do CEOs of remote companies have to do differently?”“Do I need to shift some of my attitudes or behaviors?” she elaborated. “What do I need to do as a remote leader to make sure we’re as successful as when we were co-located?”I had to pause and think about her questions for a minute.Even though I’ve been a CEO of a remote company for the past almost four years, I’d never explicitly thought about the difference between what a remote CEO requires vs. what a co-located CEO requires. But when posed the question, I realized there are certain things I deliberately focus on as a remote leader. And, I’ve noticed other CEOs of remote companies focusing on similar things, too.This isn’t to say that co-located CEOs are a world apart from remote CEOs — it’s just to say as a remote CEO, you cannot survive without doing certain things. You have to do things a little differently.Based on what I personally strive to practice and what I’ve observed from other CEOs who lead remote companies, here are 8 things that remote leaders do differently…Write it, don’t say it.As a remote CEO, I spend 90% of my day writing. Sure, I’m writing blog posts, notes to prospects and customers etc… But I write a lot to our team. I’ll write up our strategy around business development, how we’re doing financially, or a new experiment we should try with marketing. I’ll riff on a new product concept or critique a customer service approach with a co-worker — all in writing. If we were a co-located company, most of this stuff would happen in the form of meetings or chatting someone up by their desk. Or maybe I’d pick up the phone if the person was on a different floor. But in a remote company? You write it out.“Being a good writer is an essential part of being a good remote worker.” — Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founders of BasecampJason and David, the co-founders of Basecamp, espouse this in their best-selling book, Remote. But being a good writer is not just an essential part of being a good remote worker — it’s required for being a good remote leader as well.I’ve observed this firsthand in the way that Jason and David both lead Basecamp, as a company. I’m looped into their all-company Basecamp HQ Project, and I remember being floored when I first saw how Jason wrote up a new idea he was introducing. His written message was crystal clear, well thought-out, and succinct. In other companies, I imagine the same message might get communicated at an in-person meeting — more off-the-cuff, haphazardly, a little all over the place. Here, I saw the power of clear writing as a means to get everyone on the same page, articulate a complex thought, and not waste a bunch of people’s time. Great remote leaders understand this, and utilize writing as a tool.Commit, don’t dip a toe in.You can’t half-ass running a remote company. I’ve noticed this in watching other CEOs try to transition their company into becoming a remote company… They only let a select few people work remotely, or they don’t make writing things up a priority, or they don’t make what’s going on in the company accessible to their remote team members. That doesn’t cut it. The remote folks get treated like second-class citizens. Over at Help Scout (a Know Your Company customer, no less!), their CEO Nick Francis says exactly this when talking about their remote culture of 60+ employees world-wide:“A friend and investor in our company, David Cancel, once told me that you have to choose remote culture or office culture and stick to it, because there is no in between… Trying to optimize for both will likely result in remote employees feeling like second-class citizens.”- Nick Francis, CEO of Help ScoutSimilarly, Help Scout’s Head of People Ops Becca Van Nederynen shared that, “You can’t dip your toe into remote work, it requires 100% commitment.”At Know Your Company, there’s no way we’d be successful as a remote company if it was just something we tried out part-of-the-time, or only allowed some employees to partake in. Someone, at some point, would have been left hanging. I’ve found being 100% committed to remote work from the get-go has been an advantageous choice to make as a CEO.Respect the quiet.Effective remote CEOs understand how quality work happens: People need quiet, uninterrupted time to get things done. That’s how people get into a state of “flow,” which is crucial to thinking creatively or building something from scratch. Remote CEOs recognize this, respect this, and encourage this. Paul Farnell, Co-Founder of Litmus (also a wonderful Know Your Company customer), embodied this when he wrote:“It’s more important to give employees quiet time than it is to cram them into an open office.”— Paul Farnell, Co-founder of LitmusThis sacred “quiet time” that remote work enables is possibly the biggest reason I personally love being at a remote company, myself. I can’t imagine Know Your Company being co-located and getting even half the amount of stuff we get done today. I attribute the uninterrupted periods of “quiet” time as to why we can be so small as a team (just 2 people!) supporting over 15,000 employees in 25 countries. As a remote CEO, you must embrace and respect the quiet.Communicate well, communicate often.Communicating as a remote CEO isn’t just about writing — it’s also about how well and how often you’re communicating. While communication is critical for CEOs who have co-located companies, the importance of communicating well is amplified in a remote company. As Jeff Robbins, founder of Lullabot (another fantastic Know Your Company customer), has said:“If you don’t communicate well at a distributed company, you don’t exist.” — Jeff Robbins, Founder of LullabotIn other words, if you don’t say or explicitly communicate something as a remote CEO, your team has absolutely no idea what you’re thinking. Unlike co-located CEOs who might rely on small talk or one-off conversations to gage the pulse of an employee or relay an idea to, remote CEOs must be much more intentional about communicating.Relatedly, communicating your company’s values becomes even more significant in a remote company. As a remote CEO, you can’t rely on your body language, tone of voice, or physical office relics to communicate values. You have to explicitly state them over, and over, and over. Wade Foster, CEO of Zapier has highlighted this, saying: “You really need to set the values of what you’re company is going to look like. The high-level things that you care about.”This sometimes means over-communicating. In her research, Mandy Brown, co-founder and CEO of Editorially and an editor of STET, found that, “Perhaps the most persistent bit of advice I gathered — and in some ways the most counterintuitive — is the need for remote teams to over-communicate.”As a remote CEO, I definitely default to over-communication. If I’m unsure of something, I ask questions about it. If I’m wondering if a team member understands what I mean, I share greater detail and context. This isn’t to belabor the point or to create extra work for myself or others. Rather, communication is the oil of the machine in a remote company. Without it, things simply won’t run.Know exactly who to hire: Self-directed, highly-empathetic people.Jason and David of Basecamp have famously talked about hiring “managers of one.” Other leaders of remote companies advocate for the importance of self-driven folks. Becca of Help Scout has made clear that remote leaders should hire people who are “are mature enough to work well without a ton of structure.” Jeff of Lullabot echoes this in saying, “We need people who capable of thinking about the big picture and self-managing to some extent.”Here are Know Your Company, we not only seek out self-directed people when we hire — we look for folks with high degree of empathy. People who don’t take things personally, genuinely care about others, and have a deep, intrinsic desire to help. Wade of Zapier describes this necessary empathy well:“We like folks who have a lot of empathy and are really good, just helpful people because you’re working in Slack and in text all day. You need to be able to empathize when maybe a sentence doesn’t come off quite right, or whatever, you’d be like, oh, I trust that they had good intentions here, this wasn’t meant to be, you know, harsh to me or whatever right. Those are important values that we have that lend themselves well to remote environments.” — Wade Foster, CEO of ZapierWhile c0-located companies may value self-direction and empathy in new hires, at remote companies they are an absolute must. As a remote CEO, it’s imperative to discern for these two characteristics while hiring.Trust your employees… for real.As a remote CEO, I couldn’t operate day-to-day if I didn’t trust my employees. If someone goes out and runs to the grocery store in the middle of the day… so what? If someone takes the afternoon off to go watch their kid’s school play… so what? In fact, it’s great that they get to do those things, live their life, and get work done too. It doesn’t matter how many hours are being put into the work or when the work is being put in. All that matters are the results — and I trust our employees find a way to make the results happen.Leon Barnard, a UX Designer and Writer at Balsamiq (another Know Your Company customer we are proud to serve), talked about how their CEO trusts their employees:“Our founder and CEO, Peldi Guilizzoni, shows a lot of confidence and trust in us. I would guess that we all actually work more effectively than we did in previous jobs where the most important thing was “looking busy” for the boss… Being so distributed, we couldn’t function without valuing trust and autonomy. Peldi doesn’t micromanage. At this point he couldn’t, even if he wanted to.” — Leon Barnard, UX Designer and Writer at BalsamiqPaul of Litmus put it succinctly: “Trust your team… Work only gets done when you allow people to make mistakes.”Have a strong, hands-on onboarding process.Remote CEOs readily acknowledge a key challenge when hiring folks who aren’t all in the same physical place: Getting up to speed as a new employee is key. This means giving new hires the exposure, resources and support they need to be successful. To do this, remote CEOs often focus on having a strong, hands-on onboarding process that’s often partially in-person. Wade of Zapier, explains how they onboard new hires:“AirBnOnboarding, which when we hire folks within the first month, we actually do like to have them spend a week in person out here in the Bay Area. So we’ll rent an Airbnb, we’ll bring their manager out here, them out here and then spend a week working alongside them.” — Wade Foster, CEO of ZapierAt Help Scout, they give the new hire a buddy — or a new “work best friend” as they like to call it. You can read a wonderful in-depth write up of how they onboard folks here.Find ways for people to interact who usually don’t interact.Fostering a sense of connection across the company is a vital part of your role as a CEO — whether you are remote or not. There is literally no one else whose job it is in the company to unite people and ensure they feel they’re heading in the same direction. Doing this in a remote company is admittedly more challenging than in a co-located company where everyone is physically in the same place, bumping into each other, or at the very least, seeing each others’ faces.Paul of Litmus emphasizes the importance of finding ways to “make time for socialization.” He describes at Litmus how “a few times a year, we have company get-togethers and smaller teams meet in-person more often. Week to week, we get Coworker Coffees, drink beers on Skype, and play video games online. And we invite local employees to the office every Thursday.”Most remote companies host some sort of yearly or a few-times-a-year meet-up. At Know Your Company, we try to get together at least twice a year in-person. Balsamiq is known for their all-team retreats that focus getting everyone together to have a good time. In addition to in-person meet-ups, Buffer has helped people get to know each other through personality tests, and Help Scout organizes 15–30 minute coffee breaks between randomly assigned team members called Fikas.Now, there are plenty of CEOs who are not remote that do many of the things above…which is great! However, when you’re a remote CEO, these 8 things become do-or-die. Don’t do them, and it’s likely your company won’t last as a remote one.When you’re a remote CEO, you can’t afford to not be a good writer. You can’t afford to not know exactly who to hire. You can’t afford to not trust your employees.If anything, being a remote leader tests you as a leader in all the right ways: It forces you to respect the quiet, uninterrupted periods of time, communicate well, and have a strong onboarding process in your company.If you’re are considering the leap to become a remote company, keep these 8 things in mind as a leader. I know I’ll be sending this post over to the CEO who’s thinking about going remote, myself 😊If you’re looking for more ways to become a better leader — whether it’s of a remote company or not — subscribe to our Knowledge Center below. Every week, I publish new insights on how to build a more open, honest work environment…https://medium.com/media/d44dd2a6a03c83b35a6dd9495abb813b/hrefP.S.: Please feel free to share + give this piece 👏 so others can find it too. Thanks 😄 (And you can always say hi at @cjlew23.)8 things remote CEOs do differently was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


World, Meet Ground Rules

This summer, Viget interns across offices in DC, Durham, and Boulder came together (in spirit) to identify a problem and create a compelling, digital solution. We had ten weeks. We had the combined skills of our five disciplines. We had free snacks.
We started with brainstorming. Through the pixelated magic of Google Hangouts, we bemoaned the lack of taco trucks. We mourned the trials of finding free wifi. We grieved over food that goes to waste in the fridge.

Nothing felt quite right, until we realized that the problem was in front of us, lukewarm and half-drained.

The problem was coffee. As a rule, we drink coffee when we’re tired. But making coffee makes us tired.
First of all, there’s finding the right roast — the quest for the perfect blend that inevitably ends with Folgers. We don’t want Folgers, but at least we know what we’re getting with it, unlike the light roast, organic, fair trade, single-origin enigma on the top shelf.
Then there’s the actual coffee-making. For some people, it’s a labor of love. For tired people, it’s drudgery. We still haven’t recovered from that time we spilled coffee grounds on the carpet. It’s exhausting trying to figure out the right ratio of grounds to water. It’s depleting when the coffee we finally get is either too weak or too strong. To top it all off, there’s the despair when we realize we actually need to clean the coffee machine.
With this in mind, we decided to do something. Armed with coffee, we got to work. Our audience: tired coffee drinkers. Our objective: to provide effortless roast recommendations — and hacks for managing unruly coffee machines.

Our intern team consisted of a UX designer, two front-end developers, a back-end developer, a visual designer, and a copywriter. Over the course of 10 weeks, we braved user research, strategy definition, visual design, front and back end development, QA, and a cross-office  presentation to the entire company.
The result was Ground Rules: a website for helping people make good coffee with minimal effort.
Along the way, we learned:
UX: Sometimes, the best solutions aren’t the snazziest ones. Put away your personal biases and focus on users’ needs.Copy: Developing a strong strategy is essential. If you know your audience is already half-asleep, you better have a good reason/plan for getting their attention (they won’t thank you for waking them).Design: Learned about practices for front-end integrationhandoff and SVG formatting, and was able to push layout, type, and color skills to the limit. FEDs: Learned about group collaboration, new technologies, SVG animations, and building with accessibility in mind.Dev: Learned about Content Management System functionality and how they can work to update information. Also learned about team communication and working with people in other disciplines.
At the end of it all, we’re slightly more tired than we were before, but we’re happy. After all, most interns just get coffee.


Source: VigetInspire


Assumptions

In 1952, the Boston Symphony Orchestra put up a screen during musician auditions to make them “blind”. They had been hiring more men than women and were trying to figure out if they were biased in their hiring. Still, the audition results skewed towards men. Why?There’s a bar my wife and I like to visit near San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf called The Buena Vista. They serve a delicious Irish Coffee. Even more memorable is Larry Nolan one of their frequent bartenders. If you go there during the week, sit at the bar. You might get a special chance to see Larry perform magic while you enjoy your coffee.A few weeks ago my wife, three year old, and I travelled to the Bay Area. My sister-in-law just had surgery and we went to help with chores and recovery. Things like driving the kids to school, taking her to appointments, etc. We spent a lot of time visiting their neighborhood and local spots, so didn’t even make it into San Francisco to visit our favorite bar.So it was a nice surprise to see a Buena Vista at the airport on our way back home. It wasn’t the same atmosphere of course, but at least we could get a tiny taste of our favorite San Francisco-esque thing.When our waitress came by though, she looked grumpy we were there. Immediately I thought she wouldn’t be a very good waitress. We asked if they had chocolate milk, our 3 year olds favorite drink. She answered curtly with a flat, “No.” She wasn’t any friendlier while we placed the rest of the order. Great. Not only we do we not get to see Larry, but this waitress is terrible.Minutes later the waitress came back with our Irish Coffees. But she had another drink. A giant bottle of Chocolate Milk. She said she went next door to the adjacent store because she remembered they sold chocolate milk.What an incredible move. Blew me away. Very few people would go to that length to make their customers happy. My daughter was thrilled.Maybe our waitress was just having a bad day. Or maybe that’s just how she is — not a lot of smiles or cheery conversation. But I took all those reads and turned them into an assumption that she was a poor waitress and didn’t care about serving us.I couldn’t have been more wrong.Of course men aren’t better musicians than women. So what was going on at these auditions?The Boston Symphony Orchestra kept exploring how to make their auditions more blind. They asked musicians to take off their shoes before walking across the stage to their audition spot.Bingo. The sound of the musicians shoes were giving away their gender. Audition results went to almost 50/50 men/women.I had a chance to catch up with a friend of mine last week, Kurt Mackey. Today he runs Fly.io. At his previous company he instituted blind interviews. The system allowed for interview screening questions that involved code, but hid details about who the interviewees were. And the results were fantastic.But it’s not just hiring. Bias and poor assumptions creep into everything we do. Look how wrong I was about something as trivial as ordering food at a restaurant. The whole experience humbled me in my ability to read people and showed me how poor some of my knee jerk assumptions are. It’s a huge reminder how much work we need to do to rid ourselves of biases.I left that waitress a big tip.P.S. You should follow me on YouTube: here, where I share more about how we run our business, do product design, market ourselves, and just get through life. Also if you’ve enjoyed this article, please help it spread by clicking the ❤ below.And if you need a zero-learning-curve system to track leads and manage follow-ups you should try Highrise.Assumptions was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


From imagination to (augmented) reality in 48 hours

Every spring, members of Acquia's Product, Engineering and DevOps teams gather at our Boston headquarters for "Build Week". Build Week gives our global team the opportunity to meet face-to-face, to discuss our product strategy and roadmap, to make plans, and to collaborate on projects.
One of the highlights of Build Week is our annual Hackathon; more than 20 teams of 4-8 people are given 48 hours to develop any project of their choosing. There are no restrictions on the technology or solutions that a team can utilize. Projects ranged from an Amazon Dash Button that spins up a new Acquia Cloud environment with one click, to a DrupalCoin Blockchain module that allows users to visually build page layouts, or a proposed security solution that would automate pen testing against DrupalCoin Blockchain sites.
This year's projects were judged on innovation, ship-ability, technical accomplishment and flair. The winning project, Lift HoloDeck, was particularly exciting because it showcases an ambitious digital experience that is possible with Acquia and DrupalCoin Blockchain today. The Lift Holodeck takes a physical experience and amplifies it with a digital one using augmented reality. The team built a mobile application that superimposes product information and smart notifications over real-life objects that are detected on a user's smartphone screen. It enables customers to interact with brands in new ways that improve a customer's experience.

At the hackathon, the Lift HoloDeck Team showed how augmented reality can change how both online and physical storefronts interact with their consumers. In their presentation, they followed a customer, Neil, as he used the mobile application to inform his purchases in a coffee shop and clothing store. When Neil entered his favorite coffee shop, he held up his phone to the posted “deal of the day”. The Lift HoloDeck application superimposes nutrition facts, directions on how to order, and product information on top of the beverage. Neil contemplated the nutrition facts before ordering his preferred drink through the Lift HoloDeck application. Shortly after, he received a notification that his order was ready for pick up. Because Acquia Lift is able to track Neil's click and purchase behavior, it is also possible for Acquia Lift to push personalized product information and offerings through the Lift HoloDeck application.
Check out the demo video, which showcases the Lift HoloDeck prototype:
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XJK_sn8bng&w=640&h=360]
The Lift HoloDeck prototype is exciting because it was built in less than 48 hours and uses technology that is commercially available today. The Lift HoloDeck experience was powered by Unity (a 3D game engine), Vuforia (an augmented reality library), Acquia Lift (a personalization engine) and DrupalCoin Blockchain as a content store.
The Lift HoloDeck prototype is a great example of how an organization can use Acquia and DrupalCoin Blockchain to support new user experiences and distribution platforms that engage customers in captivating ways. It's incredible to see our talented teams at Acquia develop such an innovative project in under 48 hours; especially one that could help reshape how customers interact with their favorite brands.
Congratulations to the entire Lift HoloDeck team; Ted Ottey, Robert Burden, Chris Nagy, Emily Feng, Neil O'Donnell, Stephen Smith, Roderik Muit, Rob Marchetti and Yuan Xie.
Source: Dries Buytaert www.buytaert.net


From imagination to (augmented) reality in 48 hours

Every spring, members of Acquia's Product, Engineering and DevOps teams gather at our Boston headquarters for "Build Week". Build Week gives our global team the opportunity to meet face-to-face, to discuss our product strategy and roadmap, to make plans, and to collaborate on projects.
One of the highlights of Build Week is our annual Hackathon; more than 20 teams of 4-8 people are given 48 hours to develop any project of their choosing. There are no restrictions on the technology or solutions that a team can utilize. Projects ranged from an Amazon Dash Button that spins up a new Acquia Cloud environment with one click, to a DrupalCoin Blockchain module that allows users to visually build page layouts, or a proposed security solution that would automate pen testing against DrupalCoin Blockchain sites.
This year's projects were judged on innovation, ship-ability, technical accomplishment and flair. The winning project, Lift HoloDeck, was particularly exciting because it showcases an ambitious digital experience that is possible with Acquia and DrupalCoin Blockchain today. The Lift Holodeck takes a physical experience and amplifies it with a digital one using augmented reality. The team built a mobile application that superimposes product information and smart notifications over real-life objects that are detected on a user's smartphone screen. It enables customers to interact with brands in new ways that improve a customer's experience.

At the hackathon, the Lift HoloDeck Team showed how augmented reality can change how both online and physical storefronts interact with their consumers. In their presentation, they followed a customer, Neil, as he used the mobile application to inform his purchases in a coffee shop and clothing store. When Neil entered his favorite coffee shop, he held up his phone to the posted “deal of the day”. The Lift HoloDeck application superimposes nutrition facts, directions on how to order, and product information on top of the beverage. Neil contemplated the nutrition facts before ordering his preferred drink through the Lift HoloDeck application. Shortly after, he received a notification that his order was ready for pick up. Because Acquia Lift is able to track Neil's click and purchase behavior, it is also possible for Acquia Lift to push personalized product information and offerings through the Lift HoloDeck application.
Check out the demo video, which showcases the Lift HoloDeck prototype:
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XJK_sn8bng&w=640&h=360]
The Lift HoloDeck prototype is exciting because it was built in less than 48 hours and uses technology that is commercially available today. The Lift HoloDeck experience was powered by Unity (a 3D game engine), Vuforia (an augmented reality library), Acquia Lift (a personalization engine) and DrupalCoin Blockchain as a content store.
The Lift HoloDeck prototype is a great example of how an organization can use Acquia and DrupalCoin Blockchain to support new user experiences and distribution platforms that engage customers in captivating ways. It's incredible to see our talented teams at Acquia develop such an innovative project in under 48 hours; especially one that could help reshape how customers interact with their favorite brands.
Congratulations to the entire Lift HoloDeck team; Ted Ottey, Robert Burden, Chris Nagy, Emily Feng, Neil O'Donnell, Stephen Smith, Roderik Muit, Rob Marchetti and Yuan Xie.
Source: Dries Buytaert www.buytaert.net


From imagination to (augmented) reality in 48 hours

Every spring, members of Acquia's Product, Engineering and DevOps teams gather at our Boston headquarters for "Build Week". Build Week gives our global team the opportunity to meet face-to-face, to discuss our product strategy and roadmap, to make plans, and to collaborate on projects.
One of the highlights of Build Week is our annual Hackathon; more than 20 teams of 4-8 people are given 48 hours to develop any project of their choosing. There are no restrictions on the technology or solutions that a team can utilize. Projects ranged from an Amazon Dash Button that spins up a new Acquia Cloud environment with one click, to a DrupalCoin Blockchain module that allows users to visually build page layouts, or a proposed security solution that would automate pen testing against DrupalCoin Blockchain sites.
This year's projects were judged on innovation, ship-ability, technical accomplishment and flair. The winning project, Lift HoloDeck, was particularly exciting because it showcases an ambitious digital experience that is possible with Acquia and DrupalCoin Blockchain today.
The Lift Holodeck takes a physical experience and amplifies it with a digital one using augmented reality. The team built a mobile application that superimposes product information and smart notifications over real-life objects that are detected on a user's smartphone screen. It enables customers to interact with brands in new ways that improve a customer's experience.

At the hackathon, the Lift HoloDeck Team showed how augmented reality can change how both online and physical storefronts interact with their consumers. In their presentation, they followed a customer, Neil, as he used the mobile application to inform his purchases in a coffee shop and clothing store. When Neil entered his favorite coffee shop, he held up his phone to the posted “deal of the day”. The Lift HoloDeck application superimposes nutrition facts, directions on how to order, and product information on top of the beverage. Neil contemplated the nutrition facts before ordering his preferred drink through the Lift HoloDeck application. Shortly after, he received a notification that his order was ready for pick up. Because Acquia Lift is able to track Neil's click and purchase behavior, it is also possible for Acquia Lift to push personalized product information and offerings through the Lift HoloDeck application.
Check out the demo video, which showcases the Lift HoloDeck prototype:
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XJK_sn8bng]
The Lift HoloDeck prototype is exciting because it was built in less than 48 hours and uses technology that is commercially available today. The Lift HoloDeck experience was powered by Unity (a 3D game engine), Vuforia (an augmented reality library), Acquia Lift (a personalization engine) and DrupalCoin Blockchain as a content store.
The Lift HoloDeck prototype is a great example of how an organization can use Acquia and DrupalCoin Blockchain to support new user experiences and distribution platforms that engage customers in captivating ways. It's incredible to see our talented teams at Acquia develop such an innovative project in under 48 hours; especially one that could help reshape how customers interact with their favorite brands.
Congratulations to the entire Lift HoloDeck team; Ted Ottey, Robert Burden, Chris Nagy, Emily Feng, Neil O'Donnell, Stephen Smith, Roderik Muit, Rob Marchetti and Yuan Xie.
Source: http://dev.acquia.com/


4 Things You Should Know Before You Start Using Memes on Social Media

Memes are one of the greatest symbols of social media.
They’re edgy. They’re funny. They’re easy to iterate on, and every week, a new one pops up.
But despite their popularity, it seems like using memes is a risky decision for a brand — or is it?

Memes can work well for brands, but only for those that get the essential elements of using a meme right.
If you try to use a meme and don’t hit the mark, you’ll look foolish and out of touch at best, but could also end up seriously offending someone.
So whether you’re new to memes, or looking to spin your meme mastery into good business, this guide will help you nail marketing with memes.

Their simple form and humor give memes inherent virility and a broad appeal. If you’ve been thinking about using memes to promote your brand on social media, you’re in good company.
As memes rise in popularity, brands grow keener on capitalizing on their pervasiveness and charm.
Why Memes Work
Memes are successful because they’re “carriers of culture.”
Memes seem to collect our ideas, emotions, and actions in a simple and transferable form, making them perfect for the Internet age.
Several points make memes great for brands:

They are an easy way to capitalize on shared knowledge.
They are great for humanizing your brand and sharing it on social media with an authentic voice.
They make it easier to showcase complex concepts such as your brand personality and company culture.
According to research, they lead to higher engagement from your audience.
They increase the chance that people will remember your brand when they see the meme elsewhere.

While some companies have managed to use memes to inject new energy in their brands, not all who have ventured in meme-territory have come back victorious.
One of the potentially most damaging ways to use a meme is to get embroidered in a legal battle over licensing rights, as New York-based drugstore chain Duane Read found out.
Although there’s no surefire way to use them, there are various ways in which you can protect yourself from having a meme backfire on your brand:

Check the rights on an image: It’s important to be aware of the risks you’re taking, even if the chance of ending up on the wrong side of the law is minuscule.
Develop a clear policy: Figure out what’s your brand’s tolerable level of risk and create guidelines that everyone on your team understands and follows.
Make sure you’re not implying an endorsement: In the case of Duane Reade, that’s what got the brand in trouble.
Consider the alternatives: If you want to use a particular image but are afraid there might be implications, explore alternative paths. For example, you can try licensing an image that you want to feature as a major part of a marketing campaign.

Know Your Audience
Start by making sure incorporating memes in your social marketing will click with your audience. Learn who your brand followers are and what they care about. Are they the type of people who would enjoy seeing a meme, or would they find it hard to understand it?
Your brand personality holds great insights into the type of people who follow you on social media and the expectations they have of you. For example, if you are a popular brand that appeals to millennials, memes are probably a good bet. However, if you’re trying to project a much classier, high-brow image, a meme might fall on deaf ears.
Good example: Totino’s
Totino’s is aware that their customer base is not looking for a Michelin-star culinary experience. They can poke some fun at themselves while selling their frozen pizza rolls, and their customers will love it.
Totino’s does this well with their version of the “Whomst” meme, which makes fun of those who use linguistic hypercorrection to appear more enlightened:

The brand injects itself into the meme by jokingly suggesting that the higher state of existence is literally to become a pizza roll. The savvy usage of the meme earns them instant recognition from their followers:

Bad Example: Club Orange
Irish soft drink Club Orange shows us what can happen if you don’t know your audience.
In this example, the brand used the “Success Kid” meme as part of one of their regular social media campaigns:

(Image Source)
Club Orange runs a weekly “Crate Friday” contest in which they send a full crate of their product to one of the people who comment on their Facebook update:

This use of meme misses the mark because of how disconnected all elements are — there’s no link between the image, the contest, and the question Club Orange is asking to engage their followers.
To make sure the memes you use on your Facebook page click with your audience:

Develop well-defined customer personas for the main segments of your audience. When you have a clear picture of who you’re talking to, it will be much easier to know if a certain meme is a good bet.
Start on a small scale: Experiment with using a meme on a small segment of your audience. If you suspect a specific demographic might be particularly (un)responsive to memes, use Facebook’s targeting capabilities to confirm your hypothesis.

Use an Appropriate Tone
Success on social heavily depends on the voice and tone brands use—and memes are part of that. Voice and tone matter because they provide consistency for the personality of your brand.
For some brands, memes come as a natural fit to their existing content. But for more serious or professional brands, finding the right tone makes all the difference between a successful meme and a total flop.
Good Example: Gucci
Luxury fashion retailer Gucci is not the first place you’d look for meme marketing. Nevertheless, the brand has found an inventive way to capitalize on the popularity of this internet phenomenon.
Gucci has recently featured a series of commissioned memes on their Facebook page, many of which depict Gucci products. In this example, they have appropriated the “Arthur’s Fist” meme that was popular in late 2016:

(Source)
Gucci:

Notice the great caption that goes along with the image. The accompanying copy describes the image in the same way a curator would describe an artwork. This is an inventive way to fit the meme into the personality of the brand, while still benefitting from the link to popular culture.
Even though this example doesn’t use the original meme, most brand followers spot the connection immediately.
Bad Example: Club Mate
German beverage Club Mate, which is well-known for its affiliation with Berlin’s raucous and youthful nightlife, has taken advantage of meme content in its Facebook presence.
The “Oscars Best Picture Meme” arose in the aftermath of the 2017 Oscars, where the incorrect winner was announced, and the ultimate reveal occurred by a camera shot of the correct winning card:

(Source)
By linking itself to the event, Club Mate is making a risky bet — many people were upset because they felt the whole mix-up was emblematic of racism. Instead of being a lighthearted meme, the Oscars debacle turned into a political issue with a lot of commentary surrounding the event and its aftermath.
Club Mate certainly had no intention to make any allusions to racial issues, but this underlines the importance of thoroughly considering all aspects of a meme and how it may be perceived before using it.

To make sure you’re using the appropriate tone in your memes:

Include a section on voice and tone in your social media strategy guidelines and make sure everyone on your team follows it.
Don’t try to sound too smart with the language you use, and make sure the memes are not too obscure. The beauty of memes is in the fact that they can be understood by everyone in the audience.
Make sure you don’t sound offensive with your memes. Poking fun at racial and gender issues is obviously a big no-no. The best policy is to keep things lighthearted when using memes.

Develop a Great Taste for Using Humor
All memes rely on humor, so it’s essential to know just how much of it to inject into a meme for your brand. Using humor is always the easiest way to make your brand sound human and create an emotional connection with your audience.
Obviously, making fun of your customers should be avoided, but even poking fun at your brand can backfire, as we see in one of the examples below.
Good Example: New South Wales Police
The police force of New South Wales in Australia has successfully appropriated memes for public service announcements. Here, they’ve taken advantage of the “Persian Cat Guardian” meme, which uses an image of a poorly taxidermied cat to express disbelief at a hypothetical situation:

(Image Source)
NSW Police Force uses the meme to remind their Facebook audience about the dangers of speeding.
This is a great use case because this kind of humor is unexpected from a “boring” organization such as the police. The meme immediately draws people in and encourages them to read the full status.
Moreover, by using such a lighthearted tone, the NSW police manages to get across their point on a controversial topic that may have otherwise provoked a heated debate. What’s more, they even sneak in a statistic — without the meme, this message would feel dry and boring.

Bad Example: Jimmy John’s
Sandwich company Jimmy John’s is a no-frills chain known for its no-nonsense, self-deprecating approach to its brand. And while that’s a great approach to have, it should always be used with care.
In this example, we see Jimmy John’s use the “Be Like Bill” meme, which disparages people who are overactive on social media:

(Image Source)
But the Jimmy John’s meme doesn’t quite hit the mark:

A large share of the brand’s audience is heavily committed to social media — telling them that it’s not worth posting what they’re eating might be perceived as a signal that it’s not worth to be a customer of Jimmy John’s at all.
Additionally, happy customers who post on social media provide a great opportunity for word-of-mouth promotion. By discouraging their audience from sharing their experience, Jimmy John’s is missing out on the chance to have those people serve as brand ambassadors.
To make sure you’re using the right amount of humor in your campaigns, remember to follow the basic rules:

A joke can go a long way with your audience, especially if they’re not expecting that level of informality from you. Just remember that there’s a limit to how much you can use this tactic before it gets predictable and commonplace.
Sometimes a good joke is too tempting to pass on, but remember that your brand is on social media to achieve its business goals, not to post anything funny that comes to mind.

Embed Your Brand in a Meme
Some companies venture beyond the established tropes and try to create their own meme where the brand takes center stage. A few are lucky enough to inspire memes, but not all of them have the gumption to capitalize on those opportunities.
In either case, having a meme that features your brand go viral is great for brand recognition.
Let’s see what makes the difference between those who succeed and those who fail:
Good Example: Netflix
One of the most surprising outcomes of the success of Netflix’s Stranger Things was the slew of memes surrounding a relatively minor character, Barb. Through the popularity of these memes, Barb has come to symbolize particular topics and ideas many of us care about.
The Barb-meme phenomenon came as a surprise even to the creators of the show, but Netflix did not hesitate to take advantage of it. Below, we see the brand sharing images that do fan service to lovers of Barb, and capitalize on the memes to generate even more buzz about the show.

Bad Example: Doritos
Doritos misses the mark in trying to create amusing memes that include the actual tortilla chips. While humorous and shareable, they miss the point of memes because they depend on already existing tropes. The result is an unconvincing attempt to blend humor with their brand.

If you’re looking to embed your brand in a meme, remember the following:

It should be simple enough that the majority of your audience can understand it without further explanation.
The meme cannot be about your brand, it can only feature it. Pushing too hard will make it easy for people to recognize your effort for what it is — an ad.

The Tools You Need to Create Your First Meme
To recap, brands interested in including memes in their social marketing should think about the following elements:

They should make sure memes would fit with their audience
They should make sure to use an appropriate tone
They should be careful about how they use humor with memes
They should consider how their brand fits within the meme

After considering these, you’re ready to start using memes in your social media channels.
The first step is to keep an eye on KnowYourMeme.com to stay in the know on trends. Sharing an old meme or overusing the same one are two easy ways to spoil your efforts before you’ve even started.
There are many websites that can help you create a meme quickly — imgflip, Meme Generator, and makeameme.org are just a few you might find useful.
Take slow steps, experiment, and hopefully, you’ll find the power that memes can create for your brand. Just remember that — like any superpower — memes should be used responsibly.
Source: https://adespresso.com/feed/


Steeped in History

Dim sum at Nom WahNom Wah Tea Parlor is New York Chinatown’s oldest dim sum restaurant. For decades, it served Cantonese dumplings and rolls in the traditional way, from trolleys pushed around the restaurant. When Wilson Tang took over Nom Wah in 2011, he switched from trolleys to menus with pictures and started serving dim sum through dinner. He also opened new locations that broadened Nom Wah’s repertoire beyond dim sum. These were big changes for a restaurant that opened in 1920, but Wilson saw them as measures to secure Nom Wah’s future for its next century in business.https://medium.com/media/a72379af33c3dd5da1b0e0603fc675f1/hrefTranscript(Sound of restaurant)WAILIN WONG: Wilson Tang is a native New Yorker and a Chinatown kid. On weekend mornings, his family would head to Chinatown in lower Manhattan for dim sum. It’s a Cantonese meal consisting of small dishes traditionally served from trolleys that servers push around the restaurant. There’s dumplings, rolls and buns, some steamed, some fried, all accompanied by a bottomless pot of tea.WILSON TANG: I hated that growing up. I hated fighting the crowds. When I was a teenager, we lived in Queens and it was this ordeal, you know, like driving out to the city, looking for parking and then waiting in line and getting a number.WAILIN: Teenage Wilson had no idea then that dim sum would play a much greater role in his life than just a weekend family ritual. Welcome to The Distance, a podcast about long-running businesses. I’m Wailin Wong. On today’s show, how Wilson Tang, who used to dread these weekend outings, ended up running New York’s oldest dim sum parlor and bridging the gap between his family legacy and new generations of diners.ZACH: The Distance is a production of Basecamp. I’m Zach, a programmer at Basecamp. Basecamp is the better way to run your business. It’s an app for communicating with people and organizing projects and work. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by email, chat and meetings, give Basecamp a try. Sign up for a 30-day free trial at basecamp.com/thedistance.WILSON: I am the owner and operator of Nom Wah Tea Parlor. We are actually in four places: New York Chinatown; Philadelphia Chinatown; we’re in Nolita of Manhattan, which is just slightly north of Chinatown; and we have a sister restaurant called Fung Tu in the Lower East Side.WAILIN: A couple named Ed and May Choy opened the New York Chinatown location as a bakery in 1920. It’s on a small, curved street that earned the nickname The Bloody Angle because neighborhood gangs used to fight each other with hatchets there in the early 1900s. Many years later, Wilson’s uncle Wally Tang got a job there under the Choys. He was 16 years old.WILSON: He started working there in the 50s as a dishwasher coming from China to America through the Cultural Revolution. He was working there for the Choy family until the 70s, where he purchased the restaurant and the building from them and continued it into the late 2000s.When you’re a newly immigrant, the thought process is you have to do this, versus for myself, being second generation where my parents were immigrants, it’s something where like, I want to do this.WAILIN: Wilson had tried his hand at restaurants before, when he left a corporate job to open a small bakery in Chinatown. The daily grind of running a cafe wasn’t right for that stage in his life. His friends were staying out late and partying while he was getting to the bakery at 5:30 in the morning to open up. But the experience of owning the bakery gave Wilson a taste of being a restaurateur, and it stayed with him.WILSON: I was in my early 20s. A lot of my peers and friends were out having fun, doing what 20 year olds do, and I ended up selling it because it was a business that just kind of got by. I think I was a little too young, like my life wasn’t really balanced out yet, but in my second opportunity with Nom Wah, I saw myself being a little more levelheaded, a little older, a little wiser—basically had the dating stuff out of my system, the having fun out of my system, and I was closer to 30.My uncle Wally was like, “Hey, I’m getting too old for this. I know you were previously interested in restaurants and foodservice, why don’t you take another stab at it?”WAILIN: That was in 2010. The year after that, in 2011, Wilson quit the corporate world for the second time and succeeded his uncle at Nom Wah.WILSON: My parents were questioning me, like why would you want to do this? Because you took a stab at it and it wasn’t really fruitful for you and you ended up losing three years of your life working at this thing that didn’t work out, where you’re educated, you know, you can just get a job in corporate America at some big firm and you have a lot less stressful life.I was at a point in my life where this was basically what I saw was my last chance. No one else really wanted it and if I didn’t take it, it would have just went down in history as closed and maybe some other proprietor would come in and take the space for whatever business they want to do and it’s gone forever. I feel like I did a good thing for New York. It’s a century old restaurant and I did my part as a native New Yorker to really hold onto old New York.WAILIN: If you didn’t know Nom Wah’s history, you might think it was one of these new businesses made to look like an old-fashioned one. You might think Wilson hired someone to put in the tin ceiling and hand distress the vinyl booths, that he went to thrift stores to buy the mismatched plates and metal tea canisters. But the vintage patina is real, and Wilson wanted to keep that character.WILSON: I’m very proud of the fact that I’m able to kind of just stop time for a little bit and people can come in and “Wow, this is what the place looks like when it was the 50s.” And kudos to my uncle Wally for being the kind of gentleman that his whole motto was “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” and the place is that way because of his thought process, you know. I see a lot of new companies or new restaurants or new businesses, they try to replicate this old New York style and it’s very hard to replicate. I literally have something that’s genuine and unique and real.WAILIN: Wilson preserved the Nom Wah aesthetic but made other changes. He saw an opportunity to update how dim sum was presented and served, so he got rid of the trolleys and extended the restaurant’s hours. His father was skeptical about serving dim sum for dinner, but Wilson was committed to trying the idea.WILSON: Most dim sum parlors or dim sum halls serve it from like 6 am to 2 or 3 in the afternoon, and that’s the lifespan of a dim sum restaurant. Those are the hours; that’s what culture tells you to do. If I had it my way, I would just do this for breakfast lunch and dinner and I wanted the cuisine to be very approachable as a Chinese American or an American Chinese person. I saw Nom Wah as this kind of Chinese diner—you have booth seating, you have tables, and I’m like, why can’t we just make a menu with all the dim sum items, like put a picture, description, price. As a Chinese person like, oh hey, you drink tea, but as an American person, I want to know what you’re drinking, like what different types you have, and what the meaning behind it is, like what’s this good for, what’s that about, what’s the caffeine level on this.WAILIN: It used to be that in the mid afternoon, when Chinatown dim sum restaurants closed, their chefs would head to Nom Wah to smoke and play mah johng or cards. Today, the dining room is busy through dinner with a mix of tourists, Chinatown regulars and nearby office workers. The dim sum chefs don’t hang out there anymore. But that brotherhood isn’t what it used to be. There aren’t new chefs coming in to replace the old guard.WILSON: This dim sum profession is very hard to get into, either language barrier or it’s just too labor intensive to actually learn and do. They want, the chefs or cooks these days, they want like this instant gratification, oh like I want learn something and just do it and excel, where making this skins for dumpling, it’s not an easy task. You have to have the right formulas, you have to have the right technique and it takes years to learn, so we’re in those crossroads right now and how do we push forward and be creative and push the envelope of what the word dim sum means?WAILIN: At Nom Wah Chinatown, the menu is the same. It was important for Wilson to keep signature items like the pork bun and shrimp and snow pea leaf dumplings. The new locations that he opened, like Nom Wah Nolita, became his playgrounds for trying new things with Chinese cuisine. It’s also a way of addressing the talent gap. He can recruit younger chefs who might not be interested in traditional dim sum but are inspired by those flavors or techniques.ZHIYU LAI: We offer ho fun beef noodle soup and it’s our shank sliced beef, but obviously a shank can’t be completely all slices so we had the leftovers —WAILIN: That’s Zhiyu Lai, the co-owner and general manager of Nom Wah Nolita, which is the newest restaurant in Wilson’s portfolio. It opened in 2016 after a brief run as a pop-up location. Zhiyu is explaining the origins of a popular soy-braised beef dish they serve over rice or noodles. It’s called fiery dank shank.ZHIYU: So we put the leftovers aside. We added some chili oil in there, like Chef Calvin, he just started putting different things in there and that was our staff meal, and I was like, “This was a pretty good staff meal. We should offer it out there.” And when we did, it took off.WAILIN: Wilson and Zhiyu have been friends for years and they both come from entrepreneurial immigrant families. Zhiyu’s father drove a New York taxi cab for 18 years before opening his own business in the restaurant industry, which made him a little concerned about his son entering the same high-stress world. At the same time, he also wanted his son to enjoy his work. It’s the same kind of second-generation luxury that Wilson talked about earlier. The first generation works to survive and succeed so that the next generation can have a choice of vocation. Zhiyu didn’t have to go into restaurants, but he wanted to.ZHIYU: My siblings and I we were raised to go into the corporate world, right? We went to high school, college, and then I worked at a desk job for 16 years. It’s funny because throughout those 16 years, my dad was like, “Do you envision yourself sitting here for the rest of your life?”My dad, he owned a food distribution business. His company was called Yi Pin. He made those soy sauce, hot sauce, duck sauce packets that go out to all the takeout restaurants, right? And just seeing him hustle like that, I’m like I’m younger than when he started, you know? So I know I can do it.WAILIN: Nom Wah Nolita is a small, self-service place where customers order and pay for their food at touchscreen kiosks. The Nolita location serves a selection of traditional dim sum, which Zhiyu brings over from the Chinatown restaurant in a little smart car. There’s also other dishes that change seasonally, and the data that the staff collects from its modern point of sale system helps shape the menu.ZHIYU: When it’s winter, it’s cold, we have a lot of noodle soups, right? A lot of spicier things, you know? As it’s getting warmer, I see from the POS system that the orders are going down, so that just proves to me that when spring comes, we have to come up with something more of a cold dish, something more cleansing in a sense. A lot of people like to stay with everything the same and they think it’ll last throughout, and I think that’s why a lot of restaurants fail. There’s no innovation.WAILIN: In big cities like New York, there are a lot of reasons why restaurants fail. They’re chasing the same food trends: farm to table, small plates, handcrafted artisanal whatever. There’s a labor shortage of cooks, not just in dim sum like Wilson mentioned, but across the industry. And restaurants that don’t own their buildings get priced out as rents go up. Nom Wah’s Chinatown location has some measure of protection: The neighborhood hasn’t gentrified as rapidly as the area around it, and Wilson’s Uncle Wally owns the building. But Wilson doesn’t just have the original location. There’s Nolita, Philadelphia and a sister restaurant called Fung Tu. His expansion of the Nom Wah family of restaurants means that his real test as a business owner isn’t whether he can keep the Chinatown restaurant going, but whether his new ventures have staying power. He’s planning another location on Canal Street in lower Manhattan.WILSON: You know, on the exterior, like on social media, everything looks great, right? Like I’m always posting positive things and long lines and cool shit, right? But the reality is that I am responsible for feeding the mouths of over a hundred people. People that look at me, they lose track of that burden. If any of these places don’t do well or they fail, it’s a big deal, you know, like this Nolita employs over 10 people. Nom Wah in Chinatown, we have over 30 people. At Fung Tu, it’s over 20 people. In Philadelphia, it’s over 15 people. It all looks glamorous because we’re in a media world but it’s very daunting and there’s a lot of people involved and I have to make sure it’s successful, that we keep the money flowing. It looks good but it’s actually a lot harder than it really looks.WAILIN: There’s one thing Wilson doesn’t worry about, and that’s whether Nom Wah is authentic. He likes to challenge what that word means, especially in the authenticity-obsessed world of restaurants and foodies. Can you serve dim sum for dinner and be authentic? Can you be a Chinatown restaurant with a dining room full of non-Chinese customers and be authentic? Can you serve a dish called fiery dank shank and be authentic? Wilson just wants you to come into one of his restaurants and have a good meal.WILSON: I use that word very loosely now, like you know, I kind of don’t care what you think, you know, as long as it’s authentic to me, it’s tasty and it’s affordable, then that’s really what I go for. Like I kind of walk through the noise and as long as it’s well accepted by the masses, it’s okay by me.WAILIN: Even Wilson’s parents have come around, in their own way. He’s bridged the gap there too.WILSON: You know, there’s a moment where I first started where it was kind of dark ‘cause like they didn’t understand why I was doing this. I think restaurants really got hot. I think cooking shows and social media has really boosted this career or work into another stratosphere, where restaurateurs or cooks or chefs are celebrities really helped the cause. Today I think just because they’re Chinese and like it’s you know, mum’s the word and not saying much means that they’re happy. I think the fact that I’m not needing their help and I can actually help them proves that I’m doing okay and there’s no question about that.The Distance is produced by Shaun Hildner and me, Wailin Wong. Our illustrations are by Nate Otto. There are all different ways you can keep in touch with us. You can email us at tips at the distance dot com. You can tweet at us @distancemag, that’s @distancemag. And you can leave us a rating or review on iTunes. The Distance is a production of Basecamp, the app for helping small business owners stay in control of projects and reduce email clutter. Try Basecamp free for 30 days at basecamp.com/thedistance.Steeped in History was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


How to innovate — 3 recent stories from successful brands

Last week I had the opportunity to attend ProFood Tech, a trade show for the food and beverage processing industry. I went to experience problems felt by companies outside my sphere of online software businesses. It’s funny though how much is still the same. Same problems. Same worries.How do we grow this old brand? How have people’s tastes changed? How do we create new products without wasting tons of money?There was a panel on innovation where three successful and aging brands shared recent successes at creating new products. There’s a lot to learn from them.Bud LightThe CEO of Anheuser-Busch was visiting Asia when he noticed folks were pouring beer over ice. He immediately called his VP of Innovation, Pat McGauley, and asked for his team to figure out what was going on here. Was this a trend they could exploit?The call was on a Friday. By Sunday, Pat was testing beers over ice with impromptu focus groups from the tour of the Anheuser-Busch plant in St. Louis. (I’ve been. It’s a great slice of American history.) Pat served beers over ice and got people’s impressions.Everyone hated it.This wasn’t going to work.But Pat didn’t want to end up with a disappointing dead end for his boss, so he kept his team on the problem. If beer over ice doesn’t work here with US drinkers what would?They came up with a margarita flavored malt beverage called a Lime-a-Rita and it blew up. Two years after launch the beverage was making $498 million in sales and commanded 28% of the flavored malt-beverage market (Adage).Takeaway: I’m impressed by how fast Anheuser-Busch is getting experiments in front of new customers. They don’t let a formal process get in the way. They know they have customers walking through their doors every day on these tours, why not take advantage immediately of that signal and start using it. Too many companies waste countless time debating their experimentation process only to come up with the same result: the original idea sucks and they have to go back to the drawing board.If a giant behemoth of a company like Anheuser-Busch can test out new product ideas in front of people this quickly, what excuse do you have?Also worth taking away from this story is how margaritas weren’t actually new territory for Anheuser-Busch. They created a margarita mix years ago and it failed miserably. They sold it alongside the more popular margarita mixes copying every attribute they could: even the bottle design. The purposefully tried to blend into the current market and paid the price.This time they made an effort to stand out. Get out of the mixed drink aisle and get in front of beer drinkers or people looking for a beer alternative.Sometimes your product idea isn’t growing because you’re simply selling it in the wrong aisle.It’s a task I’m working on actively at Highrise with some interesting results. How do we get out of the CRM ‘aisle’ with hundreds and hundreds of competitors?Wheat ThinsLinda Lee, the CMO of Stonyfield Farm, shared her experience with Wheat Thins while she was still a Sr. Director at Mondelēz International, which owns the Nabisco brand.Linda was in charge of Wheat Thins, and things weren’t going well. Over a decade Wheat Thins had seen decline. How could they fix this?One thing Linda realized was the category of healthy snacking was actually growing. So something must be wrong with Wheat Thins itself. Knowing that helped them focus.She realized the problem stood out right from the name: “Wheat”. Wheat isn’t trendy. Avoiding gluten is trendy. For example: 1 in 5 Americans are now trying to avoid gluten in their diet. (Thanks Bill Winterberg for the stat.)Linda realized that if they could create Wheat Thin-esque crackers out of alternatives like rice and potato she might have a hit. So they created Good Thins. A nod to the quality, taste and texture of Wheat Thins but with trendy ingredients. And the product has taken off.Takeaway: Linda studied not just her product but the whole category of products to figure out where the problem was. If you just focus inward you might not understand if it’s actually you or the market. For example, a Fax machine business today might mistakenly think their Fax machine doesn’t do enough; “let’s add more features.” But if you look at the market you realize Faxing as a category isn’t growing. Then you know it’s not just your product. You need to think about making more foundational changes. But if the market is growing, and you’re not, your focus changes. It’s you. Not them.Which frees up your resources to focus on the right things to fix.ButterfingerNestle who makes Butterfinger was seeing global sales slump and wanted to come up with something new. Jeremy Vandervoet, Director of Marketing, was in charge of a turnaround.One day Jeremey was searching through Pinterest as an early user of the platform and something struck him about his search for “Butterfinger”. People were posting tons and tons of recipes for dishes made with Butterfinger: cakes, muffins, cookies, you name it.Jeremey had the insight of his career. Butterfinger isn’t just a candybar to their customers. It’s an ingredient.So armed with this information, Nestle decided to take on a candy that no one ever dares to: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Reese’s is the best selling candy in the US with annual sales of ~$2 billion. People love their peanut butter cups. And the category got complacent.Until Jeremy came along. In 2014, Nestle launched their Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups. The first difference you’ll spot is a rounded square instead of a perfect circle. But the main difference you’ll taste is a peanut butter cup with a unique crunch to it from Butterfinger pieces inside.It was a hit.“[Butterfinger cups] has become the №1 launch in the history of Nestle U.S.A.’s confections and snacks division,” Tricia Bowles, manager of division and brand affairs at Nestle, told Food Business News.It’s been so successful Reese’s is now trying and succeeding with their own comebacks at the “crunchy peanut butter cup.”Reese’s versions with Pieces and cookies insideTakeaway: Jeremy was able to look at his product more objectively than most. It’s not what you think your product is, it’s what your customers think your product is.You start doing research like Jobs-to-be-Done interviews. You start watching customers and learn how they use your product in weird and unintended ways. You might just realize you made a thing that works rather differently than you planned for. But you can likely harness that other perspective and make it work for you.Here at Highrise, the use we’re seeing isn’t of the “unintended” variety, but definitely in a place we haven’t paid much attention to: trade shows. Hence my work like attending ProFood Tech to uncover more of what makes trade shows tick.None of these stories made it seem like these tasks were easy. But sometimes reaching outside of your core industry is also a great way to inspire some new thinking and ideas.P.S. If you enjoyed this article, please help spread it by clicking that ❤ below. And you should follow my YouTube channel, where I share more about how history, psychology, and science can help us come up with better ideas and start businesses. And if you need a simple system to track leads and follow-ups you should give Highrise a look.How to innovate — 3 recent stories from successful brands was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


The Future | Inspired by Nature

Inspired Magazine
Inspired Magazine - creativity & inspiration daily
Nature* feeds us, purifies the air we breathe and the water we drink. Unbeatable booster, it cures stress, sadness, reenergizes humans. It’s all around us but most of us fail to appreciate it or even notice it, which is a bit like turning the back on our own selves. No, we’re not going into a philosophical discussion about nature, and how our own beings are (part of) nature. We’re just trying to remind you of the importance of looking at nature – an incredible source of endless inspiration on top of everything else.
Look again, or maybe for the first time, with the curiosity of a child. Sure, the occasional romantic strolls help too, but don’t forget to study, explore, examine, through a magnifying glass if needed. Be amazed by the universe at our fingertips.
“Glance at the sun.
See the moon and the stars.
Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greenings.
Now, think.”
~ Hildegard von Bingen
Nature as a Blueprint for Sustainability

Did you know that the ubiquitous Velcro was inspired by the way plant burrs stick to dog hair? Yep, almost 80 years ago, the Swiss engineer George de Mestral started his velcro adventure simply by looking at the burrs under a microscope. Did you know that solar cells mimic butterfly wings? Made up of tiny scales, the wings are surprisingly good at harvesting light. Did you hear that the veins in the tree leaves can inspire robust and resilient building distribution networks?
From ant nest to architecture, from caterpillar’s roll to medical instruments, this “approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies” is called biomimicry. Small wonder that an organization focused on sustainability like the David Suzuki Foundation came up with this spot-on slogan: “Solutions are in our nature”.
Clean 360° Designs

We can agree that biomimicry has worked miracles in many areas, and it’s now an essential part of the renewable energy landscape. In the exploratory trip humanity is currently undergoing, clean(er) solutions to an insatiable need for energy is the goal. Simplicity is at the heart of it, as a way to tackle this complex energy crisis.
How to better improve your relation with nature if not by trying to imitate its non-invasive, sustainable ways? And why wouldn’t we want renewable, old as the world, (almost) free (still, in most corners of this world), clean, or producing significantly lower carbon emissions (compared to so-called conventional energy sources)?
Below we’ll have a look at wind and solar, two of the most popular and innovative alternative sources of energy and their new interest in going full circle, cradle to cradle.
Smart Flower Solar
We saw this fantastic invention in the streets of Paris, on a cold winter day in December 2015, during the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The first thought what: yes, it makes perfect sense. Why didn’t we think about this before? Maybe we did, but somehow failed to make the connections.
Now this blooming sunflower has made the rounds on social media, and for all the right reasons. Unlike static solar panels, this one follows the sun, just like a sunflower in a field, thus catching the sunlight all day. “Inspired design, intelligent solar”, the smartflower is easy to set up and connect, fully integrated, all-in-one solar system that can live anywhere. Designed to be a plug-and-play system, it does make solar simple(r). It’s also 40% more efficient in energy production than traditional solar and can be easily packed up and moved to a new site. Big plus.
Taking into account the fact that the sun provides more than enough energy in just one hour to supply our planet’s energy needs for an entire year, just imagine the possibilities.

Tree-Shaped Wind Turbine | L’Arbre à Vent
New Wind is a company inventing biomimetic devises that deliver sustainable electrical services. They’ve put together this wind turbine resembling a tree where each leaf is capable of producing electricity from the slightest waft of air within a radius of 360°. It offers immediate consumption in proximity to end-use, while, you’ll have to agree with them, also providing an esthetic and emotional contribution to the urban landscapes (huge part of any fierce debate on wind turbines).
This L’Arbre à Vent is small enough to fit in your backyard, using air flow through wind turbines to mechanically power generators for electric power. On the one hand, you have the force of the wind. On the other hand, the structure of the tree. That’s like a double jackpot. Not only inspired by nature, but running on nature too.
Who knows, treehugger or not, dosing under thick with aromas cherry trees in spring might have produced similar tree-shaped wind turbines.

Here to Stay
The Tesla Solar Roof, the machine that pulverizes glass bottles into sand (back to the initial state!), and dozens of other similar recent inventions prove that looking closer at nature pays off.
Like it or not, change is happening no matter how many science deniers rule the world. It’s the change brought about by curious informed people that casts gleams of hope on our rather precarious present.
If for whatever reason nature is not in your agenda on a daily basis, try to follow specialty classics like National Geographic, or the plethora of online publications brimful of similar stories.
Keep on being captivated and engaged, share the positive changes. Exploring the potential of the world around us is essential in finding solutions for a sustainable high performing innovative future we can be proud we’ve created or at least encouraged.
Frank Lloyd Wright had one the most inspired and inspiring advises ever: “Study nature, love nature, stay closer to nature. It will never fail you”. May the force (of nature) be with you!
* Nature: The phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth.

This post The Future | Inspired by Nature was written by Anca Rusu and first appearedon Inspired Magazine.
Source: inspiredm.com


Jobs to be done — Getting started

If you don’t know me, Hi. I’m Nate. I took over as CEO of Highrise as we spun it off from Basecamp in 2014. It’s been an exciting project, but holy crap is it hard.Highrise is a simple CRM you can get your whole team on in a few minutes and it’s been around since 2007. When it came out, it was a “blue ocean” for us (the water wasn’t red from a bloody war with competition). You had the behemoth of Salesforce, which is a fine system for people ready to spend their careers learning how to wield it. Or you had desktop tools and spreadsheets that were tough to share with your team. Highrise was one of the first to bring CRM online and make it dead simple.But… 10 years have passed. The marketplace is quite different.Now, when people search to use a CRM for their project or organization they often come across lists of dozens and dozens and dozens of competitors to Highrise. We rank favorably on many of them, but still. We’ll be amongst 50 competitors on a list. It makes business much harder.So one thing we seek is how to make Highrise stand out again like it did in 2007.In 2004, a guy named Manoj was inspired by an energy drink he discovered at a trade show. Something struck him though about the 16 oz beverage he sampled. He wasn’t thirsty. He just wanted a pick-me-up. So why was this a 16 oz. drink?Clayton Christensen made the phrase “jobs to be done” famous in business circles with his book Innovator’s Solution. In a nutshell, if you want to innovate, you really need to get to the actual job your customers have for your product, which is something few companies bother to find out.In the book, he talks about “milkshakes” and how a fast food company had surprisingly found milkshakes were being hired for the job of: breakfast. When you understand that deep rooted need, you can make some truly innovative decisions about your milkshakes.Manoj realized that energy drinks were often hired to bring people energy, not to quench thirst. Getting clear on the true job to be done of his potential customers, allowed him to see a way through a crowded market.He turned a 16 oz. energy drink into a 2 oz energy shot.Instead of sitting in the refrigerator section with countless Coke and Pepsi brands and dozens of Red Bull variations. He could sell his energy shot right on the counter when people check out. In 2005, Manoj launched 5 Hour Energy shots, which today now makes over $700 million in revenue each year.I’d like to get out of the refrigerator section.So we recently finished a series of “jobs to be done” interviews with our customers looking for our own aha moment. Are we serving Highrise customers 16 oz. beverages when they need 2 oz. shots? Is there a counter where we should be selling Highrise that today’s competition is ignoring?We had the good fortune of having Ryan Singer at Basecamp run the interview process for us. He’s been learning Jobs to Be Done theory directly from Clayton, Bob Modesta, and Chris Spieck. Bob was one of the original architects of Jobs to Be Done theory with Clayton. Bob and Chris run The Rewired Group, which helps companies complete the interviews and find their ‘jobs’.Ryan has also run a series of successful interviews for Basecamp, and was available to help us.Though I’m no expert, there are quite a few tips I can share about our process that might help you.Tip #1: Wait“Ok, so I should email a bunch of people now?” was my very first question I asked Ryan when we met to plan our interview project.No, I shouldn’t just jump into scheduling a bunch of customers. We needed to get clear on what our goal was and how would we screen great interview candidates.For example, if our goal was to find out why so many people were quitting Highrise, then we would probably want to interview a bunch of recent quitters and figure out the timeline of events that led them to Highrise to begin with, and then the events that led them away.Fortunately for us, quitting Highrise isn’t our problem. Once people are in, they’re super happy (something that was made surprisingly clear in our interviews and something I’ll cover in more detail soon).Our problem is getting people to discover us in the first place now that there are so many other choices to pick from.So we got clear on who we wanted to interview, as well as where we wanted to spend the most time of the interview: the discovery process. The pain and the search that led to us to begin with.Tip #2: Don’t interview everyoneOne of the most important parts of successful jobs to be done interviews is to screen out the wrong people.You need to make sure you are only interviewing recent customers who just bought your product. They’ve actually given you a credit card and paid you. It’s not still in some “trial”. The purchase is done.But you don’t want to go too far back or the people you’re interviewing won’t remember enough detail about the problem they were solving in the first place.Avoid interviewing people who are your repeat customers. These memories of how they discovered you and what the original pain was needs to be fresh.We used a combination of our analytics tools and a screening survey we sent to a bunch of potential interview candidates. We worked hard to keep the survey as slim as possible, because our goal was still to have a good response rate.One question I wish we had but didn’t was some kind of date picker of: “When did you first use Highrise?” We had one interview where the user had been using Highrise for 6 years and had just created a new account. Great customer! Wonderful person to speak with and had great feedback. But didn’t help us with the type of insight we were looking for since they couldn’t remember the original problem that brought them to Highrise so many years ago.You also need to screen for the actual purchaser and decision maker. If someone ended up making the purchase because a boss told them to go out and do it, that’s not going to be helpful enough either or you risk your interviewee saying this throughout your interview: “I’m not sure, I’d have to ask Kathy because she’d told me we needed it.”Tip #3: You won’t be good at doing thisFor the first 3 interviews I did myself, I’d grade them a D+. At least I made an effort :)The interviews themselves, were much harder to conduct than I had anticipated. And that’s just the data gathering phase. The analysis phase is another mountain to climb.My interviews were way too short, and skipped too quickly through the parts of the customer journey that actually makes a difference to us.The real lesson is that you need practice. After now being “second” chair to Ryan leading these interviews I’m confident I’ve gotten better.But I still remain no expert. Reading my words isn’t going to get you to the point of truly understanding how to conduct this research. I’ve been studying jobs to be done for years now, listening to sample interviews, taking courses. And I still struggle doing these interviews.I recommend you devour the material that Bob and Chris produce on the subject: http://jobstobedone.org. They even have an online class I’ve taken, and do workshops. I’ll even try and attend their next workshop myself. And follow Ryan’s insight on this topic.I’ll be sharing dozens of more tips I saw as we conducted these interviews in follow up articles. But if you want the spoilers you can see the Jobs to Be Done videos on my YouTube Channel: here.And if you need a simple system to track leads and follow-ups you should give Highrise a look.Jobs to be done — Getting started was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


Looking Back at SXSW 2017 with Viget

If you were in Austin last week, you may have seen us running around, giving workshops, or enjoying some local eats. SXSW 2017 was a blast, and we were able to catch up with friends and the latest tech. Here’s a quick teaser of our trip:

[vimeo 209216256 w=640 h=360]

Themes
We arrived on the festival’s first day to fantastic weather and the smell of delicious tacos. There were thousands of talks during the interactive segment, covering many different topics. However, there were a few popular themes that stood out:

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality (VR/AR/MR)

Last year, we said Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality would blow up, and we saw some ingenious uses of these technologies. Related products were highlights of the expo, and many speakers focused on the intersection of immersive storytelling and VR/AR/MR. Innovators are now using this technology to sell homes, share immersive journalism, enhance music experiences, explore space, and push the boundaries of cinema.
The Blending of Journalism, Politics, and Tech
On the heels of an administration change, there was a surprisingly large spotlight on social and political issues. Van Jones, Joe Biden, the NYT, and others tackled controversial issues and encouraged renewed action from attendees. Journalists also discussed the risk of pushing the boundaries of privacy and going beyond ethical storytelling in the wake of new technological developments.
Connected Hardware
Connected hardware is near and dear to us at Viget, and we were happy to see it all over Austin. From meetups to sessions to events, we saw IoT lovers everywhere. Eager innovators were looking to bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds (s/o to our friends at SparkFun!). Covering everything from industrial production, cooking, and home security, there were some seriously smart products that got us thinking about our next projects!

Data Visualization
Bridging the gap between statistics and storytelling, data visualization has been a focus of ours for quite a while, so we were excited to see more on it at SXSW. Although organizations are collecting more data than ever, it’s often under-utilized. With the advancement of data analysis and visualization tools, the ability to create useful and shareable data stories is unprecedented. You’ve probably already noticed it creep into your daily life, and the future of data storytelling is bright.
Digital Influencers
I did not actually plan on watching a grown man eat chicken for an hour, and yet there I was on Wednesday morning doing just that. It was one of a few sessions I attended that discussed the interesting (and bizarre) followings and subcultures on the internet. I found myself asking, “What can I learn from this odd but popular content?” numerous times at the festival, whether it was about people live-streaming their eating habits, eSports, or ridiculously tiny kitchens. As the internet has removed many barriers to entry, digital influencers can gain huge followings and change real opinions and behaviors, bringing up interesting ethical, sociological, and business questions.
More
Still curious? Listen to SXSW sessions here: SXSW on SoundCloud.

Workshops
We submitted quite a few entries to SXSW and were fortunate enough to host two workshops this year:

What JavaScript Everywhere Really Looks Like
If you don’t know by now, JavaScript is pretty much eating the world of software. We can now build for any platform with this once-ridiculed language thanks to React, Node, and other advancements. Nate and one of our friends at the Unreasonable Group, Lawson Kurtz, led a tour of what this new world means for developers and those they work with.

Intro to Connected Devices
Back for a second year, this workshop guided newbies through the the “Internet of Things” and gave them the skills to create their own connected device. Led by Justin, Eli, and myself, attendees learned about tools and services used to connect the physical and digital worlds. Everyone took home their own hardware creation (👏 to our friends at Particle), along with the components necessary for future projects.

Events
This year, we held our very first Viget SXSW Happy Hour on Rainey Street at Craft Pride, a fantastic Texas-only craft beer bar. There, we caught up with clients, Viget alumni, and new friends.

We also joined our peers at the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA) Happy Hour, seeing some familiar faces and meeting other agencies from around the world. Kudos to their event team for a well-organized, well-attended, and fun happy hour!

Thanks for bringing us together, @SoDAspeaks! Enjoying happy hour at @DogwoodAustin for #sxsw pic.twitter.com/lJCz2nM7oX— Viget (@viget) March 14, 2017

A staple of SXSW, many organizations rent out whole venues for the week where they host speaking panels, live music, and parties. A few of our favorites were:
FastCo Grill – Put on by Fast Company, this venue hosted big names in design and tech for in-depth panels and some of the best networking events of the festival.NatGeo’s Further Base Camp – Hot off their Super Bowl ads promoting their first-ever scripted fiction series, “Genius,” National Geographic featured Augmented Reality experiments, a crazy robot chalkboard, and plenty of talented explorers/speakers for the week.
WeDC House – Bringing together local startups, speakers, and also politicians, WeDC recreated a small piece of the DC Tech scene in Austin that made anyone from the DMV area feel at home.

Eat, Drink, Do
Austin is beautiful, hospitable, and yes...weird! Our week in the city flew by, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of our favorite eateries, watering holes, and activities.
Eat
Gourdough’s – Come for the doughnut burgers, stay for the doughnuts.Frank – Our favorite hot dog place. Get the Stag.Chi'lantro BBQ – Food truck and restaurant. Kimchi fries and delicious bowls.G'Raj Mahal – Former food truck with a tented outdoor space. Perfect if you’re hungry on Rainey.
Drink
Firehouse Bar – Downtown speakeasy bar. Enter through the bookcase and enjoy the cocktails.Craft Pride – For craft beer lovers. This bar serves only Texas craft beer and has a small stage out back.The Dogwood – A bit west of downtown. Fun and casual hangout with a patio.
Do
Since most of us had speaker passes, we were able to partake in the film and music segments of the festival (thank you, SXSW organizers and volunteers). Lesson learned – show up earlier than you think to get in! A few of our group favorites were Colossal, Mayhem, Bill Nye: Science Guy, and Meth Storm.
The best ways to get around the festival were ride-sharing(ish) and hoofing it. However, nearby Lady Bird Lake provides some highly enjoyable kayaking, especially this time of year.

Feel free to browse photos from our trip below. Until next time – thanks, Austin!


Source: VigetInspire


The Richest Man In Town

Illustration by Nate OttoCullinan’s Stadium Club and Beverly Records sit next door to each other in the Chicago neighborhood of Morgan Park. The owners of the two businesses have been friendly since Dan Cullinan opened his bar and grill in 1989. But even Dan couldn’t imagine how John Dreznes of Beverly Records would rush in to help when Cullinan’s Stadium Club ran into financial trouble in late 2016.https://medium.com/media/261c15075ab93d3e51584b5cb30681fc/hrefTranscriptWAILIN: Western Avenue is the longest continuous street in Chicago. It runs north-south for 24 miles, spanning the entire length of the city. When you take Western to Chicago’s southern end, you end up in the neighborhood of Morgan Park.DAN CULLINAN: Pretty much my whole life has been on Western. My name is Dan Cullinan, I am the owner of Cullinan’s Stadium Club.JOHN DREZNES: I remember Dan when I was 17 years old and I tried to buy a beer in there and he kicked me out. My name is John Dreznes, I’m part of the family that owns Beverly Record Shop on Western Avenue.WAILIN: Dan’s bar and John’s record store have been next door neighbors on Western Avenue since 1989, when Dan opened Cullinan’s Stadium Club at the age of 23.DAN: You hear people complaining about their neighbors and I mean, I really lucked out. This has been a great relationship. When things were tough and you needed a little extra hand with some room in your garbage ’cause you can’t afford that pickup, they’ve always left their lid open for me, so to speak, probably more often than we want to talk about, but it was just one of those things that you know, it’s that same cup of sugar that you borrow from your neighbor that the door’s always open.WAILIN: Welcome to The Distance, a podcast about long-running businesses. I’m Wailin Wong. On today’s show, the story of a friendship between two long-time business neighbors and how one stepped in when the survival of the other was in jeopardy. The Distance is a production of Basecamp. Basecamp is the better way to run your business. It’s an app for communicating with people and organizing projects and work. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by email, chat and meetings, give Basecamp a try. Sign up for a 30-day free trial at basecamp.com/thedistance.JOHN: He was driving down Western Avenue and he saw—it was called Beverly Records and Novelties and he saw a For Sale sign, so he stopped.WAILIN: John’s talking about his grandfather, who bought the shop for John’s grandmother in 1967 to get her mind off their sons being drafted for military service.JOHN: That night, sitting around at dinner, he says, “Christine, I bought a record shop but I need someone to run it. Can you run it?” She says, “Yeah, I guess I can run it.” She took to it like a fish to water.Today John’s father runs the day-to-day operations at Beverly Records. John is at the shop part of the time and also DJs weddings and events. In fact, the staff at the record store has provided the music for a lot of parties in the neighborhood.DAN: In my family, I’m the youngest of six kids, so when the nieces and nephews were starting to get married, it was Beverly Records was always DJing. I didn’t think there was any other DJ that worked, other than these guys.WAILIN: Beverly Records has gone through the boom times of the 70s and 80s and the lean times of the 90s, when CDs replaced vinyl. In the last 10 years, the store has been swept up in the vinyl renaissance that’s boosted sales of records and turntables. Today the shop gets lines around the block for special releases on Record Store Day, which takes place every April on a Saturday. Big events like Record Store Day have also created opportunities for John and Dan’s businesses to team up. John’s shop is small, so he sets up tables of records in Dan’s bar to accommodate the larger crowds.JOHN: We pack the bar next door with $2 records. And it gives those people who are kind of getting into the hobby a chance to experiment. Spend the day, have a cheeseburger, drink a beer. And then you get the people who are spending all day in here, they want to show off what they have with their buddies, so they’ll go next door, sit down, grab a bar stool. They’ll go through their collections together. It’s kind of neat to watch.WAILIN: Besides the excitement of Record Store Day, there have been other signs of activity on John and Dan’s stretch of Western Avenue. Dan was excited in 2015 when the Chicago Park District opened a new indoor ice rink and gymnastics center across the street on Western. He wanted to rebrand his bar and grill as the kind of place where families could eat after high school hockey practice. There would be a new look, a new kids’ menu and even a new name: Cullinan’s Center Ice. Dan lined up a partner to help with the remodel. But then, in December of 2016, he got a visit from the state tax agency.DAN: It was a sales tax audit. It wasn’t that it wasn’t paid. They just didn’t think they got paid enough. I met with the liquor commission, met with the department of revenue. Basically, they said, “Figure something out in the next two weeks,” and within those two weeks, at the eleventh hour, the partner kinda backs out due to other interests. I didn’t think it was going to happen. I just said, “Well, we’ll worry about this after the holiday.” And lo and behold, two weeks and two days later, they came knocking at the door saying, “We have to close you.”I was at home, which is about two minutes away, and it was a friend of mine that was behind the bar. And he called me right away and I said, “I’ll be right there.” It was end of lunch, so there was only a couple people in there and they allowed them to finish.WAILIN: The Department of Revenue put up bright green signs on his windows saying WARNING in all caps across the top. Underneath that, it said, “This business’ certificate of registration is hereby REVOKED.” Revoked was in all caps too. Dan was able to get into his bar to maintain it and make sure the pipes didn’t freeze and burst in the cold weather. But his business was closed, and he didn’t know what to do. He now had employees who were out of work just weeks before Christmas, and it seemed like the signs on the windows brought out all the busybodies in the neighborhood. Dan said he went into a partial seclusion.DAN: It was embarrassing, you know. For every one of those phone calls that wanted to help, there was someone that just wanted a scoop too. You just decided, let me figure this out on my own.JOHN: When the business closed, nobody knew what happened, okay? I’m looking at, you know, the big green sign and the emptiness I felt. You felt it here. It felt so lonely without the bar open and every day you come in here and it was like, it was almost like something’s off, you know.I’ve read a little bit about you know GoFundMe and this and that. So you know I went online and I just typed it in, maybe, maybe this will work.WAILIN: Without talking to Dan or knowing the exact circumstances behind the closure, John set up a campaign on GoFundMe, the online fundraising site.JOHN : I knew if I went to Dan and said I said, “Hey Dan, why don’t we all help you out?” He would say, “Don’t you dare.” What happened was there’s a local newspaper, DNAinfo, had picked up on it and then they wrote a story about it and that’s kind of what brought in the publicity for the campaign.DAN: After the first couple days of being in seclusion, I didn’t return too many calls because I had to figure out what I was gonna do and a friend of mine came over and said that there’s an editor of the newspaper or something that was trying to get ahold of me, and you really should return his call. And he did ask me what my thought was about the GoFundMe page. I said I really couldn’t answer, I mean, I wasn’t even sure what it was. I wasn’t real familiar with the concept of GoFundMe and the little bit I knew about it, I definitely felt that that’s geared to where there’s a death of a child or major surgeries of a child that, I mean, I never thought past that.WAILIN: John didn’t know what kind of money Dan needed, so he just set the fundraising goal at $25,000. Two thousand dollars came in on the first day and word kept spreading, especially after the story was published.JOHN: After I read the story I kind of like, is Dan going to be mad, or…? So I says, “Dan, I don’t know how I’m going to explain this to you, but there’s a website that we’re trying to raise money for you,” and I know he didn’t understand what I was talking about. So we got through it, and I explained what was happening. It was a phone call to warn of the oncoming slaught of phone calls that he was gonna get, so I didn’t want him to be too surprised.DAN: By the time I was able to, you know, siphon through it all in my mind, I had gotten friends that I grew up with and other business owners that have approached me right at that time and said, “Let it go. You can’t do anything about it. It’s something that people want to do and they’re going to do it whether you’re accepting of it or not.”WAILIN: Within a week, the GoFundMe campaign had brought in $14,265 from 185 donors. Dan reopened Cullinan’s Stadium Club at the end of December.DAN: When I got back with the license and it was like “It’s A Wonderful Life” when they all started pouring into George Bailey’s house, and being a favorite movie of mine, at the time of year, and the saying that was “Remember, no man is a failure if he has friends,” I’m like—I never wanted that to be my slogan, but I’m sure proud of it and just proud of the fact that a lot of these years that you kind of wondered if you left an impact on people, somewhere along the line you must have done something right.[A toast to my big brother George, the richest man in town!]You know, I look forward to the time when I can help somebody out in a way like this because it will never be forgotten. And since we’ve reopened, seeing these faces that don’t really get out that much because they have tuitions and mortgages, showing support in any way they could to say thanks, I met my wife at your bar and we can’t imagine it not being here and I really had to totally turn around in my mind of just everything—restoring faith in humanity and what John did, I mean, I would never have imagined.JOHN: Don’t give me the credit. I’m not the one. it’s your patrons. It’s the people that you know and those business relationships and those friendly faces that come in, are the ones that give. Maybe I supplied the catalyst or the easy way to do it by setting it up, but no, I didn’t raise all that money, Dan. You did.WAILIN: Dan’s close call has given him a fresh perspective on what he can do with the bar and grill. The rebranding he had envisioned in 2015 might not happen, but he’s already planning some small changes, like doing rollback menus on Wednesday nights where food is at 1989 prices, and offering a Friday night fish fry all year round instead of just during Lent.DAN: It has definitely brought people back in to see what’s going on. Maybe they live further north on Western that they’d have to cross 10 or 12 bars to get back here again, well they’re doing it, so it’s giving me another chance at you know, revitalizing the place and I’m very lucky. Again, not uh, not that I want that to happen again for that reason, but we made something good out of something bad.WAILIN: Dan and John have a lot of ideas about how else they could work together, too. Maybe a trivia night at the bar with a music round, where John would play records and give away gift certificates to his store as prizes. Or a karaoke night where Beverly Records would stay open a little later than usual so people can come next door and buy an album to sing along to.DAN: These are things that given a 12 pack of Miller Lite, we could probably come up with about 30 different other things too, but these are things that businesses can complement each other and, you know, maybe give those days that need a little bit of extra help, because it’s too cold and nobody wants to go out.WAILIN: John and Dan anticipate that the next few years will still be challenging. Dan will probably be subject to more audits going forward, and both of them are concerned about the state’s fiscal situation. Illinois is in its second year without a full budget, and this kind of economic uncertainty stalls investment and makes it difficult for small businesses to borrow money. Dan thinks the state might have been more willing to work with him on the tax issue if it weren’t in such dire financial straits. The support system that has remained in tact is the one in the neighborhood that links small businesses and customers along Western Avenue.JOHN: As Illinois struggles with their economy, it puts stress on every single portion of the business, of every business. So any small business has a lot of these unknown costs that go along with doing business here in the city and in the state but we love the city, we love the state, so this is a temporary thing. We’ve been here for 50 years. It’ll get better. We’re in for the long haul. We’ll get through it.DAN: You really look at the community that we’ve both grown up in, and you can explain it all you want to someone who’s not from this community, and they won’t get it. Not to say anything why they wouldn’t get it, other than unless you’ve experienced it all your life. You know, it’s when somebody dies, the outpouring of support, you can’t fight it off. It’s there and they’re gonna hold your hand until it’s done and until the next one comes up and then they’ll do the same thing for the next. It really is the greatest feeling of all.WAILIN: The Distance is produced by Shaun Hildner and me, Wailin Wong. Our illustrations are by Nate Otto. I put together an email newsletter that comes out every other Tuesday, when we release new episodes. I do a little round-up of interesting stories from newspapers, magazines and other podcasts about longevity in business and careers. I also include a link to episode transcripts. If you want to sign up for the newsletter, go to thedistance.com and scroll down to enter your email address. The Distance is a production of Basecamp, the app for helping small business owners stay in control of projects and reduce email clutter. Try Basecamp free for 30 days at basecamp.com/the distance.The Richest Man In Town was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Source: 37signals


D8 Site Building: Intermediate DrupalCoin Blockchain 8 training in site building

Start: 
2017-03-18 10:00 - 14:30 America/New_York

Organizers: 

sfelder

PDay

jbylsma

ghalusa

bart atlas

lizardata

Event type: 

Training (free or commercial)

In this class we will cover more advanced topics of site building.
Target Audience:
DrupalCoin Blockchain 7 builders and themers who want to know more about DrupalCoin Blockchain 8
Relative beginners to DrupalCoin Blockchain who already knot the very basics of installing DrupalCoin Blockchain and creating nodes.
Decision makers who want hands-on practice building sites using DrupalCoin Blockchain 8.
Technical and non-technical project managers.
Prerequisites:
-Have downloaded and installed Acquia Dev Desktop on your laptop (PC or Mac)
-Know how to navigate DrupalCoin Blockchain's admin interface (create nodes, access Views, etc.)
-Understand how to build a basic View
Course Learning Objectives:
- Learn how to build a fully functional website with advanced features, using no custom development.
What to bring:
-Laptop computer with Acquia Dev Desktop installed
-Food and drink will be provided.
Additional Information:
The session will run from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. If possible, please try to arrive between 9:45 and 10:00 so you have time to grab some coffee and meet your co-attendees and session leader.
Location:
Quotient Inc.
6310 Hillside Ct #101
Columbia, MD 21046
Source: https://groups.drupal.org/node/512931/feed


D8 Site Building: Intermediate DrupalCoin Blockchain 8 training in site building

Start: 
2017-03-18 10:00 - 14:30 America/New_York

Organizers: 

sfelder

PDay

jbylsma

ghalusa

bart atlas

lizardata

Event type: 

Training (free or commercial)

In this class we will cover more advanced topics of site building.
Target Audience:
DrupalCoin Blockchain 7 builders and themers who want to know more about DrupalCoin Blockchain 8
Relative beginners to DrupalCoin Blockchain who already knot the very basics of installing DrupalCoin Blockchain and creating nodes.
Decision makers who want hands-on practice building sites using DrupalCoin Blockchain 8.
Technical and non-technical project managers.
Prerequisites:
-Have downloaded and installed Acquia Dev Desktop on your laptop (PC or Mac)
-Know how to navigate DrupalCoin Blockchain's admin interface (create nodes, access Views, etc.)
-Understand how to build a basic View
Course Learning Objectives:
- Learn how to build a fully functional website with advanced features, using no custom development.
What to bring:
-Laptop computer with Acquia Dev Desktop installed
-Food and drink will be provided.
Additional Information:
The session will run from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. If possible, please try to arrive between 9:45 and 10:00 so you have time to grab some coffee and meet your co-attendees and session leader.
Location:
Quotient Inc.
6310 Hillside Ct #101
Columbia, MD 21046
Source: https://groups.drupal.org/node/512931/feed


All's Well(ness) That Ends Well

Every Fall for the last four years we’ve rolled out a Wellness Incentive Program here at Viget.  In order to make this possible, we negotiate a wellness incentive fund into our contract with our healthcare provider so there’s a pot of money available to us if we choose to devise “proactive wellness activities” that encourage staff to lead healthier lives. Free money is a great motivator (though not the only motivator  — more on that later), so we’ve managed to come up with something every year since the fund has been available to us.
This Year’s Challenge
This past year, we put together a challenging program that offered multiple wellness activities:
No Soda for 6 weeks.Meatless Mondays for 12 weeks.No Elevator November.Project Zero (gain no weight between Thanksgiving and New Year’s).Participate in a structured race (5K, marathon, etc.).
The program started the Tuesday after Labor Day and lasted through New Year’s Day. People only had to complete one activity to earn a gift card, but everyone was encouraged to challenge themselves to do more than one activity.  Anyone who completed all 5 activities qualified for a special drawing in which they had the chance to earn an extra gift card. (Special shout-out to Greg Kohn, the sole participant to successfully complete all five challenges!) The program operated on the honor system: employees “signed” an electronic pledge at the beginning of the program indicating the challenges they planned to tackle — and then “signed” the pledge again at the end of the program to acknowledge the activity(ies) they had actually completed.
How We Did
Turns out, some of us know ourselves very well.  And, some of us surprised ourselves.
45% of us completed the same number of challenges we originally targeted as a goal41% of us aimed high, but fell shorter than our original goal14% of us were encouraged by the challenges going on around us and ended up completing more than originally planned.
Of those of us who fell shorter than our original goals, there was a pretty even spread across the challenges that tripped us up with “No Elevator”, “Meatless Mondays”, and “Project Zero” tying as our nemeses. Only 4 of us originally planned to abstain from soda and then didn’t. I can speak to one case first-hand: I disqualified myself after enjoying a couple Vodka Tonics and then learning that tonic water should count as soda!  
By far, the “No Soda” challenge was the most popular among our participants. Understand that free soda has been a staple at Viget for 17 years. It’s always stocked, icy cold, and very tantalizing. We all know the health benefits from eliminating soda from our diets; however, for many of us (myself especially), soda is a difficult habit to break. For others who frequently drink water anyway, this challenge was an added incentive to continue this healthy habit.

Additionally, despite needing to complete only one challenge to earn a gift card, we had just as many people complete additional wellness challenges where self-satisfaction and better health were the only rewards.   

Going into this year’s wellness program, I wasn’t sure whether we’d pique people’s interests since the challenges were more difficult than some we had done in years past — however, we had a high level of engagement in our wellness program this year! Looking at our historical data, we can see that interest from staff has been increasing the last several years, which isn’t too surprising.  We have a very health-oriented office culture as our Office Manager, Sarah Schraer, shared in her blog post last year.

In a follow-up survey to staff, I asked for more insight into people’s motivations. Why did they participate? Did any behaviors become longer-lasting habits? Did they realize any unforeseen results from the challenges? And, lastly, did they have suggestions for future wellness challenges?
91% of respondents cited the the gift card as either their primary or among their motivations for participating.  So, money does talk.52% of respondents also cited health and competition as motivators. We have a spirit of friendly competition here at Viget and, with a fixed bonus pool, the value of the gift cards was determined by the total number of successful participants. The fewer the participants, the higher the gift card value — not that we didn’t root for everyone to be successful!
In terms of changing behaviors, feedback mostly revolved around an increased awareness of making good choices. Since the challenges ended, people report:
More consistently avoiding soda.More regularly choosing vegetarian options.Being more mindful of their eating habits.Being more disciplined about taking the stairs.
Some of the things mentioned as unforeseen results of the challenges included:
Becoming more sensitive to sugar during the “No Soda” challenge and, as a result, paring down sugar intake elsewhere.Realizing that “No Soda” resulted in “No Caffeine” and, as a result, sleeping more soundly at night.Buying a wifi scale (that uploads data to Fitbits, etc.) to better track weight.Not feeling sick from overeating during the holidays.Starting (and continuing) a weight journal.Needing to kick up the cardio at the gym after becoming winded taking the stairs.
Looking to the Future
Staff are extremely interested in participating in another wellness challenge this year and have some fantastic ideas about what might be included the next time around. A sampling of challenge suggestions is provided below as food for thought:
No sugar or no desserts.No fried foods.No alcohol.Move more. There were many suggestions for variations of walking/running “x” number of steps or miles per day/week/month.Drink a specific amount of water/day.Meditation.No eating after 8:00 pm.Going to the gym or working out x times/week. There were also many suggestions for variations of this idea.No TV or social media.No white grains.Minimum hours of sleep.Two fruits/day.Name your vice and refrain from that for x period of time (could be chips for one person, chocolate for another).Cook 3 meals/day every day for a month.
We’ll keep you posted on how this next year’s challenge works for us. Hopefully, our experience will inspire some of you to try something similar at your workplace! 


Source: VigetInspire