New HQs Capture Corporate Culture

The Economist: “Throughout San Francisco and Silicon Valley, cash-rich technology firms have built or are erecting bold, futuristic headquarters that convey their brands to employees and customers … The exteriors of the new buildings will attract most attention, but it is their interiors that should be watched more closely … The big idea championed by the industry is the concept of working in various spaces around an office rather than at a fixed workstation.”

“A fluid working environment is meant to allow for more chance encounters, which could spur new ideas and spark unexpected collaborations … Young workers are thought to be more productive in these varied environments, which are reminiscent of the way people study and live at university. One drawback, however, is that finding colleagues can be difficult. Employees need to locate each other through text messages and messaging apps.”

“The data that firms can collect on their employees’ whereabouts and activities are bound to become ever more detailed … it is not hard to imagine how such data could create a culture of surveillance, where employees feel constantly monitored … A less controversial trend is for unusual office interiors. These can distinguish companies in the minds of their employees, act as a recruiting tool and also give staff a reason to come into the office rather than work from home … The effect of all this is that the typical office at a technology firm is becoming a prosperous, self-contained village. Employees have fewer reasons than ever to leave.”


Insight Alert: Yes You Are Being Watched

Erica J. Boothby: “Most of the time, when you’re minding your own business and feeling relatively inconspicuous, you’re being watched much more than you realize. My colleagues and I demonstrated this in several studies … Although people surreptitiously noticed all kinds of details about each other — clothing, personality, mood — we found that people were convinced that the other person wasn’t watching them much, if at all.”

“So other people notice our coffee stains less than we think, but they watch us in general more than we think. The problem, in both cases, is that we project the focus of our attention onto others. Because we’re fixated on our coffee stain (or whatever we happen to be self-conscious about), we assume others must be, too. But when nothing in particular draws our attention to ourselves, we neglect the fact that we may nevertheless be an object of other people’s interest.”

“Assuming other people are focused on the same thing we are is at the root of many kinds of miscommunication … We all have a tendency to egocentrically ascribe our own perspective to others. That doesn’t make us selfish or bad. But it’s worth keeping in mind that everyone’s attention illuminates the world in a particular way, and what gets spotlighted differs from person to person.”


Little Damage: Almond Charcoal Ice Cream!


April Lavalle: “Little Damage Ice Cream Shop in Los Angeles, California is flipping the bird at all those ‘unicorn’-inspired sweet treats by creating a frozen confection that will take you to the dark side.Their pitch-black, almond-charcoal flavored soft serve ice cream is taking Instagram by storm, and it will definitely inject a little Halloween into your favorite summer treat.”


Chop & Shop: Groceries Curate Shopper’s Meals

The Wall Street Journal: “Hy-Vee Inc., a chain of 244 Midwestern supermarkets, has begun a meal-preparation program that runs similarly to a book club. A group of five to 12 customers schedule a time to gather in a separate room in the store that may have large working tables, a stove and a dishwasher. Each group member selects one recipe. The group prepares and divides up the meals for everyone to take home … Store staff does all the chopping and cleanup. Customers can sip wine while assembling ingredients. Cost is about $10 a person plus the grocery bill, divided evenly among participants.”

“Schenectady, N.Y.-based PriceChopper/Market … has launched a choose-your-own-adventure case in the meat department. Customers start with a sauce … and select their meat, which is prepared and cut. Then, they are led to prepared and packaged vegetable mixes … Then, the starch: Packages of lime-cilantro rice or mashed sweet potatoes … Below are recipe cards with preparation suggestions … The recipes take 15 minutes to prepare … serve four and cost $20 to $25.”

“Coborn’s, a Minnesota chain of supermarkets, redesigned certain stores to include a “chop shop” area, where shoppers can bring produce to be chopped for them. It also eliminated long tables of fruits and vegetables in favor of farmers market style food displays. The deli department is now the “kitchen”, and the first thing shoppers see when they enter is employees making brick-oven pizzas.”


Millennials: Old vs. Young

Jesse Singal: “Many, many people who are in their late 20s and early 30s simply don’t feel like they are a part of the endlessly dissected millennial generation. As it turns out, there are good reasons for this. Old Millennials … who were born around 1988 or earlier … really have lived substantively different lives than Young Millennials, who were born around 1989 or later, as a result of two epochal events … the financial crisis and smartphones’ profound takeover of society.”

“To be sure, the dissociation … is partly an inevitable artifact of the artificial way we construct generations in the first place. Generations are usually defined as anyone who was born within a span of about 18 years or so, and a lot happens in 18 years.”

“What all this suggests is that there’s very little to be gained from lumping together all millennials in one group … While the Old and Young Millennial categories aren’t carved in stone, and there is certainly some overlap (especially for those who were influenced by older siblings), it doesn’t benefit anyone to act like a 33-year-old and a 23-year-old came up in the same general climate, or with access to the same types of world-altering technology.”


#SecondBreakfast: Multiple Morning Meals

The Wall Street Journal: “Americans in recent years have adopted the practice by eating multiple small meals in the morning … Americans still typically eat around 8 a.m., noon and 6 p.m., but upticks in eating are also happening before and after the traditional breakfast time … The increasing popularity of multiple breakfasts is boosting sales of convenient breakfast foods.”

“Second breakfasts tend to be smaller and slightly more savory than first breakfasts, says Jeanine Bassett, vice president of global consumer insights at General Mills Inc. … This year the company launched Yoplait Dippers, a line of Greek yogurts packaged with snacks for dipping. Vanilla bean yogurt comes with oat crisps; chipotle ranch yogurt with tortilla chips.”

“The Wonderful Co.’s pistachios are usually eaten in the afternoon, but the company aims to expand into what it sees as the fast-growing morning-eating time … To boost easy workplace eating, this month the company is rolling out its first pistachio snack packs, in 1.5 ounce portions, and a new campaign emphasizing the nut’s high protein and fiber content and low calories.”


Who Will Win The Retail Race?

The Wall Street Journal: “Can physical retailers build intimate digital relationships with their customers—and use that data to update their stores—faster than online-first retailers can learn how to lease property, handle inventory and manage retail workers?”

“It isn’t hard to picture today’s e-commerce companies becoming brick-and-mortar retailers. It’s harder to bet on traditional retailers becoming as tech savvy as their e-competition.”


How Did Dead Malls Die?

The Wall Street Journal: “Internet retailing is eating into mall revenue, but competition from newer shopping centers was the most common cause of death for malls over the past decade, according to a study of 72 such properties.”

“While the situations were different, the dead malls generally struggled to compete with newer malls that offered more modern features and a broader selection of stores, according to Wells Fargo Securities, whose database covers about 1,000 malls.”

“The dead malls were built in the mid-1970s and were overtaken by larger malls built from the late 1970s to the early 1990s that better capitalized on demographic and transportation shifts.”


YamChops: Veggie Butchers Let it Bleed

The Wall Street Journal: Michael Abramson, “a 62-year-old vegan, is the proprietor of YamChops, a faux meat market where every patty, link, and fillet is made from edible plants. To entice “veg curious’ meat eaters as well as vegetarians, he takes great pains to make sure his substitutes look as much like the real thing as possible … So his ground beet burger—actually a medley of beets, carrots, turnips, and zucchini bonded with brown rice and mashed potatoes—doesn’t just resemble a beef burger. It oozes a reddish-pink juice, to appeal to those who like it when their burger ‘bleeds a little bit,’ he says.”

“Mr. Abramson is part of a small but growing community of ‘vegetable butchers’ opening shop from Northern California to Sydney to The Hague, hoping to wow discerning diners with substitute lox crafted from carrots and jerky fashioned from wheat gluten … Some staunch vegans and vegetarians say the word butcher should be verboten because it describes the killing of animals. Some traditional butchers and meat lovers meanwhile are rankled by the co-opting of a term they view as theirs. Many are just confused about the point of it all.”

Consultant Michael Whiteman comments: “Why do soldiers in the anti-meat brigade want food that looks like a hot dog and tastes like a hot dog and smells like a hot dog, but isn’t a hot dog? The answer is, of course, they like hot dogs!”


Cinépolis Intros Pre-Theater Playgrounds

The New York Times: “Cinépolis, which has more than 4,900 auditoriums worldwide, last month introduced Cinépolis Junior at theaters in Los Angeles and San Diego. They are equipped with a 55-foot-long and 25-foot-high play structure with two slides and two platforms with ‘wobble hoppers’ (similar to stationary pogo sticks) and ‘stand n’ spins’ (smaller versions of merry-go-rounds). A separate area enclosed with a colorful fence has green lawn turf and plastic animal sculptures for climbing and crawling.”

“Children are allowed to play for 20 minutes before the movie begins and the lights are fully on. When it is time for the movie to start, a cartoon character appears on screen to tell parents and children to take their seats, and the lights are dimmed. There is a 15-minute intermission during which the children can play. An attendant monitors the play area so children do not enter while the movie is showing.”

“The auditoriums have unconventional seating, with oversize bean bags and pillows and poolside-style lounge chairs, as well as more traditional seats. Introductory ticket prices are $1 more than standard tickets, though prices vary by location, time of day and seat type.”