Talking in Code: Dress Appropriately

Quartz: CEO Mary Barra’s “management philosophy is epitomized by GM’s workplace dress code—which is equally brief, and also an antidote to the restrictive, wallet-draining policies at many large corporations. It reads, in full: Dress appropriately.”

She explains: “What I realized is that you really need to make sure your managers are empowered—because if they cannot handle ‘dress appropriately,’ what other decisions can they handle? And I realized that often, if you have a lot of overly prescriptive policies and procedures, people will live down to them … But if you let people own policies themselves—especially at the first level of people supervision—it helps develop them.”

“By simply stating ‘dress appropriately,’ Barra does exactly what she asks of other leaders: She avoids assumptions, instead choosing to trust her employees’ judgment—and has found the experience remarkably liberating.”

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Uber v. Lyft: Sharing Space, But Not Cultures

Anne Kadet: “Most of us think of ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft as virtual outfits—a vast, digital web of drivers connecting with passengers via app. But if you were a driver, you’d have a different perspective: Uber is a place. And so is Lyft. Both companies operate hubs which their drivers, who are contract workers, can visit to sign up, resolve problems or just get a free coffee and use the bathroom. And in New York City, strangely enough, the rivals maintain hubs in the same building.”

“Lyft recently reopened an expanded, 12,000-square-foot hub on the building’s fourth floor. The space looks like a cross between an Apple Store and a third-grade classroom. The décor features the brand’s hot pink, white and lavender hues. Drivers help themselves to bubble gum and chocolate kisses wrapped in purple foil … Lyft General Manager for New York City Vipul Patel says the company hopes its effort to create a welcoming environment will encourage drivers to extend such hospitality to passengers … Downstairs on the first floor, the Uber Green Light Hub is about three times the size of the Lyft Hub, and the look is more tech startup than kindergarten. The two-story loft is stark black and white; the music playing one recent morning favored thumping dance beats. No candy here!”

“While its onboarding process is similar to Lyft’s, Uber also offers two of the (Taxi & Limousine Commission) required classes for free, and the third at a discount. Uber even has doctors on-site to administer the TLC-required physical … Uber says anyone who takes advantage of its free classes, physicals and optional training course can drive for another outfit. But it expects drivers will enjoy the overall Uber experience enough to stay loyal.”

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Barley Independent: Beer is Certifiably Craft

Robert Glennon: “When the dust settled from various mergers, two conglomerates, Molson Coors and AB InBev, controlled 90% of U.S. beer production. They’ve been buying up craft breweries, including Blue Moon, Karbach, Wicked Weed and Goose Island. Last year Heineken acquired Lagunitas. Are the acquired brands still craft brewers?”

“Lurking beneath the legal technicalities lies a critical issue for craft brewers: access to shelf space and beer taps. It’s a big challenge given the structure of the beer industry. After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Congress and most state legislatures implemented a three-tier system of producers, distributors and retailers. Most producers must retain the services of a distributor. For some craft brewers, that’s a major problem. Most distributors are aligned with one of the two conglomerates, which exert leverage on distributors to favor their brands.”

“At one level, the question is whether drinkers care whether their beer comes from a small, independent brewery … The answer may become clearer. In June 2017, the Brewers Association launched a seal to be put on bottles or cans, labeling the product as ‘Brewers Association Certified Independent Craft’. As of Feb. 26, 3,033 craft brewers out of 5,546 nationwide pledged to use the seals. Consumers may end up voting with their wallets in a referendum on the importance of sustaining small, independent craft brewers.”

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Bingo Box: China Leads Robo-Retail Revolution

The New York Times: “A global race to automate stores is underway among several of the world’s top retailers and small tech start-ups, which are motivated to shave labor costs and minimize shoppers’ frustrations, like waiting for cashiers … Companies are testing robots that help keep shelves stocked, as well as apps that let shoppers ring up items with a smartphone … China, which has its own ambitious e-commerce companies, is emerging as an especially fertile place for these retail experiments.”

“One effort is a chain of more than 100 unmanned convenience shops from a start-up called Bingo Box, one of which sits in a business park in Shanghai. Shoppers scan a code on their phones to enter and, once inside, scan the items they want to buy. The store unlocks the exit door after they’ve paid through their phones … Not to be outdone, JD, another big internet retailer in China … put readable chips on items to automate the checkout process. At its huge campus south of Beijing, JD is testing a new store that relies on computer vision and sensors on the shelves to know when items have been taken.”

“While such technologies could improve the shopping experience, there may also be consequences that people find less desirable. Retailers like Amazon could compile reams of data about where customers spend time inside their doors, comparable to what internet companies already know about their online habits … In China, there is less public concern about data privacy issues. Many Chinese citizens have become accustomed to high levels of surveillance, including widespread security cameras and government monitoring of online communications.”

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