When Collaboration = Interruption

The Economist: “Why have organisations been so naive about collaboration? One reason is that … any fool can record how many people post messages on Slack or speak up in meetings, whereas it can take years to discover whether somebody who is sitting alone in an office is producing a breakthrough or twiddling his thumbs … A second reason is that managers often feel obliged to be seen to manage: left to their own devices they automatically fill everybody’s days with meetings and memos rather than letting them get on with their work.”

“About 20% of company stars keep themselves to themselves. So organisations need to do more to recognise that the amount of time workers have available is finite, that every request to attend a meeting or engage in an internet discussion leaves less time for focused work and that seemingly small demands on people’s time can quickly compound into big demands. Helping people to collaborate is a wonderful thing. Giving them the time to think is even better.”

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The Model ‘X’ Experience: Tesla Bans a Cranky Customer

Elon Musk cancelled an order for a new Tesla after the buyer criticized the Tesla CEO’s handling of “an event designed for customers.” The customer was venture capitalist Stewart Alsop, who complained that he “felt ignored” because he had spent two hours at a Musk-hosted event but never got to see the Tesla Model X he had on order and had been invited to see. “I suppose you think that I left too early at 9:00pm and should have stuck around longer if I really wanted to see the car,” Alsop wrote after being banned.

About Musk banning him as a customer: “I am mostly sorry not to be able to participate in the automobile revolution that Tesla started,” Alsop wrote. “You have created a car company when everybody decided decades ago that it was not possible. You have challenged the hateful and intimidating distribution system that forces people to be subjected to the hard sell even if they just want to buy a car they know they want. You have innovated on user experience, battery technology, autonomous operation, and virtually every other aspect of the automobile experience today. And you designed and produced a really beautiful and amazing car along the way!”

Noting that Tesla “does not have a marketing department,” Alsop suggested “it might be time for the company to take on such a function. At the very least, it might mean that your events start on time and they are designed for the people who are invited to attend.”

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Pretzel Logic: Airline Snacks Make a Comeback

“After 15 years of near austerity, U.S. airlines are restoring some small perks for passengers crammed into coach,” reports The Washington Post. “Don’t expect ample legroom or free checked bags. But fliers will find improved snacks, a larger selection of free movies and — on a few select routes — the return of free meals.”

“This month, American will start offering Biscoff cookies or pretzels to passengers flying between New York and San Francisco or Los Angeles. By April, those snacks will expand to all other domestic routes. In May, American will bring back full meal service for coach passengers between Dallas and Hawaii.”

“These are token investments in the passenger experience that will not cost airlines a lot of money but are small ways to make passengers a little bit happier,” says Henry Harteveldt, the founder of travel consultancy Atmosphere Research Group. “American and United realized: We don’t let other airlines have an advantage on price, why let them have one on pretzels.”

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Wild Turkey Inks an Older, Prouder Bird

Bottles of Wild Turkey bourbon and rye whiskey now feature an older, prouder bird, reports The Wall Street Journal. The newly redesigned labels cap a $100 million expansion and modernization of the Wild Turkey distillery, following its acquisition by Gruppo Campari.

Campari marketing vice president Melanie Batchelor says the previous turkey looked “a little sad … not proud.” Consumer research also found that the turkey looked too young, which “conflicted with the idea that the bourbon is aged.” The new illustration is “more of a close-up image, with prominent eyes and fluffy feathers.”

“Wild Turkey also wanted to better highlight its master distillers, Jimmy Russell and his son, Eddie,” whose “signatures are now larger and on the fronts of the bottles, rather than the necks … Bottles also include the words ‘Crafted With Conviction’ … They wanted to avoid using ‘handcrafted,’ a phrase Ms. Batchelor feels has become so common in the spirits industry that it sounds generic.

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Lab-to-Table Meat Is Nearly Here

The Wall Street Journal: “Memphis Meats grows meat by isolating cow and pig cells that have the capacity to renew themselves, and providing the cells with oxygen and nutrients such as sugars and minerals. These cells develop inside bioreactor tanks into skeletal muscle that can be harvested in between nine and 21 days … Currently it costs about $18,000 to produce a pound of Memphis Meats’ ground beef, compared with about $4 a pound in U.S. grocery stores, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

Memphis Meats CEO Uma Valeti: “The meat industry knows their products aren’t sustainable. We believe that in 20 years, a majority of meat sold in stores will be cultured.”

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Tsumiki: The Japanese Lego

Wired: “Unlike Lego bricks, which are plastic, Tsumiki pieces are made of Japanese cedar (and manufactured using wood certified by the Forest Stewardship). And unlike the brick-shaped Lego blocks, each Tsumiki block is shaped like an inverted “V.” Triangular notches in the legs let the Tsumiki blocks wedge together, making them versatile like Lego bricks, albeit not as sturdy; some of the assembly models shown in Kuma’s Tsumiki brochure look about as solid as a house of cards.”

“Kuma’s Tsumiki are triangular, for the strength that this shape provides. All told, these popsicle stick-like blocks are much more in line with the principles of contemporary Japanese architecture than their predecessors: They’re natural in material, spatially economical, and relentlessly simple. Perfect for inspiring Japan’s next generation of architects.”

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Sometimes It’s the Label That’s Artificial

Christian Science Monitor: “According to Consumer Reports, 60 percent of people believe a ‘natural’ label means packaged and processed foods have no genetically modified organisms, no artificial ingredients or colors, no chemicals and no pesticides. Forty-five percent think that ‘natural’ is a verified claim, but there’s no outside regulations as to when food companies can put the term on their products.”

“To add to the confusion, ‘organic’ is a regulated label, while ‘natural’ is not … this invites plenty of loopholes for food manufacturers to claim that what they are selling is ‘natural’ even when some of it may not be.”

“Companies do this because they know consumers are more inclined to reach for products that have natural ingredients over artificially-produced ones. The Consumer Reports survey corroborates this assumption: 73 percent of the study’s respondents currently believe the natural label means a product has no artificial ingredients or colors, and 72 percent believe that ‘natural’ means ingredients were grown without pesticides.”

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Working on the (Supply) Chain Gang

“For many companies, competing both online and at the mall can mean trading fat profit margins for more customers—at least for now,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “Fashion retailer DSW Inc. has given shoppers the option of placing online orders for out-of-stock items without leaving its stores. And, the chain is both fulfilling online orders and accepting returns at its growing number of locations.”

“The company is betting those efforts will pay off by increasing customer loyalty even though they aren’t adding to profits in the near term, said Roger Rawlins, who oversaw DSW’s omnichannel strategy before recently becoming CEO. He said customers who buy DSW products through multiple channels spend two or three times as much as those who shop exclusively in its stores or online only.”

“The strategy ‘ultimately allows you to grab additional market share, and then as we learn through using all these capabilities, we hopefully should be tweaking to be able to generate incremental profitability,’ Mr. Rawlins said.”

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