Chevy Sets Limit on Teen Spirit

Engadget: “With the 2016 edition, the Chevy Malibu has added a new setting called Teen Driver. Once enabled, the feature lives in the infotainment system in the dash and warns underage drivers when they exceed a predetermined speed limit. At that point, it kills sound from the stereo until the front seat belts are buckled, enables all the safety features like traction control and generates a report card for the whole trip.”

“It’s basically a computer narc tucked behind a four-digit PIN … parents can use the report card to make decisions about future access to the car and use it as an opportunity to talk about their kids’ driving habits. And because it offers up hard evidence — such as when a safety system like stability control was activated and the top speed — a parent has the information necessary to make that conversation count.”

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Jellybooks Brings Moneyball to Publishing

The New York Times: “Jellybooks tracks reading behavior the same way Netflix knows what shows you binge-watch and Spotify knows what songs you skip. Here is how it works: the company gives free e-books to a group of readers, often before publication. Rather than asking readers to write a review, it tells them to click on a link embedded in the e-book that will upload all the information that the device has recorded. The information shows Jellybooks when people read and for how long, how far they get in a book and how quickly they read, among other details.”

“For the most part, the publishers who are working with Jellybooks are not using the data to radically reshape books to make them more enticing, though they might do that eventually. But some are using the findings to shape their marketing plans. For example, one European publisher reduced its marketing budget for a book it had paid a lot of money to acquire after learning that 90 percent of readers gave up after only five chapters … Publishers might also use the data to learn what type of reader a book appeals to, and market it accordingly.”

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Wieden + Kennedy Tries Shorter Workdays

“Wieden + Kennedy … wants to become a more pleasant place to work, reports Quartz. The creative agency’s London office recently made the radical decision to encourage employees not to work more than 40 hours a week … The firm—dubbed ‘Weekend + Kennedy’ for its demanding hours—will test the initiative at its London office during the next few months. The agency has ordered a moratorium on meetings before 10am and after 4pm, and instructed employees not to check work emails after 7pm … Staffers are also encouraged to leave the office at 4:30pm on Fridays. The company did not say how it will handle clients’ needs after hours.”

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Ikea’s Culture of Trust

Fortune: Ikea, “with $5 billion in U.S. sales (and some $36 billion globally), has become a living laboratory of what happens when you put a Swedish spin on notions like egalitarianism and work-life balance in an American workplace. At the most basic level, the company’s Scandinavian ideals have brought generous policies on wages and benefits compared with the rest of Ikea’s retail cohort.”

“Last year it began basing its pay on the MIT Living Wage Calculator, with hourly employees receiving an average of $15.45 an hour; meanwhile, the lowest starting pay is now set at $11.87—or nearly five bucks above the federal minimum wage. Part-timers are offered health benefits after just 20 hours of work per week.”

“Ikea culture discourages workaholics—much like its home country. After a year on the job, full-time employees receive an essentially unheard-of 24 days of paid time off and five sick days—and the company has an aversion to anybody working long hours.”

Leaving work behind for a monthlong vacation requires a deep faith in your co-workers that they can do the job without you. Ikea U.S. president, Lars Petersson: “We actually work with trust rather than control. That’s rooted in simplicity and our leveling of society in Sweden.”

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Connie: Hilton’s Concierge Robot

“Concierge is getting a robotic makeover at one Hilton Hotels location,” reports The Christian Science Monitor. “The McLean, Va., Hilton is the site of a pilot program featuring a robot concierge. The new hire stands in at two-and-a-half feet tall and has been placed on the desk beside human reception staff. More than just a shiny piece of equipment, the robot’s brain is packed with artificial intelligence.”

“Connie, named after Hilton founder Conrad Hilton, is a partnership between Hilton Worldwide and IBM. The brains behind the robot are IBM’s artificial intelligence program Watson and another partner program called WayBlazer, imbuing the new concierge with enough AI to carry on conversations with guests and answer questions about the local area.”

“Connie’s body, though small, is also designed to help it serve. The body is based on the Nao robot designed by Aldebaran, with fully functional arms and legs and eyes that change to express humanlike emotions … Is the future of Hilton concierge robotic? Definitely not, according to Jim Holthouser, Hilton vice president of global brands.”

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Quitting Email for Health & Success

Fast Company: “How badly would your career crumble if you simply quit email for a week? If the results of one experiment are any indication, the answer is not at all.” In the experiment, by Stephen Voida of the University of Colorado at Boulder, subjects were cut off from reading or sending new emails … several positive changes surfaced. First, the email quitters got out of their chairs a lot more, particularly the managers. When they needed to communicate with colleagues, they preferred face-to-face conversations over phone calls.”

“Second, with email out of the picture, people task-switched less and focused on one thing at a time more. Some studies suggest that so-called deep work, or focusing on hard tasks without interruption, strengthens the skills that ultimately help people get promoted. Third, ‘there was a measurable reduction in stress,’ Voida says … After a week of no email comes the most dreaded part: digging out the inbox … subjects, however, were ‘pleasantly surprised’ that it was faster and more efficient to batch-process emails after the fact than deal with them on an ongoing basis.”

“Not checking email for a day or even a few hours to get the most important tasks done could be better for your career, your productivity, and even your health.”

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Ryanair & The Value of Being Nicer

The Wall Street Journal: Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary “once defended Ryanair’s €70 (about $75) penalty fee for passengers who show up at the airport without a boarding pass, saying they were “being so stupid.” … He has in the past proposed a standing-room only cabin and a charge of one British pound (about $1.41) for using the in-flight toilet … The no-frills model, once novel but now widely mimicked, turned the 32-year-old Ryanair into Europe’s second-biggest airline by passengers flown.”

“In 2013, a price war with full-service carriers and upstart budget airlines alike threatened that success … To win back customers, Mr. O’Leary relaxed onerous hand-luggage restrictions and redesigned Ryanair’s cumbersome website. It cut fees and told staff to be less confrontational. The airline also made headlines by dropping its trademark bugle call, which it blasted through cabins each time a flight arrived on time. The practice, amusing at first, had started to annoy passengers.”

“’Standing room only and charging for toilets was a great PR wheeze when we were young, dumb and growing rapidly,’ Mr. O’Leary said in an interview. But after rivals started painting the moves as cheap and nasty, ‘the laddish noise was displacing the great fares, brilliant punctuality and new aircraft,’ he said. ‘If I had only known that being nicer to our customers was good for business I would have done it years ago,’ Mr. O’Leary says.”

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Is Binge Watching Breaking Bad for You?

“Binge-watching TV shows is trouncing our mental health,” reports Vice. “That’s according to a new University of Toledo study, anyway, which found that, of 408 participants, 35 percent qualified as binge-watchers, and those binge-watchers reported higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression than their non-binge-watching counterparts. The study found 77 percent of participants watched TV for two hours or more without a break on an average day, with anyone doing more than that … classified as binge-watching.”

“‘Binge-watching is a growing public health concern that needs to be addressed,’ said the scientists who headed up the study. But so can just watching TV in general. A long-term American Journal of Epidemiology study in 2011 found that watching TV for more than three hours a day put women at 13 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with depression. So can winter weather, or summer weather, or smoking, or sleeping too much, or not sleeping enough. So can, according to about a billion studies from 2010 onwards, too much Facebook.”

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Coloring Books Color Retailers Surprised

The Washington Post: “Coloring books for adults — a genre once considered little more than a novelty — are suddenly a big business, a bright spot in the financial results of publishers and retailers alike. Nielsen Bookscan estimates that some 12 million were sold in 2015, a dramatic jump from the 1 million sold the previous year. The books have “attracted legions of enthusiasts who are looking to de-stress, who see scrawling away at an image of a tree or an animal as a low-key, low-stakes way to channel imagination or to keep their hands busy while they let their minds wander.”

However: “While many find the act of coloring to be a calming distraction from hours spent tapping, swiping and staring at screens, some early adopters aren’t exactly hooked. ‘Most of the pages are full of pictures that are so small I can hardly see the details to color them, which causes more stress than if I hadn’t tried to color in the first place,’ wrote one reviewer of a popular coloring book on Amazon.”

“It’s not clear whether the rise of adult coloring books has come at the expense of sales in other categories, but the impact of the craze can be seen in various corners of the retail industry: Barnes & Noble has said that strong demand for adult coloring books and artist supplies provided a tail wind to the chain’s total sales in the last three quarters. Walmart, meanwhile, moved in November to add a dedicated four-foot section for adult coloring books in 2,000 of its stores. And Target started carrying adult coloring books in 1,300 stores in August and within months rolled them out to the rest of the chain.”

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