Digital Scale Cuts Ikea Food Waste

Fast Company: “By the end of August 2020, Ikea wants to cut its food waste at its stores–both in its restaurants and in its smaller bistros serving cinnamon buns, hot dogs, and soft serve–in half. At the heart of this plan is a digital scale. Whenever employees in Emeryville (CA) toss food waste from the kitchen into a bin, it now records the weight of the food. On a touchscreen mounted on the wall above the bin, employees quickly record what type of food was lost, and see feedback about the cost of that food and the carbon footprint. Over time, the patterns in the data will help the company make changes.”

“Ikea began piloting its new food waste system in 2015, and began rolling it out to stores in December 2016. By May 2017, it had launched in 20% of its stores, reducing nearly 80,000 pounds of food waste and saving the company more than $1 million. It’s now in the process of rolling it out to all of its 400 stores, which serve 650 million customers a year.”

Andrew Shakman, CEO of LeanPath, makers of the digital scale, comments: “The moment you start measuring with technology you begin to change awareness levels and you cause people to start to think differently. Whereas in the past they could just throw something in the garbage, now they have to stop and for a moment; they have to record something about it. In that moment, you’re not just collecting data, you’re communicating your values.”

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David Chang & The Dropped Napkin Theory

Quartz: “Chef David Chang’s restaurants are pilgrimage sites for foodies from Sydney to New York. But the founder of the Momofuku restaurant group recently disclosed that he gets inspiration on kitchen management from a US fast-food chain where a double cheeseburger, fries, and a drink together cost less than a small plate of pea shoots at Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York.”

Chang comments: “Every time I go to In-N-Out, if there’s time permitting … I stay there until I see one of the employees drop something. ‘Cause it’s always so busy. They drop something, they don’t know they drop something, and then someone else picks it up. Let’s just say they dropped a napkin. They pick up the napkin. They don’t go, ‘Hey jackass, you dropped this,’ like most people would do. They pick it up, they don’t say anything.”

“Previous research has found that organizations that show concern for employees’ development and welfare have higher levels of productivity and job satisfaction. Unhappy workers make more mistakes, have more accidents, and are more likely to be absent. One key to maintaining happiness among the rank-and-file is to ensure good behavior at the top of an organization. Researchers have found that employees are more motivated to help co-workers when they see people in leadership positions going out of their way to do the same.”

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Walmart ‘Academy’ Trains Workers

The New York Times: “Walmart has spent $2.7 billion on training and raising wages for 1.2 million of its store workers over the past two years — an investment that reflects the pressures the company faces in the retail industry. Fighting Amazon for sales, Walmart is trying to make its stores more pleasant places to shop. That requires a well-trained work force with a sense of purpose and self-worth, qualities that can be difficult to nurture in lower-wage workers.”

“Working in classrooms set up in 150 Walmarts around the country, employees learn how to calculate profit and loss statements and how to run their department like a small business. Managers are also taught to get to know their employees and understand their home life … The company says its training programs are intended to help employees advance into higher-paying jobs at Walmart or in other industries.”

“Walmart has been working with the National Retail Federation, a trade association, to help devise standards for a certificate that retail workers could earn for gaining certain interpersonal skills like how to deal with angry customers. The hope is that certificate holders will have an easier time finding a job or getting promoted.”

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Chick-fil-A: Service Trumps Politics

Business Insider: “In a few years, Chick-fil-A has managed to shed its controversial image to appeal to a broader swath of America, all without losing its loyal customers base. Chick-fil-A’s successful expansion north came after its biggest controversy. Dan Cathy, the son of the late Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy, set off a fury among gay-rights supporters in 2012 that led to nationwide protests after he told the Baptist Press that the company was ‘guilty as charged’ for backing ‘the biblical definition of a family’.”

“These days, Chick-fil-A is warning all its franchisees against speaking out publicly or getting involved in anything that could blur the line between their private beliefs and their public roles as extensions of the Chick-fil-A brand, the company has said … The company still encourages its franchisees to get ‘entrenched’ in their communities … But Chick-fil-A says its focus now — both for local and corporate involvement and philanthropy — is on youth and education causes.”

Also: “Chick-fil-A started modernizing its corporate offices in Atlanta and opened an ‘innovation center’ modeled after the offices of Silicon Valley tech companies … The company hired chefs, food scientists, and dietitians to experiment with new menu items to appeal to upmarket customers who frequent chains like Shake Shack and Panera and are looking for healthier options … Key to Chick-fil-A’s reinvention has been its customer service, which consistently ranks No. 1 in nationwide surveys.” And: The company is investing in its employees. Mark Cohen, a Columbia Business School professor, comments: “Your employees are your ambassadors to the public. The folks who are staffing those Chick-fil-A stores are aggressively reengaging with people and talking about how great the company is.”

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Adidas Grows ‘Creator Farm’ in Brooklyn

Business Insider: “In Greenpoint, Brooklyn, in an unassuming warehouse space just across the street from a stone supplier, Adidas is plotting the future. That’s where the company has built its Brooklyn Creator Farm, a relatively secret location where Adidas hosts a small team of designers from studios around the world. Their job? ‘Creating culture,’ said Marc Dolce, VP and creative director at Adidas.”

“The farm is separated into two parts: the designer’s area, and the Adidas’ Brooklyn MakerLab. The MakerLab — which is one of three in the Adidas ecosystem — has all the high-tech machinery and materials needed to create any kind of sneaker or piece of apparel the designers can dream up … The designer’s area itself is chock-full of idea boards and materials to inspire … Global Creative Director Paul Gaudio said it’s called a farm because the brand wanted the space to be ‘earthy and real and where you can get your hands dirty’.”

“The farm designers are influenced by the fluid and dynamic culture of where they are in Brooklyn. For example, a designer can join a night running group and learn not just what they need from a running shoe, but what these runners do for fun and what kind of lives they lead … “In the end, it’s very much a brand statement,” Gaudio said. “It’s who we are; It’s who we want to be. It’s so deeply connected to that strategy of understanding where culture happens. New York City is the place.”

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The Magic Question: How Might We?

Quartz: “IDEO has developed a brainstorming strategy that relies on three simple words: the phrase ‘How might we’ …. How might we make our teams more engaged? How might we foster deeper relationships between employees? How might we inspire more frequent knowledge-sharing? The same approach is popular at Google and Facebook, according to the Harvard Business Review.”

“While the phrase ‘How might we’ seems pretty basic, each word is intended to serve a specific purpose. ‘How’ asks employees to be descriptive, ‘might’ suggests there are good answers, but not a single correct answer, and ‘we’ evokes inclusivity and teamwork, says Duane Bray, IDEO’s global head of talent.” In particular: “The word ‘might’ encourages people to enter into discussions with a sense of optimism, pushing them to see the possibilities in any challenge.”

“The phrase ‘how might we’ signals that risky or outlandish ideas are welcome. And it’s far easier to reign in crazy ideas than to make cautious, mediocre ideas more interesting … Lastly, IDEO has a strategy to ensure that people at all levels of a company are empowered to contribute to the conversation. After an HMW question is asked, the firm asks participants to spend a few minutes jotting down their thoughts on a Post-it note. This empowers the discussion leaders to call on anyone in the room, rather than relying on the boss to speak first and set the course of the conversation for the rest of the session.”

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Machine Platform Crowd: The Future Today

The Wall Street Journal: Machine Platform Crowd, a new book by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson, “is a book for managers whose companies sit well back from the edge and who would like a digestible introduction to technology trends that may not have reached their doorstep—yet … In the authors’ terminology, ‘Machine’ is shorthand for computers running software that, with new AI techniques called ‘deep learning,’ essentially teaches itself how to make judgments superior to those of humans. ‘Machine’ also encompasses the disappearance of employees in the services sector, leaving only the customer, robots and software—what the authors refer to as ‘virtualization.'”

“‘Platform’ refers to digital environments that bring economic actors together, exploiting free, or nearly free, online access, reproduction and distribution. Uber and Airbnb are examples of new platforms. ‘Crowd’ refers to information resources created by the uncredentialed, the nonexpert and, with rare exceptions, the unpaid. Wikipedia and the Linux operating system comprise the two most impressive achievements of the crowd.”

​”Messrs. McAfee and Brynjolfsson argue that, in the latest phase of the second machine age, incumbent businesses will be pushed aside if they fail to understand how new machines and software, platforms, and the crowd enlarge the scope of digital technologies—just as manufacturers that had appeared and thrived in the first phase of the first machine age were displaced when electricity supplanted steam power in the early 20th century.”

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Amazon Reinvents the Wheel (of Retailing)

Quartz: “The wheel of retailing, first proposed in 1958 by Harvard business professor Malcolm McNair, describes a cycle in which retailers start out by offering low-cost products to attract customers, often through an innovation that allows them to undercut more established competitors. As they grow and attract more customers, these retailers raise prices, allowing them to widen their margins and expand. As they raise prices, they become vulnerable to lower-cost competitors, starting the cycle anew.”

“Thus far, Amazon has avoided getting caught in the wheel by constantly expanding into new sectors. By moving beyond books and into general merchandise, then onto fields as diverse as web services and entertainment, Amazon remains a perennial upstart, never taking on the characteristics of incumbents. The company has also never enjoyed the fat margins described by the wheel, instead sacrificing profit for continual growth.”

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Miller Time: Walmart Bends to Jet’s Culture

The Wall Street Journal: Soon after Wal-Mart Stores Inc. bought Jet.com Inc., employees at the e-commerce startup learned how dry life under the retail behemoth could be. That’s because Wal-Mart took away all the office booze … The startup’s regular Thursday evening happy hour would have to be moved out of the office to the Wicked Wolf Tavern and other local bars. Casual deskside drinking had to go.”

However: “Wal-Mart reversed course. In recent weeks Jet brought back Thursday night happy hour in the office—generally beer, wine and food … The change is permeating the empire. Wal-Mart had wine and beer at a tailgate for its e-commerce team in San Bruno, Calif., when it hosted its annual day at a San Francisco Giants game in May. It is ​also​ allowing other startups it has acquired to host a weekly office happy hour—pending approval from a Wal-Mart executive vice president.”

“There are other aspects of Wal-Mart’s traditional habits that still raise eyebrows among Jet staffers. For example, Wal-Mart asked Jet employees to be mindful of swearing in the office.” Jeannie Slivensky, a marketing manager at Jet, comments: “That did not last. This is New York.”

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Split Decision: Bezos Goes Bananas

The Wall Street Journal: “It started with a brainstorm from founder and CEO Jeff Bezos that Amazon should offer everyone near its headquarters—not just employees—healthy, eco-friendly snacks as a public service. After considering oranges, Amazon picked bananas, and opened its first Community Banana Stand in late 2015. It has since expanded to two stands on its corporate campus, which sprawls across several blocks in downtown Seattle, and says it has given out more than 1.7 million free bananas.”

“The response has been split. Most Amazonians like them. Other workers say it is now hard to find bananas in stock at nearby grocery stores. And some eateries in a two-block radius of the stands are feeling squished.”

“Amazon has traditionally been more frugal with its perks than other tech companies, which offer dry cleaning, haircuts, cold-brew coffee, nap pods and in-house yoga classes, among other things … Most visitors take two. Others take close to a dozen, claiming they have hungry co-workers—never, of course, that they hanker to bake banana bread after work. Some post photos on Instagram feeding the bananas to their dogs. The stand offers dog treats for four-legged friends.”

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