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Newsletter #1063: The “Shared Space” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

Space is a highly valued commodity that most businesses have. And often, when you share it with another group, cool things happen like collaboration and resource sharing.

Here are three shared spaces that make their organizations more remarkable:

1. Pre-schools and nursing homes
2. Movie rentals and pizza
3. Laundromats and libraries
4. Check it out: Library of Babel

1. Pre-schools and nursing homes

In Seattle, a nursing home and a pre-school share the same space at the Inter-Generational Learning Center. The kids and the elderly hang out, read together, do activities, and make crafts. The nursing home residents love being around the fun, energetic kids, and the kids get a chance to interact with and learn from seniors. And since both parties need a safe space and supervision, the combination works out for caretakers too.

The lesson: The very young and the very old have more in common than you would think. What other unlikely groups could benefit from one another’s company?

Learn more: Collective Evolution

2. Movie rentals and pizza

It’s a tough world out there for movie rental stores. But some have gotten creative and forged partnerships to keep customers coming back. For example, Family Video locations are often next door to Marco’s Pizza, so they’ve added a window inside the video stores to the pizza shop. Customers can order a pizza when they get there, and by the time they finally decide what to rent, their pizza is ready.

The lesson: Marco’s and Family Video know their customers, and they know people like to eat pizza on movie night. They just helped their customers skip a step and get both at the same time.

Learn more: Imgur

3. Laundromats and libraries

A group of people from Oxford University came up with an idea for parents in South Africa who spend an average of nine hours a week doing laundry over a washboard to spend that time reading with their children instead. How? By creating an affordable laundromat that’s also a library. Customers at these “Libromats” spend laundry time reading with their children and learning about “book sharing” from the trained staff while washing machines do the work. Within just a few weeks of coming to the libromats, children have improved language, concentration, and social understanding, according to the researchers.

The lesson: The team says they chose laundromats because they fit conveniently into the parents’ lives, and it gives them a chance to work with them every week. Libromat found a way to fit their learning program into something that would help make their customers’ lives easier.

Learn more: NPR

4. Check it out: Library of Babel

The Library of Babel is a site containing every possible permutation of 1,312,000 characters. In theory, that means it contains every book, play, song, and every word every written — and while most of it will look like gibberish, you might stumble on something great. You can browse, search for something, or start with a random work of writing.

Check it out: Library of Babel

Recruiting for culture is hard.

There are only a handful of truly culture-driven companies. (There’s a lot of talk, there’s a lot of values statements, but little actual culture.) Real culture is hard. It’s hard because it takes emotion, introspection, commitment, and endless hard work.

It’s also hard because it requires a different kind of recruiting. You have to make judgments around deep ideas like passion, values, kindness, and vision (above and beyond the necessary job skills). These are emotional calls, which are hard and uncomfortable.

Culture is a choice. It’s an agreement by the team around a shared destination and a shared method for getting there. It’s an agreement around who gets permission to play on the team, what they need to believe, and how they behave. It’s really hard to find people who want a particular culture, will fit in that culture, and can thrive in that culture.

But it’s worth it. Because a company that has true culture sync is astonishingly fun, healthy, and effective. Worklife has meaning and intensity. You know why you’re there and why it matters.

We have one of the most consciously built cultures in Austin, combined with a mission that impacts society on a deep level. We’re about to get much larger, and we’ll deliver meaning on a much larger scale.

Here’s the question for you: Do you know how to run a recruiting program that can grow and improve a culture? If you do, this is a once-every-few-years opportunity to do it right. Do you have a vision for recruiting and culture done well? This is your chance to build it.

Is this you? Apply here.

My company’s moving to a 44-acre ranch next year

Last year, we bought 44 acres of land in northeast Austin to build a brand new campus for my company, GasPedal.

Ranch opening

It’s been our dream to have a place to make our own that’s both communal and private, where we can collaborate in shared spaces, but also retreat to somewhere quiet when we need to. We’re also excited about opening up our office space to the community, much like our friends at GSD&M did for us when we were new to town. The 44 acres also comes with plenty of outdoor space to stretch our legs and a ranch house to host events or put up our families when they’re in town.

Ranch plan

If you’re curious, you can read more about the space here: http://gaspedal.com/life/benefits/where-we-work/

The plans are drawn up and approved, and we’re starting construction early next year. But to do it, we’re working with Texas Certified Development Company to get an SBA 504 loan. It’s helping change the economics of our business since the money we used to pay for rent will now be invested in equity. TxCDC wrote up a nice article about us and the deal here.

TXCDC article

We’re excited to move into this new chapter of our growing business. And I’ll keep you updated as we take our next steps in building a better place to work.

Newsletter #1062: The “Stuff People Notice” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

None of this stuff will win awards, and it might not have a huge impact on your bottom line. But it’s the kind of stuff your customers will notice, talk to their friends about, or even post about online.

Here are three examples of details people appreciate and talk about:

1. Details that make things easier
2. Details that recognize a pain point
3. Details that are just cool
4. Check it out: Two faces in one

1. Details that make things easier

In a crowded parking garage, it’s hard to tell where there’s an open spot. So you might accidentally pass one, and try to back up, but dang, there’s another car waiting behind you. Or maybe you think you’ve finally found one, but it’s already occupied by a MINI Cooper. At the DFW Airport, they placed LED lights above each space to indicate if the spot is occupied with a red or green light. Now, it’s easier to tell at a glance where you should park, which means parking faster, which means less rushing to your gate.

The lesson: This detail alone isn’t going to get passengers to pick DFW over Love Field. But it might put them in a better mood before they even get out of their car.

Learn more: Imgur

2. Details that recognize a pain point

Inside every bag of Hardtimes Beef Jerky is a toothpick. It’s even underlined on their packaging, “A toothpick in every pack. Now there’s a treat we can appreciate.” It distinguishes them from other jerky on the shelf.

The lesson: Is a toothpick going to convert a beef jerky enthusiast? No. Does anyone expect a beef jerky company to care if you get beef jerky stuck in your teeth? No. But because Hardtimes does, it says something about who they are as a company.

Learn more: Hardtimes Beef Jerky

3. Details that are just cool

Turkish Airlines lets passengers watch a live feed from the plane’s forward-facing camera during a flight. All planes have these cameras. Turkish Airlines is just the only one (that we know of) who thought their passengers might like to watch it too. This person thought it was so cool, they posted about it on Reddit.

Learn more: Your customers might not know about all of the cool stuff you have going on behind the scenes. What can you share with them that would make their experience better?

Learn more: Reddit

4. Check it out: Two faces in one

Photographer Alex John Beck created the project, Both Versions Of, to explore just how different two sides of your face can be. Using one portrait, he mirrored both the left side and right side of each model’s face to create two completely symmetrical faces. With some models, you’ll notice only slight differences between the two. But others look like two different people.

Check it out: Alex John Beck

Newsletter #1061: The “Food for Good” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

People have found ways to do something good for other people with food since the beginning of time. So it’s no surprise that businesses have found inspiring ways to start meaningful conversations through food — whether that’s to connect on bigger issues like war and racial tension or smaller ones like getting kids to eat fruit.

Here are some inspiring examples of how businesses have used food for the greater good:

1. To unite enemies
2. To fight prejudice
3. To help children eat healthy
4. Check it out: Ambient Mixer

1. To unite enemies

“If you eat a good hummus, you will feel love from the person who made it. You don’t want to stab him.” That’s what restaurant owner Kobi Tzafrir told NPR about why he’s offering a discount for Arabs and Jews to eat together. It’s his way of helping start conversations between the two groups where life is tense in Tel Aviv, Israel. And he says since offering the discount, his business has gone up 20-percent — even if not everyone is taking the deal.

The lesson: What’s going on in your community? Is there a larger scale problem that you can help with (even just a little bit)? The more you know about the people in your area and the problems they face, the more you’ll be able to reach them.

Learn more: NPR

2. To fight prejudice

Conflict Kitchen is a restaurant in Pittsburgh that serves food from countries the U.S. is in current conflict with. They’ve had dishes from Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, and Cuba, and their mission is to help start conversations and expand understanding of those cultures. But it’s not just the menu that changes. They also share interviews with people from those countries and hold events like film festivals. They also bring international cooking lessons to schools via Skype, and let guest Instagrammers from those countries take over their social media presence. In fact, some restaurants in Budapest have followed their example by serving dishes and holding cultural events inspired by the hundreds of thousands of refugees currently in their city.

The lesson: Especially during war time, it might seem like a good idea for businesses to shun the products our “enemies” make, but instead, Conflict Kitchen embraces them. What makes them remarkable is they ask customers to learn more about and understand the people and cultures they’re supposed to dislike.

Learn more: Conflict Kitchen

3. To help children eat healthy

Countdown, a grocery store in New Zealand, gives away fruit to kids while their parents shop. Each produce section has a kid-height basket of apples, bananas, oranges, and other whole fruits with a sign encouraging kids to grab one and eat it while they’re shopping. But it’s not just about getting kids to eat fruit in the store. Maybe, once their parents see they like it, they’ll buy more. Thus, ending the age-old parent argument that “If I buy this, you’ll never eat it,” while getting healthy food in children’s hands.

The lesson: How much more do these grocery stores gain by giving a little bit away? This idea is more remarkable than just handing out samples because it has a specific audience in mind and finds a way to help.

Learn more: Stuff.co.nz

4. Check it out: Ambient Mixer

Make your own ambient sounds by mixing together audio from rustling papers, wind blowing, light rain, fan noise, and hundreds of other audio clips. You can also listen to mixes other people have made like “Hogwarts Library,” “Summer Night on the Porch,” or “Relaxing Train Ride.”

Check it out: Ambient Mixer

Newsletter #1060: The “Like They Own the Place” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.] Every once in awhile, you find customers who want more than to just buy your stuff and go home. Sometimes, they […]

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Newsletter #1059: The “Fake” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.] We’ve gotten used to the onslaught of fake announcements, fake products, and fake news that come from big brands around every […]

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Newsletter #1058: The “Lessons from Los Angeles Businesses” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.] Los Angeles is the second largest city in the US and the biggest city in California. It has the most area […]

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Newsletter #1057: The “Lessons from Thomas Foolery” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.] Thomas Foolery is a bar and restaurant that’s basically one big, fun drinking game. Aside from serving “food for little kids” […]

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