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May 31, 2009

Search Plus, Plus, Plus: New Search Engine Combines Several Successful Features into One Offering

So, of course, "Google" has become to web search what "Kleenex" is to tissue. However, that certainly doesn't stop Microsoft and Yahoo from vying for market share and other start-ups from challenging the search status quo.

We recently learned of new search engine that offers a bit of an interesting twist by working to incorporate feedback from users into the search results. Scour.com compiles top search results from google, yahoo, and MSN (you can also sort your results by search engine should you choose), but also allows you “vote up” or “vote down” results based on their relevance, thus letting you, the user, ultimately have an impact on the search algorithm. (Google lets you “promote” results as well.)

If you want to go one step beyond “voting” you can also leave comments on sites or search results for others to see. Other advanced Scour features include a reward program where you accrue points for each search you make that can be cashed in for Visa gift cards, and a social networking component that lets you connect with other users.

* So, what do you think of all the bells and whistles that Scour has to offer?

* Which (voting, commenting, connecting, rewarding) are important to you?

* Could you reprogram yourself to use something other than google?

* What if you could get a $50 Visa gift card for doing nothing more than using a different search site?

May 30, 2009

To-Don’t List: Why focusing on the things you shouldn’t be doing actually helps you focus on the things you should

So, anyone who knows me, knows that I am a big list maker and a good “to-do-er”. (Case in point: I have been packed for two weeks for a vacation that doesn’t start for another 12 days.)

One of the best parts of my day is my morning coffee date with my to-do list. Going over the things that I want to prioritize for the day is a good practice and something that helps me stay on task…most of the time. However sometimes, despite my best laid plans, I still fall prey to predictable distractions and procrastination.

Often times it is things that I need or want to do anyway, but it isn’t the best use of my time to do them at that point. For example, (need) work on a project plan that isn’t due for 3 weeks or (want) peruse the Decor8 and OhJoy blogs (and don’t even get my started on Etsy). None of these things are bad, but they do compromise my worklife fit because three hours later I will still have just as much to do to be ready for the next day.

A recent post by Peter Bregman, made me think differently about how to stay on track.

Peter’s post talks about the overwhelming pace of our current world and long list of tasks and expectations that most of us face. He encourages that people should make two lists:
1. One with the things that are important to them, that they want to make time for.
2. And another for the distractions, the things that you don’t want to achieve, are not important to do, and that generally get in the way.

Of course, it seems that his point is much larger than the 30 minutes misallocated to Decor8, and is more about the importance of Saying NO in general, but I actually found the same principle to be helpful. At first it seemed a little counterintuitive…won’t writing the things that I don’t want to do out just make me think about them? But in actuality, of course, it makes sense that if I explicitly commit to not doing something (versus not really thinking about it at all) it is much more likely that I won’t do it.

So, starting today I wrote two lists -
My To-Do List: Things that I am going to do today.

And, My To-Don’t List: This included 1. things that I am going to do, but not today. 2. Things that waste my time and that I should try very hard to avoid.

So far, it has worked really well! I knew what activities were “off the table” and was able to stay clearly focused on the things I had identified as important...maybe ill begin to like my date with my to-don’t list more than my date with my to-do list.

posted by Adelaide

May 25, 2009

By Any Means Necessary: Extreme Goal Setting

Accountability and motivation are two things that many entrepreneurs struggle to maintain.

In the past we have seen a few offerings that are aimed at helping people to work towards a certain goal. Often the services are essentially "virtual tracking systems" or "reminder systems" that include goal setting, virtual reminders, groups of supporters, and financial incentives.

More recently however, we learned about StickK which seems to not only combines many of the features of other systems but also allows you to choose "the stakes" (either financial or reputation incentives).

StickK was built by Yale University economists who tested the effectiveness of Commitment Contracts through extensive field research, which demonstrated that people who put stakes - either their money or their reputation - on the table are far more likely to actually achieve a goal they set for themselves.

(Hummm, putting reputation and money on the line in order to achieve success....sounds like entreprenuership, right?)

Another interesting feature is that if you DO put money on the line, you can choose who gets it if you fail. It could be a person (friend or foe), a charity or even an anti-charity, if you find that to be more motivating.

What's an anti-charity? Good question! According to StickK, an anti-charity is any organization that you strongly oppose (they offer NARAL, NRA, Bush Library, Clinton Library, Freedom to Marry). You choose the specific charity that you theoretically REALLY don't want to support.

Yet another interesting feature is that if you do choose the (real) "charity" option, StickK wont tell you which one gets your money should you fail to meet your goal because they don't want you to feel better about having done so.

Seems like they have us all figured out!


May 24, 2009

All in Favor? Get Feedback on Business Ideas & Names!

Feedback can be a double edged sword - sometimes helpful, often not what you want to hear, and almost always unreliable, mostly because we ask people that we know and who are famously or predictably biased.

It would be nice to shop your ideas for once with those who don't have a stake in the outcome! Well, we have been really intrigued recently with several sites where people can do just that - get feedback on their business ideas, innovations, and even names from a larger unbiased community.

Love My Idea is an online community portal where ideas can be heard, loved, nourished and encouraged. Aside from idea rating, people use the LoveMyIdea community to search for partners and investors.

Why Not? Is an online idea exchange where community members can rate ideas on a scale of very weak to very strong. It is managed by book authors, Ian Ayers and Barry Nalebuff. Their book: "Why Not? How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small" helps readers with creative problem solving and adapting innovative thinking.

If online posting is not your thing, you can take your query to the people with BlobLive from IdeaBlob. IdeaBlob hosts open mic nights where entrepreneurs and creative thinkers can pitch and receive feedback on their ideas.

Taking an "American Idol" type approach, Name This, allows people to solict, offer, or vote on names for a nacent idea or business. The solicitors pay a fee; voters and creators get rewarded. Within 48 hours you receive "three world-validated names for your thingamajig".

And of course, if you happen to be looking for a more intimate experience you can always try the IGC Open Mic Lunches or the GROW it! class!

Find more Idea Related websites here
Have you used these sites or ones like them?
What was your experience?

Entrepreneurship: Meaningful work for your mind, body, & soul

I would describe myself as an entrepreneur who has created meaningful work that allows me to think creatively and affords me the luxury of utilizing skills and talents that are natural, enjoyable, and at most times do not feel like work.

As I read Matthew B. Crawford’s
“The Case For Working With Your Hands” in The New York Times Magazine, I felt that he was articulating a daily experience that many satisfied entrepreneurs could relate to. (I also think this article should be required reading for all career seekers.)

His experience details his path - for all intents and purposes – towards entrepreneurship. As I read his story, I felt he was describing an experience that so many of the dynamic women in the
In Good Company community have expressed themselves.

For example, he writes that:

“A good job requires a field of action where you can put your best capacities to work and see an effect in the world.”

Many of the women in our community started their businesses with this very desire in mind. They wanted to do what they did best. And not only that, they believed that they could also have a direct impact on their own life (in terms of how much they work, or what they choose to pursue, or how they balance all the other aspects of their life) while simultaneously having a direct impact on those who they work with or the creations that they make. For many women, this is not always about making the most money but rather engaging in work that is meaningful, impactful and, is on their own terms.

We created
In Good Company because we found that while on their entrepreneurial journey many women experienced road bumps when it came to “running the business side of things”. The new territory of entrepreneurship and the steep learning curve that comes with it made them crave a connection to a community of women in the same boat. Crawford also speaks a community that he tapped into for resources, information and support and the important role that that community played. Sound familiar?

Crawford’s entire commentary on the state of work in our society is poignant and thought provoking, so please don’t short change yourself by not reading it, but I will share this excerpt with you in order to spark your thinking.

"There is good reason to suppose that responsibility has to be installed in the foundation of your mental equipment — at the level of perception and habit. There is an ethic of paying attention that develops in the trades through hard experience. It inflects your perception of the world and your habitual responses to it. This is due to the immediate feedback you get from material objects and to the fact that the work is typically situated in face-to-face interactions between tradesman and customer.

An economy that is more entrepreneurial, less managerial, would be less subject to the kind of distortions that occur when corporate managers’ compensation is tied to the short-term profit of distant shareholders. For most entrepreneurs, profit is at once a more capacious and a more concrete thing than this. It is a calculation in which the intrinsic satisfactions of work count — not least, the exercise of your own powers of reason.

Ultimately it is enlightened self-interest, then, not a harangue about humility or public-spiritedness, that will compel us to take a fresh look at the trades. The good life comes in a variety of forms. This variety has become difficult to see; our field of aspiration has narrowed into certain channels. But the current perplexity in the economy seems to be softening our gaze. Our peripheral vision is perhaps recovering, allowing us to consider the full range of lives worth choosing. For anyone who feels ill suited by disposition to spend his days sitting in an office, the question of what a good job looks like is now wide open."

posted by Amy
image courtesy of henatayab

Re-Branding the US: In Honor of Memorial Day

Last month the editors of Paper invited 15 designers to "re-brand America" and re-define our country's image. The submissions are fascinating!! Since our country is particularly on our mind today, we thought we would share a few with you...see more here.

May 21, 2009

People like to help – know your KEYWORDS

In my experience, people like to help others (ok, not everyone, but most people do). Even if they are not “connectors” by nature, when asked a lot of people will make their best effort to help. Perhaps it makes them feel good, hopefully they recognize all the help they have received along their professional journey and feel obliged to pay it forward, perhaps they believe in Karma - whatever the reason, most people really are motivated to help in most matters!

But there is a catch – you need to be very clear about making it known how people can help you or what you need from them.

If you are trying to develop new business and you are taking partners and colleagues out to coffee to connect, be clear about what type of business you are looking for specifically. Often people tell others what they are good at, describe their product or service and assume that their needs / target market is self explanatory. I can assure you they are not! We are so inundated with information that it is hard to remember lots of details – keywords are the way to go.

When I meet someone new and they ask about my business, I want them to walk away knowing that I CONSULT to WOMEN BUSINESS OWNERS and I have a WORKSPACE. If they can remember that – I am golden. What are your Keywords?

posted by Amy

May 18, 2009

Make Your Offering Less Painful

Recently our friend, Jessica Shambora, profiled a company called American Well in a Fortune article entitled “Paging Doctor Broadband”. American Well offers online health care by connecting individuals with doctors via the web with no appointment necessary. The service allows Doctors to practice anywhere and patients to receive treatment and consults anywhere and at anytime. Members pay be the minute while non-members pay a flat-rate session fee. American Well is also partnering with many insurance companies and health records management systems to make sure the experience is integrated and streamlined.

We saw this as another example of companies trying to find interesting ways to make health care less painful.

We have written about a similar though smaller scale company before, Hello Health
, based in Williamsburg, Bk. Distinctions include the addition of an in-person practice but virtual management of the appointment process. Hello Health also is designed for those that are uninsured and offers flat-rate services that are akin to consultant or therapist fees.

Another company that has sought to reduce the frustration of finding and making doctor’s appointments is ZocDoc
, which allows you to search multiple criteria to search across multiple doctors to find available appointment times that meet your needs. (note: ZocDoc is only in NY for now).

, (recently profiled by SpringWise) allows you to reserve a place “in line” at the ER so that you can avoid waiting in the waiting room (note: only available in a few test markets).
The Carrot
allows you to intuitively track health related information (diet, medicines, symptoms, etc.).

And this just barely scratches the surface!
While this speaks volumes about the future of health care (cool, can’t wait) it also offers lots of ideas that can be adopted by other service businesses.
* For example, could you offer virtual services on an as-needed basis? Hannah Clark Steiman recently posted about New Box Thinking,
a PR help Desk for small business owners, that does!
* What are the painful parts about your industry or offering?
* What can you do to change them?

May 17, 2009

When the Driveway Doesn’t Quite Reach the Road: Marketing to Women

As a business that is not only itself designed and marketed towards women, but that also works closely with more than 200 women-owned businesses we see a lot of gendered marketing and offerings. In most cases even if these small business’ offerings don’t suit your particular taste or need, they still have a ring of authenticity to them.

Here are just three examples that tasteful, authentic, and are clearly intended to have a feminine appeal.
Just Say Jodi
Inner Rewards
Down to Earth Finance

These stand in direct contrast to the recent launch of two “for women” offerings by both Mars and Dell.

Mars is testing the “Fling”
, their first new candy bar in 20 years. The candy bar is 85 calories and resembles a slimmed-down twix. Criticism has come over the fact that the packaging refers to the candy bar as “chocolate fingers” (apparently an industry term) and is stamped with the slogan “Pleasure Yourself”. Oh, and the candy bar actually sparkles. (More at NPR)

Dell recently launched a site focused on marketing their Netbooks towards the female consumer. The site is called “Della”
. Della has 4 main navigation choices: Products (their standard laptops pictured in pink and red accompanied by watered-down tech language); Featured Artist (the connection seems unclear but profiles Robyn Moreno and features a video of her vintage shopping); Tech Tips (5 simplified “benefits” of having a Netbook – track your exercise regime, plan a vacation); and Giving (how to donate your old laptop). And of course the site is puncuated by "Shop Now" or "Buy Here" links.

Much of the critique on these two initiatives centers the campaigns seeming forced and overdone. At the very best folks have been saying that these products missed the boat on what is important to women consumers and at the very worst folks have been citing these products as prime examples of sexism.
Many of these comments can be found right on the Della site,
or on the NPR site with regard to the Fling (interestingly aside from the overall calorie count, Mars didn't seem to pay attention to the health beenfits of the Fling as it has hydrogenated oils in it!).

Makes you wonder about the decision making process around these branding efforts, right? The idea to target women consumers is a good one, but obviously one that can be horrendously executed. I wonder in a market saturated with great examples of marketing done well, why these two campaigns have seemed to miss the mark so greatly. Certainly Luna Bar managed to market a food bar to women without insulting women in the process, and HP recently repositioned their netbook as an accessory by partnering with Vivienne Tam without mitigating women’s technological capacity and prowess.

You can see the “research elements” that each tried to capitalize on…sleeker, softer look for Della, the link between chocolate and passion for the Fling. Giving the benefit of the doubt, it seems that these companies just got a bit derailed in the “translation” process.

In my opinion part of the reason that these initiatives fall flat is that they seem to be a discordant patchwork of consumer insights with no real substance or mission or purpose backing it up. The result is a hollow candy shell of an idea that is empty inside. Unless of course, this is how these brands see us women, and then in that case it may not be a problem of execution but rather one of perception.

Posted by Adelaide

May 14, 2009

Quality vs.Quantity & the Myth of Multi-tasking

After a harried day at work (one where I had a zillion things on my to do list, I had piled on a slew of sales meetings and was all the while trying to stay on top of my email), I realized that while I had gone though a full day of activity I could not recall the details of any task accomplished!
I felt totally exhausted, and I also realized that in essence, I had wasted a full day of work and created more work for myself. I could not decipher any information or details from the conversations I had during the day and I had to double check my sent email folder to see reread my communication.

So I asked myself, does multi-tasking work for me? Not really. I was trying to accomplish SO much but had really accomplished very little. It made me think that quality is really more important than quantity. It is something that perhaps we all know, but often seem to forget.

What is the real cost of my multi-tasking? What did I lose by aiming for quantity accomplishments versus quality accomplishments? Since I was essentially not being present during my sales meetings, the likely hood that I would close the deal was pretty slim. By re-reviewing my sent email, I was wasting time and seriously doing 2x as much work.

This wake up call was a good one for me. I know that most of us have too much to do but perhaps if we focus on being present and tackling only what can reasonably be done within one day then we will actually have a shot at getting “the real work” accomplished.

posted by Amy

photo courtesy of help i need help

May 12, 2009

Sparkling wine, chocolate, pigs, and a man we would like to have dinner with…

…and not just because he looks like Robert Redford!

John Scharffenberger has a fascinating entrepreneurial story. He has been the founder and leader of 3 businesses (Scharffenberger Cellars – bought out completely in the mid 90s, Scharffenberger Chocolates – sold in 2006, and upcoming third venture focused on curated Iberian-like ham). Each of his businesses has focused making accessible American counterparts to exclusive international delicacies. He hasn’t sought to compete or replicate these international products but instead expand the number of people who enjoyed these like products.

Scharffenberger was recently profiled by Inc magazine writer Arthur Lubow in an article called
"The Tastemaker" and another wonderful comprehensive piece was written in US News World Report in 2006. Both are an enchanting reads full of entrepreneurial lessons.

It seems that he has applied much of the same approach to each of the businesses: pursuit of a new idea, thoughtful tinkering to achieve product perfection, experimentation with several business models, tons of hands on involvement, (so far) using the Scharffenberger name, leveraging creative fund raising strategies among other things, and investing a tremendous amount himself.

But the stories are not without hiccups and challenges. His exit from the Scharffenberger Cellars serves as a cautionary tale of selling majority interests to larger companies and staying on. His partnerships in Scharffenberger Chocolate illustrate all the cliché pros and cons of partnership.

However, at the end of each venture (and each profiles mentions a handful of other entrepreneurial attempts and side ventures as well including EaglePoint Ranch Winery located on the Scharffenberger family ranch), Scharffenberger seems excited and determined to do it again. What an entrepreneur.

Food for Thought:

* How would you apply your same winning business technique to another venture?

* How are your business philosophy, mission, or vision transferrable to another venture?

* What lessons have you learned that would help you with your next venture?

May 11, 2009

Well Said - great example of company-to-customer communication

Yes, the publishing world is in turmoil. Newspapers and magazines are folding, journalists are shuffling to different positions, and the fate of each print publication seems to be up for debate. I have been admittedly more thoughtful about my magazine subscription renewals after my devastation over losing Domino and Conde Nast’s unwelcome substitution of Glamour in its place, but have continued to renew everything because I really want them to succeed and because I value their content tremendously.

Last week’s issue of Newsweek was an emotional one, I was initially distressed about the departure of Anna Quindlen and then I noticed "Reinventing Newsweek" a piece about the future of Newsweek and upcoming changes to the magazine. Bad news fatigue instantly made me suspicious but I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised! The article was written by Kathleen Deveny and was a terrific example of a company-to-customer communication.

Deveny did several things really well including:
* acknowledged the reality of the changing publishing industry
* restated newsweeks commitment to quality and reporting with integrity
* outlined the redesign that is soon to be launched
* reported how the changes have been designed to mirror customer feedback (more of this, less of that)
* indicated the requisite changes that will accompany the redesign (i.e. higher price, a more targeted audience)

Despite the higher subscription price, I am so pleased with this article. It is a well-articulated business case, which is equal parts reactive and proactive, focused on value, and grounded in strategic decisions. Even if you don’t read or subscribe to Newsweek flag this article as a great example to follow! We have!

May 10, 2009

Help An Entrepreneur Out?

Many of us are familiar with the fantastic PR lead email service, Help A Reporter Out, distributed by PR genius Peter Shankman. Help a Reporter Out (HARO) distributes about 100 free reporter requests per day!

Interestingly, we recently heard about HAEO, or Help An Entrepreneur Out, which distributes entrepreneurship Q&A as well as information on events and workshops hosted by entrepreneurs. It is free to receive the email and it is free to post your events, but most of the events have a registration or attendance fee. HAEO is an admitted copy of the HARO model and the emails look just about identical (though there is no single company sponsorship, instead it seems like there may be an opportunity to pay for your event/notice to appear in the first section labeled “featured”). The two men are very open about the similarity to HARO and talk about their initiative vis-à-vis HARO here.

We felt inclined to share this resource as many of you are always asking for great places to post your events and announcements, but we also wanted to garner some of your thoughts on this take-off.

* Do you think it is a good idea? Bad idea?

* In poor taste? Or totally fair game?

* Does the close modeling after HARO impact your thoughts about subscribing to HAEO?

May 6, 2009

Too Soon, Anna Quindlen

It has been a rough couple of days. A jam-packed week and then weekend and then a long Monday in NYC left me with an impossible to-do list and an over-crowded email box. To make matters worse, I woke up on Tuesday morning with a shooting pain in my neck that has left me pathetic for the last two days. (Most likely the pain was caused by splendidly face-planting in bed, exhausted, on Monday night and neglecting to move for 6 hours.) Still, on Tuesday, I was buoyed by the prospect of working from home and catching up on my reading. Then I got my latest issue of Newsweek in the mail. “Anna Quindlen’s Farewell” glared from the cover in bold letters. Crap. Not this. Not now.

For years I have privately consulted Anna Quindlen’s essays for pretty much anything that mattered. Social issues, politics, matters of policy and etiquette, and of course for issues of feminism and social equality. Her books have served as references for current events that came before me, and I regularly await her column to confer about the issues of today. (The time from Sarah Palin’s nomination to the time my next Anna Quindlen-penned Newsweek arrived seemed like eternity - Can You Say Sexist?.) I have long said that she is the one famous person I would choose to have dinner with if given the opportunity. As a younger woman who is stuck in the midst of GenY and GenX, Anna has been a critical source of wisdom for me. Her focus is always appropriately urgent, her tone measured, her perspective compassionate and insightful. Reading her pieces consistently leaves me feeling both confirmed and challenged.

So, magazine in hand, I quickly headed to my favorite chair to get the scoop. I skimmed the two page article, entitled "Stepping Aside", reading the first sentence in each paragraph and absorbing key words: Boomers, GenY, technology, step aside. This rationale’s skeleton annoyed me. The last thing I need is more GenY voices, and tech buzz, and self-centeredness. Who would be the voice of reason? Who would bring the relevant history to the critical issues of today? Would I respond to someone else’s call for action? Would anyone make them? Or would she just be replaced by another source of cheap political banter? Why do Boomers think that my generation doesn’t need them? (We do!).

I refused to be cut off. With a stroke of genius I decided to find her blog. She must have one, right? I have looked before so I knew that the answer was no. Or at least it had been. But now, surely, she will continue with a blog, right? Nope. Nothing. Nada. And what’s more, I was SHOCKED to learn that Anna Quindlen doesn’t even own annaquindlen.com (though it is a tribute site). As far as I could tell, no fan page, no my space, no blog, no website, no pipeline. Anna, where are you?

I spent the rest of the day thinking that it seemed unfair that at a time like this that such a positive voice and force was being taken away. There is so much turmoil and so much room for guidance. There is still need for Anna Quindlen. Why step aside? For who? I complained to my business partner and others who are close to me. Devastated was the word I used.

I’d say that my pouting has lasted the last two days (as has my neck pain by the way). But tonight I picked up the well- and frequently- skimmed article again and read it for real - slowly and thoughtfully, like it was written. And, of course, I was swayed. I don’t want Anna to be right, but she is with a message that is ever graceful and thoughtful.

She is right that her generation is “fighting aging to the death. Literally.” And she is right that my generation has created the online outlets where the action is, and not because anyone stepped aside for us, but because we made the space ourselves. And she is right that we are in a time of change and people need to consider what that means for them. And she is right that my generation holds a lot of very thoughtful, conscientious and wonderful people. And she is right that she has been speaking to readers for 40 years.

I hear her points, and she is convincing. Am I really surprised? I guess not. Bitter and disappointed, but I understand. And I am reluctantly up for the challenge of finding some new resonant voices. However, while I understand the significance of senior generations stepping aside, I believe that I have much to be gain from the women who have more experience than me, and so I am pretty sure that some of those new resonant voices will be Boomers all the same.

posted by Adelaide

Well Edited…

Recently, I have been giving thought to the concept of curating and how that applies to small business. Often, what is referred to as “well edited” is really about creating an experience. Tastemakers are those who are naturally endowed with curating and editing talents. They seem to effortlessly be able to cultivate an experience and a following.
It is tastemakers who are tasked with creating so many of the familiar experiences that we enjoy. Think about art, music, movies or fashion.
In art, you go see a show and the work that is selected and hanging on the wall is meant to make a statement. The curator hopes that by looking at the sum of the collection that you will a certain reaction. Editors for movies do the same. They choose from hundreds of hours of footage to piece together a story, so that when it reaches the theater you feel you are “experiencing” it.
Fashion is a classic opportunity to edit – think of your favorite store – it is your favorite because of how the buyer is “curating” the collection. You feel like they “get you and what you like” and you return to see what other things they have found for you.

In essence, curating makes things less overwhelming and allows a business owner to make a statement about who they are, what their business is about, and most importantly it allows them to connect more closely with their customer and cultivate a following. As a business owner, you are seeking a reaction, often in the form of a purchase or a client or repeat business. Your editing will help you attract your clients but also, find your community.

If you sell a product(s), re-examine your collection to see if it is well edited. Does it make sense to the consumer? Is it overwhelming and impacting your ability to close a sale?

If you have a service business, is your service offering clear? Do you offer too many services which are not “well edited” and may confuse your potential customer?

In either case, are you curating the experience you want your customer to experience? If the answer is no, then start editing!

posted by Amy
photo courtesy of Thistle&Clover

May 5, 2009

Great Business Case for Sleep

A recent Newsweek article, Sleep Now, Remember Later, underscored a couple really interesting takeaways about sleep and memory. I have always been pretty good about getting a healthy amount of sleep but this article helped to underscore the business benefits of doing so!

What we all know: Sleep is good. Our body tells us we need it by getting tired and starting to shut down. And our recommended daily dosage is about 8 hours.

But what is actually happening when you sleep? Why do we need it? How does it relate to our body? How does it relate to our minds?

When I get tired I start to forget things, I am less sharp, and my brain does not work the way it should. I go to sleep and wake up refreshed and clear headed (well, at least after coffee I am clear headed). Given these few pieces of data, you might think that your brain is resting when you are sleeping. Actually when you are asleep your body is resting but your brain is not. Your brain is really quite active.

Apparently, when you are sleeping your brain is, among other things, “down-loading” memories from the day to be stored in a more permanent place and making linkages between the memories of the day and other stored memories. This integration process often leads to those great aha! moments in either dreams or just after waking up. It also really gives credence to the phrase “let me sleep on it”. Basically our brains need us to shut down for a period of time each day to “make sense” of all that has happened. The article reports that for each 2 hours awake, we need approximately 1 hour of sleep.

The article also discusses that when we are sleep deprived we have a harder time hanging on to the positive emotions attached to memories that we do the negative ones. Perhaps this is because from an evolutionary perspective it was more important for us to imprint and record memories associated with fear or loss for protective purposes. However, in our modern day existence, this tendency sheds some light on why sleep deprivation can led to depression among other health problems.

This article served as an interesting prompt to reframe sleep as a time for mental processing and sorting reminder on why things that are so mentally taxing make you physically exhausted!
(image courtesy of prettyfnmess)

May 4, 2009

Here's to Avoiding Service Charges!

In line with our LookBook from last week (on the PixelHotel), we wanted to share another taken for granted concept that has turned convention on its head.

MiniBar in Amsterdam asks you to serve yourself! Upon entering you are given keys to 45 minifridges and given the green light to help yourself to all food and drink. It is unclear how the pricing works (hopefully it is not as exorbitant as hotel minibar pricing!!) and whether reservations are necessary but it is an interesting idea all the same.

What makes self serve so appealing? When would you want to use this service?

What other aspects about basic services and institutions do we take for granted? I believe we have heard of a restaurant where you are able to cook for yourself/ make it yourself...Anyone? Think this would work? Would you want to go?

May 3, 2009

Password Mania

"Your password must be 16 characters, include 1 letter, 1 symbol, and 3 characters, and mustn’t spell an actual word or have any resemblance to anything recognizable to you or others!"

Does trying to remember your various passwords to sites drive you crazy? Are you constantly requesting to change your password or user name, like us?

Welcome Clipperz! Clipperz is a fantastic resource that helps you to manage your digital life but storing all your passwords in one place online. You can even set it up so that Clipperz will automatically log in to sites for you. Store as many as you want and pay NOTHING! It is a free service. Of course, you do have to remember your Clipperz password in order to access the rest, but remembering one is not so bad!

May 2, 2009

Playing for Change

Check out Playing for Change, a project that seeks to connect people through music. Mark Johnson, the director of the project, travelled the world recording street musicians and singing the same songs and then created fantastic compilations, including this one of Stand By Me.
I found this video through a favorite blog: OneFloorUp - I always seem to learn about wonderfully interesting and different things thru them.