Paying Employees to Quit


Stumbled upon this discovery on Harvard Business Publishing mentioning how Zappos, an internet shoe retailer (on course to exceed $1billion in annual revenues), has a very unique method of retaining committed staff – they pay their newly-hired staff $1000 to quit:

After a week or so in this immersive experience, though, it’s time for what Zappos calls “The Offer.” The fast-growing company, which works hard to recruit people to join, says to its newest employees: “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus.” Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit!

Why? Because if you’re willing to take the company up on the offer, you obviously don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for. It’s hard to describe the level of energy in the Zappos culture—which means, by definition, it’s not for everybody. Zappos wants to learn if there’s a bad fit between what makes the organization tick and what makes individual employees tick—and it’s willing to pay to learn sooner rather than later. (About ten percent of new call-center employees take the money and run.)

Wow. I’ve not dealt with Zappos personally – never bought or returned any shoes from them. But apparently the customer service are legendary. I guess this eccentric strategy (does eccentric have to be opposite of logical? Because if the numbers are balanced, this strategy seems really logical too) was one of the factors that helped them achieve this level of service.

I guess if it’s not already in every business case study textbook, it’d soon be!

Wasted Food


It is certainly not something to be boastful about. A household in North London was challenged to document how much food they actually waste and throw out – because they passed the expiry dates; because they were just tempted by the food marketers at the point-of-purchase; because they rot before they could eat them, etc. They all added up to almost half of their grocery purchase (!).

The average family throws away £610 of perfectly good food each year — much of it totally untouched — according to figures released this week. That works out at £11.73 a week. And all of that adds to the £10billion of waste across the country. But are these figures really representative of an ordinary family? Femail challenged Ursula Hirschkorn, 36, who lives in North London with her husband Mike, 32, and two sons, Jacob, four, and Max, two, to keep a diary for a week to discover just how much food her family throws out.

It’s quite astounding to see just how much perfectly good food thrown away – and this being a rather normal occurrence, a typical family in a developed world. Head here for the full article.

Life Ambition Chart


I’ve been thinking about a shift in my mindset from pre-University days to post-graduation (and subsequently working), as I noticed my ‘I-can-conquer-the-world’ mentality starting to wane and fade. And so when I stumbled upon this comic from PHD it struck me quite strongly.

PHD Comic is primarily about post-grad education – check out their most popular ones here.

Lenovo X300 Parody Ad on MacBook Air

Whether you’re an Apple fanboy or a PC die-hard, a good commercial is a good commercial. Here’s a clever parody portraying Lenovo’s edge over the Apple MacBook Air – showing off its integrated DVD-Drive, Ethernet ports and 3 USB ports and driving home the message: Lenovo’s machine is not a compromise, but a complete machine that still fits within that small envelope.

In almost every post this would inevitably draw fanboys on the Mac and the PC sides, claiming the superiority of their preferred choice while mudslinging the ‘enemy’. Sometimes it makes me wonder – with the marketing adage that apathy is worse than hate/love – so, what if everything you use has some crazy zealous fan/enemy? All the way from the choice of your breakfast cereal, to the file you use, to the USB cable that you carry – what if each and everyone of them has such polarizing camps?

If that sounds too scary or faraway, then what exactly is the essence that makes a product more polarizing than others? What is it about operating systems, MP3 players, computers and cars that bestow upon them this natural (?) sense of territory and boundary, of ‘me’ versus ‘the rest’?

Library: Borrow a Person


I thought this idea that is being implemented in libraries in UK is a really brilliant an interesting one:

The idea, which comes from Scandinavia, is simple: instead of books, readers can come to the library and borrow a person for a 30-minute chat. The human “books” on offer vary from event to event but always include a healthy cross-section of stereotypes. Last weekend, the small but richly diverse list included Police Officer, Vegan, Male Nanny and Lifelong Activist as well as Person with Mental Health Difficulties and Young Person Excluded from School.

It’d certainly be fun to chit chat with a living person – being with a real person, relating to actual experiences will certainly lend a great degree of empathy and sensitivity to the topic on hand, beyond what the pages on paper can convey.

Probably as much fun would be to (if not more) be the ‘book’ waiting to be checked out. I think if this idea ever comes where I am, I’d definitely sign up for it.

Flogo – Cloud Logos


Flogos are flying logos – a company has found out how to make these puffy white things and set them up into the sky, bearing whatever marques you wish to have through stenciling. The sizes aren’t too big now – from 24 inches to 48 inches – so you aren’t about to see a giant logo hanging on the horizon over the city’s skyline, yet. So for now, they’re still cute, funky little things that’d be great to spice up your launch event or what-have you.

But I’d imagine them getting bigger as technology improves. New and bigger. From 48 inch to 48 feet. From white puffy things to multicolored splendor (Flogos is already working on tinted versions).

The thought of walking out of your house, and being unable to avoid advertisements and commercials even in the skies is rather troubling. Right now we’re seeing them on billboards, signs, streets, buildings…imagine when the sky’s full of these clouds too. On one end of the sky you see a whole patterned formation of LV’s monograms; elsewhere you see McDonald’s arches and Apple’s half-eaten apple jostling for space and attention, each pretending to be a clever gimmick, a part of nature’s clouds – when they are patently not.

And if these cloud-logos are just that – a bunch of water vapor – how would a city district regulate it? Can you classify it as a blimp that needs license for the airspace it permeates? “But it’s just a cloud!”. And it can probably be released anywhere, rather anonymously and difficult to trace.

Maybe I’m just in a bad mood.  Anyway, below is a video showing the small versions floating indoors.

A case of Brand Over-extension?

Now, what do you think of when I say “Kellogg’s Cornflakes” or “Frosted Flakes”? Maybe breakfast, send-the-kids-off-to-school…generally the warm fuzzy young-family feel. So you might expect Kellogg’s to tie up with back-to-school-campaigns, tupperware, SUV, stationery, and all that.

But it was a surprise when I saw the new ‘Premium Licensed Apparel’ from Kellogg’s called ‘Under the Hood‘:


It is either the most innovative, surprising and daring reach-out, or (what I think) a really-awkward brand extension into a mood/category that is in the almost direct contradiction to the original brand image. Maybe a marketer looked at the demographics buying the cereals and thought – “Hey this group buys quite substantial amount – let’s appeal to them!”.

To me though, it seems like this will erode the principle brand equity that Kellogg’s has been building over the years. The street and almost ‘gangsta’ feel is really awkward on Kellogg’s. But who knows – maybe out there, Tony the Tiger can give you some street cred!

In the Grand Scheme of Life

Some posts back, I blogged about Carl Sagan’s insightful and inspiring take on the smallness of mankind in the grand scheme of things – Earth was really just a speck in the universe, and humans are, in turn, specks on this little blue dot.

Here again, is yet another take on the smallness of Man in the grand scheme of Life. A visualization we might all be familiar with – the branches of life zoomed out in each frame to reveal its place and proportion in the overall picture.

And with this perspective, does the further divisions – the artificial divisions that we have erected in our existence – race, nationalities, religion, origins – start to fade away, and perhaps seem somewhat less surmountable?


How far we’ve come

Found this bit of recollection on the Times of India (excerpt below):

And if you did have a phone, it wasn’t necessarily a blessing. I spent my high school years in Calcutta, and i remember that if you picked up your phone, you had no guarantee you would get a dial tone; if you got a dial tone and dialed a number, you had no guarantee you would reach the number you had dialed. Sometimes you were connected to someone else’s ongoing conversation, and they had no idea you were able to hear them; there was even a technical term for it, the ‘cross-connection’ (appropriately, since these were connections that made us very cross). If you wanted to call another city, say Delhi, you had to book a ‘trunk call’ in the morning and then sit by the telephone all day waiting for it to come through; or you could pay eight times the going rate for a ‘lightning call’ which only took half an hour instead of the usual three or four or more to be connected. As late as 1984, when a member of Parliament rose to protest this woeful, appalling performance by a public sector monopoly, the then communications minister replied in a lordly manner that in a developing country, telephones were a luxury, not a right; that the government had no obligation to provide better service; and that if the honorable member was not satisfied with his telephone, he was welcome to return it, since there was an eight-year waiting list for this supposedly inadequate instrument!

Indeed, it’s probably easy to take for granted these infrastructure that have improved communication so drastically – even as we’re now looking at the imminent decline of the phone line as mobile communication and VOIP now makes the fixed-line phone looks somewhat inadequate. Still, some great perspectives!

What is obsolete now?

“Real people going on game shows. When we were kids, we’d watch ‘The Price is Right,’ and the contestant would have curlers in her hair — she’d look like your neighbor next door. Real people got a chance to shine. Now, everyone comes out of some stupid mold from a moronic casting director’s idea of what is exciting to watch. All the reality is removed.”

“Dictionaries and encyclopedias. They’ve been replaced with Google, Wikipedia and online dictionaries. It’s been years since I looked at the dictionary or encyclopedia on my family’s bookshelf.”

True blind dates. “In the beginning, courtship on the Internet extended this trend. It was the place where, literally and figuratively, no one knew you were a dog. No longer. Now, if a friend sets you up with someone, and you don’t automatically Google that person, check his or her “relationship” status on Facebook and do a quick vetting via (the modern answer to stocks and pillories), one might question if you are really fit to date at all. “

Interesting perspectives on what is lost in each generation – Washington Post Magazine asked experts, celebrities and average Joes to cast their minds back to objects, habits and paradigms that have been left behind just in the past couple of decades. What habits/products/items have you shed?