Designing for the Future: Are you ahead of the times?

Earlier this week I read an article about McDonald’s.

Now if you keep up with business news, reading an article about McDonald’s can mean anything from locally sourced food to pink slime.

This article, however, was slightly unexpected.

This particular story describes McDonald’s new technology initiative for self-serve kiosks that will soon be coming to a city near you.

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McDonald’s has been having a hard time for a while now. Through initiatives such as better sourcing of food and more transparent work practices they’ve been slowly gaining their customers base back.

This new initiative is designed to expand on these earlier changes.

Julia Horowitz of CNN states, “Now, McDonald’s loyalists will be able to place their customized order on a touch screen, take a seat and have their meal brought right over. Next year, they’ll even have the option of mobile ordering.”

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This may seem like a leap for McDonald’s, but it may not be a leap in the right direction.

With the advancement of technology, service has become a memory, especially in the fast food industry. By investing in technology that relies on machines to make a customer happy, McDonald’s loses a personal connection to its consumers.

If the goal really is to set themselves apart, they should be investing in face-to-face interactions rather than machinery.

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As time and technology advance, companies must find a way to advance in their customer service initiatives. Good customer service not only builds loyalty, it gives a company a name and a face to remember.

What do you think of technology replacing employees? Reply in the comments below.


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Designing Good Business for 2017

This year has been a tough one in many ways. From a super-charged election season to the looming threat of climate change and the many natural disasters it causes, 2016 has changed the face of the globe in more ways than one.

With these many changes also comes the pressure for business to change as well. The election caused many to question the ethics of corporations in politics, and consumers asked themselves more and more what businesses were doing to improve the world.

So in 2017, it is imperative that companies take these concerns to heart, and embark in campaigns that better the globe and the people that live in it.

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Luckily, many companies have already taken this advice to heart. The trends of eco-friendly transportation and plastic bag bans have taught us that companies are willing to adjust to their customers demands.

Still it is not enough.

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So what should companies do?

Fast Company has urged companies across the globe to take a Year of Service. A commitment to “cultivating more empathetic leaders and employees inside their walls and customers outside of them.”

Among some of the companies taking this initiative, “Airbnb is tapping the power of its platform to offer free, short-term housing by matching up service year corps members with local hosts when they move to new communities. Joe Gebbia, cofounder and chief product officer at Airbnb, has called on the tech community to follow suit in putting resources behind service years. The idea, he says, ‘puts into action what we stand for: empowering people to make transformative changes in their lives and the lives of others.'”

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Whether it’s as simple as volunteering for a day inside your community or donating a portion of proceeds to a local cause, companies have a responsibility to help their communities in any way they can.

So as the new year fast approaches, think of the ways your business can become a better global citizen. Your customers demand it of you.



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My Biggest Dos and Don’ts of Holiday Branding

As the holidays draw closer, it is important to refresh your company on the dos and don’ts of the holidays.

For example, do throw a holiday party; don’t get drunk and embarrass yourself at said holiday party.

As with parties, the line between good holiday fun and bad business is a thin one. Here are my biggest dos and don’ts when bringing out your holiday side.

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Do: Stick to your brand values 

The Starbucks’ red cup controversy is perhaps the easiest example to put here. The release of their 2015 holiday cups, “outraged many people who [saw] the move as an attack on Christianity.” The lack of Christmas symbolism led some to go as far as boycotting Starbucks for the holiday season.

Starbucks didn’t back down. They kept their red cup because it represented their brand values. Values of unity and inclusiveness and creativity.

CNBC explains that Starbucks’ “holiday cups were meant to be a blank canvas for customers to create their own stories, inspired by the doodles and designs that customers have drawn on white cups for years.”

Despite the controversy, Starbucks won in becoming symbol for for inclusiveness. A move that it has continued to promote through its “Unity” cups of 2016.

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Don’t: Make it all about the sales

Sales are perhaps my ultimate love-hate relationship. I love that they save me money, but I absolutely hate that they have come to define the holiday season.

Years of working in retail have taught me that no sale is worth sacrificing family time for. While the savings are there, it is important to remember what makes the holidays special in the first place.

This goes for businesses too.

Regardless of the potential hoards of shoppers, businesses should allow their employees to enjoy time off during the holidays.

REI even goes as far as paying employees to take Black Friday off and head outdoors instead. Last year, this campaign became a national symbol with its own hashtag, #optoutside.

Instead of seeing the holidays as a consumer whirlwind, try to remember what made them special in the first place. Stick to your values, ditch the sales.



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Snapchat: Redesigning social media for the 21st century

Last week, I wrote a story about ideas that are changing the way we conduct our everyday lives.

This week, I wanted to highlight a specific company who is changing the way we interact through social media.


Snapchat is the first social media platform to offer fast, digital, one-time only content. Once valued at $3 billion by Facebook, the company is now rumored to be going public at an estimated worth of between $25 billion and $35 billion by next year.

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The design behind Snapchat is extremely unique. It is the first social media platform to be founded on disappearing content; the idea that you can take an image and have it disappear in 10 seconds or less is revolutionary.

And why not?

Though the idea seems simple, it allows users to feel comfortable sending things they wouldn’t normally send. Whether it’s 20 pictures of your cat, or double chin photos where, let’s face it, you look awful, it only last for a matter of seconds.

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Continuing with the idea of disappearing content, Snapchat has just released its plans for Spectacles. These video capturing glasses, retailing at a mere $129.99, are coming to a town near you.

Just not for long.

According to Recode, the Spectacles selling vending machines will only be at each location for a day before they are removed.

And that’s on purpose. Spectacles are meant to be a limited edition items with only a few thousand in production this fall.

Kurt Wagner writes, “It’s an unorthodox way to bring something like this to market. Most companies selling hardware simply throw up a website. But Snapchat and CEO Evan Spiegel have always liked to do things differently. An ephemeral vending machine that uses the company’s face-recognition technology is incredibly on-brand.”

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What do you think of the idea of a disappearing store? Does it entice you to buy Spectacles?


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Redesigning Life: How companies are connecting innovation to everyday

I read a very interesting article in The New York Times Magazine recently, about redesigning for the 21st century.

The article mentioned several names, one being Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO. In Brown’s view, “Everything from systems of education and health care to the design of cities and modes of transportation, he says, all trace their roots to a drastically different era and ought to be fundamentally rethought for the one we live in now.”

And it’s true.

How many of the products we use every day are designed for this time period?

It’s a pretty eye-opening thought. However, the more interesting part of this discovery, is what people are actually doing about it.

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Bike Share Programs

One of my personal favorites is bike share programs.

Transportation is a huge problem in many parts of the world, with little being done to cure it. Subways and trains are a great option, but are costly and require a long amount of time to complete.

Well, that’s where bike sharing comes in.

Bike sharing stations can be set up in many places throughout a city, are low maintenance, and are highly accessible.

I’m not the only one who thinks so. In the U.S. alone there are now 2,655 bike share stations in 65 cities. That’s isn’t even counting the number in Europe and other parts of the world.

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Smart Home Security 

The smart home.

This is one of those ideas that fundamentally changes an industry.

In its mission statement, Nest claims it is “focused on making simple, human, delightful things. That’s how we’re creating the thoughtful home: A home that takes care of the people inside it and the world around it.”

Gone is the traditional security system requiring outside help and purpose. A smart home system not only protects your home from fires, burglars and solicitors, it also allows you to make your home more eco-friendly and gives you the power to control your home from afar.

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Shopping by Box 

Last but certainly not least are subscription boxes. Created by a variety of industries, there is now a box for everything.

Wrapped up like presents, these sweet little boxes are exactly that. Whether you’re interested in food, clothes, makeup, or art, subscriptions services now allow you to send yourself a gift each month for one low price.

This business model is perhaps the most clever of the three I discussed. Where the bike share program is focused on solving an issue you face, and the smart home ties into the safety aspects of your life, subscription boxes reward you for just being you.

They’re a relatively guilt-free way to buy products you like, as a gift to yourself.

Because you deserve it.

What innovations have you seen recently that change everyday life? Comment below.




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Why I Shop Local and you Should too

If you’re lucky enough to live in a town like I do, you have many local shopping options available. Not only do local options increase your choices of where to buy, they also benefit the community in many ways we take for granted.

So as a refresher, here are my biggest reasons for shopping local.

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To nurture community 

Have you ever heard the phrase, “communities are built on the backs of small businesses”? This was a phrase I, like many of you, grew up hearing.

And I mostly took it for granted.

As I got older, I started to realize what that phrase meant.

Perhaps the first time it really hit home for me was when I worked at my first small business. Everything about it was different. I knew everyone in the company. I knew all of my customers, and they knew us. The sense of community in that store is one I had never felt before, and have not felt since.

I think we all have those places.

The old bookshops that smell like home. The ring of the bell at a local butchers, the cashier that has checked you out for the last five years. These moments are all found at small businesses.

Not only do they help you define home, they are what makes every town unique.

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To create jobs

They are also great for jobs.

According to the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, small businesses employ over 50 percent of the workforce in America. That’s a big number. 

That same report also found that small businesses have generated over 65% of the net new jobs since 1995. 

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To contribute to the local economy 

More than job growth, the money generated by local businesses in also much more likely to go back into the local economy.

Custom Made, a website specializing in small business, states that $68 of every $100 dollars spent at a local business goes back into the local economy; compare that with only $48 of every $100 for big box stores.

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To encourage innovation

Perhaps my favorite reason for supporting local businesses, is you get the most unique products from them. Unlike big box stores, independent stores only need to satisfy those in their community, which gives them a lot more room to be creative.

Whether it’s honeycomb ice cream or jewelry made just down the street, it may be your only chance to experience that product.

Small businesses are great for so many reasons. With the holidays just around the corner, I encourage you to shop around at some of your favorites and to let me know what you find.



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Equal Pay: Are you behind on the times?

With the 2016 election coming to an end, and all of us holding our breath, I wanted to talk about an issue that affects every business, regardless of industry.

Equal Pay.

The wage gap between men and women has been around forever, but more and more people have taken up the issue each year.

Even in women-dominated industries such as public relations, the wage gap is there. An Atlantic article states, “Women make up 63 percent of public relations “specialists,” according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, and 59 percent of all PR managers.”

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Not only is the pay gap very present in public relations, it is actually increasing.

A study done through PR Week found that “the average salaries for men and women with less than five years’ experience were $50,500 and $48,00, respectively. The overall averages were  $125,000 and $84,000.” And that was a higher gap than the same survey found the previous year.

So what’s the deal?

One theory is that the gap exists because women take more time off work than men. Women seek out industries that give them time to care for their families and this leads to the pay gap.

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However, I think that there is no excuse for the pay gap. Traditional gender roles have been blending for decades. It is no longer acceptable for those roles to transfer into the office.

So here’s my advice.

Demand equal pay. If you are new to the professional world, or a seasoned executive, don’t settle for less.

That goes for organizations too.

No longer is there an excuse to pay less. Any company that values its employees will support equal pay. If you want to attract the best, be the best. Design your business around valuing both genders equally.

What do you think?

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