Create Fun and A Little Weirdness - Zappos Values

My 20-day Zappos + Buffer Values Challenge

Two companies whom I feel have very positive company cultures are Zappos and Buffer.

Because these organisations go out of their way to embody a high purpose, I’ve a feel a great deal of respect and awe towards these them.

The thing is, the values all seem relatively familiar, and I’m interested to see how many of these values are things I already feel aligned to.

One of the way Dave Logan and friends recommend finding your core values in Tribal Leadership (buy it, read it, reread it), is by writing a story about how you learnt something from an experience. A specific given example in the book is about honesty, when an 8yro is caught stealing in a shop, and the painful memory sticks hard into their values from that point onwards.

For the next 20 days, I’m going to try and release a blog post a day, each dealing with a mixed up list of Zappos and Buffer’s core values, and seeing how much it is aligned with me and whether I can relate to it.

The aim is simply to understand more about myself, whilst also probably being a nice opportunity to tell stories.

The Values I’ll be investigating:

  1. Be Passionate and Determined
  2. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  3. Do the Right Thing
  4. Always Choose Positivity and Happiness
  5. Show Gratitude
  6. Listen First, Then Listen More
  7. Embrace and Drive Change
  8. Be Humble
  9. Pursue Growth and Learning
  10. Make Time to Reflect
  11. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  12. Do More With Less
  13. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  14. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  15. Live Smarter, Not Harder
  16. Be a “no-ego” Doer
  17. Have a Bias Towards Clarity
  18. Deliver WOW Through Service
  19. Have a Focus on Self Improvement
  20. Default to Transparency
Just Look Up

If I was an atheist, man.

Every so often, I see atheists having a bonfire party, religious people getting upset, or religious people having a bonfire party and atheists getting upset. Given my beliefs and thoughts on religion, I find this quite saddening.

A degree of understanding and respect, even for people you deeply disagree with, can be very beneficial to you. Firstly, you’ll find other views less confusing, but mainly this is a great tool for helping the people you disagree with, change themselves.

When you take the time to sit down with people who hold different views and opinions, when you seek the common values that you all agree with, and then take your time to understand the other side’s point of view, you can really make an impact.

For me, the Atheism vs Theism arguments look a bit like this:

From F7U12
From F7U12

So when I find fundamentalist/evangelical atheists getting their knickers in a twist, or  fundamentalist/evangelical religious people doing the same, I just sort of tune out…

XKCD 774: "Atheists"
XKCD 774: “Atheists”

In my mind, evangelical Atheists and fundamentalist Christians have a lot more in common than they think they do.

You may also enjoy “If I were a religious man“.

twitter's #music

Why Twitter’s #Music spinoff project should die

Twitter has a music service. I do remember hearing it being announced some time ago, but I had completely forgotten about it.

I decided to check it out.

Twitter's #music service
Twitter’s #music service

It’s interesting. The premise of the service is that the top 5 tracks for popular artists will be displayed, and you can listen to them.

Technically, that means it basically, just pulls the top 5 songs, band art, similar artists from (for instance) the API, and then links them to the Artist’s twitter account.

atie Perry's page on #music
Katie Perry’s page on #music

It encourages a certain type of listening, good for gaining followers, but not listening in a way most fans will listen…

The problem is, often fans won’t want to *just* listen to the top 5 songs of an artist (judged by algorithm, not fan-perspective), so the platform offers no value to them at all.

In fact, it’s rather like someone is trying to package top40 radio back into an online streaming format… and I just don’t think it fits.The decisions users have to make don’t make sense.

Actually, the decisions users have to make don’t exist, because I’m pretty certain any self respecting music fan, would take a look at this, and sniff “NOPE” and head back to Spotify, Grooveshark, iTunes, Tomahawk, The HypeMachine or any number of other places.

For artists, I could see if possibly, of being one place they could gain followers quickly from. If you’re flicking through music, you might come across an artist, and decide to click “follow” – however, the “quick” aspect, implies that people have to be using the service like that, and I don’t think many people use it at all.

To me, it feels like a polished, somewhat licenced hackday or internal mashup project. There’s combination of two things, yet very little added value from the combination to intended users.

It’s clever but not compelling.

In my mind: since it’s clearly not winning, twitter should bin it, and stick to providing meta-chatrooms.

EDIT (27/03/14): Heh. They may have heard me speak. They’ve announced #music’s impending death!

A radical experiment in empathy…

Can you imagine what it would be like to someone else’s shoes? Can you understand why they’re there? What they feel?

Sam Richards: A radical experiment in empathy

Sociologist Sam Richards’ TEDxPSU sets an extraordinary challenge: can you understand — not approve of, but understand — the motivations of an Iraqi insurgent? And by extension, can anyone truly understand and empathize with another?

5 things to consider about transport types :: What’s most important to you?/How can you get people to go your way?

Transport usually comes on a scale. There are 5 things to consider:

  • Travel time (Simply, how long does it take you to get from A to B?)
  • Price (How does the journey cost you? This includes food/accommodation/anything bought in or specifically for your time in transit.)
  • Comfort (How comfortable is the journey? How much do you enjoy your time spent travelling?)
  • Accuracy (Do you get to your exact destination or do you have to take other modes of transport onwards to get to your final destination?)
  • Reliability (How confident are you that you’ll reach your specified location in the time specified.)

Let’s demonstrate this with a real life example:

  1. I want to get from my flat in Manchester to a campsite in Glen Coe, Scotland.
  2. I am traveling at short notice and have not had more than 24 hours to plan/book journey.

My options are:

National Express/Citylink coach:

Travel Time: Long. 10+ hours

Price: Less. Low tens of pounds

Comfort: Low. Own seat. Multiple changes (reduces chances of uninterrupted sleep). Onboard toilet. Possible annoyances include other passengers.

Accuracy: Good. 1km walk from my flat to Coach Station in Manchester. Coach straight to Glen Coe village. 1.5km walk from village to campsite)

Reliability: Relatively good. Potentially can be affected by heavy traffic but in reality drives so slowly you probably wouldn’t notice it anyway. Potentially susceptible to industrial action.

Daytime National Rail network:

Travel Time: Reasonable. 7+ hours

Price: More. High tens of pounds.

Comfort: Reasonable to Good. Different services offer different levels. At best: own seat, table, A/C power, paid wifi, enhanced phone signal, onboard shop, onboard toilet. At worst, onboard toilet, standing room only if no reserved ticket. Possible annoyances include other passengers.

Accuracy: Reasonable. 0.5km walk from my flat to Station. ~30km onward journey from Fort William to Campsite in Glen Coe.

Reliability: Relatively good. Susceptible to delays, industrial action, though this has never affected me previously.

National Rail Sleeper Service:

Travel Time: Reasonable. 10 hours

Price: More. £90-180.

Comfort: Own bunkbed. Sleep optional, but recommended. Onboard toilets, onboard buffet car. Annoyances limited. Free wakeup call with tea/coffee/orange juice & biscuit.

Accuracy: Reasonable. 0.5km walk from Chez Tim to Station. ~30km onward journey from Fort William to Campsite in Glen Coe.

Reliability: Relatively good. Susceptible to delays, industrial action, though this has never affected me previously.

Driving yourself:

Travel Time: 8 hours+

Price: Less but not trivial – purely petrol costs. Most costs have already been sunk in the purchase/insurance/road tax/upkeep of the car, but it ain’t cheap bro!

Comfort: Reasonable. Forced to actually look at the road for whole journey, stay awake. Food/drink/toilet stops require stopping. Possible annoyances include other passengers, but you get to choose them. You get to choose the music the car has to listen to. Even if you have onboard wifi, you can’t use it. :(

Accuracy: Perfect. Straight from Chez Tim to the Campsite.

Reliability: Probably excellent but depends on your car! In all seriousness though, roadworks, navigational mishaps and heavy traffic are all potential hazards.

Flying by plane on scheduled flight on a non-budget airline:

Travel Time: 20 minutes flight time, 2 hours faff time.

Price: More. £100+

Comfort: Wholly dependent on how much you enjoy having your balls felt up by strangers at an airport. In all seriousness, probably relatively comfortable on the flight itself. Some small snack inflight. Beware of ear popping. Cannot use mobile phone in flight. Onboard toilet. Possible annoyances include other passengers, silly regulations about liquids, insufficient baggage allowances.

Accuracy: 14km journey to airport from Chez Tim. Manchester to Glasgow. Reasonable. 0.5km walk from Chez Tim to Station. ~150km onward journey from Glasgow to Campsite in Glen Coe.

Reliability: Generally good, but dependent on good weather conditions – fog, high winds or Icelandic volcanoes may prevent take off/landing. Possibility of lost luggage.

Flying by personal helicopter:

Travel Time: ~2 hours

Price: A lot. Purely fuel costs. Most costs have already been sunk in the purchase/insurance/tax/upkeep of the helicopter, but they’re pretty cheap these days. ;)

Comfort: Forced to actually look at the controls for whole journey and stay awake. Food/drink/toilet stops require complete takeoff/landing. Possible annoyances include other passengers, but you get to choose them. No onboard stereo or wifi. :(

Accuracy: Pretty good. 14km journey to Manchester Airport.

Reliability: Dependent on good weather conditions – fog, high winds or Icelandic volcanoes may prevent take off/landing for days.


Travel Time: Unknown. Not quicker than driving yourself (8+ hours) but potentially quite long.

Price: Nothing. Zilch. Nada.

Comfort: Not much. Forced to stay in your seat for whole journey. Advisable to stay awake so you get dropped in right place. Food/drink/toilet stops require stopping which may be problematic/require forward planning. Possible annoyances include the driver, but the Vogons can make you listen to their poetry if you’re on their shi… er… car.

Accuracy: Pretty good. Best to start hitchhiking outside an urban centre somewhere near the M60 ~7 miles away. Ideally to the Campsite. Just a few detours onto the verge…

Reliability: No concept of delays. Trying long enough will succeed, but there are no grantees about what timeframe that will be in. Some form of portable overnight accommodation or splitting the journey might be recommended.


Travel Time: 8 hours+

Price: A lot. Probably negotiable, but I’d expect £200-£500.

Comfort: Reasonable. Forced to stay in your seat for whole journey, stay awake. Food/drink/toilet stops require stopping. Possible annoyances include the driver, but you choose them. Guaranteed awkward moment when you ask them to change the radio station.

Accuracy: Perfect. Straight from Chez Tim to the Campsite.

Reliability: Probably excellent but depends on your driver’s car! In all seriousness though, roadworks, navigational mishaps and heavy traffic are all potential hazards.

Travelling by time machine:

Travel Time: Instant and/or infinite

Price: Astronomical

Comfort: Great. The Tardis has a full 5 star hotel onboard, including free wifi. One friendly member of staff will cater for all your needs. Sadly still discriminates against Daleks.

Accuracy: Perfect.

Reliability: Usually great. The driver is also a well qualified mechanic and only ends up in the wrong place “sometimes”.

Why is this interesting?

  • If you are a National Express/Citylink or National Rail member company executive:

You’ll be trying to get people out of their cars and onto your specific mode of transport. How can you persuade people use your mode of transport instead of a different one? Perhaps if you can get them to buy into some kind of discount scheme where fares are much lower if they pay a small fee. That way when comparing the two, they’ll note they already are part of a discount scheme for that mode of transport and stay a coach/train user.

You’ll be seeing what you can do to improve the experience. You probably can’t speed up the service, improve the number of vehicles that breakdown or drivers call in sick.

Can you provide things to make the journey more enjoyable for the passengers? Can you help reduce inter-passenger irritation? Can you provide refreshments? Can you provide facilities to help people use laptops or smartphones on the move? Can you let people reserve a seat? In the event of disruptions, can you communicate this as effectively and quickly to those affected so they can make alternative plans? Can you help provide information on connections to different modes of transport for them to continue their journey? Can you incentivise business travellers (who might otherwise fly) that you offer a more comfortable option? Can you build a warm fuzzy do-good image around your company? Do you have an effective feedback loop to help you understand and address avoidable traveller frustrations?

  • If you are a non-budget airline executive:

You’ll be trying to get people out of their cars and off the trains and onto your planes – you’ll be aiming for the higher end of the market.

Can you reduce the amount of airport-security testicle-groping? Can you make booking regular trips easier than other transport methods? Can you help people carry the same things that they’d have carried by car/train? Can you incentivise business travellers  to block book with you? Can you offer fast track facilities for frequent flyers? Can you help business travellers stay as productive as possible? Can you sell the benefits – “Enjoy the shores of Loch Leven in under this many hours!”, “beat the traffic jams!”?

One problem your customers have is that getting to and from an airport will involve travelling some distance. Can you help people connect to other forms of transport for the rest of their journey? Can you offer them discounted car rental prices? Can you show local public transport information? Can you help people link up with other transport options?

  • If you’re a campaign manager at a prominent environmental movement:

You’ll note that the volume of people driving is greater than the volume of people flying helicopters and will focus on getting people out of their cars rather than “out of their helicopters”. You’ll be trying to persuade people that going by bus or train is better with your primary argument that it is better for the environment.

One problem is that most car owners have already sunk a great deal of money into owning a car, maintaining a car, taxing a car and so will want to “make use of” or “recoup” this cost by using their car for all travelling – after all – once they have it it is convenient. Can you show people other options than buying in the first place – how does renting a car for several road trips a year way up against the costs of owning one? Considering insurance prices, can young people get a better deal by joining a car club? Can you show car owners how much more they could travel with less money by public transport? Can you sell people the benefits of not driving – “you can get drunk and watch Youtube whilst going to Glasgow by train”?

Can you target your campaigns to specific demographics so that you suggest to student how much they’ll be “saving the planet and saving money” but suggest to business travellers how they’ll “be able to work whilst making a difference to the world”? Can you offer information to help people find the easiest way for them to travel sustainably from A-B? Rather than upsetting or patronising people, can you use positive messages to make people feel good about themselves?

  • If you are a travel hacker

You’ll be trying to get the most out of your transport and you’ll be investigating all your options. You’ll be working out what is most important to you – probably thinking on a “price/comfort vs time ratio” and seeing how you can mix it up to get the best result.

Is extra faff on the journey worth a faster result or would you prefer to keep things simple? Is extra faff on the journey worth it if it keeps your costs down? Can you combine various different transport types to get the most enjoyable/best price trip? Does a first class ticket on one type of transport offer more comforts, but still a lower price, than another transport type with an acceptable journey time? Do you frequently travel with any of the same companies so you can save in the future with loyalty card? If it’s your first time, are there special introductory offers you can get? Can you get extra comforts without having to pay full price for them, using a loyalty program, voucher or otherwise? Is there anything you can bring along with you that will make your journey more enjoyable?

Of course, actually this information is interesting to a great many more people – car manufacturers, helicopter showrooms, but here I’ve just tried to show what options there are to choose from, and why one might choose them…

I hope it’s widened a few eyes! :)