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January 2023 Menlo Bits


Joyful Article: Sea Urchins Love Shells... and Hats!
A feel-good story and a life lesson about behavior

Image Credit: riosouza
Did you know that sea urchins love to use shells, rocks, and other ocean debris to cover themselves? While scientists are unsure if it's for protection, camouflage, or something else entirely, the phenomenon has been seen time and time again. Unfortunately, sometimes this behavior can sometimes cause problems for creatures around them.

When one family discovered their aquarium's baby corals kept getting worn as a covering and damaged by their sea urchins, they decided to have some fun and protect their corals at the same time. Using a bit of trial-and-error with their designs, the family learned that sea urchins will accept mini, 3D-printed hats as their coverings and leave the corals alone! Not only did the hats solve their problem, it also added fun to their tank. With everything from top hats to cowboy hats, we like the Viking helmets the most.

Taking a step back from urchins and tiny hats, this is a great example of one of Menlo's favorite sayings from the book Influencer: "Your world is perfectly organized to create the behavior you’re currently experiencing." It's difficult to control others' behaviors, but you can organize your environment in ways that make a behavior that's working against your goals (wearing corals) one that instead works for your goals (wearing hats).
See more of fashionable urchins by clicking here!

Join Us for Our First Public In-Person Workshop in Our New Space!
High-Tech Anthropology®: Incorporating the Voice of  Your Customer into Product Design and Development

Join us March 21-22nd for our first public in person High-Tech Anthropology® since the pandemic. Menlo Bits subscribers get a 10% discount when signing up before February 10th.
Check out the agenda or click here to learn more and register (discount code applied at checkout)!

Take Me to Your Humans
The rise of AI in hiring practices

Recently you may have heard about AI helping people write fanfiction, paint new profile pictures, and even write code. Legal and moral implications of this type of AI usage aside (AIs don't really "create" as much as "sample" existing works) another interesting use of AI that has emerged is within the workforce.

While here at Menlo we prefer our human-centric process, AI could be helpful to some companies. For example, Hilton International reported that their average call center hiring time shrunk from six weeks to five days with its use. However, there are still some factors that should be considered before jumping feet-first into AI; Forbes's Eric Reicin has a nice checklist of things to keep in mind before using AI for hiring.

1. Ask questions. If you're going to use a new AI tool, figure out whether you want it as a screener, supplemental tool for hiring managers, or something else entirely. This will give you an idea of what features and how much human oversight you desire.

2. Get back to the basics. Meaning, figure out the type of people you want to hire before asking AI to do it. You're not going to hire the right people if you're looking for fish and asking the AI to test candidates' ability to climb a tree!

3. Be transparent about the accommodations process. Make it easy for yourself to follow the ADA and company hiring requirements. Along the same vein, be aware that many AIs test speech patterns, participant movements, and even appearance, meaning AIs can discriminate against non-native English speakers, those with disabilities, and more.

4. Rigorously self-test. Hiring is not one-size-fits-all, so make sure you fully understand the tools you choose to use! This is important both to follow the law and make sure the best candidates really do make it do the end.
Read Harwell's critical view of AI-based hiring here and Reicin's tips-and-tricks for effective AI hiring tool usage here!

The Magic of Storytelling
Building your brand story is as important as ever in today's climate

If there's anything we love here at Menlo, it's a good story. Short or long, silly or serious, we're constantly sharing stories! There's a lot of reasons for this that we could discuss, but today we're going to focus on one aspect of storytelling's impact as argued in an article written by Arthur Germain: storytelling is a great way to build your brand and keep your business healthy.

According to Germain's article, brand stories are only growing in importance with the rise of things like mass-produced AI content generation. Having a strong story about the value consumers will receive by doing business with your company is what catches their attention and keeps you differentiated in their minds. But wait, wouldn't just telling someone the benefits of a product or service work the same way as telling a story? In the spirit of the season, to answer that question please think of your favorite Super Bowl commercial of all time. If you're anything like most people, the reason you remember it out of all of the Super Bowl ads is because it tells a memorable story. Stories stick! They evoke emotion and are something people hold onto.

As an addition, it's worth mentioning that a company's customers aren't just the people who buy their products. Employees buy into the brand as well, and good stories help to increase their brand loyalty and understanding of the company; this in turn can lead to more passionate workers and improve attrition. So whether you're trying to build buy-in from internal or external stakeholders, investing in your brand story is a worthy endeavor.

Want more of Germain's thoughts about the value of brand stories? Go read the full article!

(P.S. One of our favorite Super Bowl commercials of all time!)


Love is Just Damn Good Business: Do What You Love in the Service of People Who Love What You Do

Author: Steve Farber

Recommended by: Stephanie Nagy, Software Developer & High-Tech Anthropologist®

It is unusual to find a heartwarming business book, but in this month’s book review we’ve done just that. In Love is Just Damn Good Business, Steve Farber presents touching stories of people going above and beyond to give back to their employees and clients. I have to admit I teared up a few times during this read. I love the idea that being kind is not just good for the soul, but can help build a sustainable business.

The mantra of Farber’s book is “Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.” Each section introduces a concept, has a chapter of case studies, and finishes with practical takeaways. Instead of falling into the idea of learning how to love what you do, the author gives guidance on how to find things that fire up your inspiration. By exploring your strengths, values, passions, drive, and life goals you can find the passion that will inspire you to develop the skills and experience to do what you love. Employees that are committed to what they are doing are more likely to work harder and find contentment in the steps along their journey.

The first step in service to others is to invest the time to get to know them with empathy. Sometimes we are called to be leaders who love our employees enough to have the difficult conversations that will help them grow. Farber tells stories of when caring for employees ended up turning around a failing company or generating a new business model that was highly sustainable and profitable. When people love where they work they are willing to go the extra mile and recommend their workplace to others.

A huge part of Menlo’s model of service to others is to design software that meets the needs of our stakeholders and end users. We are on board with Farber’s philosophy of delighting our customers. Loyal customers who love what you offer can become an unpaid salesforce when they recommend products wholeheartedly to others. Instead of focusing only on target numbers, Farber asks us to answer questions like these: “As we strive toward that goal, what kind of an impact are we going to have? How are the lives of our customers going to change by virtue of what we do here?”

Love is Just Damn Good Business ended up being one of those books where I highlighted so many gems as I was reading. I will aspire to show more kindness as I reflect on these stories of businesses that flourished because of people who were courageous enough to lead with love.

Get a copy for yourself here!

Menlo's "In-Office vs Work-From-Home" Board Experiment -- The Newest Iteration!
You may recall that last month we featured a giant, rolling homasote board to help track what portion of our team will be in the office on any given day as well as which days team members plan to be in the office. For our experiment this month, we decided to update you all on how quickly an experiment can move between iterations!

This current version has some key differences from the old system and we'll highlight a few of them here. First, each team member has a set of same-colored popsicle sticks (to make them easier to find) affixed to magnets for each day of two weeks. This makes it easier to reset the board at the end of a given week and move people if they change between in-office, work-from-home, or out. Second, we've moved the experiment to the fridge! This way the board is always in front of the team, reminding them to move their sticks, and we're able to take up less space in the office. Plus, it adds a pop of color to the kitchen☺️. Lastly, our 60%/80% in-office markers are now string, making them easier to adjust if our team size changes.

If you think this experiment is done evolving, you would be incorrect! We're continuing to iterate. Currently, we have plans to make it easier to tell which week is the current week and are adding a system for people to let the team know when they're planning to bring their dog into the office. If there are more exciting changes, we'll keep you all updated!

Menlo Bits

The Menlo Bits is Menlo's monthly newsletter, filled with all the latest in science and technology trends as well as what's been happening at Menlo.