Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies nominations list 2021

BY farah khalfe < 1 MINUTE READ

Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies event is around the corner! You’ve met the panel of judges for this year’s awards, now here is the list of nominated companies.

The MIC event not only honours innovation in businesses but also those companies that are transforming businesses and shaping societies. In 2021, we’re going virtual and hybrid with more than 25 winners across various categories.

These are the companies in the running for an award:

  • UrbianRhino
  • Modified Wood
  • Wonderbag
  • South Africa Makes
  • Clickatell
  • Imvelaphi Technology
  • Chowbot
  • Teambix
  • Made In Workshop
  • Hypernova Space Technologies
  • Sendmarc
  • Juta & Co
  • Wholesale Hearing
  • Basalt Technology
  • FikaTime
  • Vaal Inventions
  • Sorted
  • Tripplo
  • SmartWage
  • CFO360
  • Deaftouch
  • Yebo Fresh Pty Ltd

The MIC event will be taking place on Wednesday 14 April. Keep an eye out on Fast Company SA’s social media pages for more information.


Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies event nominated for global award

BY farah khalfe 2 MINUTE READ

The International News Media Association (INMA), which runs the annual Global Media Awards, has nominated Fast Company SA’s Most Innovative Companies Conference and Awards.

Fast Company SA is nominated in the category ‘Best Use of an Event to Build a News Brand’ in the Groups section.

This year’s Most Innovative Companies event will be taking place on 14 April. Nominations for the awards have now closed and excitement is mounting as the judges are in the process of reviewing all entrants and deciding which companies are deserving of the prestigious MIC awards.

Since 2008, Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies edition has been the definitive source for recognising the organisations that are transforming industries and shaping societies.

The MIC event has taken a giant leap forward this year, introducing a virtual and hybrid awards session to coincide with the publication of its Most Innovative Companies magazine.

The INMA Global Media Awards platform includes 20 categories focused on excellence in news brands, media platforms, subscriptions, business development, and data and insights. The competition judges similar brands with groups for national news brands, regional news brands, and — for the first time — groups.

In light of the pandemic, the shortlist of nominees this year are centered around clear themes of community outreach, brand-building, subscriptions, and data innovation. The competition garnered approximately 644 entries from 212 news brands in 37 countries. The finalists hail from Africa, Asia/Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and North America.

Other companies in the shortlist include Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd., Russmedia, NZME, and News Corp Australia.

Judging for the Global Media Awards took place in February with 44 media experts from 22 countries. The judging process focused on breakthrough results, unique concepts, strong creativity, innovative thinking, and winner synergies across the different platforms.

All the entries for this year’s awards can be found on INMA.org’s Best Practices archive. Finalists may be viewed publicly, while all other entries are reserved exclusively for INMA members. In addition, INMA has over 6,500 “best practices” from the past decade of Global Media Awards competitions. These can be sorted through based on finalists and winners, category, year, and country.

Go to inma.org to view the full list of finalists and categories. For more information on the MIC event and ticket information, keep an eye out on the Fast Company SA website and social media platforms.


G-Star’s latest collection debuts natural fibres and a fresh take on denim

BY farah khalfe 2 MINUTE READ

G-Star RAW continues their innovative and sustainable approach with their latest collection.

Head of Menswear design Leo Brancovich and Head of Womenswear design Marly Nijssen bring to life the ’Exclusive by G-Star Raw collection’.

This season there is a fresh take on denim & natural fibers, with an emphasis on seasonal chambray and ecru denim. Bright orange accents with transparent elements contrast exaggerated boxy utility silhouettes and refined details, transforming inspiration from the past into unique, wearable garments for now and the future.

Every Exclusives piece has its own narrative, inspired by the G-Star vintage archive. Some of the stand out features of each garment include the clinical construction technique, a “blind” stitch, and less pocket seams. These intertwine with renewable fabrics such as 100% chambray linen and Japanese Ecru selvage denim contrasted by black pocket linings.

The ‘Exclusives by G-Star RAW’ collection brings reinvention and innovation to every stitch, seam and rivet.

These are some of the pieces we love:

E Trnch WMN

This transparent rip-stop trench coat is half-lined with a dense, uncoated “memory” fabric of 100% recycled polyester in vibrant orange. A bonded plaquet with laser-cut buttonholes makes for a knife-edge finish. Accentuated with a half-zip closure and safety-webbing belt, sourced from the world of utility.

GSRR 2 in 1 Mac MN

Based on a 1930’s British Army uniform. This flared oversize trench has a removable liner of Japanese chambray. Its rich ecru selvedge denim is contrasted by black pocket linings, gloss-black shank buttons and black interior chain-stitching. Featuring a ‘blind’ chest pocket and a tailored sleeve with front shaping pleats.

GSRR Grip 3D Relaxed Tapered MN

The new “chino fit” shape from G-Star, with a regular waist, roomy top-block and tapered leg. Rich dry ecru selvedge denim is contrasted with black pocket linings, gloss-black shank buttons and black internal chain-stitching. Featuring silicone-injected pocket details, “blind” stitch-less pocket seams and bonded lamination film on the front leg.


The creativity and science behind the N95 mask

BY farah khalfe 2 MINUTE READ

What started as personal protective gear for healthcare workers, has now become somewhat an entire industry on its own – with demand far outweighing supply and new variations of it being invented constantly.

What started as personal protective gear for healthcare workers, has now become somewhat an entire industry on its own – with demand far outweighing supply and new variations of it being invented constantly.

So what exactly is an N95 mask? And what are some of the innovations that have come about since compulsory masking took hold of society last year?

N95 masks derived their name from the fact that they filter out 95% of airborne particles – and have been the gold standard of PPE during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, they are not without their complications. For starters, many people claim they find it hard to breathe while wearing a mask.

N95 masks are indeed hot and humid on the face. Besides, research has indicated that when wearing an N95 mask, we breathe in 5% – 20% less oxygen than normal unfiltered air, and higher proportions of the carbon dioxide we would normally exhale.

To combat this, researchers at Stanford University developed a device that makes the experience of wearing an N95 mask less stuffy (this is particularly important for nurses and doctors who usually have to wear them for hours at a time).

The leader of the project, John Xu, aimed to create a device that created its oxygen and then pumped the oxygen to an N95 mask to make it more comfortable for the wearer.

The team at Stanford developed a working prototype that does just this. The device is a waist-mounted machine that plugs into any standard N95 mask. The machine is filled with water, and the battery can be charged to turn water into oxygen, which then flows right into the N95 mask. At the same time, the second tube in the mask sucks away carbon dioxide. So in theory, someone wearing Xu’s invention will breathe in a mix of gasses that closely resembles normal air.

Xu envisions this invention to go for about US$300, however, production has been put on hold for now, as they the iron out a few details.

With new waves of the virus being predicted the world over and no foreseeable end to the pandemic in sight, there are sure to be new and improved inventions of the mask yet to come. This is just the tip of the iceberg.



Can people be paid to take the vaccine?

BY farah khalfe 4 MINUTE READ

The first COVID-19 vaccine to gain emergency use authorisation in the US could roll out within days, as Pfizer and BioNTech’s candidate was endorsed by an external advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration on December 10. Two days earlier, an internal FDA panel endorsed the vaccine. These were the last required steps before the FDA authorises the vaccine, which will soon be administered to healthcare workers across the country.

But while healthcare workers, who will be first to receive the vaccine, appear eager to get the shot, others are not so convinced. In fact, recent studies indicate that many Americans do not plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine, even if one is available at no cost.

If levels of vaccination are not robust, it will take longer to reach herd immunity, or widespread protection within a population. In response to these concerns, several people have suggested that the government should provide a monetary incentive to COVID-19 vaccination.

We are health law professors and, in our view, it is important to understand how these monetary incentives work as COVID-19 vaccines become available, why payment for vaccination may exacerbate vaccine mistrust, and how this incentive fits into the broader history of monetary incentives in public health.

In summer and early fall of 2020, several surveys indicated that the number of Americans planning to get vaccinated against COVID-19 was lower than desirable. Experts estimate that achieving herd immunity require anywhere from 67% to 85% of Americans to be vaccinated. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center showed that only 60% of American were considering getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

If vaccination rates are indeed low once vaccines become available on a large scale, it will take the U.S. longer to curb the pandemic. Moreover, many Americans expressing COVID-19 vaccine mistrust are part of are members of racial minorities, which are precisely among the groups hit the hardest by the pandemic.

The idea of monetary incentives seems straightforward: Pay people to get vaccinated. One of the earliest proponents, economist Robert Litan, called the idea an “adult version of the doctor handing out candy to children.”

Litan suggested that the government should pay $1,000 to each person who receives a COVID-19 vaccine. He admitted in his proposal that he had not relied on any studies or data to get to this number, explaining that the proposed payment amount was a “hunch.”

His idea has since been endorsed by prominent commentators. These include economist Gregory Mankiw and politician John Delaney, who suggested that the incentive should be increased to $1,500.

Paying incentives to people who take on health risks to help others is not new. The most common example is clinical trials. Participants in these trials often receive set payments typically ranging from $25 to $1,000, to cover the costs of participation and perhaps to compensate for participants’ time.

Researchers don’t intend for these payments to induce subjects to take risks they would otherwise refuse. But there is a concern that, if clinical researchers pay potential subjects for risk-taking, their clinical trials will prey on poorer people for whom the payment would make the most difference. The law withholds authorization for clinical trials where there is reason to suspect that large payments were inducing people to take risks against their better judgment.

While a number of studies demonstrate that nominal payments rarely cause a person to consent to clinical research the person believes is risky, data show that payments as high as $1,000 cause potential participants to perceive the proposed research as highly risky. Those individuals seek out risk information and review it more closely than others who were offered significantly smaller payments.

Monetary compensation is also available in other cases. For instance, payments for the donation of plasma currently ranges from $30 to $60. Compensation for the donation of gametes is also possible, with $35-$125 being the range for sperm donations, and $5,000-$10,000 the range for egg donations.

There are also cases in which it’s been effective to nudge people to stop unhealthy behaviors. Studies have shown that paying people to stop smoking can be a powerful incentive. These studies offered smokers rewards that ranged from $45 to $700. People who received a reward were less likely to restart smoking, even after the monetary incentive ended.

Conversely, the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act expressly prohibits payment for organ donations. Here, the concern is that allowing payments would undermine the altruism underlying the current system such that nobody would give their organs for free if there is a market for them. And where there is a market, it will exploit the poorest among us, who are the most vulnerable.

In countries that do not prohibit payment for human organs, there is anecdotal evidence of unscrupulous brokers and healthcare providers who profit from the desperation of wealthy recipients at the expense of impoverished and vulnerable donors.

In the medical context, monetary incentives are typically not available when participants take a health risk that nonetheless provides them with some likely personal benefit. Instead, payment is more likely for people who agree to participate in clinical trials where the participants are unlikely to benefit medically from their participation. This also applies to payments for donations of plasma and gametes given that donors do not benefit medically from their participation.

A massive payment plan designed to promote COVID-19 vaccination would be very different from current monetary incentives. In addition to its novelty, our concern is that such a scheme would have unintended consequences.

First, we have no actual behavioral studies in this area—as opposed to the case of smoking cessation rewards. Similarly, as the proponents of vaccination rewards admit, there is no data on how to set the appropriate reward.

Second, the proposal might backfire. People who already do not trust vaccines may consider the mere availability of payment as confirmation that vaccination is especially risky or undesirable. And people or organizations interested in promoting disinformation about vaccines may portray payment originating from the government as “proof” of deep-state or hidden agendas associated with vaccination. If people perceive the monetary incentive in this way, that could contribute to increased vaccine hesitancy—precisely the opposite of what it is intended to do.

Third, we worry about the socioeconomic underpinnings of this proposal. An amount close to $1,000 is supposed to prompt a person to change attitudes toward vaccination. In practice, this means that richer individuals, who might not be moved by $1,000, can just ignore the reward. Poorer people, however, are expected to change their behaviors in exchange for money. This is a paternalistic approach that does not help build trust in the government and public health authorities among poorer communities.

For these reasons, we urge caution to regulators and legislators in this area. We all want the pandemic to come to an end as soon as possible. But we need to get the incentives right, which entails relying on data, and not just on unstudied theories.


Article originally published on fastcompany.com.


7 YouTube secrets you need to know

BY farah khalfe 4 MINUTE READ

‘Tis the season, friends. The weather is turning, work slows down a bit, and we can finally make a dent in the nearly infinite number of interesting, funny, and entertaining YouTube videos we’ve been meaning to watch.

And while many people never do more than open up a video, watch it, and then move on, YouTube has a surprisingly rich set of features. Here are some cool tricks you can use to make your viewing experience more engaging, efficient, and fun.

You’ve navigated your way to the main YouTube page and your interest is immediately piqued by 10 hours of Christmas jazz music, followed by 48 minutes of the greatest NBA highlights ever, followed by a clip of Rodney Dangerfield on The Tonight Show, followed by about a dozen other must-see videos on the main page.


Hover over each video you’d like to watch and click the second icon in the upper-right corner: Add to Queue. You’ll notice a personalized watch basket filling up in the lower-right corner of the YouTube page. Hit play, go full screen, and enjoy the show as your selected videos play one after another after another.

If you’re looking to achieve true YouTube-watching mastery, then keyboard shortcuts are a must. Google keeps a full list here, but some of the more notable ones include using the J, K, and L keys to go back 10 seconds, pause, and go forward 10 seconds, respectively.


The / (slash) key pops your cursor right into the search box, and if you’ve got a playlist or queue going, hitting Shift+N moves you to the next video while Shift+P moves you to the previous one.

Speaking of that 48 minutes of NBA highlights video, there’s an excellent highlight at around the 24-and-a-half-minute mark that you’d like to share with a pal.


Instead of sending them the link to the entire video and making someone scrub through it, pause the video right at the point you’d like to share, hit the Share button under the video, and check the “Start at” box in the lower-left corner. Then copy the URL and send it along. When your friend clicks the link, the video will begin playing right at that point.

There are roughly a bajillion ways to turn YouTube videos into animated GIFs, but adding “gif” to the front of a video’s URL is probably the easiest to remember.


So if the video you want to GIF-ify has the URL:


Just turn it into:


You’ll then find yourself in the handy Gifs.com video editor, which is an independent service rather than part of YouTube itself. You can pick your start point, adjust the sliders to get your clip just how you like it, and ultimately create your shareable GIF.

This trick works great for properly captioned videos and OK for videos that are auto-captioned by YouTube. If you’d like to grab a particular video’s written transcript, click the three dots next to the Save button under the video and select the “Open transcript” option.


Now, this isn’t available on all videos—just ones that have been transcribed either by hand or by YouTube’s transcription algorithm. But if the transcript is available, you’ll see it to the right of the video, at which point you can copy and paste the text into your favorite word processor or email program.

Transcripts feature time stamps by default, but you can hide them by clicking the triple-dot menu in the upper-right corner of the transcript box if you’d like the text to look a little cleaner.

YouTube is fun, yes, but you know what’s even more fun? YouTube with friends. There are several services to choose from, but SyncTube is particularly slick and straightforward.


You can create a shared room in a couple of clicks and send a unique link to your friends. Then everyone can start loading up YouTube links. Videos will play one after another, synchronized so everyone’s watching the same thing at once, complete with a handy chat feature on the right-hand side so you can all exchange witty banter in real time.

If you’d like to call attention to a video using its own thumbnail image—maybe on your blog or one of your social media accounts—there’s no obvious way to do it directly from the YouTube interface. However, YouTube stores all the images in the same way, so you can use the following URL to access them.

To download a thumbnail, use this URL:


But replace VIDEOID with the string of letters and numbers immediately following the “v=” part of the video’s URL.

So for this video:


You’d use:


That will open up the thumbnail image on its own, at which point you can download it.


Article originally published on fastcompany.com. 


This is where the world’s next pandemic is likely to emerge from

BY farah khalfe 3 MINUTE READ

Roughly a year ago, it’s likely that the new coronavirus made the jump from a wild animal to the first infected human in Wuhan, China, before spreading throughout the city, and then leaping quickly to the rest of the world. If 2020 seemed like an anomaly, it isn’t: Scientists say that another pandemic will follow at some point in the future. A new study tries to identify where it might emerge.

“Essentially, this work is trying to identify the biggest gaps in the modern, globalized world where pathogens may be most likely to slip through and lead to extensive global dissemination,” says Michael Walsh, the lead author of the new study and an epidemiologist at the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health.

Three factors are key. In areas where the most wildlife habitat is disappearing, there’s more stress on wild animals, making disease spread more easily, and more contact between humans and animals. All of the worst infectious viruses to emerge in recent decades, including HIV, the first SARS, and Ebola, are “zoonotic,” meaning they spread from animals. (In some cases, viruses spread first to livestock, and then to humans.) Poor health systems are a second risk factor. The cities that are most at risk of being the next to launch a pandemic are also well connected globally through airports.

“Our goal was to identify those areas where the greatest amount of wildlife are sharing space with the greatest amount of people,” Walsh says. “In these spaces, humans are simultaneously putting a high degree of pressure on wildlife species and their environment and increasing their own [human] exposure to new pathogens because of the greater contact with wildlife. The result is an increase in the risk of these new pathogens ‘spilling over’ into human populations.”

[Image: University of Sydney]

recent report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services warns that the emergence of COVID-19 was “entirely driven by human activities,” and that there are hundreds of thousands of other viruses in mammals and birds that could also potentially infect humans if action isn’t taken to protect nature and limit the possibility of them jumping species. Some could be far more deadly than SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Without action, pandemics in the future could begin to happen more often—already, new infectious diseases are emerging in humans approximately every eight months.The new study notes that areas in Africa and parts of Asia are most at risk, both because of contact between people and animals and because of the other factors: While it’s possible that a pandemic could emerge in a location with good health infrastructure, it’s more likely to happen in areas where healthcare is underfunded. “If a new spillover leads to onward human-to-human transmission, then this is more likely to go undetected in areas without good access to healthcare for all and without robust disease surveillance systems in place than in areas where these are present,” says Walsh. Cities like Mumbai, India, and Chengdu, China, are at the highest risk because they’re also major travel hubs, so once a virus emerges in humans, it could quickly spread to other parts of the globe if it’s not detected in time.

Governments can use the study to start to fill the gaps in the cities most at risk, by conserving habitat, improving health infrastructure, both for humans and vet care for livestock, and developing better disease surveillance systems that can systematically monitor pathogens (including, as a last defense, disease surveillance at airports). Societies also “need to think about ways to minimize contact, ways to ‘break the interface’ in other words, between humans and wildlife as much as possible, which means working with forest departments and other land management agencies to think about ways to reduce the sharing of space,” Walsh says.


Article originally published on  fastcompany.com.

Here’s how to organise your inbox and home office for a fresh start in 2020

BY farah khalfe 4 MINUTE READ

The finish line is in sight: 2020 will soon be behind us. Good riddance, hallelujah, and amen.

As you exhale after a tumultuous year, now is the time to clean out and set yourself up for a productive, successful new year.

I get it. You are probably rolling your eyes or shaking your head in disbelief wondering if you just read the section header correctly. Is it even conceivable that your email program could ever be that helpful, let alone your personal assistant?

Yes. Here’s how:

Assistants prioritize your messages. Set up your email program to prioritize your messages. Color-code incoming messages based on sender priority or where your name appears in the message. For example, you might color-code your manager red, your top clients green, and turn the messages where you are cc’d to light gray. Use conditional formatting in Outlook and labels in Gmail. Then, when you open your inbox, you will be able to quickly scan and identify the messages that require an immediate response from you.

Assistants help you follow up and keep track of open tasks and pending requests. Ask your email program to remind you of the requests you have made via email where you are waiting on a response. Automate your follow up by setting up and using the “waiting for” rule.

When you send an email where you need a response from the recipient, cc yourself on that email. That email will then be automatically saved in a folder you have designated for all your follow-ups. As new messages are automatically added to this folder, the numeral indicating how many messages are in the folder will become bold. No longer will you spend hours searching through sent messages trying to remember if you have followed up on your open requests. Your personal assistant will remind you.

And, if you are a Gmail user, consider using Boomerang. It will schedule messages to automatically return to the top of your inbox at a time you specify and remind you to follow up with people who don’t respond to your email within a specific amount of time.

Assistants stop interruptions from hijacking your day. Turn off all the new message alerts. Those pings, buzzes, and pop-ups divert your time and attention.

The temporary “office” you created for yourself in March has now become your permanent office and will probably be where you work for most of next year. It’s time to P.U.R.G.E. and get organized for 2021.

P: Establish your productivity zones
To optimise your efficiency and effectiveness in your home “office,” set up your productivity zones. To determine your zones, identify the primary activities in your job. Then determine the optimal conditions for you to complete each activity. And, finally, select the place or space in your home or home office that will best support each activity.

For example, the core activities in your job are Zoom meetings with clients and prospects, prospect research, and email correspondence. Zoom calls require quality audio and lighting. Prospect research and email correspondence require a computer and internet connection. The dresser in your bedroom is the best place for you to conduct your Zoom calls because you can close a door and use a lamp on the dresser for additional light. And, your sofa in the den is an ideal place for prospect research and email correspondence because this is where you have the best internet connection.

If you do have a dedicated office space, follow the steps above to create productivity zones within your office.

U: Use household items creatively.
The office supply cabinet in your home is probably not as well-stocked as the one in your office building. So, get creative and use what you have at home. If you want a standing desk, use your kitchen counter or a bookcase. Repurpose your standing, lighted make-up mirror as a “ring-light” to provide additional light on Zoom calls. Or reuse one of the many shipping boxes that show up at your front door every day to elevate your laptop so you can be eye level with your built-in camera.

R: Reestablish your “coworker” working agreements.
Working well with your “coworkers” including your partner, spouse, children, roommates, or your fourth cousin, is hard. Reestablish working agreements to halt interruptions and restore sanity to everyone’s workday.

Implement the “stoplight” system by having each person place a colored square of paper on the edge of their workspace indicating their current level of focus and availability for interruptions. A red square signals that the only reason to be interrupted is if there is an emergency. It is critical that you define an emergency. In our household, there are two emergencies: fire and bleeding that cannot be stopped with Band-Aids. A yellow card means you are working on a project that requires a significant amount of focus and concentration, so proceed with caution when interrupting. A green card means you are open and available. And, if you leave your card on red all day every day the system will fail. I learned this lesson the hard way.

G: Gather all required tools to complete your tasks.
Searching for a stapler, pair of scissors, a note pad or a Sharpie that is not dried out wastes your time and makes you cranky. Identify all the tools you need to complete your tasks. Gather your tools on an at-home shopping trip. Purchase any missing items and place them in one, and only one, place. If you work in multiple spaces in your home, consider a basket with handles or a repurposed toolbox that you can transport with you.

E: Eliminate old papers, files, and binders.

  • Shred, recycle, or trash papers, files, and binders that meet the following criteria:
  • You are not required to retain for compliance, tax, or legal reasons.
  • You are not required to retain based on your company’s record retention policy.
  • The information can be accessed somewhere else. For example, a copy of your company’s vacation policy is available on your company’s website.
  • You cannot identify a specific reason you would need to retrieve this information again.

Don’t start your year bogged down in old documents and information you do not need. Clear the clutter.

For many of us, 2020 was a one-star year: very bad, would not recommend. So prepare your inbox and home “office” for a more productive (and healthy) 2021.


Carson Tate is the founder and managing partner of Working Simply, Inc., and the author of Own It. Love It. Make It Work.: How To Make Any Job Your Dream Job.


This “zero-input” kelp burger requires no land or fresh water to produce

BY farah khalfe 3 MINUTE READ

In an effort to lower the carbon footprint of your diet, maybe you’ve swapped out a beef burger for one made from plants. But growing crops like peas and potatoes can still be resource-intensive, requiring lots of land, fresh water, and fertilizer, the abundant use of which is degrading our soil and polluting the water and air. Instead of looking to replace meat with plants, food startup Akua is looking to the ocean with the launch of its kelp burger.

Akua (previously named Beyond the Shoreline) has already launched a line of kelp biltong. Cofounder and CEO Courtney Boyd Myers says she was drawn to seaweed for a few reasons. Along with its health benefits, seaweed provides some environmental advantages. “If you think about food systems with kelp, it doesn’t require dry land or fresh water or fertilizer or feed to grow, so it’s what is called a zero-input food,” Boyd Myers says. “If you can grow zero-input food abundantly to feed the planet, you’re in a really good place.” Kelp farms also naturally sequester a lot of carbon, so creating a larger market for kelp could help suck up even more emissions.

And finally, there’s the economic impact that comes with supporting kelp farmers. “These fishermen start to make more of a living by being ocean gardeners, if you will,” she says, putting less of a strain on the fishing supply. Investing in sustainable ocean practices can have huge global benefits. According to the nonprofit World Resources Institute, every $1 invested in ocean sustainability generates $5 of benefits for the planet.For its kelp burger, Akua works with women-owned kelp farms off the coast of Maine. The Akua burger also includes cremini mushrooms, black beans, quinoa, crushed tomatoes, and pea protein, which plant-based burger eaters may recognize as an ingredient in Beyond Burgers. Boyd Myers says the Akua kelp burger isn’t meant to mimic meat in the way Beyond and Impossible burgers do, but assures it’ll still be satisfying to meat eaters.

Kelp and mushrooms have this “umami bomb taste,” she says, “and it’s really satiating in the way that meat is.” (The company assures there’s no fishy taste.) “I think that the kelp burger is going to have a special place in the market in between a fake meat burger and your boring old veggie burger.”

She’s also hoping it’ll appeal to people who might want a healthier burger alternative, made of more whole foods. (“Our Kelp Burger is made in Maine with love—not in [a] lab,” the website reads.) The Impossible burger has 14 grams of fat, 8 of which are saturated fat, and the Beyond Burger has 18 grams of fat, 5 of which are saturated fat (though Beyond did recently announce a healthier version of its faux burger). Akua’s kelp burger contains 14 grams of fat, but zero saturated fat.

Akua says its kelp jerky is carbon negative, but Boyd Myers doesn’t yet know how the kelp burgers compare in terms of carbon footprint. Kelp alone, she says, “is like drawing carbon out of the sea.” (It’s the production of the burger’s other ingredients that may increase emissions.) In 2019, Akua used 40,000 pounds of ocean-farmed kelp for its jerky, pulling 2,000 pounds of carbon from the ocean; Boyd Myers has previously estimated that by its fifth year in business, the company’s kelp jerky will sequester 1 million pounds of carbon.Akua is raising funds for its kelp burger product on Republic, an equity crowdfunding platform, and already has raised more than $100,000. Boyd Myers knows some people might be a bit hesitant about biting into a kelp burger, but she believes that’ll change soon. She points to the growing popularity of mushrooms—another edible item that, like kelp, doesn’t fall into the “plant” category but exists in its own kingdom. Now that consumers are enjoying all kinds of varieties, from lion’s mane to maitake, and even downing mushroom “coffee,” the global mushroom market is expected to hit $86 billion by 2025, up from $53 billion in 2019. “Over the next 10 years,” Boyd Myers predicts, “I think seaweed is going to be following that trajectory.”

Article originally published on fastcompany.com

Here’s the real problem with working from home

BY farah khalfe 3 MINUTE READ

For decades, we’ve commonly believed the further two people were apart physically and organisationally, the lower their estimation of one another was likely to be. Our latest research at VitalSmarts suggests otherwise. The problems with work from home (WFH) don’t emerge because employees are no longer working in the same space. Its weaknesses arise when leaders fail to create new ways for employees to connect.

In August 2020, we surveyed 2300 executives and employees who were abruptly thrust from the workplace by COVID-19. While a predictable majority (54% of executives and 43% of nonexecutives) reported cultural strain and deterioration since dispersing, we were repeatedly fascinated by reports of teams that felt closer and more productive than before. Surprisingly, a large minority of employees report they are working together better since their forced separation.

Our study sought to examine the effect of WFH on social capital—a concept popularised by Robert Putnam in the early 1990s as the measure of the healthy functioning of social systems. In our view, it is a report card on leadership. Leadership, after all, is not about creating results. It is about influencing others to create results.

What we found is that some leaders are finding ways to generate greater social capital because of WFH conditions. Here are some conclusions from our study.

We gave respondents a list of actions their leaders might have taken to mitigate the effects of WFH. Some required very little effort, like sending out a survey. Others were more taxing, like increasing personalised virtual contact with leaders.

We were encouraged to find that almost every intervention leaders used had a positive effect on social capital. Some had a greater effect than others, but most everything produced something. Healthy organizations were those where leaders worked actively to build social capital. When they did, employees were:

  • 60% more likely to respond quickly to requests from each other.
  • Almost three times more likely to give one another the benefit of the doubt when problems occurred.
  • Almost three times more likely to sacrifice their own needs to serve a larger team goal.
  • More than twice as likely to take initiative to solve problems rather than waiting to be told to do so.

On the flip side, in organizations where leaders have taken no steps to offset the potential alienation of WFH, social capital is diminishing rapidly. The difference between the social capital winners and losers was not distance, but leadership.

In healthy organisations, many mentioned small gestures and consistent actions from their immediate supervisor since WFH. And the returns on these small human investments were enormous. One respondent described how touched they were by a supervisor who frequently asked her how her kids were “handling the transition to remote learning.”

Our study showed managers in weak organizations are almost always those who have done little to leverage the social capital opportunities WFH offers. As a result, these leaders suffered extraordinary losses in social capital. Their direct reports were:

  • 40% more likely to do the minimum required in their work.
  • Four times more likely to respond slowly to requests from others.
  • Four times more likely to assume the worst of others when problems happen.
  • Three times more likely to put their own interests ahead of larger organizational goals.

What worked about the office was that it was a highly structured way of promoting unstructured interaction. It gave the illusion of agency to our spontaneous connection. But the truth is, those “chance” happenings have always been engineered. We were required to arrive at 8 a.m., lunch at noon, and report to a specific office. And it worked. Like marbles in a bowl, our contact with each other was not elective.

Leaders in healthy organizations understand that WFH demands more than substituting conference calls for conference rooms. It isn’t just about using virtual technology to substitute for the structured interaction required to get work done. They are experimenting aggressively to create new norms and rituals for unstructured interaction. Leaders in healthy organizations went beyond the obvious interventions like offering flextime and were far more likely to use:

  • Fun, off-the-wall virtual events (virtual dance parties, online eating contests, etc.).
  • More frequent team meetings.
  • Scheduled nonwork-related meetings for team members to connect.

These investments enable not just structured, but unstructured interaction. And their social capital effects were strikingly different, showing a two to four times greater impact on social capital than offering obvious interventions like flextime.

This study provides early evidence that leaders need not choose between developing a high-performance culture and allowing home-based work. The vast differences in social capital from one organization to the next are likely the result of variations in leadership competence at building new social rituals, not physical concentration. Ultimately, the necessary condition to a productive social system is leadership not location.


About the author: Joseph Grenny is a cofounder at VitalSmarts and the New York Times bestselling coauthor of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High.