Posts tagged “lifestyle”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Excellent Rob Walker "Consumed" on Lululemon Athletica and the idea of a "lifestyle brand" – Anybody who is honest about consumer behavior knows that often what we buy is not simply some thing but some idea that is embodied by that thing. “Conceptual consumption” is the name given to this practice in a recent paper with that title by Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University (and author of the book “Predictably Irrational”), and Michael Norton, an assistant professor of marketing at the Harvard Business School, in The Annual Review of Psychology. Their notion has various subsets, one of which is the consumption of goals.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • The Nike Experiment: How the Shoe Giant Unleashed the Power of Personal Metrics – Using a flood of new tools and technologies, each of us now has the ability to collect granular information about our lives—what we eat, how much we sleep, when our mood changes.
    Not only can we collect that data, we can analyze it, looking for patterns, information that might help us change both the quality and the length of our lives. We can live longer and better by applying, on a personal scale, the same quantitative mindset that powers Google and medical research. Call it Living by Numbers—the ability to gather and analyze data about yourself, setting up a feedback loop that we can use to upgrade our lives, from better health to better habits to better performance.
    Nike has discovered that there's a magic number for a Nike+ user: 5. If someone uploads only a couple of runs to the site, they might just be trying it out. But once they hit 5 runs, they're massively more likely to keep running and uploading data. At 5 runs, they've gotten hooked on what their data tells them.
  • To Sleep, Perchance to Analyze Data: David Pogue on the Zeo sleep monitoring system – Just watching the Zeo track your sleep cycles doesn’t do anything to help you sleep better. Plotting your statistics on the Web doesn’t help, either.

    But the funny thing is, you do wind up getting better sleep — because of what I call the Personal Trainer Phenomenon. People who hire a personal trainer at the gym wind up attending more workouts than people who are just members. Why? Because after spending that much money and effort, you take the whole thing much more seriously.

    In the same way, the Zeo winds up focusing you so much on sleep that you wind up making some of the lifestyle changes that you could have made on your own, but didn’t. (“Otherwise,” a little voice in your head keeps arguing, “you’ve thrown away $400.”)

    That’s the punch line: that in the end, the Zeo does make you a better sleeper. Not through sleep science — but through psychology.

  • Baechtold's Best photo series – While they are framed as travel guides, they are really more visual anthropology. A range of topics and places captured and presented in a compelling and simple fashion, illustrating similarities and differences between people, artifacts, and the like.
  • It's girls-only at Fresno State engineering camp – This is the first year for the girls-only engineering camp. Its goal is to increase the number of female engineering majors at Fresno State, which lags behind the national average in graduating female engineers. Nationwide, about 20% of engineering graduates are women. 20 years ago the national average was 25%. At Fresno State, only 13% of engineering graduates are women.

    Jenkins said he hopes the camp will convince girls "who might not have thought about it" that engineering is fun, and entice them to major in engineering.
    (via @KathySierra)

  • Selling Tampax With Male Menstruation – This campaign, by Tampax, is in the form of a story featuring blog entries and short videos. The story is about a 16-year-old boy named Zack who suddenly wakes up with “girl parts.” He goes on to narrate what it’s like including, of course, his experience of menstruation and what a big help Tampax tampons were.

It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken

The other day we went to JumpSpace for a JumpTalk by Chuck Darrah about the work featured in his (along with James M. Freeman and Jan English-Lueck) new book Busier Than Ever!: Why American Families Can’t Slow Down

Busier Than Ever! follows the daily activities of fourteen American families. It explores why they are busy and what the consequences are for their lives. Busyness is not just a matter of personal time management, but of the activities we participate in and how each of us creates “the good life.” While numerous books deal with efficiency and the difficulties of balancing work and family, Busier Than Ever! offers a fresh approach. Busyness is not a “problem” to be solved-it is who we are as Americans and it’s redefining American families.

Chuck gave a compellingly accessible talk peppered with stories from their in-depth fieldwork (like something about of Albert Brooks’ Real Life, they spent a huge amount of time with these families, becoming unavoidably involved with their lives. So different than doing “an interview” as is typical in consulting work).

He handed me a copy of the book, so I’ve got some reading to do, but some cool themes/behaviors he told us about (and this is my scribbly documentation and doesn’t necessarily fully represent their work)

  • Everything is work…but what is work? Some companies take 2 hours off to play Dungeons and Dragons, other folks go get a tan. There are stories as to why that is part of work for the people concerned. People define boundaries, proclaim that they don’t take home work with them, but when asked about the briefcase they are hauling out of the office, they explain what category of activity (i.e., reading HR memos) they will do at home that is not work.
  • People are taking on more stuff, by choice, but present busyness as an external force
  • Coping strategies have emerged (but I wonder if these are in fact the creators of the increased busyness?)
  • Planning and routinizing – time spent planning the day or working out processes for dealing with daily activities
  • Communicating – seemingly trite phone calls to check in about the plans already made
  • Anticipating – energy put into coming up with contingency plans – “what if this happens?” or “what if that happens?”
  • Adjusting – being flexible (with layers of power embedded in those negotiations), making last minute changes to the plans already developed and communicated
  • Protection – i.e., create a phantom meeting to keep blocks of time free for whatever purpose
  • Intelligence gathering – you don’t know what info will end up being relevant, so knowing what is going on with coworkers or family members becomes crucial
  • Simplifying – One father looked at every item in the house once per month and if he didn’t know what it was, it went to the dump or Goodwill immediately
  • Chunking – using interstitial times to accomplish tasks, i.e., moving items out of a meeting agenda into hallway conversations (although this isn’t always successful depending on the person and the task)

Ultimately, Chuck told us, it’s not about time, it’s about activities.

Meanwhile, a story that struck me a few weeks ago referred to a study (funded by the Alfred P. Sloan foundation, as was the Darrah et. al work above) about convenience food.

the researchers saw that convenience foods weren’t used as a time-saving substitute for the same dish made from scratch. Instead packaged foods offered a way for families to eat more elaborate meals than they would normally have time to prepare.

When families did cook from scratch, they ate simpler fare — like one-pot meals or stir-fry. In the end, dinner took about a half-hour to an hour to prepare, whether it was made from scratch or with convenience foods.

The study showed that meals with little or no convenience foods took 26 to 93 minutes to prepare. Meals that used a lot of convenience foods took 25 to 73 minutes to prepare. While convenience foods were time-savers on very elaborate meals, overall, there was no statistically significant difference in total preparation time.

One difference that emerged was “hands on” time — the amount of time people spent slicing, dicing and stirring foods. Using convenience foods shaved about 10 minutes of hands-on time, but it didn’t make any difference in how quickly the food got to the table.

The study authors noted that the biggest time savings of convenience foods may be at the grocery store, where it’s faster to grab a frozen entree than to collect six separate ingredients to make the same dish from scratch. Grocery-shopping time wasn’t measured in the study. The average American spends about 22 minutes in the grocery store and shops about twice a week, according to the Food Marketing Institute.

Convenience foods also helped cooks offer a greater variety of dishes; cooks who made dinner from scratch offered three or fewer dishes. One family made a simple meal of sandwiches and edamame, using bread, cheese, greens and salmon and tomatoes. That meal took about a half-hour to prepare. Another family had a six-dish convenience-food meal of microwave barbecued ribs, macaroni and cheese, prebagged salad, bagged dinner rolls and a cookies and ice cream dessert. That meal also took a half-hour.

Farm Living Never Looked So Good!

64th-ave-entrance.jpgPrairie Winds is a new development in Western Michigan, a planned community (isn’t that the term?) that offers a faux version of simpler times, a vicarious farming experience. Without, presumably, the back-breaking labor, poverty, foreclosures, livestock, etc. They’ve already put up the barn, visible from the freeway, with a sign reading “Farm Living Never Looked So Good!”

I was immediately reminded of the previously blogged Karrie Jacobs piece about loft subdivisions in Colorado, manufacturing a ridiculously inaccurate buildings that are associated with a lifestyle. Contradictions? Only if you choose to see it that way, I guess.


About Steve