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Start your company culture afresh with these 3 values

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Companies with resilient cultures have a much better chance at long-term success than those that lack this sense of connection. Importantly, the best companies in the world have a clearly defined set of shared values. Finding the best employees requires looking for values fit more than a cultural fit. While every company should thoroughly investigate their own criteria, there is much to be gained from shared experiences. 

I have always been proud of our culture at Density, and for many team members it’s one of the key reasons for working for the company. After five years and dozens of drafts, we boiled down our core company values to the following: be humble, seek feedback, and always solve the fundamental problem.

These three tenets are the foundation of Density and guide all our decision-making. I wanted to share why we landed on these three and how you can apply them to your own company.

Be humble

Encourage humility in both client and employee interactions. Humility helps organizations build a logical, socratic culture by encouraging self-awareness. Being open about strengths, weaknesses, and room for improvement is a ballast against politics, arrogance, hubris, and gamesmanship.

[Read: 5 hot tips for startups to create a strong brand from day one]

Humility is great for business, both internally and within customer relations. It helps employees build authentic relationships with customers, and one another. Humility encourages transparency about the capabilities of a business’ services, allowing companies to be open when they are not the right solution and making employees trusted counselors to their customers.

Humility wins business, it’s inclusive, it keeps us nimble and honest and it leads to high voluntary employee retention. This is why you should hire and fire around humility.

Seek feedback

Company cultures that consistently identify conflict are more likely to resolve it. The first step to reaching such a resolution is feedback. 

While some people believe feedback should be given anonymously, this approach is not constructive. In a truly open work environment, feedback shouldn’t be seen as an attack or a punitive measure, but as a helpful starting point to improve the company starting at an individual level.

Discreet and polite feedback, especially when given one-on-one, should be constantly encouraged in the workplace. Here are some phrases you’ll hear around the office at successful companies:

  • “How can I be better?”
  • “How can we be better?“
  • “Have you told them that, directly?“
  • “Do you have the support you need?”
  • “Can I give you some feedback?”

Rapid, direct feedback gets ahead of resentment. It discourages back-channeling and faceless complaints, which are unhealthy and prevent open communication. Candid feedback strengthens the employee-to-employee relationships that are critical to our work, as well as improving clients’ view of our company. This openness encourages humility, trust, courage, clarity, directness, logic, and care. It is a fundamental requirement of a healthy, growing company.

Without an environment that supports feedback, individuals can’t improve, teams become blind to shortcomings, and the organization suffers. There cannot be growth without feedback.

Always solve the fundamental problem

While excelling at your craft is difficult, knowing how and where to apply your efforts can often be even more challenging. For that reason, prioritizing the most important task is the third tenet our company swears by. Some people refer to this concept as “first principles,” while others call it “focus.” We call it “solving the fundamental problem.”

To solve the fundamental problem, you must recognize what doesn’t matter. Through this process, you will know what you can safely ignore — allowing you to allocate all your attention to the most important area. This ability to understand what is most important comes from a combination of experience, good judgement, forethought, ingenuity, imagination, logic, vision and creativity. These are all qualities you should look for in potential employees.

Solving the fundamental problem means engaging frequently with customers, reviewing your services early and often and always experimenting (ask us about the story behind “Can we just put the damn thing above a door?”).

Every company’s product is a playground — engineering, design, devops, security, sales, manufacturing, machine learning, marketing, supply chain, logistics, and more. There are so many fun things to do and there is so much to learn.

However, this breadth of topics provides endless areas where you can focus your expertise, making it difficult to decide where your efforts would be most productive. This is why successful companies value people willing to invest their time in identifying the dilemma we have to address first. 

These three values — humility, feedback, and intentional focus — have brought our company success in our field. By paying attention to these rules, you too can find similar success. 

Published October 9, 2020 — 09:32 UTC

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How to Get a Free Taco When Someone Steals a Base During the World Series

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Illustration for article titled How to Get a Free Taco When Someone Steals a Base During the World Series

Photo: George Sheldon (Shutterstock)

Do you like tacos? What about baseball? And free food? Even if only two of the three apply, you’re in luck, because the World Series is happening right now, and so is Taco Bell’s ninth annual “Steal a Base, Steal a Taco” promotion. Here’s how and when to get your hands on this deal.

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How to use baseball to get free tacos

The rules are mostly the same: the first time someone steals a base in the World Series, Taco Bell has agreed to give out one free taco per customer on a designated day. That day is October 28, and this year, the free taco will be a Doritos Locos Taco. As it turns out, someone—specifically, Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers—has already stolen a base in the World Series, so the deal is on!

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And, if you’re not already a member of Taco Bell’s Rewards Program, you’ll also get a free taco when you sign up. That’s two free tacos for those following along at home.

The fine print

Unlike some freebies, you don’t have to make any other purchases at Taco Bell in order to claim your free taco. The promotion is open to residents of all 50 states and Washington, D.C. only. There is a limit of one (1) free Doritos Locos Taco per person or registered account (though the offer excludes Doritos Locos Tacos Supreme).

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The giveaway lasts from 12 am to 11:59 pm local time on October 28, 2020, and will only be available while supplies last. And while the World Series giveaway isn’t available when you order food for delivery, you can still order online or via their mobile app, or just walk in (with your mask on) and order in person.

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5 innovations shaping the future of train travel

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What will the future of public transport look like? The major projects being planned today, such as the UK’s HS2 high-speed rail network, aren’t fundamentally different to what’s been built over the last 30 years. Maglev trains are largely confined to niche projects in China. Hyperloop remains an unproven glimmer in Elon Musk and Richard Branson’s eyes.

The likes of HS2 can deliver considerable improvements in network capacity but through incremental changes in conventional designs, from tracks to train bogies. Yet while the rail sector is warily slow at introducing new technologies due to the long time it takes to plan and build new lines and vehicles, there are a number of technical innovations in development that, if adopted, could make the trains of tomorrow both faster and safer.

[Read: What audience intelligence data tells us about the 2020 US presidential election]

1. Mechatronic switches

Diagram of a railway junction.
Switch and crossing system. Saikat Dutta, Author provided

Switch or points failure is responsible for nearly 20% of the total delay experienced by passengers on UK railways. This occurs when there’s a problem with the mechanism that enables trains to move from one track to another at a junction. Despite the frequency of the problem, the technology used in these mechanisms has hardly changed since the first design nearly 200 years ago.

But a collaborative research project has explored radical alternative technologies. For example, one innovative design called Repoint has three independent motors that can lift and shift the rails, relying on gravity to lock them back into place and providing redundancy in case one or two of the motors fail.

This contrasts with existing switches that slide the rails sideways and can get stuck midway, so have costly additional layers of sensors and protocols to mitigate the risk. The next-generation “mechatronic” switches aim to work faster, improve ease of maintenance and reduce the risk of failure through their backup motors.

2. Active suspension

Conventional suspension systems restrict a train’s speed as it travels on curved track, limiting how many trains you can run on a route. These suspension systems essentially work like large springs, automatically changing the distance between the wheels and the carriage as the train travels over uneven ground to make the ride feel smoother.

Active suspension systems are now being developed which introduce new sensors, actuators and controllers to more precisely alter the distance between wheels and carriage. This offers improved ride comfort and enables the train to travel round curves with greater speed and stability. This can be combined with systems to actively tilt the train as it rounds the corner, offering increased benefits.

Diagram of two trains from front
Active tilting, steering and suspension compared to traditional tilting train. Saikat Dutta, Author provided

3. Actively steering

In a conventional wheelset, both wheels are interlocked and connected with a fixed axle, preventing any relative rotation between them. When a train enters a curve or a divergent route at a junction, it must slow down to ensure the wheels are guided over the track and to prevent unwanted vibration of the wheels.

Railway researchers are now developing independently rotating wheels to include a separate actuation mechanism that can help steer the wheelsets on the curved route.

4. Active pantograph

High-speed electric trains need to maintain good contact with the overhead powerlines via the pantograph that sits on top of the vehicle. On the UK mainline, pantograph height usually varies by about 2m to secure the connection in different areas such as in tunnels, level crossings and bridges.

Researchers are starting to develop active pantographs that have their height and the induced vibration involved in power transfer controlled by an actuator. These active pantographs can improve the contact force and eliminate contact loss problems due to rapid changes in the overhead line height and other environmental disturbances (such as wind).

5. Virtual coupling

The number of trains that can run on a route (and so the capacity of the line) depends in part on the signaling system. Most railways use a fixed-block system, which divides the tracks into sections. Only one train at a time can be in each section so there has to be a significant gap between the trains.

But some railways are now starting to use a moving-block signaling system, which determines the necessary gap between trains based on the distance it takes for them to come to a stop in an emergency. But this gap could be reduced further if it’s based on real time information about what the train in front is doing and where it will stop if it hits the brakes.

This is known as “virtual coupling” and involves the two trains communicating information about their changing speed and brake activity so that they can decrease or increase the gap between them to the minimum necessary. With shorter gaps between them, more trains could run safely on a route, increasing overall network capacity.

Two diagrams of train on a track.
Virtual coupling system compared to moving block system. Saikat Dutta, Author provided

With such innovations, we could introduce trains that are able to adapt to the changing characteristics of the line in order to maintain high speeds throughout most of the journey and avoid those annoying stop-start periods of travel. Widening and disrupting the boundaries of current railway designs in this way would enable us to create a next-generation network with a step-change in performance that is fit for the 21st century – without any need for expensive levitating trains or vacuum tubes.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation by Saikat Dutta, Research Fellow in Railway Mechatronics Systems, University of Birmingham under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published October 24, 2020 — 13:00 UTC

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Save on Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S6, Pokémon Sword and Shield, and more this weekend

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Dell G5 15

  • $1,200
  • $1,640
  • 27% off

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Dell’s capable G5 15 usually costs $1,640, but it’s $1,200 right now. That’s a great deal for a gaming laptop with a six-core Intel Core i7-10750H processor, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB NVMe SSD, a 1080p display with a 144Hz refresh rate, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 with Max-Q graphics chip.

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