Archive | April 2014

Work Smarter with Aplus Plastic Box Co

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HOW TO DESIGN YOUR WORKSPACE TO ENCOURAGE POSITIVE EMOTIONS AT WORK

WE’RE TOLD TO BE PASSIONATE ABOUT OUR WORK–SO WHY LEAVE EMOTIONS OUT OF THE WORKPLACE? HERE’S HOW TO TEND TO YOUR EMPLOYEES’ EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING.

But research is now showing that emotions can have an effect on employee and company success. Emotions are, after all, a vital part of who we are and what we bring to the workplace.

If we’re happy, relaxed, and focused, we’re more willing to be flexible, collaborative, and look forward to new challenges. We can overcome negative feelings that can get in the way of productive work. When we’re feeling depressed, unappreciated, or stressed, however, the quality of our work and how we interact…

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Work Smarter with Aplus Plastic Box Co

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HOW TO DESIGN YOUR WORKSPACE TO ENCOURAGE POSITIVE EMOTIONS AT WORK

WE’RE TOLD TO BE PASSIONATE ABOUT OUR WORK–SO WHY LEAVE EMOTIONS OUT OF THE WORKPLACE? HERE’S HOW TO TEND TO YOUR EMPLOYEES’ EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING.

But research is now showing that emotions can have an effect on employee and company success. Emotions are, after all, a vital part of who we are and what we bring to the workplace.

If we’re happy, relaxed, and focused, we’re more willing to be flexible, collaborative, and look forward to new challenges. We can overcome negative feelings that can get in the way of productive work. When we’re feeling depressed, unappreciated, or stressed, however, the quality of our work and how we interact with others can suffer.

Organizations have long looked at the physical well-being of employees: They’ve spent money on physical wellness programs, given gym discounts, and encouraged trends like walking meetings. And this focus on physical wellness makes sense: worldwide, rates of heart and lung disease, diabetes, and obesity are rising sharply, and stress has become a $300 billion global epidemic. The financial impact is clear to an employer.

But still, many haven’t considered taking a more holistic view of well-being–one that includes our emotional well-being–and how this affects a company’s overall performance.

Steelcase just completed a two year study of well-being in the workplace in which it found that, to foster a workforce of employees who are productive, collaborative, and creative, organizations need to consider much more than just the physical health of their employees. Rather, they need to take a holistic approach to well-being, understanding the emotional and cognitive, as well as physical needs of employees.

The combined emotional and physical toll of disengaged workers can lead to unproductive, and frankly, from a health perspective, expensive employees. It’s when people are in environments that promote positive emotions that they’re able to do their best work.

Companies can have a profound impact on shaping emotions–for better or worse–simply through the design of their office. When the physical environment impacts how an employee feels–and therefore, performs at work–workspace design becomes a lot more imperative to the bottom line.

So how can organizations create environments that support positive emotions and help build productive, collaborative, and creative workers? Here are three ways:

1. ENCOURAGE A SENSE OF BELONGING

Feeling connected to others fulfills a basic need for belonging. Feeling useful to others is a powerful way to generate positive emotions, and relationships anchor people’s commitment to an organization, its brand, and its purpose.

Having close friends and positive interactions at work significantly increases engagement. In today’s increasingly mobile world, alternative and mobile work strategies must be intentionally crafted so that employees don’t lose their sense of belonging to an organization and still have meaningful connections to others–no matter where they are based.

Incorporate the following specific elements into a workspace to profoundly impact an optimistic sense of belonging:

  • Create welcoming entrances with visible hosting for people who don’t work there daily
  • Offer video-conferencing configurations that allow remote participants to easily see content and hear participants
  • Provide ample and well-equipped spaces for all workers to work individually or in teams
  • Design informal areas for socialization, both in person and virtually

2. HELP PEOPLE SEE THEIR WORTH

It’s natural to want to understand how you impact and contribute to an overall organization. When people feel a sense of purpose, it can contribute to building a resilient enterprise based on trust and collaboration of employees. People need–and look for–a sense of meaning to know that their work is not going to waste.

To help cultivate a sense of meaning in the workplace organizations should:

  • Create spaces that give people choices and empower them to work alone or together–however and wherever they work best
  • Include spaces beyond the lobby that reinforce the purpose, history, and culture of the company
  • Use technology to display real-time information that can help employees feel connected and informed

3. ENCOURAGE ENGAGEMENT BY PROMOTING MINDFULNESS

When workers are truly engaged they are fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus; they have full involvement in the task at hand and a true enjoyment of what they’re doing. However, multitasking and cognitive overload often prohibit people from finding this level of focus.

To help people fully engage and focus, organizations should:

  • Create spaces that help people connect with others one-on-one and eye-to-eye, not just through their technology devices
  • Design areas that allow workers to control their sensory stimulation
  • Offer places that are calming, through the materials, textures, colors, lighting, and views
  • Create areas where people can connect with others without distractions

For many companies, creating a culture shift from stifling emotion to embracing and supporting it can begin with focusing on space and realizing that the decisions you make affect things far beyond real estate and facilities costs.

This is of course just one aspect of what organizations can do to support emotions at work, but it’s one piece of the puzzle that’s often overlooked and sometimes easily fixed.

Beatriz Arantes is a psychologist and senior researcher at Steelcase, a leading provider of workplace settings and solutions for companies all over the world. She has recently delved into the necessary conditions for worker well-being, which you can read about here.

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Brand Loyalty with Aplus Plastic Box Co

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Building Identity Loyalty Through Social Media

—Wharton: Knowledge For Action

THE RUNDOWN

All brands want loyal customers but building that community can be challenging. Forward-looking companies can achieve this marketing nirvana by incorporating Identity Loyalty principles into their social media strategies. This is the philosophy of Wharton Associate Professor Dr. Americus Reed and his Persona Partners co-founder, Samuel Botts. Here they help lay the framework, emphasizing the power of social media as a means for brands to communicate their values and for consumers to help affect a brand’s narrative.

Think of a brand you fervently believe in, a brand you use to express yourself and one you would recommend to friends. When consumers deeply connect with a brand’s values in this way, we call that “Identity Loyalty.” But reaching this marketing utopia where customers ally with your brand does not happen by accident; iconic brands maximize identity loyalty strategically.

With today’s advancements in digital marketing, savvy firms can best create this connection and maintain it if they systematically build Identity Loyalty principles into their strategies. In this piece, we outline how to reinforce Identity Loyalty purposefully by using social media.

A brand’s identity should be a clear, concise narrative that defines the brand’s values and ideals. It should differentiate the brand, and if the narrative is sufficiently compelling, it can attract a profitable number of devoted consumers. In brand management, reaching this point when the brand and the target consumer become one is like achieving marketing nirvana. The consumer is no longer a patron but rather an evangelist for the brand, embarking on a self-initiated mission to build the brand through promotion and defend it against attack. Highly valued companies such as Apple, Air Jordan, Nike, Harley-Davidson and Ford have accomplished this.

Forward-looking companies can achieve this as well by incorporating social media, an important but woefully underused and misunderstood tool, into their strategies for the creation, development and maintenance of Identity Loyalty in their customers. But before brand managers should even consider social media strategies, they need to create what we refer to as an Identity Loyalty framework. This begins with a positioning statement and identifies four crucial elements: the brand’s purpose (its “why”), the ideals and values it represents, the psychographic and behavioral attributes of its target consumer and the value proposition offered by the brand to those who become identity loyalists.

“In brand management, reaching this point when the brand and the target consumer become one is like achieving marketing nirvana.”

This framework is then used to vet not only the message but also the strategic use of any digital platform. It helps firms stay true to brand values and deliver consistent marketing that reinforces those values, cementing them in the minds of consumers. Whether it’s through Google+, Google Hangouts, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr or a firm’s own social media application, consumers get the same message with laser clarity, leaving no room for confusion.

Commit to authenticity

Thanks to social media, consumers can now easily share information about themselves—their shopping habits, travel preferences, hobbies, religious and political views and more. When used intelligently, social platforms offer brands a creative new means to connect with consumers. Still, your brand’s identity and persona must be authentic for long-term Identity Loyalty to be sustainable. The identity must represent the ideals and values in which your brand is rooted. Social media then becomes a channel used to communicate those ideals and values to form authentic identity connections with consumers. For example, in its short time in business, Warby Parker has successfully used Facebook and Twitter to brand itself as a socially responsible company. Its efforts have spurred interest in and admiration of its ideals among consumers.

Communicate your brand identity

When at all possible, a brand’s identity should be defined by the brand itself. This is not always the case, though. Some of the world’s most successful companies have ended up in the crosshairs of competitors. Apple did this to Microsoft with its “Get a Mac” campaign and during the 2008 presidential election, Obama did this to his opponent when he successfully aligned McCain’s administration with the incumbent’s, which had woefully low approval ratings. (Politicians are brands too, especially at the presidential level.) Conversely, when brand managers proactively and consistently define the identity of their brand, it’s tougher for competitors and detractors to shine an unfavorable light on it because consumers already have a positive association. And because that association is authentic, it can be used to defend the brand.

Invite consumers to co-develop the brand identity

The relationship between a brand and its customers grows stronger when both parties contribute to its success. Brand managers can make quantum leaps in building a community of identity loyalists by letting consumers co-develop the brand’s identity. Here is where social media can help. In fact, when executed correctly, the commitment to authenticity becomes ingrained in the execution. Also implicit is communication of the brand ideals because these are being developed or evolved in partnership with consumers. Change.org, a social media site started in 2007, has garnered quite a bit of momentum in this area. The platform encourages consumers to speak up and urge brands to change practices that they find troublesome. While some companies consider this a rather adversarial means of customer engagement, forward-thinking companies embrace it as an opportunity to collaborate with consumers and strengthen their brands.

At the core of any Identity Loyalty strategy, regardless of the social platform used for execution, is a commitment to authenticity. Social media can give brand managers a powerful means to communicate their brands’ values while also letting consumers help define brand narratives in an impactful way. The Identity Loyalty framework lets brand managers put Identity Loyalty principles at the forefront and maintain consistency in building deep and strong connections with their audiences.

              WRITTEN BY

Americus Reed II Ph.D.,

Samuel Botts, MBA

 

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Get Motivation with Plastic Storage Boxes

How To Motivate People – 4 Steps Backed By Science

how-to-motivate-people

Employees, spouses, kids — what does it take to get people motivated so you don’t have to nag them?

Motivation is powerful. It predicts success better than intelligence, ability, or salary.

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People:

When tested in national surveys against such seemingly crucial factors as intelligence, ability, and salary, level of motivation proves to be a more significant component in predicting career success. While level of motivation is highly correlated with success, importantly, the source of motivation varies greatly among individuals and is unrelated to success. – Bashaw and Grant 1994

I’ve covered persuasionleadership, improving habits and fightingprocrastination but what’s it take to get others to really give their best?

1) Stop Bribing Them

When actors would ask the great film director Alfred Hitchcock “What’s my motivation?” he would reply, “Your salary.”

Rewards definitely work.

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People:

Researchers find that perceived self-interest, the rewards one believes are at stake, is the most significant factor in predicting dedication and satisfaction toward work. It accounts for about 75 percent of personal motivation toward accomplishment. – Dickinson 1999

But as Dan Pink explains in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us there’s a problem with this equation:

Rewards just motivate people to get rewards.

When the rewards go away, people stop.

And if you want anything other than basic manual labor — if you want creative work or analytical work — rewards can actually backfire.

Dan Pink explains here:

Yes, you need to pay people but you should pay them just enough to take the issue of money off the table.

Pink shows that for complex tasks we’re more motivated by the need for autonomy, mastery and purpose.

So if rewards are problematic, what does work?

2) Make Them Feel Something

We often talk about people being motivated by revenge, jealousy, fear, passion… What do these have in common?

Yeah, they’re all feelings. And they’re all powerful motivators.

We rarely do anything we don’t feel and it’s very hard to resist things we do feel. It’s how your brain is structured.

Chip and Dan Heath sum up the research in their book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard:

Focus on emotions. Knowing something isn’t enough to cause change. Make people (or yourself) feel something.

We often think of the workplace as less emotional, more formal and serious. And as far as motivation goes, that’s a terrible idea.

What strategies really improve organizations? Research involving 400 people across 130 companies came up with a simple answer:

You must change individual behavior by addressing employee feelings.

Via Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard:

…the core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people, and behavior change happens in highly successful situations mostly by speaking to people’s feelings.

So what’s the most powerful thing for people to be feeling if you want to increase motivation?

3) Emphasize Progress

Harvard’s Teresa Amabile‘s research found that nothing is more motivating than progress.

Via The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work:

This pattern is what we call the progress principle: of all the positive events that influence inner work life, the single most powerful is progress in meaningful work; of all the negative events, the single most powerful is the opposite of progress—setbacks in the work. We consider this to be a fundamental management principle: facilitating progress is the most effective way for managers to influence inner work life.

A consistent amount of minor success produces much more happiness than occasionally bagging an elephant.

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People:

Life satisfaction is 22 percent more likely for those with a steady stream of minor accomplishments than those who express interest only in major accomplishments. – Orlick 1998

You want a steady amount of challenge, achievement and feedback:

decision-book

Progress is powerful. Encourage people to reflect on how far they’ve come and the good work they’ve done.

That’s not indulgent or fluffy — persistent people spend twice as long thinking about their accomplishments.

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People:

Comparing people who tend to give up easily with people who tend to carry on, even through difficult challenges, researchers find that persistent people spend twice as much time thinking, not about what has to be done, but about what they have already accomplished, the fact that the task is doable, and that they are capable of it. – Sparrow 1998

Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, explains how when we feel no progress, when we feel our work is futile, motivation dies:

So you made them feel something. You demonstrated progress. How do you keep the motivation flowing?

4) Form A Cult (Well, Almost)

Not literally. No funky robes or animal sacrifice necessary. But what elseunites a cult?

Shared belief. A story.

Venture Capitalist Ben Horowitz explains that the best work cultures are actually cults: a group unified by a provocative idea.

Via The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers:

In his bestselling book Built to Last, Jim Collins wrote that one of the things that long-lasting companies he studied have in common is a “cult-like culture.” …Collins was right that a properly designed culture often ends up looking cultlike in retrospect, but that’s not the initial design principle. You needn’t think hard about how you can make your company seem bizarre to outsiders. However, you do need to think about how you can be provocative enough to change what people do every day.

Looking at the research: What gives life meaning? Stories. What gives work meaning? StoriesWhat creates unity and morale? Stories:

Institutions that can communicate a compelling historical narrative often inspire a special kind of commitment among employees. It is this dedication that directly affects a company’s success and is critical to creating a strong corporate legacy…

In his book Leading Minds: An Anatomy Of Leadership Howard Gardner says “stories are the most powerful weapon in the leader’s literary arsenal.”

One of the reasons Lincoln was such a good president was because he was a great storyteller.

So how do you craft a good story that unites and motivates people?

Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, has an interesting theory:

People are engaged and motivated by why we do things more than what we do.

All motivating messages, from Apple’s marketing to Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, do the same thing: They start with “Why.”

Sum Up

Research actually shows nagging works:

Managers who are deliberately redundant as communicators move their projects forward more quickly and smoothly than those who are not.

But have you ever accomplished your best work because someone nagged you? I didn’t think so.

Here’s what to do instead:

  1. Stop Bribing
  2. Make Them Feel Something
  3. Emphasize Progress
  4. Start A Cult — (With A Story)

Good thinking starts with strong feelings.

Great Ideas and plastic storage solutions

How Our Brains Work When We Are Creative: The Science of Great Ideas

Ah, ideas. Who doesn’t want more great ideas? I know I do.

I usually think about ideas as being magical and hard to produce. I expect them to just show up without me cultivating them, and I often get frustrated when they don’t show up when I need them.

The good news is that it turns out cultivating ideas is a process, and one that we can practice to produce more (and hopefully better) ideas. On the other hand, often times great ideas can also just come to us whilst in the shower or in another relaxing environment.

First, let’s look at the science of the creative process.

How our brains work creatively

So far, science hasn’t really determined exactly what happens in our brains during the creative process, since it really combines a whole bunch of different brain processes. And, contrary to popular belief, it includes both sides of our brains working together, rather than just one or the other.

The truth is, our brain hemispheres are inextricably connected. The two sides of our brains are simply distinguished by their different processing styles.

The idea that people can be “right brain thinkers” or “left brain thinkers” is actually a myth that I’ve debunked before:

The origins of this common myth came from some 1960s research on patients whose corpus callosum (the band of neural fibers that connect the hemispheres) had been cut as a last-resort treatment for epilepsy. This removed the natural process of cross-hemisphere communication, and allowed scientists to conduct experiments on how each hemisphere worked in isolation.

Unless you’ve had this procedure yourself, or had half of your brain removed, you’re not right or left brained.

left right brain

We do have a rough idea of how these processes might work, though.

The three areas of the brain that are used for creative thinking

Among all the networks and specific centers in our brains, there are three that are known for being used in creative thinking.

The Attentional Control Network helps us with laser focus on a particular task. It’s the one that we activate when we need to concentrate on complicated problems or pay attention to a task like reading or listening to a talk.

The Imagination Network as you might have guessed, is used for things like imagining future scenarios and remembering things that happened in the past. This network helps us to construct mental images when we’re engaged in these activities.

The Attentional Flexibility Network has the important role of monitoring what’s going on around us, as well as inside our brains, and switching between the Imagination Network and Attentional Control for us.

You can see the Attentional Control Network (in green) and the Imagination Network (in red) in the image below.

brain

A recent review by Rex Junge and colleagues explained what they think might be happening in our brains when we get creative. It generally involves reducing activation of the Attentional Control Network. Reducing this partially helps us to allow inspiration in, and new ideas to form. The second part is increasing the activation of the Imagination and Attentional Flexibility Networks.

Research on jazz musicians and rappers who were improvising creative work on the spot showed that when they enter that coveted flow state of creativity, their brains were exhibiting these signs.

Producing new ideas is a process

The production of ideas is just as definite a process as the production of Fords; – James Webb Young

In his book, A Technique for Producing Ideas, James Webb Young explains that while the process for producing new ideas is simple enough to explain, “it actually requires the hardest kind of intellectual work to follow, so that not all who accept it use it.” 1

He also explains that working out where to find ideas is not the solution to finding more of them, but rather we need to train our minds in the process of producing new ideas naturally.

The two general principles of ideas

James describes two principles of the production of ideas, which I really like:

1. an idea is nothing more or less than a new combination of old elements

2. the capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on the ability to see relationships

This second one is really important in producing new ideas, but it’s something our minds need to be trained in:

To some minds each fact is a separate bit of knowledge. To others it is a link in a chain of knowledge. 1

To help our brains get better at delivering good ideas to us, we need to do some preparation first. Let’s take a look at what it takes to prime our brains for idea-generation.

Preparing to get new ideas

Since ideas are made from finding relationships between existing elements, we need to collect a mental inventory of these elements before we can start connecting them. James also notes in his book how we often approach this process incorrectly:

Instead of working systematically at the job of gathering raw material we sit around hoping for inspiration to strike us.

Preparing your brain for the process of making new connections takes time and effort. We need to get into the habit of collecting information that’s all around us so our brains have something to work with.

James offers a couple of ideas in his book, such as using index cards to organize and distill information into bite-sized pieces. Another suggestion is to use a scrapbook or file, and cross-index everything so you can find what you need, when you need it.

Bringing it all together

The hard work is mostly in gathering the materials your brain needs to form new connections, but you can do a lot to help your brain process all of this information, as well.

In a paper by neuroscientist Dr. Mark Beeman, he explains how we come to our final “aha” moment of producing an idea, by way of other activities:

A series of studies have used electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the neural correlates of the “Aha! moment” and its antecedents. Although the experience of insight is sudden and can seem disconnected from the immediately preceding thought, these studies show that insight is the culmination of a series of brain states and processes operating at different time scales.

I love the way that John Cleese talks about these aspects of creativity and how our minds work. He gave an excellent talk years ago about how our brains develop ideas and solve creative problems, wherein he discussed the idea of our brains being like tortoises. Here’s how I explained his theory when I wrote about it earlier this year:

The idea is that your creativity acts like a tortoise—poking its head out nervously to see if the environment is safe before it fully emerges. Thus, you need to create a tortoise enclosure—an oasis amongst the craziness of modern life—to be a safe haven where your creativity can emerge.

He offers a couple of useful ideas to help you achieve this, as well:

Set aside time

John says your thoughts need time to settle down before your creativity will feel safe enough to emerge and get to work. Setting aside time to think regularly can be a good way to train your mind to relax, eventually making this set time a safe haven for your tortoise mind to start putting together connections that could turn into ideas.

Find a creative space

Setting aside time regularly sends a signal to your brain that it’s safe to work on creative ideas. Finding a particular space to be creative in can help, too.

This is similar to the research on how the temperature and noise around us affects our creativity.

Let your brain do the work

This may be one of the hardest, yet most important parts of the process of producing ideas. I think James Webb Young says it best:

Drop the whole subject and put it out of your mind and let your subconscious do its thing. 1

Something else John Cleese talks about is how beneficial it can be to “sleep on a problem.” He recalls observing a dramatic change in his approach to a creative problem after having left it alone. He not only awoke with a perfectly clear idea on how to continue his work, but the problem itself was no longer apparent.

The trick here is to trust enough to let go.

As we engage our conscious minds in other tasks, like sleeping or taking a shower, our subconscious can go to work on finding relationships in all the data we’ve collected so far.

The A-Ha moment

James Webb Young explains the process of producing ideas in stages. Once we’ve completed the first three, which include gathering material and letting our subconscious process the data and find connections, he says we’ll come to an “Aha!” moment, when a great idea hits us:

It will come to you when you are least expecting it — while shaving, or bathing, or most often when you are half awake in the morning. It may waken you in the middle of the night. 1

How to have more great ideas

Understanding the process our brains go through to produce ideas can help us to replicate this, but there are a few things we can do to nudge ourselves towards having better ideas, too.

Criticize your ideas—don’t accept them immediately

The final stage of James’s explanation of idea production is to criticize your ideas:

Do not make the mistake of holding your idea close to your chest at this stage. Submit it to the criticism of the judicious.

James says this will help you to expand on the idea and uncover possibilities you might have otherwise overlooked.

Here it’s especially important to know whether you’re introverted or extroverted to criticize your ideas from the right perspective.

Overwhelm your brain—it can handle it

Surprisingly, you can actually hit your brain with more than it can handle and it will step up to the task.

Robert Epstein explained in a Psychology Today article how challenging situations can bring out our creativity. Even if you don’t succeed at whatever you’re doing, you’ll wake up the creative areas of your brain and they’ll perform better after the failed task, to compensate.

Have more bad ideas to have more good ones

It turns out that having a lot of bad ideas also means you’ll have a lot of good ideas. Studies have proved this at both MIT and the University of California Davis.

The sheer volume of ideas produced by some people means that they can’t help having ots of bad ones, but they’re likely to have more good ones, as well.

Seth Godin wrote about how important it is to be willing to produce a lot of bad ideas, saying that people who have lots of ideas like entrepreneurs, writers and musicians all fail far more often than they succeed, but they fail less than those who have no ideas at all.

He summed this up with an example that I love:

Someone asked me where I get all my good ideas, explaining that it takes him a month or two to come up with one and I seem to have more than that. I asked him how many bad ideas he has every month. He paused and said, “none.”

If you liked this post, share it on social media with Buffer. Oh and I think you might also like the article on “Why we have our best ideas in the shower: The science of creativity” and “10 of the most controversial productivity tips that actually work“. They build on a lot of ideas (d’uh!) from this article.

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