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Benjamin Hubert: Designing for all

Benjamin Hubert, founder of the design company LAYER, believes that design should be for the people, not for galleries. LAYER’s vision is to solve everyday problems in the best way possible. For example, a client approached them about a new wheelchair. This was a company with no relationship to design—they just needed a better wheelchair. According to Hubert, “clients approach us because they want a functional and affordable product that’s also beautiful.” 

Hubert founded the LAYER start-up in 2010 after working for a large agency for a few years. He recommends to all founders of start-up companies that they work for someone else first. That way you learn about all the aspects of a business.

The benefits of bilingualism

According to CNN, learning a new language can rewire your brain and help stave off Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Ellen Bialystok, from York University in Toronto, Canada, found that bilinguals are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease four to five years later than their monolingual counterparts.

When it comes to the beneficial effects bilingualism has on the brain, education levels do not matter. In fact, the most profound effects were found in people who were illiterate and had no education. Bilingualism was their only real source of mental stimulation, and as they got older, it provided protection for their aging brains.

More experience with bilingualism leads to greater cognitive changes. The earlier you start being bilingual, and the more intense your bilingual experience is on a daily basis, the more changes happen in your brain.

Our changing perception of time

According to Vox, there's very little scientific evidence to suggest our perception of time changes as we age. However, people consistently report that the past felt longer.

There are a few different ways to study how we perceive time. Scientists can look at time estimation, for instance: people’s ability to estimate how long an activity took to complete. They can also look at time awareness: the feeling that time "flies" when we are having fun, but then slows to a crawl when we do something boring. Finally, there's time perspective: the sense of a past, present, and future as constructed by our memories.

Moral sacrifice is subjective

Perhaps you've heard of the so-called trolley problem, also known as the train problem. The old philosophical question goes like this:

There is a trolley barreling down the tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks, therefore saving the five people. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options:

  1. Do nothing and allow the trolley to kill the five people on the main track.
  2. Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.

What is the right thing to do?

Success can be an addiction

The Atlantic reports that though success isn’t a conventional medical addiction, it has addictive properties for many people. Praise stimulates the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is connected to addictive behaviors. Success addiction is known to have a negative effect on human relationships. People choose to travel for business on anniversaries, and they miss their children’s important milestones while working long hours. Some even decide to focus on their careers and forgo marriage.

Many scholars, such as the psychologist Barbara Killinger, have found that people are willing to overwork to keep getting "hits" of success at the expense of their well-being. They shelve a much-needed rest from work and time with family and friends until after a project, or a promotion, but that day never arrives.

The best age to found a startup

Well-known entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg were in their early twenties when they launched their highly successful companies. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) explores whether these famous cases reflect a general pattern.

The HBR team analyzed the age of all business founders in the United States in recent years and found that the average age of entrepreneurs at the time they founded their companies is 42. In software startups, the average age is 40, and younger founders are common. However, young people are less common in other industries such as oil and gas or biotechnology, where the average age is closer to 47.

HBR discovered that among the top 0.1% of startups based on growth in their first five years, the founders started their companies when they were, on average, 45 years old. Evidence points to entrepreneurial performance rising sharply with age before starting to drop in the late fifties.

A woman in the whisky business

Bessie Williamson (1910-1982) was a woman in a man's industry. She ran a whisky distillery in Scotland at a time when women weren't managers in any business, let alone the whisky business. But Williamson worked her way up from a typist to the owner and CEO of the Laphroaig [lah-FROYG] distillery, becoming a well-respected boss and highly successful manager. She brought Laphroaig distillery through difficult times during WWII and began a far-reaching modernization process before retiring.

Williamson was known in the business as the "Islay Labour Exchange" because she found a job for almost everyone who needed one. And if workers didn't have a pension plan, she kept them on well past the usual age of retirement. Her employees were always first in her mind, even in the hard times.

The importance of close bonds

According to The New York Times, research shows that close friendships are necessary for optimal health and well-being. A key to close friendship is intimacy, and a big part of intimacy is being able to be fully yourself and be understood by others.

If close friendships really are vital to people’s well-being, one might assume we would be able to make them easily. However, it turns out that the opposite may be true: close friendships are important to people because they are so difficult to form.

According to John Cacioppo, a social neuroscientist, humans evolved a natural bias against easily making friends because, in the past, avoiding an enemy was more important than making a friend. If a person mistook a friend for a foe, then that would not endanger their survival, but mistaking a foe for a friend could lead to death.

Task: Sell a crowdfunded item

Crowdfunding campaigns have been getting more and more popular in recent years. 

They can be great for small groups of people starting a new business, or smaller companies raising money for new products.

A popular crowdfunding website is Kickstarter. You can find all kinds of interesting products and services—who knows, maybe you could discover the next big thing! If you'd like to find something more unusual, I recommend the “Food & Craft” section.

Start by finding a featured product on Kickstarter's homepage.

Next, try to "sell" this product/service to your teacher. What are the positive selling points of this product/service? What's attractive about it?

The benefits of living abroad

According to studies commissioned by the Harvard Business Review (HBR), international experiences can enhance creativity, reduce racial bias, and promote career success.

HBR set out to examine how international experiences can transform a person’s sense of self, specifically self-concept clarity, or the extent to which someone’s understanding of themself is clearly defined, and consistent.

Self-concept clarity has been linked to multiple benefits, such as psychological well-being, the ability to cope with stress, and job performance.