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A kindness currency for a digital age

We’ve cracked the code on making it super easy and fun to express gratitude throughout the work day.

Photo of Blake Bos

Written by

The key to helping people express gratitude in the workplace is lowering the barrier to do so. Communication preferences continue to evolve and shift to the digital realm. This is where authentic and timely appreciation are hardest. Utilizing the ability to create chatbots for today's group chat platforms we've created a facilitator (HeyTaco!) for expressing gratitude. Our kindness currency, tacos, and the mechanics behind it give people a fun way to express gratitude when they're naturally inspired to do so. 

Idea Title

A kindness currency everyone loves---Tacos!

How the Idea will inspire the experience and expression of gratitude within an organization.

Gratitude and appreciation can be socially awkward. It also can feel like you're being talked down to when someone/something tells you to do more of it or explain it. We inspire individuals to express more gratitude by making it less socially awkward, convenient, and fun to do so.

Who are you innovating for?

Our mission is to bring people together by inspiring people to show more appreciation and celebrate together. By doing so your organization performs at a higher level and you feel more engaged at work with your colleagues. The benefactors are you and the group of people you're communicating with (i.e. company, team, colleagues).

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

HeyTaco! has customers of all shapes and sizes, from music bands and small nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies. Our focus isn't on organizations, but instead on teams and/or groups of teams. We believe tools to facilitate gratitude are only successful when they're built to be adopted and scaled at the individual level. Our product is not well suited for cultures where envy is strong or geographies where a taco isn't commonplace. Although, we do have customers who aren't native english speakers.

How you envision the Idea being introduced to your selected organization?

Our idea is best introduced from the bottom up instead of being implemented as a program from the top down. We've seen the most success when it spreads naturally throughout an organization from person to person, and then from team to team. Ideally, we'd want to find a team lead to start giving tacos to their team, and see if it starts to spread on it's own from there. If an executive is interested, they're a great person to have start giving tacos to help it spread. We try to avoid teams where there's little buy-in from leadership.

What obstacles, if any, do you foresee in implementing this Idea, and how would they be overcome?

Organizations use a variety of communication mediums at work. We've seen success when communication is concentrated in one medium, but it's challenging if an organization isn't communicating in the same place. Another challenge is the fun nature of our branding. Sometimes HeyTaco! will devolve into more of a game, where tacos are given for no reason. It'll take time to figure out how to increase the seriousness without impacting the light-heartedness of the brand.

How will you test and prototype your solution?

Prototyped several solutions using former employer as testing environment, and are currently iterating with over 1,000 teams using Slack and HeyTaco!.

What immediate next steps will you take if you receive an implementation grant.

The funds will help us mitigate the pressure to raise investor funding. We believe VC funding creates pressure to build top-down enterprise solutions that greatly diminish the odds of product success. Our main motivation for this grant is to work with the Greater Good Science Center and IDEO on improving our product. Slack is growing and our top ranking gives us access to help well over 5000 new people every month. We believe that's an incredible opportunity to positively impact workplaces.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Operating Concept / Startup: You have fulfilled the stages of testing, undertaken a full scale roll-out, and are currently operating this concept/idea as a business.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

Out of frustration working on an internal 360 feedback and talent development tool for an HR team. Story here:

Tell us about yourself

We're a two person team. Doug Dosberg is the founder and I'm the cofounder. We met each other at our former jobs and worked together on HR technology and financial products. It was evident we worked well as 2-person complimentary design team. We also enjoy eachother's company and have a ton of fun working together.

Where are you / your team located?

We're remote, I'm in Seattle WA and Doug is in Washington D.C.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure


Company / Organization Name

HeyTaco! LLC


Tell us about your experience

Doug is a full stack developer and digital product designer. My background is in user experience design, product management, and investment research. Doug Dosberg: Blake Bos:

Please describe, in detail, how you will test and get feedback on your concept.

Doug and I are open to prototyping but find prototyping is best done with a live build in our case. Paper prototyping and things like clickable wireframes (basalmiq, adobe xd, etc..) have been less useful. Since our product is all about social interaction at scale, it's difficult to see if we've created a viable solution unless we release it into a team. It is useful to test prototypes to see if a solution is usable though. Generally we'll sketch out an experience a few different ways and pick one to do a very light weight build. Then we'll deploy that with a few teams to get real-world feedback and rapidly iterate until we're satisfied. Sometimes that means throwing everything away and not doing a project. If it goes well, we'll do a product wide release and announcement. Then learn as much as possible before our next iteration. Specifically we try to identify the higher level "what" a particular feature is helping people do. Then decide if that feature is best for that.

Please describe specifically how you plan to scale your idea. What are the key next steps you will take, and how will those steps inform the evolution and growth of your concept?

Our vision has always been to build HeyTaco! so it can be adopted from the bottom up. No one wants to be told what to use or do. That's true at home, and it is becoming increasingly true at work. We think the future of workplace software will take place at the team level, and the days of enterprise-wide implementation will become a rare occurence. That's why we're building HeyTaco! so it can naturally spread throughout an organizations. Right now we're refining that model in Slack, and then we'll try to replicate it in other communication mediums. In terms of scaling gratitude practices. We plan to build upon our core social interaction (taco giving) into more meaningful social interactions. You can see early evidence of this with our Team Rewards and Gift Giving. Team Rewards allow people to pool their tacos together to get something for each other. The stories about these shared experiences have been a lot of fun to hear about. Gift Giving builds upon the tacos you give by unlocking special abilities that inspire people to show more heart-felt expressions. Depending on your definition, that could be expressions of appreciation, recognition, and/or gratitude. Think of gift-giving as a skill-building progression. You start out with a basic ability to give tacos and as you get better at that you can do more with the gifts you unlock.

As we have seen in the Challenge, there is a tension between authentic expressions of gratitude and mandatory gratitude. How does your idea inspire truly authentic expressions of gratitude versus mandated ones?

We've found triggering people to show gratitude in a mandatory way is futile. Instead gratitude is something that people have to work into. Instead HeyTaco! uses environmental queues to trigger people to express themselves when their motivation is highest. At first this is usually in the form of recognition. But over time people start to show more heart-felt appreciation and gratitude.

Gratitude often thrives when opportunities for connection are created. How will your concept create new opportunities for human connection?

Right now opportunities for connection are created due to information transparency, team rewards, and a competitive dynamic. Since you can see what everyone on your team is getting tacos for, you start to learn about and meet new people. The Taco is also a great conversation starter in itself. That silliness is great at creating opportunities for new interactions. We have work to do with leaderboards on making them less competitive and more collaborative.

Who (specifically) will benefit from your concept, and how they will interact with it? What design considerations have you included to ensure easy and intuitive interactions? 

The person we design for is anyone who is part of a group with a common shared purpose. Specifically we focus on people who are part of a group motivated by a business need. Our first interaction is focused on individuals who are passionate about the well-being of their group. Most times that's someone in a leadership role who is trying it out for the people they are responsible for. Our design considerations are centered around convenience and ease of use. On first use, this is accomplished by being able to add and use our application within minutes. A big departure from the typical schedule a demo process. For continued use, we try to keep most interactions in the communication medium. This adds convenience and makes it so people can express appreciation even if motivation is low.

Please describe how you intend to use the prize funding, if selected as a Top Idea. Be specific.

We're a small team of two and any additional funds go towards building out our team and product development. Specifically these funds would be put towards raising our cash balance for hiring needs: contractor or full-time. Our main motivation for this challenge is to work more closely with IDEO and the Greater Good Science Center. That relationship is far more valuable in our eyes.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Debbie Chang

I think a good selling point of this idea is targeting the social barriers that may stand between a person and the gratitude they wish to demonstrate to someone else; I agree sometimes the timing and the context of an interpersonal relationship may make people think twice about how exactly to thank someone, which may deter from expressions of workplace gratitude.

Photo of Blake Bos

Thanks Debbie! Couldn't agree more :). :taco: :taco: From our chats we've found the silliness of the taco emoji helps to emotionally disarm and lower the social barrier. It'll be a lot of fun learning more about those social barriers, especially in the context of different cultures.

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