Tony Hsieh on Stage: How Do You Institutionalize Return on Love?

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Hsieh shared his efforts to maximize collisions, community and co-learning in downtown Las Vegas.  By Jessica Stillman (Editor, Women 2.0)

One of Hsieh's fave quotes on branding is "a great brand is a story that never stops unfolding." So where could the Zappos brand go after it was acquired by Amazon? For a long time, Hsieh just explained from the Women 2.0 stage, the company wasn't so sure.

But then the company decided to build a new campus and solicited suggestions from employees for Zappos' new digs. What was their number one suggestion? Doggy daycare (which even came in ahead of human daycare), along with hundreds upon hundreds of other ideas. Hsieh and his team quickly realized that no campus could include all of them (and even if it could the result would be incredibly insular). But maybe, they figured, it didn't have to.

Thus was Hsieh's Downtown Project born. The project aims to make Downtown Las Vegas a place where everything you need for life, work and play is all within walking distance, as well as turning the area into the co-working capital of the world. Through funding everything from boutique clothing shops and kids' tree houses to massive art installations and tech startups, Hsieh's initiative wants to maximize collisions, community and co-learning, he explained. Hsieh also showed a video highlighting the Life Is Beautiful festival recently held downtown, attracting 60,000 people over two days and exposing those visitors to the area.

Want to learn more about what Hsieh is aiming for? He recommend a book entitled Triumph of the City about what helps cities thrive, including density, street-level activity, and a culture of openness, collaboration and creativity. It turns out, he explained, that the insights he learned about creating a collaborative and creative atmosphere at Zappos, can also apply to building such an environment in the larger community. These insights have allowed the Downtown Project to turn downtown Vegas into something like a perpetual "mini TED conference," according to Hsieh.

Hsieh went on to talk about some of the innovative metrics the Downtown Project is using to measure its progress toward these goals, including "Return on Collisions," calculated by figuring out how many hours people are out and about and available for serendipitous collisions per year.

Jessica Stillman (@entrylevelrebel) is an editor at Women 2.0 and a freelance writer with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She writes a daily column for Inc.com, contributes regularly to Forbes and has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist, among others.