The New Cool

When a young teacher stands by his doorway on the first day of school, awaiting the arrival of chattering bundles of unlimited energy, he is probably thinking about what he will do first. Does he high five? Ask a question? A simple good morning?


A new teacher is always taught that the tone for the rest of the year is always established on the first day. If he is too nice day one, everyone´s “friend,” good luck at handling the homework protest that will erupt after the honeymoon phase is over week two. If he can assert that he is a team leader, who cares, listens, and knows how to play tag, followed by assigning Macbeth annotations for homework, the year will feel happier for everyone.


¨Setting the tone¨ has roots in basic human psychology. If we know what we are walking into, we can adapt to the situation, and hopefully, survive. When we misread a new environment and have no prior knowledge about it, the chances of a misstep are high. As adults, we see it in the workplace: everything is going smoothly, everyone is playing nicely, and then the new hire arrives from the big city and misses the fact that they just moved to a town, population 5,000. ¨Where is the nearest Starbucks?” is met with cold blank stares. Big City has a lot to offer, but it is lost because she missed the cultural cues.


Digital places are our new schools and businesses. Moderators at Kudos see the new kid, fresh to social media, come galloping onto the app and heart-emoji someone´s Outfit of the Day and the goats in pajamas. And then they enter the Art group and tell someone their stick figure is dumb. The culture our users have created in the app is generally very supportive and kind; a comment like this does not go unnoticed. Feedback might come in the form of what this user said: ¨Don't bully people because you don't know what's going on in their life.¨


When our team at Kudos met to discuss our app´s culture, our observations were all quite similar: we knew that our kids valued a supportive culture, but we felt that new users weren´t given the heads-up on how things roll in Kudos land. Remember getting in trouble with a teacher on the playground when you were a kid, and it was a rule no one had told you? What, no running on the basketball court? It feels like being hit over the head by something that you can´t see. We might expect our users to be kind in our app, but what kindness sounds and looks like can be a new learning experience for some kids.


For this, we decided to call in the experts. We asked the kids in the app to tell us what makes a great Kudos user. The responses were inspiring, as you see from a handful of them: ¨Be kind bc kind is the new cool. (I didn’t make that up btw)¨;¨Not being afraid to show their pride¨; ¨Being super duper supportive to everyone so they feel safe!¨


We then compiled the long list of responses and came up with this list of 5 core values of our Kudos culture.


  • Be Kind. I will find ways to make someone’s day better.
  • Be Myself. I will be proud of what makes me unique. I will own my creativity.
  • Be Curious. I will try to understand other perspectives by asking questions, listening and reflecting.
  • Be Safe. I will not share personal information like my phone number, address, email or usernames.
  • Take a Stand. I will support others to prevent and stop bullying. I will tell a trusted adult if it occurs.


We’re now inviting our users to share their art based on each one of these values. It is insightful to see how everyone views each of these values slightly differently. The shape that this pledge takes, the culture within the app, will shift as kids and the world outside continue to constantly redefine themselves. The beauty of a digital culture is that nothing is set in stone.