Creativity, shinrinyoku, webcare and history: Weekend Reads


Exercise your creativity
With their new book, Kelley brothers Tom and David from IDEO, want to help people, especially young ones, to boost their creativity. In their experience, it’s creativity that stands at the basis of great businesses, innovation and much more. However, many people struggle to be creative. In this HBR blog post, Tom and David share three creativity challenges that will help you practice being creative. If I could add a fourth, it would be: write a poem each day.

Did you do your shinrinyoku today
From an interesting article over at the BBC News website, I learned this awesome word: shinrinyoku. It’s Japanese for ‘forest bathing’, or spending time in nature. The article itself is about the health benefits of shinrinyoku, and how it can save the NHS in Britain ‘billions’, according to research cited by The Woodland Trust.
In any case: I love this word, and am fortunate that I get my daily dose of shinrinyoku while walking with our dog. How about you?

Lone wolf, fire fighter schizophrenic, or …?
In an awesome series of posts, one of my favorite writers on anything social, Rick Mans, is talking about the nine archetypes of webcare. Starting with personal experience stories, he not only explains the types, but also shows how you can improve your customer service if you recognize yourself. Must. Read.

The long reach of history
Progress and innovation? I’m a huge fan of those. But, I’m also a fan of history. Only by understanding where we come from, can we really move forward and make things better. In this brilliant article, the current battle lines from the American public debate are explained by looking at the colonial times. It seems the US is a land of eleven nations.

Weekend reads: playing = learning, social media behaviour and more


Play might be the best school
In many societies, children are encouraged to play less, and study more. But, argues evolutionary psychologist Peter Gray, this might actually prevent our children from being successful and happy. Playing, he says, is the best way for young persons to learn and master the skills that are most valued by the society they grow up in. His essay is certainly worth reading, and then you can think about how much you are allowing young people to play.

Why not blame social media (and porn) for teenager’s behaviour?
Social media, the peer pressure of being popular translated into likes, and the availability of internet porn, makes teenagers think differently about gender roles, and what relationships should look like. And the way they see it, is not very pretty. In this Vanity Fair article, the author reports many conversations she had with teenage girls, and the occasional boy. Along the way, social media and technology get blamed for the worrying behaviour of teenagers and their views on relationships and sex. But I think that is too easy. What children do for likes is not driven by social media or technology, it’s driven by an unbalanced view of the world. And I believe that parents play a role in balancing out that view. Not by censoring things that teens will view secretly anyway, but by emphasizing that other behaviour is wanted and cool, and giving children access to books and movies and apps and websites and clubs and spaces that actually celebrate and promote behaviour that we would love to see in our children. For the antidote to this article, maybe browse the inspirations in the OpenIDEO creative confidence challenge.

Invest in your people to boost innovation
There are a lot of companies, consultants and tools out there that can help you and your company to be more innovative. However, most if not all, of them assume one important thing: the people in your company have the knowledge, skill and minds to innovate. Without that, this HBR blog post argues, your company won’t be able to innovate at all.

Weekend reads: Amazon Reunion, Writer’s Block and more


Amazing Amazon reunion
It’s easy to forget that many things we think are facts, are actually culturally determined. And with that culture, also come preconceptions and prejudices. Especially when other cultures think about topics differently. The notion of right and wrong, good and bad is an integral part of that. So, no surprise that those of us with multiple heritages can struggle in finding their identity. Just like the main characters in this story of a son searching for his Amazonian mother.

Overcome that writer’s block
The summer vacation season is almost over in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means we all need to get back into the work routine. For some that means turning back to a writing routine. That can be difficult, so Ana Canhoto looked for some tips to restart writing, which resulted in a blog post that is a great start in itself.

Who’s that in the shadow?
Startups often have one founder that gets all the attention. But, she’s never alone. VC Jeff Bussgang shares why it’s so important to also focus on the co-founder who is not always in the spotlights.

Self-promotion: new Dad-to-be blog
In a small act of shameless self promotion, I wanted to share about my new blog. Yes, I’m going to be a dad, and that’s exciting. A whole new world opens itself up to me, and I’m sharing that on a new blog called The Neverending Miracle. It will have general thoughts, poetry and of course I’m sharing experiences and tips on all things a Dad-to-be gets confronted with. Like picking a name, and which design principles we followed for that. The post also contains a practical tool to help you pick your baby’s name.

Weekend reads: rapid transport, collaborative economy and much more


In this conversation disguised as an interview, Jermiah Owyang and Lora Cecere discuss the impact of the collaborative economy on supply chains. Not only is the ‘social’ element having an impact on product development and marketing, but changing consumer demands are also having their impact on design principles. One very positive point emerging is the principle to ‘build to last’.

Elon Musk likes the future to be better than the past. So, when big expensive infrastructure plans like the ‘high speed’ rail connection proposed in California, are not really an improvement, he gets a bit annoyed. And he’s right. The proposal lacks ambition and is over-expensive. Thus, he proposed his own solution: the Hyperloop, which he himself billed as a “cross between the Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table.”

A while ago, my friend Ana Canhoto suggested the speech young Pakistani girl Malala made at the UN. And she’s right: it’s an inspiring speech from someone who had an attempt on her life for simply being a girl and wanting to go to school. Read the full text of her speech.

One of the things that comes on the path of parents-to-be is to think about how to monitor a baby during sleep. It seems cool to have a camera which you can access from laptops and tablets wherever you are. But… you need to make sure it safe. Especially when it allows you to talk to your baby. Security issues can allow hackers to not only see what’s happening, but also to communicate with your baby. So, please, be sure it’s hacker-proof!

Weekend Reads week 24


The productivity is yet to come
There has been an explosion of innovation and new technologies in the last few years, with an enormous potential to make us more productive. However, that hasn’t really happened. Yet. In this post, Jeff Bussgang explains why.

“Jobs will be lost and taxpayers money, too!”
Two very familiar excuses from politicians who lack the courage and smarts to back an increase of renewable energy use. Two articles from this week showed that they are simply not true. Or at least: not completely.
Let’s start with jobs. It seems to me that replacing one energy source with another would maybe lead to job losses in the production of the replaced source, but production of the ‘new’ source will see jobs created. According to this article in the Guardian, to the tune of tens of thousands in the UK for wind energy alone. So, yes, jobs will be lost, but others will be created. Would be interesting to learn what the balance is.

Then secondly: renewable energy costs taxpayers money. Well, maybe it does. Producing 1 KW of energy from coal is cheaper than producing it from any of the renewable sources. To make ‘green’ energy more attractive for consumers, there are subsidies. For example Feed in Tariffs. And then comes this report from research done by the university of Stuttgart, commissioned by Greenpeace. In short, you could say that producing energy from coal:
1. kills people (22000 in Europe in 2010, in Poland more than road accidents);
2. costs taxpayers money when people sick due to pollution appear in the healthcare system;
3. costs businesses money in lost production: 5 million workdays lost in 2010.

So, next time someone tries to convince you that renewable energy costs jobs and taxpayers money, think again.

Are you asking the right questions to innovate?
In a new series with The Huffington Post, OpenIDEO co-founder Tom Hulme presents tips for innovation. His first tip: take time to frame the question. In the experience of Tom with OpenIDEO and more, the question is guiding all the efforts that come after that in the innovation process. So, not taking the time to frame the question, could lead to unwanted result.

Weekend reads week 23


How human are you?
When you are responsible for a brand, you must protect it from evil. And everything other than what you plan for the brand, must be seen as evil. At least, that is how some companies still think. And they’re learning the hard way that this stance doesn’t work. There are fans of your brand out there, who use your logo to show how much they care; and through all those wonderful channels we have in this digital age: share that. Do you really want to send them cease-and-desist letters? Or are you going to embrace them?

How much meetings will you not have next week?
Meetings can seriously damage productivity in your company. And it’s pretty sure that you are having too many. They may have once been the best available way to complete certain tasks in your organisation (sharing information, status reports, keeping in touch), but for many of these tasks that is no longer true. In this intriguing post, Rick Mans shares some great tips to boost productivity by killing (or drastically shortening) meetings.

Steal impact
Maybe this weekend, don’t read anything. Just look around and see how you can have positive impact on your community. UnLtd posted these 6 ideas for doing that, ‘stolen’ from OpenIDEO. Now, OpenIDEO has a huge collection of concepts for creating positive impact, that are yours to take and make real.

Stop competing on price to save your store
It has been said before, but I think it is an important message: brick-and-mortar retailers (big and small) are not being killed by e-commerce. They simply don’t know how to adjust to a new reality, other than to desperately try to keep customers by slashing prices. But that’s a battle they’re going to lose. If you want to keep your store in High street alive, you need to find a way to bring more value to consumers, and let them pay for that. Or you could, as this article argues, prove that you have added value for your suppliers. And there are more strategies suggested.

Another 6 ideas to steal from OpenIDEO

Prototype for international matching of bone marrow donors

Prototype for international matching of bone marrow donors

Last week, UnLtd posted 6 ideas to steal from OpenIDEO. And that’s a wonderful thing to do. As you know, I’m a big OpenIDEO fan, and in the almost three years of its existence, it has grown out to an enormous repository of great ideas to tackle social issues. All these ideas are in the public domain, free for you to implement. And improve your community. So, following the lead of UnLtd, here are my six ideas to steal from OpenIDEO.
Continue reading

Park your car in Düsseldorf, pay with your mobile. Or not.

Get your parkschein here, or pay by SMS

Get your parkschein here, or pay by SMS

Every initiative that aims to reduce the need for me to carry coins around, scores points with me immediately. Especially if it’s about paying for a parking ticket in cities. When I lived in Amsterdam a few years ago (is it really more than five already?), I used Parkline, a service that allows you to pay for parking via SMS. When you are a registered user, you get a card to display behind your windscreen, which is linked to your mobile number and your license plate. If you park your car in an area where you have to pay, you simply send a text to switch paying on, and when you leave you send an SMS to switch it off. You pay per minute, for as long as you have parked. No more worries about being back in time, or finding a fine on your car because you are ten minutes late. Or: finding you only have a Euro coin with you, while all you need is to pay 50 cents, because you only have a short errand to run. Surely, the Parkline service costs a bit in membership (10 Euro registration, and 2,50 per month), but that’s a low fee, and easy to earn back.

Anyway, when I heard that Oberbürgemeister Elbers had launched a pilot for paying for parking via SMS in Düsseldorf last week, I was happy. This sounds like something great, and I had to see and test it for myself. The system is super simple to use: you find a spot to park your car, check at the pay-machine which number you have to use, and send an SMS with your license plate to that number. If you don’t add anything else to the message, you will be registered (and charged) for 1 hour. You can influence that by adding a dot and a number after your license plate. For example ‘.30’ for 30 minutes. You can pay in increments of 15 minutes, with a maximum of the limit of the allowed parking time. In Düsseldorf, as in many cities, you can only park for a limited amount of time in certain areas. The ease of use is almost phenomenal. On top of that, you can also download the app, which works nicely. The amounts get charged to your mobile phone subscription, so I reckon that tourists from other countries won’t be able to use the service.
Continue reading

How the right frame can make statistics dangerous

Look left for the right frame in Hong Kong traffic

Look left for the right frame in Hong Kong traffic

Today I read two articles in which statistics played a key part. And what I read in them as well, is that framing the way the statistics are presented has a fundamental effect on the message. Now, this is nothing new. But with the ever proliferating free news sites, and the ease with which a journalist, or a random person, can become an authority these days, I think that what these two articles really meant to me today, was the need for the ability to think for yourself.
Continue reading

Weekend reads – week 21


Bad isn’t good anymore
Last week, a 7-year old interview with the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch was taking center stage in one of those internet firestorms. You’ve probably read all about it, and if not, that’s okay, too. Justice Mitchell saw in this particular firestorm another sign of something that the web is proving again and again: bad press has become bad press.
Tags: #business, #marketing, #cool

Waiting on… what exactly?
How long would you wait for service, before you switch to another provider? Well, apparently, that depends on several factors, as Ana Canhoto describes in this post reviewing research on frustration and waiting by the FHOM research group of the Universitat Rovira I Virgili.
Tags: #research, #customer-service, #waiting, #service

Do you know they make disruption?
The maker movement has evolved from the wonderful amateurism of hobbyists in garden sheds and grandmother knitting socks, to disrupting the markets of huge, global conglomerates. You want something? Why not make it. Jermiah Owyang shares his insights, and gives advice on how to embrace the makers.
Tags: #marketing, #maker-movement, #3Dprinting, #disruption

Finally: convergence
With Amazon providing ‘drop-boxes’, and Wallmart and other retailers providing online ordering, the virtual and brick-and-mortar worlds seem to finally be converging. And it’s about time. I think we consumers just want technology to enable us to save time where we don’t want to spend too much of it.
Tags: #retail, #consumers