Creativity, shinrinyoku, webcare and history: Weekend Reads

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Weekend reads – week 21

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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

Weekend reads – week 20

Changing relationships: are you prepared?
In this “dear brands” letter, Jermiah Owyang tells his favorite brands that the relationship he has with them has profoundly changed. And if you want to keep doing business in the future, you better read this closely, because it’s not just mr Owyang who feels this way.
Tags: #business, #innovations, #newBiz

Sleep to change the world
Getting enough sleep is important in keeping on the top of your game. Not sleeping enough, has a similar effect on your performance as drinking a lot of alcohol. So, if you want to change the world, be sure to get enough sleep, says this HBR post. Also interesting, is the identification of influencers in this article. Especially for marketeers that are looking for the right influencers to influence.
Tags: #business, #sleep, #success, #marketing

How fair will you play
Two examples of Fair Play popped up in my social media channels this week. The first one was from women’s football in France, where the ladies of Olympique Lyonnais won a match in a penalty shoot-out. It appeared that their opponents had scored in regular time, but the goal was not acknowledged by the referees. After no other goals were scored, the match eventually went to a penalty shoot-out. The ladies from Lyon feel they did not deserve the win in this way, and offered a replay.
The other example is actually from December, but it popped up in my FB stream. A Spanish runner showed a wonderful example of fair play and honesty by not taking advantage of a mistake from the Kenyan runner in front of him.
Next time you can cheat, think about these examples. Are you really winning when you steal victory?
Tags: #sports, #FairPlay, #honesty, #winning

Weekend reads – 11/12 May

What’s your advice?
My friend Ana Canhoto sent a message to her students, with a very valuable piece of advice in it. It was not directly related to the topic she teaches, more an advice about life. Not only does she show how good teachers care about their students, but the post on her blog also illustrates that a great educational institution goes beyond just transferring knowledge: it also should have a system to support students in their transition to adulthood and working life. And to get the best results possible. So, here is Ana’s advice, what’s yours?
Tags: #education, #life, #advice

The last step to make aid work
Why won’t Babu move? Well, because we know what’s good for her, but don’t know (and don’t invest in) what really moves her. In this open blog post, the World Bank illustrates a key success factor for international development.

Do you know your characters?
In this lovely, informative video, Ben Barret-Forrest explains the history of type. Now that we are able to create our own, or simply pick a font from a big list, I think it’s valuable to know how it all evolved out of hand writing.

Humanizing immigration
There’s a debate going on in the US about immigration. To come to a proper law on immigration, the Senate has hearings, in which experts give testimony. One of the experts invited is VC Jeff Bussgang. He published his planned testimony on his blog, and I think it’s worth reading, because it gives another view on immigration than the view we often hear these days, especially in Europe. Not all immigrants are the profiteers they are made out to be by prominent politicians.
Tags: #politics, #immigration, #innovation, #entrepreneurship

The Start-up Vibe of Central and Eastern Europe
Do you still think Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) are former communist states from which the populations can’t wait to get their hands on benefit money in Western Europe? Think again. Places like Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius and Sophia are now the vibrant tech start-up scenes that many European countries would like to see. In this post on Sparksheet, we see how several Silicon Valleys are sprouting in the CEE.
Tags: #innovation, #entrepreneurship, #Baltics

Weekend reads – 27/28 April

What can businesses learn from social movements?
In this article for the Rotman Magazine Paula Goldman and Suzanne Gibbs Howard show how social movements are helping for-profit companies to thrive. They share a variety of cases to illustrate their four main points that any marketing manager must know about. The article can be read here [pdf].
Tags: #social-media, #marketing, #community-management

From horse and carriage to Apollo 11
To really innovate, and change the way we think of transport from horse and carriage to rockets that bring people to the moon, you need to think laterally, argue Ian Gonsher and Deb Mills-Scofield in this Harvard Business Review blog post.
Tags: #innovation, #design-thinking

Shift perspective, find possibilities
We continuously frame what we see, hear, feel, do. The framing helps us interpret the world around us. But it also limits the things we see. And therefore it limits the possibilities we see for finding solutions. In this great article, Tina Seelig shows us what reframing means, how it helps to unlock innovations, and even gives us some exercises to practice shifting perspectives.
Tags: #innovation, #reframe, #understanding, #management

Are you responsive enough on social media?
One thing we tend to forget about technology, especially in the social media sphere, is that it should support human behaviour. And I believe that social media technologies are basically doing that, and increasingly in a way that facilitates what we humans want to do. Share photos with our friends, tell your followers what you think is interesting to read, or simply chat. And all that preferably in real-time. Joshua-Michéle Ross from O’Reilly Media argues, in this first post in a series, that one thing companies should do is design their social media efforts to be responsive.
Tags: #social-media, #management