Welcome to the robots vs. welcome to creativity

In Internet age, creativity is a necessity in business

David Usher, a very popular singer songwriter from Montreal believes that creativity is, and not only for him in the music business, a necessity. Since the Internet has got that important and therefore changed our society very much, Usher is convinced that creativity isn´t a luxury or risk anymore, but a requirement. I absolutely agree that our century can be seen as an Internet age. However, I can´t imagine which impact it has on creativity. David Usher remembers us that there is now a much bigger competition due to all the possibilities which the internet offers. Before we had a so called protection of location which I find is a funny term. Besides from all this it is important to understand that creativity isn´t only about creating better and newer products. David Usher thinks it is “really about adopting an attitude or a culture that embraces change because the environment we are living and working in is so much faster.” A recent IBM study of 1,500 CEOs found out that creativity is the number-one “leadership competency” of the future. There are a lot of companies that show that this is true. Apple iPod outplays Sony Walkman, Starbucks’ beans and atmosphere drown traditional coffee shops, Skype uses a strategy of “free” to beat AT&T, and Southwest Airlines flies under the radar of American and Delta.

Ways to foster creativity

David Burkus is convinced that new ideas are and always have been rejected from others in the first place. He asserts that man has difficulties in valuing the usefulness of something new. Since we only know and are used to the old idea, he believes that we initially ignore the new one. I don´t think that it is that bad but apparently he seems to be right. David Burkus points out that this isn´t only a recent problem, but existed also centuries ago. Igor Stravinsky´s inharmonic music pieces were seriously rejected by the audience until a few years later Walt Disney rediscovered its uniqueness and incorporated the melody into the movie of Fantasia. Many people wouldn´t even assume this, as we grew up with these kinds of movies and never were aware of the reaction. David Burkus calls this kind of behavior an initial reaction of rejection. This is only one example, as also in companies like Kodak new ideas were also initially not accepted. Therefore David Burkus criticizes our way of judging new things. Instead of ignoring them he recommends us to reconcile the new and the value of an idea. Only then we can benefit from it. He does believe that there is still potential, but important is to recognize the ideas that already have been invented. His aim is to find people who will spread these ideas. That is the merit.

Say yes to your own voice

Scott Berkun remembers us that now is the best time in history to create something new. 100 years ago it was much more difficult as there still weren´t all those inventions that there are now. In contrast to David Burkus Scott Burkun argues that the passive consumption of others´ ideas isn´t the appropriate way of gaining inspiration and positive energy. He reminds us that creating new ideas is hard work and needs its time. No matter how inspired we might be, the challenge will always be to have patience. For Scott Burkun the source of inspiration is our own soul. He describes our soul as the voice in the “inside” of ourselves that gives us orientation. Unfortunately Scott Berkun regrets that as we get older the voice gets smaller and smaller. We have the feeling that we have to adapt ourselves to our teachers, professors and bosses. Therefore unconsciously we leave behind our voice and forget it. I do agree that as we get older we more and more change and adapt ourselves to others, but I have mixed feelings about that we should not get inspiration from others. Scott Berkun encourages us to listen to it and find moments to concentrate on it. In my opinion this can only work out if we in addition discuss our ideas together with others. Nevertheless he concludes that inspiration cannot come from other people and creativity books, but especially from our inner voice. Looking at these two videos I can´t really decide with whom I agree. I think a good solution would be to make a mixture of both. Unfortunately I doubt that companies take creativity that serious as they should do.

Convergencing” an innovative company

Everybody knows that being innovative isn´t easy at all, but leading an innovative company sounds even trickier. Jeff Dyer wants us to understand that innovative companies have all something in common. They apparently innovate on three different levels: growth, sustaining and efficiency innovation. Surprisingly creativity is only one-third given. According to researches with twins the other two third is influenced by our environment. So there can´t be any excuses of not having the talent. To make it short: Jeff Dyer concludes that each business can be creative, the clue is to find a balance between these three mentioned levels and a good leader. Bob Lord sees the secret behind something a different. That is how I suddenly found the word convergence. Of course I can imagine what it means, but in this context it was something new. Bob Lord defines convergence as the coming together of media, technology and creativity in order to create experiences that enrich the consumer´s relationship with the brand. He wants to point out that as these three points are always changing and reemerging in a different way it is always a great challenge for a company to be quick enough to adapt to customers´ expectations. It may sound simple in the first moment, but unfortunately adapting your organization to convergence is a never ending an exhausting cycle.

What are Creative conflicts?

A lot of people assume that in order to create something new a peaceful and harmonic atmosphere are of a great importance. However, Robert Williams wants to prove the contrary. We very often see a conflict as a destructive shadow, as the author calls it. But instead he encourages us to take conflicts as an opportunity to be even more creative. Only by discussing an idea, it can be remodeled and improved. I fully agree with this wonderful of Picasso: “Every act of creation is an act of destruction.” This doesn´t mean that employees should provoke conflicts, but he wants to point out that we should rather give up at least one fact, belief or assumption. I understood this way: creativity certainly benefits from conflicts. There are even some people that talk about conflict management. “When a project is being developed, but isn’t fully formed, criticism and constructive conflict are vital to testing the value of the ideas.”Of course it is always important to engage the right kind of fight.

Marketing creativity

Due to the hard pressure of global competition Yannig Roth claims that creativity is becoming the most treasured asset for a company. He believes that creativity is crucial to experience a business success. It is quite interesting to say that creativity in a company is connected to the quality and talents of the employees. Only then it is possible to develop a product which fulfills customers´ needs. So he certainly knows that is essential to foster creativity and not to see it as something given. Some easy methods can be workshops and courses for the employees and managers. I´m not that convinced that this can always work out as it should do. Therefore Yannig Roth introduces another interesting trend of how to attract creativity. Crowdsourcing and Co-creation is often a good and effective way of killing two birds with one stone. Yannig Roth believes that it is the best solution as the company directly has contact to the customers´ preferences. According to researches many firms like Unilever made good experiences with this kind of creative method. Let the customer be creative. On the one hand I agree that companies still have to do a lot to call themselves creative, but why not build a connection to the customer and reach creativity this way. The workplace is changing and it won´t always be easy to be up to date. Very often one even talks about new digital trends. It shouldn´t be an excuse for companies, but rather a small push in the right way.


Female Genital Cutting

This week I came across this topic when I watched a documentary on the German television station ZDF. This documentary was about Female Genital Cutting in the world but especially in African countries. 

On one hand I was always interested in this topic but on the other hand I was also really afraid of what it would bring and do to me. Because as a women no matter what age having to deal with this issue is not really easy.
I read the book “Desert Flower” by Waris Dirie who got cut when she was just five years old. After the book was released a movie which shares the same name as the book title was published in 2008.

So what is Female Genital Cutting? A synonym to this name is also Female Genital Mutilation, in short FGM. It involves the partial but unfortunately mostly the total removal of the genital organs where there is no medical intention behind it.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) FGM is being practiced in 28 countries in the Middle East and Africa. The countries who are being considered to proceed this procedure are countries with a high degree of Islamic orientation, for example Somalia, Ethiopia and Mali. More further the WHO had estimated as of 2013 140 million female around our globe had to experience it. And out of this about 101 million just in Africa.

FGM rate in Africa

Nahid Toubia a Sudanese journalist from The New England Journal of Medicine” wrote in her article that FGM is applied on females at the age of 4  or during the beginning of their puberty. But she also declared that FGM is conducted on infants and also adults.

So many people who never dealt with this topic might ask themselves why people are doing this.

What is the reason for FGM?

In his paper “Ending Footbinding and Infibulations: A Convention Account” Gerry Mackie explains that the reasons for this are not really anchored in the Islamic religion, but more in the view of some societies were FGM is being practices. Women who have been cut are considered to be more aesthetic, honorable and decently. But more important for the people who believe in this procedure, FGM is a kind of cultural identity. With this outsiders take the control over the women’s sexuality especially by reducing their sexual desire and promoting chastity and fidelity among the people.

Many independent and dependent organizations such as the WHO, the United Nation, unicef, the Economic Commission for Africa and many more have been trying to stop FGM. But as you can see it is still a big problem in this world. But here I ask myself is it really a problem of the world, or is this a problem for the Western world?

Accept cultural differences?

FGM does not take place in Western countries. But I feel like that this is an bigger issue for Western countries than it is for Non-Western countries. We have seen that no matter how awful these procedures sound like, it is still supported by the people who do it. The legal restrictions in the countries were FGM is being proceeded have abolished it from their law, but it should be considered that most African countries still have many nations or ethnicities that do not live by the rules of the countries law.

I think that the effort many organizations are doing is important for us as humans to get an better understanding of what is going on. I think that it would be fair to give the people affected the opportunity to choose for theirselves if they want to be cut.
But is this our duty to play the world police?

Review pages: Shift to consumer power

The development

Most of us are at least consulting one online rating website before booking their next stay in a hotel. One of the most important ones is TripAdvisor, which is already running now since 12 years. They have created a platform for the public that makes it very easy to share recommendations about travels and also offers a booking service. Realizing that people are usually quite collaborative and like sharing experiences they turns it into a successful business. According to PhocusWright this could lead to a “power shift toward consumer” in the hospitality industry.

Threats for the industry

Even though the number of contributors should give the reviews some reliability the most important contra is still how accurate and genuine the reviews really are. There is no checking before writing a review if you have really travelled to that certain venue. Moreover author Summer is reporting on the TravelLog on Washington Post about experiences she had, with reviewers that were ‘nitpicking a place to death’ without understanding that some of the things there were criticizing actually formed the unique experience in a hotel.

New ways and opportunities

TripAdvisor has turned into a vast store of information. Undoubtedly of the utmost importance re the over 50 million reviews and opinions by average travellers, which gives it on the first hand more reliability than smaller pages of its sort. The company managed to make it fun for their visitors, by adapting strategies from the gaming industry, from profile pictures to a strong connection to social media. The pages can not only help the hotels to increase traffic, but also have high revenue by for example click-on advertisements as illustrated below.


So what is the answer?

Considering the professional discussion I followed and my personal point of view, these pages are rather favorable. However I found it quite interesting that also professionals were concerned that some reviewers were not actually getting the point and sometimes being harder on the hotels than actual professional testers would be.

Choosing the right device for your next booking

What is price discrimination?

Price discrimination indicates the method of either manufacturers, retailers or wholesalers to advertise with different prices for exactly the same products based on who wants to buy them. In earlier times this practice was misused, by for example offering different prices to people of other sex or skin color. This is really rare today.

Today most people might be aware of the fact, that they are offered different prices for example by airlines, depending on for example when they book, there are however even more and more characteristics that are used to differentiate between customers.

Applications to business

There are booking websites out there that actually give you a discount on whether you are booking from a usual computer or from a mobile device.
Liz Uber, vice president of revenue management at Pillar Hotels & Resorts explains this by saying that “some of these reservations will be booked the same day or 24 hours in advance when some of your discount rates are not available. If a hotel is not priced competitively in the market they will not be able to convert this potential guest.”

The travel sites Orbitz and CheapTicket for example used this technique already. Some deals are only available when you installed the sites app on your iPhone or Android device. Customers could by that see discounts of as much as 50 % from the original price. Moreover this applications is also determining the physical location and by that will offer different prices based on where the customer is located.
So when you shop or book next time, might be a good idea to recheck it undercover…

Companies for the People – some great examples

As we, the authors of this blog, try to address current topics related to Management, Business and Economic, every reader can easily guess that we are students which all, momentarily, take Business and Economics courses. Therefore most of the time we hear lectures about how to optimize processes, maximize profits and minimize costs. These are some of the most basic goals most economic players try to achieve.
Therefore sometime everyone of us had to think/ happened to think at least once about alternative business models because the economic world does not stop to evolve and innovative new ideas and niches have to be found for novel entrepreneurs and also long-established companies to keep up with the today’s fast development in all markets.

So it happens sometimes that some of these new alternative business models get astray from the conventional path of economic principles and bring about evolutionary trends.

One of these trends is certainly the sharing movement that frees customers from the obligation to buy products they just need maybe a few times.

But such alternative thinking also brings about concepts that suddenly have completely different goals. Which are not aimed at generating money for the shareholders or owners, what is the totally understandable usual goal, but which are designed to help to address problems of the society. This kind of entrepreneurship is widely known as “Social Entrepreneurship“.

The probably most famous social entrepreneur is Muhammadd Yunus, the inventor of microfinancing and founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. For his commitment to provide really poor rural population with small amounts of unsecured loans to give them a chance to overcome yield shortages and be able to pay longterm debts, in 2006 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

This is a very interesting video explaining Social Entrepreneurship further and giving many more examples of social entreprices:

Hotels seeking for graduates

With over 72,4 million jobs within the hotel industry in 2012 the hospitality sector is the fastest growing industry in the world. Globalization and the increased importance of e-commerce, various new job opportunities and careers have emerged within the industry. This development also leads to an increased demand for graduates, which is especially interesting for us as students.

What is needed to become part of this fast-paced industry

Nevertheless, hands-on-learning is essential within this special industry, so one should always catch the opportunity for real-life experience. Several studies in the industry have shown that there are four main skills within hospitality, which are „oral and written communication skills, supervising skills (staff motivation and training), ability to engender customer satisfaction and service skills“.
Also important, and interesting for a business application group, the role of technology becomes more and more important, which leads to the conclusion that being able to handle the current technology should be one of your skills when being part of the management in a hotel.
In an interview with the New York Times Ana Silva O’Reilly (travel blogger and marketing consultant) reported on her experience in the Four Seasons Hotel in Milan. Soon after posting on Twitter that she would be checking into the hotel, she received a message from the hotel stating that they were looking forward for her arrival. “I know hotels do it all for my loyalty and my money, but it does feel welcoming when they contact me,” she said.
Being able to find new and innovative ways to delight customers is thus also an important skill.

Starbucks’ Social Side

In my whole life I have maybe only been three times to a Starbucks Coffee shop. In my opinion they  sell coffee for way too high prices. So, I never really felt the urge to buy coffee in a Starbucks as I maybe do with Hamburgers when I pass a McDonald’S or a Burger King.

But while researching a bit on corporate social responsbility I stumbled upon this company’s name frequently, hence, I got interested.

According to their website, Starbucks Coffee attaches great value to the sustainability of their products and only use raw material from certified suppliers and responsible farms.

Additionally, they also thrive to help the communities where their stores are located. Consequently, they cooperate with numerous non-profit organizations in more than 10,000 projects around the world, that I don’t want all to list here. Therefore they get support from more than 71,000 volunteers.

Noticing this I now have gained a slighly more positive view of the company, that I before just have seen as a provider of over-priced coffee.


Content Marketing as a stepping stone for fashionable sustainability

According to the technology trends 2013 open & big data as well as content marketing are pushing fast forward towards business efficiency. Mainly businesses with online involvement are quickly adapting these trends. Referring to eMarketer, online apparel and accessories is the fastest growing category of online sales among nine major categories. Here I see the highest need for technology adoption and new analytic utilization to prepare for upcoming trends while responding to real-time activity in this space.

So what does the power of big data means for the business of fashion?

Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier (authors of Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think) insist that through loyalty cards and other methods fashion businesses are able to collect and analyze far more data about people’s interactions with fashion products. Both agree that individual preferences will become much better known, more comprehensively and in greater detail than ever before which provides valuable insights for the fashion industry. J. Jang, E. Ko, E. Chun & E. Lee, who created “A study of a Social Content Model for Sustainable Development in the Fast Fashion Industry” (I am going to explain this study later on), state that these numbers can help designers identify in which direction to go, but disagree with Schöneberger & Cukier, and making clear that human intuition will be needed precisely because data can never tell the full story & surprise and serendipity are central to human nature. But generally speaking all experts are convinced that this real-world data can build predictive models that can find patterns, establish correlations and infer probabilities with enough accuracy to help fashion businesses to identify emerging fashion trends.

L.N. Balaji (president of ITC Infotech Inc.) talks about the imagination of a clothing store where the apparel is arranged according to its popularity on social media. Better yet, imagine a design studio where customers can recommend shades, patterns and colors for apparel and even play with virtual fashion games. Schöneberger & Cukier confirm this statement by reporting that retailers and fashion giants continue to use Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms to gain ideas and suggestions from customers on everything from designs to retail preferences.

Balaji announces that technology will bring fashion crowd-sourcing to new heights!

“This real-time market intelligence is a must-have tool!”, Balaji promises and supports the arguments of Schöneberger & Cukier who point out that the customer is now an important part of the manufacturing and product line planning process by testing styles and providing valuable insights into preferences and patterns-which then can translate into products they would actually purchase to benefit the fashion industry. The predictive insights of big data are not limited to understanding customers only. Marketing and advertising will become more efficient too, experts agree.

So we can say that the fashion industry is going through a technology revolution with players becoming more open to effective data analysis for business direction; and more data-driven and flexible to take into account real-time opportunities. These new customer engagement channels are more and more used as the foundation of content marketing strategies.

In my opinion, content marketing should be used to inform and convince the customer about sustainability of their products in order to reduce increasing environmental issues and inhuman work conditions. Mainly the fast fashion businesses, or as Jang, Ko, Chung & Lee say the “MacFashion” industry, should improve their sustainability concepts, promote them and create an ethical consumption attitude in the consumers mind.

Adriana Herrera (founder & CEO of Fashioning Change) advises the possibility that fashion social content marketing can focus on environmentally friendly products, customer service, fair employment opportunities, fair allocation of profits, diversity of quality & design, and ecosystem promotion and it should be necessarily concentrated on. I totally agree with her that unfortunately the Fashion design has shifted from a focus on quality and timeless construction to mass production and consumers are turning over poorly constructed products as fast as they can.

Herrera mentions a report by the Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability which states that 8 out of 10 shoppers say they like the idea of buying non-toxic, safe, sustainable, and sweatshop free clothing and accessories but never make the leap because of the misconception that “buying green” means spending more money. By the way, her startup is a great website (Wear This, Not That ) that connects online shoppers to over 18,000 stylish, money-saving, non-toxic, sustainable, and sweatshop-free apparel and accessories which maybe can give you a feelings that “buying green” not necessarily is more expensive. Well, and this online shop is successful!

Well, I mean everybody can imagine that a sweatshirt by Primark costing 5€ cannot be made under human and environmental friendly conditions. Showing people other opportunities to change their ethical attitude a little at least plus the awareness of benefit sharing is of big interest for me. I am convinced that the fast fashion firms should concentrate on social contents which show sustainability inform and convince the consumer to improve their ethical consumption – the need is increasing.

Moving on to a great study by J. Jang, E. Ko, E. Lee and E. Chun in The Journal of Global Fashion Marketing (2012) who did a pioneer research on this  `Social content model for sustainable development in the fast fashion industry´ are emphasizing that present fast fashion brands like Zara are using social content based on consumer participation in the production and marketing stage. It is a study that develops sustainable social contents for vitalizing eco-friendly experiential marketing with the understanding of a social content model and this shows that it is possible!

First, they had in-depth interviews with 8 experts from fast fashion and ethic fashion brands on sustainable social content for fast fashion which led to 5 sub-themes they presented: independent designer participation, storytelling, an eco-friendly identity, clear differences between reform and redesign, and consumer perception change. These sub-themes, which can be applied to fast fashion brand’s requirements, emerged from existing ethical brands’ present processes. Second, they developed 5 sustainable social programs for the MacFashion industry. The detailed programs were a 1:1 sponsorship, eco-friendly design sourcing, a reform style contest, redesign consulting, and an eco-fashion gallery.

All of them suggest that a brand should follow the procedure seeking consumer agreement based on sufficient promotions for the importance of the sustainable side and development need for each program and then consumer involvement can increase naturally.

Through social content and active customer participation, fast fashion brands can establish an intimate relationship with the customer, contributing to the sustainable growth of the brand as well as lower working capital and inventory levels à All in all, for proactive fashion businesses this can lead to higher sales and an improved ROI. This statement is supported by all experts I mentioned here and in my opinion, the fashion industry as a powerful market segment that employs 1/6 of the world’s population, should consider to quickly implement content marketing to popularize fashion’s ethicality.

How the web can change tourism

Peer-to-peer hospitality

The way that people go on vacation is said to change a lot in the coming years. Over the last years peer-to-peer booking websites gained more and more popularity. As sharing is a really hot topic at the moment, what impact does it possibly have on the hotel industry?
These peer-to-peer or even sharing platforms allow the travellers to individually book a private accommodation directly from the one who owns the residence. Mostly this is cheaper that staying in a hotel, in some cases as couch surfing for example it comes even without any costs.
These booking platforms until now rather stayed a place where backpackers that are looking for some adventure have the possibility to find a cheap place to stay and might even be able to meet some new people. For business people it is however lacking the amenities of a usual hotel, however there are more and more high end accommodations in this market. Even though these pages become more and more prominent, the total share that they occupy is still insignificantly low.

Threat for usual hotels?

Douglas Quinby, who analyzes these peer-to-peer networks as he works as a principal analyst for PhoCusWright says that “There may be some incremental leakages, but we don’t see it as being anything really substantial”. However the hospitality world agrees that one should not underrate the speed at which those developments can take place.

80,2 million, not 81,7 million

After reading the advices at C – Webwork for the 5th of July I saw Hans Roslings Tweet from the 1st of June 2013:

“Germany has 1.5 Million fewer people than reported and hence higher CO2 emission per person than reported”.

What does that mean, I asked myself shortly after I read his tweet. I clicked on the link next to it, which showed an article by the New York Times.

So after this I read some more about this topic, I saw that the claims were confirmed by several media instisutions and also the German Federal Statistical Office.

It I started to ask myself what kind of consequences this will have? Continue reading