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The role of the Western world in 2050.

Hans Rosling has become well-known for his intriguing presentations where he dismisses presuppositions like pre conceived notions or ideas. His presentation skills is compared to most, just brilliant.

In June 2010 he held a presentation where he in 10 minutes not only describes how to stop global population growth but also predicts the role the Western world will play in the year 2050. He has earlier illustrated this phenomenon by using Lego.

Just watch the TED-video and enjoy the brain friendly way of learning.

Increased demand for premium products or is it just compelling costs?

In many countries in the western world you’ll find more and more companies going up market and into the “premium segments” of the market. One might wonder if it’s an increased demand from consumers that drives this development or if it’s something else that’s the driving force. For the last decades there have been a lot of different programs that companies have run to improve the operations. Six Sigma, Balanced Score Cards, Lean Production and other sorts of continuous improvement programs. The companies’ operations have in general definitely become better due to these programs. However, over time things happen within lines of businesses and disruptive innovations occur. Do companies then have the skills to act according to these innovations, or are they caught in their focus on improving the existing operations – just like our old friend Narcissus? Sometimes, one might ask oneself if the increased complexity and the lack of having an overview of the operation force us to go up market? Do we really need all these extra features, all these small enhancements on the products or phrased another way do these features really add value?

In some cases one can identify that the increased complexity in the development- and production processes have forced companies to go up market and into the premium segments, and not surprisingly they aren’t prosperous. The compelling and increasing costs and the believe in improving what they already are doing make the company blind and they miss the disruptive innovations just around the corner.

So:

Is there a true increasing demand for premium products or is it just an excuse when costs force us to sell our products at a higher price?

Is there a pattern emerging, that threats the competitiveness of successful companies?

How do we combine the ongoing improvement of our processes with disruptive innovations?

How do we combine the enhancement of our products with the disintegration of these products to create something ingenious?

Do our products take future customer values – different values – into consideration?

Are we as managers and employees rigid or flexible?

One thing is for sure; the cycle upon cycle of change will continue. That’s paradoxically, the only thing that remains in the state of status quo!

Theory and practice 2

Wal-Mart prefers practice before theory (see below “Theory and practice”) and has recently started to learn from Patagonia’s experiences. Patagonia has been a pioneer in the field of producing sustainable products for the last 25 years. They show that it’s possible for a medium sized company to influence on a large scale. As Jill Dumain, Patagonia’s environmental-strategy director put it when explaining the companies co-operation with their competitors North Face and REI: “We’re not big enough to make this the industry standard on our own…” referring to the use of Bluesign Technologies, a Swiss firm, to grade dyeing and finishing by textile suppliers.

What would we – as a company – like to pass on to future generations?

Multitasking

Multitasking or the almost simultaneous execution of more than one thing at the same time e.g. watching TV, Facebooking, playing on your cell phone etc. has definitely grown the last decade. Many of today’s teenagers can’t understand how their parents could sit for a whole evening just watching TV. The teenagers claim that they compared to older generations, are more skilled and clever when it comes to handle a lot of things and often feel very productive. There are adults who also feel they’re really productive and live their lives multitasking all day long. Of course there are those who don’t think it is like this at all. David Meyer at the University of Michigan has studied the phenomenon and he definitely claims that we’ll have an attention crisis to be. To learn while you’re not focused i.e. distracted, fundamentally changes the brain systems that are involved in learning. We’ll perform worse according to David Meyer. He also makes the comparison with how our attitude towards smoking was in the 50’s and multitasking today; in those days it was cool to smoke, today it isn’t. Others claim that David Meyer is like all adults who don’t understand the youth of today and claim that judgement day is near. If multitasking is a myth or not, if we won’t get any seminal ideas of people born in the 90’s and in the 00’s we’ll see. However, pay attention to the phenomenon and make your own conclusions.

Theory and practice

An old saying states that “the difference between theory and practice is larger in practice than in theory”…

Maybe that’s especially true when it comes to management literature. Since decades, books telling us how we shall conduct our business or how we shall behave to become rich and happy have flooded the market. Most often they’re written by prosperous consultants and if they weren’t successful before, they definitely became, if their book became a success. Of course most books just pass by and leaves no mark at all. But there are a few who definitely have changed businesses such as: Michael Porter’s ‘Competeive Strategy’, Peter Senge’s ‘The fifth discipline’ or Tom Peter’s ‘In search of excellence’. Apparently there’s now a trend to find metaphors from ancient thinkers or from old Asian philosophies and transform them into modern management thinking and present them as ‘new’.

However, there is also another trend where it seems like you’re not prosperous as a consultant or presenter/lecturer if you haven’t written a book. This is specially true for self-appointed coaches who have been to an NLP-course and after that claim that they are suitable to tell other persons how they should live their lives (even though they still having trouble to lead themselves). One might wonder if the world really needs – or will become a better place –  if there’s another NLP coach publishing his/her thoughts…

But, most interesting is why we don’t pick up biographies from entrepreneurs who have built up businesses around the world, which earn money, are true sustainable, long before the rest of the world became aware of the term sustainability, and act as role models for many companies when it comes to corporate social responsibilities. One example is Patagonia and its founder Yves Chouinard who back in 2005 wrote ‘Let my people go surfing – the education of a reluctant businessman’. In the book Mr Chouinard explains the philosophies shared by Patagonia leaders and employees. But this book is not as well-known as many management books written by presenters/lecturers and it isn’t literature at the universities even though Patagonia does all the things businesses strive for these days.

So why is it that we eventually prefer theory before practice?

Interview with Yves Chouinard part 1 part 2 part 3


Presence of mind…

We all do have our favourite artists, films, political views, favourite sports and teams etc. It’s almost of no use for an outsider to try to change our personal opinion, since we already have decided what we think of the phenomenons. E.g. if you listen to a political debate, most often you listen in to what you would like to hear from ‘your side’ instead of listening on the opponents and building yourself a new opinion. Nothing is wrong with that, and our presuppositions are everywhere. Sometimes they prevent development and sometimes they support development.

As we also have pointed out on this side, our presence of mind tend to deteriorate and our attention isn’t always in the present. A very good example of this is the ‘Pearls before breakfast’ experiment which Washington Post conducted back in January 2007 and was revealed in April 2007 .

Imagine what’ll happen if your favourite musician, a person who just has sold out Boston’s stately Symphony Hall, where merely pretty good seats went for $100, turned up to play for free with his 300-year-old Stradivarius, one morning in the Metro? Would there be a huge crowd or what? Would we listen in, to the beautiful sound or would our presuppositions fool us (‘it sounds ok, but why is that guy playing here…’) and would we just rush by?

What happened that day was that almost no one stopped by when Joshua Bell, slightly disguised, played for 43 minutes at the L’enfant plaza station in Washington. During his 43 minutes of playing he gathered $32.17…

Are there pearls around me, where I don’t pay enough attention?

Interview with the columnist Gene Weingarten at the Washington Post

Joshua Bell ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’

Experience or; the memory of the experience…

‘It ruined the whole experience’. Have we heard that? Someone describing an event in a very positive manner and all of a sudden, something occurs in the story which ruins the storyteller’s experience. One can think of – if it was the experience that was ruined – or if it was the memory of the experience.

Daniel Kahneman Nobel laureate in 2002 for his work within behavioural economics and decision-making definitely claims that it is the memory of the experience that is ruined – not the experience.

Mr Kahneman makes a distinction between the ‘experiencing self’ and the ‘remembering self’ that affects a lot of things in our daily lives and especially how we conduct surveys and pose questions in the surveys.  Many business decisions are based upon facts from surveys. What if some of them are wrong just due to inaccuracy in how we use our language?

To survive in the 21st Century from all the bombardment of messages, commercials and PowerPoint presentations etc. we learn how to temporarily shut down our senses at given times.  So what is happening when we develop a language, which is inaccurate, and deteriorate our ability to experience with our senses, i.e. to be present in the present?

We very often use ‘feelings’ almost as a synonym with ‘experiences’ when we probably mean ’emotions, tactility or state of minds’. Do we also misuse experiences when we really mean memories?

Please judge for yourself in this TED talk with Daniel Kahneman and reflect on why we put so much weight on memory relative to the weight on experiences?

Measuring the immeasurable…

Is an experience objective? Probably not. Is it subjective? Probably yes. Is an experience both conscious and unconscious? Definitely. Why do we then strive to measure experiences as if they were objective and only conscious?

Some lines of businesses, most often defined as ‘new’ (even though some are really old) try to make themselves leveled up with more tradtional lines of businesses, by measuring everything. E.g. the event industry, which paradoxically sometimes is referred to as the experience industry is at the moment probing different techniques for measuring the output of its work. In other words – they try to measure experiences.

In Buyology (truth and lies about why we buy) Martin Lindstrom states that we as emotional creatures, are driven by our unconscious mind in our decision making with up to 85%. Martin Lindstrom is not the only person expressing these thoughts. The question which is quite riveting is thus; Why do probably 100% of all our research (especially marketing surveys) rely on conscious research techniques?

Maybe it’s time to sing a song of praise to our subjective experiences, experienced with our senses – and rely upon them?

Presupposition # 13 – Mindsets

Most of the discussion today regarding if a car is environmentally friendly or phrased in another way, if a car affects the enviroment more or less, concentrates on what kind of fuel the car use. Of course this is of great importance but howcome we almost not at all discuss the footprint the cars have if you look at the life cycle costs?

A consultancy company called CNW Marketing Research made a study in 2007 ( ‘Dust to dust’ report) where they stated that a Hummer was greener than a Toyouta Prius, if you view the life cycle cost. The report had some attention but of course it’s almost inevitable when you do these studies that some of your assumptions will not be applicable. However, in this case the most important issue is probably not how the survey was conducted. The question is why everybody solely discuss what kind of fuel the car use? Most of the debate is focused on what happens when the car runs. The debate is much less about; how the car was produced or how it’ll be recycled. Our presupposition is focused on the fuel consumption and let us keep that focus and attention and add the sustainable discussion on production and recycling, especially as a parameter in a purchasing situation.

Are there more areas where, we are misled by the general presuppositions?

Presupposition # 12 – Diesel vs petrol cars

We have a lot of different words for them; beliefs, preconceived opinions, limitations set by oneself, values, attitudes towards something, expectations, theories, prejudices, views, axioms, generalizations et al. We don’t claim they’re all synonymous, however they’re all influencing marketing, investments, deals, and actually all decisions we as humans make. They’re all lying there affecting us conciously and unconsiously, whether we like it or not. The words mentioned, do have different meanings and some are broader and some are narrower. To find an umbrella term when discussing all of them is suitable and presupposition – from pre (before)-, sub (under)- and ponere (to place) is a really good term to describe all of the different words. Our presuppositions affect all of us to the extent that we almost don’t notice them.

One example of this are the number of cars sold with diesel engines. In Sweden there were in January 2010 4 291 161 cars in use. Most of them were petrol cars and of course the whole infrastructure on e.g. petrol stations are build upon this fact. During 2006 there were 281 205 cars sold in Sweden. 220 002 were petrol cars i.e. 78% petrol cars. But it has changed. During 2008 it was almost levelled out and during 2009, 179 109 cars were sold where 91 183 were diesels i.e. 51%. From 22% diesels to 51 % diesels in three years – why is that? It’s not due to anything else than a changed attitude towards diesel cars among the Swedish population which now affects a lot of different areas. One very conspicuous thing are the line to the diesel pumps at the petrol stations since most often there is only one diesel pump and 4-6 petrol pumps at the stations…

The forecast for 2010 is that Sweden will sell more cars. Bertil Molden CEO of Car Sweden also mentions “…diesel cars have 30 % less consumtion and emit 20% less carbon dioxide. For the enviroment and for the fossil fuel it’s a win-win situation.”

What about the rest of EU? Diesel engines are prevalent and the Swedish market has been rare with the qouta of petrol vs diesel. But according to the Telegraph it starts to swing in favor for petrol. Why? In this article there are a lot ot arguments why, and amongst others: “…In other words, because getting that extra diesel is more expensive and energy intensive, your diesel car might not be doing the environment any benefit at all…”

So who shall one trust and what shall one do – well it all boils down – as always – to your own presupposition!

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