All posts tagged innovation

Books and Beyond

Marketing in school resembles a bit to math. Counting the number of positive answers to the question “would you buy this if” and you’re ready to go. It is exactly this that distinguishes good from bad management, because the best ideas out there didn’t come from math, they came from understanding customers (and their needs). By leaving it with math companies minimize their growing potential.

I thought a great example of this is bookstores. They have been suffering from big superficial book chains and especially online bookstores like Amazon. Many of them had to close because of not understanding what distinguishes them from these stores. As soon as they saw the prices online, the ease with which you can order and the laziness of the consumer masses they got paralyzed kept everything exactly the way it was and soon found themselves forced to close a little while later.

And yet other book store managers knew that to keep their business booming they needed to innovate; they also knew their customers and their product.An example of this is Carturesti in Bucharest, Romania.


What started out as a bookstore evolved into what I like to call a culture store. The books that you find here stay limited to higher quality books. All sorts of categories can be found but the focus seems to be on culture, traveling, design business but also the usual storytelling is accounted for. Chances of finding somebody that doesn’t speak English here are slim because the offer is quite internationally oriented. And of course attracting a somewhat intellectual public their is no point in stopping with books: You find quality music from countries you never even heard of (the popular offer is quite limited) photos, games and they have art expositions on a regular basis. To top the whole thing of part of the shop is a tea house where you can find an infinite number of types of tea: no better place to read a book, what a coincidence! Being in the city center of Bucharest it is now crawling with students, it is a place that inspires, that makes you curious about what they have. There is no better place to look for the next book you want to read, even not being a typical bookwork I can walk around here all day long.

An episode of Accents d’Europe (french) gave another perfect example:

Lentner in Munich. which also to distinguishes itself by having a particularly high standard of quality and knowledge. And quality is not the same as popular; also lesser known authors can be found here that can not be found on Amazon or Standard bookstores. As a customer you kind of trust them with the first selection and the advice they give you according to your taste and their expertise. In another store they did something a bit more like Carturesti, but they replaced tea with wine.

If your French is good enough listen to this (15 January 2009) and other episodes of their podcast. They have many interesting subjects every week on today’s issues and innovations in Europe. Accents d’Europe is a collaboration of RFI, Deutsche Welle, RTBF, Radio Prague and Radio Roumania International.

CV2.0: A new way of CV-ing

When we look objectively at CV’s we can only conclude that it is a very superficial way of presenting yourself that has to much value attached to it. What is wierd is that with all of the technological means we have nowadays we didn’t really manage to revolutionize this. It is something that mostly talks about academical skills that in the end do not really distinguish people. Problem is that most companies like relying on this classical model because is saves them time, which with the amount of CV’s they receive is most crucial. So coming up with something more useful is not easy.

The most significant change we had is online networks like Linkedin and Viadeo. I have to say I kind of like them, it gives you easy and fast insight in peoples capacities and facilitates contacting them. However in the end we have to conclude that it is little more than a digital CV with digital networking advantages. I think its biggest advantage still comes from the fact that other people in your network can write something about you and give you recommendations.

There is something a little less known which is called CV 2.0 which focuses on that last aspect of recommendations. It assumes that you have a lot of them and makes them visible by category. Like that anybody that wants to know about all your recommendations in ICT they click the tag and all of the related recommendations appear. I see two problems though:

1. I don’t think that recommendations is a broadly used item on Linkedin. And what is the point of categorizing something you don’t have a lot of?

2. I’d need to subscribe and maintain yet another social network. When does somebody have the genius idea of centralizing these things?


So, no thank you, I think this would only become interesting when it is implemented in an existing website. But if it is, it could become really usefull and popular. Where social networks used to be about getting most contacts they could now become about getting the most recomendations.

Music opportunities

Music producers do not miss out on any opportunity to complain about “illegal” downloading. It seems to be the oldest marketing mistake in the book: confusing an opportunity with an threat. What they do is count the number of downloads, they multiply this by the number of euros that download would have cost in the store and voila: their losses. Broken CD

If I wait for the garbageman to come on Monday and tell him about this then even he can tell me that this is not correct. No marketing education, no accounting courses not even a ridiculous salary and still he’d be more intelligent about this.

Fact of the matter is that if it was up to the music industry we wouldn’t even be able to pay for downloading individual tracks. Even today’s technology having more practical ways of playing music (not their invention either) they stick to the highly unpractical CD. When they are finally forced to bring music online they make sure that it is still not practical (DRM) and they insist on keeping labels separated so that people still don’t have one practical way of downloading music. Why did they need Apple to come up with such a huge opportunity as ITunes. Why was it so hard to come up with a music player from which we can easilly download every song we want, every album we want and to give the consumer a little bit of freedom for his money. (quite frankly, it’s still a lot of money) Sure the fear of losing money would probably have played a role, but didn’t they lose more money now?

Surely, reseach from a renowned research organisation TNO from the Netherlands shows downloading as a great opportunity. Many people “would not buy the same quantity of music if they wouldn’t have had the chance to download it” They also seem to buy more merchandise and go to concerts more often. Also, “there are a lot of consumer that through downloading get to know the music and still buy the record afterward”. Personally I used to be one of those, well, before ITunes gave me the opportunity to listen to songs first that is.

Well yes it is very easy to talk about this afterward and to play the blame game. But lets be honest here, even back at the beginning of mp3 this could have been anticipated. I don’t think its strange that there were fears about downloading. What I do think is strange is that these researches don’t come from the music industry, that they didn’t come up with something as easy and accessible as ITunes. Apple should have never stood a chance.

The first objective seems to be to make life harder: making it impossible to buy individual songs or to copy a CD that you payed for. If anything they contributed to people downloading illegally. In the Netherlands you now pay for music rights even when you buy a CD for backing up your harddisk or sharing your family pictures with friends and family. Then you are even forced to download without paying, because you already payed for it anyway.

We can easilly talk about incompetence here, their only response to this is to focus on merchandise making quality even lower, which I think was the only reason people stopped buying in the first place. If Grammys nowadays get handed out to a guy that sings about how a lady in the club “wants to lick him like a lollipop” then you can easily conclude that the quality level has lowered. Yes, I want to have the song, Yes I want to hear it everywhere I go for a week because of that awesome rhythm but I’m sure as hell not going to spend one cent on it.

Innovative company creation from France

France isn’t exactly known for it’s innovative attitude towards business. It is mostly seen as a country where paperwork and pride of traditions keep it from making significant progress. However even the biggest France critics will have to admit that they came up with something fantastic now. As of the first of January 2009 the French government put in place a law that allows people to more easily start a company.

  1. You subscribe fast and easy on the internet, you can stop it anytime you want. Both for free!
  2. You don’t pay any taxes if your turnover stays under 32.000 (services) or 80.000 (products) euros
  3. For administration you just hand in 2 lists: one with spending’s and one with income and you’re ready. So you don’t have to spend half of you’re income on accountants.

Especially the latter is quite revolutionary I guess, most of the administrative moves in this country come with a lot of paperwork. I don’t know if similar things are being done in other countries. Either way I think this is a great idea for stimulating economy and employment ratings.

An end to the roaming bill nightmare?

Slowly, very slowly we see our cellphones evolving and where phone producers need help from computer producers to innovate their products the phone networks keep on limiting their services to make sure they squeeze every penny out of their customers.

Especially for people that travel a lot calling is very expensive and even if the EU is trying to put some boundaries to this madness you can still expect a huge bill when you take your cellphone abroad.

There seems to be a solution for the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France since the creation of Transatel. The company has one offer for the four countries which should allow you to save plenty of money even though they are not the cheapest. Interesting for managers traveling to these countries regularly I would imagine.

Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?

Another very interesting talk from a very interesting conference called TED:

…kids will take a chance, if they don’t know they’ll have a go. They’re not frightened of being wrong. I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative but what we do know is this: If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original….

On their website there are many more that are meant to inspire creative and innovative minds.

Musical brains

How many times was playing a musical instrument part of the main criteria asked in a job offer? Me I’ve never seen in it in a job offer, nor did I have the question asked at any of my job interviews. Maybe sports, because it is generally perceived as something that says something about your character. It is however less percieved as something that says something about your way of working or solving problems. I’ve always thought it does but while many people agree with me most of them don’t work for a Human Resource department. This is just not how we learn it on the Human resource schools nowadays, is it?

Read more…

The singing music store

wall-small.jpgPassing by a Fnac store on an ordinary Sunday I don’t imagine seeing anything else but big gray closed roll door. This Sunday at the Fnac in Rue de Rennes (close to the Montparnasse train station) was different though: they installed something called a “vitrine audioactive”Lit with a noticeable orange backlight, four CD’s are shown behind the glass and as soon as you tough them the CD starts playing. It made a lot of head turn and most people stopped to give it a go. What a way to promote your products (and your store) outside shopping hours!