Sneaker wars

Sifting through patent wars for the book, I’m looking at Adidas Primeknit vs. Nike Flyknit. The Nike innovation was launched a few months before Adidas stepped up, making it look like Adidas was copying the Nike idea. Adidas was stopped in its tracks by a Nike injunction. That has been reversed. But can Adidas catch up, with Nike coming in first, and winning accolades for pushing boundaries? Fast Company is calling Nike the most innovative company of 2013. Nike has come an impressively long way in terms of corporate social responsibility, or at least their marketing department is doing a very good job of projecting that. Still, Adidas has the cachet of being a German SME, part of the (branded) Mittelstand with its tradition of craftsmanship. I love the Adidas video of the production process. The CEO is so down to earth when he talks about local responsibility and walking the walk. But are we leaving all of that behind? CSR is so much more complex today. So which company is more socially and environmentally responsible?

Zara’s logistics

I’m writing a book for business English, Basis for Business C1. When I was putting the unit on logistics together, I was initially thinking of using Inditex, Zara’s parent company, as the main example. But it’s already been used in several other course book, including Cornelsen’s Career Express, and I’m trying to be as original as possible. Still, Zara and its model of “Fast fashion”, i.e. turning around what sells into a new product and getting that to the store in 2 weeks, is one of the most inspiring companies to look at when you’re studying logistics. Right now their production is centered in North Africa and Europe, but they are planning a thrust into Asia, opening over a 1000 stores in China. It will be interesting to see whether they create a completely new center there. The NYT last year published a lovely video on Zara.
Also see the video by The Apparel Logistics Group below for excellent logistics vocabulary.

When you become a whistleblower

Yesterday Edward Snowden came forward and outed himself as the whistleblower who leaked information about Boundless Informant. This system developed by the NSA with major corporations, enables raw data to be analyzed and processed in the cloud, including IP addresses, so sender and recipient information can be tracked to rough location. I’m not going to politicize here, but I do want to talk about how Edward Snowden chooses his words.

In the remarkable interview with the Guardian about why he blew the whistle on the NSA, Edward Snowden uses the second person ‘you’ to hedge the details of his unique role and position. The speaker using ‘you’ disguises and generalizes his own experience and range of choices, inviting ‘you’, the listener, to imagine how you or anyone else would do the same thing if it happened to you. Likewise, he uses the simple present to generalize rather than the past tense to report on what he did.

‘When you’re in positions of privileged access like a systems administrator for these sort of intelligence community agencies, you’re exposed to a lot more information on a broader scale than the average employee. And because of that you see things that – uh – may be disturbing. But over the course of a normal person’s career you’d only see one or two of these instances. When you see everything, you see them on a more frequent basis, and you recognize that some of these things are actually abuses, and when you talk to people about them – uh – in a place like this where this is the normal state of business, people tend not to take them very seriously and, you know, move on from them. But over time, that awareness of wrongdoing sort of builds up, and you feel compelled to talk about it. And the more you talk about it, the more you’re ignored, the more you’re told it’s not a problem, until eventually you realize that – uh – these things need to be determined by the public, not by somebody who is simply hired by the government.”

Overall, he comes across as quiet and self-effacing, and very principled when he uses ‘I':

  • ‘I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things’
  • ‘I do not expect to see home again’

For the full interview see the Guardian (interview by Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald in Hong Kong, 12min 35sec)

Branding: Smells, tastes, feels like home

New exciting challenge. Learning about branding for a company I’ll be teaching at. So here’s my first exploration. Bill said: “Branding is about managing how people instinctively react to your ideas and identity.” Interesting. He’s sent me an ad for an insurance company that the company has branded, made by a separate agency. So one look, and you recognize, hey, this is a reference to “High Fidelity“.

They’re turning what Rob loves about Laura into what your average twenty something wants to love about insurance. Smells and tastes like home. A very convincing ad concept.

John Cusack was wonderful in High Fidelity, and I could see how an insurance brand would benefit from channeling the honesty, integrity, quirkiness and human realness of his character. So does the commercial communicate that to the viewer?

They’ve chosen a very different man, obviously. It’s a tough call to cast for a German TV audience. But going at it from my world, after the first two viewings I’m not so sure I like the guy. The problem is (for me) that the monologue sounds too learnt by heart. Has this Berliner really had nothing but trouble with insurances? Recognizing the scene, I’m expecting an authentic rant or declaration of love here. We’re so tuned into authentic emotion these days, it’s very hard to fool us. If you’re selling personality, but you don’t have a star everyone can relate to, it’s going to be risky. Star quality is elusive. I’m trying to think of a German actor I would have cast here… Maybe Jürgen Vogel? Big fan here.

They’ve taken Nora Jones “Sunrise” from “Feels like Home” as the music, which makes perfect sense. She is a true star. Everyone understands her, and she’s here to stay. Just like your coverage. Hopefully.

Our brain on an intercultural challenge

This excellent animation looks at the way our brain is involved in intercultural incidents. Instinctively, the brain causes us these feelings:

  • The early evolutionary reptilian part of our brain that rules gut feeling has 4 strategies when meeting something new, the 4fs: feeding, fighting, fleeing or f*cking.
  • Our stone age brain is keen on cooperation, needs a synchronized world, and responds with rejection when it meets something that doesn’t follow the rules.

The message of this film is that the feelings are what they are, we can’t do much about them. But as culturally intelligent people, we must know how to react to these feelings and put things in context. Watch:

Is privacy the new taboo?

I’ve been online now for just over 5 years. Recently I accidentally found the first video I made of myself, where I self-consciously wondered whether the information broadcasting movement I was about to join had any relevance, or whether it was a half-witted attempt to engage in broader but seemingly disconnected discourses, as half-witted as the information selected for the Voyager time capsule meant for both future generations and extraterrestrials, now spinning around in outer space.

No, I am not going to share it. Too much information.

My blog is again disconnected. I’ve effectively shut down the communication overload that was making me spend more time than I could afford or than was good for me on the internet. Other bloggers are doing similar things it seems, as many networks with their own channels have formed. Facebook is the new general watering hole, and that too will need reducing. Facebook is scary. And that’s me saying it, someone who has shared domestic scenes and childhood memories on her professional blog. It’s the interconnectedness of everything that is so disturbing. It costs the wrong kind of time to keep up, and makes finding things so easy for the wrong kind of people.

I just watched the film on the Anonymous movement and am really somewhat taken aback by the extreme change in attitude that seems to have developed not only among hackers, but among many young people in general that the public has the right to know pretty much anything at any time, certainly about people with any kind of social or economic or political power. It used to be that you had to understand history to understand the now in perspective. I studied history for that reason. Today, history is history. Recently, the loud and pervasive advice to normal people who venture online is: forget privacy, you’ve long lost it. So it seems the only protection against privacy invasion is not to be interesting.

For everyone else, privacy is the new taboo.

Links about Anonymous: