It happened again

Tea with Milk

I have always been amazed of the incredible shapes and forms that the milk draws in the tea when you pour some into it. It is like new energy, mass and elements are being created against the laws of physics. The milk penetrates the tea, unexpected, unwaited for, but terribly welcomed at the same time. Before the merge, the tea stands there elegant, quite majestic, waiting to be drunk in spite of that not being its real purpose.

The reddish beverage represents calmness and maturity, it is a tiny drop of the essence of nature diluted in a modest amount of water that fulfills its goal most of the times just by being elaborated and placed in a small, middle-sized and warm-in-soul table besides an armchair. Frequently, the drinker – or the preparer shall we say – finds the sought calmness and serenity in the couple minutes when the cup of tea is fading from too hot to warm, waiting to be drunk. It’s in those couple minutes where we find the inkpot of our focused mind and drift away for a few minutes or even  hours. It is in such journey through exploration and loss of time track when the tea finally fulfills its purpose, while still undrunk. I will often find the tea cold upon the first sip, quite shocked by realizing how much time has actually passed since it was prepared and then followed by a mild smile from a familiar thought: “It happened again”.

Search for your inspiration sources, whatever they are, wherever they lie. Search for those pourings of milk and disturb your calm and current beliefs with them. Prepare loads of tea, let it cool while it warms your soul and remember that sometimes the purpose of something might not be what you think it is. Sometimes the tea has to get cold before you get warm.

Insights Dialogue #1

– So this is it? Is this a game?

– You look surprised.

The only way to get smarter, is by playing a smarter opponent.

– Fundamentals of Chess, 1883.

You see, your greatest enemy will hide in the last place you would ever look. But the question is, is there a war? Is there a need for an enemy?

War cannot be avoided, it can only be postponed to your enemy’s advantage.

– Niccolo Machiavelli, XVth Century

– But I think he was wrong. ‘Cause remember, if you change the rules that control you, you will change the rules of what you can control.

– So, what are your rules? What can you control?

– Wrong question. The question is, what do you want to control? Depending on the answer to that question you shall create your own rules. Only then you’ll be coherent with your decisions.

– Is there a need for rules? Is there a need for control?

– Decision dilemma won’t get you out of this one. Don’t disappoint yourself.

– Good night

– Hm… I think it’s a good morning

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The Bond Between the Normal People and Technology has died – Bye Jobs

Steve JobsAs we all know yesterday Steve Jobs passed away. This is not only a goodbye-we-all-loved-you post. It is more a concerned post about the future.

First of all, I have to confess that I have never bought any Apple products and that I have always thought that they never were the most technologically advanced or the best in the market. However, Apple’s contribution to the world has been another one, one that no other tech company has reached. They have connected the two worlds: Technology Evolution and Mass Market. This not only turned incredibly profitable but also allowed the developers to have their work finally recognized by a majority of the population. I’ll further explain this rather radical point:

Oxygen for the Techies!

On the one hand we had the developers and technological researchers that tried to develop new, more powerful and better technologies and products. And on the other hand we have the mass market dealing with more and more new products with infinite technical specifications, apps, operating systems, apps and never-ending changing stuff that they never completely understand. But here was Steve Jobs smoothing the path between the two worlds and making new gadgets not only very usable but very desired. I’m not going to enter in a long explanation on how has he done this (basically ’cause we all know) but my question is…

…Who’s gonna do Job’s job now?

Among all the big tech firms I cannot see a similar approach from any of them, at least not successfully. I am a Googler and I love this company, but I have to admit that I am an early adopter and that many times – too many times – Google’s products or its vision of the world are not suitable even for the early majority. A clear example is the Chrome OS: it arrives ahead of its time.

Distribution of Consumers - early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards.

I have a big concern on who is going to carry on this job. Will Steveless-Apple be able to continue?  Comment your opinions!

South-East Asian development: Is it gonna happen?

Hello again people! Again, I’m in Asia. it definitely looks like my 4 months in Hong Kong and all the travelling wasn’t enough.

However, I am having some insight in the Asian culture by now and my perceptions are changing quite a lot. This post is about the South Asian countries like Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand. The first impression one normally gets in these places is that they are totally underdeveloped. Frequently with a pity feeling for a side dish.

I’ve spoken to dozens of travellers and what normally comes after is a feeling that it’s only a matter of time before they develop to where we are now. We usually perceive that globalization is also helping them to reach exportation markets and that they will eventually develop the technology to become importers of raw materials and low-added value manufactures, just as we’ve done in the past. The case of China is normally exposed because they ARE getting out of poverty and increasing at two digit growth rates. However, I totally think that China is a totally different story from the one of the countries mentioned above.

After some deeper thought and analysis I came to a third level of conclusions. Ones that of course can change as the others did but that looks more right and it’s a bit more open-ended, which normally fits reality more (or at least increases your safety margin incredibly). I have tried to know some local people wherever I went and at no moment did I have the feeling that they were unhappier than European people. Actually, I found them –  in average – much happier. That made me think. I analyzed their way of life and they seem to be much much more entrepreneurs than us. There are an uncountable number of businessmen here: the guy with the pancake-trolley, the guy with the 10 bungalow resort, the guy with the 2-3 boats that gives you a ride through the floating market or the Thai islands, the woman who cooks you some tiny chicken/pork/strange-stuff brochettes in her small BBQ for 10 bahts (.25€…) and a long etcetera. They are micro-business owners, but they do own their business and assume the risk implied.

To fully understand why they do what they do we have to understand what their (job) options are. I will try to extremely simplify it in two possibilities: when a Thai wants to work they can either 1. try to get hired by a company or 2. start their own (micro) business. For the first one to happen, in general basis, the company has to have ambition to grow, otherwise you wouldn’t hire more and more people absorbing the new population entering the labour market. But! That ambition does not exist here, not at least in the way it does in Europe. And that in my opinion, has to do with their level of happiness with their current life. In order to be ambitious you have to want to improve, otherwise it’s not worth the risk. But the combination of having a pleasant and relaxed life and not really knowing the opportunities that exist out there make local people here not ambitious (generally speaking). So, coming back to the point: They don’t get hired because the companies are not ambitious to grow. They are then frequently only left with the second option, which is starting their own business.

Finally, as a conclusion of all the arguments exposed above, I believe it is only natural to think that they are never going to develop “our way” not because they can’t, but because they don’t want to. And, honestly people, I don’t know how many Thai people you see in Europe, but this is full of Europeans and Americans who have decided to spend their lives here, not to speak about all of us who decide to escape here when we have the chance.

Comment your ideas on the subject! What are your experiences and opinions about this?

China: Group of individuals or individual group?

Hello readers! I recently came back from my exchange in Hong Kong. I’ve had the chance to travel through Asia and feel the east culture first hand.

What most shocked me about Asia was their “group culture”. They do everything in groups and the tendency to group thinking is much higher than in Europe. You could see it in many occasions, for example when you asked a question to some of them rarely did they just directly answer, they normally called some other people nearby and expose the question (in Chinese) so they could speak about it before answering. One could feel how they were much more comfortable this way. This is something I could also observe in Japan, when I attended the 55th edition of the International Student Conference in Tokyo last year. In our debate table about environmental issues there was an approximate 50-50 mix between westerners and Japanese and when we were planning the final presentation we openly started discussing how to organize it. The Japanese students were not really taking active part of the discussion and when we reached what looked like an agreement on the content and the structure the chief of the table said something like: “Ok, that sounds good, but let us [the Japanese] have some time to discuss it”. So then they spent about 10 minutes discussing in Japanese and when they reached a consensus the chief expressed all their doubts and ideas. No individual opinion expression again, we were quite shocked with the situation then.

In my opinion, this collective thinking and acting could help explain how can an authoritarian government still successfully rule a country which has the second biggest GDP in the world (in nominal and PPP) and how such a big country with such population can stay united (not that it hasn’t struggled of course). Other countries like Russia and Canada have more than 17 times less density, so it is not quite comparable (see the territories and countries population density list by the United Nations).

Moreover, focusing on China: How dangerous can a mass of 1.3 billion group-thinking people led by an authoritarian, strongly influencing and highly keen on censorship government be? However focused they are at the moment on inner growth and on boosting their exports there will be a time when priorities change and they will probably look for more power. This makes me think about how there has been leaders through history that have arrived to the power by democratic means and then have turned crazy and led their country/empire to disaster, dragging the world together with them. I don’t want to imagine what some future leader of the Communist Party in China could manage to do with such a powerful country under his command, with no opposition parties and with no media criticism. Who will get to power in China in the future without this big filter of democracy and without freedom of speech is a huge concern that the world should have.

Am I exaggerating my fears? Debate is open!

Truth or Standard – What do you prefer?

Focus on QualityIt is all about expectations and perceived quality: When you buy a product or a service you don’t normally want it to be the best possible quality, you actually want it to be as good as you thought it was when you bought it. In Marketing theory it is said that perceived quality – difference between expectations and after-buying perception of quality – is much more important than actual quality (Some definitions in business dictionary and studymarketing.org). So if you buy low quality cheap low-expectations stuff you might be very well more satisfied than with better products from which you expect much more.

Therefore, managing expectations in companies is as important as managing the real – or objective and measurable – quality of their products. Some of them do it great like Apple: Promise you nothing and give you a well-finished product, some of them do it worse like Microsoft: They promise you heaven every new windows and they give you the same unfinished crap as always.

But who are the real masters of perceived quality?

Politicians! In Spain they have managed to make us all believe it is normal for them to lie, so we do not expect anything else than lies and some lousy partisan work. This has lead to not valuing truth when it comes to politics. But if we do not value truth what can we trust? This has lead unavoidably to total lack of interest from the young generations in what politicians do, say or think. Bravo for them, they managed to share the power between a few without anyone worrying too much about it. Maybe politicians should stop so much rhetoric and start handing in some standardized reports at the end of each year just as companies do. So what do you prefer: Truth or standard?

Is art business? Are artists entrepreneurs?

A CD Video Disc (playing side) produced in 1987.

Image via Wikipedia

It’s been a long time since the first article. Although I have finished the course I am busy working in my internship in Telvent, a TIC multinational company.

Artists are after all workers and art is after all a product. If this product is priceless, valuable or worthless it is another question. Whether it is cinema, painting or music it makes no difference, the process always is: Design a product, Do it and Sell it. However unstandardized, complex or abstract the process is. The investment requirements are mainly time and knowledge, together with the expenses of studios, producing and marketing. For these reasons, it seems to me that they are actually entrepreneurs, with their pros and cons.

As any business, there are a lot of ventures and new projects that get started and a few that survive the market. Of course, if they succeed there is an established demand for all kinds of art – specially for cinema and music which are huge – which will give profits to be shared between all the shareholders and some stockholders. In the music industry: producers, musicians, studios, concert halls, etc. Some of them with fixed prices or salaries – normally studios and other workers – and others with variable ones – like the musicians themselves or the producers and record companies. They truly work as any other business in the world, with the supply and demand law.

Focusing in the music industry, it can be considered totally information intensive, therefore supply is virtually endless and the market will be driven by the demand of a certain product to establish its price among other variables.

In Spain there is a significant ongoing debate about the SGAE (www.sgae.es), which is the Spanish version of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). This organization aims to manage, charge and distribute artists’ copyrights and intellectual property distribution. It also looks after editors’ interests. It has more than a 100 years, but controversy has come lately as they have intended – and succeeded – to include extra charges for electronic devices. It created a digital canon for all electronic storage devices (CDs, DVDs, USBs, hard disks…) and copying hardware (CD/DVD recorders, scanners, photocopy machines, etc.) on the pretext of systematic illegal copying of music records and other material. This measure attempts or threatens the presumption of innocence as it presumes everyone will use these devices to make private copies – as they call them – of protected material in the first place, and share them illegally in the second place. Controversy about the subject worsened as they have attempted to charge royalties to charity concerts several times and only accepted to return the money after the the public and internet media deeply criticised those decisions. This has contributed to create some associations like “Todos contra el canon– All against the canon – which strongly disagree with the SGAE.

The president of the management board of the SGAE – Teddy Bautista –  has been interviewed by the Spanish financial newspaper “Expansion” and published the 25th of July. The title is The pirates’ most hated man (“El hombre mas odiado por los ‘piratas’ ” in its original version in Spanish) and you can find the article in Spanish in this link. In the interview he says that the digital canon’s purpose is not to give some more money to the popular singers or artists, but to guarantee the minimum wage for local artists. This is contradictory with the public opinion that believes the canon benefits most the popular and leaves very little for the unpopular. But moreover, are they not businessmen? Are they not entrepreneurs risking their resources in order to achieve profit sometime? Shouldn’t they therefore be paid as so? In my opinion, this organization is interfering the market and it is introducing measures that make cultural exchange more difficult. All this with some poor ethical values. What do you think? Vote in the poll and comment about it!