Dec 8, 2011

How to survive in big companies

My time with Nokia and Accenture is now over. I recently moved to a much smaller company called Contribyte. I've never been a career driven person as such, but I've still had the luxury to get in to some really interesting projects in my time with Nokia. What I mean, is that I've never made big plans about my career and I don't work to have career, but I actually work to enjoy work and have a decent income for my family. Still I've always got to better positions and bigger projects all the time. Based on what has worked for me, I wanted to share couple of thoughts and tips on how to survive in big companies.

First tip: You can't win all the fights

In big companies there's always bureacracy and processes, that you don't like or see the sense. Many of those will cause you some extra work and also are annoying. Don't waste your time trying to fix all of those. It's easier to agree with some of the processes which are not important for you and go with flow. Then on the other hand, fight the fights that are important for you. When you notice something that is really causing more harm than benefit, make noise about it. Try to understand for what purpose the process is there for the first place, and then try to invent better ways to fulfill the original need.

Second tip: Be consistent

In big companies, there are lots of busy people. Some of them are really busy, some of them are just busy being important. What's common for these people is that they don't truely listen. You can introduce important information or issue to them, but they ignore it, due to they are not really listening in the reception mode. They are just listening, because that's what people are supposed to do. So be consistent and even stubborn. Be sure that information or issue that is important in your opinion, gets truely understood by the ones, that need to understand it. If they then ignore the issue, that might be fine, but then at least they are aware and understand the issue.

And for some issues, you might want to raise noise with many channels. If you feel that issue is understood by those in responsible of it and still they don't act on it, you should raise the issue in other channels. One way is to go to their bosses, but that's a longer and harder way. Easier way is to use social channels of your company. Most of companies seem to have intra with blogs, discussion areas or some other social channels. Test your thinking there to see if others agree on the importance or not. If they do, then you have tools to raise it again or let others to do it.

If your issue or information don't make a change in the company, be a good loser. You are not in charge of the company, and you will not get all of your thoughts trough. Lift your head up and continue with next subjects.

Third tip: Learn the tools

This might be one of the most important things to loosen your stress at the office. Also this is the thing that is most complained at the office. The fact is, that some of the tools always suck. They just don't seem feasible for some tasks or are inconvienable to work with. The best thing you do, is to learn to use those. All the tools are easy to learn and those will actually have some features that make sense.

Learning to use company tools will make your days easier. It will also make you the person, who knows how to use tools and can help others on those. It's a win in the long run. So don't whine and fight against the tools, but just learn those.

Tip four: Be transparent

In big companies it's better to communicate to too many, than to too few. This will increase the email waste, but it will keep people happy. Those guys who complain that they are getting too much email, often love to get the email. They want to be aware and kept in loop. It's better to include even the guys who you know that might not be supporting your ideas quite early. That way they don't have the luxury at the end to start arguying that they wasn't aware of this. All the information will get to them at some point, so it's better to include them early than trying to hide information from them.
Tip five: Understanding is the key

This is not really related to big companies only, but it's more generic working guideline. Never work for items you don't understand. If you don't understand why you are doing something, seek for understanding as long as you do. That's the only way to get job properly done.

Be also willing to share understanding to all whom might ask and all you think would benefit from the information. This will help you to understand even more and it will make sure that they will share important information with you on the next time.

Tip six: Make friends

I have to say I hate networking on it's worse. Random people are gathering names and cards of random people. That's not real networking. What I mean is really making friends. Using few extra minutes with people will make a difference in the long run. Really listening and discussing with people will pay off. But you must be real. Everyone can detect a fake person, just networking with you, but you must really care about who the other is and what is her interests. That doesn't require lot's of time, but it requires you to care. Friends will help in big companies a lot, if you are planning to stay any longer.

Tip seven: Concentrate

In big companies you can get asked to do lots of work which are really not that important. Learn to detect what really makes a difference, which really are the tasks that needs to be done properly. Then the rest you can leave undone. I know, that in reality there are tasks you don't think are important, but you must for some political reason do. So learn to do those in ease, a bit lighter way than the really important tasks.

In big companies there are people who look like really busy all the time. They complain about the lack of time all the time. Quite often they just lack the skill to concentrate to the important. Hours won't increase in the day and long working hours are not really increasing productivity. Best thing is to really learn to concentrate on the essentials.

Tip eight: Learn to live with noise  

What ever companies do with their communication solutions, one thing won't change; there will be more and more information flying around available for every person to catch. There will always be multiple communication channels in use. Even some companies are thinking on solutions to the noise, the only real way is to learn to live with it. There will be always more information available and pushed for you than what you can handle. You need to learn to pick the right pieces of information from the huge flow of information. It's not easy, but tools and practices will help you there. Try different things out to find what is the most suitable for you.

Tip nine: Be yourself

This again it's not only for big companies, but it's still a valuable lesson. You can't change yourself due to work mates or processes. You need to learn your way to be yourself with your own priorities and working habits in your working environment. That's the only way to be truely happy at work. And you must be truely happy at work, because that's such a big part of your life.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Dec 3, 2011

You'll never know what good things make good things happen

Good things happen to good people. This is the mantra I've believed my whole life. If you do good things, world will pay you back and good things will happen to you.

There's one catch. You will never know who are the people that will actually affect your life later on. Most of the times you end up with nothing else than a good feeling yourself when helping someone else. Time to time, life surprise you and you get a response you would have never imagined to get and often it's from a person you would have never guessed.
Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Nov 30, 2011

Forbidding email is not a solution*

There's been news flying around that some companies are abandoning email. Atos Origin for example is going so far that they are forbidding email totally according to Computer world. I've seen many similar news from other sources also, claiming that big bunch of emails are waste. I have to say I second that, majority of emails are waste. There's no question about that. What's worrying me, is the proposed solution to that problem.

In organizations, there's natural demand to communicate clearly to large groups. Often the sender of the message can't be sure whom all would benefit from the information in the message. This causes, that many of the emails have receivers who are not interested about the subject. This then starts to cumulate, when people in the mail chain start to answer and will not drop anyone out from the mail chain, due to they are not sure why the people was there in the first place. From both of these, there comes the waste.

Solution for the waste problem doesn't go away with new tools like social networks, intranet feeds, wiki's and instant messaging chats although the problem does change a bit with these tools. With these people need to themselves tune in to the forums they think are relevant for them. This will cause at the end that people are tuning in to all news sources they think might be relevant for them. This then will cause the same information overflow as with email quite soon. And at the end it might be, that people will use even more time with these new tools than used with traditional email for example.

Don't get me wrong, these new tools, IM, Social Networks, Wiki's and whatever are really essential for any company to communicate better. These just will never replace email. There is a need and place for all of these. Problem isn't in any of the tools, but with the people using those. With short and effective trainings, people would learn to use right tools for right communication. There are always subjects that go best with email or social networks and subjects that require more rapid feedback either face to face or with IM.

Also there's the second thing. Tools rarely work when forced. Tools which are irrelevant will die away when there are better ones available. Tools that add value, will find the way to be used. For example forbidding the use of email, will make people angry and frustrated. Offering better tools for communication and letting people to find the benefits themselves, will cut some of the email communication automatically.

The real problem with communication, isn't in any of the tools. Noise is the real problem, not email or any other tool. Learning to cope with noise is a skill that should be taught and learned in all organizations. It's a new skill in a history of mankind, but it's a really important skill for the knowledge workers of today. And noise isn't going away anytime soon, but it will keep increasing, because sharing information is getting easier all the time.

Solution to noise is always changing the behavior of the people, not changing the tools. Offering new tools and ways to use old tools can help with noise, but only if person understands and agrees that noise exists. In modern organizations everyone should learn to cope with noise and at some point also to reduce the noise they are making. And at the end, even noise isn't the real problem, it's the lack of skill to cope with it.

* Title was changed from "Don't blame email for the noise" to the current 1.12.2011

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Nov 22, 2011

Book Review: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield was a book I really looked forward to read. It had been mentioned as reference in so many different books and so many interesting people, that I just had to read it. Even with high expectations, but no real glue of the style of the book, it surprised me how wonderful it was.

The book is about making things happen. How one can truly follow it's calling and actually make things happen. It's a perfect guide for everyone to start creating the things you want to and stop making excuses why you couldn't be doing these things. It talks a lot about writing, but the learning's can be reused for anything one wants to do.

Most important part of the book is the explanation what is resistance. Resistance is the force is in us, that prevents us doing things. It's the rationalization, fear and everything else in one package telling us reasons, why we shouldn't do somethings. Everyone finds it in themselves. If they don't, then they have lost the game totally to resistance.

Book does tell also about turning in to a pro and fighting the resistance. Still the important part relies in acknowledging the resistance. When you learn to know it's there, you can fight it. If you don't learn to recognize it, you don't have the change to beat it. Such a powerful and cunning it is.

I loved most of the contents of the book, and in addition I loved the way the whole thing was presented. Chapters were really enjoyable and short enough with excellent stories in those. It really was fun to read. Couple of times, it really struck me with such a good insights, that I got surprised and even offended before I realized truth in those. It was a true self learning journey for me.

As a foreign English speaker, the text was bit difficult sometimes. I've been reading lot's of business/science books lately and those use easier language most of the time. I can notice that Steven Pressfield is a novelist in his heart and he uses more variety in words than regular business writers do. That made the book even more interesting to read, but it also did it bit harder for non native English speaker to read.

Book is a true masterpiece. I loved and hated the book at the same time. It revealed to me so much of myself, that I got amazed. When you want to achieve something, get this book to you hand and read it. It's worth every page.
Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Nov 20, 2011

Social media has ruined headings

Many websites title their texts with headings that don't tell exactly what the text is about. Those use headings with falsely sets the expectation about the article, but then at the end article isn't really living it's promise.

I blame social media for this. Some websites think they can drive traffic to their site, with interesting headings. Then they post the title to all the different medias and hope for people to catch the link and come to their site. Headings role has changed from telling about the text to being the sales guys of the text. Heading is the one time shot to get person to be interested on the text.

I really hate this. I check tens of texts a day because of a title shared in social media. Too many of those are disappointments due false headings. Headings and the text don't match at the end.

I already have a list of sites I never go since they always exaggerate with their heading and don't really tell anything valuable with their texts. They just make headings out of speculations or copy news from others. Or then they do the worst tell old news with new headings.

Fake article with striking header
Too often there's headings like: "Google's social site is doomed. Will be closed in few weeks!", and then the news is about ending Google Buzz, which no one cares about anymore. So they are not totally lying, they are just setting totally different expectations towards the text.

This tactic might work for a while, but hopefully people will start to realize, that these companies are always playing tricks on us. Setting expectations higher than delivering, is never really a good tactic. I believe that delivery (here meaning quality of the content) is the key to success. Even sites are getting faster growth rates with sensational or striking headings, it still might turn out to be more valuable to make truthful headings about the content in the long run.

I would imagine, that in some companies there are discussions ongoing, that we should concentrate on the texts and contents, not just driving the traffic to our site. Traffic is important and valuable, but traffic with high bounce rate and unsatisfied customers will hit websites to their own ankle in the long run. I would hope that there comes a time, when deception is not a good strategy. With a world of quarterly business plans and short term bonuses, deception is a really good strategy to meet the targets. It's just not good for us the customers.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Nov 8, 2011

Book review: DNA of customer experience by Colin Shaw

Customer experience in it's all forms is my favorite subject. I love to analyze how things could be done better and what makes a good or bad customer experience. Lately I got my hands on the book DNA of Customer Experience by Colin Shaw. It's about the emotional side of Customer Experience. It was a really exciting book experience for me.

Book introduces four major categories (or clusters as called in book) of emotional states, which affect customer experience. Those categories are explained really well with many good examples. Those categories are further broken down to emotions. Emotions in those categories really seem to make sense and finds a true counterpart in real life situations. This gives a good start to deeper understanding the meaning of emotions to customer experience and business figures.

The categories introduced in the book are Destroying cluster, Attention cluster, Recommendation cluster and Advocacy cluster. Most of those are quite self-explanatory. In the Destroying cluster are the feelings when people are disappointed and frustrated towards a service or a product. Those are the worst ones and maybe the easiest to fix. Then on the other end there is the Advocacy cluster, in where are the feelings to really feel belonging to something. It's the most happiest feelings towards a service you can get.

What I like in this book is, that it acknowledges that improving customer experience might need a strong business cases behind those activities. In order to get support from management there might need to be prove that it helps the business. The book makes a business case out of almost all examples. Some of those seems a bit artificial, but at least there are numbers behind improving customer experience. Those might really count in some organizations.

I've been a big believer of emotional side of customer experience already before reading this book. This was the book that gave me lot more facts on top of my own thinking. Emotions are really important when dealing with people. Even you give a good service, you might be missing something to really affect the person. In many business areas this is vital. People can be really loyal, when they have a good reason for it, or then they can swap between companies, if they are not emotionally attached to it. Emotions really matter. If you don't believe it, read this book.

My only criticism towards the book, is that it uses a lot of Beyond Philosophy's methodologies and terminology on measuring customer experience with emotions. This means that you can't really implement these things directly to your business, but you should actually buy the services from them. So there's a slight taste of marketing material in this, but you should get over it, due the actual content of this book is so brilliant and important.

I really recommend this book to everyone. This book is the key on understanding why some services or products just feel better than others. Even you wouldn't be directly involved in dealing with customers, you should read it. This is such an important book to understand what customer experience is all about.
Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Nov 5, 2011

Does everyone need to have their own web stores - two stories of bad customer experience

I've stated it earlier that I'm a big buyer from online stores. Nowadays I buy most of my stuff from online stores. I've just recently had couple of really hideous experiences with online stores which are side products of a service. One is from airline loyal customer program and second is from sports website.

Here's the first story. With airline loyal customer program, I got notified that some of my points were going old. As I didn't have enough for any decent flights, I thought I order some stuff from their online store. Everything went well and I placed order successfully, only small things was that products never arrived. As I had waited for a 6 weeks (look at my patience), I gave them a call. As usual, then number on their website couldn't answer to my worry and I had to call to another number. From there I got a responsible person to the phone and she told, that it has been very unfortunate that some of the items in my order are not available and they need to wait for those  before sending those to me. She promised that in 3 weeks I would receive my package.

After 3 weeks, nothing arrived, and actually nothing arrived in 7 weeks. I had almost forgotten the whole thing and then an email came and said, that they are sorry for the delay, but some items are still missing from my order. It stated that they will add a special gift to the package. This time they didn't give me any estimate of delivery. It haven't yet arrived. Let's see if it arrives for Christmas.

Fictional Web Wanderer store
The second story is about sports website. I really love the site and they are doing really good work on their sports journalism. That was one of the reasons, that I decided to order some sports equipment from their web store. Everything worked like a dream, order went well, I got notified that they posted me the package next day and it arrived two days later. The only thing was that it was missing 2 out 5 items I ordered. There was no notification of partial delivery or actually it didn't have any document at all. I decided to wait 3 more days, if they were just sending the order in two parts.

As you might guess, nothing happened. I emailed the company, and CEO of the small company got back to me soon, saying that 1 of the 5 items had been out of stock and it's coming to me in 2 days. I stated again that there were actually two items missing, but I didn't receive any answer. Again I waited a week and nothing happened. I mailed the CEO and he told that it should be there today or if it's not, then he's going to send me those again. Not very convincing, since they are not sure if it was send or not. This case is also still open and I'm eagerly waiting what's going to happen with it.

What's common with both of these cases is, that online store is a secondary business for them. For airline, keeping loyal customer is a key thing, but actually operating the store isn't. Same goes with this sports website, their main thing is to make good journalism and then they make some money out of their web store for selling sports items.

Maybe in both cases they should consider partnering. There's tens of excellent web store all around the world, and I would imagine one of those would be really happy to co-operate on selling their goods. And I bet they could even find someone to operate it totally under their own brand. Definitely their profit per sale would decrease, but also their cost per sale might decrease at the same level. Also there might be real savings on time spent on web store compared to their main activity.

These companies are in totally different situations. For an airline, running a online store is not a big cost, but they might consider it to be strategically important for keeping loyal customers happy. Then for small sports website, having an online web store might be a vital to keep the cash flow. In both cases still they need to improve their customer experience. If they are having a web store, they must do it well. It might cause them much more harm than there is benefit, if they serve their customers like I got served.

Most of the customers are already sharing many of their experiences around the web. This trend is not going anywhere, but it will increase over time. Default level of customer experience have raised a lot with web stores. People expect to be always aware of their order status. They expect to be notified on any delays or changes. That's the basics web stores nowadays have to come up with. If they want to please the customers, they need to do lot more.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Nov 2, 2011

How teleconferences really work - how they differ from f2f meetings

I've been in big companies for long enough to have quite good understanding how teleconferences really work. The idea is the same than in face to face meetings, people get together for a reason or another and discuss their way forward. But teleconferences have so many other additional aspects compared to f2f meetings, that you should be aware of those when participating one.

Here's a basic setup for a teleconference. People phone in with their mobile phones, computers or teleconference phones. Quite often there is also online presence so people can actually see the same presentation in their screens if they are with computer. At first it seems to be quite the same as face to face meeting, where people would all be together in the same room.

Basic setup of online telco meeting

In reality the picture below might look like more realistic setup. There's three people in the same green room, two people in other location in the grey room and rest are individually located in different places. People in the same room will actually have their own co-operation and discussions ongoing during the meeting. This happens even without words, since people communicate so much with only gestures. Most often there is also real discussions ongoing in these rooms either concerning the meeting subjects or not.

How people are often set up for an online telco
But that's not all. There's actually way more communications ongoing in teleconferences than there would have ever been in face to face meetings. When people are sitting with computers, there's possibility to chat with others even they are not in the same location as you are. This possibility wouldn't be there for f2f meetings. It gives a different twist for discussions, because people can co-operate more on the background. Responses and issues raised might be result of communication already happened and not raised first time for discussion as spoken once. That makes it easier to raise concerns, when people have backed up their items with checking with some other participants in the teleconference.

How online communication tools are affecting online telco

Still there's lot more on teleconferences than just the communication happening for the meeting subject. When people are busy, alone with the computer and in a meeting, there's a strong temptation to do other things at the same time. Many people do check their mails or RSS feeds during these meetings. And some might even check the social media for latest happenings. Meeting subject will not get full attention from all the people in the meeting all the time. That just never happens.

Then there are the other disturbing things to online telco's

You can't prevent people on doing these things at teleconferences. This is the nature of teleconference. There's lot of good on it also. People often hate meetings and quite often for a reason. Online teleconference is a half of a meeting. It saves time from people not needing to travel and not needing to pay full attention. This all comes with a price, because not having a full attention, just means that meeting results might not be as good as with face to face meeting. That's the balance you need to consider when running a teleconference and not face to face meeting.

Teleconferences and online meetings are not that bad. It's just good to realize how those actually work to understand how to make most out of those.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Oct 28, 2011

Sad, Bad, Evil day for the web - Google starts charging Maps API usage

I've been a Google fanboy for so long. Google has been one of the companies I've admired for long time. They've been doing so much good for the web and the world with their world class free services. Millions of webpages, blogs, applications and services are better because of a Google services like free maps, Blogger, Analytics, Webmaster tools, Feedburner and all the stuff in their API's. It might be, that now, all that have become to an end.

Google recently announced that they are starting to charge on their Maps API usage. This might sound as a small move, but it might turn out to be a game changing move. There's thousands, if not millions of services out there using their Maps API and now they are all pissed off. Of course Google has tried to make their billing schema so, that service won't cost for most of the users currently. They only want to charge the heavy users. The thing they might have not thought thoroughly is, that people have high hopes for their web services and applications. They might actually see this free limit to be totally insufficient to their future needs. Now all of them are making calculations on their business plans and usage statistics.

Then there's the question in everyone's mind, what will be the next Google service that they start billing? It might be so, that they don't have any plans to bill on any other service for foreseeable future, but definitely there will be lot of guesses and rumors flying around. Let's say what if you are building your service and you are thinking if you would use Google's user authentication system, so that you wouldn't need to build you own. For sure, the questions that will come to you mind is, will they start billing on this one too soon.

This move might be the one that changed Google to be as all the other companies. It might be so, that Google have turned mature and they are now only caring about their profit and cash flow and not about the web and people anymore. It really might be, that these same business people who have taken over most of the other big companies, have now taken over Google and there's strict business targets for all quarters and that's what they will care for now on.

Someone might say that they are just doing business. That's what companies are for. But that's exactly the point, so far Google has been seen as the good guys in the web, not the greedy ones. They have been the guys who are actually making web a better place, with all the free services they've provided. I do know that those haven't really been free ever, but they have hiddenly made the money from advertising and some premium services, but they haven't been greedy enough to bill for other services. Now it look likes that business have won the ideology. They have become greedy.

If you check their financial results, they're doing quite fine. In the 3Q 2011 they did 2,73 billion net profit. I guess it's not a must  for them to start billing on Maps API:
From Google Financial Results

And don't get me wrong. I financially and business point somewhat understand what they are doing. They are after easy wins, they are after quarterly results, they are after money. If you rely on an old school business books, they are doing just as they are supposed to do. But it's a new world. It's a world, where free is a business model. It's a world, where brand means much more than ever. Now they are playing with both, they are taking a hit on their ideological brand and they are stating that we will not be free forever.

From now on any application or service developer, who want's to run a business, can't actually take Google Maps services in to use without considering the costs of that service to them. That will mean they will start to also look for alternatives. And as there ain't that good alternatives existing, the result is that everyone loses. We, the web users, are not going to get as good new services as we have got so far. Also we will not going to get as many good freemium services as we have seen so far. In the end everyone at the web loses.

Maybe I'm playing devil's advocate here, but I feel Google has changed for forever. That's a sad day for Google fanboy. Google has become as greedy as all the others.
Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Oct 21, 2011

Liar, Liar, Liar - We are all liars

I watched this eyeopening TED-talk about lying. Pamela Meyer told about lying and how it is everywhere and done by everyone.

There were two things that hit me the most, first was the statement: "Lying is co-operative act" and the second was "Everyone has a hunger for something". I interpreted these so that lying is most often a kind act from someone to be more co-operative. And also that there are some things that we are eager to be lied about. If we are uncertain of something, we want to hear things that are favorable for our thinking.

I admit I've often lied to someone to be seen more co-operative. When person or subject in question is not important for me, I've played the "yes man" to agree and get on with the situation. I'm sure you have too. Pamela Meyer tells that people are much more likely to lie to a stranger. I think that's a time management system also. I've at least coped with people just that I wouldn't need to waste any time with them.  I've said to myself often, that I don't have to win all the fights. Even if I disagree with someone or I have some more information some subject in question, I might act to be dumper than I really am to just get on with the situation.

Some of you have seen the movie Liar Liar. It's a comedy about lawyer (played by Jim Carrey) who for 24 hours can't lie. It's not a jewel of movie industry, but the strange situations happening in the movie are not that far away from truth as one might think. If we would talk 100% true all the time, there would be so many strange situations and wrangles all around that anything wouldn't really happen. All lying isn't that bad.

I still believe we are more and more going towards the world of truth. People are being much more open and honest about themselves and their interests. Organizations and governments have been forced to be more open. Movements around the internet and world are catching liars from governments, individuals and companies. Lying has become much harder these days and it will bring us towards better, more honest world.

Check the TED-talk from Pamela Meyer on How to spot a liar. There's a book from her also called Liespotting, I'll add it to my to-be-read list.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Oct 20, 2011

Take pictures, focus later camera - called Lytro - now in sales

I blogged some time ago about really cool camera, which let's you focus later. Check my blog post for more information Take pictures, focus later.

Picture from Lytro press site
I've seen cases that these cool ideas never get to production or too expensive for normal people. This isn't one of those. The camera is now available in 399$ to 499$ in their website. So it's not expensive at all. I could imagine that prices go down a lot in few years.

If you didn't read my blog back then when I first blogged about this, go check the camera out. It's really cool and it's really made for internet age:

Only downside in this phase is, that these are only available in U.S for now, you need Mac to edit these photos and deliveries will start early 2012.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Oct 18, 2011

Amazing footage of Northern lights

I run into amazing footage of Northern Lights from Finland. Finnish production company Flatlight Films have produced the most beautiful footage of Northern Lights I've ever seen.

According to their site, they have shoot the video early this year in North of Finland.

Check their video out: 

Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland 2011 from Flatlight Films on Vimeo.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Oct 14, 2011

Book review - Linchpin - are you indispensable by Seth Godin

I've followed and admired Seth Godin's thinking for some time already. I guess I'm not the only one, since he seems to be one of the most followed person on the web. What I like in him, are the surprising angles he looks at things, almost magical ability to group things together and he's way of presenting his thoughts.

The book Linchpin - Are you indispensable? tells about people who make value to their work over their job description. It's about those who have skills that are hard to describe. It's about those who are not easily replaceable by anyone else. It explains those people, what are their skills and how they behave. What's best is that it also analyses what it would take for any of us to become indispensable.

In the book Seth Godin describes these people linchpins. Also he describes those as artists, people who create something different with their behavior and skills. He gives good examples of linchpins as people who make others feel comfortable and well served or someone who truly cares about the result, not only about doing their job.

In this book Seth Godin talks about how to become a linchpin. He explains how our lizard brains prevent us doing many things, how connections are important, why gifts has a such an important role in current world and economy and lot more. It is an extensive and brilliant insight to why some people just make things happens and others just stick with what they are told to do.

Many times during the book I noticed of things I could do differently and things I should continue to do even more. Like Seth Godin says in his book, it's not going to be easy to become linchpin, but it's most probably up to you. There's something in you that makes you special, you just need to really learn to use your skills.

I've always admired Seth Godin for his ability to say things in compact, even short, form. His blog posts and some of the previous books I've read are carefully shortened to give a clear and simple message. This time it's different. Book is not that compact and I could even say that it's not organized in such a smart way as he normally does. I got the feeling that the subject in question might have been such an important for him, that he might have not been able to really analyze his own doings so well, than with less important subjects. That's at least what I've noticed, what closer the subject is to your heart, that harder it is to subjectively analyze it.

It's a brilliant book, but it's not easy to read. Or the text is easy to read, but some of the ideas are such new and bold, that it takes some chewing to really understand meaning of all of those. To read it, it's for everyone, but I believe most of the people don't really take all of it seriously. I liked it and I hope I have the guts to take in to use the things I figured out during this book. 

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Oct 4, 2011

Book review: As the Future Catches You by Juan Enriquez

 As I first time scanned through As The Future Catches You by Juan Enriquez, I knew it would be something totally different. Typography of the book looked strange with lots of different font sizes and lots of free spaces throughout the book. Even I was prepared, book was able to surprise me.

Book turned out to be arrogant, irritating and controversial prophecy of how the future will turn out. I have to say I hated the book many times, and I almost quit the book in half way. There was still something interesting enough to keep me going. The actual content of the book is in many points quite interesting to read. There's lot of good facts about what's happening in the science currently (in year 2001) and lots of good thoughts how the future might turn out to be. It's just the way Juan Enriquez presents his thoughts that made me see red.

Problem with a book that has controversial thoughts about the future is that anyone criticizing it's thoughts can be stamped to be old fashioned and not understanding anything about the trends of the future. I think that's also the style how Juan Enriquez wrote the whole book. It is meant to diss the people who don't believe in his thoughts and prophesies.

Even thought there was some interesting facts and ideas there, I don't honestly buy some of the things in this book. I don't believe that we will start to manipulate products with human genes as much as thought in this book and I don't even believe that genes has such a big affect to everything as the book thinks. I have to say that Juan Enriquez couple of times acknowledges this on the book, but he doesn't really bring it that much forward. After reading The Genius in all of us I've never thought about genetics as the way I used to.

I think that subjects and contents of this book are important. Also I'm sure that Juan Enriquez is really intelligent guy. So there are all the ingredients for a good book; but this one just isn't. It's too american and too preaching for my taste and it doesn't really give room for thinking as it should.

I genuinely hate the typography and way of writing. I don't think there's a single good sentence in this book.

Maybe he thinks that this subject is far more interesting in big letters.. 
and then he tries to be so cool with different formatting..
and then there are even bigger letters to prove the point...
And none of the sentences finish with a dot..
And the whole thing turns out such a mess.

To be honest, I'm not going recommend this book to anyone. I can show it to some of my friends to get the point, but don't waste your time reading this one. There must be better books about the subject. Subjects itself are valuable, but the book isn't.  

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Sep 29, 2011

Ideas are seeds, execution are the plants

Ideas are almost worthless. Good ideas might be worth something, but without taking proper actions from ideas, they are not worth anything. Ideas are like seeds, they don't cost much and those are quite easy to find from anywhere. Seeds don't start to grow without planting those to the right grounds and starting to take care of those. That's the same with ideas, if you just keep those in your drawer, nothings going to happen to those ideas.

Once in a while someone comes to me and says, I have a great business idea. What if we would do this and that, wouldn't it be amazing. I admit that I've done the same. I have a pile of business ideas in my virtual drawer (in Google Docs) where I type out those ideas for storage when those come to my mind. For a long time, I thought those are important and kind of like a treasure for me. Just recently I've figured out that those are not worth anything. Really, those are not worth anything. Those are just ideas, which might lead to somewhere with good execution, but ideas as such don't have any value to anyone. It's the same with this post. This post as an idea in my mind, didn't have any value to anyone. I discussed about this subject with my colleagues few days back and then there came some value to the ideas and now this actually materializes to it's current value with my execution to this blog. 

A week ago I read an excellent post from Derek Sivers about value of ideas (here's the post). The idea in his post is that execution is tens of thousands or million time's more valuable than just the idea. That's what I'm trying to say in this post also, ideas are really not worth much or if anything without execution. Execution is the thing that makes ideas fly, not the ideas itself.

Reason I and many else have been careful about sharing ideas that we've thought that they do have a value and that someone might steal those ideas. Sure someone might steal your idea if you share with others, but most often you need to really have marvelous idea for anyone to even listen your ideas. And like I've said many times, execution and the vision is the thing that matters, not the idea itself. If you are sure about your idea being really good, don't worry about someone stealing it, go ahead and execute better than others. There's always going to be competition, maybe it's better to face it early.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't ever protect your ideas. In some cases it might be wise to keep your ideas with small group or only share parts of your idea to others. The main point still is, that you should think when the ideas really start to get value. Is partly done done, or not done at all. Some could argue that there isn't any value created on any doing before it's really out there with real users.

For organizations this might be different. Some bigger companies do get extra value of not publishing ideas before execution, in order to get more publicity from the launch of a product or a service. For smaller companies it might be quite the opposite, they could actually gain publicity or funding for their product or a service for opening up ideas really early to public. They can get fast feedback and tips for the execution for opening up the ideas sooner than later. And at the end, what will make a difference is the execution.

If you have a brilliant idea, maybe the best thing you could do would be to spread the idea to everyone willing to listen as much as you can. Best thing that could happen to you might be, that someone else things that the idea is great. And that might even lead to the next step of execution of the idea. With keeping the idea to yourself, most probably the idea will just die itself to old age.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Sep 28, 2011

New ways to view this blog (blogger dynamic views in action)

Blogger rolled out fully their new ways to view blogger blogs. These new dynamic views are more modern way to read blogs. These remind me of templates available in  Posterous or Tumblr.

Even though some of the new views look quite neat, I'm not going to give up on my traditional blog lookalike. If you hate it or just want to read my blog in some other ways, please check from here all the other views available to read my blog. If you like some of those, just bookmark that one. Those will be always available.

Here's all the different dynamic views of
  • Classic: A modern twist on a traditional template
  • Flipcard: Photos tiled across the page
  • Magazine: A clean, elegant editorial style layout
  • Mosaic: A mosaic mix of different sized images and text
  • Sidebar: An email inbox-like view with a reading page for quick scrolling and browsing
  • Snapshot: An interactive pinboard of your posts
  • Timeslide: A horizontal view of your posts by time period 
I think only option that makes sense for this type of blog I have is this Magazine view. All the others look more or less bit childish tries to be cool. This Magazine view I could really get used to, if it only would have the options to get some of the items from my current blog template to it. Then I could consider taking it to be the default one. And at the same time I would like to disable the other possibilities.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Sep 26, 2011

Book review - Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda

Laws of Simplicity is one of the books I had heard a lot of beforehand. It had become a sort of a trend book in our office for making many things simpler and clearer. It was referred in so many different occasions, that I wasn't really sure what to expect. Book is from John Maeda, who is designer, artist and educator. Still the book isn't only about design, but much more.

Mr. Maeda takes the ambitious mission of explaining simplicity in the book. I've always thought that simplicity is something some people just seem to understand, and others just don't. It's kind of like an eye for something. John Maeda has taken this task to gather many different ways (or laws as he calls) simplicity appears. It's a challenging task, but he has done it really well.

Mr. Maeda introduces in simple way the usual forms of simplicity and gives small introduction how people can try to learn to understand these forms of simplicity. In the book he explains these laws and gives some ways for all of us to learn to build simpler things. It doesn't really matter what you are building, these laws are trying to be universal to suit from SW business to house building.

This might be the first book, that I've thought to be too short. I think Mr. Maeda has relied too much on his first law of Reduce and shortened the book too much. I would have really liked to get some more insights of some of the laws presented in the book. Few more good examples would have made a difference on understanding some key aspects of this book. Even though I think most of the books are bit too long, maybe in this case few more chapter would have a made difference. It's a matter of taste, like simplicity.

This book is not only for designers. This is a good book for almost everyone. Everywhere in the world there are things, products or services which are too complex. In addition the book is fast and fun to read, so it won't take lot of time to read it trough. Still somehow I feel, I might go and read the book again someday. It's good to remind remind yourself on the basics of simplicity once in a while.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Sep 24, 2011

Innovation is all about execution

Innovation is often misthought to be all about ideas. Often people think that great ideas means great innovations. Actually ideas as such don't have much value. Ideas are easy to come up with, but what makes a difference is the execution.

One consequence of this false thinking of ideas being the important thing on creating innovative products, are all the systematic innovation methods and processes that are seen with companies and other organisations. From the book Inside Steve's brain I loved Steve Jobs citate:"trying to systemize innovation, is like somebody not cool, trying to be cool". That's exactly what I've felt on these innovation boosting systems what I've seen in many different places. They are focused on gathering new ideas. Often those even give the greatest value to ideas which are most original and are most weird and out of the current world. Revolution is quite rare, evolution is happening all the time.

Best projects where I've take part have had a real focus on details. Those have had a vision of an idea and then we've all been together working hard to get all the smallest details right. That have required lot of iterations and lot of errors. Making a mistake is a key thing on creating great innovative products. If you never make a mistake when creating something new and innovative, then you've just never realised the importance of learning and mistakes on you creation process.

I learned from the same book Inside Steve's brain another great quote, this one is from Pablo Picasso: "Good artist copy, great artist steal". This tells exactly what innovation is mainly about. If you think companies like Apple, they haven't really ever invented anything totally new. They've just taken good ideas from others and owned those and made those perfect. Same is true almost about any products or companies that are thought to be innovative. If you think Facebook, there's been social networks before them, they just executed theirs perfectly. Same is true about Toyota Prius. This innovative hybrid car was not the first or only car on the market that time, Toyota just executed perfectly and kept improving their early prototypes. Innovation is often about stealing, undesrtanding a great idea and improving it to be perfect when creating the product.

When you are working on innovative products, concentrate on details and vision of a problem you are solving. Overall all innovative products are solving real user problems. Some of these problems are just problems that will come obvious in the future and people don't really understand having those yet. If you think of mobile phones as an example, people didn't know twenty years ago, that they would need to be able to communicate with others everywhere. With mobile phones, the problem has always been there, people just didn't think that it could be solved.  

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Sep 19, 2011

Example from Steve Jobs - what really is important for a leader

I was watching a video series from Derek Sivers (founder of CDBaby) made exclusively to Arctic 15 conference. In one of the videos he talks about the fact that nobody knows the future. The actual video and idea is interesting, but what was even more interesting was when Derek told about Apple being in contact with him after iTunes launch. After reading Inside Steve's brain, this part popped up to me so nicely.

Derek went to Apple and was waiting for some guys from marketing to come to talk with him, but actually Steve Jobs himself popped in and started selling his great idea of buying all the music rights from him. This is perfect learning for all managers and leaders out there. Steve Jobs saw this to be such an essential part of iTunes and Apple success that he got hit hands on to convince Derek to sell rights through his company to Apple. So often manager assigns things to others to complete and just watches from above or side that everything progresses as though. There always are battles that managers should take part. Too often too much is delegated.

Please check either the full video (only 4:50 long) or then jump directly to the part where he talks about being invited to Apple (from 3:15 onwards).

Derek Sivers. Uncommon Sense. 3-of-8. Nobody knows the future. from Derek Sivers on Vimeo.

If you liked this video, 7 out of 8 of the whole series of  Derek's speeches are found from here: Arctic15 Exclusive: Derek Sivers - Uncommon Sense. Last one wasn't announced yet, but I would guess the link to this upcoming post is this.  

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Sep 18, 2011

Book review - Inside Steve's brain - expanded edition

I read book about Steve Jobs and Apple written by Leander Kahney. Book's name was Inside Steve's brain. Copy I had was an extended edition of this book. I figured out from the name, that the book would really dig into mindset of Steve Jobs. I knew that writer Leander Kahney didn't have the permission from Steve Jobs for this book, but still I assumed he had second hand material which would open up the mind of one interesting technology leader.

I have to start with the negative side of the book. It promises in the name that it would be "inside Steve's brain" and would really tell why Steve Jobs behaves as he does, what are his motives and driving forces. Unfortunately this is not what the book really is about. Book really is an entertaining and excellent one, but it doesn't really fulfill it's promise from the name. I expected it to be different than it was, but when I got over the disappointment, I realised there's lot of good in this book.

If you admire Apple products, like most of us do, this is the book that tells more about how Apple creates it's products. It tells about excellent people and their processes to create these innovative and cool looking products of theirs. It could almost work as a bible for those who believe that Apple's way of building products is the best and only way. It really gives lot of food for thought about importance of design, product thinking, innovation and clear focus, when creating products.

I specially loved the parts where it told how innovations and designs are created at Apple. Innovation and beautiful designs don't just come from great thinkers, but they need hard work and lots of iterations even from some of the best guys in the planet.

For guys creating any types of products, you should be aware how Apple has done theirs. Understanding that methodology will give you good ideas how to improve your own organisation on improving the ways you create products. That's the reasoning I would sell this book to you if not an Apple fanboy. If you are, then I guess I don't need to sell it to you.

I have to admit I was hoping the book to be more about Steve Jobs. This book was mainly about Apple, which for some might equal to Steve Jobs, but not for me. I've found Mr. Jobs personality and experience such an interesting, that I hope to find more about that on the soon to come book Steve Jobs.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Sep 7, 2011

Book review - Lean Software Development by Mary & Tom Poppendieck

This was one of the books I've planned to read from the days I started with Agile SW development projects. This was the book many said I should read about agile. I'm almost embarrassed that it took so long for me to start with this book. Now I've finally read it. Was it worth it? Definitely.

What I love about the book Lean Software Development by Mary and Tom Poppendieck is that even it's subtitle is Agile Toolkit, it isn't a such a toolkit that offers ready made solutions. I've never believed this one size fits all thinking which is sometimes pushed with Scrum and Kanban literature and this is refreshing exception to that thinking. This one offers explanations why things tend to go in some ways and what are the user or organizational problems these tools are trying to solve.

I'm actually pleased that I didn't read this when I was a fresh starter with Agile and Lean. I somehow feel the book would have been bit too much on that time. This book really encourages to see the whole and understand the underlying causalities between different parts of SW development. For that reason it was good that I had experience on many different levels and layers of Agile and Lean SW development to be able to reflect the lessons in the book to real life situations.

Book has lot of examples, most of them which really adds value to the book. Examples are often the best way to explain how the theory actually works in practice. That was exactly the way this book used examples. Some of the examples even felt really familiar to me and I noticed being in a similar situations which were described in these examples. That helped me to map these things better to real life.

I would recommend this book to all of you who want to understand the bigger picture with Agile and Lean SW development. This is the book that really sets the grounds to understand what this all actually is about. It gives more flesh around the bones for Agile and Lean. Those who need to see the whole before really understanding the details, this is the book for you.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Sep 2, 2011

Learnings and tips from crowdsourcing project within company

Couple weeks ago I was asked to start up a crowdsourcing type of project inside the company. I was given sponsorship from our management, but I had to recruit the people myself and organize the actual work myself. I really liked the challenge and got up to speed quickly. I had only couple of weeks to finish this and I knew I had to get couple hundred people working on this on voluntary basis.

Now that the project has turned out quite well, I wanted to share my learning's from this journey to you and to analyze and learn from those myself also better. I at least analyze better written than only in my head.

Get it up and running
The first thing was to decide how much preparations I would do before really starting the project. I had basically two alternatives, (1) create proper web or tool based mechanism to divide the the work and create reporting tool or then (2) use good old excel and email based mechanism. Due to limited timeline, I selected the latter one. Within one day from announcing the project, I already had tens of people working on the actual work items.

This was a tough choice and I believe in some cases more elegant systems would help on coordinating the work and results. Of course I had a good plan also, just the tools were ancient. I juts believed that in this situation the best thing was to but the wheels running fast. That' was the way to get more time for our volunteers and fast feedback on my methods. So off I went.

Recruiting people
Like said, this was a company internal project and it has it's own challenges on recruiting people to join. I had to get sponsorship from our management (my manager did this for me, thanks for that), but I had to convince line managers around to give this a go and then convince the actual people to join to help a common goal.

Only tip I can say about this phase is, that be honest and transparent. Tell exactly how much of a time it might take from volunteer, what's the timeline and when results are expected. Also be clear what are the prerequisites people have to fulfill to join. And remember to tell the goal of the exercise clearly and understandably. Keys to get people to join are that they understand what they work for and what they exactly need to do.

Walk trough the whole chain
Before you roll up your sleeves and put the ball running; walk the whole chain trough once. What I do first, how do I instruct people, how do I get the results back, what do I do with the results, how the results are shown, who are the key people to know about the results, when this thing will finished and so forth.

Make an easy walk trough of the most important steps you expect you will face during the project. It won't take more than 15-30 minutes for this exercise, but it will definitely help you to see whole.

Test your instructions
This is the part I learned a lot. I made the perfect instructions at first. I looked the subject from many directions, answered all the questions in advance, made pictures with explanations on those and walked through the chain with my instructions. Then I asked few of my colleagues to check those. They found some minor tweaks to those, but after those, the instructions we ready to rock. Or so I thought.

I still decided to take one more cautious step before rolling the instructions to everyone. I decided to use target group for verifying those. When the first voluntaries arrived, I gave the instructions for the first tens of people and paused the roll out for a while. I asked my target group to immediately report any misunderstanding and clarification needs from my instructions. What happened was, that within the first day, I did four major updates to my thought to be perfect instructions. I congratulated myself for using this focus group approach. It turned out I really needed it.

Do not assume
In the first set of instructions I made two assumptions, that (1) some things are common knowledge and  (2) that it is obvious that I expected people to communicate back to me with certain way. Both of those turned out to be false ones.

I learned that I should never assume, that things are commonly known, because me and my close colleagues are familiar with the subject in advance. I had to make updates to my instructions about these really basic issues. I had actually explained the harder parts really well, but then the easy ones I had failed to explain well enough.

Biggest mistake of this whole project was, that I didn't specify the way people should communicate back to me. I assumed everyone would get the idea from my instructions, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. I got contacted with so many different ways and so many different formats, that I had to use lot of time on standardizing the results together. This is where the more advanced reporting tools would have become handy. I made conscious decision to stick with simple tools and get it running faster. It would have easily taken 2-3 days of my project to develop those tools, so I still think I made the right call with excel and email. Next time I just must use more time to explain how I want the results to be communicated to me.

Emphasize possibility to ask for more information
This was a learning from past similar projects. Some people need to be encouraged to ask for more info. Some people are naturally shy and they try to find information from sources they are familiar with. This easily leads to false information due to uncertainties and misunderstandings. So I encourage to put an extra emphasis on ways and possibilities to ask for clarifying questions. Tools like email and IM chat's work well for naturally shyer people.

Friends are the worst ones
I've done these type of projects couple of times in smaller scale and based of those and the project in question, I can tell that friends are the worst ones. Those people who you now quite well and who you do have a relationship with, easily don't obey the deadlines and read the instructions nearly as well enough as the ones you don't know in advance. Somehow the friendship status makes people to be more careless and they don't use the attention needed to successfully complete the tasks given. Of course there are exceptions to this and some friends can be even used for help. Overall I still think that friends are the worst ones in this type of projects. 

Have a realistic schedule
Before making a target schedule for your project, think about the scale. If there's 100 people involved, completing a project in 2 days is a big challenge. From 100 persons, there's easily ten  who come up with something more urgent to deal with and it might be hard to get replacement for so many in such short notice. I don't have any rule of thumb here, but just think of how long the task might take, double it and then give still some buffer. People always works in different ways and different situations.

When you give people a deadline, don't put it to the last day you want it to complete. Have it at least 1 or 2 days in advance and this gives you the possibility to be flexible, when people come to you to ask for more time. They are happy and you will still get your results on time.

Have a good plan of follow-up
As Stephen Covey advised in his book 7 Habits of highly effective people: "Habit 2 - Start with the end in mind", and so you should do here also. Always keep in mind what is the purpose of this all. Is the way people are working the important thing or do you care only about the results. Or are the results actually just a side note and the purpose of this all is to come up with actions from the results. Or are actually the meaning of all this to fix some underlying problem and you are just the step towards it.

So think carefully why it is done and what are the things you need to care for most. There's going to be problems in the way that something doesn't go as planned, or some results might not be as accurate as you would like those to be. Just try to reflect those to the purpose of your exercise. Like life in general, you can't win all the fights, instead try to win the war.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Aug 24, 2011

This type of marketing and innovation I admire - Reaction ball

I run into reaction ball by accident, when checking some other sports equipment. The idea is marvelous. Someone invented a ball, which is not round and can bounce in any direction. This kind of stuff can be easily made by accident.

In this case, someone realized that this could have business value. There's lot of athletes who train to be fast to react and this ball if any needs fast reaction skills to catch.

Here's a video from CorePerformance about training with reaction ball. It looks just like the one's from TV shop, but I believe this really works.

Even the idea feels really simple, even a silly one, this excellent example of how innovations don't need to be that complex. I've played a long time different sport requiring fast reactions and this would have definitely been a good addition to reaction trainings. This one of those things that everyone can say that: "I could have invented that one." The thing there is that, you didn't. It required someone with vision to productise this worthless piece of rubber to actual product.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Aug 16, 2011

Cultural differences can make culture's diverge

Couple days ago I was waiting bus to get to home from work and someone came to stand really close to me. It felt awkward. There was definitely enough space to stand further away, but still someone came much too close on my standards. He or she was on my personal space  It was weird. I didn't turn to really see the persons face or anything, but I felt the presence really close.

This got my thinking again about cultural differences. The person who came next to me, most probably didn't want to insult me or even had actually any kind agenda towards me, but still I got insulted. Nowadays people from different cultures come across a lot and you can find many different cultures in most of the countries, I was wondering that how will these cultural differences combine together? And will people learn to tolerate different cultural behaviors better? Or will these eventually just be more and more wrangle and hate between different cultures?

Latest happenings around Europe, like couple of latest elections in different countries having parties with nationalistic thinking succeed, and Denmark closing it borders are signs that culture's are not getting along. There's lot of hate and misunderstandings flying around and people are not talking about those. This can make the situation even worse.

After latest tragedy in Norway, it's going to be even harder to talk about cultural differences annoying people. After this event people will be more tolerant towards different cultures, because of a hate towards the act, but it doesn't really change the underlying problem of mixing cultures causing collisions. Norway tragedy might even hide some of the necessary discussion of what it is that makes many of the people annoyed about people from other culture's moving in to their country.

I've had the luxury to work closely with many colleagues from different countries and with different cultural backgrounds. This has taught me lot about being tolerant and understandable on my and others behavior in different kind of situations. Unfortunately this good of an opportunity is not open for many. Most of people need to rely on preconceptions, TV, stories and encounter's with people from other cultures.That will easily lead to the situation, that real reasons of behavior of a person from different cultural background is misinterpreted.

Good example of cultural collision is that in Finland, people from Russia are coming to shop and for vacations to Finland. In Eastern Finland where I'm originally from, people understand and tolerate much better the Russian habits and people. Then in Helsinki, Russians are not that big part of foreigners visiting Helsinki, so Russians might not be always understood that well. Then the situation is the other way around for many other cultures, in Eastern Finland, people haven't been in contact that much with some other cultures than people Helsinki have.

Everyone knows there's no easy answers for these questions. When two or more worlds get together, there's always fear, uncertainty, misunderstandings, envy and rumors, which causes hate and wrangle between people from different culture's. What is certain is that there will always be cultural differences, either those will be between people from different nations, people from different religions, people liking different music, people from different sports or people thinking differently on politics. The only thing is certain, all in the world will never think and behave the same.

Understanding is the key for better collaboration between different culture's. No one should judge behavior of a person from different culture, without trying to understand the cultural background a bit more. If we skip the most often mentioned cultural differences that are hard to understand, like things related to religion and roles of a men and women, here's some examples I've faced of cultural differences that have lead to awkward situations.

We Finn's like sauna and we take sauna quite often. Also everyone goes to sauna naked. People are much more used to nudity that in many other countries. When taking people from for example northern-America to sauna in Finland, I've seen people being quite uncomfortable of all the people being nude there. Even though, that's just the way we go sauna here, nothing else.

Second example is about southern-European way of touching people. When you meet with people from for example Spain or Portugal, they quite easily touch you on the shoulder or give a hug or even a kiss in a cheek. For us in Finland, that feels strange and uncomfortable. We are not used to this kind touching and it took some time to understand that it's just their habit. Nothing else.

For most of you this last example might sound strange, but the habit of asking "how are you?" when meeting people, felt really strange for me for a long time. I had used people to ask how I was, only when they really wanted to know how I was. I tend to answer in much too detail how I was feeling at the moment, even I should have just politely continued the chit-chat. That's just a cultural difference in greeting people, nothing else.

There's probably thousands of these small behavioral things, that have made people feel uncomfortable or awkward. All of these actually cause people to be intolerant. It's a natural way of defending yourself, when you are put to uncomfortable situation. Then if there's enough of these situations with certain cultural group, you might end up thinking badly about that cultural group. That's the reason small things count.

Cultures will never totally mix and they even shouldn't. There's reasons that culture's have been born and those will keep culture's alive also. On the other hand, it is certain, that some area's of the world will get more and more crowded and more and more culture's will need to get together to live a peaceful life. We all are responsible of making sure we spread the information about different cultures and differences in behavior to each other. That's the way we might make a world still a bit better place to be.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Aug 11, 2011

How mind can such a powerful tool for your health - case placebo

I've always wondered how mind can be such a powerful tool for human health. Using placebo for treatments is one of the best example's out there, on how just believing that you are getting better will actually help you on getting better.

There's many studies about placebo and how well it works in different situations, but if you want to get the good overview on the subject, here's couple of short videos to tell more about how powerfull using placebo really is.

Video from TheProfessorFunk The Strange Powers of the Placebo Effect

Ted talk from Eric Mead: The magic of the placebo

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Aug 4, 2011

Old type of videotaping makes more memories

We were was just recently visiting my uncle in his cabin. When we got kids to sleep and night got darker, he found from his archives a 26 year old VHS-tape of an old birthday party. On that time (year 1985) videotaping wasn't that regular and taping was done in mentality of let it roll without planning.

Video was really full of memories. It was amazing to watch relatives and people from my childhood, some of them already passed away, having a party and just having fun. Also I was there as a little kid playing around with my cousins. Video was full of real life.

Video was a long one and there was no cutting done for it. I must say it would have been boring for anyone else that for those, who know the people on it. It was video that you can watch once in ten years to really live the memories again, more often it would just be dull.

Nowadays no one seems to be videotaping this way. All the videos I've seen shot are mainly these short ones and edited to be even shorter. Video from the party is minimised to couple of minutes full of action, filled with catchy music to prove the point. All are in this youtube format, 2-5 minutes is long enough.

This is fine now. No one would actually watch hour or two long tapes from a party. We're so used to these short videos that we lose our interest to longer ones after couple of minutes. For a longer term, that's a pity. In twenty, thirty years from now, it would be amazing to be able to really get into life of nowadays. We would laugh on our clothing, dancing, hair styles and the music. That's just how life goes on.

If you are one of those, who videotape on parties and everybody seems to hate it, I encourage you still to keep on doing it. Even most of people thing that it is annoying that someone is videotaping the party, there's going to people in future, who appreciate your actions.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Jul 27, 2011

Innovative idea from airline: Get gift card insurance for delayed flights

I was checking out vacation possibilities for trip this fall and run into AirBaltic airline, which flies mainly around baltic and nordic countries. It's one of these low fare airlines. They had interesting concept to share with you: you could buy "an insurance" for getting a gift card for flights which are delayed over one hour.

That's a great idea for airline flying these short routes. I would think this airline is used a lot for short trips to nearby countries. In those type of trips, delayes flight will eat up important time from vacation. If'you are only travelling for weekend, being delayed couple of hours on Friday, will easily ruin your day and leave only Saturday for vacation. Now with this delay you would get gift card for new trip in future to get back that stolen time.

This type of innovative services from these low fare airlines I appreciate. Many of these type of airlines have went to the other road of billing about everything. That's just annoying. This is good lesson for them to learn that they could be innovative and sell services that add value, not just piss off people.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

Jul 21, 2011

How easy it is to serve customers well - case Garmin

So often I've been facing poor customer experiences with broken products, that I was again ready for a fight when charger from our Garmin Forerunner 110 sports watch broke down just after two months of usage. I found the local Garmin warranty and maintenance phone number and took the call: 
"Hi, I have Forerunner 110 and clip connecting the charger to the watch broke down. I've had it only for 2 months."
Lady in the phone responded:
"Was it Forerunner 110?"
"What's your address, so we'll send you a new one."
I was so amazed on this service they provided. It just made my day, because it was so easy and I've been a big fan of Garmin products for a longer time. Now I'm a fan of the whole company.

It's so easy to always complain about bad services, so I thought it's time to also credit the ones who really know how to serve the customer well. Thanks Garmin Finland for great service.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen