Transfer of Innovation, Leonardo

Friday, February 26th was the deadline for Transfer of Innovation (TOI), under Leonardo da Vinci (LdV) funding application in Ireland. In brief, LdV funding available to the public, private bodies and institutions, which also are associated and involved in vocational education and training (VET). There are 4 LdV sub-programmes, and each is different to tailor your needs:

 

 

 

As a person investing “sweat and blood” for 3 weeks to compile and send away the TOI application, I have gathered some thoughts that may or may not help you in your future endeavours.

 

  • Bureaucracy, forefather Max Weber probably did not dream of his theory taking such deep roots in post-modern organisations. Do not get me wrong, bureaucracy is good, rules are good, but not when you trying to get a simple sheet of paper and have to ring numerous partner countries, wait days and weeks only to find out that you are not going to get what you want. Any tips how to cut corners?

 

  • Do not assume, do your work from point zero in other words start absolutely from scratch and then build your project work up and up from the concrete basement.

 

  • Double-check, then check again. Business environment simple as that mistakes are costly do not let them happen. Especially when you are toying with budgets, wrongly placed digit can mean no funding, no cutbacks and even the loss of the opportunities to create the jobs as well as losing the job! When dealing with a lot of numbers, try to split the workload and keep yourself alert and present at all times, like in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

 

  • Organise and plan ahead, plenty! There are many variables to consider and to remember. When dealing with partner countries for instance, do contact them as early as possible and find out what their working hours are, time differences, any scheduled holidays, even if you have resources to overcome language barriers if needed of course.

 

  • Follow your own deadlines. To have realistic deadlines and have a good feel of the project progress is absolutely essential. Use diary and personal planner if you have to, break up tasks and review your progress daily.

 

  • Expect the unexpected, I think this tip is being widely practiced it martial arts philosophy. Come to think of it, business environment is like martial arts. There was a point during my project when my workload has tripled in a matter of a short phone call, regardless of the thorough planning I was so keen of.

 

  • Extra copies. Being conscious of the amount of paper waste, I tried to work mostly with the electronic versions of the application. It is nice to have few back-up copies of the master document, granting if you have a structure in place and know what is what.

 

  • Technical, IT equipment like people have attitudes and their own, specific approach. Do not leave it to the last minute to photo copy 300 pages to discover your new talents - breaking 2 photo copiers in less than 2 minutes. Not that I left it to the last minute but the photocopiers did break, and the building only had 3. When walking to the third one, I had dark thoughts of our IT administrator and maintenance member of staff to show me something equally new as my discovered talent plus the painful part.

 

  • Know your environment. Most likely you are working in the office and offices tend to be busy, never expect someone else work will be less important and they will jump ahead to help you if things turn the curve of unexpected.

 

My last few thoughts for tonight is that people at Leargas (Irish application centre), seem to be really friendly and nice. They do provide all kind of support and help. There are even dedicated workshops in the autumn’s time if your application was not successful previously. So, on your bikes my VET practitioners and best of luck!

 

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Quality Assurance

Lets say you have bought a nice watch. And lets just say it is virtually everlasting and indestructible. Would you agree that it sounds like an item of high quality? What if the same watch is extremely inaccurate or bruises your wrist severely every time you try it on? It serves the idea and the purpose, but what is our perception of its quality?

 

In research sociology today there is a continuous debate on the superiority of qualitative versus quantitative methods. Furthermore, in business the group of quality professionals cannot agree on the concept of quality; which according to the director of Advanced Training and the driving force behind the Business Improvement Network, Jim Wade considered as the major barrier to effective communication between the profession and everybody else, particularly managers.

 

Quality Assurance

In manufacturing, scientific management and benchmarking techniques are relatively familiar when measuring the quality (performance quality). In servicing business, however it is less harmonious - as the very nature of agreeing on any sort of standards may result in missing opportunities (for e.g. barnstorming exercise and creative block).

 

For Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), tertiary sector in particular there is a number of options available to manage the overall quality of the organisation. Quality assurance is one of the three main components of the total quality management. To promote the quality achievement and improve performance throughout the business typically there are departments, specific jobs and of course tools.

 

Pqasso is one of the leaders in the field for quality assurance and total quality management. The great thing about systems like Pqasso is that it can also be used as a decision support tool in planning, organisation or virtually any area of your organisation. The way quality assurance systems work are pretty simple too and require little to no training and they do add value and portray a positive image to the company and its stakeholders.

 

To sink in the message: quality does require some additional resources like budgeting and time investment, however it is a great attribute any business can have. And if the business is not achieving what is written on your mission statement, maybe the quality assurance process is the right place to look for the little wholes.

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Do You Have an Achilles Heel?

Shoes? Anatomy? No-no, just a little effort to capture the essence of the interesting article I happen to read recently. In brief, one of the memorable examples of so called Achilles Heel, would be a Polaroid camera. At some stage it was notably popular and financially successful for the company, however the inability to compete with photography going digital placed Polaroid on the poorly lit back stage.

The fatal weakness might take place in absolutely any functional area, or even aspect of the business. For instance, the fall of the Webvan, in U.S. the company collapsed due to over-expansion and “unjustified” expenditure. As Kent German pointed out “A core lesson from the dot-com boom is that even if you have a good idea, it’s best not to grow too fast too soon”.

And that leads us to the article. Don Sull summarised few truly relevant myths:

Myth 1: The downturn caused our problems.
Myth 2: Companies fail quickly.
Myth 3: No one saw it coming.
Myth 4: Things will return to normal after the downturn.
Myth 5: It couldn’t happen to us.

To aid the battle with the “representative” myths it may be useful to check on your quality assurance and decision support system and procedures (which sounds interesting enough to be my next article) or even establish one if there is none present.

In conclusion, well, there is no conclusion. I have a plane to catch and this article is on my to do list, so I am cheating! What I do want to say is, stay smart and sensible, listen and listen to the right people and finally take action. Happy holidays everyone - may your clementines be plenty and Christmas tree needles half as painful!

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Exploring NLP

I have been poked by my few but very diamond fans to stop slacking on the content. So as a little treat and a make it up gift, I have decided to go “out there” and do something different. (Originally it was meant to be a podcast, but with few limitations on the way, which we grew to like so very much, the idea is on the little place called hold.)

Today, I would like to introduce you to undoubtedly terrific Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner, a genuinely amiable professional and an exclusively dear friend of mine – Ms. Anna Casey.

 

Hello Anna, it is an absolute treat to have you here, How are you?
Hello Eduardas! It is a real treat for me to be here too, thank you.

 

Please tell a little about yourself and what you do?
At present, I am an NLP practitioner; a student; an architect; and a mother to start off with. What I do now as an NLP practitioner, is guide others as they rediscover their own potential, their unique inner resources; - so they too can aim to become the best they can be in life.

How and when did you find out about NLP, and what it is that interests you the most in the field?
My curiosity about NLP began back in 2003 and is linked to my own personal quest. It was a time in my life when I felt really dis-empowered. At that time I was taught some great NLP techniques, and I pretty much immediately felt the difference. I realised then that it was I who held the power for my own change, my own improvements, my own adventures.

What interests me the most about NLP is the fact that change can occur so quickly. The fact that we all can do it easily, and so much quicker than ever before known. When you learn the simple tools and techniques, you basically learn how to unleash your true potential and you are then on the way to become a new (improved) person.

 

What is the purpose of NLP?
The purpose of NLP is to rediscover the uniqueness of ‘you’ the person, to tap into your inner resources, to remember the amazing person you were way back when you were only 2 or 3 years of age when you were so powerful that you believed you could do everything and anything - before you were told you couldn’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t. NLP reprogrammes you, so that you are able to use the unexplored power of your imagination and concentration to give you back your vitality, your curiosity, your drive. You can then gain a new empowering perspective in life..

 

Who is the NLP for?
Everyone, you, me! Old and young- it is now known that we can just keep on learning – it can slow down the progress of Alzheimers. I strongly believe it should be taught and applied in schools, colleges and work places. You see, little kids have a great capacity for being self assured and confident in whatever they do. They are rarely anxious of the possible results because of their belief in their own power, and also their lack of ‘self-consciousness’. NLP can teach us how to lose that debilitating ‘self-consciousness’, and how to hold on to, or regain, that capacity for self- assuredness; that confidence, that desire for life.

 

What do you think of NLP in business instance?
Because of the understanding of how we all create our external experiences from our internal ways of thinking, business NLP, through communication and rapport training can ensure changes are made at both conscious and unconscious levels. This ensures the changes in the company are lasting, and also that the staff achieve a much higher level of confidence which can thus open up many individual and organisational opportunities. Communication, negotiation and conflict resolution, as examples, are areas where NLP tools and techniques would enable smart people in business to communicate on a superior level.

 

What are the personal and professional benefits to have NLP insight?
Could you imagine owning a computer and never updating your programmes? It would not be beneficial to anyone. Likewise, with our personal lives as with our professional careers, can we honestly hope to succeed without updating, deleting, reprogramming as necessary.  Since NLP is about awareness of what change can achieve, with the appropriate practice and techniques, the personal and professional benefits are that you remain in tune, in time and up to date – to say the least.

 A few examples: - Many world class golf players use NLP visualisation techniques. They imagine each individual shot in the mind first, and then apply that in real life.
An architect re-imagines a design and then reworks it to make it a much better solution.
During a business presentation, the presenters can use a triggering anchor, to enable them to remember a “you-got-it” time, and so enable them to be in a different frame of mind and give a great presentation..

 

What is modelling and how can learning to model be of benefit to my life?
By modelling certain people who have the qualities we desire, we can learn how to imagine or  “pretend” to be them, and so take on their qualities.  We could also become a more confident, outgoing and charismatic character. The qualities that will stay with practice. When we get older we naturally slow down in our modelling, but can continue indefinitely.

 

While researching the topic, I have come across the “out of car” and “body experiences”. What do they really mean?
NLP is about imagination, and concentration. Remembering certain techniques as an adult can be so powerful that you may feel that you are actually “there”.
Some techniques involve you imagining some future (or past) event, so vividly that you feel almost a loss of sensation with your body – an out of body sensation, where you are aware but not attached to the physical body.
There are some more literal interpretations of course.

 

What are the qualities of a good NLP trainer?
Good teachers lead by their actions and thereby teach others to be the best they can be. Leading into life would require empathy, assertiveness and definitely understanding.

 

Is there anything you would like to add to our little interview?
When we do learn new things it is of most benefit to remember the importance of revision, practice, and repetition. Also, it is vitally important to be positive and think positively about our potential and the power of life with more choices.

 

Anna Casey is based in Dublin, Dun Laoghaire and you may contact her via http://www.becauseuarehere.com

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Green is for Green

Green is for Green

“Green Business” is a frequent buzzword-guest on the pages of the Irish quality gazettes. It usually relates to the support and adoption of the environmental and ecological sustainability practices. Areas of production and operation are likely to be the target one for the integration of such practices as the means of operations of any business, circularly influences the continuity capability of the organisation. A simple example would be switching to soy based ink in printing industry, it is organic, renewable and has little to no potentially-harmful side effects to the environment.

 

Without going any deeper into environmental ecology lessons, it is worth mentioning the recognition and necessity of switching to Green Business by the European Union. The EU has agreed on the sweeping plan to reduce the amount of emissions and other pollutants. Among the other benefits the most noticeable “short” term one is massive cost saving on health.

 

So, should I care about Green? Short version is yes and no – surprise surprise. In manufacturing for example or services that require heavy electricity consumption, switching to renewable energy may have instant savings on the bill. Not only it is environmentally responsible move it is also cost-effective “Mam says by switching to Airtricity we saved a lot of lolly” source.

 

Some of other potential benefits for your business to go Green are summarised here.

 

As for No part of the answer, it is arguable that there are no real disadvantages, however! Catering for Green means change and change means changing habits, introducing innovation, investing time, exploring training possibilities / capabilities – whatever the case might be. It is mostly felt through SME’s (Small Medium Enterprises) where the advantages of switching might not seem evident.

 

To finish off, apprehension of Green Knowledge Economy has the potential of raising earnings, whether it is in-company or playing on the stock market (companies that develop and promote sustainable products and services). Bottom line is, to be sensible and aware of the circumstances. It is like with computers, not every on-the-shelf software idea is valuable or bound to bring benefits. Do embrace Green, but embrace it with your pragmatism!

 

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Mind Mapping Tools

 

 

Mind Map ExampleThe usefulness of mind mapping, the concept and idea representation in the visually easier to comprehend way, is simply irreplaceable. The process of mind mapping shines in simplicity and widely used in various instances – individual or team-work environment, brainstorming, synthesis, analysis of data / information and such.

 

Presently, a great variety of on-the-shelf software is available for your likes and dislikes to aid the management of the mind mapping process. There are also completely free applications which will transform your typical mind map into something more solid and professional-looking. A convenient and fully interactive comparison table of such software could be found at the Tablefy.

 

On the side note, Tablefy has many other useful comparison sections which seem coherent and representative.

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Expression of Creativity

Expressions of Creativity

This is my response to the voluntary design project:

I do not dye my hair in bright, glowing in the dark colours or dress provocatively to move the crowds, I do not paint and sell pictures on the street, I do not perform in theatre making people burst in tears (maybe except when I am asleep), what I do have however is a distinctive perception and style that feeds the uncontrollable passion for the beautiful and original things.

My creativity acumen begun with a song, when I was pre-school and used to sing in open events. Then I used to draw, discover myself in poetry, explore the horizon of electronic music making, and play with photography and moving pictures (video-making).

Creativity is individual, yet for me it has always been a positive mark of excellence and quality in your own field. I like to be practical, and I like to inspire and surprise, even if it is one person. You never know what difference that one person could really make…

 

Verdict? Not impressive enough!

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Full Pay, No Pay, or “Free” Holiday

British AirwaysEarlier, this week my attention been drawn by the unsettling article in Financial Times. The author, Lucy Kellaway examined rather unusual case scenario with British Airways letting own employees to choose if they rather work for a month with full pay, “volunteer” for a month with no pay whatsoever, or take a month off work, again, with no pay.

Such an eccentric request is a cause of the company’s critical cost-cutting strategy, which lead to the scaling down of the employee wages. Additionally, Kellaway puts a point forward about the added value on the survival of the company and the pressure point to diminish workers’ pay.

I would like to carry the idea and ask You: would you rather … ?

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The Language for Business

“Here speeching American.”

  • sign in a Moroccan shop.

“STOP! Drive Sideways.”

  • detour sign in Japan.

“Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.”

 

Are you sure your message is perceived by others, the way it is meant to be? It is fair enough if you have a linguistic interpreter at your service, but what if you don’t? From my own and sometimes not particularly funny social exposure I can tell that presumptions, may have entirely different meanings and consequently the end results, but lets move on.

 

Nowadays, when businesses are operating on the global scale it is becoming of the essence to invest in language skills. While exploring the antagonistic job market of the freshmen graduates, I have come around adverts which required the knowledge of one, two, three even four languages. That is for a graduate level entry and the positions were not even highly ranked. Following the same direction, the question arises: if you had to pick up another language, from the business’ point of view, what would it be?

 

 

Seems like linguistic paths are unlimited, however it is tend to be highly influenced by the geographical positioning. As Joshua Cook illustrates the knowledge of English language is a necessity in European region, nonetheless in well developed countries such Germany and France native speak is still unparalleled. Similar case for Japan, even though English is being actively taught in schools, important business operations are carried out foremost in Japanese.

 

 

Language Predictions for the Future

 

According to Cactus Language Training at the present, the languages with the most speakers are Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish, Russian and French. “The languages most widely studied in English-speaking countries are currently French, German, Spanish, Italian, and increasingly Mandarin and Japanese. In Australia languages like Indonesian and Vietnamese are also quite popular.”

 

It is hard to speculate and there is no single right answer to what could be the best language to learn. As with most tough decisions, it comes down to a mix of thorough planning, personal objectives and a pinch of salty luck. So if you are picking up a new language as a part of the outlook and potential career development exercise, do the homework and do the comprehensive “target” research.

 

 

Dead Fish Handshake? No no no!

 

No matter how heavy your linguistic baggage might be never forget the universal business language. And I am not talking about the library of standard electronic business documents, what I am referring to is the general business etiquette. Do smile, maintain eye contact, hold the posture, make firm handshake of course - in other words follow the body language and focus on the positive qualities you already have.

 

And one last grain of advice is to be sensible and aware of the professional language doublespeak. Technical jargon might demonstrate your area of expertise, however it is better to be plain and clear, rather than confusing and misleading! “An in-depth knowledge of your field may get you in the door, but good communication skills will open many more.” (source: The Business Style Handbook)

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Murphy’s Law

“Whatever may go wrong, will go wrong”

 

It seemed my university housemate was a magnet for this maxim; however I will save the stories of our reckless adventurous journey as students for another time and place… In the business context however, Murphy’s Law entails a “fairytale” gratifying line of events, which are going wrong in the most unsuitable times.

 

A good illustration of this point is the Zantaz Company that specialise in email archive software. The net value of the organisation in 2007 estimated $375m, however  after the company was bought out by Autonomy Group, the sale share of the original founder was watered down to absurd $650,000. It is perceived through transgression of the internal decision making apparatus, leading to severe drop in valuation and dilution of early stakeholders (source: Venture Beat).

 

Similarly, the wake of the General Motors joins the boat of fail. The supposition of the company’s bankruptcy is the business process modelling / management (BPM). The logic behind is very simple - to manage the manufacturing costs. The series of actions to achieve the end result required to “test every auto part, and look for the most expensive parts that were the most reliable. Next, ask suppliers for a cheaper version of that part”. On the chart of the quality versus the cost, it is most likely to affect a curve in the negative way. The competitors on the other hand use similar BPM but, as kindly argued by the decision management expert James Taylor, they have adopted a “different set of decision-making criteria”. In short, the biting indiscretion was a result of the tactical decision misplay and could have been prevented.

 

The final case I want to bring to your attention is Cisco Systems and their Human Network Effect: meet more, travel less (do watch it) TV commercial, which I personally find rather tasteful. The back story with reference to the commercial is the inappropriate broadcasting time, which happened to be during news coverage of the crashed plane in the river. The advertisement mocks routine plane emergency instructions and the unlikely event of water landing”. Alana Semuels acknowledged general and Cisco distress with regards to the ironical situation.

“Any time there’s a big news incident, advertising professionals work to pull ads that may offend viewers by hitting a little too close to home. That’s why you probably won’t be seeing any airline commercials soon. Unfortunately for Cisco though, planes fall from the sky more quickly than the ad departments of TV networks can move.”

 

The above examples are only a slight extent of how events in the business situation can go really wrong. No one is completely protected from a scenario of different variables, which can potentially cripple the lifeblood of your company. However, there are general pointers to be followed to minimise the risks of unexpected exposure:

 

  • Do protect your business, have a contingency plan and a back-up strategy (”A” and “B” plan);
  • It is absolutely vital to prioritise and focus on strategic areas, especially in multiple projects but never neglect organisation and development. Left to themselves things tend to go from bad to worse, Laissez Faire (Let it Be) is a big No-No;
  • Constantly review your “span of command” and “operations mechanism”. Look into all anomalies and report where applicable. It is very easy to leave something out in wide and tall hierarchical structures;
  • Carry out extensive market research. If you do lack the resources for own research and development department, outsourcing might be your answer. Never underestimate the usefulness of competitor analysis, even in the times of hardship - be prepared, not sorry!

 

And most importantly “Smile… tomorrow will be worse”. ; )

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