The Eve of New Year’s Eve (It seems to be OT. And it is)

Tomorrow I will do the double shift at work. As I would like to write my last post of the year, I have to write it today, on the eve of New Year’s Eve.

2012 was for me a year of change.

On the New Year day, during the morning after the party, in a cultural club which doesn’t exist anymore, I met the man of my life, while singing together songs of The Queen and of Elio e le Storie Tese. And I already knew that I had to move in London after less than a month.

On the 23rd of January I came in London. I lived in Acton for 5 months.

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During that period I learned how to live just on my own, by managing with the few money I was earning – I was working as a sale assistant for David & Goliath in Carnaby Street, and I had a minimum salary contract. I learned to be humble, to do not trust the public transport in London, to save time and money by preparing at home my lunch of the next day.

I learned to work and study in another language. I took the IELTS exam.

I learned to live with friends, which everybody think it should be easy, but sometimes it is not. But it’s always worth it.

I learned that it was not so “vital” to go out every night and have fun, but to be focused on what I really wanted was, indeed.

I learned to be loved, and I started to learn to love, actually.

I learned how much my town and my people are important to me.

whatsupI twisted my ankle, I lost 2 weeks of salary, I was evicted. I learned to hack it, on my own. I learned that being loved could save me.

I luckily found friends, I was hosted, I found a new place to live, new persons to share a London life with.

I was forced to quit my job, which I liked, because I was swindled by a recruitment agency, Seyner Benson.

I experienced unemployment.

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I went to a wedding. I went back to my town, to my love, to my air. 

I went to Paris with my love.

I came back in London, and my love joined me.

We found our place. We found our love for cooking. We found upcycling. We found we were a creative incitement for each other.

My sister got married, and I was her best woman. I was really proud of her.

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I found a job in a restaurant, Franco Manca Northcote. I learned lot there. I learned how to work in a team, how to coordinate between each other, how to be focused on customers and communication.


mace12badgeI was accepted as a student at Kingston University, I started my MA in Creative Economy. I found  creative people like me who wanted to learn how to manage with their creativity, how to use it in the best way. 

I learned how to work and study at the same time, how to save money, how to organize everything.

I opened a Blog, this blog, and I found that it was a great opportunity to research, to learn and to share knowledge.

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I started a Business with my MA Team, QB – Quanto Basta. I found that my insights really creative, even if I never realized that before.

But I missed something. I missed my love, my friends, my health. Because I was too excited of what I was learning, and of the new people I was meeting, and I missed all the rest.

I suffered. I cried. I felt angry. I felt guilty. I ate 1, 2, 3 cakes all by myself. I got drunk alone at home with cheap horrible white cider.

But then I found my love again. Through a video, The Power of Words. My love told me that the woman at the end reminded him of me.

The power of words. The power of communication. It is the same power of the Web 2.0, isn’t it? The world of conversations. 

Hence, the biggest lesson for 2012 is: keep attention on the words you are using. They could change everything, either in a positive or negative way.

We live in the time of words. In the time of conversations. In the time of Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Skype. In the time when sometimes it is better to write than to speak. In the time when sometimes it should be better to speak than to write, especially if we could choose.

So my aim for the 2013 will be learning to speak again.

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The Winning Laugh

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Monsters, Inc. ‘s main duty was to provide all citizens in Monstropolis with energy in the form of captured screams collected from children. James P. “Sulley” Sullivan found that laughter produced more power than scream had done and reestablished the company to have the monsters make children laugh. In this way James became the new CEO of the new company, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. By changing the way of producing the energy, the protagonist of the Pixar’s famous animated movie also bettered the job of his colleagues: at that time they were not scared from the children anymore, and they enjoyed the job even more.

It could be assumed that Sulley and his colleague Mike Wazowski unconsciously became an example of Business- Model Innovators.

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As Constantinos Markides writes in his “Disruptive Innovation- In Need of a Better Theory” (2006), the key to be Business- Model Innovators is not to discover new products or services, but simply redefine what an existing product or service is and how it is provided to the customer.

From a recent (October 2012) research project (Business Case Studies Final) of the Nordic Innovation, a Danish waste management company could be easily and positively compared to the case of Monsters, Inc. Van Gansewinkel today is specialized in making energy and products based on waste materials, by supply cycles, where materials are re-used in closed loops. What is really important to notice is that originally it was a classic waste collecting business, and only a small part of the waste was recycled, when the procedure was relatively straightforward.

The company decided to turn its business around, as the classic waste collection was decreasing. It started producing secondary raw materials on specification, based on demands from customers rather than on what was easy to produce from the waste materials it had. This constituted a new way of looking at its own supply chain, transforming the waste collection business into take-back systems.

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Van Gansewinkel has innovated its Business-Model from two points of view: fistly the company became a materials pooler by having established system of specifications of the different raw materials which are produced from waste products; secondly the company became a process coordinator by applying a holistic view of the production cycles. And – what is even more important and effective – Van Gansewinkel turned the company’s main cost, the waste removal, into their source of revenue, and in this process they have set up production cycles that close loops between production, use and re-use of products.

It also caused a virtuous cycle: by supplying secondary glass for bottle manufacturers, the company enabled the production to be carried out at lower temperatures; this caused a 10- 12 % reduction in the energy use, and, as a consequence, the heat generated is now used for central heating, further lowering the energy use of the company.

Regarding the financial aspect, despite the global economic crisis sales and revenues have increased by 10%, and the growth level of the company has been around 10-12% over the last 4-5 years. And, even more important, in the same period at least 200 people have been hired in relation to changes made in the company.

So, as P. Thomond and F. Lettice wrote, innovations can be thought of as falling onto a continuum from evolutionary to revolutionary (DIExplored-CEConf2002final). […] Terms such as “disruptive”, “radical”, “non-linear”, “discontinuous”, “breakthrough”, “paradigm-shifting” and “revolutionary” have all been used to describe what is in essence the opposite of sustaining innovations. Introducing a revolution, a drastic change into the business model could make the company not only survive, but even more gain over the competitors .

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Coming back to the Markides’ study, he tells that new business models improve to such an extent that they are able to deliver performance that is sufficient in the old attributes established competitors emphasize and superior in the new attributes. And, moreover, as more customers – both existing and new ones – embrace the new business receives increasing attention from both the media and the established players.

This is exactly what happened to Monsters, Inc., whose new CEO James was interviewed by the Business Shriek, and all Monstropolis knew about the new company, and to Van Gansewinkel, which became a case study.

Arsène Lupin the 3rd

lupinWhy, It’s the way of thieves to risk their   lives” answered Arsène Lupin to the Lady Clarisse de Cagliostro (Hayao Miyazaki, The Castle of Cagliostro, 1979).

Lupin the 3rd could be a great example for every entrepreneur for taking the risk.

But what is it that famous “risk”?

The word share the same root of a word of my language, risicare, which means to dare (and a notorious phrase in Italy is “chi non risica non rosica” which means who doesn’t dare doesn’t gnaw made me think about my country, but maybe I’ll speak about it in another post). The term’s meaning, of course, has evolved since ages, and now its proper meaning is difficult to determine, because it means different things to different people, because a key component of risk is choice. (Khan, Zsidisin, 2012)

That is easy to understand, moreover if we consider that usually we see risks as something dangerous for use: we see them like something more related to loss than to gain. But, as the risks are strictly connected to the choices, we can always choose. goldfish jumping out of the water

To manage a sustainable and and efficient business, we will need a strong business model, and every business model does consider the risks, how to handle them, and how to make them profitable.

As Karan Girotra and Serguei Netessine wrote in their How to Build Risk into Your Business Model – Smart companies design their innovations around their managing risk (HBR, May 2011), many companies redesign their business model to reduce their risks. They also underline that “it can also reveal unsuspected opportunities for creating value by adding risk”

Alan Hall defines it as a synonymous of the concept of entrepreneurship. He also presents, according to the data provided by the US SBA (Small Business Administration), the fact that more than half of the startups is supposed to fail within the first three years of existence. “Of those that remain, about one third will make a profit, another third will break even, and the balance will continue to lose money. After ten years, only a handful of companies will be in business.” (Hall, 2011)

So it is a really negative perspective.

media_httpfarm9static_IgjDu.jpg.scaled500But let’s think about it. I mean, let’s think about the reasons which make him saying this,

Why so often the startups encounter a failure, and which is one of the most important risk to face?

Hall lists the possible reasons which could be: not enough customers, insufficient revenues, formidable competitors, a shortage of cash, poor execution of a business plan, uncontrolled expenses and minimal gross margins.

Regarding the competitors, Girotra and Netessine (HBR, May 2011) write that companies create value by being better at managing risk than their competitors are, and so if an entrepreneurship could manage the risks more than the others, it could even earn something from those risks. They also say that the only way to win is to identify where the risks are in the value chain of the business model, determine whether it’s possible to reduce them, shift them to other people, or even assume them.

The major risk you should keep is that your product or service is not even better than the other ones, but it is just different. This is the point. You cannot be 100% sure of it, but you has to believe that – and, even more important, your employees have to believe it, too, because all the company in this way could demonstrate it just with its behaviour- .

Of course you’d like an example, would you?

Well, I work as a waitress for Franco Manca, the one in 76, Northcote Road, London.

333827_230588850401811_945544208_oSince I made my trial, all the colleagues I met they were absolutely sure of the importance and the originality of the product we were going to sell: a proper Napolitan pizza in London, of an honest price, and, more than everything, made with the original recipe, natural ingredients and a sustainable way of cooking. That was enough for me, even if being a waitress is not my dreamt job, otherwise I should not attend my MACE at Kingston University. And this is why I could be proud of working for the Franco Manca company. 

Now, after a few years (the first restaurant opened in Brixton Market Row 4 years ago) the label is famous all around the UK, and I found also customers coming there from outside the Country, just for its name. And, what is more impressive is that that Franco Manca doesn’t have a huge marketing department, so basically its fame is just based on word-of-mouth.

I really don’t want to write a fake advertising post (at least I’m not paid for that!!), but I am writing what I learned from my master and my working experience in London, and I am just trying to link them: the company I am working for is just one of the examples which I know could make you understand that taking the risk for a product you think is a winner it is definitely worth it.

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People Have the Power


patty

…sang Patty Smith in the far 1988.

Apparently after less than 20 years her dreaming in- her– dreaming started to become reality.

In June 2006 The Wired magazine published an article written by Jeff Howe, The Rise of Crowsourcing.

Thanks to the development of Web 2.0, many discussion groups and networks of people with common interests peeped up.

Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an “architecture of participation,” and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences.” (O’Reilly, 2005)

Photographers, directors, software developers, artists, musicians, psychologists, social workers, engineers, designers and many others- either professional or not- came up in the Web with dozens of communities.

Howe underlined that “distributed labor networks” were ”using the Internet to exploit the spare processing power of millions of human brains.” (Howe, 2006)

opensource_logoIn a few years hundreds of user-generated content platforms born, like Forums, Wikis, Blogs, Video Sharing Platforms, APIs and the powerful and comprehensive Social Networks.

The creativity of the word citizens discovered a place where it could improve itself, be spread and shared.

“Welcome to the age of the crowd”, Howe said.

The Open Source movement is a clear example of the power of the shared knowledge.

In 2004 Steven Weber, in his The Success of Open Source, defined its rules:

  • Source code must be distributed with the software or otherwise made available for no more than the cost of distribution.
  • Anyone may redistribute the software for free, without royalties or licensing fees to the author.
  • Anyone may modify the software or derive other software from it, and then distribute the modified software under the same terms.” (Weber, 2004)

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When the Multiuser, Multitasking, Portable and Open Operative System Unix started to be diffused worldwide, as it was massively used by programmers, its creators Richie and Thompson found a programmers’ manual to be necessary. And they fixed its first version with an innovative feature: it listed “each subprogram with an owner, the person principally responsible for writing and maintaining that particular block of code”. (Weber, 2004)

(For the entire history of Open Source see Weber, 2004, p. 20.)

It could be clear to understand that Unix inspired the Open Source Initiative.

On February 28th, 2008, in Palo Alto, California, during a strategy session and after a brainstorming the “open source” label was created, originally suggested by Christine Peterson, after the release of the Netscape (see also Mozilla Foundation) source code.

The conferees underlined the intention of creating and improving the source code by participating in an engaged community (OSI, 2012). According to that, Howe asserts that “the open source software movement proved that a network of passionate, geeky volunteers could write code just as well as the highly paid developers at Microsoft or Sun Microsystems” (Howe, 2006) . It underlined the power of connected people.

Year by year the Open Source trend spread itself by the Internet thanks to the massive number of programmers and tech-people who embraced  its thoughts, and many new collaborative communities came up.

If at the beginning all these active web-based groups of creative, expert and professional people were not considered by most of the industries, the power of those people was so evident that even the old- line businesses started to look at them.

“For the last decade or so, companies have been looking overseas, to India or China, for cheap labor. But- at that time –  it didn’t matter anymore where the laborers were – they might have been down the block, they might have been in Indonesia – as long as they were connected to the network. The labor wasn’t always free, but it costed a lot less than paying traditional employees. It was not outsourcing; it was crowdsourcing. (Howe, 2006).

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One of the first examples of this new kind of community was iStochphoto, a website used for free image-sharing used by a group of graphic designers: a marketplace for the work of amateur photographers.
To come out with a definition, looking on the Crowdsourcing Blog, at least two should be considered:After that a lot of online based companies grew up, some more open than others, like Wikipedia, and some focused on business, like eBay. All those initiatives have in common their core: the Users’ Content. Without it, they couldn’t exist.

  1. The White Paper one: “the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.”
  2. The SoundByte one: “the application of Open Source principles to fields outside of software.

According to the Blog, Crowdsourcing could also take the form of peer-production (when the job is performed collaboratively), but is often undertaken by sole individuals. The crucial prerequisite is the use of the open call format and the large network of potential laborers.

But why nowadays this concept is crucial?

Ross Dawson, in his Getting results from crowds, says that “Implicit in the idea of crowdsourcing is the ability to create value that transcends individual contributions, crystallizing collective insights through structured aggregation. For example competitions, prediction markets, idea filtering, and content rating are all mechanisms by which collective contributions can create better outcomes than individuals or small groups”. (Dawson and Bynghall, 2011)

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Every kind of marketing could benefit from using a crowdsourcing strategy.

Furthermore, In Dawson’s vision the Web 2.0 generated tools to create valuable, emergent outcomes from mass participation: this means that now for everyone there is access to technologies, structures and platforms which can convert the ‘wisdom of crowds’ and collective intelligence into reality.

In those days of economic  crisis, companies are forced to minimize their expenses and to optimize the time of their production. Crowdsourcing could be a key to survive the economic crash. People now really have the power.

Nevertheless D’Artagnan fist told us: all for one, one for all.