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Trust In Group Genius December 8, 2009

Posted by Emily Lin in Group Genius, [Books] Ways of Thinking.
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The book “Group Genius” convinced me of 1) group innovation is better than individual creativity, and 2) genius is not from “spark of light” but from hard work and diversified experiences. The author Keith Sawyer cited evidence from historical inventions, research results, consulting experiences, and recent business examples to support his argument of group creativity. I found it really compelling and in line with all we’ve talked in this class.

Besides his “official” title as Associate Professor of Education and of Psychology at Washington University, Keith Sawyer is also an accomplished pianist. He worked as a pianist in an improvisation theater while observing their group innovation process for two years. He found that the group innovation principles and process in performance art are highly similar to those in business organizations. This gave me permission and confidence in pursuing dance on top of my MBA title.

I have been dancing and choreographing as a side profession for a long time. This semester, I am fortunate to enroll in the class “Sources of Movement” in Berkeley Theater, Dance, and Performance Department, and it became one of the most fulfilling class at all times. The biggest surprising experience was indeed group genius. Being fully committed and following the group flow, I was surprised that the group can together improvise numerous group pieces that were far more creative and exciting than any individual’s or choreographer’s images. As the society and education system highly rewards left brain thinkers and heroic leadership, letting go of self-ego and desire to be in command is an internal struggle that I sometimes had during group exercises. As time goes by, I learned to enjoy just being with the group at the very moment without thinking what my own next steps should be. This is the first time that I have true confidence in myself and the group to go by pure improvisation. Based on mutual trust and practices, the group improvisation results convinced me to embrace this collaborative way of innovation. I could apply this skill in other settings such as brainstorming activities or business innovation.

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Male Versus Female Shoppers December 8, 2009

Posted by Emily Lin in Why We Buy.
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The most interesting section of the book “Why We Buy” is the insights of male versus female shoppers. I can’t stop laughing upon reading the wisdom such as “male shoppers only buy suits and shoes, while female shoppers buy everything else.” For a long time I’ve been wondering why I’d rather go shopping by myself than dragging my boyfriend with me, and why my mom always shops for the whole house while my dad, who almost never shops for himself, gets excited about going to shop for certain groceries for us. Now I understand the reasons.

“Males just want places that allow them to find what they need with a minimum of looking and then get out fast.” In one study of buying apparels, 65 percent of male shoppers who tried something on actually bought it (as opposed to only 25 percent of female shoppers did), and the only reason why they didn’t end up buying it was the size. Speaking of size, most male shoppers don’t know what sizes of underwear they are in, let alone their partner’s sizes. To assist male shoppers, retails stores should put super simple size charts, closer fitting rooms, and super friendly / approachable / spontaneous sales clerks. In fact, male shoppers are much less price sensitive. Dads are bad in saying no to their kids while shopping, because one of the roles of Daddy is the provider. Male shoppers usually enjoy the thrill of paying for women or children, even if they hate the experience of shopping.

Women take pride in shopping intelligently, efficiently and effectively. As a typical female shopper, I totally agree with the insight to female shoppers: “…shopping is a transforming experience, a method of becoming a newer, perhaps even slightly improved person.” Shopping was the first legitimate reason to get women out of the house and meet publicly with other people. Shopping is still a social vehicle for women, and we enjoy shopping with gals and giving each other advices. To attract female shoppers, the total experience should be much more detailed cared, with an emphasis on trial, education, and “bring-a-friend-get-discount”.

After reading this book, I found myself starting to observe retail spaces and shopper behaviors. I could spot numerous improvement opportunities for a single store such as not enough mirrors, no trial samples, or non-flattering fitting rooms. I also liberated my boyfriend from going to H&M with me, and let him browse his Best Buy or Game Stop.

Facing the lion speed of change… December 7, 2009

Posted by Emily Lin in As The Future Catches You.
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The book provides striking evidence to support its main theme: the near future would be highly driven by IT revolution, molecular revolution, and bioinformatics / biocomputing. The three major advancements reinforce and accelerate each other in an exponential speed. However, a lot of countries or organizations still fail to realize the fact, and those who do not pay close attention to the trend would be falling apart in an unexpected faster speed.

“What our world looks like in fifty or a hundred years depends to a significant extent on our ability to adopt and adapt the ethical, political, and economic challenges of the digital-genomics era.”

Coming from Taiwan, I am particularly interested in the author’s description about Taiwanese’s achievements in economy and technology, and am encouraged by his theory of “small would win over big”. The growth of economics would be no longer requires natural resources, but rather the agility and concentration on knowledge-based services. The wealth of a country would be depending on “knowledge-export ratio: value-added exports / commodity exports”, and its ability to protect its knowledge. “The future belongs to small population who build empires of the mind.” And the future is coming in a faster speed than many thought.

It must be controversy to Americans, but it is very interesting for me to hear the term: “IC – Indians and Chinese – who prosper Silicon Valley”. “United States is borrowing great minds from India and China.” US economic growth would highly dependent on maintain its attractive environment to retain foreign knowledge-based workers.  On the other side of the talent acquisition race, whether India and China could catch up depends on whether these countries could nurture pro-knowledge  environments that invest in education and public health, reward entrepreneurs, and emphasize on knowledge-based industries.

I am worried about the increasing discrepancy between the earnings of the richest versus the poorest (427 to 1!) It seems that the rich would get richer and the poor may never get a chance to revert back because lack of resources in education. Moreover, concentration also happens in giant companies. The power of big companies outgrows many small countries. Social responsibilities of big companies would become an increasingly important topic.

Facing the “lion speed” of change, we have to versatile and adaptive. “The only way to make a successful career is to being a free agent…Is to learn how to understand and use new concepts and technologies.” We have to be prepared at the mobility-nature of knowledge-based work, and be ready to leave at a faster time than ever before. “Those who leaved are the most valuable.”

Design Thinking in Procter & Gamble December 7, 2009

Posted by Emily Lin in Design Thinking.
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The ethnographic market research described reminds me of some market research methodologies I learned in Procter & Gamble. While we did numerous focus group and quantitative researches, the most striking experiences have always been experiential research: shop with shoppers, home visits, and field work, i.e., live with the consumers for a period of time. The latter experiential approach works especially well when the designers/marketers/researchers folks have little information about their target consumers/shoppers. How could the brand workers imagine what consumers really need without ever talking to them directly? Only through humility, open-minded observation and conversation with consumers could designers/marketers/researchers put themselves into consumer’s shoes and generate great insights. One famous example is Tides’ launch plan in China rural areas. The market research manager spent one week living with consumers in tier-3 cities and observe them washing clothes. He found the living situation in rural area is dramatically different from that in the cities: people don’t have washing machines and generally wash dirty cloths outside of their homes. The marketing claim of product functional efficacy is less concerned by those consumers than product convenience. The manager came back with a simple but great suggestion: changing the Tides package from 2-liter bottles to half liter bags and smaller-size trail packs. Marketing communication was then changed from superior cleaning to ease-of-use. This dramatically increased the trial rate and successfully boosted Tides’ market share in tier-3 cities.

In a large part, product marketing in CPG companies are a lot like design work. It requires all the process from observations and frameworks to discover consumer unmet needs, to imperatives and solutions to determine product offerings and marketing angles. The framework provided by the article “Innovation as Learning Process” also reflects some of my working experiences with cross-functional team. When facing conflicts or disagreements among our team members, I used to thinking that those were primarily from different objectives of various functional members and personal styles. But now in hind sights, the conflicts should have a lot to do with the different ways of learning processes. Now I am even more appreciate of the company culture of P&G: encouraging teamwork, diversity, respect different background and thinking logic. This culture implicitly generates a constructive environment for innovation.

Emily Lin on Slide:ology September 30, 2009

Posted by Emily Lin in Slide:ology.
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The book not only provides technical tips to improve the presentation development skills, but also a fundamental paradigm shift of what IS an impactful presentation. It requires a different mindset and devotion of time and focus. A great presentation can influence millions of people, especially in this internet age.
The presentation slides we are referring to is the visual aid that helps the audience to comprehend what the presenter is talking about. The powerpoint or flip-chart is NOT the presentation itself, but only a means. “Audiences can’t see and listen at the same time.” Often times we spend most of our efforts in developing the slides but forget that we – the presenters themselves – should be the focus. We should put emphasis on the points we want to deliver, rehearse, and create a presentation slides that help, not hinder, the messages.
“Treat your audiences as kings! They come to see what you can do for you, not you.” As all communication, understanding your audience is the first key to successful communication. Before starting to create slides, we should spend time thinking of who we will be talking to, what they want, and what is the best way to communicate. Sometimes creating a document to read is more effective than delivering a presentation. Often times we mix documents with slides by putting too much text and visual-unfriendly materials.
Less is more – this especially applies to visual communication. To deliver a clear message, there should be only one message per slide, and no more than three layers of concepts on a single slide. We often pack multiple concepts on a slide and thus create a dense but confusing image. The book provides several vivid examples of how to transform from a document-type slide into presentation-type slide. Simplicity applies to all information including concepts, text, data, images, colors and photos. “Think as a designer, not a decorator.” Useless and inconsistent information is noisy and distracting.
“Be prepared to be powerless.”- the book warns us at the very end. Again, the presenter should be the focus, not the slides. If things go wrong and slides can’t be projected, the presenter should still have the confidence and means to deliver his/her messages successfully. With this end in mind, the amount of time and focus spent on the messages and rehearsals would not be under-estimated. “The amount of time required to develop a presentation is directly proportional to how high the stakes are.”