Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

What really happens when women make up more than 50% of the workforce?

Women in workforce

Cover of The Economist 2010

Have you noticed that the position of women in the workforce is actually declining, despite all the upbeat news to the contrary?

A major Australian corporation has a reputation of being ‘a bit of a boys’ club’ but, until recently, they’d been able to refute that perception.

No more.

Over the latter part of 2012, just about all the senior women were ‘encouraged’ out of the organisation, or effectively demoted.

Women still get paid less

In the news recently in Australia: women graduates’ starting salary is, on average, $5,000 less than that of male graduates.

You may accept that most of this disparity is due to industry choice. However, this recent post from the Harvard Business Review blog, Six Paradoxes Women Leaders Face in 2013, refutes this old chestnut.

Over the last six months, anecdotal evidence from overseas certainly suggests that women are being targeted unfairly and losing their jobs. Women are describing what’s happening to them as ‘a modern-day witch hunt’.

What have you noticed in your industry? Do you feel that women are being singled out?


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Actually, that’s not quite true. Colour is the new black, but I believe it’s a symptom of optimism…or simply defiance.

Colour me happy

At the height of the global financial crisis (GFC), sales of black cars soared even as car sales overall had stalled. Now we’re seeing sales of white cars (white being a symbol of hope) go through the roof.

In Australia, at least, you’d need to be blind not to have noticed all the bright colours around; in fashion, in home décor, in decorations generally. I’ve noticed, too, that the dominant colour is red. It appears that the collective mood has swung from pessimistic to defiantly optimistic.

What do the colours mean?

Most of us know that the colours we use can affect our mood, just as our mood predicates the colours we wear and use. For the last few seasons (in Australia, Europe and the US), the dominant colour was yellow. In the context of the GFC, yellow signified ‘cautious optimism’.

Red is much more intense and signifies increased enthusiasm, energy, action…but it’s also a bit of a security blanket against fears and anxiety. Red is a sign of danger but it’s also known as the colour of love…and perhaps we’re ready to give more. Witness the current craze for posting online compliments on Facebook.

Red also means ‘Stop’.

Anecdotally, everyone is ready for the end of the working year. My clients, usually paragons of excellence, are sending me (relative) rubbish. We’re tired, mentally, and we need red to help us make it to the finish line.

We’re ready for some FUN and an intermission from the constant gloomy outlook. Let Europe sort out its own problems; and America’s ‘fiscal cliff’ is now mooted to be more of a measured slide or a non-event, according to Alan Kohler. We can only be frugal for so long before we need to break out.

Australia’s doing just fine

Despite the scaremongering, the IMF has given the Australian economy a big tick. To be clear, it’s a qualified tick, and, yes, we may have lower growth for a few years, but isn’t that going to be more sustainable? We live in a country blessed with (reasonably) good government, a high standard of living and, best of all, we possess a pretty good attitude to life.

Have you noticed the profusion of colour? Do you think it means we’re more optimistic or simply defiant? Do you see the predominance of red as a warning signal or a sign of better times? I welcome your thoughts.

I wish you all a happy and safe Christmas and I look forward to our collective happiness and enthusiasm in 2013.

Multi-coloured banner

Multi-coloured banner from City of Sydney 2012

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Not necessarily in order of importance but these are my top innovation picks for the moment.

1. A 3-D Printed House That Grows Like Human Bone

Fast Company November 2012

Using a biologically inspired algorithm, SoftKill demonstrates an exciting new path for large, 3-D printed structures.

2. App That Turns Any Surface Into An iPhone Keyboard

Fast Company November 2012

An astonishing app uses an iPhone’s accelerometer to sense the location of a tap on any surface and translate it into typed letters on a keyboard.

3. Scanadu Will Turn Your Smartphone Into A Diagnostic Clinic

Fast Company November 2012

As his son recovered from a traumatic brain injury, Walter De Brouwer was prototyping a device that could upend the broken healthcare system. His product, Scanadu, turns your smartphone into a powerful diagnostic device.

4. World’s first recycled plastic asphalt paving trialled in Vancouver

Via Springwise 20 November 2012

The City of Vancouver has created a plastic-based asphalt, which it is testing for paved roads in the Canadian metropolis.

5. Frequent flyer miles donated to those who wish to visit sick relatives

Via Springwise 20 November 2012

The Extra Mile hopes to collect frequent flyer miles from those who don’t use them so that friends and family of the terminally ill can visit their loved ones.

6. Solar Gardens: Power to the People

I’ve been looking for a model like this for Australia. Sadly, no-one seems to have run with this idea yet.

With solar gardens, or community-owned solar power, neighbors team up to buy panels and share the benefits of renewable energy through virtual net metering.

By Staff, Utne Reader
September/October 2012

7. Dinosaur-inspired upgrades add bite to wind turbines

New Scientist, 15 September 2012 by Jesse Emspak

Siemens has unveiled three designs for enhancing the aerodynamics of turbine blades that improve efficiency and help them to run more quietly.

8. World’s first low-water, low-energy vertical farm in Singapore

Springwise 14 November 2012

Vertical gardens have been around for a few years now but Singapore’s Sky Greens vertical farm goes beyond basic vertical garden design.

The Sky Greens vertical farm in Singapore is the world’s first low-water, low-energy urban food production space. Hoping to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign food, the garden can produce 500kg of vegetables per day in the 120 nine-meter aluminium towers that make up the farm.

 9. Helmet sensor notifies contacts when it detects a crash

Springwise 03 October 2012

Crash Sensor is a small device that mounts onto any helmet and alerts emergency contacts when it detects a crash.

 10. World’s first crowd-funded skyscraper in Columbia offers investors a share in profits

Springwise September 2012

The BD Bacatá project aims to hand over power to the future inhabitants of a skyscraper by getting them to invest in its development.

And now for something completely different…

For parting couples, a custom newspaper announces the divorce to friends and family

Springwise 26 September 2012-11-28

The Divorce Newspaper is a Japanese innovation that helps broadcast news of a breakup quickly and efficiently to friends and loved ones.

So…these are my top picks for the last couple of months. Have you seen anything that you think could be game-changing?

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Over the years I’ve learned that if you’re too far ahead of the curve, you’re just flatlining. Sometimes, one just needs to wait for everyone else to catch up.

Case 1: Back in the dim dark days of 1990, I thought it would be great if the small advertising agency for which I worked at the time could recycle our paper.

At the time, I subscribed to a magazine called Simply Living and the predictions for the ozone hole and general climate change were alarming even back then.

With the co-operation of the agency CFO (thanks, Peter Cameron), I organised a waste paper collection and then tried my best to educate my colleagues about separating their waste paper from other rubbish.

Big FAIL. Not only was I the only one in the office of 30 to keep my paper separate, but also, the ‘bin’ was just a big hessian sack in the general car park. At the end of each month, just before pick-up day, I’d be scrabbling around removing polystyrene cups and lunch wrappers to decontaminate the load. After three months of this, I abandoned the project.

I’m sure all those former colleagues now sort their garbage diligently and have strong opinions on climate change and sustainability. The point is that they were just not ready in 1990. Not enough other people were making an effort so it was easy for my agency colleagues to ignore the message and dismiss me as a crank.

Case 2: In 2009, I saw a great invention showcased on New Inventors: Drainwave. Water from your sink went into a holding tank and, when it was full at 9.5 litres, it emptied into the sewerage pipe automatically. It wasn’t the most glamorous product but had good reasoning behind the idea. The problem was that it wasn’t a very sexy product. It won People’s Choice that episode but then – oblivion. Then we had hikes in bills and more community awareness about water. Now you can buy a ‘5-star toilet’ from Caroma. I’m sure this type of product will be mainstream within a few years (once the cost comes down a bit) but the New Inventors product went nowhere fast – too far ahead of the curve.

If you ever wonder why we don’t see innovative advertising, websites or products, it’s because marketers and advertisers won’t alienate an audience that isn’t quite ready for change.

Those products are out there but, for the moment, they’re too far ahead of the curve.

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Following on from the last post re buzzwords, here is another relevant article from Time magazine. A good copywriter or proofreader, of course, can help you avoid those hackneyed words and phrases and ensure that your LinkedIn page is unique. Note, too, that although the body of the piece is about buzzwords, the subtext is just as much about ‘big data’, now being culled from our online activities with Twitter, Facebook…and LinkedIn. If you’re interested, read about how hedge fund, Derwent Capital, beat the market through gauging the Twitterverse sentiment or The New Yorker article about the exponential law of privacy loss.

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“At first, Web 2.0 seemed like a perfect two-way street. We were all in it together. Fast forward just a handful of years, though, and something has gone very, very wrong with that particular social contract… The real problem of Web 2.0 — whether it takes the form of SEO-driven “news” or crowd-sourced accommodation [is to make money]. To make money — real money — at this game you have to attract millions, or tens of millions, of users. And when you’re dealing with those kinds of numbers, it’s literally impossible not to treat your users as pieces of data.”

The preceding is an excerpt from an article by Paul Carr writing for TechCrunch. It’s worth reading the complete article for his thoughts on the lack of humanity sometimes displayed by the new wave of entrepreneurs.

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For those of us who view Facebook as a recreational tool, a shortcut to conversation with friends and family, the news that Facebook is intending to allow data mining probably won’t affect us too much. If, however, you are identified by fb as being an influencer, you’ll need to pay more attention. Facebook is adding a “VIP” section that will allow advertisers and marketers to identify users who are influencers and target them directly with special offers and so on, all the while analysing language on their pages. Read more in the Fast Company article.

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