The bones of 5 million: the underside of Paris

The bones of 5 million: the underside of Paris

Yesterday, I met a good friend at the Eiffel Tower, Me at Eiffel Towerand we spent the day visiting some of the main attractions above ground in Paris (Notre Dame, Victory Arch, Louve, Angelina’s chocolate shop on, etc) – and enjoyed some of the vibrant life that filled the streets.

For a section of the day, however, we also took some time to see the catacombs, which quietly wind for nearly 300 kilometers beneath some of the lively streets above.
Hiking 25 meters underground, we came to an enclosure under the city of Paris that was dimly lit, moisture dripping occasionally on us Catecombs of Parisfrom the low ceiling (which I had to duck at certain points as I walked) – and along the walls it was filled with rows and rows of bones – from approximately 5 million people!

For some reason, seeing the remains of so many people who once were alive, breathing, working, playing, etc – triggered a cognitive/emotional reaction. It wasn’t spooky, but did make me pause and think deeply.

It just poignantly struck me again how short life really is. More Bones
It made me re-consider what it is that I really want to do with whatever stretch of years I have – hoping I at least do more good than harm during them.
I thought about how much of the things I worry about on a daily basis might not matter that much in the long run – and how grateful I all the good things in my life (e.g. health, friends, family, laughter, faith, opportunities to learn, chances to contribute to things that are worthwhile, etc.)

Next time you are in Paris, you should consider a visit to the Denfert-Rochereau Ossuary (“The Kingdom of the Dead”). I am informed that at least it is better than the boat ride through the sewer system below Paris (which someone told me you can also do).

How good I am at learning Finnish

I have tried to maximize my time in Finland by learning as much Finnish as I can. Some people said that they were impressed by how fast I was learning it, so I started to be impressed by myself too! 🙂
I even booked an airline ticket on a Finnish-only language website to France (for a paper I was going to give at a conference on culture and technology – where I am now).
Pretty impressive, huh? I was kind of proud of myself.

So I showed up at the airport in Helsinki on June 23rd, and I wondered why my flight didn’t show up on the screen. I went to a help desk and asked the lady if it was still scheduled or if they canceled it for some reason.

She kindly informed me that it was still scheduled, but that I had booked it for November 23rd!!!

So, to make a long story short – a couple hundred Euros and a couple hours later I was booked on a plane to Berlin then to Barcelona, and then took the train to Nimes, France.
And I obviously need to study my months better! 🙂

[Despite my humbling experience, at least it has been a great conference – well worth the effort, and I will try to post an entry about it later.]

Games people play in different countries and cultures

Games people play in different countries and cultures

I would sometime like to do a study on games people play in different cultures and countries.Head Wound
Going to St. Petersburg this last weekend, we joked about a ‘Russian game’ called the “Everybody get down!”-game – and how this man on the bus didn’t learn how to play it very well…
(sometime ask me more about it for a funny story)

But as I have been thinking a lot about games lately – Clint in St. Petersburgand have started inventing one or two games that deal with intercultural communication and collaboration – I wonder these questions about the games people play around the world:
– Who is involved (adults and children, people of what ages, and what relation)?
– Are the games based on cooperation or competition?
– Are they team based or individual?
– Are they thinking/skill based or games of chance/luck? Children Playing Games
– If it is a game you can “win” what do you win?
– Are they played indoor or outdoor?
– Are the games just for diversions or what deeper things do you learn from playing them? etc…

Here are my questions for you:
– Do you know any games you (or others) played as a kid that people from other areas of the world might consider unique?
– What are your favorite games to play and why do you like them?

Why would you want to be a Buddhist monk?

Why would you want to be a Buddhist monk?

Early I had a blog entry about Catholic monks. Thai Buddhist monks Now I had the opportunity to ask the above question to two Thai Buddhist monks who were visiting Joensuu for a few days. I spoke with them briefly before a couple of meditation sessions that my good friend Antony invited me to (which they kind of took us through).

So why would you want to become a monk?
I was told earlier that in certain Buddhist traditions every boy is expected to spend a period of 3-6 months as a monk (as a sign of love to his mother), but only certain ones decide to continue to live in the monastery and spend their life as a monk.
One of these monks said that he wanted to become a monk since he was a small boy. He always spent all his extra time at the temple which was in his village, respected the monks, and knew that is what he wanted to do.
Buddhist monks getting ready for meditationThe other monk said that he came from a very poor family and always wanted an education beyond the primary school. Being a monk allowed him to continue his studies, and he has now graduated from the Buddhist university in linguistics, having studied semitic languages and Buddhist traditions.
Both seemed very happy (aside from the cold weather, that is.)

I’ve never tried Buddhist meditation before, but I found it quite difficult yet enjoyable. I also think it is a healthy thing to do. There are different kinds, but we sat with our legs crossed, back straight but not rigid, and hands comfortably in our lap. You close your eyes and only focus on “seeing” your breathing. Wherever you feel your breath the most (tip of nose, throat, stomach, etc), you try to focus on that area – and clear your mind of any other thought.

meditatingI don’t know if you have ever sat for an entire hour before in the same position and just tried to only focus on one thing in the moment – but it is tough. As I was sitting there, my brain kept rushing through thoughts of things that had happened or things that were coming up which I needed to do. It was also difficult not to be distracted as my legs and butt slowly felt more discomfort from sitting in the same position, as I felt an itch on my face, or as some other distraction occurred in the room – but supposedly those distractions provide the best opportunities to really focus on your breathing in deeper way.

Me with monks

Why I think meditation is healthy?
Here are my thoughts, but if anyone else knows better – feel free to correct me.
There seems to be something good about being in the present moment. Slowing down enough so that your conscience can speak – digging past appearance to substance – transcending the immediate emotion or feeling to the deeper parts of existence and the core of who you are. (Although it is not about Buddhism, it reminds me of movie called “Peaceful Warrior” which I would recommend that deals with being in the present moment. It is one of my favorite movies at the moment. 🙂
Maybe I’m totally missing some of the most important things, so feel free to correct me if you know any better.

I’m curious what stuff other people do to slow down for a bit and contemplate?
Or does anyone know any other reasons why meditation is healthy?

Diffusion of Innovation in Developing Countries through Microfranchising

Diffusion of Innovation in Developing Countries through Microfranchising

I was just emailed a link to the keynote presentations from the conference in Oxford: “Confronting the Challenge of Technology for Development: Experiences from the BRICS” and I realized I should post a copy of my abstract and some follow-up thoughts from my presentation (which was about the diffusion of innovation in developing countries through microfranchising).

(For a basic introduction to microfranchising, you can go here or here)

Follow-up thoughts:

  • Microfranchising is an powerful, intuitive concept SCOJO franchiseethat will most likely spread exponentially in a similar way to microcredit.
  • It addresses both social and economic problems in a novel and effective way.
  • There are unsuccessful microfranchises (one of which I learned about at the conference), and I need to do more exploration as to what factors were involved.
  • The innovations needed for developing countries are not just product innovations, but also innovations in system and process (as the ones which are implemented from developed countries often fail) – and microfranchising is a great example of that.
  • Microfranchising is a useful concept for developed countries as well, and for govt and education as well as business.
  • I want the journal we choose to publish our article in to be free and online, in order to reach the most people of the key target audience.

Here is the abstract…
The Diffusion of Innovations in Emerging Economies through Microfranchising

P. Clint Rogers, Ph.D.
Jason Fairbourne (Director, MicroFranchise Development Initiative),
Robert C. Wolcott, Ph.D. (Founder & Director, Kellogg Innovation Network; MBA & EMBA Faculty, Innovation & Entrepreneurship)

Abstract:
Emerging markets present a host of challenges for the traditional structures and operations of multinational businesses. Everything from different consumer needs and marketing obstacles to product distribution challenges and human resource management issues (Srinivas, 2002). These challenges provide opportunities for innovation not only inOneRoof Store in Ponneri product development, but also in organizational structure and management (Brown, 2004). In this article we present an innovative business management model called microfranchising which has successfully facilitated the introduction and scalable distribution of innovations in emerging economies. The impetus behind the origination of the idea was to provide sound business opportunities and services to the world’s poor by introducing scaled-down business concepts found in successful franchise organizations. The key principle is replication– replicating success to scale through three enabling characteristics: (a) organic nature, (b) modularity, and (c) micro-scalability.
In this paper we discuss how microfranchising can solve many of the problems of traditional approaches to introducing innovations in emerging economies, and we describe as case studies two microfranchise organizations offering ICTOneRoof Logo (Information and Communication Technology) services in emerging economies: Drishtee and One Roof. At the core, Microfranchising addresses four primary challenges found in emerging economies: (1) the lack of jobs in many communities, (2) the lack of business skills among the poor needed to grow a successful business, (3) the lack of goods and services availableDrishtee Logo to the poor (e.g. lack of efficient technologies), and (4) the lack of MNC’s understanding or ability to operate successfully in this vastly different context. We also illustrate how the concepts involved apply to a broader context of business and government.

Keywords: Knowledge Transfer and Innovation in MNCs/MNEs, Corporate Governance in Emerging Markets, united villages logoEntrepreneurship in Emerging Markets, Marketing in Emerging Markets, Sustainable Development, Technology Transfer, Microfranchises

Finland Productivity Levels: An international success story

Finland Productivity Levels: An international success story

Attending a conference at Oxford last week (“Confronting the Challenge of Technology for Development: Experiences from the BRICS”), I heard several of the speakers refer to Finland as an example of one of the mostProductivity Chart successful countries in terms of development and productivity growth over the last couple decades (one speaker even referring to it as one “Superstar model”). Being back in Finland again, I have asked myself why has Finland been so successful (when so many other countries struggle and fail to do what Finland has done)?

[FYI – There are all kinds of quotients and formulas out there to measure the “productivity” of a country, and people are constantly debating about what should be included in them. Usually included are a combination of things like GNP, import/export ratio, capital accumulation, growth per capita, patent applications made, publications, Research and Development ROI, etc…]

So why can you give money to Finland, and they very effectively turn it into productivity and growth, when you could give it to other countries and not have nearly the same result?

Here are some of the ideas I have thought of or heard from others (You should vote for one of them or suggest your own). Why Finland has been so productive and successful:

  1. Because Finland has such a low corruption rate (one of the lowest in the world), the money doesn’t get embezzled by government leaders, and people work together better because they can trust each other more.
  2. Finland is very homogeneous – this also helps with getting people to work together and trust each other.
  3. Finland is very egalitarian (perhaps due to the Lutheran influence?)- and so this helps to mediate some of the gloryFinland seeking and conflict. [e.g. I heard from one man that all government officials at a certain level are required to take a business economics course in which they get assigned a role that is not their own, then use real data and numbers from Finland’s economy to make decisions and policy recommendations. This helps them see that they need to work as a team, and appreciate the insights they learn from those with another expertise.]
  4. Finland is used to pulling together to face very difficult challenges and great odds. [e.g. when China started becoming more of a threat economically, they flew over some of their top people who came back with a much different approach.] This is like the “sisu” mentality – which comes from things like enduring months of freezing cold weather with virtually no sunlight, living in the woods for years without talking to another person, or sharing a boarder with a country that likes to keep you on your guard.
  5. There is a hypothesis that a country’s productivity level and growth is directly proportional to the amount of Karelian pasties they consume? 🙂
  6. Perhaps by requiring men to wear speedos at all public pools – this bring a special camaraderie, creating a better environment for working together? Kind of symbolic of stripping issues down to the meat and bones and avoiding anything extra.
  7. The fact that Finns don’t engage in much small talk (e.g. ignoring each other rather than saying “hi” to each other as they pass each other) maybe saves time for them to be more focused and productive?
  8. Perhaps it is because people around the world serendipitously thought “Nokia” was a Japanese company – and so invested in it heavily? 🙂

Any other ideas that you can think of for why Finland has been so successful?