Friday Evening Retrospective

Greetings, fellow travellers on this online journey into mysteries of the world wide web. This is my prototype of a newsletter from Perspective – a blog that increasingly focuses on exploring the concept of global brands crossing cultures. At the end of each week, I’ll look back and reflect on the random bits of data noise that populate our online world and collate those that I think are unique, interesting or caught my eye. Since I may or maynot continue this, all and any feedback most welcome.

Designism or empowered design is a trend I’ve been seeing, and today’s front page post on Core77 by BigElvis just manages to articulate it. Here’s the snippet,

You have to give it to the Art Directors Club for gathering a stellar panel to launch what may or may not become a new movement–Designism. As branded gesture, or the first gathering of a nascent manifesto posse, the evening swirled around the fundamental question of "whether design can and should do good." But it wasn’t a question at all, of course, since the panelists have been plain in much of their take-no-prisoners work, and the political-style buttons laying about the entranceway foreshadowed a movement indeed.

In another example of successful cultural integration, a slightly older news item from the BBC that looks at the amazing popularity of Habib’s, a Brazilian fast food chain that offers middle eastern specialities. Here’s the crux of the matter, the opportunity space that Habib’s filled in the competitive Brazilian food market.

Apart from McDonald’s, which has been in Brazil since
1979, most US_41058080_esfiha
companies entered the market in the 1990s, after the end of high inflation brought stability to the Brazilian economy. However, many of them have since withdrawn, unable to compete on price and unwilling to acknowledge Brazilian culture.

"They didn’t study the market, they just came with the intention of doing what they did abroad," says Mr Saraiva. "They didn’t adapt to the country.

"Suddenly KFC wanted Brazilians to pick up pieces of chicken with their fingers, when it’s not the Brazilian habit to eat with your hands.

Also, the pieces of chicken were served in cardboard buckets. Brazilians are not used to being served like that. These are basic mistakes which customers will not accept."

What Went Wrong with the Dialogue between Cultures? is the title of this fascinating article, while not wholly focused on brands or business, there’s much to learn from the insights.

What we need now is developing a common language for understanding and respecting cultural differences, without doing harm to our universal values. The following five elements of such common language are of particular importance:

1. Cultural diversity between as well as within countries is as essential for humankind as biodiversity is for nature.

2. The right to be different is core element of a rights-based understanding of culture.

3. Overlap between cognitive and emotional elements of intercultural relations is the rule and not the exception.

4. Deconstructing self-referential systems of belief and knowledge is essential.

5. Freedom of opinion or any other belief is not only a basic human right; it is
intrinsic to any human understanding of religion. Enforcing belief would be a contradiction itself, as much as imposing values "comes down in the end to negating them" (Jacques Delors).

Much more needs to be done to enable citizens of the increasingly multicultural world of the 21st century to know about, to understand and to respect their differences in cultural and religious expression.

This study finds biases in the US against women in the fields of science and engineering, while lamenting the shortage of talent in these very fields. I’ve written on this subject before – reflecting as a woman with a first class degree in engineering from Bangalore U plus ‘A’ grades in O’Levels Maths, Physics, Chemistry & Biology and a ‘B’ in Additional Maths. Apparently, according to the study, its a myth that women aren’t biologically suited for mathematics and science and engineering. Coo! What fun. So I went digging and across this opinion piece "Women in Engineering" by Joan Munzel Gosink, who graduated from MIT in 1962. Worth a read,

Why should we want to increase the numbers of women in engineering?
Fairness is one answer, but certainly not the only one. I assert that
we will have better products and services when women participate in
engineering design and development. After all, the primary function of
engineering is design. Since design is a creative process in which we
synthesize our own experience and perceptions into a plan or a model, a
more diverse design team will formulate a wider scope of ideas, and
this leads to better, more adaptable designs.

And finally, Steve sends me a link via his blog to this article, which talks about the brand equity built into the "without Borders" brand.

And yet that self-contradictory "noncommercial brand"
seems the right term. Everybody seems to get the underlying idea – a
humanitarianism that involves putting one’s professional expertise to
work in the service of one’s highest ideals
. Everyone would recognize
there was something not quite right about "Plutocrats Without Borders"
or "Cartels Without Borders," although those organizations have long
existed under other names. (Think OPEC.)

And how pleasant that all this discussion can go on
largely borderlessly, yea, seamlessly even – without any of those pesky
"TM" or © marks so characteristic of corporate zeal to protect
intellectual property.

Let’s hear it for ideas without borders, too.

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