Status symbols in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is a country very representative of Max Weber’s “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”. This means that status symbols are both rare and subtle. Cars are small (for easy parking and reduced taxes), government ministers bike to work, and you won’t see much jewelry on women below 60 years of age. But today I stumbled upon a status symbol that seems to be as important to Dutch people as golden necklaces were to nouveaux riches in Russia of the early ’90s: flowers. I was walking down the street with a huge (and probably expensive) bouquet I got from colleagues on my first day at work, and boy did I get some looks from passers-by! Some people were amused, some stood in admiration, and some were clearly jealous! Strangers started talking to me and made jokes (which I unfortunately didn’t understand, because of the local Limburg accent…). I’ve never had 10 different people strike up a conversation to me in Holland during a 15-minute walk! So, next time you want to show off in the land of tulips: buy flowers!

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Social Networking explained

Check out the video below for a quick and simple explanation of what social networking is about:

I like the emphasis on “helping solve real-life problems”, as opposed to “trying to appear cool” – although the latter can also be a real-life problem, of course.

For more simple explanations of “web2.0″-related terms, surf to Commoncraft.

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Any male accountants out there?

Going through some openings on a Ukrainian job site, I was shocked… For all the progress we’ve made, for all the democratic principles (you would think) have been brought in to the country, it felt like we were back to 19th century…

How do you like companies looking for “a lady, 22-35 y.o., for an accountant’s position” or “a man, 25-45 y.o., for a sales director’s job”? I’m not talking about one or two exceptions. In fact almost all bookkeeper (accountant) positions I have seen are open for ladies only (and mostly younger ladies at that!), and a large portion of sales manager jobs (especially in Business-to-Business) are reserved for men! 

I am speechless. Talk about equal opportunity employment… Probably the only ones practicing that in Ukraine are multinational corporations and institutions… The rest might not know what it is…

I was just reading somewhere about a new practice in the UK (employed by the National Health Service, if I am not mistaken) whereby they remove all personal details from the application, including name, date of birth, etc. So at least at the pre-screening stage it really is just the qualifications that matter. For now, Ukraine seems light years away from that. 

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“The seemingly impossible is possible”

(and it’s not a sports brand’s slogan)

 I wish I had the time to write up my impressions about this video – but the thesis is eating all my energy away! So I’ll just say, watch this video. Really. Make sure you watch it till the end. 

And, related to this, check out the great tool going online (hmm, also acquired by Google, as all great web-based tools have recently been) – http://tools.google.com/gapminder/

I’m so inspired I’ll email my Uni professor back in Ukraine to let him know about the tool – and hope he’ll use it!

P.S. I just checked Ukraine vs. Poland from 1990 until the present day. That’s quite a sad picture (for a Ukrainian). You can see the two countries starting almost exactly at the same point, and then Poland just going full speed ahead…

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PR the Dutch Way

Dutch people are known for always telling it like it is and for legalizing marijuana, prostitution and gay marriages. You’d think there is little else this liberal country can surprise the world with. And yet they did.

You might have heard about the Big Donor Show aired on Dutch TV last month. The idea of the programme (made by the TV channel which invented the Big Brother show) was in having three patients in need of a kidney transplant compete against each other. The final decision on who will get her kidney was made by a terminally ill woman who was shown throughout the program. TV viewers could sms their preferences (think of American Idol for patients).

Boy did that show create a stir! Dutch society was split over the morality of such show; the Prime Minister expressed concern, and some politicians suggested the show be banned. Holland made international headlines for the first time since I-don’t-know-when. I only realized how big the thing was when my granny told me over the phone “she heard there was something weird going on on TV in the Netherlands”.

Well, I didn’t watch the show, but many people did, although even more people claimed they would not watch it because it was unethical. The show made international headlines the next day again – this time with a different tone. It had all been a hoax, aimed at drawing attention to the very real problem of lack of organ donors and long waiting lines for transplants in the Netherlands. The potential donor was an actress, while the three patients were real patiens waiting for a kidney transplant. This was revealed live on TV at the moment when she was about to announce “the winner”.

Wow. The public was stunned. Beautiful execution of the stunt left critics speechless. Talk about putting a name to your cause! Now, there is still debate about how ethical the show was. So far over 20 thousand people downloaded a donor form as a direct result of the show. And there are more coming, so the officials say the real effect can only be estimated in about two months. But it is already clear that a very worthy cause was put high on the public agenda, urging thousands of people to take immediate action. I take my hat off to BNN.

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Filed under Dutch Experiences, PR, Sustainability

Talking to Seth Godin

Well, not (yet?) in person, but Seth answered some questions, including mine, about his new book called “The Dip“. The Q&A was published on the PMBA Blog, which is a site helping people get management knowledge by reading the right books and discussing them. I should get a free copy of the book from Seth (cool, huh?), so I’ll write about my impressions.

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World’s best presentation

Some interesting facts about the future of the world and technology presented in a simple and compelling way…
This presentation won the Best Presentation Award distributed by slideshare.net:

Although I would argue that the best presentation (as well as one of the best presentation tools) is this:

Isn’t it an amazing way of using “raw” data to tell a meaningful story?! We often think that just throwing numbers in people’s face is enough to communicate an idea… But it isn’t so. Not everyone thinks in terms of numbers. There is a story behind the numbers, and that is why these numbers exist in the first place. Some people can “extract” this story themselves; the rest need it extracted and prepared for them, so they can digest it. There is a lot of power to be unlocked, as demonstrated by Gapminder, from telling the story behind the numbers!

Related links: www.slideshare.net, www.gapminder.org

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