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Archive for December 2010

Time of resolutions ?

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Traditionally, the end of the year is the time when we take resolutions for the new coming year. But most of the time, we do not keep our resolutions a long time, a bit like a drunk man who do not remember what he said the day before. How does it make that sometime, we do not keep our resolution?

A resolution is probably a short term intention without determination. This lack of determination is probably caused by the absence of objectives. If you take a resolution, you have first to know for which reason you will take it. The resolution is not the key factor to reach your objectives, but the motivation. The motivation can be only fed by a clear definition of your objectives. It is only when you know where you want to go that you can define how you will reach that goal and gain the motivation in order to support your efforts in the realization of your objectives. For instance, you will be motivated to learn about sailing navigation, because you want to cross over the ocean and discover new countries. Your objectives represent the main reason to do something, the support of your motivation. You do something because you want to reach a goal, and not because you want to spend time.

We are used to say that an entrepreneur has always a project, an objective in advance. It is necessary to have a look not only for tomorrow, but also for the day after tomorrow. Time to time, you have to put milestones, and see where you are coming from, where is the degree of completion of your objectives. These milestones are the support of your motivation, the milestones of the way of your life driving you to your objective, to your self accomplishment. The way of our life is a range of objectives, making sense to our life.

So, let’s be the entrepreneurs of our own life and if you have not yet thought about your objectives, please note that it is not too late, because it is not a year-end concern, but a daily concern.

Best Wishes for 2011 !

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

December 30, 2010 at 00:01

The perception of changes, an open window to new opportunities

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The Center for sustainable energy and technologies in Ningbo - China

Yesterday, I was listening on the radio that the last car was produced in the Opel assembly plant of Antwerpen in Belgium. This is the consequence of the General Motors bankruptcy and the related restructuring process. The Flemish Regional government tried to make lobbying to find another partner to buy the business in order to save a local production, but also to save jobs. On another way, I was reading an article published in the Spanish newspaper El Pais and translated in the Courrier International, that the Silicon Valley, symbol of new technologies and entrepreneurship, was moving his activity in the green technologies. I was wondering why it seems that some countries seem to be always in advance in term of innovation. There are probably many factors to explain such differences.

It is obvious that we are living in a fast moving environment. These fast changes imply to have a long-term view. Changes are sometimes slow but ongoing processes, but we only perceive then at a certain moment. If for instance, you plant a tree in your garden, and you are looking to it everyday, you will not perceive that the tree is growing a bit every day. It is after few weeks or months that you will suddenly notice the tree grew significantly. What is interesting to know is if it is the change which is not always easily perceptible, or is it our mind which don’t want to change of vision easily. Are our mind progressive or conservative? It depends of each of us and we need probably more or less time to integrate new ideas, new paradigms. Does this break of perception, linked to a culture difference, explain that some countries are more innovative than other? This is an interesting question underlining different important aspects, in which governments could have a key role to play.

As said, a sustainable economical development needs a long-term view. Some well performing industries will not be anymore in few years, because the economical environment is changing. It is important to predict what will be the long-term changes, based on what we can observe today, in order to develop appropriate policies to ensure these developments. Let us take the example of Belgium. This country was known during many years as a country where car manufacturers were investing. The car manufacturing industry was bringing a lot of jobs, and these factories were appreciated for the productivity and qualification of people. It was of course a good source of revenues for the State, and as far as everything is fine, we do not look further to what could be happen. But since many years, like in most of western countries, the employment in such factories was decreasing, and companies began to invest in countries where the manpower was cheaper than in western countries. The trend seemed to be obvious. These industries were not expanding their activities in our countries. Our economy is changing and needs transformation. Some elements are necessary to implement such transformation. But are our governments supporting enough the economy renewal implementation? Let us take another example, when by the past, the Belgian Government allowed huge intervention to save the metalwork industry, but like the automotive industry, the size of the production plants and the jobs did not stop to decrease. Was it a good initiative to sustain a declining industry sector in our country? It was probably a good initiative on a short-term basis in order to save jobs, but not on a long-term basis. It would probably be better to allocate budgets to develop new fields of economy and to give incentives for research and development programs.

Since few years now, a lot of local initiatives are taken in order to sustain the development of new economical projects. The question is to know if the efforts and incentive done by the governments to stimulate the innovation and the creation of new economical development fields are sufficient, and if such measures are not coming too late? Is this the result of a too conservative view of our world? Ilya Prigogine, Nobel price in chemical sciences, was used to say that we have to build the present time, based on the experience of the past and by anticipation of the future. If we have a look to the past, we can note that everything has changed, and that there is no reason why this process should stop. This is a reason why we have to be aware about each change, each trend we can see. We have to consider these changes as an open window to new opportunities and challenges. It is a question of mind, of vision about our world, to be able to change of paradigm and to think out of the box. It is obvious that by mentioning this, we underline the importance of education and the qualification level of people. Knowledge and capabilities are the raw material of innovation and development. A strong and sustainable economy can only be build with a performing education system, and by encouraging people to acquire a culture based on adaptability, and considering changes as a opened window to new opportunities and challenges.



Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

December 16, 2010 at 22:04

Corporate Social Responsibility, a philosophy or a marketing tool?

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Corporate Social Responsibility, for a better world.

Today, we can see a lot of companies investing time and funds in Corporate Social Responsibility. I was recently asking the question on a forum if such programs are the concretisation of a philosophical culture or by the motivation of a positive marketing image. This question suggests a cynical intention of companies to do a positive action for business purposes. If sometimes such question is asked by some of us, it is probably because the Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives goals are a bit in the opposite of the company goal, it means to make profit. And the other question is to know if the final goal to implement Corporate Social Responsibility programs is to contribute to a positive social action or if it is to develop a positive marketing image. It is always easy to criticize such initiatives by saying that it was not done for a good reason, in this case for social purpose. But such initiatives make cense when the strategy and the philosophy of the company is in accordance with such actions. In other words, could we believe to the valuable reasons of a CSR program of a company when this company is firing people in order to maximize profit?

Do not forget that companies needs to make profit in order to ensure the development and the sustainability of their activities. Do not forget that there cannot be efficient social policy without strong economy. Both are linked, but companies would have to integrate all the dimensions, social, economical, development, people management, motivation…in their corporate values. In a lot of case, it implies a change of paradigm. Is the economy there to serve people or people have to serve the economy? As I already asked in other articles, is a economy sustainable when companies are cutting jobs to make more profit and when you reduce the purchasing power of people? In such context, does the CSR appear as a cynical way to gain respectability? Such a paradox does not appear as positive. But we have maybe to see here the possibility to develop another business model, where all the components have to be taken into account, in order to show a more coherent image. There is already existing companies and business based on the Social economy model. These companies are integrating different values, and sometimes more constraints to develop a sustainable business. But this kind of environment initiates most of the time more creativity, and particularly when the people are motivated and subscribe to the company project. I remember an article about an IT small company based on a cooperative model, where each employee could acquire shares of the company and have a vote to the board of directors. This model shows interesting advantages. The CEO of this company was mentioning in the article that with such company model, he could be fired by the employees, and that he was taking more time to make proposals and taking decisions. But on the other side, the employees are more involved in the project and have more responsibilities on their shoulders. It is not forbidden to think about the possible changes that CSR could produce on the way to do business.

Does it mean that every company cannot implement Corporate Social Responsibility in order to avoid critics? Certainly not! Such initiatives have to be encouraged and have not to be criticized. But I think that a CSR program starts within the company, by taking care about a range of value, like people management, employee wellness and personal development, environment concerns. Such program can contribute to reduce costs and to increase the employee commitment. These programs could be nice challenges if the ones who initiate them, want to do it with efficiency and reach a valuable goal. It offers a positive contribution for those who needs some help in particular difficult time, and contributes to give a positive feeling of usefulness for those who contribute to the realisation of such programs. For programs where people are dedicating time as volunteer, it is a good experience to face challenges, to be confronted to some difficult situations. This kind of experience is invaluable and brings a positive contribution in terms of education. Probably that a lot of us, we lost one day our job and we had to face difficult time. We had probably chance to have people around us giving supports and encouragement. We don’t have to forget this. It is important from time to time to give assistance to people, but also to help them to take a new start. As said previously, there is no social without economy, and no economy without social. Before to be consumers, we are first human being.



Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

December 6, 2010 at 21:22