Monday, 25 May 2015

Good and bad things of service integration in travelling

I'm not a true frequent traveller but I do complete my fair share of miles per year, mostly to destinations abroad. One of the things that I find particularly convenient, especially when I travel for work, is service integration across different companies. It is something that is usually meant to save time and money, often carrying the peace of mind bonus, too!
'Travel' by Vasile Hurghis
under a CC license

Service integration is not a truly novel thing but the steps we 've been seeing so far were rather timid. Some, such as the code-sharing flights of different airlines, are well established as a practice. Package holidays and all-inclusive resorts also have a long history in most places. Others, such as booking travel chains consisting of, say, airport parking - flight - car rental - hotel, are a bit newer.

Judging service integration as a practice depends on what vantage point one chooses. For the traveller, the emphasis is usually on the convenience factor. Things may seem differently, however, if one chooses to focus on value or the impact on the ecosystem of businesses (or the ecosystem in regions, including people and businesses) affected by this practice.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Investing in employee education

'Classroom' by Emory Maiden
under a CC license
Lifelong learning is not a new concept. On the contrary, it is quite established, at least as a term. Today, there are numerous courses, taught and self-taught schemes on a wide variety of topics. Some of the training schemes are even available for free - usually in the form of online courses. In many countries there are also legal or financial incentives to encourage education and training in businesses and organisations. However, despite lifelong learning schemes being abundant, there are still plenty of employers that discourage or deny the participation of their employees in such schemes.

Often, the reasons they quote include the constantly high workload, the lack of resources to cover for the employees' "lost" training time, the lack of resources to sponsor the training and the lack of clear benefit from the training. There are also cases where the potential benefits of further education simply go unnoticed by the managers responsible. In a few cases,  unfortunately, it may also be the result of tainted management beliefs, where keeping the staff's skills stuck at a certain level is thought to ensure"stability" for the management crowd.

To be fair, allowing or providing access to education for the people of an organisation needs to take into account operational constrains. But it is also something that the organisation will eventually need to do despite whatever constrains. The case for investing in employee education is too strong to be ignored.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

The power of the crowd

Crowdsourcing is a process that utilises a large number of people to collect input, solve a problem or perform a task. It can take many different forms but it is commonly facilitated by a suitable internet platform.
'The crowd' by Matt Karp
under a CC licesne

Crowdsourcing has been successfully used in a wide variety of projects and functions ranging from astronomy, where people have been helping scientists classify galaxies, politics and policy development, legislation, where people are consulted on laws in preparation, etc. Specific problems can be helped by crowdsourcing techniques provided they can be broken down into small chunks in a form suitable to be presented and processed by an individual. For instance, the Foldit game helped scientists solve protein folding configuration problems and get ideas on how to refine their corresponding algorithms.

Beyond its huge potential in problem solving, crowdsourcing is considered to be a low-cost alternative. However, there are several limitations that need to be thought of before one reaches to such means.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Are we loosing our DIY skills?

A better question might be "do we do any DIY stuff at all?"

'Screwdriver' by Brent Thomson
under a CC license
Personally, I don't consider myself to be particularly skilled in making or fixing things. Despite that, I do enjoy attempting to fix things - at least those things that I believe I "understand" - which sometimes works great. Also I often take the opportunity to take things apart and then re-assemble them, when it comes to things that I have a duplicate of or that I'll be replacing shortly. From time-to time I also try some handiwork, such as painting, placing tiles or insulation, etc. To be honest, I'm not always successful but, as I said, I do enjoy the process. And whenever I do succeed, I end up saving some money, too.

I have the feeling, though, that the people willing to engage with such common DIY projects are getting less. I admit I haven't consulted any statistics so, maybe, that feeling of mine is wrong.

However, it is a fact that we are not given too many incentives towards DIY.