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Hallmark and The Business of Love

Trevor No Comments

As we get closer to Christmas, I would love to highlight a company that has transformed the way we live the holidays and any special occasion for that matter.

Making the world “a more caring place”, Hallmark has become a leader in both the greeting card and entertainment industries, sustaining its place in the market since the 1910s.

Today this $3.7 billion business has reached more than 40,000 retail stores and audiences in over a 100 countries, printing and showcasing content in over 30 languages.

So, Hallmark is huge! But, what is it that makes the Hallmark’s merchandise so attractive?

As TIME author Graeme McMillan points out, Hallmark has been able to give people “exactly what they want”, offering products that satisfy the needs of the “heart” and being there for customers to translate their deepest feelings into beautiful messages.

Source: Hallmark Youtube Channel

On top of things, the creative process behind Hallmark’s products goes beyond a simple brainstorming. Employees have access to immense resource libraries, creative workshops, innovation labs, and art collections, which gives them the ability to think bigger.

All these things, however, wouldn’t do much if the staff wasn’t committed to the vision of creating a more “emotionally connected world”.

Brought in from every path of life, Hallmark’s employees are individuals who wish to make a difference in other’s lives. They see their work not only as an opportunity for themselves but also as a chance to spread hope, empathy and laughter to the world.

Source: Hallmark Youtube Channel

In 2007, CBS News had the opportunity to visit Hallmark’s comedy department “Shoebox”, and captured key moments that make up this company’s amazing culture.

Hiring only 50 people, Shoebox brings in artists from every background, from flight attendants to musicians and ministers. Later on this group of diverse individuals comes together simply to find the right joke. It is such a creative and purposeful atmosphere that a lot of the staff assures they’ve found their calling in what they do.

Moving a little forward into the entertainment industry, who hasn’t heard of the “Countdown to Christmas”? Or the “Thanksgiving Event”? With two TV channels, Hallmark has been able to enchant viewers all over the world, ranking No. 2 amongst cable networks during Thanksgiving week 2015, which then led to a very successful streaming during the Christmas Season.

1900s Hallmark Christmas Commercial 

Source: Hallmark Youtube Channel

The secret? As Variety writer, Rick Kissell puts it; Hallmark has found its niche offering “family-friendly” entertainment. Which, as we all know, is very hard to find in today’s TV. All Hallmark movies follow somewhat the same plot, offering people a second chance in life and hopeful happy endings. The films often speak of “holiday spirit” and try to spread long-term values rather than instant pleasure to the viewers.

In conclusion, Hallmark is today successful because it has genuinely understood the essential yearnings of people. Everyone wants to love and be loved. And, employing innovative technologies and a socially conscious workforce, this multi-billion dollar company managed to satisfy the needs through simple solutions: kind words and happy endings.

Everyone at Hallmark wants to make the world a better place and that feeling is then transmitted through the products, which in turn attracts everyone out there who believes in the same mission.

So, are you ready to buy your Christmas cards now?

Focus Groups

Trevor No Comments

On previous posts I discussed “Human-Centered” design and talked about how it all starts with empathy and relationships.

Although there are many tools to conduct primary research on customer needs, one of the most effective tools is focus groups: meetings where you interact with and gather first-hand information from a solid batch of potential users.

To help you build and conduct a successful focus group, we’ve assembled 10 steps, that according to field experts, you must take into consideration!

Source: metacconects.org

Source: metacconects.org

  1. Establish a clear purpose for the meeting

 Experts from Duke University stress that a focus group is NOT a marketing opportunity, a lecture, a partnership meeting or a problem-solving session.

Instead, these meetings focus solely on gathering feedback and customer perspective on a specific product or service that will be offered. That’s why it is important to set conversation boundaries and work with predetermined questions.

  1. Decide how many focus groups you’ll need

Marketing professionals suggest you conduct between 3-4 meetings to gather all pertinent information.

You may schedule following meetings a week apart and ask the exact same questions to different groups. When no one has anything new to say, you know you’ve reached your goal.

Read More: Human-Centered Design
  1. Choose your participants…very closely

 Although diversity is a very important concept, when you conduct a focus group, Duke University suggests you keep the group fairly homogeneous.

The ideal is to have people who’ve never met but can feel comfortable around each other. That’s why you must take into strong consideration the social and cultural contexts of the group you’ll be interviewing.

Beware of recruiting mixed groups if there’s a strong sense of “machismo” in the country. Be also mindful of economic and social power gaps. You wouldn’t want people to feel intimidated or inferior to other participants, so much that responses may be biased or anchored.

Try to set a specific age range for your group and make sure you don’t bring in extremely dominant personalities that may steer all the conversation in one direction.

And finally, remember to keep the group small! If you don’t know how many are too many, follow the “two pizza rule”: if the team can’t be fed with only two pizzas then it is too big.

Source: hubspot.net

Source: hubspot.net

  1. Structure your questions

 Try to stay within the 8-12 question range. Remember focus groups are based on open-ended questions and it may take a long time to gather every perspective.

 Make sure the questions are short but not written in a way that inspire “yes” and “no” answers.

 Start with simple questions to get the group acclimated, then proceed to the most insightful ones and finish by asking the group if there’s anything else they would like to add.

If you’re making a comparison, experts suggest you interview groups A & B in separately.

  1. Find a stellar moderator

Moderators are the key to incredible results. To avoid bias, Ruth Peebles, President of The INS Group, advises that moderators be third-party facilitators that are not affiliated with your organization.

Moderators must have an engaging personality to make participants feel free and welcomed at all times. They must keep the conversation within scope and prevent the meeting from steering in a wrong or biased direction.

Also, it is suggested you also find a separate note taker!


  1. Set you meeting “specifics” and agenda

 Set a date, place and time that works for your chosen demographics. It is advised you seek a place outside your offices to make the conversation feel neutral.

Times are better after working hours so it doesn’t interfere with people’s schedules.

Write down your agenda and share it with your moderator and note taker before the meeting. Make sure you clearly communicate your goals and expectations and go over the questions at least once.

  1. Build your recruitment strategy

 All right, so how are you going to approach your participants?

If you belong to a large multinational social media and public ads could help your case. You can offer monetary incentives to participants and have them register on your website.

If you’re a smaller business you may like to email or call the people you consider would give you a good perspective. And, if you can’t offer money for participation, you can always offer coupons, certificates or prizes (company care packages are usually great!).

Duke University also recommends using local newspaper ads and flyers. If your participants are youngsters posting your call on university bulletin boards might work pretty well.

Think about your demographic and then take advantage of the means of communication they use most. And then make sure they feel the meeting would be a win-win situation.

Once people register or show interest make sure to call or email them to confirm participation. Share once again the place and date of the event.



LibGuides focus group recruitment flyer. Recovered from,slanypublications.org

LibGuides focus group recruitment flyer. Recovered from,slanypublications.org


  1. When conducting the meeting…

 Ruth Peebles recommends you start with icebreakers to make participants feel comfortable.

Continue to communicate the purpose of the meeting, procedures, expectations and desired outcomes. An important thing you must never forget is to promise confidentiality! Make them sign agreements if needed.

Make sure the meeting goes accordingly to the agenda and record responses in more than one way. You can write them down on posters, post-its, use video, voice recorders or any other material you can think of.

9. Be precise to analyze

 After the focus group it is important that your team sits down to discuss major findings, segment these appropriately and identify specific thoughts, stories and suggestions.

You can log your result using spreadsheets, graphs and tables. And then present them on a slide show to help the team visualize where your new product stands amongst your target market’s needs and expectations.

For more guidance on analyzing data, you can check out Duke University’s “Guidelines for Conducting a Focus Group”

Source: datapine.com

Source: datapine.com

  1. Share

Finally, share the results of your findings with your participants and keep scheduling meetings to gather more and more information!!

For more empathy-building tools check the LUMA Institute’s “Innovating for People: Handbook of Human-Centered Design”.

Human-Centered Design

Trevor No Comments

Whether you run a large multinational or a successful foundation, if you don’t know what your target market wants you’re most likely going to stumble.

Over the years we’ve seen organizations waste time and money launching products that don’t work. Either they didn’t understand their markets or didn’t pay attention to important details early in the process.

To avoid this from happening, various organizations from universities to design firms have adopted the “Human-Centered Design” approach, where client feedback becomes the essential component in every product and service’s development.


So, What is Human-Centered Design?

 As +Acumen beautifully states it, Human-Centered Design is “innovation inspired by people”. It is a framework used by designers and managers to find solutions for pressing problems considering their beneficiaries’ perspective in every step of the problem-solving process.


Source: SD23 Makes


How do you differentiate HCD from a traditional design process?

 As said by IDEO.org, you know your design is Human-Centered when “you’ve kept the very people you’re looking to serve at the heart of the process”

It all starts with empathy. To build a successful product, “solutioners” must clearly understand the deepest needs and incentives of their target market. To do so, it is crucial to observe, ask and spend quality time with your clients. Unless you know and live the hassles of their everyday life, you won’t understand the depth and gravity of a problem.

Going further, because HCD it is based on empathy, it must be collective. When you look for human-centered solutions you won’t find them behind a desk by yourself. The more you get involved in your client’s life and the more feedback you get from them, the easier it will be to understand the solution that they’re craving. Plus, having more people in your research and development team brings more perspective and creativity into the process.

And finally, HCD is different from traditional design because it relies on constant experimentation. Human-Centered solutioners think big but start small. They learn by doing and build the solution based on feedback. This takes more time but saves a lot of resources, mitigates risks and secures success. After all the solution was pretty much given to you by those who will use it.

Source: Grameen Foundation


 That said, what are the necessary steps to develop a Human-Centered Design Process?

 First, you need to get out there and understand your target market’s problem and ideas for solutions. +Acumen calls this the Discovery phase.

Later on, after you’ve gathered all your key information and have a clear understanding of your market’s needs, you move to what IDEO.org calls the Ideation phase. Here your team and you start brainstorming for creative solutions to solve your market’s most pressing problem.

Once you’ve landed a couple great ideas you start the Prototyping phase, where you bring to life an initial “sketch” of your solution and present it to the public for feedback.

Based on this feedback you continue your development process until you reach the final version of the solution and the Implementation phase.

Source: IDEO.org


What tools can be used to successfully complete every step of the process?

 Throughout your discovery phase, you will be observing and contextualizing most of the time. Some great tools to do this are: surveys, interviews, photo journals and guided tours (to help you live your beneficiaries’ daily life).

After you gather your information you need to map both people and needs to start ideating. You could use stakeholder maps, people profiles, problem tree analyses and some affinity clusters.

Then, for your prototyping phase, the LUMA Institute suggests you storyboard and sketch your ideas before building them. Sketching the idea helps the team visualize the concept and storyboarding helps them understand how they expect users to adopt it. Then you can continue by creating rough prototypes out of simple materials to bring the concept to life.

If you want a complete guide of tools to research, understand and ideate for your target market, check “Innovating for People”: the LUMA Institute’s handbook for Human-Centered Design.


Source: Luma Institute

Source: Luma Institute

 What can you use Human-Centered Design For?

 According to +Acumen, you can use HCD, to create innovative products, services, spaces and systems.

Because HCD is based on human behavior and empathy, this approach can be used not only to build useful products but also to create better experiences for people, nurture more impactful relations and build more efficient facilities.

Who employs Human-Centered Design Today? 

Just to mention a few organizations:

IDEO – World leading design and consulting firm
+Acumen – Global learning platform for change makers
Stanford University – Ranking #3 in the world!
Grameen Foundation -Global nonprofit dedicated to sustainable development.
Frog – Global design and strategy firm.
Luma Institute – Global innovation learning platform for businesses and nonprofits.

Why should you employ Human-Centered Design? 

HCD will help you save time and money. By focusing on your beneficiaries from the start you are investing in products and services that are guaranteed to work. HCD mitigates risk and increases customer loyalty. Internally, HCD can also improve your design team’s creativity, open up their minds to more perspectives and put your company at the top when it comes to understanding your target market and delivering useful and innovative designs!

So don’t wait anymore to start involving your beneficiaries! I assure you it will pay off.


If you found this post useful, please let us know with a comment!

Could Artificial Intelligence Mean The End Of The Human Race?

Trevor No Comments

Artificial Intelligence

Source: erichstauffer.com

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has declared our time’s technological breakthroughs as “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”, where all existing technologies fuse to break barriers between the physical, digital and biological worlds.

Amongst the biggest advances of the revolution we find Artificial Intelligence (AI), a computer system able to carry out human tasks such as decision-making, speech recognition and visual perceptions.

Source: mirror.co.uk

Source: mirror.co.uk

Using AI companies like Google and Tesla created the first self-driven car. Facebook has used it to recognize faces, Apple created Siri; and NASA is developing an air security program where planes can dodge storms and other hazards. No wonder, the world of science is eager to dive even deeper into the field.



But, even if AI seems great so far, what would happen to us when machines take over the world?

“We are approaching the time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task” Moshe Vardi, computer science professor at Rice University expressed. And, if not developed responsibly, Cambridge professor Stephen Hawkins noted, “artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race”.

Studies carried out by Citi in the USA and the Center For Economic Policy in the EU and Japan, show that AI can indeed spell the end of humanity by, widening the inequality gap, increasing levels of unemployment, and taking away the “human” factor of work, which, in turn, upsets entire economies and poses moral concerns.


  1. Increased Inequality

 According to the Citi report, the inequality theory caused by AI can be summarized as follows:

“The benefits from the new industrial revolution are not being equally shared amongst all people in the world.”

With higher technology, the skill requirements for labor also become higher, leaving all those who didn’t study a computer science almost out of the game; hence creating a new 1% vs. 99% division.

The 1% represents the tech savvy, highly skilled population that benefits from AI and can complement its knowledge with the new automated processes. And the 99%, on the other hand, represents the middle to low skilled populations whose job will be taken away by AI, and whose knowledge will be substituted by computers.

As the Business Insider would put it, the cities with more rapid income growths that hold more 1% income earners and offer very specialized jobs are less susceptible to automation; while cities that offer more generic jobs, hold 99% income earners and have slow income growths are most likely to be taken over by machines. Leading towards mass migration, the death of some towns amongst other issues.

Source: VOX - CEPR's Policy Portal

Source: VOX – CEPR’s Policy Portal


Source: VOX – CEPR’s Policy Portal







2. Unemployment

The new inequality gap also leads to the next major issue, which is mass unemployment. As more and more factory workers, taxi drivers, and lab technicians are replaced; the world will find itself with a higher dependency rate than ever before. More people will need to survive but less people will be able to work for it.

The Citi Report proposed that education would be the only solution to solve the problem. With only 0.5% of the US Workforce shifting to tech industries in the 2000s, the World Bank estimated that 47% of US jobs would be replaced by automation in the near future and only high skilled Tech training could land these people new and stable jobs.

Going even further the World Bank estimated that in China the replacement rate would be of 77%, in South Africa 67%, India 69%, UK 35% and Thailand 72% (amongst others), landing with an OECD average of 57%. Which, according to the World Economic Forum, represents the net loss of more than 5 million jobs in 15 major developed and emerging economies by 2020.


Source: uk.businessinsider.com - World Bank Development Report (2016)

Source: World Bank Development Report (2016)

Read More: Is Uber doing bad by doing good?

3. No More “Humanity”

While machines can predict the weather and avoid traffic accidents by 90%, they cannot replace humans when it comes to common sense, creativity, multitasking, learning, morality  and feeling.

As infant psychologist Alison Gopnik would point out, “machines are not [yet] as smart as a two-year-old child.” Simply because they can’t form hypotheses, create theories or learn from experience and imitation.

Innovation sounds great. But what if robots can solve puzzles but they can’t really learn from the world around or find new solutions on the spot. Or, what if robots can increase your company’s efficiency but they do so trespassing the rules because they have no moral compass?

This is why scientists & entrepreneurs like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk are paying special attention to the revolution and encouraging developers to be careful. We want machines to help humanity not to take over it.


Source: Intelligence.booklikes.com

Source: Intelligence.booklikes.com


 In conclusion, whether or not we want it, AI is here to stay and ready to make an impact. It all depends now on how governments, business owners and individuals will adapt to the revolution and how they will choose to mingle with technology.

On the public side, governments should create policies that bring technology at the same pace workers can adapt to it, paired up with technical programs to retrain the population.

On the private side, businesses must recognize that machines, even if they bring cost and time efficient solutions to the table, cannot replace humans when it comes to design thinking processes or morality. Hence they must study their companies and keep a sustainable balance between people and machines.

And as individuals, people must learn where they stand. If the technology is growing around you, get informed, seek to learn and keep on working to stay competitive.


If you found this post useful, please let us know in the comments!



  1. “What Will Artificial Intelligence Mean For The World of Work?” Recovered from: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/feb/17/artificial-intelligence-future-of-work on September, 16
  2. “Robots Will Steal Your Job: How AI Could Increase Unemployment & Inequality” recovered from: http://uk.businessinsider.com/robots-will-steal-your-job-citi-ai-increase-unemployment-inequality-2016-2 on September, 16
  3. “Artificial Intelligence And Employment” recovered from: http://voxeu.org/article/artificial-intelligence-and-employment on September, 16
  4. “AI And Robots Threaten To Unleash Mass Unemployment, Scientists Warn”, recovered from: https://www.ft.com/content/063c1176-d29a-11e5-969e-9d801cf5e15b on September, 16
  5. The Fourth Industrial Revolution: What It Means, How to Respond”, recovered from: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/ on September, 16
  6. “Applications of AI”, recovered from: http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/whatisai/node3.html on September, 16
  7. “AI Has Arrived And That Really Worries The World’s Brightest Minds” recovered from: https://www.wired.com/2015/01/ai-arrived-really-worries-worlds-brightest-minds/ on September, 16
  8. “Five Million Jobs by 2020: The Real Challenge Of The Fourth Industrial Revolution” recovered from: https://www.weforum.org/press/2016/01/five-million-jobs-by-2020-the-real-challenge-of-the-fourth-industrial-revolution/ on September, 16
  9. “Weighing In On The Pros And Cons Of Artificial Intelligence” recovered from: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/pros-and-cons-of-artificial-intelligence.html on September, 16
  10. “Stephen Hawking Warns Artificial Intelligence Could End Mankind”, recovered from: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-30290540 on September, 16


Is UBER Doing Bad By Doing Good?

Trevor No Comments

Disruptive innovation is a great thing. In fact, we need this type of innovation to offer better products and services in time. The catch is, however, when a business model seeks to “disrupt” an existing system, the adjustment period can be very tough and harshly unbalancing for those disrupted. Which, in turn, raises the questions of “does innovation do more bad trying to do good? Or, “Is the “bad” more an excuse for big corporations to keep the status quo?”

The incredibly successful carpool platform known as UBER was officially launched in San Francisco, California in 2011. Built as a mobile application, the founders intended to shift the cab services from the “market economy” into the “shared economy”, where every-day car owners could put their car to work and those who were carless could get a pleasant ride for cheap.

In theory it all seems great, more jobs have been created and people get cheaper rides. Why then, are there so many parties fighting against new e-based models?


Source: twitter.com/WetpaintMena

The primary allegation comes from the taxi industry. The fact that UBER drivers don’t have to face the strict regulations taxi drivers do creates a competition gap that is perceived as unfair.

According to an article from Bruegel.org, taxi licenses can cost as much as $1M in the USA, which, in turn, creates an entry barrier to the industry and keep the competition in check. With UBER previously requiring no license, taxi license prices went down by almost 30% in some states and taxi drivers were slowly being kicked out of the market. In Toronto, Canada “drivers have lost a third of their business since 2012” due to this issue.

On a similar note, fixed ride rates have also given UBER a significant advantage over the cab industry. UBER drivers are allowed to “surge price” and fix their rates depending on demand volumes and time of the day/year. Cab drivers, on the other hand, depend on the government for pricing regulations and are limited to an hourly wage.

Source: bizjournals.com

Source: bizjournals.com

So, even if it is understandable why Taxi drivers consider their UBER counterparts a “scam”, the cab industry complaints went further to say UBER was unsafe and even threatening to passengers since drivers were not required to fulfill background checks and driving tests like taxi drives do.

Taking everything into consideration, UBER has advanced its application requirements by requesting a proper background check along with a vehicle check and a city-specific set of regulations.

The second allegation, though, comes from drivers themselves. Although UBER currently employs 160,000 drivers who seem happy with the job, many find it to be below decent standards.

UBER drivers get paid after every ride but 20% of what they make goes back to the company. On top of this they are responsible of covering gasoline, repairs, insurance and registration costs plus any depreciation. Drivers are also required to own a smartphone (unless they rent from UBER for $10/week) and do not receive proper worker compensations for they are considered contractors and not employees.

Source: Uber.com

Source: Uber.com

Read More

5 Easy Steps To Become Sustainable At The Workplace

Trevor No Comments

Our planet is under great pressure. With populations and corporations growing at irresponsible rates, it is no surprise that we’ve reached the point of  increased global warming, ocean acidification, extreme poverty and mass deforestation.

Saving the planet, though, cannot be seen as only as a “big player” issue. Sustainability concerns all of us and it starts with ourselves at home and the workplace.

So, if you ever thought about becoming more sustainable but had trouble getting started, here are some tips to help you make that first step and sustain it in the long-run:

  1. Go paperless

Unless you really need to keep a print copy of your documents, digitalizing them can reduce your company’s costs and carbon footprint exponentially.

According to an article from TIME Magazine, our deforestation rate has gone up to 15B trees annually, with the paper industry using 4B or almost 35% of those trees.

Looking at it more closely, choosing to digitalize 1 ton of paper could save up to 17 trees, 60,000 gallons of water and 225 Kilowatt hours.  Plus, it will save you all the money you would have spent buying 1 ton of paper.

Want more information on the topic? here’s a video from ICM explaining why everyone should go paperless:

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Adopting this mantra as a part of your culture could save your company a lot of money and the planet a lot of life.

Let’s start with “Reduce”. When you use less of something you immediately save up money, cut your waste rates and decrease pollution.  Businesses can reduce their resource consumption by buying in bulk (which saves all the packaging costs and waste),  outsourcing some operations and choosing to adopt planet-friendly technologies.

“Reusing” is the next big step and your business can excel at it by repairing what you already own, buying second-hand and replacing disposable items with reusable or rechargeable ones.

And finally, “Recycling”. What you can’t save or reuse then you should recycle. Label bins accordingly to help your personnel sort out the waste properly and then give it to companies that can transform your trash into new products and new jobs!

The HappyDancingTurltle.org explains this concept a bit better in the following video:

  1. Adopt Eco-Friendly Technology And Practices

Another way to ensure that your company is working hand-in-hand with the planet is by behaving sustainably everyday.

Here are some ideas to start:

  1. Change your traditional trash bins for color-coded recycling bins.
  2. Encourage your employees to save and reuse resources as much as possible.
  3. Replace traditional toilets and faucets for water-efficient models.
  4. Replace paper towels with energy-efficient dryers.
  5. Choose natural air over AC.
  6. Employ motion-sensor lights.
  7. Install timers and control systems for electronics and machinery.
  8. Digitalize your accounting and your marketing.
  9. Promote the use of public transportation to reduce carbon emissions from fuel burning.
  10. Adopt a benefits program that praises sustainable behaviors.
  11. Make sustainability an important part of your company values.
  12. Choose the eco-friendly option for products like paint, ink and air-fresheners.
  13. Schedule regular maintenance for your electric equipment.

Click the link to read this amazing success story presented by Quora, where workers in Japan reduced 1.85 Million tons of greenhouse emissions by reducing their AC consumption during summer months.

  1. Build a sustainable supply chain

If you are serious about making your company planet-friendly, then you must restructure your your supply chain to meet sustainable standards.

Make sure your providers treat the earth and its people according to your values and those of your clients.

Continue to review your production processes, your company culture and your employees’ work habits. Do all these consider the planet as a key stakeholder? Do you seek to reduce resource usage, reuse as much as possible and manage waste properly?

In every step of production from getting a quote to closing a sale you must seek to cut negative environmental impact and work towards a cleaner footprint.

Here is an incredible example from Campbell’s Soup supply chain plan presented by the Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire:

Campbell's Soup Sustainable Supply Chain, recovered from: www.csrwire.com

Campbell’s Soup Sustainable Supply Chain, recovered from: www.csrwire.com

  1. Benchmark and keep learning

Finally, It is never a bad idea to look for inspiration. If someone in your industry is adopting sustainable practices that work then mimic them!

Do some research on creative ways to become more sustainable and don’t be afraid to try them out. Get your employees involved, take field trips to visit sustainable facilities or have someone you admire in this area give a lecture at your workplace.

The more you learn the better you’ll get at it! And remember:

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it” – Robert Swan.


If you found this post useful, please let us know in the comments!

New iPhone 7: Yes or No?

Trevor No Comments

The iPhone 7 is out. And, while some loyal fans welcome the new release with joy, others worry the new phone won’t meet their expectations.

And as we welcome water-resistance and wireless headphones, let’s outline some of the biggest pros and cons Apple’s new creation has to offer.




  1. Weather resistance – Although weather resistance does not mean your phone can survive a major drown, its internal-external hydrophobic coat keeps the phone safe from rain, dust, splashes and the accidental toilet slips (must get it out immediately though).
  1. Brighter camera colors – although many say the camera features haven’t changed much from the iPhone 6 to the 7, there are many improvements. Optical zoom, OIS and a wider aperture of f/1.8 are some of this. The image coloring is also better and even if the camera has the same megapixel count as the iPhone 6, it offers better quality images.
  2. More storage space – finally, after many generations of iPhones, Apple has increased the standard storage setting to 32GB. For people who love to store a lot of music, pictures and files, these are excellent news. And to those who need even more, there’s also an option to upgrade storage up to 128GB (with extra cost of course).
  1. iOS 10 – amongst the best features of the new iPhone is the software. iOS 10 offers quicker and more efficient applications that save up storage space, set “bedtime alarms”, avoid toll roads (with Apple Maps), close all shortcuts at once, and receive notifications for “read messages” on message.
  2. Improved Battery life – if you get iPhone 7 plus, your battery is set to last 2 hours longer than the iPhone 6, if you get the iPhone 7, you get 1 extra hour.



  1. No headphone jack – another big change that came with the new iPhone are the new wireless headphones. Having wireless headphones, users no longer need a headphone jack. This allows the phone to be thinner but also limits users extensively. Auxiliary cables and noise cancelling headphones are no longer an option. And, in case you wanted to charge your phone and listen to music at the same time, you can’t.
  1. Little to no aesthetic changes – if you look at the iPhone 6 & iPhone 7 you can notice that not much changed in the design. Maybe the touch button was taken away and replaced for a buzzing touch spot. But other than that, size, screen display and application arrangement remain very similar to previous models.
  1. Limited innovation – unlike the competition, Apple did not launch the iPhone 7 with highly competitive features. While the competition offers phones with 3D cameras, USB hard drive mode, VR and other incredible features, Apple has resulted to its traditional approach. Yes iOS 10 is a big breakthrough but users are now expecting smarter phones that combine more and more gadgets each time in one pocket-sized device.
  1. $$$ – And finally, the iPhone 7 is offered at $649 and the iPhone 7 Plus starts at $749. If you compare these prices to the competition they are WAY higher. Young Millennials, who are the ones most likely to buy, are also the ones most likely on a strict budget. Making Android options a safer bet.


In the end, buying or not an iPhone is more a question of loyalty than it is of functionality. With new technologies, Android is catching up very quickly and offering phones as innovative and “cool” as Apple. Design and aesthetics, however, still remains Apple’s domain since they still offer (by far) the prettiest phones out there.

I hope this list helps you take a better and more informed decision on whether or not to invest in Apple’s new model. And I leave you with a list of sources to guide you even further:

  1. Paste Magazine : Pros And Cons of iPhone 7 Without A Headphone Jack
  2. In-Depth iPhone Review : iPhone 7 Review
  3. Tech Times : iPhone 7 Review Roundup, What Experts Are Saying
  4. Forbes : 25 Secret Features Of iOS 10


If you found this post useful, please let us know in the comments!


cloud forecast | international business academy guatemala business english

Future of Cloud Computing

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About a decade ago, the concept of cloud computing (as a service) was a little known concept; and suddenly it exploded. The significant cost reduction in cloud storage, and software as a service allowed for the current wave of on demand services. Gone are the days of high initial infrastructure investments. Now anyone can host a website and have an on-demand ERP that is based on volume, as opposed to a fixed cost. Obviously,  a robust ERP is still a significant investment; but you can always opt for segmented services such as payment/billing, CRM, sales tracking, etc.

So now that we are all fully integrated into the cloud – what should we expect for the future? Forbes offers the following keynotes from

Related Article: On Demand Economy


“After much wringing of hands about data security, the financial services industry is moving computing operations to the cloud to save money, improve operations, increase agility, gain access to large-scale resources and improve security.”


“Making the new vehicle creation process more collaborative using cloud computing not only accelerates time-to-market, it also leads to higher quality and new designs that reflect customer requirements.”


“As smartphone payment systems evolve, geo-location tracking has the possibility of alerting retailers the minute a valued customer walks into their store. This, combined with knowledge of what that customer likes, offers a valuable opportunity for very personalized service and rewards programs.”

 Healthcare Services

“Time is valuable for everyone, but especially doctors. They need fast access to accurate, updated information so they can assess and treat patients more efficiently. Accessing the cloud would allow them to tap a database of information from professionals all over the world to monitor trends in disease”

Medical Data

“Means exist for us to engage more and better share information, including across various care settings and geographic locations (including from the patient’s home), all thanks to healthcare cloud computing”

Related Article: How you can get a sicknote via Skype in Australia


“Scaling global manufacturing operations to support increasingly complex, intricate and often compliance-driven supply chains is a leading catalyst driving cloud computing adoption throughout manufacturing today.”

Microsoft Cloud Voice

“When it comes down to it, companies want to use the cloud to enhance customer service for the same reason: Better service can help differentiate a company from the competition. — Bill Patterson, General Manager of Customer Service Solutions at Microsoft”


Source: Forbes

how to get a sicknote via skype International Business Academy trends Business English

Get a Sick Note via Skype

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There are now 2 websites in Australia that offer sick notes through Skype. Instead of having to go to the doctor’s office to get an assessment and get a legitimate sick leave, you can now easily do it through a Skype call and avoid the commute and waiting.

From the employee side this is great news because the waiting factor is eliminated; particularly if you have to wait more than half a day at the doctors office just to get excused for the day. When this happens, by the time you get back home you are exhausted and reevaluated the value of having waited for 6 hours just to get 2 hours of rest versus just going to work.

From the employer side, the fraud factor is a legitimate concern as well as the ease of obtaining a sick note. Although receiving an accredited medical certificate first thing in the morning, as opposed to the next day, does have it’s merits since you will be able to shift resources quickly without having to doubt the absent employee. Furthermore, if the worker is legitimately sick, it is best to keep him away from your otherwise healthy workers; the last thing you need is a flu outbreak throughout the office.

The two websites that have launched in Australia are Dr. Sicknote and The Medic. These two practices are embracing the use of technology into their customer satisfaction and turnaround time.

how it works, the medic. International Business Academy tech trends

image: themedic

It will be interesting to see how soon this will be replicated in other countries, and what measures the healthcare industry and companies will have in place to reduce fraud.


Source: Mashable

entrepreneur 13 tips

How to get an endorsement in 5 easy steps

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When you have a product or service to promote and you are relatively unknown , an endorsement from someone in your field who is at a high profile status can provide a huge boost. You want to be careful when approaching these potential endorsers because they probably get many offers on a regular basis. To better improve your chances of receiving any endorsement here are five steps that you can follow.

1. Create a great product

People who matter are not going to produce a mediocre product. They cannot afford to hurt their brand or reputation with negative association. Be committed to excellence.  download (13)

2. Make a prospect list

You need to ask yourself who do you want to endorse you or your product? Also who are the recognized authorities in your field? Do not be afraid to “think big” or feel you do not have access to a prospective endorser because even if you do not know them, you may know someone who does.

3. Leverage one endorsement for more

Sometimes prospective endorsers need an endorsement themselves in order to feel comfortable with your product. When you get someone to endorse your product then you include their endorsement as a part of your product. It makes it easier for everyone, because someone else already went first for the endorsement.

4. Ask for the endorsement

Do not get tongue tide in explaining your endorsement request. People and potential endorsers are busy and usually do not have time to read long emails. So get to the point and try and ask them when they will be most receptive. download (14)

5. Provide guidance, samples, and a deadline

It is important to include a brief description and/or a sample of your product. Explain the kind of endorsement you are looking for; be specific. Then provide a real endorsement or two and as well as a deadline. You have a better chance of getting an endorsement with a short deadline than a longer one.


Overall, endorsements make a huge difference in whether or not your product gets noticed by gate-keepers, trend-setters, or your target market. So take time to get them, they are very beneficial especially in the business world.


Sources: Michael Hyatt and Smallbusinesspr