Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bubbles Bubbles Bubbles

Champagne.  The drink that brings us bubbles and signifies celebrations. We  ring in the new year with a glass of bubbles, toast a bride, christen a ship. The bubbles are for a celebration.

Curious about this drink ( my favorite not just at new years but through the year.) – I did a little research and learned that champagne, really sparkling wine, existed before Dom Pierre Peirgnon "discovered it" in the 1600's.  Actually he was hired by monks to improve the quality of their fizzy “mad” wine.   Their bubbly wine wasn’t planned - it was a surprise, not really a happy one.  It did exist in England in the 1500 when glass bottles weren't as strong.  The result of the bubbles -  bottles that tended to explode.  (

But in 1688 Dom Peirgnon and Frere Jean Oidart, both worked to stabilize and improve this bubbling wine.  Once the wine had evolved to the point where Dom Peirgnon felt it was successful “I think I tasted the stars” he is quoted as saying  he moved ahead to marketing  -- introducing it to the French court.  Louis XIV made champagne the king's drink of choice there by elevating its status in the world.  

The popularity of champagne spread leading to its worldwide production.   Today the name champagne is reserved for wines made in the Champagne region of France but a similar beverage, sparkling wine is made around the world.  California, Australia, South Africa, Spain, Portugal, Brazil and Hawaii all produce this wine.  

If you welcome the new year with a glass of "bubbly" you'll be enjoying a beverage created over five centuries ago - may we continue to celebrate the beginning of new years again and again - with or without glasses filled with bubbles.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Food, Trade and Geography

We know from years of reading about trade agreements that agriculture  often creates contentious, deal ending issues for proposed free trade agreements.  That topic is likely to hit the front pages again in 2014 as the US and the EU return to work on the TTIP – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. A new trade a agreement between these two trading partners.

In this case agriculture doesn’t just mean who can important more or less beef or pork.  It’s broader than that.  Think GIs.  Not soldiers but Geographical Indicators.
Names of food linked to a specific places.

Truly I’d never heard of GIs in that sense until I read Sbine Muscat’s article in the Globalist.  “Wine, Cheese and Trade:  What’s in a Name?
( Can there be champagne made in California not France?  Yes or no depending on trade agreements?  It's true and complicated.  The same question:  does the name of the place matter? exists for wine, cheese, sausage, rice, and more.  Think Florida oranges, Idaho potatoes, Napa Valley wine.

But what is a GI?  According to one definition it is:“ a name or sign used on certain products which corresponds to a specific geographical location or origin (e.g. a town, region, or country). The use of a GI may act as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, is made according to traditional methods, or enjoys a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin.

Philip Blenkinsop writing for the Sunday Times in London pointed out that the GIs matter in upcoming neogtiatons.

So now we have even more to consider when it comes to selecting our food.  Not only is it local?  organic?  gluten free?   Now we ask is it really from where it says?  What's the GI and can I trust it?


Sunday, December 15, 2013

What Do You Mean?

Don’t let your conversation sound like a mystery to be solved.  This is especially important when you are working with people whose mother tongue is not the same as yours.

Most of know the basic rules to make it easy to communicate:  Keep sentences short.  Don’t use abbreviations.  Skip your corporate jargon.  Today I’d add one more recommendation:  Eliminate the Buzzwords.   Think words like Pivot, Ideation, Gamificatin and Growth Hacker. 

These are some of the words included in Mike Perler’s article  “9 Buzzwords That Can Make You Sound Dumb:  He shares a list of popular words and their translation.  Check it out: 

Mr. Perler, Director of the Council for Economic Education suggests that we may sound dumb using these words frequently or incorrectly.  That’s probably true if everyone involved speaks fluent English.  If not, it could be worse.The conversation could be incomprehensible.  

 It’s hard to do business together when the parties don’t understand each other.  Try to avoid creating mysteries with your choice of words.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Drawing of History

The Merriam Webster dictionary’s first definition of a map is:  a picture or chart that shows the rivers, mountains, streets, etc., in a particular area. Basically its a drawing that tells us the relationship of one place to another.  It answers our questions:  How far is New York from San Francisco.  What countries are adjacent to China, Chile or Croatia.

But a map can be much more than that.  According to Jerry Brotton whose book Projecting Power:  A History of the World in 12 Maps,  a map is much more.  They are documents  that “allow the armchair traveler to road the world, the diplomat to argue his points, the ruler to administer his country, the warrior to plan his campaigns, the propagandist to boost his cause.”   It’s intriguing to think of a piece of paper, a lovely drawing, as a way to understand how people viewed their world and what we think now. (For more details check Herrick Bering’s book review at

To learn more about our world through maps read Maphead : Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings.  This delightful book tells us as much about the people who collect and create maps as it does about history through maps.  

Just as we can learn about history through the book A History of the World in Six Glasses so too can we learn from maps.  They  help us answer the questions:  Why do they do that?  What’s their story?   The precise and beautiful illustrations of a map can give us a new way to understand the people we know today.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

It’s the Giving Season: The Challenge is Upon Us

For much of the world the next few weeks are the time to buy and distribute gifts.  Gifts for friends, for family, for colleagues, and clients.  How do we make this fun?  How do we send a message with our gift that says we like and honor you?    

Some reminders of things to think about as you create your lists:

Just because you love it doesn’t mean everyone will.   I have one friend who loves books, one who doesn’t read.  Books yes and books no.

For business its more complicated than what someone likes (although that’s the first thing to consider).  Can they accept a gift?  If so, are there monetary limits?   A $25  collection of cookies may be ok but a $50 crystal bowl may have to be returned.  Do some homework.

Check to find out if there restrictions based on religion, health. allergies.  A bottle of champagne may be a welcome luxury or seen as thoughtless, worse, disrespectful gift. 

Check before you shop.  Ask someone who knows the recipient.  Check with your legal department.  

With some advance work you're more likely to discover the gift that brightens the day - both theirs and yours.  


Sunday, November 10, 2013

More Fun at the Airport?

Momotaro, a child folk hero at the Okayama Airport
Endless numbers of articles bemoan the stress and boredom of experienced when we fly.  Long lines.  Bad food.  Tiny seats.  Delays.   The life of the frequent flyer.  But, depending on your path of travel, there a signs of brighter moments.

Scott McCartney recently wrote about  “A Kinder Gentler Airport TSA Screening Area”. What a concept.   What had he seen?  A test at Dallas Fort Worth airport to change the environment (not the processes) of the screening area.  A company called Security Post Media and the airport worked together to create an environment similar to a hotel lobby.  Couches and chairs in the waiting area where we line up or post security to make it easier to put on your shoes.    Bins with images of flowers and waterfalls (and in other airports – advertisements) instead of the dull grey or white boxes we know and love.

But it isn’t just getting onto the flight that can dull our spirits.  Oh no.  For me it’s the hypnotic effect of the luggage carousel as I wait for my luggage at 1:00 am.  Around and around they go  - an endless line of  black bags that aren’t mine.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  According to an article on RocketNews (
Several airports in Japan have added sculpture to their luggage carousels. Imagine seeing a giant eyeball, immense pieces of sushi or a giant melon float toward you as you watch for your bag.  Now that’s a difference experience.  Startling.  Amusing.  Odd.  All that.  But not boring.

Could a trend emerge? Will we see angels in Los Angeles?  Cows in Chicago or the Empire State building glide by as we stand in the baggage area of JFK?  Now that would be fun. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

As we hit the 100 day mark – 100 days before the opening of the Sochi Winter Olympics there were multiple articles about the state of readiness of the venues and the city that will host the upcoming games.  One topic that caught my eye was the mention of corruption in two interesting articles that I read.    (See Anne Jois's , "The Putin Olympics" in the Wall St. Journal and the Los Angeles Times article by David Wharton and Sergi Loiko  “2014 Winter Olympics: Where Things Stand 100 days before the Sochi Games". The latter included a statement from an opposition leader that estimated the cost of corruption to be as high as $35 billion of the record setting budget indicated to exceed $50 billion.   Astonishing numbers.

Reading these articles reminded me yet again that when considering a new market it useful to research the perceived level of corruption.  How much are special payments, special favors endemic in the business environment?

One way to obtain a sense of the issue is to review the most current Corruption Perception Index (  An annual report created by Transparency International ( the report ranks the perceived corruption in countries around the world.

The 2012 report covered 176 countries and territories ranking them from least corrupt to most corrupt.  Who topped the list at most “clean”?  Denmark, Finland, New Zealand tied at #1.  At the bottom of the list another tie:  Iran, North Korea, Somalis, Afghanistan.   To see the complete list click on the link

Where was Russia, the host of the upcoming  Olympics?  # 133 with Iran, Kazakhastan, Comoros and Honduras.  The US?  Alone at #19, just behind the UK and ahead of Chile and Uruguay.

Read through the report.  Where is your country on this year's list?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

What's Happening this week?

Did you know that Turkmenistan celebrated its National Day today, October 27?  That there will be a marathon in Dublin tomorrow or that on October 31, children will dress in costumes as Halloween  is celebrated in the United States?  

Knowing what's happening around the world can interesting and essential.  If you are traveling for business of pleasure it’s you'll want to know if businesses will be closed for a holiday, or roads blocked by thousands of runners. 

How to find this information?   Wikipedia lists public holidays by country.  The site Election Guide ( tells when people are going to the polls.  Bank closings and sporting events show up on Bank Holidays site. (   Check it out.  Be prepared.  Don't be surprised.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Food - Too much or Not Enough?

Last week food was in the news.  Not due to chicken grown in California being linked to salmonella poisoning  - a big issue the weeks before at least in California. 

Rather this week the highlights were food in general  - both the unmet needs around the world as well as concerns about lack of healthy choices where food is abundant.

First the hopeful.  October 16 was the 32nd celebration of World Food Day – something I’d never heard of.  World Food Day ( is celebrated honor of the founding of the Food and Agricultural organization  of the United Nations in 1945. The day is recognized  by organizations concerned with food security, and the availability of food for the world’s population.  The Word Food Day's  call to action is “Join the movement to end world hunger.”
 Just two days later the focus changed.  The Wall St. Journal ( an article looking not at hunger but at consumption of  food considered in unhealthy.  Written by Ann Gutherie, the article was titled:  “Mexico to Try Taxes to Combat Obesity”
Mexico’s concern isn't with feeding its population but with the food its people now eat.   Junk food.  Lots of it.  The proposed taxes on junk food is an attempt to “contain runaway rates of obesity and diabetes.”   According to the article “Seven of 10 adults in Mexico and a third of children are either overweight or obese.” 

But it isn’t just Mexico that is struggling with the issue of what people chose to eat when there’s food.  The next day the Journal  ( ran an article At McDonald’s, Salads Just Don’t Sell.   The article was concerned with the fact that McDonalds recent growth has been “lackluster” and its “stock has underperformed”.  One reason?  The lack of success with a healthier menu.    Burgers and fries still beat out salads and apple slices.

Food.  Too much.  Not Enough. Healthy or Tasty.   Safe or Tainted.   Much to consider beyond what we'll eat for our next meal. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Which country is the best partner?

In these days when the news is filled with death, destruction, delays and dilemmas that seem impossible to resolve, its easy to forget that trade still goes on.
Moreover it possible to believe that trade will not only continue, but it will even grow and expand.  Proof of that observation?  Look for the news that doesn’t make it to the front page.    Search and you’ll discover new trade agreements being negotiated.  Choices countries must make about what group to join.

The US and the European Union (EU) are working to create one.  The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.  Often known by its initials TTIP, will formally link 29 countries  (US and 28 members of the EU) in a “comprehensive trade and investment agreement”.  According to the European Commission  “The EU and the US economies account together for about half the entire world GDP and for nearly a third of world trade flows. “

Meanwhile there’s another multi country deal being negotiated.  This one, the TPP or Transpacific Partnership, will connect 12 countries:  the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Chile, Canada, Mexico and Peru - accounting for about a third of global economic output.  (You may remember the US, Canada and Mexico are already trading partners bound together in an agreement known as NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.  It is the world's largest free-trade area, producing $US17 trillion worth of goods and services.

These are only two of many groups forming.  This week’s Economist ( discusses the expansion of regional trade agreements along with the decline in importance of multilateral ones.  As example of the complexities that now arise it describes the decision that Ukraine must face.  According to the article Ukraine is on the verge of signing a deal with the European Union.  However, Russia appears o be applying some pressure to have Ukraine join its customs union with other former Soviet republics.

With a regional focus increasing how does a country decide what will be best for its long-term growth and development?   Where to connect to support the growth in trade and jobs?   

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Which countries are neighbors?

Cultural Map - World Values Survey
Looking for information about a specific country?  It’s reasonably easy to assemble statistics about almost any country in the world. Do a Google search and you’ll find pages and pages of links.  In 0.24 seconds a search for statistics for Ghana yielded 113,000,000 results. Overwhelming.  

You may already have your favorite sources for basic information and statistics.  Wikipedia or the World Bank? (, CIA’s World Factbook or EconStats ( from the International Monetary Fund.  The list is long.

But when you want to know more about a country than it’s GDP, physical size, or literacy level where do you go?  One lesser known but fascinating source the World Values Survey.  (  Creators of the unusual world map shown above.

According to their site the survey is “a global research project that explores people’s value and beliefs, how they change over time and what social and political impact they have."   The survey is carried out by a "worldwide network of social scientists that, since 1981, have conducted representative national surveys in almost 100 countries. The WVS is the only source of empirical data on attitudes covering a majority of the world’s population.” 
For me one particularly fascinating result of the surveys is the Cultural Map shown here.  Countries are located on this map based on the similarities of their values, culture, using cultural dimensions as defined by the WVS researchers.These social scientist assert that there are two major dimensions of cross-cultural variation  1) Traditional values versus Secular-rational values and 2) Survival values versus Self-expression values.

Traditional values emphasize the importance of religion, parent-child ties, deference to authority and traditional family values. These societies have high levels of national pride and a nationalistic outlook.  Secular-rational values have the opposite preferences to the traditional values. These societies place less emphasis on religion, traditional family values and authority.  Survival values relate to economic and physical security while Self-expression emphasizes well-being and quality of life.

The global cultural map illustrates where countries fall today in relation to these dimensions through 2009.  If drawn today, you might see some change.  Societies evolve.  Some become more industrialized.  Other move from an industrial base to becoming a knowledge society.   

How will the next version of the map look?  The WVS will answer that question after they complete the survey now underway that will be completed in 2014.
Where is your country on the current map and where will it be?  Will its neighbors, sharing similar values the same as they are on the current map?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Food From Home: Gobal and Local

If you’re an American and looking for a taste of home when you travel you may be pleased to learn that another well known food chain is expanding.  Last week Krispy Kreme doughnuts  announced that they will now be available in Moscow.

It isn’t their first adventure outside the US.  Krispy Kreme is in 17 countries including Thailand, India, Kuwiat and Japan.

In Moscow they join other familiar names:  Starbucks with 57 units, McDonald's with 378 outlets throughout Russia and KFC that is planning to expand to 450 units by 2015.

But will this food from home seem like food from home?  How much will the menus change and adapt to local tastes?  In the Washington Post article above they mention that special flavors appealing to local tastes are now being served.  Even this tasty American treat,  like many that have been there longer, is now both global and local.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Bread for everyone

In our family a highlight  of  Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year,  celebration is sharing a dinner that includes the holiday Challah.   The one pictured here was handcrafted by my daughter.  Its  traditional round shape symbolizes the on going cycles of each year. 

Thinking about the Challah reminded me of the importance of bread not just for holidays but also throughout the year.  Historians remind us that throughout the centuries, in many countries, the price of bread has been carefully regulated to insure its availability.  In medieval times bakers who didn’t follow the government guidelines, who charged too much, could be punished, even executed. 

Providing bread for the general population was serious business then and it remains so today.  

Just ten days ago NBC news ran a story headlined “Defiance in Damascus:  Government keeps bakeries open 24”.   In an effort reduce the anxiety of the population worried about on going violence and predicted attacks, state owned bakeries would be open 24-hours a day,  (

This edict may indicate an agreement with the words of  a British journalist,  William Cobbet, who said “Without bread all is misery.”

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Handshakes? Kisses? Bows?

Handshakes, bows, kisses.    These are the physical elements of greeting rituals, how we first engage with people we meet – wherever we are.
And greetings can be tricky.   

Just this week not following the rules of traditional protocol during a greeting made the headlines.  Pope Francis chose to greet Queen Rania of Jordon with a bow, a gesture of respect and honor.  Unique for a Pope to bow to a visitor rather protocol requires the visitor to bow.  Not that day. (

For most of us our greetings will never be picked up by the international press.  But getting it right or wrong can make a difference in our connections with the people we meet, the deals we do, the partnerships or teams we hope to build.

It’s easy to assume that the form of greeting we use at home will be considered polite and appropriate everywhere.  But it’s not true.  What’s polite varies around the world.  

A reminder of that reality is included in an article in the current issue of Monocle  (  in a piece titled  “Inside Track:  Business Etiquette some key points to consider if you’re doing business in Burma, China, Mexico or Ghana are discussed.  One of the topics:  Greetings.  According to the article, in Burma business cards are more important than other formalities.  In Ghana, remember to use academic or professional titles along with a handshake. 

But not all handshakes are alike.  In Mexico its firm, in the Middle East a firm handshake can be considered rude.  In Thailand and China handshakes are not part of the traditional greeting ritual.

Before you engage with people from other places, other countries, other traditions it’s good to do some research so the greeting you extend carries the message you intend:  I’m pleased to meet you,  to get to know you, to do business with you.