Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Villa Bråviken

Last year, for an assignment from the course Advanced Customer Marketing, my group and I visited a renovated villa near Norrköping, on the Baltic Sea, in an area called Bråviken. It is an example of a fjard, a drowned shallow glacial valley. The current owners of the Villa Bråviken bought it 5 years ago, renovated it and now can welcome 30 guests in their bedrooms as well as host business conferences.

Villa Bråviken

Winter pictures

One of our marketing recommendation for them was to be more present online, using pictures to attract more customers to their cosy villa. That's why I took a few images to serve as an example. It turned out they have been using them since then. However, these pictures were taken during the winter and thus, reflecting neither Spring nor Summer atmospheres. That's why I went back there to take a new set of pictures, suiting better the current season.

My parents will actually stay there for 3 nights in June so I will probably go back to this great area :)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Master Thesis (4)

As I said previously, the previous weeks have been really dedicated to the master thesis. For a 'Pre-Final seminar', our supervisor, Marie Bengtsson, asked to provide her with a complete version of our thesis by April 30th. To describe what she expects, she uses the metaphor of a Swiss cheese: our thesis can have holes and parts missing but it has a form and be held together.

Indeed, we managed to write the missing parts, namely the analysis and the conclusion, before the deadline. Although it was a bit sloppy and we knew it was not perfect, we felt pretty good once we uploaded our thesis draft. This version was supposed to serve as the basis for a first evaluation regarding whether we would be able to present our final master thesis in June. If we are too far behind or the quality is not sufficient, we would have to present in August.

Hopefully, Mario and I managed to hand in a complete thesis, even if it was of a lower quality. Indeed, most of the other groups did not manage to finish in time and are wondering if they'd ever manage to finish before May 27th, the final deadline!

The 'Pie-throwing' seminar was held a few days later, leaving time for each group to read at least 2 theses and give a detailed feedback on one of them. That's how I could combine working / hosting friends for a few days, playing with Swedish red days (Valborg/King's Birthday and Första Maj) and the week-ends. 
Anyway, Mario and I really appreciated the comments from our colleagues. It gave us guidelines to go forward and make our draft better! However, since the seminar, we feel really frustrated as we basically spent half a week trying to go deeper in our analysis. The preliminary step was to reformulate our research question, which made us reconsider various theories and rewrite our methodology and empirical chapters. In short, we lost confidence in our work for a moment.

Receiving feedback is helpful and devastating. Of course, there is no point in receiving only positive feedback as we have 3 weeks left before the final hand-in. Yet, there are some comments that we would have preferred to receive earlier as we could have tackled our issues directly!

In other words, we are going through a really stressful period. I find it really hard to lock ourselves in study rooms on a 8.00-18.00 shift everyday, when the sun is shining hard outside and the thermometer exceeds the 20°C!!! But I rather remind myself: why give-up now? After 4 months, there are only 3 weeks left :)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Scandinavian Journey!

In France, there are the Spring Holidays, beginning at the end of april, which allowed my friends to pay me a visit. It was a great deal of organization to combine sightseeing and thesis-working, but it was definitely worth it! We managed to spend a week-end in Stockholm, visit Linköping, travel to Lund and have a day in Copenhagen :)

Gröna Lund, Stockholm
Moderna Museet, Stockholm

We began with 2 days in Stockholm where we walked around a lot between Södermalm, Djurgården, Gamla Stan, Skeppsholmen and Norrmalm. Even though it was pretty sunny, the blowing wind was exhausting us!

I brought my friends to some nice places as Vigårda Barbeque for the greatest  burgers in Stockholm, Kelly's for cheap beers (a challenge in the city), Café String for a big brunch, Koh Phangan for an exotic dinner, etc.


Then we came back to Linköping for a short while but I had to go to the university and let my friends alone. Anyway, they visited Gamla Linköping, the Valla forest and the city center until the Stångån river.

Also, they were asking me what was the typical dish/food in Sweden... I couldn't answer anything else than the köttbullar (meatballs) :/ We tried to find some kinda moose-meat but didn't succeed. Yet, they got to try the kanelbullar :)

Caro in Lund

Then we went to Lund where my friends discovered Valborg! It was quite something... Hopefully, we had time to walk around the city in between the Stadspark, the old university (dating from 1666), the botaniska trädgården, and in the colorful cobbled streets.

View from the 'Church of Our Saviour', Copenhagen

Christianian demonstration

Unfortunately, two of my friends were flying back to France from Copenhagen on the next day. I thought it was a good opportunity to spend the morning there. We went around Tivoli, in the touristic streets towards the Church of the Holy Spirit, and we continued until Christiania, passing by Slotsholmen.

I believed my friends enjoyed their trip to Sweden, even though it was only a few days, these days were quite busy!!

Bike-ride throughout Linköping: Trädgårdsföreningen, Gamla Linköping and Tannefors lock.

Me and my friend who stayed for five more days, went back to Linköping once again. The weather got way warmer and we could enjoy bike-rides, forest walks, play kubb, and chill-out in the evenings around BBQs with friends!

I'm really glad my friends paid me a visit! That was a really appreciated "break" in the thesis schedule. Much appreciated!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"Doing international business?" / SMIO presentation at Mjärdevi Science Park

At Linköping University (LiU), the SMIO master program being followed by 95% of international students represents the diversity of the world cultures. Our differences can be interesting and we learn everyday how to build stronger relationships. 
"We didn't all come over on the same ship, but we're all in the same boat."  — Bernard M. Baruch.
Last Friday (May 3rd), Shideh, Andy and Sunny gave a breakfast presentation on the hidden aspects of cross-cultural communication between Sweden and Canada (Shideh), the U.S. (Andy) and China (Sunny). It took place in the Mjärdevi Science Park (nearby the campus) in front of 70 participants: mostly entrepreneurs or experienced businessmen or women engaged in international business, as well as supporting classmates interested in their multicultural experience.

Shideh Tabe, Andrew Wind and Yangzi Sunny Wangsun 

Hofstede's cultural dimensions comparison
between Sweden and Canada
Originally from Iran, Shideh kicked-off the presentation based on her 11 years of experience in the banking sector in Canada: this large country where people hate to be mistaken for Americans! She emphasized that the Canadian culture largely influences their communications in terms of tone of voice, body language, personal space, greetings and most importantly: small talks! Taking into consideration Hofstede's cultural dimensions, she noted that the main differences reside in the masculinity (MAS) and uncertainty avoidance (UAI) of Canada. However, when she arrived in Sweden, she noticed that Canadians focus more on attracting new customers, their satisfaction & loyalty and they give sugar-coat negative answers.

Shideh's key take-aways to do business in Canada were: 
  1. Motivation is in individual success
  2. Incentives to stand out
  3. Customer  is always right
  4. Be ready to have 'small talk' in streets, banks, stores, bus stops, etc.

Hofstede's cultural dimensions comparison
between Sweden and China
Sunny—most Chinese have an English name, she says—started her speech using Hofstede's power distance (PDI) dimension to show that hierarchy is really important in China: employees do not publicly challenge their manager's directives, which makes it easier for the latter to implement changes. Making business in China mainly means building a relationship. Karaoke is an option, a dinner  invitation seems easier but Sunny warned the audience on the Chinese dinner etiquette: "Prepare to get drunk and don't finish all the dishes, otherwise more food will be ordered!" 
Moreover, Chinese dislike being negative: they never say no, but 'maybe' and have difficulties to give negative feedback.

Hofstede's cultural dimensions comparison
between Sweden and the U.S.
Sweden likes the American culture. Yet, Andy started his part on communication in the U.S. by reminding that most of Americans never traveled out of their country. Thus, having a business relationship with a Swede is seen as exotic and highly valued in their culture. Showing Hofstede's individual (IDV) dimension of the U.S. and  Jack Welch's quote "Control your own destiny or someone else will."; Andy shows the dynamic and competitive environment of the American business culture and the motivation of the American workers. As a result, managers focus on the short-term implications of decisions and that's why Andy recommends the audience to focus on 'quick wins' when making business in the U.S.
Moreover, Americans love debates and they'll show it by talking clearly about their issues. Yet, at work, the manager decides: as Steve Jobs said "My job is to say when something sucks rather than sugarcoat it." Andy added that small talks are also common for Americans, it is part of the language protocol. You should answer politely but it doesn't mean that a long-term relationship is being set-up! Eventually, with Hollywood or Broadway, Americans are historically embedded in storytelling. Using metaphors to illustrate a concept and making a scenario to connect them all is the key to understanding in the U.S.

Andy's key take-aways to do business in the U.S. were:
  1. Americans value straight talking and 'getting to the point'
  2. Sell your pluses
  3. Humor or ‘small talk’ can be an important relationship builder
  4. Create storylines.
Doing international business?
The audience enjoyed a buffet-breakfast while Andy wisely concluded a successful presentation, showing the SMIO programme engagement towards the business world and its main actors:
"As our world flattens and we come closer together we find new connections and also expose new individualities. You are the mapmakers of the 21st century, your intercultural business partnerships will expose new ideas and ways of communicating yet to be uncovered that will bring us all forward in the future to come."  Andy.