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Back from holiday, back to business, 1 Sep 2011

Ah, summer. To many of us, it means holidays…vacation…time to relax. Chances are, like me, you also took a summer holiday and are getting back to work about now. As I get back into the work mindset, I posed a few questions to myself about why people take holidays and what it brings them. Here are some of my thoughts and findings.

The Latin root of the English word “vacation” (or vakantie in Dutch, vacances in French) means keeping unoccupied or making empty. Holiday is a moment of emptying your diary and head, and not being forced to do anything that is work- or duty-related. Why do we need holidays? We all work hard and often too hard, but also the fact that we are packed in trains and towns and that we are active in the evening causes lots of tension and stress. A bit of stress is okay. But too much stress makes one think less clear, you start making mistakes and become less productive. Moreover it can cause diseases as well.

Beach Vacation

Holidays are a time to clear your diary -- and your head

During holidays the body and brain recover: blood pressure and heart pulse get lower, according to scientific research. The production of stress hormones diminishes and feel-good hormone production takes off. Keeping the balance between working hard and relaxing is essential. Holidays and weekends are means to restore this balance.  A personnel manager once told me that employees do not get ill by working too hard; they do so, while not taking enough leisure time.

Holidays are a good way to mentally let go of work and daily stress. The more relaxed you are, the more open you are for new ideas as your mind opens for creativity. A change in environment will also help stimulate creativity. So this post-holiday period in front of us should be a very innovative and fruitful time.

 

Where do you like to take your holiday? Many people leave home for a holiday; many Dutch again booked a last-minute trip to the sun this year, while the weather was far from great. Sun alone does not seem enough anymore: many people nowadays seek inspiration. The latest trend in trips is in booking a spiritual or wellness trip.

A recent German survey proved that in general the weather does not play a dominant role in how people feel in daily life. But during holidays this seems different: people expect good weather during a holiday. If not, like any unpleasant event, it causes stress, unhappiness and even, divorces. 

While travelling to my own holiday destination at Kos, a Greek island, I decided to find out whether another environment was opening my mind and could be a source of inspiration for new business,  product and service innovations. And guess what, I found many. I will share a few with you. The others I will keep secret as I’m thinking of selling them…. :-)

Some holiday brainstorms

1. While driving to the airport in Belgium the highway was full of holes, damaged by the heavy winter weather. This causes many car incidents and the repairs are causing long traffic jams. How about self repairing asphalt? And, it is in development I just found out.  In the plane we saw the world from a distance, but never knew where we exactly where. Wouldn’t it be fun to see exactly where we were on my cellphone screen?

2. Twenty-five percent of the pet owners do take the plane less often than wanted as they do not like to leave their beloved pet behind. How about Pet Air? Pet Air takes care of pet health issues and paper work to enter your holiday destination by plane. During the flight your pet can be close to you in the cabin and gets its favorite food.  

3. Lots of sun at Kos, and thus many sun burnt bodies. People took a Tai massage, offered by a Chinese couple while lying on their sun beds. How about a service that advises you in detail on what sun protection (sunscreen, but also anti UV-clothing), and what after-sun remedies to use? Also you can have sunscreen rubbed on immediately by the Chinese couple. Okay, let us offer a massage too.

4. My kids go nowhere without their mobile phones. The devices have many purposes, like carrying their best music. As the mobile sound quality is mostly lousy, they bring along small portable speakers. My son loans his to friends, but thinks of reselling cheap, small, high-quality speakers that he will import directly from China. He also considers renting them out.  

Family Input
Two more great innovative holiday discoveries from my family:

1. On the journey I brought no e-book, but an innovative very small sized booklet along, the flipbackbook. The printer is specialized in printing bibles and invented this booklet as a line extension. 

2. While visiting a town city maps are useful but a pain as they are difficult to fold, get wet, and fall apart easily. How about a map made of tissue? The good news is that they are on the market at a reasonable price, and also for 3 major locations of UP*: Stockholm, New York and Amsterdam. 

Back to it. The first electronic marketing newsletter I read after getting back contained tips to overcome holiday blues. The publisher showed engagement with his reader. Now, let us go back to daily work and be creative. And there is no reason to feel guilty already thinking about another holiday: you now know why you need it. I am not kidding. Seriously, we just booked our next vacation.

 


 Silence, & Sound, is Golden, 7 Jun 2011

This morning when I woke up, I heard the dripping of rain on my roof. It gave me a warm feeling: it reminded me of camping in France, when I was a child. Which proves that sound and emotions walk hand in hand.

When I got invited to join UP*, what struck me was that UP* mentions Sound & Vision as one of the five focus areas. To be more precise, the word sound struck me, and I am happy that we, at UP*, pay attention to the ear as an underestimated sense. In commercials, as part of branding and marketing, sound is an indispensable element already. But sound can do so much more and will do so in the future. Sound provokes many more emotions than pictures do. Have you ever switched off the pictures of the film Jaws halfway through the film? And then switched the sound off and the pictures on again? I am sure that the film with only noise on will scare you so much more.

In April 2011, I attended The Next Web in Amsterdam. This is a very inspiring annual gathering about what is going on on the web, including many creative (and working) ideas for the web, computers and mobiles. One of the speakers mentioned the beauty and simplicity of sound, the fact that it is underestimated and has lots of potential. He claimed that sound will grow even bigger than video.

Which key purposes can sound or music or even noise play?

*  Sound/ songs/ music can be used to enjoy for sure. Many fun applications are coming on the markets these days. See for instance check out Soundcloud.

*  Sound will more and more be used to affirm and underline the character of a product or brand, but also web pages and services. When I open a website it happens that simultaneously a sound is being played. I am always surprised about it in a pleasant way.  It works but still is an exception.

* Moreover sound and especially speech can be applied as a user interface.  “Mind you step” at the end of an escalator is very effective and friendly way to warn us.

Did you hear about John Cage? He is a recent composer. He underlines the importance of sound of day to day life. His masterpiece is 4’33”: a pianist is in front of an audience, he keeps completely silent. Of course it is an absurd and comic experience to watch a pianist not playing, but one slowly starts to be aware of the noises of the environment. And they change constantly. Cage’s philosophy is to not only listen to the environmental sounds and accept them, but also to see them as music. I also believe in the beauty of silence and the fact that it is so rare.

Do the test and try to find a completely silent place in your house. Good luck!

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