GDPR: Towards a more ethical use of personal data in the event industry

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Technology and society are evolving really fast. Digital transformation is “forcing” event companies to observe new customers’ behaviour, values and expectations and to use technology in ways that improve customer experiences. In order to offer such services, event organisers need something valuable from their customers: their data. Some customers might feel empowered by this customisation of services but others feel powerless as they do not know what happens with their personal data. It is clear that companies in general and event organisers in particular, must make an effort and communicate about the personal data they handle in a more transparent way. A good way to do so is to systematically inform customers about the type of data they collect and how they intend to use it.

The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the furthest reaching legislation ever on the use of data, is about to become a reality in the following months. Any company gathering and processing personal data of EU citizens will need to comply with the new Regulation by 25 May 2018 at the latest. But in today’s digital environment, compliance to the law is not enough, there is also an ethical dimension of data processing to be considered, as for example profiles used to predict customer’s behaviour potentially reinforcing stereotypes and social exclusion. However, as stated by the European Data Protection Supervisor, Giovanni Buttarelli, “privacy and data protection are part of the solution, not the problem”.

Data Protection regulation has been part of EU legislation already since 1995, but it is only during the last few years that it has become a hot topic. Why now? Many reasons can explain this, but one of them is clearly the exponential rise of the data mining capabilities developed by large companies, which can rely on an ever growing network of smartphones, devices and soon household appliances to collect the personal data of their users. The Internet of Things has entered our lives so deeply that we can hardly imagine how our life on the internet was ten years ago. Now in 2017, can we still pretend we can control our personal information? In fact, isn’t it too late already? It is clear that users’ trust is essential in this context. However, how can a company be transparent about highly technical and complex issues such as Big data? This is a relatively new phenomenon and users are only just becoming familiar with its implications and the possibilities such a technology offers. There are many questions that users are struggling with: How much is my data worth? Can my personal data be used against me? How can I have more control over the data I am sharing? These questions will need to be addressed if users are to entrust companies with their data. Hopefully, there are alternatives to put users back in control of the data they generate. User data could be stored on a users’ personal cloud service and access to parts of that data could be given upon the users’ explicit consent, with the right to terminate such access at any moment.

The GDPR and principles such as data portability and data ownership may be the right impetus for shifting power back to users. However, such a shift may come at a price. Until now, any company dealing with personal data would expect some kind of economic advantage, in the form of a marketing database, a commercial lead, advertisement benefits or simply information to be sold. Less data could have an impact on their business plan. In the best-case scenario, such companies will use the GDPR as an opportunity to improve a trust relationship with their contacts/customers. But other companies will maybe not be able to enforce GDPR as it is meant to be and will be forced to change their business model. Some services that were free could be charged for, and some companies could disappear if they cannot adapt to the new regulation.

It is often said that if something is free, you are the product. This certainly applies to the current situation. We are basically telling people to choose between selling their data to get “free” products at the cost of privacy, or taking back control of their personal information. These two behaviours will never cease to exist, and indeed the younger generation looks less worried about sharing their data, but the difference is that the legislation seems to have put the user, us, at the centre of the board. And this is encouraging.

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Are you ready for GDPR? Short survey for event organisers

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As a student enrolled this academic year in the Executive Master in Event Management in IHECS Academy, I am conducting a research on the biggest challenges and opportunities for event organisers moving towards the European General Data Protection regulation (GDPR) compliance.

The GDPR will not make the work of event organisers easy next year. Any company gathering and processing personal data of EU citizens will need to comply with this GDPR by 25 May 2018 at the latest. Although there were data protection laws in place before, companies had little incentive to enforce them as the requirements were very basic and penalties for breaching data protection and privacy were very low.

With the GDPR, the requirements and penalties are much higher. Are event companies aware of this regulation? How will their business practices adapt to it? Are they equipped to comply with the GDPR? Does the GDPR set clear and understandable requirements that can be easily understood and applied by businesses?

The aim of this survey is to better understand to what extent event organisers in Belgium are ready for GDPR. Your help with this short survey would be much appreciated and completing it would not take more than 5 minutes. Your answers to the survey will be anonymous and will only be used for research to complete my End of Studies Paper (TFE) to be presented in October.

Link to the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LGDL5ZZ please submit your responses by September 8th.

Thanks a lot for your feedback!

Mc Sinterklaas is coming to School

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I grew up in Spain, in a place where Three Wise Men bring presents to children who have been good throughout the year. Since I live in Belgium, I am also celebrating the arrival of Saint Nicholas, aka Sinterklaas (in Dutch). This tradition is celebrated annually with the distribution of gifts for children the night before Saint Nicholas Day on December 6th. This Day is celebrated in many Central and Eastern European countries.

Sinterklaas is an old and majestic man with white hair and a long, full beard. He wears a long red cape, dons a red mitre and ruby ring and holds a gold-coloured crosier. He traditionally rides a white horse. Sinterklaas carries a big, red book, in which is written whether each child has been good or naughty in the past year.

In the days between his arrival and 6 December, Sinterklaas also visits schools, hospitals and markets. This year, a new version of Sinterklaas came to my kids’ school: “Mc Sinterklaas”! I was shocked when I discovered this little hat in my 5-years old kid schoolbag. Mc Donald’s managed to get infiltrated into one of the most awaited and loved tradition of children in Belgium. What a clever way to enter into kids’ hearts. Is McDonald’s using schools to turn children into lifelong customers of its junk food brand? I find it shocking that McDonald’s is using this cultural tradition as an opportunity to market young children.

Our school is putting much attention on educating children about responsible choices and healthy food, therefore I cannot understand why they are endorsing this action. Who decided that it was a good idea to distribute little “Mc Sinterklaas hats” among young children? Is the school receiving any compensation for this kind of marketing? Or are they just naïve? Too many questions need to be answered.

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In recent years, the food and beverage industry in the US has viewed children and adolescents as a major market force. As a result, children and adolescents are now the target of intense and specialized food marketing and advertising efforts. Food marketers are interested in youth as consumers because of their spending power, their purchasing influence, and as future adult consumers. Multiple techniques and channels are used to reach youth, beginning when they are toddlers, to foster brand-building and influence food product purchase behavior. These food marketing channels include television advertising, in-school marketing, product placements, kids clubs, the Internet, toys and products with brand logos, and youth-targeted promotions, such as cross-selling and tie-ins. Foods marketed to children are predominantly high in sugar and fat, and as such are inconsistent with national dietary recommendations. Source

Carrots, Eggs & Coffee Beans

There’s an old story about carrots, eggs and coffee beans that I would like to share with you. The lesson this story teaches about adversity is timeless. It’s an important lesson to remember both in business and in personal life.

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A young woman went to her mother and explained that life was very hard for her. She was tired of fighting and struggling.  Her mother took her to the kitchen and filled three pots with water and placed them on the stove to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. Twenty minutes later, she fished out the carrots and placed them in a bowl. Then, she pulled out the eggs and placed them in another bowl. Finally she placed the coffee in a bowl.  Turning to her daughter, she asked “Tell me what you see”. “Carrots, eggs, and coffee”, she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it.  After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee.  The daughter smiled as she tasted its richness and savored its aroma.  The daughter then asked to her mother: “What does it mean?” The mother explained that each of these objects faced the same adversity: boiling water, and each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong and hard. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.

The egg had been fragile. Its thin external shell protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique.  After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which one of these are you?” she asked her daughter.  “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond?  Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?”

Think of this:

Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat?

Am I the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain.  When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor.  If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you become even better and change the situation around you.

Learning to Unlearn

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change”
Charles Darwin

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With the increasing volume of information and advances in all fields, we are driven to continuous learning to keep up-to-date. Our understanding of things and our capacity for solving issues is now far more important than just acquiring knowledge.

The latest generations were educated in a model based on memorizing data rather than practicing in the real world. Today, it is essential to learn to be flexible and permeable, to have the possibility to adopt different perspectives and to be able to change the course of things.

We are all born with a strong desire to learn, but some people lose the passion for learning and avoid situations where they may be forced to learn something new: they prefer to create a safe and secure world for themselves. In order to move forward we need to be in a constant state of adaptation, continually unlearning old rules and relearning new ones. That requires continually questioning assumptions about how things work, challenging old paradigms, and ‘relearning’ what is now relevant in our job, in the industry, for our career and even for our life.

The major changes we will be forced to make in life will involve unlearning old habits and views that no longer serve us. It is therefore essential to “unlearn” in order to be able to acquire new knowledge and skills. This does not mean to regress, but to be able to move forward leaving behind useless burden, eliminating beliefs, prejudices and ideas that are no longer useful to us.

The world of work is moving and changing fast. However, it is not just about keeping up with the rate of change and the nature of the work we do, but how we do it and where. Our ability to adapt to change and to proactively make changes in our career is what will make a crucial difference in the future.

Six Thinking Hats

Our brain tends to look for logical solutions to our problems. It relies on what is regular, through the usual neural pathways : this would be a vertical thinking. Edward de Bono, one of the foremost experts in the fields of creativity, published in 1976 «The Use of Lateral Thinking», a book explaining an unusual way of thinking.

Lateral Thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic. (Wikipedia)

Lateral Thinking allows us to find new solutions to any experience or challenge from multiple perspectives, and in order to develop it, we can follow different paths : 1/check assumptions, 2/formulate appropriate questions, asking from the most general to the most specific, 3/seeing things from many perspectives and 4/apply logic.

Critical Thinking Vs Lateral Thinking

Critical Thinking is primarily concerned with judging the true value of statements and seeking errors, while the essence of Lateral Thinking is that at any moment, everyone is looking and working in the same direction.

Six Thinking Hats

The Six Thinking Hats method

The main difficulty of thinking is confusion. Emotions, information, logic, hope, creativity… all crowd in on us. It is is like juggling with too many balls. The Six Thinking Hats method allows every thinker to do one thing at a time and to separate emotion from logic, creativity from information, and so on.

Edward de Bono identifies six directions in which the brain can be challenged. However, none of these directions are completely natural ways of thinking, but rather how some of us already represent the results of our thinking. Six distinct directions are identified and assigned a color:

The White Hat – Facts and Figures
The Red Hat – Emotions and Feelings
The Black Hat – Cautius and Careful
The Yellow Hat – Optimistic and Positive
The Green Hat – Creative Thinking
The Blue Hat – Management and Control

Coloured hats are used as metaphors for each direction. Switching to a direction is symbolized by the act of putting on a coloured hat. Sequences always begin and end with a blue hat. The first one indicates what we are thinking about and the final one indicates what we have achieved and what are the next steps.

One of the most immediate benefits of that method lies in the neutralization of some people’s egos: those who usually like to argue to demonstrate their ability to be right, whatever the issue. When using the hats, these will probably still feel the need to impress the crowd, but at least the hats will help to channel their ideas in a more constructive way.

Put into practice, in a meeting for example, each participant has to wear the same coloured hat one at a time. They evaluate the outcomes of that thinking and what they should do next. And then they put on another coloured hat, and so on. That is lateral thinking! Thinking in the same direction and making fullest use of everyone’s intelligence, knowledge and experience.

If A is success in life, then A = X + Y + Z

Where X is work, Y is pleasure and Z is keep your mouth shut!

Einstein by Ana Perez

No doubts, the figure of Albert Einstein has gone beyond the realm of science to become an icon of modern culture. And not only for its unique styling, or for winning a Nobel Prize, or even for being the father of the theory of relativity. Besides having revolutionized physics, Einstein was a staunch advocate of peace and a brilliant thinker on the art of living. His words of wisdom for everyday life proved that he kept his feet on the ground.

I love Einstein. I am currently reading a book about him called “Atomic Solutions for Relatively Serious Problems” by Allan Percy. The book collects great reflections of this genius and illustrates practical situations of everyday life. Einstein was, above all, a problem solver. Nowadays, where the pressure is high and the compensation low, his teachings could help us to put things into perspective. One example is about the importance of silence.

There are many trainings teaching us how to speak correctly and effectively, but it is difficult to find one on how to keep our mouths shut. Speaking only when necessary, measuring our words and, in many situations, being able to remain silent, is one of the formulas for success. The “economy of words” is a very valuable option for both private and professional relations. People with empathy know how to listen and observe people, and they speak only when necessary and worth it. We learn far more by actually listening than by talking. In fact, many problems remain unsolved because our ego pushes us to be right and to speak up, and we seldom take the point of view of the other person into account.

If you are not sure about something, «say what you have to say, tomorrow» (Japanese proverb).