A Postcard from Potsdam: The Consumption of Chocolate Fredericks

October 18, 2016


A visit to Potsdam for a conference combines memories of its place in history, with a few thoughts on today’s confusing global political scene


October 10-16 2016

Our visit to Potsdam was to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the journal Creativity and Innovation Management about which more later, including news of the chocolate Fredericks.

The immediate consequences of the Brexit vote

Preparing for the trip, the immediate impact of the Brexit vote was apparent, as I bought euros in the UK. The best rate I could get was parity, as the pound sterling had dwindled in value since the referendum. I await the promised economic benefits from a revitalized UK economy sometime in the future.

Potsdam and Keynes

Potsdam is associated in my mind with the visionary, John Maynard Keynes, and his contributions to history through a historic conference held in 1945, which was in some ways a re-run of the Versailles treaty of 1919, in which he also played a part. Versailles was to impose harsh retribution on Germany for its bellicose actions during the Great War. Keynes wrote in horror of what he saw as the inevitable consequences of the conditions being forced on Germany after the Great War ended in 1918.  [Note: this is not intended as an explanation for the rise of the third Reich, but a comment on the contributing factors after Versailles according to Keynes. Not for the last time, his predictions were eventually found to be prescient].

Le Monde’s view of the US Presidential debate

I am not sure why a plane from Manchester, bound for Berlin via Amsterdam, should only offer late-boarding passengers a complimentary copy of Le Monde. However, the paper gave its own cultural treatment of current World events.  Information on the state of affairs in England was noticeable by its absence.

Le Monde headlined the remarkable second Presidential debate between Clinton and Trump. It built its story around Trump’s assertion that as President he would appoint a prosecutor to imprison Hillary Clinton for her assorted crimes against the State. It also had a magnificent analysis of contemporary economic ideas, at a depth rarely found in the Anglo-Saxon press.

 Students are students

We arrive at the University of Potsdam. Students are wandering around like students do all over the world. A kebab bar is doing a roaring trade.  A statue outside the University is daubed with an Adolf  moustace. The weather is doing a good imitation of a drizzly day in Manchester.


Settling down and news from the UK

A dinner for two at our hotel cost 60 euros or pounds.  Sorry to bang on about this. A few months ago, it would still have cost 60 euros but rather less than 50 pounds sterling. Before our visit ended, we learned of the tensions back home as retailers fought with suppliers to deal with price rises of consumer goods resulting from the weakened pound.

The last Trump?

We kept up with the increasingly bizarre events in the US election campaign. Recently, Donald Trump appears to be dipping in the polls, criticized by significant republican politicians, even if some are avoiding voting for Clinton, by choosing writing a named alternative of their ballot paper.

At the end of the second debate, each candidate was asked to say something positive about the other (stifled laughter for the second time from the audience. The first was when Trump explained his ‘gentle’ treatment of Hillary, because he was a gentleman.). Hillary said she admired Donald’s children, a reply that hinted at another American political dynasty might be on its way. A bemused Donald muttered about whether she was joking, before making a genuine-sounding and generous remark, that he recognized his opponent’s resilience. Perhaps we are witnessing the last trump for Donald’s political aspirations and of his offspring after all.

The political trolls of the Trump campaign

Why is Hillary Clinton hated so much by Trump supporters? Are political trolls causes or symptoms of the strong emotions being generated? A rather normal-looking woman stares out at me from the BBC website. Her actions and words are anything but normal.  Emily Longhurst is an everyday illustration of a political troll, using extreme language to make her case for supporting Donald Trump by her vehement attacks on Hillary Clinton. Emily is an active member of a group known as Hillary for Prison.

The Palace fire and the Chocolate Fredericks

So, to the conference.  Susan and I as co-founders have the pleasant task of making a brief overview of twenty-five years of the publication of the journal Creativity and Innovation management, and awarding the prize for the best paper as voted by the editorial board

Use of Social Media in Inbound Open Innovation: Building Capabilities for Absorptive Capacity

Authors: Ward Ooms, John Bell, and Robert A.W. Kok

This study investigates the effects of the use of social media in inbound open innovation on capabilities for absorptive capacity of companies. Seven explorative case studies were conducted in an R&D and business context of two large global high-tech companies. The results suggest that if the necessary conditions are met, social media usage increases the transparent, moderational and multi-directional interactions that in turn influence four capabilities for absorptive capacity: connectedness, socialization tactics, cross-functionality and receptivity, a hitherto overlooked capability. Hence, we observe that social media are boundary-spanning tools that can be used to build and increase companies’ absorptive capacity

The new editors of the journal are into brilliant problem-solving mode with the hundred and one duties for the workshop, including fire-fighting. Just to illustrate the point, a banquet in an historic palace is cancelled, after a fire breaks out in the kitchens. Within two-days, an excellent substitute is found for the dinner, in a local Italian ristorante.

Each presenter receives a chocolate image of Frederick the Great. Susan and I decide to save ours for our return, as emergency rations in Post Brexit Manchester.

The bridge of spies

Conferences are often full of ‘what might have been’ opportunities missed such as visits to tourist sites outside the conference hall.

We managed to fit in the latest tourist attraction, a walk across the Lange Bruche, location of one of the memorable scenes as the Bridge of Spies in the eponymous movie.

Back in Manchester. No riots in the streets

No sign yet of rioting in the streets, as the price of Marmite takes it beyond the reach of hungry and angry consumers at Tescos. I can report that eating an effigy of Frederick the Great was a curious experience, (Bring me the head of Frederick the Great, with or without Marmite).

Did Hyman Minsky anticipate creative capitalism?

March 25, 2014

Bill Gates has called for a more creative form of Capitalism. The work of Hyman Minsky is being reappraised as relevant after the 2008 financial crisis

Minsky’s ideas were taken up by Paul Krugman, and later by other influential figures such as Janet Yellen, now head of the US Federal Reserve bank. They offer an explanation for the irrationalities of economic boom and bust, though inherent instabilities rather than temporary distortions. As such it relates to the Animal Spirits of John Maynard Keynes.

What is creative capitalism

Some posts ago I asked what is the nature of creative capitalism. The question arose after Bill Gates called for it, without exactly joining up the dots. My best shot was a suggestion that thinkers about capitalism were rewriting the map to deal with the uncertainties of the global economic climate. Under such uncertainties, creativity in thought and action becomes important. Mr Gates suggested that Capitalism needs to refocus its energy on social issues including the environment. Minsky suggests how this might come about.

Minsky’s destabilization hypothesis

An interesting article on the BBC website [March 2014] and a subsequent Radio Four broadcast outline why Minsky’s ideas might be relevant.

It seems that the relatively unknown Minsky has attracted attention recently for his theory of inherent instabilities of financial markets. Stock Market bubbles are inevitable as turbulent flow of water from a high pressure hose or water boiling in a saucepan on a hob through induction heating.

Minsky’s three stages

Minsky describes three stages within the process. The hedge is the stage in which the innate caution of professional investors dominates. The hedge offers possibilities for more risky gains, and the famous animal spirits kick in. In Wall Street jargon, the animal spirits move from those of cautious bears to those of Raging Bulls.

The ghost of Ponzi

Conventional wisdom is that bears and bulls eventually damp down irrational blips in the market. Minsky argues that after the speculative stage comes a fraudulent stage he termed the Ponzi stage. This honours or maybe I should say dishonours the schemes of Charles Ponzi, [1882-1949] the infamous modern inventor of a huge pyramid-selling scam.

To be continued

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