Progressing to Professional English

Welcome to a Business English course you have never before encountered. Go through the key business aspects, ground your business knowledge and develop business language proficiency. This course is much more than just graph description. Find out more about ideas, trends and changes in the business field, analyze business cases and grow a deeper understanding of business related language.

Business models and strategy

Introduction to business strategy - SPEAKING

Welcome to the idea of strategy and business models. Please take a look at this presentation to see the most importants aspects you are going to discuss in the Business English course section.

Are you familiar with the blue ocean - red ocean strategy? Take a look at this presentation. Then answer the questions.

The Blue Ocean Strategy FG from Francesco Guerrieri

Take a look a the key vocabulary connected with strategy and business models.


Speaking activity

  1. What are the key differences between the two types of strategies?
  2. Which strategy better describes your industry? Why?
  3. What are the core/key terms you want to use to describe these strategies?

The Business Model Canvas

What is the Business Model Canvas? Are you familiar with it? Watch the video and answer these question?

Analyze the BMC available here.

  1. Discuss the role of the tool.
  2. Why does such a simple tool work?
  3. How do you understand each of the canvas segments.
  4. Business issues explained in Polish vs English - which do you think is more precise in describing business? Why?

Listen to this podcast on reinventing the Business Model by HBR IdeaCast.


Now study the terms associated with business models. Make sure you understand and remember them all.

BMC quiz

  • 9
  • 7
  • 5
How many areas are there in the business model canvas?

Business Models - WRITING

Write an essay on the most spectacular business model in your opinion. Why? What is it? Make it a 500-word text, provide examples and analysis. 

Maybe you want to use this link as inspiration?


Unit completion

  • YES
  • NO
I have completed the unit.

Creativity, Innovation and Change

Thinking inside the box - READING


You are going to read the two following articles on thinking inside the box and compare them. Before you do so explain what is means to think outside the box. 

Now read the texts.

Thiking outside the box

Think Inside the Box (source)

Forget brainstorming: People are at their most innovative when they work within the constraints of what they already know.

The most consequential ideas are often right under our noses. JIMMY TURRELLBy DREW BOYD and JACOB GOLDENBERGJune 14, 2013 6:59 p.m. ET

When most CEOs hear the word "innovation," they roll their eyes. It conjures up images of employees wasting hours, even days, sitting in beanbag chairs, tossing Frisbees and regurgitating ideas they had already considered. "Brainstorming" has become a byword for tedium and frustration.

Over the past decade, we have asked senior executives, on every continent and in every major industry, two key questions about innovation. The first: "On a scale of one to 10, how important is innovation to the success of your firm?" The second: "On a scale of one to 10, how satisfied are you with the level of innovation in your firm?"

Not surprisingly, they rate the importance of innovation very high: usually a nine or 10. None disputes that innovation is the No. 1 source of growth. Without fail, however, most senior executives give a low rating—below five—to their level of satisfaction with innovation.

How could business leaders rate innovation as so important yet feel so dissatisfied with their own organizations' performance? Because what they really want to know is how: How do you actually generate novel ideas and do so consistently, on demand?

The traditional view of creativity is that it is unstructured and doesn't follow rules or patterns. Would-be innovators are told to "think outside the box," "start with a problem and then brainstorm ideas for a solution," "go wild making analogies to things that have nothing to do with your product or service."

We advocate a radically different approach: thinking inside the proverbial box, not outside of it. People are at their most creative when they focus on the internal aspects of a situation or problem—and when they constrain their options rather than broaden them. By defining and then closing the boundaries of a particular creative challenge, most of us can be more consistently creative—and certainly more productive than we are when playing word-association games in front of flip charts or talking about grand abstractions at a company retreat.

Our method works by taking a product, concept, situation, service or process and breaking it into components or attributes. Using one of five techniques, innovators can manipulate the components to create new-to-the-world ideas that can then be put to valuable use. The five techniques are:


Remove seemingly essential elements.

Consider a contact lens, an exercise bicycle, a package of powdered soup and an ATM. What do they have in common? They have all had something subtracted. Subtract the frame of a pair of glasses and you have the contact lens. Remove a bike's rear wheel and you invent the exercise bicycle. Extract water from soup to make a package of powdered soup. Take the bank employee out of a cash transaction and you have an ATM.

The original Sony Walkman was a cassette recorder that had the recording function subtracted, which seemed to defy all logic: a spinoff product that did less than the original. Even Akio Morita, Sony's chairman and the inventor of the Walkman, was surprised by the market's enthusiastic response.

Philips Electronics used subtraction to revolutionize the DVD market. Remember when a DVD player looked like a traditional, bulky VCR player, with a confusing array of buttons and displays on the front panel? The Philips team hit on the idea of removing these functions from the DVD player itself and placing them on a hand-held device. The result: a slimmer, cheaper, sleeker and easier-to-use DVD machine—and a new design standard not just for DVD players but for the whole home-electronics market.

Task unification

Bring together unrelated tasks or functions.

Samsonite, the world's largest travel-bag company, used task unification to expand into the college backpack market. Backpacks, especially for college students, cause back and neck strain due to the weight of their contents: textbooks, laptops, beverages and so on.

Instead of padding the straps like other backpacks, the Samsonite team created a way to use the heavy weight as a comfort advantage. The straps are shaped so that they press softly into the wearer's shoulders at strategically located shiatsu points to provide a soothing massage sensation. The heavier the contents, the deeper the sensation and the more stress relief for the wearer.

Or consider the Captcha system, which you have probably experienced many times but without knowing its name. Captcha (an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart) is what asks you to type words written in a bizarre, distorted script inside a box before you're allowed to enter a website. Ticketmaster, for instance, uses Captcha to prevent the automated programs of scalpers from immediately scooping up the most desirable seats for events.

What most people don't realize is that their Captcha answers serve two purposes—and here we get to task unification. In addition to proving to websites that they are not machines, the users of Captcha are deciphering difficult-to-read words from printed texts. The system's inventor, a Carnegie Mellon computer scientist named Luis von Ahn, realized that by feeding into Captcha words that computer scanners can't read—especially the old fonts often found in older publications—users could help in the massive task of transforming printed content into digital form. Ordinary web surfers are helping to transcribe the equivalent of nearly 150,000 books a year.


Copy a component and then alter it.

In 1804, the British scientist William Hyde Wollaston invented the single-element concavo-convex meniscus lens, which has been used ever since in simple focus-free box cameras, including the famous Kodak Brownie. Serious photographers need more versatility, however. So over the past century, camera makers have multiplied the basic lens and changed its shape to create an entire spectrum of lenses for different sorts of images: close up, far away, wide angle or even blurred or grossly distorted. Each works with one click of a button, but with dramatically different effects.

Or consider the razor. Since the Bronze Age, men have been shaving using a single blade. Then, in 1971, Gillette introduced the TRAC II Twin Blade Shaving System, which sported two blades instead of one. Twin blades give a closer shave because each blade performs a different function. The first blade pulls up the hair so that it is unable to retract into the skin before the second blade, set at a slightly different angle, cuts it off. The TRAC II set off a still-ongoing competitive frenzy of multiplication in the shaving industry.

A range of products are the obvious result of multiplication, from bifocal lenses and double-sided tape to three-way light bulbs. But multiplication works for services as well. For the College Board, which designs, administers and scores the SAT, maintaining the validity of its test is a big challenge: Colleges want an entrance exam that is consistent in what it measures from year to year. But how can the College Board gauge the difficulty of questions before students are actually scored on them?

The answer: by including "experimental" questions in order to assess them for inclusion in future tests. These particular questions are not scored, but students have no way of knowing that, so they spend about 25 minutes of the 225-minute testing period answering zero-value questions. By using multiplication in this way, the College Board is able to offer a "new" test each year while ensuring that its quality matches that of previous tests.


Separate the components of a product or service and rearrange them.

Instances of this technique abound, from airline check-in procedures that now have you print your boarding pass at home to the TV remote control whose functions used to be attached to the box itself. Or consider central air-conditioning. The first air-conditioning units contained all the necessary components in a single box: thermostat, fan, cooling unit. But once the motor and fan of the cooling unit were separated from the other pieces, they could be placed somewhere else—like outside a house, thus reducing noise and heat and eliminating the need to block a window with a bulky integrated unit.

Johnson & Johnson used the technique of division to completely redesign the medical-sales training program of one of its business units. It divided the course content—anatomy, surgical procedures and medical devices—into smaller chunks and then rearranged it around relevant diseases and conditions. This approach dramatically reduced the amount of time needed to train a sales representative and made it much easier to roll out training on new products to its existing sales force.

Attribute dependency

Make the attributes of a product change in response to changes in another attribute or in the surrounding environment.

An excellent example of this technique is eyewear with transition lenses, which change from light to dark in the sunlight. So, too, are windshield wipers that speed up as it rains harder.

Some instances of this technique have been around for so long that they no longer seem especially creative, but they once were. This is especially true with respect to pricing. Take, for example, loyalty programs that offer discounts to long-standing customers or discounts based on the number of friends that a customer recommends. Both work by making one variable dependent on another.

But different variables apply to different products. For iced tea, seasonality has long been the decisive factor: It's a product for cooling off in summer. Beverage Partners Worldwide, a joint venture between Nestlé and Coca-Cola, wanted its Nestea brand to compete more effectively against the market-leading Lipton, so it changed that seasonal calculus. The result was the Nestea Winter Collection, a line of "iced tea" products designed to be consumed at room temperature or even heated. The new product line reversed the typical slump in winter sales by responding to that colder environment and creating a brand-new market.

Using any one or all of these "inside the box" techniques involves retraining the way your brain thinks about problem solving. Most people think innovation starts with establishing a well-defined problem and then thinking of solutions. Our method is just the opposite: We take an abstract, conceptual solution and find a problem that it can solve.

This approach to innovation was first described in 1992 by the psychologist Ronald Finke. He discovered that people are actually better at searching for benefits for given configurations (starting with a solution) than at finding the best configuration for a given benefit (starting with the problem). Imagine a baby bottle and being told that it changes color as the temperature of the milk changes. Why would that be useful? Because it would help to make sure that you don't burn the baby with milk that is too hot. Now imagine you were asked the opposite question: How can we make sure not to burn a baby's mouth with milk that is too hot? How long would it take you to come up with a color-changing milk bottle? You might never arrive at the idea.

The key to being consistently innovative is to create a new form for something familiar and then to find a function it can perform. That is why, when we first hear about a new idea, we often experience a sense of disappointment with ourselves: Gee, why didn't I think of that? The most consequential ideas are often right under our noses, connected in some way to our current reality or view of the world.

Inventions can be extraordinary, but invention isn't an extraordinary event or an activity for a specialized group. Nor is creativity reserved for the gifted and talented. It's a skill that can be learned and mastered by anyone, if approached properly. Like so much else in life, the more it's practiced, the more skillful at it we become.

Adapted from "Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results," which has just been published by Simon & Schuster. Previously a Johnson & Johnson executive, Mr. Boyd is an assistant professor of marketing and innovation at the University of Cincinnati. Mr. Goldenberg is a professor of marketing at the School of Business Administration at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Breakthrough Thinking from Inside the Box (source)

Imagine that we asked you to invent an idea for a new business in the next 20 minutes. The task is so broad and vague that you would probably think you couldn’t do it. We have often seen people give up without really trying when confronted with such an amorphous challenge.

Instead, let us pose a narrower question: What do Rollerblades, Häagen-Dazs ice cream, and Spider-Man movies have in common? The answer is they are all based on the same business concept. In each case, a firm has taken something children love and reproduced it in an extreme, more expensive form for adults. The same notion has led to over 25 new product categories, including gourmet jelly beans, baseball fantasy camps, $200 sneakers, 20-foot-high sand castles for corporate parties, paintball, space tourism, and Disney collectibles. Now that you see this, we are confident you could think of how to reproduce something that was emotionally powerful to you as a child in an expensive form for adults. That’s because we have conducted this exercise as a warm-up to our workshops with hundreds of managers, and they have always generated interesting ideas.

What did we just do, and why did it work? In our quest for breakthrough ideas, we didn’t ask you to think outside the box. Nor did we ask you to think more intently inside your usual box. We gave you a new box and asked you to think inside that.

Most managers and professionals are quite capable of thinking effectively inside a box. They live with constraints all the time and automatically explore alternatives, combinations, and permutations within their confined space. We have found that if you systematically constrain the scope of their thinking (but not too much), people are adept at fully exploring the possibilities, and they can regularly generate lots of good ideas—and occasionally some great ones. Setting the right constraints is a matter of asking the right kinds of questions: ones that create boxes that are useful, but different, from the boxes your people currently think in.

Ten years ago, as part of a larger project for McKinsey’s strategy practice, we led a team of consultants who developed such an approach to brainstorming. It involves posing concrete questions and orchestrating the process for answering those questions. Since then we have successfully used this method with more than 150 clients engaged in everything from major product innovations and industry-shaping moves to simple process improvements. Our technique helped a consumer goods company identify an opportunity for a chilled beverage that captured 20% of the market in the first six months after its launch. A print media company used it to come up with ways to triple the firm’s penetration of the Hispanic market. A plastic pipe manufacturer uncovered an immediately exploitable opportunity to reduce costs by 75%. A regional bank came up with a process that more than doubled the sales productivity of the branches involved in the pilot. Even those whose job it is to be creative have benefited from the methodology: The editors of a group of prominent magazines who had been stuck in a rut in their efforts to come up with story angles have begun using the approach to develop fresh new articles for every issue.

Now that it has been road tested, we’d like to share our approach. A good place to begin is to examine what’s wrong with conventional approaches to brainstorming.

Why Brainstorming Doesn’t Work

Many managers fail to generate a stream of solid ideas because they employ two common techniques: They encourage their people to go wild and think outside the box or they assign them the task of slicing and dicing the old boxes (in the form of existing market and financial data or specially commissioned market research) in new ways.

The problem with the first method is that most people are not very good at unstructured, abstract brainstorming. Imagine a random product you are trying to improve in a typical facilitated brainstorming session. Outside-the-box possibilities could include making the product bigger or smaller, lighter or heavier, prettier or more rugged (or changing its appearance in any of a hundred ways). Further ideas could involve making the product more expensive or less, or maybe breaking it into parts or bundling it with other products. They could involve changing the product’s functionality, durability, ease of use, or the way it fits with other products. Or its availability, affordability, or repairability. How do you know which dimensions are fruitful to explore? More often than not, the facilitator will say, “There are no bad ideas,” which only compounds the confusion. Without some guidance, people cannot judge whether they should continue in the direction of their first notion or change course altogether. They cannot handle the uncertainty, and they shut down.

The second method—slicing the data in new ways—almost always produces only small to middling insights, for different reasons. The contents of every database are structured to correspond to insights that are already recognized, not ones that aren’t. (Why are sales data often organized by region? Because someone already knows that the contrasts from region to region are meaningful.) Moreover, any insights produced by recrunching publicly available numbers will probably be discovered quickly by competitors’ armies of MBAs, who are most likely using the same techniques and the same data as your people.

Market research suffers from another sort of limitation. Whenever an organization embarks on a journey to come up with a big, new idea, someone inevitably declares, “We should ask the customer, because customers aren’t stupid, you know.” True, customers aren’t stupid, and they can tell you if they perceive your product to be inferior to competitors’ offerings in some particular way. However, they can rarely tell you whether they need or want a product that they have never seen or imagined. Market surveys famously said the ultimate demand for computers was five units. That people didn’t need Xeroxes because they would never need more than three copies of anything and carbon paper could handle it. That cellular phone demand was limited. That the Sony Walkman would be a flop. Market research can be invaluable in getting reactions to an idea once it is fully formed and tangibly demonstrated to the customer. It rarely, however, finds the latent need.

Our approach takes a middle path between the two extremes of boundless speculation and quantitative data analysis. When you ask questions that create new boxes to think inside, you can prevent people from getting lost in the cosmos and give them a basis for making and comparing choices and for knowing whether they’re making progress. But posing the right questions is only half the battle. How you organize and conduct brainstorming sessions also matters enormously. You must redesign your ideation processes so that they remove obstacles that interfere with the flow of ideas—such as most people’s aversion to speaking in groups of more than ten. We’ll talk about the process of structuring an effective brainstorming session in a moment. But first, let’s examine more closely where great questions come from.

Asking the Right Questions

In conducting its research ten years ago, the McKinsey team learned of a study by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, then a psychology professor at the University of Chicago. In its descriptions of how Nobel laureates and other creative people achieved their breakthroughs, an interesting insight emerged: Once they asked themselves the right question, their ideas flowed rapidly. This revelation prompted us to examine how the most successful companies in recent history had achieved their positions. We looked at two groups: The first were already large companies that became industry-shaping enterprises in a relatively short time. The second grew from garage-based start-ups into firms with more than $1 billion in (profitable) sales in less than six years. In every case, their successes were built on breakthrough ideas that redefined the products and services in their markets.

We found that a number of their innovations sprang from responses to particular questions. But, subsequently, we realized that it didn’t matter whether they had actually asked a question or not. What mattered was whether there was a question that could have uncovered the kind of extraordinary opportunities that CNN, Google, USA Today, eBay, and Amazon identified and exploited.

We then zeroed in on 50 breakthrough ideas from a spectrum of industries and reverse engineered them to find the focused questions that could have led any intelligent manager to the same epiphany. Obviously, some of the questions were specific to their industries. However, we found many that are universally applicable, including those featured in the exhibit “21 Great Questions for Developing New Products.”

One question that can generate insights in any business is, “What is the biggest hassle about using or buying our product or service that people unnecessarily tolerate without knowing it?” Entrepreneurs who focused on eliminating such hassles gave us Jiffy Lube (on demand, fast turnaround oil changes), CarMax (used cars with warranties purchased in a pleasant environment at reasonable, fixed prices), prepaid cell phones that can be bought off-the-shelf (thus avoiding the 20-minute setup process and the risk of racking up unexpectedly high phone bills), and something as low-tech as single-use packages of real fire logs (for those who have no place to store a cord of wood).

The world is still full of such opportunities. Take gasoline retailing. What’s the biggest “invisible” hassle? Having to go to a gas station. The average car is driven only about 500 hours a year and sits somewhere—often in a large parking lot—for the remaining 95% of the time. What if a small tanker truck could visit that parking lot and fill up any subscriber’s vehicle displaying a “please fill this car” flag? Would it work? Operational issues would have to be overcome, of course. But just ask any motorist pumping gas at a self-service station on a cold, rainy day how he or she likes the idea.

The same questions can, of course, lead to different ideas. Consider the opportunities that different divisions of a bank might generate by pondering the question, “For which subset of users are the procedures associated with our product least suited?” This exercise could prompt the lending department to focus on marginally profitable loans to small businesses for which the paperwork is burdensome to both sides. One possible remedy the bank might offer: industrial pawn shops, which, like their consumer counterparts, would allow a business to secure a loan by parking an asset in exchange, minimizing the need for documentation. The same question could spark the bank’s credit card division to think about which potential customers might not be well represented in the credit-history databases owned by external credit bureaus. This line of questioning could lead to a business initiative aimed at marketing credit cards to immigrants who have good credit histories in their home countries but no credit history in the United States. Similarly, asking, “Who does not use my product for one particular reason?” has already led to the creation of several museums for the blind, where information is delivered through aural, tactile, and olfactory sensations.

The most fertile questions focus the mind on a subset of possibilities that differ markedly from those explored before, guiding people to valuable overlooked corners of the universe of possible improvements. To develop your own list, ask yourself every time you come across a new business idea that you think is really clever, “What question would have caused me to see this opportunity first?” In other words, reverse engineer every great idea or innovation you see. That’s what we did to invent the question about the ice cream, Rollerblades, and Spider-Man that we use in our warm-up exercise. Using this approach, we have built and tested an arsenal of more than 250 questions.

The most fertile questions focus the mind on valuable overlooked corners of the universe of possible improvements.

Should you want to be more systematic about the search for new questions, you can employ a simple logic tree that starts with a high-level question and successively breaks it down into more tightly defined probes. This rigor has proven useful even in unusual settings. For example, imagine you are the editor of a trendy mass-market magazine that covers popular music. Your articles consist mainly of interviews with and profiles of new bands, singers, and occasionally a venerable star. But the formula is getting tired. A simple tool like the exhibit “A Music Magazine’s Logic Tree for Generating Fresh Article Ideas” could assist you in pursuing a much wider range of story angles on the same trends and keep readers engaged.

We have found that the right level of abstraction tends to occur about three to six levels down the tree. If you stop at the first level, the question would be too broad; if you were to continue too far down, the questions would start becoming too specific to generate useful answers. In addition to aiding you in coming up with novel ideas, such trees can also help you see when you are stuck in a rut and are producing conceptually similar ideas. If all your ideas originate from the same few questions, you’ll profit substantially from exploring the other branches of the tree.

Better Orchestrating the Process

The fact is, virtually all brainstorming sessions violate the fundamentals of how human beings actually think and work together. Consider the following all-too-familiar situation.

About 20 people—most of them chosen for political reasons—gather in a room. The leader is either their boss, whose presence makes some people reluctant to offer what may be perceived as a silly idea, or a “creativity moderator,” who neither understands the business nor thinks he should have to. Three pushy people dominate the session with their pet ideas, while the others sit in silence. After the group is instructed to think outside the box, ideas pop up randomly: “Let’s paint it blue!” “We can sell it in Germany.” “How about an upscale version?” “The problem is the sales force.” Since “there are no bad ideas,” preposterous dreams consume much of the time and energy. (“If we could invent a cheap pill that could substitute for gasoline….”) Finally, because everyone knows you cannot force people to come up with good ideas, participants think it’s okay to produce nothing—or to not follow up on anything the workshop did create.

Now let’s adjust the process, aligning each step with what we know about how people work best in groups:

Bound the range of acceptable ideas, then select and tailor the questions accordingly.

How often have you heard someone say after a brainstorming session, “I had thought of that but didn’t say it because I didn’t think it was the kind of idea you were looking for”? How often have you been presented with ideas that were patently infeasible given your budget, staffing, or time constraints? How often have people offered up incremental steps when you were looking for a big idea? All of these problems are easily avoided if you take the time, before the meeting, to clarify what constitutes the criteria for, and boundaries of, a good idea in your particular case. Do you want big ideas or safe, surefire winners? How much money can the company afford to spend? What level of staffing is the company willing to commit? How soon do you need a payback?

Then consider the particular requirements of the problem you’re trying to solve. That will help you avoid asking questions that will lead to the same insight. For example, if all customers can use your product in only one way (like large cranes used inside industrial plants), it doesn’t pay to ask, “For which current customers are our products least suited?” and also, “For what particular usage occasions is our product least suited?” since in this case, those questions will result in the same answer. However, those two questions might produce excellent and distinct insights in situations where each customer uses the product in several ways and the customers are themselves quite different from one another (which is the case for automobiles, for example). When choosing among possible questions, go for those that approach the problem from angles that are as far as possible from the ways you have approached it in the past. As a whole, think of the series of questions as a portfolio, each one creating a distinct box that comes at your situation from a different point of view.

Once you’ve settled these parameters, you will be able to tailor the language of your questions to best fit your specific goals and constraints. The wording of questions that will generate radical ideas differs substantially from that which will generate moderate, low-risk ideas. On the one hand, for example, a leader of a computer vendor who asked his senior managers in the late 1980s, “How can I reduce costs?” would probably have elicited solid but incremental ideas like “consolidate shipments” or “reduce store staffing.” On the other hand, asking them, “What element of our business would we have to eliminate to cut costs 50%, and are there customers who do not need that element?” could have led the vendor to beat Michael Dell in pioneering the mail-order distribution model that so successfully challenged the retail store approach to selling personal computers.

The number of questions in your portfolio will depend on the size of your brainstorming group and the time available. For reasons that will become obvious below, you will need one question for every four or five participants every 30 minutes. However, you might consider giving your best question or two to more than one group if you can’t think of enough excellent questions to go around. Finally, test each question on yourself. Which ones make you think of the most ideas?

Select participants who can produce original insights.

Sure, you always have to invite some people for political reasons who will not contribute much. But make sure there are enough other people who can contribute. If, for instance, you intend to ask, “Who is using our product in ways we did not expect or intend?” or “Who is using our product in enormous amounts?” you should plan to include participants who are in a position to know firsthand. There’s a very good chance these people will not be on your own staff and may be found in unexpected places. For example, the surprising potential for a line of foods aimed at elderly consumers was discovered a number of years ago by a sales manager who found that one of his reps in Florida sold much more baby food than his territory’s demographics suggested should be possible. Eventually, the salesman revealed his secret: People in nursing homes were eating the baby food. Similarly, mountain bikes were the result of bicycle manufacturers learning about a subset of customers who, having subjected their bikes to extreme abuse, kept replacing them very frequently.

Ensure that everyone is fully engaged.

You must accept that under normal brainstorming circumstances most of your attendees will care less about the success of the meeting than you do. Therefore, don’t be shy about resorting to parlor tricks. We once had the top six executives of a $100 billion company working full tilt because each had bet $20 that his team could come up with the best idea. If a small trick could inspire those multimillionaires, imagine what you could do with your participants. Perhaps you could let the winning team pick the color of the logo on the final product or appear as extras in a television ad. Whatever the incentive, its purpose is clear: getting 100% of the participants to work at 100% of their capacity 100% of the session.

We once had the top six executives of a $100 billion company working full tilt because each had bet $20 that his team could come up with the best idea.

Structure the meeting to ensure social norms work for you, not against you.

In almost all meetings of ten or more people, the social norm is to keep quiet or to speak only a minimum amount. A few pushy people break this rule, and the others let them fill the airtime. In contrast, observe what happens when a manager breaks a 20-person session into groups of four. First, in any group of four, the social norm is for everyone to participate, so no one can hide without seeming uncooperative. Second, if there are five subgroups instead of one combined group, five people rather than just one are offering their ideas at any given time. Finally, put all those pushy people who feel compelled to dominate the discussion in the same group. That will prevent them from silencing the 16 people in the other groups.

Put all those pushy people who feel compelled to dominate the discussion in the same group. That will prevent them from silencing the 16 people in the other groups.

Focus every discussion using your preselected questions.

At the outset of the meeting, explicitly state the ground rules you’ve decided on—whether you want big ideas or incremental improvements, what the budget is, and so on. Don’t worry about stifling creativity. It is precisely such boundaries—the outline of your new box—that will channel their creativity.

Then, once you’ve divided people up into their small groups, give each a single highly focused task. Have them spend 20 to 30 minutes discussing one question and report back to everyone the best ideas that came from just that question. Here’s what typically happens: The first five minutes of each session sound like any other brainstorming meeting. But then the participants return to the better ideas and refine them. Thoughtful variants emerge. The interplay results in complex, multilayered notions that have a higher likelihood of growing into a true killer idea.

Do not rely solely on one brainstorming session.

It is surprising how many managers limit the participation of others in their ideation effort to one workshop. That, again, ignores how people actually think and work together. Some individuals don’t work well in a workshop format, no matter how well structured the session is. What’s more, the legitimate answer to some questions is “I don’t know, but we could find out if this workshop weren’t ending at 5:00.” And sometimes the ideas keep improving over time. For all these reasons, brainstorming should be a multifaceted process, not a single event. You might, for instance, assign someone before the workshop to gather data; you might need to schedule a follow-up meeting or two; or you might just need to provide a way to gather additional information from individuals after the session.

Narrow the list of ideas to the ones you will seriously investigate right away.

Nothing is more deflating to the participants of a brainstorming session than leaving at the end with no confidence that anything will happen as a result of their efforts. So don’t push off the task of sorting the ideas to later. Do it right then and there. For most ideation sessions, the selection process does not have to be complex. If you wait until some later point to sort the ideas, the odds are overwhelming that nothing will come from the effort.

Don’t push off the task of sorting the ideas to later. Do it right then and there.

In sharp contrast to traditional brainstorming, our process typically generates a surfeit of constructive ideas. A 20-person workshop produces about 20 ideas an hour, on average. Thus, the eight hours of idea generation that normally occurs in a two-day workshop generates more than 150 ideas! True, usually about a quarter are awful, and only about half of the others will be worthy of serious consideration. However, that still leaves some 50 ideas to choose from. Many managers are reluctant to pick winners out of fear of disappointing those whose ideas are not selected. This is a mistake. Most people prefer the choice to be made in front of them so they can learn from your thought process and produce better ideas next time.• • •

When you introduce our think-inside-the-box approach in your organization, keep in mind one other basic law of human dynamics: People are nervous about change. It could take time and effort to coax all those quiet, thoughtful souls who have hated traditional brainstorming sessions dominated by blowhards to emerge from the shadows and open up. They may come mentally unprepared to participate the first time and may not have done their homework. After all, they never had to be on their toes before in quite this way. However, most, if not all, of them eventually will see and appreciate the change. Within the safe confines of new boxes, they will shower you with good, and great, ideas. Then it will be your job to turn those ideas into profitable reality.

A version of this article appeared in the December 2007 issue of Harvard Business Review.

Creativity - WRITING

Writing a short essay.

Write an essay addressing the following questions:

  • Why is thinking inside the box important?
  • What is its advantage?
  • What are the two points presented in the articles?
  • What is your personal opinion? Should you think inside or outside the box?

Paste your text in the form below.


Innovation vs. change - WRITING

Do you agree with the following statement:

Innovation happens when you are trying to introduce something new. It's good then. 
Change happens when somebody is trying to do it to you. It's terrible.

Write a short text (3-5 paragraphs) essay explaining your opinion and giving arguments. (For reference go to the Writing unit).


Design Thinking Comes of Age (source)

ere’s a shift under way in large organizations, one that puts design much closer to the center of the enterprise. But the shift isn’t about aesthetics. It’s about applying the principles of design to the way people work.

This new approach is in large part a response to the increasing complexity of modern technology and modern business. That complexity takes many forms. Sometimes software is at the center of a product and needs to be integrated with hardware (itself a complex task) and made intuitive and simple from the user’s point of view (another difficult challenge). Sometimes the problem being tackled is itself multi-faceted: Think about how much tougher it is to reinvent a health care delivery system than to design a shoe. And sometimes the business environment is so volatile that a company must experiment with multiple paths in order to survive.

I could list a dozen other types of complexity that businesses grapple with every day. But here’s what they all have in common: People need help making sense of them. Specifically, people need their interactions with technologies and other complex systems to be simple, intuitive, and pleasurable.

A set of principles collectively known as design thinking—empathy with users, a discipline of prototyping, and tolerance for failure chief among them—is the best tool we have for creating those kinds of interactions and developing a responsive, flexible organizational culture.

What Is a Design-Centric Culture?

If you were around during the late-1990s dot-com craze, you may think of designers as 20-somethings shooting Nerf darts across an office that looks more like a bar. Because design has historically been equated with aesthetics and craft, designers have been celebrated as artistic savants. But a design-centric culture transcends design as a role, imparting a set of principles to all people who help bring ideas to life. Let’s consider those principles.

Focus on users’ experiences, especially their emotional ones.

To build empathy with users, a design-centric organization empowers employees to observe behavior and draw conclusions about what people want and need. Those conclusions are tremendously hard to express in quantitative language. Instead, organizations that “get” design use emotional language (words that concern desires, aspirations, engagement, and experience) to describe products and users. Team members discuss the emotional resonance of a value proposition as much as they discuss utility and product requirements.

A traditional value proposition is a promise of utility: If you buy a Lexus, the automaker promises that you will receive safe and comfortable transportation in a well-designed high-performance vehicle. An emotional value proposition is a promise of feeling: If you buy a Lexus, the automaker promises that you will feel pampered, luxurious, and affluent. In design-centric organizations, emotionally charged language isn’t denigrated as thin, silly, or biased. Strategic conversations in those companies frequently address how a business decision or a market trajectory will positively influence users’ experiences and often acknowledge only implicitly that well-designed offerings contribute to financial success.

The focus on great experiences isn’t limited to product designers, marketers, and strategists—it infuses every customer-facing function. Take finance. Typically, its only contact with users is through invoices and payment systems, which are designed for internal business optimization or predetermined “customer requirements.” But those systems are touch points that shape a customer’s impression of the company. In a culture focused on customer experience, financial touch points are designed around users’ needs rather than internal operational efficiencies.

Create models to examine complex problems.

Design thinking, first used to make physical objects, is increasingly being applied to complex, intangible issues, such as how a customer experiences a service. Regardless of the context, design thinkers tend to use physical models, also known as design artifacts, to explore, define, and communicate. Those models—primarily diagrams and sketches—supplement and in some cases replace the spreadsheets, specifications, and other documents that have come to define the traditional organizational environment. They add a fluid dimension to the exploration of complexity, allowing for nonlinear thought when tackling nonlinear problems.

For example, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Center for Innovation has used a design artifact called a customer journey map to understand veterans’ emotional highs and lows in their interactions with the VA. “This form of artifact helped us better tell a story to various stakeholders,” says Melissa Chapman, a designer who worked at the Center for Innovation. Even more important, she adds, it “helped us develop a strategic way to think about changing the entire organization and to communicate that emergent strategy.” The customer journey map and other design models are tools for understanding. They present alternative ways of looking at a problem.

Use prototypes to explore potential solutions.

In design-centric organizations, you’ll typically see prototypes of new ideas, new products, and new services scattered throughout offices and meeting rooms. Whereas diagrams such as customer journey maps explore the problem space, prototypes explore the solution space. They may be digital, physical, or diagrammatic, but in all cases they are a way to communicate ideas. The habit of publicly displaying rough prototypes hints at an open-minded culture, one that values exploration and experimentation over rule following. The MIT Media Lab formalizes this in its motto, “Demo or die,” which recognizes that only the act of prototyping can transform an idea into something truly valuable—on their own, ideas are a dime a dozen. Design-centric companies aren’t shy about tinkering with ideas in a public forum and tend to iterate quickly on prototypes—an activity that the innovation expert Michael Schrage refers to as “serious play.” In his book of that title, he writes that innovation is “more social than personal.” He adds, “Prototyping is probably the single most pragmatic behavior the innovative firm can practice.”

Tolerate failure.

A design culture is nurturing. It doesn’t encourage failure, but the iterative nature of the design process recognizes that it’s rare to get things right the first time. Apple is celebrated for its successes, but a little digging uncovers the Newton tablet, the Pippin gaming system, and the Copland operating system—products that didn’t fare so well. (Pippin and Copland were discontinued after only two years.) The company leverages failure as learning, viewing it as part of the cost of innovation.

Greg Petroff, the chief experience officer at GE Software, explains how the iterative process works at GE: “GE is moving away from a model of exhaustive product requirements. Teams learn what to do in the process of doing it, iterating, and pivoting.” Employees in every aspect of the business must realize that they can take social risks—putting forth half-baked ideas, for instance—without losing face or experiencing punitive repercussions.

Exhibit thoughtful restraint.

Many products built on an emotional value proposition are simpler than competitors’ offerings. This restraint grows out of deliberate decisions about what the product should do and, just as important, what it should not do. By removing features, a company offers customers a clear, simple experience. The thermostat Nest—inside, a complex piece of technology—provides fewer outward-facing functions than other thermostats, thus delivering an emotional experience that reflects the design culture of the company. As CEO Tony Fadell said in an interview published in Inc., “At the end of the day you have to espouse a feeling—in your advertisements, in your products. And that feeling comes from your gut.”

Square’s mobile app Cash lets you do one thing: send money to a friend. “I think I’m just an editor, and I think every CEO is an editor,” wrote Jack Dorsey, Square’s CEO. “We have all these inputs, we have all these places that we could go…but we need to present one cohesive story to the world.” In organizations like Square, you’ll find product leaders saying no much more than they say yes. Rather than chase the market with follow-on features, they lead the market with a constrained focus.

What Types of Companies Are Making This Change?

As industry giants such as IBM and GE realize that software is a fundamental part of their businesses, they are also recognizing the extraordinary levels of complexity they must manage. Design thinking is an essential tool for simplifying and humanizing. It can’t be extra; it needs to be a core competence.

“There’s no longer any real distinction between business strategy and the design of the user experience,” said Bridget van Kralingen, the senior vice president of IBM Global Business Services, in a statement to the press. In November 2013 IBM opened a design studio in Austin, Texas—part of the company’s $100 million investment in building a massive design organization. As Phil Gilbert, the general manager of the effort, explained in a press release, “Quite simply, our goal—on a scale unmatched in the industry—is to modernize enterprise software for today’s user, who demands great design everywhere, at home and at work.” The company intends to hire 1,000 designers.

When I was at the company frog design, GE hired us to help formalize and disseminate language, tools, and success metrics to support its emergent design practice. Dave Cronin, GE’s executive design director for industrial internet applications, describes how the company came to realize that it was not just in the business of making physical products but had become one of the largest software providers in the world. The complexity of this software was overwhelming, so his team turned to design. “Our mandate was to create products, but also to enable nimble innovation,” Cronin says. “That’s a pretty tall order—we were asked to perform design at scale and along the way create cultural change.”

Design thinking is an essential tool for simplifying and humanizing.

IBM and GE are hardly alone. Every established company that has moved from products to services, from hardware to software, or from physical to digital products needs to focus anew on user experience. Every established company that intends to globalize its business must invent processes that can adjust to different cultural contexts. And every established company that chooses to compete on innovation rather than efficiency must be able to define problems artfully and experiment its way to solutions. (For more on the last shift, see “How Samsung Became a Design Powerhouse” in this issue.)

The pursuit of design isn’t limited to large brand-name corporations; the big strategy-consulting firms are also gearing up for this new world, often by acquiring leading providers of design services. In the past few years, Deloitte acquired Doblin, Accenture acquired Fjord, and McKinsey acquired Lunar. Olof Schybergson, the founder of Fjord, views design thinking’s empathetic stance as fundamental to business success. As he told an interviewer, “Going direct to consumers is a big disruptor….There are new opportunities to gather data and insights about consumer behavior, likes, dislikes….Those who have data and an appetite for innovation will prevail.” These acquisitions suggest that design is becoming table stakes for high-value corporate consulting—an expected part of a portfolio of business services.

What Are the Challenges?

Several years ago, I consulted for a large entertainment company that had tucked design away in a select group of “creatives.” The company was excited about introducing technology into its theme parks and recognized that a successful visitor experience would hinge on good design. And so it became apparent that the entire organization needed to embrace design as a core competence. This shift is never an easy one. Like many organizations with entrenched cultures that have been successful for many years, the company faced several hurdles.

Accepting more ambiguity.

The entertainment company operates globally, so it values repeatable, predictable operational efficiency in support of quarterly profit reporting. Because the introduction of technology into the parks represented a massive capital expenditure, there was pressure for a guarantee of a healthy return. Design, however, doesn’t conform easily to estimates. It’s difficult if not impossible to understand how much value will be delivered through a better experience or to calculate the return on an investment in creativity.

Embracing risk.

Transformative innovation is inherently risky. It involves inferences and leaps of faith; if something hasn’t been done before, there’s no way to guarantee its outcome. The philosopher Charles Peirce said that insights come to us “like a flash”—in an epiphany—making them difficult to rationalize or defend. Leaders need to create a culture that allows people to take chances and move forward without a complete, logical understanding of a problem. Our partners at the entertainment company were empowered to hire a design consultancy, and the organization recognized that the undertaking was no sure thing.

Resetting expectations.

As corporate leaders become aware of the power of design, many view design thinking as a solution to all their woes. Designers, enjoying their new level of strategic influence, often reinforce that impression. When I worked with the entertainment company, I was part of that problem, primarily because my livelihood depended on selling design consulting. But design doesn’t solve all problems. It helps people and organizations cut through complexity. It’s great for innovation. It works extremely well for imagining the future. But it’s not the right set of tools for optimizing, streamlining, or otherwise operating a stable business. Additionally, even if expectations are set appropriately, they must be aligned around a realistic timeline—culture changes slowly in large organizations.

An organizational focus on design offers unique opportunities for humanizing technology and for developing emotionally resonant products and services. Adopting this perspective isn’t easy. But doing so helps create a workplace where people want to be, one that responds quickly to changing business dynamics and empowers individual contributors. And because design is empathetic, it implicitly drives a more thoughtful, human approach to business.



In your own words describe what design thinking is. How can it be used in everyday life? In your job? In education?

Make a 7-10 minute presentation covering this topic.

Unit completion

  • YES
  • NO
I have completed the unit.

Describing trends

Trend describing Vocabulary


Economy trends - SPEAKING



Answer the questions:

  1. What is the forecast for the growth of the gross domestic product for the coming years, according to the graph?
  2. What do you think might the impact be on the global and your local economy?

Talking about trends - SPEAKING

Choose 1 of the infographics and comment on it according to the instruction.


1. Trends in Social Media.

Comment on this infographic.

  1. Do you agree?
  2. Do you yourself use social media for business and private purposes?
  3. What is the role of social media in your life?


2. Analyze the trends in travel and vacationing.

Comment on this infographic.

  1. Do you agree?
  2. Do you yourself travel?
  3. What type of holidays do you choose for? Why?

Unit completion

  • YES
  • NO
I have completed the unit.


Finance and banking vocabulary - WATCHING & SPEAKING

Watch this interesting video on finance vocabulary. It will point to the crucial areas.

Answer the questions.

  • Which finance aspects are mentioned?
  • Has it been known to you? If not, what has been new?
  • Which aspect are the most valuable to you? Why?
  • What are the greatest financial problems in the world today?


You might also want to go over the vocabulary below.

Mind you! This section is huge. There is a lot to mull over. You might want to choose the aspects that are superimportant to you.


Unit completion

  • YES
  • NO
I have completed the unit.


HR extended Vocabulary

Go over the vocabulary connected to Human Resources.

It involved employment issues, employee management, onboarding.


Recruitment - READING

Read these 10 recruitment stories and then answer the questions.

job interview

Top 10 Recruiter Horror Stories (source)

I’m sure most recruiters have had their share of “horror” when it comes to the hiring process. Sifting through a ton of resumes, the hassle of scheduling interviews, stressing out about meeting deadlines and producing a quality hire.

Though most job seekers may think working with recruiters can be scary, a great deal of recruiters know that “spooky” feeling can be mutual.

So, in the spirit of the holiday, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 recruiter horror stories from across the web. Maybe you’ll get a chuckle if any of these experiences mirror your own, or maybe you’ll get a “chill” from these shocking tales. Enjoy!

1. Eerie Handshake

 “While in the restroom washing my hands I noticed someone walk out of the bathroom stall without washing his hands, ‘Gross,’ I thought. I went back to my office and the receptionist rang to inform me my 1:30 appointment was in the lobby. Low and behold my 1:30 was the person from the bathroom. I met the candidate at the front and sure enough he reached out to shake my hand. I told him that I had arthritis, so I was unable to shake his hand.” – Chris Lawson, CEO, Eli Daniel Group.

2. Real Life Fatal Attraction

One of the creepiest recruiting tales I have heard involved the woman who, during her interview, asked the hiring manager interviewing her out on a date! Appropriately, the hiring manager responded by professionally ending the interview and turning down the candidate for the job. But the candidate was not to be deterred.

The next day, using the security badge she had used during her interview (Note to security: turn these badges off at the end of the appointment!), the candidate returned to the campus, set herself up beneath the hiring manager’s window with a portable karaoke machine, and began to serenade her with the Carpenters’ “Don’t You Remember You Said You Loved Me Baby.” The candidate was eventually escorted off the campus, but not before she had finished the song and thoroughly embarrassed the interviewer.

3. The “Skinless” Man

An applicant showed up for a job interview wearing a noticeably greasy, see-through white dress shirt and bottle-lens eye glasses being held together by tape. He also sported a comb over covering only the front half of his head, so when he turned to the side, there was a large, exposed bald area. The icing on the cake? Severe skin shedding. During the interview, the candidate repeatedly scratched his head and arms, causing large flakes of skin to fall onto the table and onto his clothing. By the end of the interview, the table was covered with a thin layer of skin flakes.

4. Case of the Disappearing Worker

John was a candidate of mine in Texas who interviewed for, and then accepted a great job as a Territory Sales Manager with a Medical Device company based in Boston that I was working with. After only one week on the job in Texas, he disappeared. No phone calls, no emails, no returned messages. He was MIA when the company’s CEO flew down to Texas for a scheduled meeting. A couple of weeks later, I found out from John’s sister, who called me looking for his new boss’s contact information, that John was in jail awaiting trial for a domestic violence charge! Many months later, John called and told me that he had been falsely accused (or so he claimed) of assaulting his ex-wife in a bar. She was now dating a cop, who pulled some strings and kept John in jail without bail! He had been too embarrassed to call his new boss and explain where he was. Needless to say, I lost that commission.

5. Receptionist by Day, Madam by Night

A recruiting manager hired a receptionist who during her employment used the ER as her primary care physician and ran an escort service on the side.

6. Attack of the job seeker

“A job-seeker waited by the CEO’s car, and when the CEO got in the car, [the candidate] started knocking on the window.” —Simmons of Netshare

7. TMI

“A girl I interviewed for the position of sales rep got a call from her boyfriend,” says Joshua Weiss, CEO of TeliApp Corporation. The content of the call had to do with an unprotected intimate encounter the night before, he says.

“How do I know this?” Weiss explains. “Because she took the call during the interview and had a screaming match with her boyfriend right in front me. Needless to say, she didn’t get the job.”

8. Fugitive on the Run

“The candidate said that by crossing the Maryland state line he was in violation of his probation but felt the interview was worth risking possible jail time.” —Jim Solomone, Software AG

9. What’s that Yellow Stuff?

“I am a recruiter. One day a colleague of mine was interviewing a candidate — and the candidate peed in her chair! The irony of it was that she was also an executive recruiter.” —Ruthanne Feinberg, Acuitas Search, San Francisco.

10. Color me Black

“A guy who forgot dark socks to wear with his suit colored in his ankles with a black felt-tip marker.”—Scott Langerman, Comcast SportsNet


Answer the questions:

  1. Which of the stories do you find the weirdest? Why?
  2. Do you have any creepy job interview stories yourself? If yes, what is it?

Unit completion

  • YES
  • NO
I have completed the unit.

Leadership and charisma

Overcoming charisma - READING

Read the Forbes article on charisma then study the vocabulary.

Overcoming Charisma

It was Max Weber, the great sociologist of the early 20th century, who first made the link, which now seems obvious, between leadership and charisma. Compared with “rational” leadership, whereby the leader derives his or her authority from a set of rules, charismatic leadership depends on the leader’s very personage.

But what is charisma? By definition, it eludes definition. It is precisely the ineffable X, the secret sauce or magic ingredient that can’t be pinned down. However, if its essence is obscure, its effects can’t be ignored. Charisma seduces people, who willingly go along with the seducer. Perhaps it equals persuasion without force.

All well and good, but the seductive powers of the charismatic leader aren’t intrinsically benevolent. Just because you can persuade someone without force doesn’t mean you’ll persuade them to do good. Charisma is an instrument of the will, and if that will is set on harm, you’d better watch out. Hence the moral ambivalence of charisma. It can be exploited for malfeasance. The devil wears charisma.

Precisely because of this moral ambivalence, the ultimate depiction of the charismatic leader must be George Orwell's Big Brother in 1984. He presents himself as benign, but he oozes a background malignity as dark and slick as engine oil. Except that he never presents himself at all. Big Brother's charisma is founded largely in absence. He is portrayed everywhere, but like some real totalitarian leaders, he doesn't appear in person. Thankfully, we have a concept of charisma that's not so morally circumscribed. It's called presence, not least because it's not afraid to be present and doesn't lurk behind screens like Big Brother. Presence is a being there without the hidden agenda that casts a shadow over charisma, without, that is, the sense of personal gain that lies behind it.

Obviously enough, the person who has presence is present, i.e., there's nothing he or she is not bringing into the room, no sense of being preoccupied or distracted, no absence to dilute the being there. It's even more compelling than charisma, for the person blessed with true presence makes you feel that the most important thing in the world is happening right here, right now. The person with presence, in other words, is a living event. It's an obvious and topical example, perhaps, but Nelson Mandela would appear to have such presence. His magnetism arises from the sense that he is there to do a job, not just to bask in glory or attract fans.

But if that still suggests something too cultish, something a leader might shy away from as too celebrity-like or demagogic, it's actually the far more practical attribute. Where the charismatic leader attracts attention to himself or herself, the leader with presence stays focused on the moment, and on what needs to be done. Presence isn't about the person but about being present for the problem that needs to be solved. We know this from our experience of people who are said to have stage presence. The moment they walk on, we're in their grip and we're in their grip because they are so in the grip of the situation they've walked into. Where inferior actors worry about how they're doing, and whether they'll fluff the next line, the actor with presence will live completely in the moment, as if--to reverse Shakespeare's adage--a stage is the world. Their saturation in the immediacy of their predicament then infects the audience, which becomes equally saturated in what's going on, in what you might call dramatic empathy. The leader with presence is like that actor. His immersion in the urgency of what is brings others in; it compels them into sharing his agenda. There's none of the manipulation involved in charisma, for what matters is the situation and the leader's ability to become infused with it, to own it, to make it a matter of utmost concern. Where charisma ends in adulation, presence leads to action.

The lesson is that when we become besotted with charismatic people, we should beware. It's the same feeling that makes us vulnerable to a Big Brother. Far better to look in a leader for those Mandela-like qualities of presence, to believe that the person you're beholding is there to get something done because it's more important than he is. Apply this to the contemporary scene, if you will. With Sarah Palin, you have someone desperately trying to gain in charisma through media manipulation. Gradually she's getting there, but as for presence, she's a long, long way off.

Charisma is a fundamentally narcissistic quality, and she appears to have no deficit of that, but as for the altruism that comes with presence, it couldn't appear further from her concerns. Does she have a counterpart with real presence? Does Barack Obama meet the presence test? The truth is that he doesn't yet have the maturity not to be caught between the two. He's still flattered by the image of himself as charismatic, but that image in the long run is corrupting. He's best  when he focuses on the presence side of things, when he's gearing up to do what's right for others, not what makes him feel good.



Study the vocabulary:


How to be charismatic? - SPEAKING

Watch this video by Aaron Marino then answer the following questions:

  1. Do you consider him charismatic? Why?/Why not? Justify.
  2. What are the key features of a charismatic person.
  3. Does a leader need to be charismatic? Why?Why not. Justify.

Leaders and leadership - SPEAKING

Answer these questions:

  • Define leadership. What is that?
  • Who is a leader? 
  • What is the difference between a leader and a manager?

Analyze the list of characteristics a good leader should have.


  • Choose 3 key aspects and justify your choice. Why should a leader possess these 3 qualities?

Unit completion

  • YES
  • NO
I have completed the unit.


Unit completion

  • YES
  • NO
I have completed the unit.

Marketing and market research

Viral videos and creativity - SPEAKING

Viral videos and creativity

Watch this video gone viral. Explain what "viral videos" means. Do you have your favorite viral video? What is is about and why do you like it?

Then read the short text and answer the questions:

Could Watching Viral Videos Enhance Creative Thinking? (source)

Why are workers prone to sending each other pictures of cuddly animals or viral videos that elicit stifled giggles in cubicles around the world? New research suggests that people use these types of so-called distractions to subconsciously boost their moods, which can lead to increased creativity and better problem solving in the workplace.

Researchers from the University of Western Ontario divided study participants into three groups and put them into specific moods using music and video. The first group listened to an upbeat Mozart piece and watched a video of a laughing baby; the second listened to a musical score from the movie Schindler's List and watched a news report about an earthquake; and the third listened to music and watched a video that were shown not to affect mood. Volunteers were then asked to learn to recognize a pattern that existed in a problem.

The results of the study, which were published in Psychological Science, the journal of the Association for Psychological Science, showed that the participants in the happy group were vastly better at discerning the pattern than those who were put into negative or neutral moods.

Ruby Nadler, one of the study researchers and a graduate student at the University of Ontario, said the takeaway from this study was that positive moods are helpful in enhancing creative problem solving, while also promoting flexible and careful thinking. "If you have a project where you want to think innovatively, or you have a problem to carefully consider, being in a positive mood can help you to do that," Nadler said in a news release for the Association for Psychological Science. 

So next time your co-worker sends you a link to the latest laugh-inducing viral video, take a moment to check it out before tackling the most complicated item on your to-do list. Your boss will thank you.

Answer these questions:

  1. What is the main thesis of the article? What example supports it (in the 1st paragraph)?

  2. What are viral videos?

  3. How do viral videos work in the article? Describe the mechanism of the experiment.

  4. What were the effects of the experiment?

  5. Why do you think the result take such a form?

  6. Why does it/doesn't it work for you?

  7. Have you ever heard about viral marketing? What is it?

  8. Have you ever given in to something advertised in this way?

  9. Think of your own example of a viral video / viral marketing video/theme etc. 

  10. In which cases (for what sort of products) does it work best in your opinion?

Marketing and advertising - PRESENTATION

What is the difference between marketing and advertising? If you don't know the exact different it is a good opportunity to do some research. Make a short (3-5 minute) presentation explaining the difference.

Unit completion

  • YES
  • NO
I have completed the unit.

Meetings and presentations

How to give a presentation?

How to sound smart in your TEDx

In this TED video te presenter talks about the basic steps of a successful presentation. He is using humor to make his point. Watch the video and note down the key aspects of a successful presentation.

Do you agree with it? Why?/ Why not?


Now take the quiz to see if you were right.

  • tone of voice
  • talking a lot
  • making gestures
  • taking off/putting on the glasses
  • starting off with showing nervoussness
  • making pauses
  • putting a lot of text on your slides
  • reading from your slides
  • pointing to your slides
Choose all the key aspects of a successful presentation

Do you like presenting? - PRESENTATION

Are you a natural born showperson... eeee... presenter?

How do you feel giving presentations? Is is grist to your mill? Or maybe it is your worst nightmare? Answer this question in a short presentation.


  • Liking or disliking giving public presentations.
  • Giving reasons for that.
  • Your best and worst presenting experience.
  • The type of presentation you like/dislike the most. Justify.


When You’ve Had One Meeting Too Many (source)

HAVE you started holding meetings in the office restroom?

I run a management consulting firm, and one of our clients found herself in that situation. As a senior leader in a large organization, she found that her days were filled with back-to-back meetings and conference calls. Because her direct reports were unlikely to find her at her desk for very long, they started following her into the restroom, file folders in hand, to get answers to their many questions. (Actually, of course, only the women could do that. The men waited for her outside the door.)

Like my client, a majority of executives spend a significant percentage of their workdays in meetings. And the higher their rank, the worse the situation. Top executives bear the brunt of the burden, but our meeting-intensive culture affects employees at all levels. Just look around your office. Where is everybody?

The meeting culture that is dominating corporate America is unsustainable and unproductive. How many meetings did you attend last week that didn’t even have an agenda? How many resulted in a new idea? And at how many meetings did you think, “Why am I even here?”

Time is a commodity. And time spent in a meeting should generate a return on investment. But how often do we think about our time that way, and set expectations for meetings to produce real returns? In my experience working with Fortune 500 companies, the answer is rarely. This is just one result of a meeting-intensive culture.

It’s time for a meeting revolution. Instead of automatically accepting that next meeting request, pause and consider your return on investment. Will this meeting help you in achieving your goals? How does the purpose of the meeting — and I’m crossing my fingers that there is a stated purpose — align with the company’s strategic priorities? Is attending this meeting the best use of your time right now? If not, revolt — by declining the meeting request.

By declining, you will rock the boat. But don’t stop rocking it. If there is no way to avoid attending a meeting, and it is scheduled to last an hour, challenge its length. Does the group really need a whole hour for project status updates?

Our Web site developer, for example, schedules our project-update calls for 25 minutes. We complete all of our work in that time, then have five extra minutes to address any unscheduled concerns or to develop new ideas.

THERE are other ways to shorten meetings, or to eliminate the need for them. Can the topic be covered in a different format, like e-mail or instant messaging? Consider investing in technology that enables colleagues to share documents on their computer desktops without actually holding a meeting.

For in-person meetings, consider requiring everyone to stand up. This is very effective, because leg fatigue soon sets in and everyone has an incentive to keep the meeting short.

By shortening a meeting, you automatically narrow its focus. At my company, we call this crunching the container — making it smaller. As a result, you eliminate some of the meeting “fluff,” including all the unnecessary chatter that veers off topic.

As you narrow a meeting’s focus, it becomes much easier to concentrate on what you want as an outcome. On all of our meeting agendas, after listing the topic, we include bullet points detailing the desired results of the session. At any point, any participant can refer to those bullet points and see if we are still on track. Will this conversation lead us toward one of those outcomes? If not, we can correct our course immediately.

By telling participants in advance about the big picture, you keep the meeting on track toward its stated goals — and keep employees focused on the topic at hand. Including the desired outcomes helps everyone prepare for the meeting in ways that work best for them.

A meeting revolution will create a new corporate culture. First, of course, there will be fewer meetings. And, second, the meetings that remain will be shorter and more focused and will produce a clear return on investment.

As for that senior executive who couldn’t take a break in peace, she ended up leading a meeting revolution in her organization. I am happy to report that she is now entourage-free when she visits the restroom.

Unit completion

  • YES
  • NO
I have completed the unit.

Modern-day business - blogs and YT channels

Blogging and vlogging as a lifestyle - SPEAKING

You are going to watch a YouTube video on blogging and vlogging as a lifestyle and business. Making a living of blogging or YouTube channels has become incredibly popular lately. Listen to the story of the video's character. 

Answer these questions:

  1. What is the business model in this case?
  2. What are the revenue streams?
  3. What are the coming trends for social media content creators?
  4. What is the value proposition you might get of this type of content and service?
  5. Do you follow blogs or YT channels? Why?

What Are Necessities for Starting an Online Business?

Listen to the podcast by Pat.

Study the vocabulary from the podcast:



Now answer these questions:

  1. What are the pieces of advice Pat is giving his listener?
  2. Which is the most important in your opinion?
  3. Who is an influencer? Can you give a specific example?


Unit completion

  • YES
  • NO
I have completed the unit.

On the job

Ten Simple Habits That Will Get You Promoted - reading and discussion

Read these 10 guidlines for getting promoted. Then answer these 4 questions:

  1. Do you agree with them? 
  2. Has it ever worked for you? 
  3. What has worked fo you? 
  4. Do you have any of your own golden rules for promotion?

Ten Simple Habits That Will Get You Promoted (source)


Dear Liz,

I finally have a job with a true career path! It is exciting. I just started the job so I have a huge amount to learn, but I also want to plan ahead.

What should I be doing right from the start in my job to be more likely to get promoted later? I have seen several of my co-workers get promoted already but they've all been with the company for at least a year. How can I use that year to my best advantage?

Thanks Liz,




Dear Isaac,

Congratulations on your new job! Here is a list of 10 simple habits that will help you get promoted down the road:

1. Stay awake and aware. Your new job will keep throwing new challenges and learning opportunities at you. Grab them,  learn everything you can and capture the learning you're getting. Keep a journal or capture your "Aha!s" another way. Stay alert to constant changes in your work environment and your workflow, and make suggestions about ways to improve your processes.

2. Be reliable. Be prompt, be useful and stay on top of your commitments to customers, co-workers, managers, vendors and anyone else you interact with. Be the person everyone can rely on.

3. Be professional. From your attire to your conversations, be professional at work and anywhere you deal with your co-workers and associates. Think about your language, your compassion for your teammates and your understanding of your business. Everything you do and say broadcasts who you are. Make sure those messages are in sync with your values.

4. Be open to teaching and learning. When people get promoted at work it's because their managers can see that they are ready to operate at a higher altitude. Show your managers you're ready by staying open to teaching people what you know and learning from your co-workers, too.

5. Rise above drama. Work can be stressful. It is easy to fall into workplace squabbles and turf wars or to participate in or listen to conversations about the nasty supervisor, the co-worker who doesn't carry their weight or some other gossip-type topic. If you want to get promoted (or just to grow your flame), don't join in those conversations. Rise above the office drama. It doesn't help you. It drags you down.

6. Climb up in altitude. Once you understand and feel comfortable at your own job, think from a higher altitude about your department and its role in your company or institution. Think about the company's goals and get clear on your personal goals, also. Write your thoughts in your journal or capture them another way.

7. Read the energy. Every organization is an energy field. Waves flow through the energy field all day long. They swell and crash around you. Get used to noticing the waves. Often they are more important than the particles we obsess about! Goals are important, but energy waves make our goals easier or harder to attain. Notice how people around you are feeling and talking. Fear in your environment is the biggest stress-inducer and business impediment there is. Notice it, and talk about it!

8. Thank and acknowledge people. You don't have to wait for a management title to thank and acknowledge your co-workers. The best habit to cultivate as a teammate is the habit of spotting and reinforcing your teammates' triumphs, and seeing and acknowledging their frustrations, too. Everybody wants to be recognized and no one gets enough recognition. You can begin to turn that tide!

9. Get comfortable asking "What can I do differently next time?" Most people will not give you feedback unless you ask for it because they'll think you might find them presumptuous if they do. Find the people you trust in your workplace and enlist them as informal mentors by asking them "You saw my presentation. Be honest -- what could I do differently next time?" If you and they are comfortable, share your feedback with them too. We all need people in our corner and on our side.

10. Go with the flow. We make plans upon plans in the business world and too often delude ourselves that our plans will ensure everything goes perfectly. In the real world we know it's not true. Get used to going with the flow, bobbing and weaving as things change around you and you're forced into unfamiliar situations.

Going with the flow does not require you to keep quiet when there is something important to talk about with your boss or a co-worker. In that case, speak up! If something alarming is happening and you need to tell your manager about it, do it. If you have important feedback to share, share it. Be respectful and polite.

You are a new employee, but they hired you for your brains and heart as well as the rest of you. Use your judgment about which opinions to offer, and when, but do not silence and squelch them just because you are young or new.

What's great about these 10 habits is that cultivating them is even more helpful for you personally than it is beneficial to your employer.

You are stepping into your power, no matter what your job title is. Hurrah for you!

All the best,


Liz Ryan is CEO/founder of Human Workplace and author of Reinvention Roadmap. Follow her on Twitter and read Forbes columns.

On the job Vocabulary

Learn the vocabulary:


The Most Painful Job Search Mistakes People Keep Making (Again, and Again)

The Most Painful Job Search Mistakes People Keep Making (Again, and Again) (source)

With all the resources and advice available online, it’s astonishing to me that people continue to make the same mistakes, over and over again, when job searching.

I’m not talking about the big, laughable mistakes like showing up to an interview inebriated or inadvertently bad mouthing a former boss to his best friend. I’m talking about the small, seemingly innocuous, yet completely avoidable mistakes people make. 

But you don’t have to be one of them. Use this list as a sort of checklist against these common mistakes, and protect your job search against painful mistakes.  You should always avoid:

  1. Typos on your resume. They make you look unprofessional. Proofread with extreme prejudice.
  2. Waiting for the job to come to you. You should be proactive. Make a list of the top 10 companies or jobs you want and figure out how to go after them.
  3. Relying on job postings. An online ad is going to generate thousands of responses. Instead, focus much of your time on networking to find those unadvertisedpositions.
  4. Casual searching. A productive job search is a part-time job in and of itself. Make a plan to follow with daily tasks to increase your likelihood of finding a great position quickly.
  5. Lying on your resume. Seems obvious, but people still do it. In this internet age, it’s easy to be caught. Don’t do it!
  6. Not casting a wide enough net. When it comes to networking, no one is off limits. Your parents’ networks, friends’ networks, old colleagues and teachers — everyone is fair game.
  7. Sending unsolicited resumes. I don’t know anyone with a resume amazing enough to get them hired for a job that doesn’t exist. Sending unsolicited resumes with no context is a waste of time.
  8. Disengaging from your networks. If you’re between jobs, it can be human nature to tend to disengage from social networks — don’t. Now is the time to stay active in your groups, professional associations, even hobbies so that you can continue to network.
  9. Sending the same resume for every job. This is a good way to get yours filed in the round file (aka: the trash). Personalize every resume.
  10. Talking instead of listening. When networking, your first priority should be listening. If someone asks, you can talk about the kind of job you’re seeking, but otherwise, keep your ears open more than your mouth.
  11. Including random (or inappropriate) hobbies. Unless your hobbies are directly related the job you’re applying for, they just serve to take up space on a resume that could be put to better uses.
  12. Failing to follow up. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, as the old saying goes. Don’t just wait for the phone to ring (or the email to ding); follow up.
  13. Looking for “any job.” It’s important to be open to different types of positions, but deciding you’ll take any old job makes you lose focus.
  14. Not following instructions. Hiring managers often include specific instructions in job ads to weed out people who don’t pay attention to details. Don’t be that person.
  15. Appearing unprofessional. This doesn’t just apply to the interview. Sanitize all your online profiles, and be sure your email address isn’t something like “tequilalover69”.
  16. Being unprepared in interviews. In this digital age, there’s no excuse for arriving to an interview unprepared. I’ve written about this several times. Use these tips and prepare accordingly.
  17. Being late to an interview. Accidents happen, but you should do everything in your power to arrive on time and prepared. Set your alarm, check the traffic, plan your route, scope out parking, and arrive on time.
  18. Not knowing your market value. The internet makes it easy to research an average salary for your position and experience level, allowing you to come prepared with a reasonable answer when the question of compensation arises.
  19. Not having questions prepared. Almost every interviewer will ask if you have any questions toward the end of the interview. So have some questions ready to go.
  20. Not saying you want the job. This is so often overlooked, it can be very powerful if you are smart enough to actually tell the interviewer that you want the job and why. Show enthusiasm. It goes a long way.

What additional mistakes do you see job seekers make over and over again? I’d be interested to see your suggestions for the list in the comments below.

As always, I am keen to hear your views, please share them in the comments below. 

Thank you for reading my post. Here at LinkedIn and at Forbes I regularly write about management, technology and Big Data. If you would like to read my future posts then please click 'Follow' and feel free to also connect via TwitterFacebookSlideshare, and The Advanced Performance Institute.


Dream job presentation

Prepare a presentation for your dream job position. Find a job offer. Write a resume and present yourself as if you were interviewed for the job.

Post the resume online and send the link to the tutor.

You are expected to speak for approximately 7 minutes.

Unit completion

  • YES
  • NO
I have completed the unit.

Time management and efficiency

Habits of highly effective people - WATCHING AND SPEAKING

Some time ago numerous list of the habits that effective people practice have began to appear. Watch this review of the book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and give your opinion on the content.


Answer these questions:

  1. What are the 7 habits?
  2. Do you agree they work?
  3. Do you practice them?
  4. Do you do anything else to be efficient?
  5. If you were to choose only 1 most important habit, which would it be and why?
  6. Do you believe in the power of habit?

Pomodoro Technique - WRITING

Do you know the time management technique called Pomodoro

Do you know where is comes from? It basically involves working in focused, 25-minute time blocks and then taking a 5-minute break to reward yourself. It works!

Have you ever tried it? If yes, what are your impressions? If not, please try implementing it and describe your experience in a a short essay.

What, if anything, has improved? How much more time have you gained? 


Unit completion

  • YES
  • NO
I have completed the unit.

Trade and commerce

An Online Market Flourishes in China - READING and SPEAKING

Read the text

Read the text from 2009 about the situation o the Chinese online market. Then prepare a speech and include these issues:

  • Say what has changed since then.
  • Describe the current state of the market.
  • What are the current connections and relations between China and the rest of the world economies?

An Online Market Flourishes in China (source)

YIWU, China — In the months leading up to his college graduation in June, Yang Fugang spent most of his days away from campus, managing an online store that sells cosmetics, shampoo and other goods he often buys from local factories.

Today, his store on — China’s fast-growing online shopping bazaar — has 14 employees, two warehouses and piles of cash.

“I never thought I could do this well,” said Mr. Yang, 23, who earned $75,000 last year. “I started out selling yoga mats and now I’m selling a lot of makeup and cosmetics. The profit margins are higher.”

Taobao fever has swept Mr. Yang’s school, Yiwu Industrial and Commercial College, where administrators say a quarter of its 8,800 students now operate a Taobao shop, often from a dorm room.

Across China, millions of others — recent college graduates, shopkeepers and retirees — are also using Taobao to sell clothes, mobile phones, toys and just about anything else they can find at neighborhood stores and wholesale markets or even smuggle out of factories.

Internet analysts say this booming marketplace — reminiscent of the early days of eBay, when Americans started emptying their attics for online auctions — has turned Taobao into China’s newest Internet darling.

Though just six years old, Taobao (Chinese for “to search for treasure”) already has 120 million registered users and 300 million product listings. Its merchants produced nearly $15 billion in sales last year.

The company claims that sales through its Web site are already larger than any Chinese retailer. And, Internet analysts say, sales on its site this year will surpass’s expected sales of about $19 billion.

“This is the next big segment for China’s Internet,” said Jason Brueschke, an Internet analyst at Citigroup in Hong Kong. “It’s their Amazon and eBay combined.”

Like eBay, Taobao does not sell anything itself; it simply matches buyers and sellers. It has a firm foothold in China because many parts of the country still have poor transportation and some local authorities favor their own government-owned outlets, making the retailing system inefficient.

The global recession also left once-booming factories overflowing with goods the rest of the world does not seem to want.

The so-called Taobao addicts are helping to pick up the slack in a sluggish economy. “I can’t live without Taobao,” said Zhang Kangni, a graduate student in Shanghai. “First, it’s cheaper. I found a dress at a store in Shanghai. It’s a Hong Kong brand that sells for $175. I found it on Taobao for $33.”

But skeptics ask: Can Taobao actually make a profit and emerge as a true Web powerhouse?

The company is not publicly traded and therefore does not disclose financial information, but listings are free on Taobao and the company makes no money from online transactions. Almost all Taobao’s $200 million in revenue comes from advertising, which the company says covers virtually all its operational costs.

The company has been criticized, however, for contributing to a flourishing trade in counterfeit goods. Taobao brushes aside such criticism, saying it has a new program that is effectively cracking down on counterfeits.

Company executives also say Taobao is poised to earn huge profits, but that their first priority is creating an online community.

“Our vision for Taobao is to build a consumer’s paradise, where people can shop online and have fun,” Jonathan Lu, Taobao’s president, said. “If you make the company better and better, profits will naturally follow.”

His confidence in Taobao’s future comes from the company’s lineage. It is a division of the Alibaba Group, which was founded by Jack Ma. In the past decade, Mr. Ma has created an Internet conglomerate with strong financial backing from Yahoo, Goldman Sachs and the Softbank Group of Japan. Yahoo owns about 40 percent of Alibaba. — the conglomerate’s flagship Web site — connects small businesses from around the world with Chinese exporters. does something similar for consumers who want to sell to other consumers.

When Taobao was founded in 2003, it appeared to have no chance. EBay and its Chinese partner, EachNet, controlled 90 percent of China’s online shopping. But Mr. Ma, a former English teacher, quickly undermined eBay’s fee-based service by offering free listings on Taobao, essentially giving away ads to anyone who wanted to sell.

At the time, eBay executives ridiculed the strategy, with many repeating that “free is not a business model.”

But almost immediately, the site took off, and in 2006, eBay pulled out of China, citing dwindling market share and large losses. Today, it is Taobao that commands 80 percent of China’s e-commerce market, according to iResearch.

“Taobao is dominant,” said Richard Ji, an Internet analyst at Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong. “They’re like an online Wal-Mart.” Mr. Ji says Taobao is a threat not only to traditional retailers but also to big Chinese Internet companies, like Baidu, a leading search engine, because they are competing with Taobao for many of the same advertisers.

Taobao has thrived, Internet analysts say, because people do not need much capital to start online stores. This year, Taobao says its site could help create half a million new jobs, mostly among young people opening new online stores.

Bao Yifen, a 23-year-old recent college graduate, opened her clothing shop with a $5,000 investment in 2007. Today, her Taobao store has sales of about $4,000 a month.

“Three times a week I go to the wholesale market,” Ms. Bao said. “It’s a huge market. About 70 to 80 percent of the stuff is factory leftovers. There are even some brands, but they just cut the labels off.”

Items smuggled into China from Hong Kong, Europe or the United States are also sold on Taobao, evading high import duties and enabling sellers to profit by undercutting the prices of merchandise in regular stores. An Apple MacBook Air that sells for $2,225 in Beijing, for instance, costs just $1,508 in Hong Kong, a difference of 33 percent.

Counterfeit goods are also readily available, even though Taobao claims to have removed two million “fake branded goods” from the site.

Nevertheless, many Taobao sellers acknowledge dealing in illegal goods.

“I work in an O.E.M. factory that produces laptops and electronic devices for Sony,” said one such seller, who identified himself Mr. Feng, referring to an original equipment manufacturer that produces goods for global companies. “We have Sony’s core technology and exactly the same raw materials and components, so we set up our own store selling netbooks and laptops on Taobao.”

A spokesman for Sony, Takashi Uehara, said the company had no comment but was looking into the matter.

Here in Yiwu, which claims to be the site of the world’s biggest wholesale market, Taobao has started to change the look of Yiwu Industrial and Commercial College.

The school’s vice dean, Jia Shaohua, points out an area designated as a start-up site for students seeking to get rich. He points to students taking orders by computer, packaging products, sorting inventory and taking photos of the items for display online, then adds, “Around the school now, there is a whole Taobao industrial chain.”

Every afternoon, even this summer, when the school should be relatively empty, one can hear the ripping sounds of tape being wrapped around boxes in a building that could pass for a United Parcel Service shipping terminal.

“The students don’t need a lot of money,” Mr. Jia said. “They just get orders and go find the items at local factories.”

Mr. Yang, the cosmetics seller, has become a campus hero. He operates his own warehouses a few miles from the school, in the basements of a pair of residential buildings.

Standing in his crowded warehouse, near boxes of Neutrogena sun block, hairpins, toothbrushes and a wide assortment of cosmetics, Mr. Yang says business could not be better.

“Soon, I’ll reach $150,000 a month in sales,” he said, flashing a big grin.

Unit completion

  • YES
  • NO
I have completed the unit.

Writing - The basics of formal essay writing

Summary writing

How to Write a Summary

A "stand-alone" summary is a summary proving that you have read and understood something. The idea of a summary is to put across information, not words.

How to produce a summary:

  1. Read the article to be summarized and be sure you understand it.
  2. Outline the article. Note the major points.
  3. Write a first draft of the summary without looking at the article.
  4. Always use paraphrase when writing a summary. If you do copy a phrase from the original be sure it is a very important phrase that is necessary and cannot be paraphrased. In this case put "quotation marks" around the phrase.
  5. Target your first draft for approximately 1/4 the length of the original.

The features of a summary:

  1. Start your summary with a clear identification of the type of work, title, author, and main point in the present tense.Example: In the feature article "Four Kinds of Reading," the author, Donald Hall, explains his opinion about different types of reading.
  2. Check with your outline and your original to make sure you have covered the important points.
  3. Never put any of your own ideas, opinions, or interpretations into the summary. This means you have to be very careful of your word choice.
  4. Write using "summarizing language." Periodically remind your reader that this is a summary by using phrases such as the article claims, the author suggests, etc.
  5. (Write a complete bibliographic citation at the beginning of your summary. A complete bibliographic citation includes as a minimum, the title of the work, the author, the source. Use a chosen format.)

Expository essay

Expository essays

When writing your expository essay, follow these eight basic steps:

  • Select a topic:
    Be sure the topic is narrow enough to make it manageable within the space of an essay.

  • Write a thesis sentence:
    Be sure the thesis statement(or sentence) expresses a controlling idea that is neither too broad nor too specific to be developed effectively.

  • Select a method of development:
    Check through all the methods before you finally settle on the one which will best serve your thesis:

definition | example | compare and contrast | cause and effect | classification | process analysis

  • Organize the essay:
    Begin by listing the major divisions which the body paragraphs in your essay will discuss; then fill in the primary supports that each body paragraph of the essay will contain.

  • Write topic sentences for the body paragraphs of the essay:
    For each body paragraph, furnish a topic sentence that directly relates to the thesis sentence.

  • Write the body paragraphs of the essay:
    Each body paragraph should develop the primary support covered in that paragraph's topic sentence.

  • Furnish a paragraph of introduction:
    An introductory paragraph should state the thesis of the essay, introduce the divisions in the body paragraphs of the essay, and gain the interest of the reader.

  • Write a paragraph of conclusion:

    1. Restate the thesis and divisions of the essay.

    2. Bring the essay to an appropriate and effective close.

    3. Avoid digressing into new issues.

Argumentative essay

Argumentative essay

To write an argument essay, you’ll need to gather evidence and present a well-reasoned argument on a debatable issue.

You cannot argue a statement of fact, you must base your paper on a strong position. Ask yourself…

  • How many people could argue against my position?  What would they say?

  • Can it be addressed with a yes or no? (aim for a topic that requires more info.)

  • Can I base my argument on scholarly evidence, or am I relying on religion, cultural standards, or morality? (you MUST be able to do quality research!)

  • Have I made my argument specific enough?

Worried about taking a firm stance on an issue?

Though there are plenty of times in your life when it’s best to adopt a balanced perspective and try to understand both sides of a debate, this isn’t one of them.

You MUST choose one side or the other when you write an argument paper!

Don’t be afraid to tell others exactly how you think things should go because that’s what we expect from an argument paper.  You’re in charge now, what do YOU think?


  • …use passionate language
  • …cite experts who agree with you
  • …provide facts, evidence, and statistics to support your position
  • …provide reasons to support your claim
  • …address the opposing side’s argument and refute their claims


…use weak qualifiers like “I believe,” “I feel,” or “I think”—just tell us!

…claim to be an expert if you’re not one

…use strictly moral or religious claims as support for your argument

…assume the audience will agree with you about any aspect of your argument

…attempt to make others look bad (i.e. Mr. Smith is ignorant—don’t listen to him!)

Why do I need to address the opposing side’s argument?

There is an old kung-fu saying which states, "The hand that strikes also blocks", meaning that when you argue it is to your advantage to anticipate your opposition and strike down their arguments within the body of your own paper. This sentiment is echoed in the popular saying, "The best defense is a good offense".

By addressing the opposition you achieve the following goals:

  • illustrate a well-rounded understanding of the topic

  • demonstrate a lack of bias

  • enhance the level of trust that the reader has for both you and your opinion

  • give yourself the opportunity to refute any arguments the opposition may have

  • strengthen your argument by diminishing your opposition's argument

Opinion Essay

Opinion Essay

An opinion essay is a formal piece of writing which requires your opinion on a topic. The opinion must be stated clearly, giving different viewpoints on the topic supported by reasons and (preferably) examples. You should also include the opposing viewpoint in another paragraph.

A successful opinion essay should have:

  1. an introductory paragraph → state the topic and your opinion.

  2. a main body → develop several paragraphs, each presenting a separate viewpoint supported by reasons. You also include a paragraph presenting the opposing viewpoint and reason why you think it is an unconvincing viewpoint;

  3. conclusion → reformulate your opinion in other words. 


Paragraph 1

state the topic and your opinion clearly

Main Body

  • Paragraph 2 viewpoint 1 & reason, example

  • Paragraph 3 viewpoint 2 & reason, example

  • Paragraph 4 viewpoint 3 & reason/ example*

  • Paragraph 5 opposing viewpoint & reason/example*


Final paragraph

summarise/restate opinion

  • You may include more viewpoints, and thus more paragraphs in the main body.

Points to consider

  • Decide whether you agree or disagree with the subject of the topic, then make a list of your viewpoints and reasons.

  • Write well-developed paragraphs, joining the sentences with appropriate linking words and phrases. Do not forget to start each paragraph with a topic sentence which summarises what the paragraph is about.

  • Linking words and phrases should also be used to join one paragraph with the other.


List of Connectors*

1. Linking words for essays, reports, papers


  • firstly, secondly ...

  • to begin / start with ..., to conclude with

  • in the first place, in the second place

  • next , then , finally, last(ly)

  • to conclude ...

  • last but not least ...

  • to summarise , to sum up



  • also, too, then

  • furthermore ...

  • moreover ...

  • in addition to that ...

  • above all ......

  • what is more ...

  • additionally



  • equally, likewise, similarly, in the same / a different way

  • compared to / with, in comparison with

  • as ... as , both ... and ...

  • you can´t compare it with ...



  • all in all...  /  in conclusion ...

  • to sum up ...

  • I draw the conclusion / arrive at the conclusion that ...

  • I conclude ...

  • consequently ..



  • for example (e.g.), for instance

  • that is (i.e.)

  • that is to say

  • ... such as ...

  • namely ...



  • consequently

  • hence

  • therefore

  • thus

  • as a result

  • because of that ...-

  • that´s why ...



  • to put it another way

  • in other words



  • on the one hand... , on the other hand ...



  • on the contrary

  • in contrast to that

  • but , yet, however

  • nevertheless ...

  • whereas ..., while ...

  • neither .... nor ...

  • on the one hand ..., on the other hand ...



  • besides, however, still, though,

  • in spite of that, despite that

  • admittedly

  • if , unless


2. Giving one´s own opinion

  • In my view; To my mind, In my opinion, As I see it,
  • I think that , I believe that , I have come to the conclusion that,
  • I would not say that ..., Therefore I cannot agree with ...,
  • I am doubtful whether / certain that ...
  • According to the text ...
  • It seems to me that ...
  • Another argument is that ...
  • As far as I am concerned, ....
  • One reason is that ...
  • I would say that ...
  • As we have seen, ...
  • As we know from ...., ...
  • For all these reasons I would support the view that ...
  • As a result ...
  • In short ...
  • With regard to ...
  • It is for this reason that I think ...
  • I am convinced that ...
  • I feel that ...



Writing quiz - expository

  • restating the thesis and divisions of the essay
  • bringing the essay to an appropriate and effective close
  • avoiding digressing into new issues
  • giving another example to support the point
Which element is NOT a part of the conclusion of an expository essay?

Writing quiz - argumentative

  • assuming the audience will agree with you about any aspect of your argument
  • using weak qualifiers like “I believe,” “I feel,” or “I think”
  • using strictly moral or religious claims as support for your argument
  • addressing the opposing side’s argument and refute their claims
The "don't's" of an argumentative essay do NOT include

Writing quiz - opinion

  • An opposing argument important in an opinion essay to prove my point and support my argument.
  • An opposing argument important in an opinion essay to simply write more text.
  • An opposing argument important in an opinion essay to introduce a transition to another essay
  • You should be giving different viewpoints in an opinion essay and support them with proper examples.
  • For a conclusion you may include more viewpoints, and thus more paragraphs in the main body.
Choose all statements that apply to opinion essays.

Unit completion

  • YES
  • NO
I have completed the unit.