If you have been reading here for a while you already know that inspiration is one of my favourite topics.

Originally, I started blogging while running my own company where I used it to spread the news about my services. I soon noticed that I enjoyed all those marketing activities since I got a lot of inspirations out of them and the feedbacks from my readers showed that inspiration is contagious.

Some weeks ago I said that marketing required a plan and inspiration. The latter because nobody can predict when success will kick in. Just when I started writing the post you are now reading I stumbled over a very interesting article describing the way to success. I think most of us can relate to most of the 7 steps the author describes. To me number 4 is the most important one.

Do Not Doubt but Focus

I tend to have more than one project at the time and normally only talk to the people who can support me about it. I still could not figure out why but most people tell you – without thinking twice or having a single fact – that your idea will never work. I had a heads-up last week when I stupidly talked about my activities concerning one project.

Others will respond with meaningful phrases like “let’s hope for the best”. I think they really mean well but cannot believe for a moment that you could be successful.

Both statements tend to cloud our inspiration with doubts. Doubts tend to kill success and happiness.

How To Fight Doubts

When I talk of inspiration I do not mean to sit there and wait until something wonderful is happening. What I mean is to keep the vision, set the next goal, to plan and to work for them. Sometimes we have to re-focus – even on a different vision. But I do not believe that hope alone – although it is said to die last – is the right concept to get to where we want to be.

I would lie if I said that I never had doubts or that I never failed. Fortunately, I do have friends that really support me even if my ideas might seem farfetched. And in order to really focus I use inspirational quotes. There is nothing magical about them but they remind me to focus. I created wallpapers for my mobile phone that I happily share with you.


I have to admit that the Nobel Prize for literature causes me quite some trouble. You know, if someone receives a price for physics or chemistry you typically can tell an immediate effect of their work.

Normally, this is not the case for literature although I would never say that literature has no effect. Moreover, I simply do not understand why certain writers belong to the so called world literature, while others are not mentioned.

While I cannot choose if 2 plus 2 equals 4 or rather something else I can have a certain taste concerning authors and texts.

The Nobel Prize

However, the first woman who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1909 is the Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf. Maybe you don’t know her name. But I guess you know her most famous story “The wonderful adventures of Nils” which was also published in 1906. I think it had a revival as an anime that appeared in 1980.

Apparently the members of the committee had a heated fight about awarding her the prize or not. Well, we know the result. They awarded her this prize “in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings”. More than 100 years later it is almost impossible to interpret the meaning of these words.

Life and Work

It seems many things about Selma Lagerlöf were unusual. She was born in 1858. From early childhood she had been a passionate reader with a particular interest in legends but she showed little interest in household work which was considered a problem in her time. Against her father’s will she visited the college for girls in Stockholm and later became a school teacher. During her time as school teacher she published her epic novel “The Saga of Gösta Berling” in 1891 which in 1924 had been made into a film with immortal Greta Garbo.

The novel became quite successful, Selma quit her job as a school teacher and did something that was certainly unusual in her time: she travelled the world which of course brought her more inspiration for her writing.

With the money she received for the Nobel Prize she could rebuy her family’s manor (for economic reasons they had to sell it some years earlier) where she lived until her death.

Social and Political Engagement

Selma Lagerlöf engaged on issues for women’s rights and as from 1933 she was also a member of a committee that supported Jewish refugees.

In order to support the Finns during the so called winter war (a war between Russia and Finland between 1939 and 1940) she sold her golden Nobel Prize medal.

The poetess died in 1940 in her manor “Mårbacka” which today is a museum.



Irène Joliot-Curie already accompanied her mother Marie to the award ceremony in Stockholm when the latter received her second Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911. Irène was 14 years old at that time and had lost her father Pierre Curie already more than 5 years ago.

At this time she probably did not even guess that 24 years later, in 1935, she should travel to Stockholm again to receive her own Nobel Prize for her achievements in Chemistry.

Student and Assistant

But let’s catch up with the time in between first.

Irène was born the first daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie In 1897. She stepped in her parents’ foot prints at a very early age. When her mother Marie Curie organised and run these mobile x-ray service during WWI we already discussed, 17 year old Irène assisted her and soon led the x-ray station in the military hospital in Amiens, France. One would think that was a fulltime job already. Not for Irène. She studied mathematics and physics at the University at the same time. Her doctorate was accepted in 1925.

After WWI she worked as an assistant at her mother’s Radon Institute where she met Fréderic Joliot whom she married in 1926.

Teamwork and Politics

Just like the Curies the Joliots made a great team, collaborated successfully and therefore both were awarded the Nobel Prize.

Both of them were much into political activities. In 1934 they both took part in a committee of intellectuals that engaged against fascism and two years later Irène worked as the undersecretary of states for science and research. This made her one of three women who were the first group of females to be members of the cabinet. Remember, French women had no voting right at that time. Irène Joliot only remained a few month in this position as she only wanted to make a statement in favour of the feminist movement.

In 1940, when the Nazis occupied Paris, Irène and Frédéric Joliot left Paris but soon returned. Frédéric smuggled his research results concerning nuclear fission to London and in 1941 became the president of the Résistance. The couple engaged politically for the rest of their lives.

Irene’s work harmed her health. Because she suffered from tuberculosis she and her two children travelled to Switzerland to cure her illness. In 1956 she died from leukaemia and it is assumed that this was a result of her dealing with large quantities of polonium and of her work in the x-ray service. The government ordered a state funeral for her.



The woman who worked for an era of peace died 8 days before WWI broke out.

A Stubborn Girl

Bertha von Sutttner was born countess of Kinsky, a very wealthy and renowned family. However, the clan would not let her participate at their fame and fortune. The reason is that her mother was not blue-blooded and that her father died before Bertha’s birth.

Bertha’s mother made sure her daughter received a good education, became familiarised with the etiquette, studied languages, read free-spirited books. But her mother was also a gambler and lost her late husband’s fortune in casinos all over Europe.

Since Bertha refused an arranged marriage she was looking for a job. She took up her work with a wealthy family as a governess and fell in love with their son Arthur Gundaccar von Suttner. But Arthur’s family was not delighted about their son’s wedding plans with a penniless governess. Bertha was dismissed and therefore looking for another job and some months later – in 1876 – she was hired as a secretary with language skills in Paris. Her new employer was Alfred Nobel.

To cut a long story short: Bertha could not forget Arthur, went back to Vienna where Arthur von Suttner and Bertha countess of Kinsky married against the family’s wish. As a consequence Arthur was disinherited and the newly-weds moved to Tiflis in Georgia where they should live for the following nine years before finally making up with Arthur’s family and returning to Austria.


In Georgia they witnessed the consequences of the Russo-Turkish war. Arthur worked as a journalist and Bertha started writing novels and political articles in which she concentrated on peace and conflict studies. She used a pseudonym because she was afraid that being a woman nobody would take her writings seriously. She also corresponded with philosophers and writers and maintained the contact with Alfred Nobel until his death in 1896. These people valued her opinion.

In 1889 her pacifist novel “Die Waffen nieder” (Lay down your arms) made her a kind of a figurehead of the peace movement. In the following years she gave speeches in countless cities in German speaking Europe.

The Nobel Prize

Given the encouragement of her fans and friends it seems as if Bertha expected to receive the Nobel Prize already in the first round in 1901. It was awarded to two honourable men.

Apparently Bertha continued living in the expectation of being awarded for the next year. In 1905 Bertha was so furious and convinced that the guys in Sweden would not even dream of giving her the Nobel Prize that she organised a large tour during which she would give more speeches.

Well, she was wrong. In 1905 Bertha von Suttner became a Nobel Laureate. This made her the first women to receive a Nobel Price for peace.



If there is one female superstar in science it might well be Marie Curie. As it seems everything about her career must be attributed “the only”, “the first” or “the best”.

A Superstar

No doubt, Madame Curie née Skłodowska was gifted, intelligent and hard working. She led an extraordinary yet not so easy life. The circumstances under which she studied and worked were very difficult. She risked her health for science because radioactivity was not known then (Maria herself should discover it) and in WWI she put herself in danger again because she developed and ran a mobile x-ray truck.

The Beginning

Maria Salomea Skłodowska was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1867. When she was ten years old her mother and one of her sisters died in the same year. It was also in this year when she started the gymnasium for girls in Poland from where she graduated with a gold medal in 1883.

Because they were women she and her sister Bronislawa could not receive higher degrees in Poland and therefore they wanted to go to Paris. In order to reach this goal they agreed that Bronislava would leave first while Marie stayed in Poland, took a job and supported her sister financially. Hence the woman that should once become Marie Curie accepted the position of a tutor. Four years later she followed her sister who meanwhile was married to Paris and received financial support from her as agreed before.

Only Superlatives

  • In 1891 she was the first woman to pass the admission exams for the faculties of physics and of chemistry at the Sorbonne in Paris.
  • In 1893 she obtained a bachelor in physics; obviously she was the first woman to do so. She accepted a position as an assistant but continued to study.
  • That is why in 1894 she got a bachelor in mathematics, too.
  • In 1903 her doctoral thesis has been accepted. It was Marie Curie who introduced the notion of radioactivity. Her thesis was so spectacular that had been translated into five languages within 12 months.
  • Also in 1903 she, her husband Pierre Curie and Henry Becquerel were awarded the Nobel prize in physics.
  • In 1911 she received her second Nobel Prize. This time in chemistry.

Marie Curie is also the first woman who held a professorship at the Sorbonne and to this day the only woman who received the Nobel Prize twice.

She even obtained it for two different disciplines; an honour she only shares with Linus Pauling who engaged in chemistry and in peace.

Marie and Pierre Curie had two daughters. Eve, the younger one was a writer and a pianist. The older one, Irène became…guess what… a Nobel laureate. I will catch up on her.



This blog is called Leadership & Lipstick. Recently, the lipstick kind of took over. It is time to bring some leadership to the game again.

No, I will not neglect the lipstick although it might not have been that important to these women who have one thing in common: the Nobel Prize.

History of the Nobel Prize

Alfred Bernhard Nobel was born in Stockholm in 1833. He was a bit like the European version of Thomas A. Edison. Nobel registered 355 patents and his most famous invention is the dynamite. Young Nobel studied chemistry and physics but was also very interested in English literature. His many inventions made him a wealthy man.

One year prior to his death in 1896 Nobel issued his last will and testament. Almost his entire fortune should be used to found the Nobel trust with the purpose to support science. He also determined the rules and the subject.

  1. The scientists that should be eligible for the Nobel Prize must be chosen by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
  2. Race must not be taken into account but the most worthy men and women should be elected
  3. Once a year one outstanding personality of the following disciplines has to be considered:
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Literature
  • Medicine
  • Peace

Nobel intended to further people that bring the most welfare to mankind. The prize money derives from the interest that his fortune brings in.

The Quest

The first award ceremony took place in 1901. We already know that most of Nobel laureates are men. But I am not writing to complain about this.

My quest is to find a female Nobelist for each of the five disciplines. Next week we’ll start with physics.

Stay tuned.



I elaborated on communication and change before. In that article I wrote about external communication via social media to clients and soon-to-be-customers.

This time I am talking about digital communication within the enterprise. It seems to me that this is even harder. Even in a big company people know each other or at least can look up your name, hierarchy level and function in the internal phone directory.

This mechanism leads to the effect that the content of the message is less important than WHO wrote it. From my point of view this does not add to the quality of the discussions.

Yes, I know that if Madonna sends a Tweet it gets more attention than my messages do. Nevertheless, this has no consequences for either of us. But within a company it does have consequences. What if I make a comment my boss or someone important does not like? Do I get fired or at least will I be overlooked for the next promotion?

Social means Trust

Once more it is all coming down to trust. It is not easy to keep the discussion flowing since people will typically remain silent if they are not one hundred percent sure that what they say is correct and appreciated.

It seems to me that leaders should encourage the discussion even though it bears the risk that people might say things they do not particularly like.

Remember there was a reason you hired the people in your team. If you do not think they are subject matter experts, real professionals, reliable and trustworthy you should – at least in my opinion – not stop communicating but hire different people.

Let the comments coming.



Recently I spotted the following quote in LinkedIn

“A user interface is like a joke: If you have to explain it, it is not good.”

Customer service is quite similar. If you have to emphasize that your company provides it there is probably something wrong.

I have been stumbling over many articles lately anticipating that customer experience management will be the future. Looking at my recent experiences as a client of various smaller and larger companies I am not sure if their future is as bright as they wish. Provided the above prediction is correct (while most of them turn out to be completely wrong).

[Tweet “If you have to explain to your clients that you have a customer service something is wrong with it.”]

2 Aspects of Customer Experience

As far as I can see customer experience has two aspects.


The first one is technical. If you do something online we are back at the user interface which has to be self-explanatory, easy to handle and ALWAYS on.

The other technical aspect is the processes behind it. If you order a smart phone or apply for a credit card and are asked about your shoe size you will question the sophistication of the process in place.

This part is maybe annoying but relatively harmless since you simply will close the browser or trash the form if the application is on paper.


The second aspect of customer experience is much more important. It is the human part of it. No matter how good the technical interfaces are; if the human ones fail you are in trouble.

Most probably you only notice this after you bought the product. You might have a question that requires a minimum of common sense and the presence of a human being. This is the moment to separate the wheat from the chaff. And it is not a question of the company’s size.


Let me give you one of my prominent examples first.

I own an iPhone. As you probably know these devices suffer from frequent software updates. One of them destroyed my phone and it would not start again. I claim to be a very advanced user and typically can help myself. Well, iPhone wouldn’t budge. So I went to Apple’s flagship store since they have a so called service desk. This is what happened:

Me: “Good morning. My phone has a problem with the latest update.”

Service desk agent: “Do you have an appointment?”

Me: “Umm, no. I have an emergency. I happily take another phone in exchange until mine works again.”

Service desk agent: “This is fine but I cannot accept your device now. You need to make an appointment. The next possible one is at 10 am on Thursday.”

The “next possible” appointment was two days ahead. I left the shop and went to my telco provider. I had another phone within 5 minutes and they took care of everything since they obviously understood that I did not schedule my iPhone’s premature death.

Google for instance do not provide any kind of customer service. You have to help yourself by searching their website; provided you can find the information you are looking for. The only advice I can give you if it comes to Google problems is: “Don’t have one”.

But let’s be fair: As far as I can see they never claimed to have a customer service in the first place.

Bottom Line

I choose these companies because everybody knows them and I really experienced the above. Other large enterprises provided an excellent service even when it was not their fault. The same goes for small companies.

A good customer experience requires customer-friendly technology and processes as well as engaged people. To really motivate people companies must educated them and give them a certain amount of competence. Rules and guidelines are necessary but there must be some room for the collaborator to decide.

I know for a fact that the agents at my telco provider have quite a large sum of money per case on which they are allowed to decide. This means that they have more satisfied clients because they are allowed to deal with issues and find solutions more quickly.

As for the clients they are prepared to accept a lot if they feel that they are taken seriously.



Images support your Brand

Remember, even your logo is an image. It will have at least a special font and certain colours that reflect you, your taste, personality and/or business.

The same goes for images. If you are a blogger your blog will have a certain layout. In WordPress – this is what most of people use for a blog and so do I – these layouts are called themes. So I am sure you chose one that you like and the colours match your logo.

«How To Blog With Ease. The Ultimate Tool Guide.»

Most of these themes have an indication concerning the ideal image size. Some themes are made for huge images. If your blog layout allows it please remember my last article that covers the technical aspect of images.

Use of Images

I compile all my images myself and in the course of time I developed my own style. It is comparable to a handwriting. Of course the images have all the same size.

Moreover, besides the image source (if required) EVERY image bears my logo. This has at least two advantages:


People who read my posts on a regular basis will recognize my articles by the image before they even read the title. Since we tend to keep coming back to things we know it is therefore more likely that people read the post.

Image Protection

If an image bears a logo people will hesitate to copy and reuse it. My logo is typically in the centre of the picture and the hassle to remove it is simply too big.

People who have the tool and the knowledge to do so will more likely create their own image. In other words a logo is a built-in copy protection.



Even if I change my WordPress theme and maybe the size of the image my logo will still make sure people recognize my articles.

This makes them stick out of the crowd.

Image Organisation

If you compile your own images – and probably even when you buy them from a portal – you will very soon have a large stock of raw material. Until recently I stored all of it on my hard disk. Needless to say that the data backup took ages.

But this is not the only issue. The more material one has the more difficult it is to find it within a reasonable time.


So I came up with the idea to create an image data base. This is what I did.


I asked my webhosting service to create a sub-domain to my main domain and to install another WordPress database. The format of a subdomain is as follows: You can give this domain any name you wish since only your domain is officially registered. Instead of a subdomain you can use a subdirectory and install your WordPress database there. In this case it is:

Sub-domains are normally free of charge and so is the WordPress software. You might have to pay a small amount to your hosting service for the installation.

Image Tagging

Generic WordPress does not have a tagging function for images that allow the user to search by category. The plugins that are supposed to create customized directories did not work for me.

Instead I found a very useful plugin that allows me to create as many tags as I want and to search the images by them. You can do this in the normal back-office of your WordPress.
The plugin is called WP Media Category Management and it is free of charge.

Meanwhile I have around 1200 images on my database and I am very happy with it. Since I discourage search engines from indexing it, it remains private. And even if not you still need a password and it is as secure as any blog.

For the moment this is the last article about images. Please feel free to comment and to ask questions.

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Is Everybody A Leader?


Leadership is a subject I frequently write about and my blog is called «Leadership & Lipstick». So, not only I am vain but also very much into leadership. Of course this means that I read articles about this subject.

Somehow leadership has become very popular and everybody claims to have loads of it. These days it is a question of prestige.

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Some days ago I found an article by the title of: “Do you have enough leadership qualities?” I did not read through it but the title made me think.

It reminded me to a quote of the mathematician and philosopher René Descartes:

«Nothing is more fairly distributed than common sense: no one thinks he needs more of it than he already has.» – Descartes

My next thought is quite uncomfortable because I seriously think that it is exactly the same with leadership.


Common sense – aka intelligence – is not clearly defined which does not hinder us to “measure” it by numbers. The average person possesses an IQ of about 100. But does this tell us anything about the nature of intelligence? And who is to judge on it? Am I intelligent? If compared to Einstein my results might be devastating. If my degree of intelligence is matched against the one of a chimpanzee with whom I share 99.4 % of genetics (so did Einstein, by the way) I might look quite good. Granted, this comparison is radical but I am sure that the ape is quite happy with what he has got. So am I.

To be content with one’s intelligence is probably not due to vanity but because of blindness. We cannot conceive things we do not see. So the only way to make me see my faults and gaps is to be compared to others. Since the other person will probably have their weaknesses, too, our intelligence patterns will be different but still hard to compare. Is a talent for languages worth more than mathematical faculties or is it vice versa?


Let’s go back to leadership. There is no clear definition but everybody possesses it and it is regarded as a “business virtue”. Given its various definitions I tend to believe that it is equally complex as intelligence is.

I trust you see the parallels between intelligence and leadership. So how do we deal with it?

Although I hold a personal opinion on what I consider intelligence and whom I see as a leader, I have no idea how we could “operationalize” the two notions to make them comparable. Do you?