Romeu Gaspar's picture
Recommendations on how to structure and write proposals, reports, and other business documents.
Romeu Gaspar
It is arguably easier to find good advice on presenting than on writing, although most of us write more often than we present. Good business content – whether a proposal, a report, a paper or other type of deliverable – is clear, concise and factual: this article suggests 10 rules to write such content. As for our recommendations on problem-solving and project management, these guidelines are based on our own experience and mistakes, so you will find both good and bad examples illustrating them.
 Exhibit 1 – Breakdown of the time we spent preparing the last 20 X&Y blog articles
Exhibit 2 – The initial steps of drafting this article
Exhibit 3 – An example of how to apply the Minto Pyramid Principle to communicate findings
Exhibit 4 – An example of how to apply the Minto Pyramid Principle to structure a report
Exhibit 5 – Suggestions on how to design an effective chart
Exhibit 6 – An example of how visual representations can also be used to highlight qualitative information
Exhibit 7 – Examples on how to eliminate superfluous adjectives, industry lingo, buzzwords and acronyms
Exhibit 8 – A template and attention to detail will transform untidy diagrams (top row) in professional looking visual aids (bottom row)
Romeu Gaspar's picture
Suggestions on how to structure, plan, analyze and present complex issues
Romeu Gaspar
Problem solving has been coined as a buzzword, perhaps undeservedly so: whether alone or in teams, for academic or professional purposes, most of us are frequently required to solve problems. Some of them are part of our daily routine and can be dealt with fairly quickly; others are less orthodox and require more thought. This article suggests 8 rules to deal with the latter type, based on our own experience. As part of this learning process we have broken these rules many times (and still do, on occasion), so you will find both good and bad examples illustrating these guidelines.
Exhibit 1 – The Situation-Complication-Question framework, a structuring and communication technique from the Minto Pyramid Principle
Exhibit 2 – An example of a visual representation of a problem solving approach
Exhibit 3 – An example of a problem solving outcome that combines different information sources and techniques
Exhibit 4 – An example of inference-observation confusion - Using only the last 15 years of temperature data to infer that global warming has stopped
Exhibit 5 – A graphical representation of Brook’s Law, originally created for software development but applied today in many fields
Exhibit 6 – An example of what happens when the analysis framework assumes more importance than the analysis itself (on the left), and how this can be solved (on the right)
Exhibit 7 – Example of how a visual representation can make the problem solving outcome easier to understand and remember
Cátia Carias's picture
Seven tips to facilitate the management of geographically dispersed teams
Cátia Carias
The last decades have been fertile in producing an increasingly globalized world. Our network of friends is spread all over the globe. Facebook, Skype, Youtube, and countless other tools help us to stay connected. The work environment is no different: If you work for a large organization, you probably find yourself dealing with colleagues from other countries on a daily basis. If you work for a smaller local company, chances are that at some point you will end up working together with remote business partners. As economic activity becomes more and more dispersed (Exhibit 1), working with geographically dispersed teams becomes more and more commonplace. In this article we share seven suggestions to facilitate the management of these virtual teams.
Exhibit 1 – Evolution of the world GDP distribution for the 1960-2010 period, showing an increased dispersion
Exhibit 2 – The Mehrabian equation provides insights on the weight that verbal, vocal and facial elements have on communication
Exhibit 3 – Graphical representation of my professional LinkedIn network. Lines are connections and the different colors highlight different networks (e.g., university, companies where I worked before, friends)
Exhibit 4 – Collaborative tools such as Google Docs, Skype and Dropbox, together with the venerable email, are becoming increasingly more popular
Exhibit 5 – Percentage of English speakers by country
Exhibit 6 – The Meyers-Briggs Type (MBTI) is an indicator of how people perceive the world and make decisions
Romeu Gaspar's picture
Six suggestions to leverage the growing renewable energy opportunities in emerging markets
Romeu Gaspar
Large-scale deployment of renewable energies has so far been concentrated in Europe and in the US, but that is changing. Take wind energy, solar PV and CSP (Concentrated Solar Power), for instance: 44%, 35% and 23%, respectively, of new capacity for the next 5 years will be deployed in emerging markets (Exhibit 1). For North American and European companies that have so far focused on domestic markets, emerging markets can thus represent an opportunity for additional revenue, but also a risk for increased costs and diluted market focus. In this article we explore six suggestions to develop and implement a sensible market entry strategy for emerging markets.
Exhibit 1 – Regional breakdown of cumulative and new capacity for wind energy, solar PV and CSP
Exhibit 2 – Example of a company for which market expansion was a necessity, rather than an option
Exhibit 3 – Example of a market strategy that balances domestic and emerging markets, as well as existing and new clients
Exhibit 4 – The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s KA-CARE Program
Exhibit 5 – An example of a niche market opportunity (green telecom towers in emerging countries)
Exhibit 6 – Example of a market entry strategy that combines economies of scale and global key accounts with local partners and local presence
Exhibit 7 – Example of a company benchmark and expert interview process
Exhibit 8 – Example of an expansion plan sanity check
Romeu Gaspar's picture
A decision tree to help you navigate through the multiple techniques available to collect opinions, analyze ideas, and reach consensus.
Romeu Gaspar
More often than not, decisions today are made by teams, based on a broad number of collected ideas and opinions. Collecting these inputs and then reaching a consensus can be made through a broad number of decision-making techniques. In this article we analyze five of the most popular ones: Prediction Markets, Surveys/Polls, the Delphi Method, the Nominal Group Technique, and the venerable Face-to-face Meeting.
Exhibit 1 – Proposed decision tree to select the most appropriate decision-making tool
Exhibit 2 – Comparison between the accuracy of prediction markets and polls, for several US presidential elections
Exhibit 3 – Example of how differences in wording can dramatically change the results of a survey or poll
Exhibit 4 – Quantitative results from a comparative study that asked 227 participants to estimate 10 data points, first individually, and then using one of three decision-making methods
Exhibit 5 – Example of an output from a Nominal Group Technique
Exhibit 6 – Results of the qualitative evaluation requested to the 227 participants in the experience described in Exhibit 4
Exhibit 7 – The Meyers-Briggs Type, an indicator of how people perceive the world and make decisions
Romeu Gaspar's picture
There is a clear link between corporate sustainability and financial results, but which one is the trigger? Well, the link can actually run both ways.
Romeu Gaspar
Little doubt remains about the correlation between improved sustainability practices and better financial results: Exhibit 1 compiles the results of close to 160 research papers, most of which found a positive correlation between these two benefits. But which one is the trigger? In other words, do better sustainability practices lead to improved financial results, or does the availability of funds lead to increased investments in sustainability? In this article we explore the issue of causality between sustainability and financial performance, and what it means for various stakeholders.
Exhibit 1 – Results of 159 studies from 1972 to 2008, analyzing the correlation between sustainability and financial performance
Exhibit 2 – Stock market returns of the CDLI and Global 500 indexes (2005-2012)
Exhibit 3 – Suggested virtuous cycle of good management, sustainable practices and increased financial performance
Exhibit 4 – Results of 159 studies from 1972 to 2008, analyzing the correlation between sustainability and accounting/market metrics
Exhibit 5 – Bi-directional correlation between sustainability and innovation
Exhibit 6 – Payback period for sustainability initiatives, as reported in 2012 by members of the Carbon Disclosure Project
Romeu Gaspar's picture
Recent developments in renewable energies might overthrow the diesel generator as the technology of choice for off-grid mobile base stations.
Romeu Gaspar
Renewable energy has evolved considerably over the last couple of years. So much, in fact, that solutions recently deemed to be unfeasible might now warrant a second look. Take mobile telecom operators, for instance: diesel generators are usually preferred over renewable energy based solutions for remote off-grid base stations, because they are cheaper and more reliable. In this article we explore three recent developments that might tilt the balance in favor of telecom towers powered by renewable energy.
Exhibit 1 – 2008-2017 mobile telecom subscriptions, by region
Exhibit 2 – Example of a base station powered by a diesel generator (left), and one integrating solar PV (right)
Exhibit 3 – 2001-2012 PV module spot prices
Exhibit 4 – 2012-2018 market value for micro-grids, by region
Exhibit 5 – 2012-2021 market value storage for systems, by technology
Exhibit 6 – 2010-2020 US market value for ESCO services, by application
Cátia Carias's picture
Download our 12 most read articles from 2012
Cátia Carias
2012 has been a great year for us. Not because we have grown considerably: X&Y Partners is and will continue to be a small company. And not because there were significant advances in the areas we work on: renewable energies and clean technologies continue along a fast but somewhat rocky path; policies to address climate change are still timid; and the bulk of the work towards a more sustainable development still lies ahead us. 2012 was a great year for us because we took a decisive step towards sharing our knowledge.
Romeu Gaspar's picture
Forecasting is about the journey, not the destination: what you learn in the process will be more useful than the forecast itself.
Romeu Gaspar
We are often asked to make market forecasts, so we decided to go back to some of our older forecasts and see how well we fared. We found that most forecasts had a fair 15-20% deviation from the actual figures (Exhibit 1). There were however outliers: on the one hand, we overestimated the global installed capacity of wave energy by an order of magnitude, while on the other hand we predicted the evolution of wind energy costs inside a 5% margin. In any case, the real value of forecasting is what you learn in the process, as it forces you to understand and quantify the forces that shape a particular market. In this article we share four lessons learned while making market predictions and forecasts.
Exhibit 1 – Comparison of several 5-year forecasts with actual market data
Exhibit 2 – Example of a Delphi method applied to estimating the LCoE of several PV, CSP and wind energy specific plant configurations
Exhibit 3 – Example of using the historical early wind energy deployment as a sanity check for a bottom-up forecast for wave energy deployment
Exhibit 4 – Comparison of three scenarios for the evolution of carbon credit prices with the actual market prices
Exhibit 5 – Example of a Monte-Carlo simulation applied to the valuation of a CSP plant
Cátia Carias's picture
Feedback has been coined as a buzzword. It is undeserved: asking for help and actually listening to the resulting opinions is uncomfortable but very useful.
Cátia Carias
There are sentences that stick to your mind, like gum. In my case, one of these is about feedback. It all goes back to the days of my MBA. At the end of a group project that had gone wrong from the start, we decided to organize a round of feedback to understand what had happened. One of my colleagues didn’t hold anything back: she told the rest of us, eyes in eyes, where we had failed and how we should improve. She finalized by saying that “feedback is a gift that I give you, you can decide to accept or reject it”.
Exhibit 1 – Excerpt of the email sent asking for feedback on X&Y’s rebranding.
Exhibit 2 – Excerpt of the “Gentle reminder” email sent, following the first email, asking for feedback on X&Y’s rebranding.
Exhibit 3 – Excerpt of a series of emails exchanged with a Professor from Insead regarding some of the issues he raised on his feedback.
Exhibit 4 –Excerpts of feedback received.