Can you plagiarize chocolate?!

May 22, 2018

A recent news article last week talked about a dispute between a chocolatier and a supermarket chain in the UK. Hotel Chocolat allegedly claims that the grocery retailer, Waitrose, has plagiarized some of their chocolate bars. A photo posted by @TweetsFood shows the similarities:

chocloate.jpgThe news article published by The Week starts with the headline, “Waitrose accused of chocolate plagiarism by Hotel Chocolat”. The headline implies that “chocolate plagiarism” is actually a thing, in the same way that text plagiarism or computer code plagiarism is a thing. It begs the question: Is “chocolate plagiarism” actually a thing?

There are many definitions of plagiarism available. One of most often cited definitions comes from University of Calgary professor, Irving Hexam who has a terrific web resource dedicated to plagiarism. Hexam cites the Compact Oxford English Dictionary and talks about stealing not only text, but also designs and ideas. If this is so, then it is worth observing that the design of the bars, both of which feature curvy edges, a mix of pink and white chocolate and fruit on top, really do seem quite similar. It might also be argued that the design for the bars may have been lifted without credit. So, I think an argument could be made.

What’s interesting though, is that outside of academic contexts, plagiarism isn’t actually punishable by law in many jurisdictions (at least as far as I know). It is morally reprehensible and unethical, but not actually illegal. This begs the question: Should industry bodies include plagiarism in their code of ethics and conduct for their members? It’s an interesting question and my first reaction is: yes.

In educational and academic circles we talk about “integrity”. In business, the term “ethics” is used. One business school defines the two terms as being closely related. If we send the message that integrity matters in school, but not in industry, that’s troubling. The message that both ethics and integrity matters after graduation needs to be taken up by someone other than academic institutions. Even if legislation doesn’t criminalize the ripping off ideas and designs, it is incumbent upon the bodies that oversee various industries to ensure that ethics and integrity are upheld as industry standards. I am not sure what industry body in the UK exists among grocers and food producers, but there must be one. I’d like to hear them chime in on this debate.

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


Social Media Literacy for Business Owners: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

January 4, 2012

Sarah Eaton - Author published by Social Media TodayMy latest article, published by Social Media Today, is “Social Media Literacy for Business Owners: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You” tells the story of a local business owner whose lack of engagement with social media hurt his relationship with his customers and his business. The article offers 5 tips for business owners to boost their understanding of what social media is and why it can help their  business.

Though the article is written about a business, the same principles apply to non-profit and social sector organizations.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Business as a creative force that can make the world better

September 9, 2011

The other day I was having a conversation with a colleague about how universities have made drastic changes in how their operational and leadership models in recent years. The change is especially apparent in the Humanities, where scholars are deeply, viscerally offended by the idea of the numbers of “bums in seats” as being an indicator of a faculty’s success.

My friend remarked, “It’s totally a business model!”

I cringed, as I often do, when I hear remarks like that. I’ve worked in post-secondary institutions, with non-profit organizations, with small businesses and entrepreneurs and yes, even with corporations.

I replied, “That’s not a business model. It’s the worst aberration of business. It’s a business model in its most hideous and grotesquely mutated form.”

Don’t get me wrong. There is no doubt in my mind that some businesses exploit their workers, their customers and anyone else they can. There are some businesses who mistreat and abuse their employees. There are some businesses who misreport their numbers and mismanage their money. There’s no denying that.

But not all businesses are that way. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins looks at the qualities that differentiate good businesses from truly great ones. He describes the characteristics of both and then goes on to give examples from industry. It’s a book that many business people know well. While he talks about profit as being one key indicator of success in business, it is not the only key factor. In fact, as the author points out, companies that are driven purely by profit often never make the leap from good to great.

Collins wrote a subsequent work that is less well known, though equally brilliant. Good to Great in the Social Sectors looks at what makes an organization — any organization — great. He shows what he means by focussing on schools, non-profits and other social sector organizations, demonstrating how we can define success in ways that have nothing to do with generating profit. In fact, he says that business can learn a lot from non-profit organizations.

Business isn’t always the great evil that those who work in education and non-profit think it is. The problem is that they see the worst mutations of business practices being employed as leadership models. When that is the case, how could they think anything else?

David Cooperrider, known to many as the “father” of Appreciative Inquiry wrote an article worth reading. “Business as an Agent of World Benefit: Awe is What Moves Us Forward” (It’s available as a free download. It’s 7 pages and it is worth reading.) In it he talks about trends in the business world relating to ethical business, green business and corporate social responsibility, ultimately arguing that business has the potential to unleash wildly creative, progressive, helpful and powerfully transformative change in the world.

I sometimes challenge my academic colleagues to talk to their spouses and friends who work in corporations about concepts like corporate social responsibility, ethics, green business practices and how their corporations are finding ways to give back to the community. It’s surprising how many people in the corporate world volunteer for community events and are committed to practices such as recycling, pursuing innovation and being creative in their work.

Educational administrations seem to be adopting the worst aberrations of business management models, becoming more self-absorbed, more self-serving and less caring, while business itself is evolving past those models and becoming more responsible, more ethical and pursuing excellence and creativity more diligently than some educational institutions.

Ironic, no?

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Calgary ladies – Join me for lunch today at the Coast Plaza Hotel

June 14, 2011

Last month a colleague invited me to join her as a guest at the monthly ladies luncheon of the Calgary group of the Progressive Group of Independent Business Women. I accepted and enjoyed the experience thoroughly. As someone who makes her living doing contract work in education and non-profit, I don’t always consider myself a business woman… more of a freelance educational contractor. This year, I’ve been asked (asked!) to share what I know about educational technologies with small business people. After the lunch last month, the organizer, Julie Chandler, asked me if I’d be their speaker this month and tell them about webinars. I was honoured and of course, I accepted.

I’ve been doing webinars since 2005, but have really started to incorporate them into my work in early 2010. Since then, it seems I’m giving webinars and e-learning classes on all kinds of topics, for all kinds of educational and literacy organizations. I love it, because it gives me a chance to combine two of my passions – technology and education.

I have a soft spot for helping women of all kinds learn and grow. I have found that many people are keen to learn the nuts and bolts about webinars and how they can use them to advance their organization, whether it’s a non-profit or a small business. (In my experience, many small businesses operate like non-profits because their owners are so passionate about what they’re doing that money comes second.)

So if you’re among those people who wants to learn more about webinars in simple, easy-to-understand terms, join us today at the Coast Plaza Hotel for lunch. It’ll be fun!

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Word Power: Writing to win in business

April 16, 2010

What and how we write can have a huge impact on our success in business. The image we create on paper is just as important as the image we create by our wardrobe, posture and handshake. Is your business writing as effective as the rest of the marketing you do?

You want everything you write to be powerful and have impact. There are several things to consider in order to achieve this.

Firstly, know your audience. Whether you are writing a cover letter or a business development proposal, the most important factor of your business writing is your reader. One good strategy is to imagine you are the reader. Ask yourself, “As a reader, what’s in this for me?”  ( . . . a  prospective new employee, a bigger bottom line, good publicity, etc.) Try to answer that question as you write.

Secondly, keep your sentences short and to the point. This will help you maintain good sentence structure and makes it easier for your reader to understand what you are saying. A good rule is to write to a grade seven or eight level. Although this may seem like you’re aiming low, remember that many readers will scan your work, not read it closely.  Author Tom Sant points out that “one of Lincoln’s greatest speeches was his Second Inaugural Address. Of its 701 words, 627 have just one or two syllables. (That’s 89.5 percent.)”  If the “short and simple strategy” worked for Abraham Lincoln, couldn’t it work for you?

Avoid jargon unless you are certain that your reader will understand every single word. It could be that English is not be the first language of everybody who reads your work. If you avoid jargon and slang, you will reach more readers. That could make the difference between winning or losing a contract.

Be yourself. If you don’t speak and act with a stuffy, intellectual tone, why would you write with one? What is your personality and how can you incorporate it into your business writing? I know one person who signs her e-mail with, “Smiles, (her name)” instead of the traditional “Sincerely, (name).” It works for her precisely because she lights up a room with her vibrant smile. She’s always smiling — it’s her signature and it works for her. If you’re not sure how to do this in your writing, read your work out loud. Does it flow with a natural rhythm? Does it sound like you? You can also ask yourself, “How would I say this if I were sitting right in front of the person reading it?” Then, write it that way.

Finally, take the time to check over your document. Most word processors have spelling and grammar checkers. While they may not be perfect, they can help to catch typos and other common mistakes. By taking the time to do this consistently, you become your own quality assurance manager when it comes to the image you are projecting with your business writing. This is a crucial step that many people overlook.

It’s important to check the final version of the document. It has happened to most of us that we spell check something, make revisions and send it out without a final spelling check. Then — oops! –somehow that silly mistake jumps off the page after it’s too late to change it. Once I had to throw out 500 brochures because they came back from the printer with a spelling error. Talk about a costly lesson!

There may be times when it works to your advantage to hire a professional writer or editor. Even as a person with two university degrees in languages who writes and edits professionally, I often ask others to proofread my work before I send it out. I do this especially with marketing materials, as I know that others will judge my competency by the image I project in my marketing materials. I have learned a lot from doing this.

Writing is like any other skill:  it can be learned. If you already know how, chances are, there’s room for improvement. Ask yourself, “How can I make my writing the best it can be?”  That’s what professional writers do on a daily basis. That’s what entrepreneurs and other business people can do to polish their image, enhance their credibility, win customers and increase sales. It’s about presenting the best of yourself – both on and off the page.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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