2015.07.05 SMILE

Smile. What a nice word.

Good words have a way of becoming acronyms. To Henrik Pranov SMILE stands for:

  • Solar
  • Mobile
  • Independent
  • Low cost
  • Energy system

Not all start up companies are in gaming or trying to do a spin on Uber of Airbnb. More and more try to attack some of the world's bigger problems.

In this case, Heliac, a company that has a Kickstarter project running, wants to go from prototype to production of a reflective film that can be used instead of a cooking fire.

Millions of people die each year due to cooking fires. And more get respiratory and other diseases from the smoke.

If I had a product like that, I would be shouting it from the rooftops - or I probably wouldn't, because that is not a way a Dane usually behaves.

Although the product is launched with the word "Smile" there is not a smile to be seen on the face of the very serious inventor. Because just as Danes don't shout form the rooftops they generally don't think smiling broadly looks very professional.

What distinguishes the peoples that smile a lot "in public" from the peoples that generally don't?

Cultures where connection is more important than task are often distinguished by how Collectivistic vs Individualistic they are.

But smiling seems not to be a distinction along the Individualistic/Collectivistic cultural dimension.

Smiling is very common in Thailand and also seen in most of South America. But they don't smile a lot in public in Japan and in Korea it is considered "girly". In China it is often a sign of embarrassment. All of these countries are considered to have Collectivistic cultures.

Conversely, USA is highly Individualistic. Yet, nobody smiles like Vice President Joe Biden - and he is not atypical as Americans come. But in likewise Individualistic Great Britain and Germany it is not common to smile at strangers for no good reason.

This Slideshare has a lot of interesting smiling information. And not surprisingly a lot of information on cultural norms for smiling behavior can be read on various dentist websites. Perhaps Americans have learned to smile along with the improvement in dental care?

As far as I recall, President Washington has never been portrayed with a smile but his dentures can be seen at his home Mount Vernon while Mrs. Thatcher started to smile more after she had her teeth "done".

Smiling or not - the people behind Heliac should be applauded for trying to solve a very real problem. As the founder Henrik Pranov noted in an email: "I have a hard time smiling while knowing that 11.000 people die from this every day."

If they succeed even slightly at their aim of reducing death and disease due to unsafe cooking fires, that, however, will certainly be a reason to smile.

I, for one, am willing to give them a hand. Are you?