What lies beneath—the digital transformation of HR

How can HR communicate with people who work offline? It’s time for digital transformation to get smarter.
Everybody knows that digital transformation can radically shape new business models and optimal ways of working. But what you perhaps didn’t know is that Digital can also transform your business from the initial concept of a global system to the execution of local HR administration and adoption across the board by your employees, managers, and HR professionals.

But does that mean a Human Capital System (HCM) provides the answer to all needs, in all circumstances? Not always, no.

The iceberg effect

While digitizing, integrating, and streamlining business practices can make a huge difference to the management of talent, payroll, general HR administration, and more, there are some areas of the HR process that digitization can’t easily reach. I call it the iceberg effect—we can see many of the benefits of digital transformation, but there’s still plenty beneath the surface that remains relatively inaccessible.

Take contingency workers. Many organizations need to hire people on a seasonal basis or for projects, across different countries and jurisdictions—sometimes thousands on a single day that have to be paid the very next day. In many cases, these are people whose work doesn’t make them easily contactable via digital means.

Not all employees have access to a laptop or mobile at work—those in manufacturing, mining, and retail are often “offline” and unconnected from the technology we naturally think of in an implementation. They’re not sitting in front of computer screens or using handheld devices, and for many, may even be actively discouraged from using laptops and smartphones.

In a nutshell, how do you communicate at scale with people for whom technology is not an integral part of their work? As an employer, you may have spent time developing fabulous HR practices to administer, engage, and empower your employees—but they’re not going to self-serve in large numbers if they don’t have a ready means of access.

Customer-driven principles

To find a solution, organizations need to approach the issue from the opposite direction. Just as successful online consumer marketing strategies don’t start with functionality, neither does HR. Digital starts with developing an understanding of the customer experience. HR practitioners and service providers need to think about the daily practices of the people they are trying to reach.

If people are doing shifts on a shop floor, in a factory or mine, what are their touchpoints—in other words, the moments in their day when they’re in contact with the administrative function? Answers to this question might include:

  • When they’re clocking in at the start of their shift.
  • When supervisors call team meetings to allocate tasks for the day.
  • When they’re being paid.
  • When they’re signing out at the end of their shift.
  • In retail, when they’re logging on or off at a point-of-sale terminal.

All such occasions provide opportunities for contact and communication—leveraging the response channels and response leves that best match the needs and circumstances of the employees involved.

Fulfilling the digital transformation promise

The benefits to maintaining smart contact with offline workers are many:

  • It makes everyone visible and part of the wider team.
  • It can improve employee satisfaction…
  • … and increase productivity, by simplifying access to information that might otherwise take up time for offline employees.
  • It streamlines communications and plugs gaps…
  • … and enables you to make best use of your workforce.
  • It can reduce HR service desk costs by 25–30%.
  • It demonstrates your duty of care.
  • What’s more, it establishes a consistent, enterprise-wide model.

It’s often said that digital transformation is, or ought to be, customer-driven. In HR, the customers aren’t just external, but also internal—your people. If you really want to optimize HR administration and the adoption of day-to-day administration, engagement, and empowerment through digital transformation, you need to treat your unconnected employees as customers.

At Capgemini, we’ve spent some time addressing this challenge, and we’ll be discussing it in a webinar entitled “Digital for the Unconnected Employee.” Everybody likes to feel valued, and in the webinar, we look at how organizations can make that happen, while also improving their processes.

Register for our “Digital for the Unconnected Employee” webinar, and learn how Capgemini and SumTotal’s HR management solution enables your employees to stay connected and well-informed via biometric scanning devices and multimedia kiosks on the factory floor.

 To find out more about how Capgemini’s Digital Employee Operations can narrow the engagement gap for your unconnected workers, contact: chantelle.brandt-larsen@capgemini.com

 Click here to learn more about how Capgemini’s Digital Employee Operations can improve your HR function and employee satisfaction.

About the authors:

Chantelle Brandt Larsen is a tech-savvy thought leader with over 17 years experience in organization development (OD). She is passionate about the power of technology and mindset in changing business models and operations. She has successfully designed and executed multiple OD solutions across a range of businesses.

Robot does the unthinkable by assembling IKEA furniture in 20 minutes

IKEA is cheap, stylish, and a superb solution for furnishing an entire dwelling on a budget. It’s also the leading cause of divorce in couples who attempt to assemble its furniture at home, according to a poll I just made up for the sake of this joke.

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore created a robot to do the grunt work for you, assembling an IKEA chair in all of 20 minutes. All told, the machine divvied up its time by spending 11 minutes and 21 seconds planning its motion pathways, three seconds locating parts, and then eight minutes and 55 seconds assembling the chair.

Built entirely of off-the-shelf parts, the team designed the robot with an array of sensors, a 3D camera, robotic gripping arms, and some really complex AI, relatively speaking.

According to Assistant Professor Pham Quang Cuong, who designed the bot with help from his team at NTU’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering:

For a robot, putting together an IKEA chair with such precision is more complex than it looks. The job of assembly, which may come naturally to humans, has to be broken down into different steps, such as identifying where the different chair parts are, the force required to grip the parts, and making sure the robotic arms move without colliding into each other. Through considerable engineering effort, we developed algorithms that will enable the robot to take the necessary steps to assemble the chair on its own.

The robot starts the process by taking photos of each part, which researchers laid out on the floor in a mess resembling the beginning s of a human-led IKEA project. From there, it creates a map of each part and its position on the floor. Then it sets out to assemble the pieces using pressure sensors that ensure the correct level of force for tasks such as slotting dowels and fastening the components.

You can see the device at work below.

Next up for the team is equipping the robot with advanced AI that would allow it to assemble other furniture just from looking at the instruction manual or a previously finished example.

I, for one, welcome our new IKEA furniture-assembling overlords.

via New Atlas

 

This article was written by Bryan Clark from The Next Web and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

The secret ingredients of Stockholm’s start-up success

Stockholm has many factors that really make a difference. But for me it is mostly about sharing the “Too Young to Retire” factor. This is in the DNA of the Swedes
One of my biggest hobbies, which is also a part of my job responsibilities, is reading books. The books I read are mostly on technology, methodologies, management practices, and so on. Recently, while returning from a work trip, I picked up a copy of “Crushing It” by Gary Vaynerchuk.

Vaynerchuk is perhaps not the typical author anyone would be reading, but he is a great inspiration to me and my son. It all started with my son’s dream of becoming a YouTube star. The new “Fireman” or “Pilot” of the current youth. After some father–son conversations on why a Plan B might be a good idea (traditional as I sometimes am), we decided to analyze what good YouTubers really do. And that’s when Gary kicked in.

After taking his family’s traditional wine business to a new level with Winelibrary TV, he embarked on the path to become a social media rockstar. The main reason for Gary’s success, in my opinion, is his willingness to share his knowledge. He is not sitting on his unique little thing, but wants to help the community grow by leveraging his expertise and experience.

Now, this brings me to Innovation. On April 12 we will open our latest Applied Innovation Exchange in Stockholm. But why Stockholm? What makes it special?

Well, primarily because of the large number of start-ups and the ecosystem the city has fostered. It has even become the second largest start-up hub after Silicon Valley, if you measure the number of Unicorns per capita. Rather than just lying back and enjoying this fact, I would like to deconstruct the reasons for this unique culture.

TYTR

As with some of the founders of Silicon Valley Unicorns, the founders of the Swedish Unicorns (companies like Skype, Spotify, Minecraft, and Candy Crush Saga) were also “Too Young to Retire.” The companies were sold in a relatively early stage, so the founders wanted to create more impact with others as well. Money flew back into new start-ups thereby creating a multiplier effect.

Eye on growth

Although Sweden is geographically quite large, it has only 10 million residents. With so many start-ups, you therefore already need to have an eye on international expansions to stay up-to-date with the latest innovations. This international mindset (which starts with their education system), helps to drive the growth of these start-ups.

Mix the teams

Sweden has a very strong social infrastructure which allows a vast majority of women to be a part of the workforce. In my interactions with Swedish startups, I have come across diverse teams, and found that it’s not unusual for companies to have a female CEO. Although I can’t deliver scientific evidence for this, I strongly believe that this helps to create more high-performance cultures.

Start-up wallpaper

I once shared a joke with my colleague Ron Tolido that we should start a company around “start-up wallpapers”—anything and everything to support the creation of cool environments where people would feel inspired. However, if you want to experience this feeling, just stroll around Stockholm and I am fairly certain you will get such vibes. The city is vibrant, full of large spaces which can be all designed as start-up hubs. Add the ubiquity of restaurants and coffee bars that help shape the right atmosphere for a vibrant and creative environment—well, you get the picture.

Stockholm has many factors that really make a difference. But for me it is mostly about sharing the “Too Young to Retire” factor. This is in the DNA of the Swedes. One of my dearest friends—and I always call her my heart friend—comes from Stockholm. Whenever you are in town, they invite you to their house; you can sleep over, and they take you to events, and provide you with the best experience. This is the unique thing that makes the start-up scene spread. That’s what made Gary Vaynerchuk the guy that he is today and this is exactly what makes Stockholm the second largest start-up hub in the world.

It is fitting therefore, that on April 12, we will open our latest Applied Innovation Exchange in Stockholm. At Capgemini, we truly believe that innovation should be open and a part of our DNA, and sharing is the way to create value. We will build on the great interaction we already have with the Stockholm start-up community. Not only to help them connect to the large corporates and help them in scale with our specific knowledge, but to also make them learn how to start things new and how to be creative with limited means.

My son is still working on his YouTube career, but he absorbed many lessons from Gary and others to really understand what is required to become successful. I hope you will join us in learning and working from and with the start-up community in Stockholm as well. Join us to make your company more successful and to help grow these start-ups.

Because as one person once wisely said, dividing knowledge is the only way to properly Multiply.

The 3 Vital Ways HR Teams Should Be Using Data

Any average HR department is rich in data. Personal employee data, recruitment data, and performance KPIs are just a few examples of the kinds of data a typical HR team is sitting on. Now, as our world becomes increasingly ‘datafied’, HR teams have more opportunities than ever before to capture and analyze data, which has given rise to the terms ‘data-driven HR’ and ‘intelligent HR’.

But what are the smartest ways to use all this data, and make HR more data driven? There are infinite ways to use data, but, in their most basic sense, they boil down to three main categories: using data to make better decisions, using data to better understand your customers and using data to improve operations.

These three categories are just as applicable in the world of HR as they are for, say, marketing or sales. Let’s look at each category in turn.

  1. Making better decisions

More and more business teams are building cultures of data-based decision making, as opposed to basing decisions on gut feeling or how things have always been done. HR is no different. Data-driven HR, the theme of my new book, is all about making HR smarter, and making smarter decisions is a critical part of this. There are two key strands to making better HR-related decisions. The first is the HR team itself making better decisions about its own activities and people-related challenges (such as, finding ways to make recruitment and performance reviews smarter).

Here’s a great example of data-driven HR decision making in action. Analysts Gartner compiled a study for a US financial services company that examined the performance of employees within their first two years at the company. What they found was that, while all the best performers had a degree-level education, their individual grades and the particular school or college they attended had no bearing on their success or failure. The company went on to implement entirely new screening processes that gave no weight to the ranking of the college attended, or the grades attained. Instead, they favored those who had completed any college course, and gone on to demonstrate success in a job after college. The business increased their revenues by $4 million in just six months.

The second strand is the HR team helping others in the organization to make better decisions using people-related data. After all, leadership teams need HR- and people-related data to make their own decisions, and the intelligent HR team is well equipped to support this process. But there may also be other functions within the business that could make meaningful improvements if they only had access to the right data.

For example, tools like Glint’s employee feedback app allow companies to access real-time insights on how people are feeling about their work and employer. From the range of vegan food options in the canteen, to the quality of corporate communications over a recent merger, such feedback tools can deliver valuable insights to those across the business who need them.

  1. Understanding your customers

Every time Netflix recommends a new TV series you might like, or Spotify recommends an artist you’ve never heard of, it’s because they’ve analyzed your activities and gleaned useful information about your behaviors and preferences. They understand what makes you tick (better than you might be comfortable with!), and can therefore meet your needs more effectively. Even a humble customer satisfaction survey is an example of using data to better understand customers. So, it’s no wonder this is one of the most common uses of data.

If you’re a HR professional, your customers are first and foremost the organization’s employees (and, to some extent, the leadership team). So, the more you can understand your customers, the better you can serve them.

There is both an internal and an external side to this category. Internally, the HR team can use data to better understand employees, including how happy they are, how engaged they are, how safely they’re working and so on. For example, many businesses are using short ‘pulse’ surveys to measure how staff are feeling on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis. This allows them to accurately gauge levels of staff engagement, without the need for traditional costly and time-consuming staff surveys.

Externally, data can help the HR team look beyond the organization and understand its employer brand (using platforms like LinkedIn and Glassdoor). Data can give valuable insights on your company’s perception from the outside, and how to attract the kind of talent you need to succeed.

Clearly, this category has a lot of crossover with making better decisions. Armed with a better understanding of your customers, you can make much smarter decisions on how best to serve them – decisions rooted in data, rather than assumptions. That’s why this category and the first often go hand in hand.

  1. Improving operations

Finally, data provides a way for HR professionals to look at their key HR functions – like recruitment, for instance – and answer critical questions like ‘Where do we spend most of our time and effort?’ and ‘How can we streamline and improve these processes?’ Data analysis can help identify areas for improvement, and ways to optimize processes.

Increasingly, this is about automating as much as possible, which largely means putting internal systems in place that allow you to automatically make use of people-related data or perform certain functions.

But this category isn’t all about automating processes and replacing HR professionals with algorithms. In its broadest sense, it’s simply about looking at key processes and activities, understanding what the HR team spends its money and time on, and looking at how to make those processes better.

One HR function that’s becoming increasingly optimized by data is employee safety and wellbeing. One great example comes from Fujitsu’s Ubiquitousware package, which collects and analyses data from devices such as accelerometer sensors, barometers, cameras and microphones to measure and monitor people as they go about their work. Data such as temperature, humidity, movements and pulse rate can be used to identify when workers are exposed to too much heat stress, for instance. The system can even detect postures and body movements to sense a fall or estimate the physical load on a body.

Read more about how data and analytics can help you make better decisions, understand your customers, and improve operations in Data-Driven HR. It’s packed with real-life examples and practical ways HR teams can deliver maximum value in our increasingly data-driven world.

 

This article was written by Bernard Marr from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How Open Source Development Is Democratizing The Tech Industry

Open-source software is one of the most powerful tools modern developers have at their disposal. It allows individual developers to benefit from and build off the work of entire development communities, harnessing that power instead of starting from scratch. It’s valuable yet cost-effective. And it’s changing the landscape of tech development.

Here’s more about how open source has evolved over the years, the role it currently plays in the tech industry, and the new applications that have been created as a result of open-source resources.

The Evolution Of Open Source

Open source emerged in the late ’90s, and (like most tech-related things) it has undergone significant changes since its inception.

“When open source first emerged two decades ago, it was largely alternatives to commercial applications that were created by lone wolf developers,” explains Jakob Freund, co-founder and CEO of Camunda, an open-source-based platform for workflow and decision automation. “Today, the viability of open source has fundamentally changed because there is a commercially justified interest in it.”

Jason Thrasher, VP of Engineering at IFTTT, outlines how open source matured from informal interactions to a formal, structured idea suitable for business use: “Before the consumer internet was widespread, people would exchange code when trying to solve a common problem in a collaborative way,” he says. “Then, ownership concerns for open code’s intellectual property necessitated the creation of licenses that controlled for how the open code was used, by outlining how the code could be used to build derivative solutions. Open source has been around for decades, but its recognized formal use by businesses has increased significantly since the early 2000s”

Matt Ingenthron, Senior Director of Engineering at Couchbase, sees community development as the most valuable change as open source has evolved. “In the infancy of open source, we as developers relied on things like internet chatrooms, discussion forums, SourceForge, etc.,” he says. “Now that open source has matured, the way we collaborate has changed, too. There is a rich set of open source projects, open source commons, and even new communities coming together with new organizing principles. It has accelerated innovation and collaboration far beyond what we had before.”

A Community Effort: The Individuals and Companies Behind Open Source

So what is this community all about? Who contributes to open source projects? And open source work is generally not compensated, is it beneficial to devs who contribute as well as those who use their work?

According to Thrasher, contributing to open source is good for users and contributors. “Publishing or contributing to open source projects is one way that companies can identify talent in the very competitive technology sector,” he says. “By contributing to open source, a software developer is showing what they are capable of doing, and also showing that they are truly interested in their knowledge domain and willing to spend time learning and contributing. We at IFTTT have had great experiences hiring these people.”

Along with providing a public record of a dev’s work that hiring managers can see, contributors benefit from being part of the open source network. As Ingenthron says, “I love getting up every day and working with all of our communities bound together by open source. It’s a lot of hard work, but we love it when awesome innovation across these communities turns into working solutions.”

And Stephan Ewen, cofounder and CTO of data Artisans, speaks to the across-the-board value of developers who decide to add to open-source projects. “I’d just like to acknowledge the vital role the community of contributors play: the people who see potential improvements to a project then build new features that everyone can benefit from,” he says. “They are the force that keeps a project moving forward.”

Now that open source is more mainstream, Ewen continues, it’s spurring the creation of new companies, who then continue contributing to the ecosystem: “It’s common for companies to form around popular open source technologies. These companies often invest lots of time and resources into growing the community, supporting users who have questions, and of course working on the software.”

Big companies operate by this principle as well. “For example, Amazon and Google have both published open source code that allows other companies to integrate more easily with their own cloud services,” explains Thrasher. “This strategy quickens the adoption of Amazon and Google’s technology products by making it easier to use their services, resulting in more revenue opportunities.”

How Open Source Is Currently Impacting Tech And Business

The popularity of open source is arising at a time when technologies with similar guiding principles are flourishing as well. “It’s no coincidence the open-source revolution has taken place in parallel with the explosion of cloud, big data, and analytics technologies,” says Dan Kulp, VP of Open Source Development at Talend. “The modular, fluid and constantly-evolving nature of open source is in sync with the needs for faster, more flexible and more secure systems and platforms.”

Ultimately, open source has led to greater efficiency and innovation among developers. As GitLab CEO and cofounder Sid Sijbrandij explains, “By harnessing the power of the crowd, open source software allows developers to benefit from accelerated innovation, quicker development processes and having more success troubleshooting when problems arise.”

In addition to individual developers, it has also become foundational to companies. “Open source software has become critical to organizations of all shapes and sizes,” says Ewen. We will start seeing complete platforms that include both open source and proprietary components coming to the market, taking full advantage of what open source has to offer while making it easy for companies to quickly adopt the technologies.”

And overall, open source is revolutionizing tech just by providing a method for collaboration and innovation like never before. “[This kind of] innovation is only possible when backed by a massive community of bright minds and contributions,” says Kulp. “Without open-source software, companies would spend a huge amount of time reinventing the wheel rather than innovating. It’s similar to building a house–you have a solution as a foundation, but with open source you have the flexibility to build a custom sink or bedroom if you want.”

The Applications Born From Open Source

As companies continue to embrace open source, let’s take a quick look at some of the open-source projects that currently have achieved real-world adoption, and what they’re used for.

  • GitLab uses Gitter, a chat platform, as well as Gemnasium, a robust security solution–both open-source projects.
  • IFTTT uses mini applications, or “Applets,” which can be created and integrated with hundreds of other services via open-source software.
  • Talend works with Google on Apache Beam “to enable users to execute both batch and streaming data processing pipelines across a variety of runtime platforms” (Kulp).
  • Global-500 banking company ING uses Apache Flink to power its fraud detection system, and Alibaba uses Flink to update its search ranking models.
  • Gainsight recently embedded Camunda “in order to provide workflow automation features as part of its product” (Freund).
  • Couchbase was founded from open-source projects and has since grown into its own identity.

That’s just a sample of the real-world use cases of open source. As Ingenthron says, “There are a plethora of app-dev and data management platforms that have emerged out of users and developers collaborating, all in a healthy ecosystem of commerce.”

The Future Potential of Open Source

What might open source be able to do in the future? Let’s look at a few ideas.

  1. Increased privacy and transparency. “We seem to be in a period of discovery for our own privacy,” says Thrasher. “With data breaches affecting billions of people from companies including finance, retailers, tech and beyond, we are realizing that technology that we assumed to be benign can be used in ways we didn’t anticipate, and I would expect we demand transparency for what’s happening. The transport layer of privacy is the software that handles the private data. Open sourcing that software will let us see what’s actually happening.”
  2. More trust among users. “In the future, I expect that more people will adopt software with trust that an open-source solution can be as trustworthy as a non-open solution,” says Ingenthron. “Developers can dive in if they want or need to.”
  3. An Internet of Things boom. “I think we are just at the edge of open source hardware creating a boom in connected devices,” continues Ingenthron. “It feels like the IoT growth is at least in part driven by the creativity of open source software and hardware developers.”
  4. Democratization of AI and machine learning. “In the future, we expect to see the broadest impact and continued development of open source to be driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning,” says Kulp. Open source will democratize AI by opening it up to the community that will help drive its continued evolution and leaps forward in terms of both capabilities and use cases.”

Whatever the future holds, it’s clear that open source will be a part of changing it. Sijbrandij concludes, “As a proponent of open source technology, I hope to see widespread adoption continue in the enterprise and developer communities.”

 

This article was written by Laurence Bradford from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

11 Google Drive Tricks That’ll Make Your Life That Much Easier

Fun fact: Google Drive launched only six years ago—and yet you probably don’t remember what your life was like without it.

You’re not alone—the file storage service has more than 800 million active users each month and over three billion files uploaded every day. And, as you know, it’s an incredibly helpful resource for staying organized.

Even if you’ve only got a few dozen docs there, these tips will help you manage them better—and faster.

1. Find Files in a Flash With Search

Instead of slogging through all your files in Google Drive, you can look for exactly what you need with the options in the search bar. No more showing up late to meetings because you forgot where you filed your presentation.

2. Make Sharing Your Work Publicly Simple

Want to share your document, presentation, or spreadsheet with the world? Just click file > publish to the web, and you’ll get a public link that you can share with anyone and everyone.

Bonus: Your document is automatically updated online whenever you make changes to it in Google Drive.

3. Keep Track of Edits From Your Inbox

The best thing about Google Drive is that it lets you make comments, suggestions, and tag email addresses to files you share with your team. And, by choosing to get email notifications about these updates, you can make sure you’re up-to-date with any changes made to your documents without needing to open the app.

4. Save Stuff Straight From the Web

The Save to Google Drive Chrome extension, like the name hints, lets you save documents, images, audio, videos, and more straight from a web page to the Google Drive folder of your choice. Super handy for those otherwise tricky full-page screenshots!

5. Pull Out Text From Images

Don’t waste time re-typing text from PDFs or images you want to copy. Google Drive’s option to open them with Google Docs has automatic optical character recognition. This means that in a few seconds, you get a document with both the original file and the text from it ready to format and use wherever you need it.

6. Convert Microsoft Documents to Google for Easy Access

The Office Editing for Docs, Sheets, and Slides Chrome extension is a lifesaver when someone sends you a Word doc or an Excel spreadsheet. With a few clicks, Google Drive converts the file to Google’s format so you don’t have to buy yet another program for your computer.

7. Shorten Long Links

Tidy up those long (and not-so-lovely) Google Doc URLs with the URL Shortener Add-on.

8. Chat With Your Team While Working on a Doc

If you’re working with someone in the same Google Drive document, you can chat right there in real time to ask questions, exchange ideas, or talk through your thoughts. And, if you need to switch to another tool for a few minutes, you get notifications of new chat messages right in the browser tab.

9. Backup and Sync Your Files to Any Device

Google’s Backup and Sync tool lets you automatically upload and store files (and any changes you make to them, of course) from your computer so you can access them from any other device with Google Drive. A great way to make one of those extra copies of your data that you really should have.

10. Color-Coordinate Your Files for Sleek Organization

Do you need to find certain Google Drive files in a flash? Set the color for them to something eye-catching, and you’ll be able to find it fast.

11. Use Shortcuts to Save Yourself All the Clicks

Google Drive has a full list of keyboard shortcuts that save you both clicks and time. And you can have them right at your fingertips by pressing the “Ctrl” and “/” keys on a Chromebook or Windows computer or “Cmd” and “/” on a Mac.

You’re sure to save time and find better ways of working with these tools and tricks. And, if Google Drive isn’t yet your digital can’t-do-without, give them a try anyhow, and you might find yourself falling in love with all the ways it speeds up and simplifies your online tasks.

 

 

This article was written by Kelli Smith from The Daily Muse and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

9 Tips for Highly Productive Meetings

Hours and hours are wasted every week on unproductive meetings. And that’s time that could be spent on other important business initiatives to better move a company forward. Because it’s not only an employee’s time that’s wasted but an employer’s money too. According to research, $25 million of company money are lost every day on unproductive meetings, resulting in a whopping total of $37 billion a year.

Of course many meetings are necessary in order to set and achieve goals, and get things done so you can’t get rid of them altogether. However, there are some ways to make them shorter, more productive and to-the-point.

To learn how, here are nine tips for highly productive meetings.

1. Send out an agenda beforehand.

If you’re the one spearheading a meeting, it’s important to make it very clear what exactly that meeting is going to entail, and to share these important details with the rest of the attendees. By making known what exactly the meeting’s main points are, people will know whether their attendance is necessary or not and what they should have prepared for it too. If everyone is prepared, then the meeting will be smooth and time-effective. To achieve this, create an agenda beforehand detailing what will be covered, how much time it will take and your goals, and email this out to everyone at least 24 hours before the meeting so people can prepare if they need to.

2. Invite only those necessary.

On average, people spend 31 hours in unproductive meetings every month. That’s precious time that could be spent on other projects and important work. Therefore, to reduce this number, make sure that you only invite the necessary people needed at a meeting in order to achieve its initiatives and goals. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has a rule of thumb called the “two pizza rule,” which is to only invite the amount of people to a meeting that two pizzas can feed.

3. Have distinct roles.

After setting (and sending) the agenda and inviting the necessary attendees, make sure everyone’s roles are clearly defined, especially the meeting’s leader. It’s incredibly important to have a distinct team leader who will be conducting the meeting and making sure goals get achieved. Other important roles to assign include a note-taker, a time-keeper and a facilitator.

4. Watch the clock.

To make sure no time is wasted and meetings don’t drag on, be incredibly strict on time. And that goes all the way back to agenda-setting before the meeting. When setting your agenda, write out exactly what you’ll be talking about and how much time will be spent on each topic. Using this information, calculate a total of exactly how much time will be needed for the entire meeting. As a tip: try to keep them around 18 minutes. Research shows that people’s attention spans significantly drop any longer than that.

5. Have a standing meeting.

It’s important to keep people on their toes, especially in meetings. According to research, standing meetings are more creative, collaborative and productive than sitting ones.

6. Take notes — by hand.

Note-taking during meetings is incredibly important, not only for the meeting’s leader but for every member. And instead of using laptops, which can often serve as distractions, try taking notes by hand. According to research, typing notes can result in mindlessly writing anything that you hear, while writing notes by hand makes sure people are accurately listening and choosing the most important things to write down.

7. Make a “no cell phones” rule.

Today, smartphones can serve as major distractions. Whether it’s surfing the web or scrolling through Instagram, enforce a “no cell phones” rule to make sure everyone is fully engaged and attentive. Just take it from the White House: when President Obama was in office, staffers and meeting attendees wrote their names on sticky notes, which they attached to their phones and left in a basket at the beginning of Cabinet meetings.

8. Assign tasks at the end.

Every attendee should leave a meeting knowing exactly what is needed from them. Apple’s Steve Jobs called these “DRIs,” which stood for “Directly Responsible Individuals.” By assigning tasks and responsibilities to people and laying out concise understandings of what’s expected of them, productivity will be boosted and meeting goals will be much easier to achieve.

9. Send a follow-up email.

At the end of every meeting, the meeting leader should send out a follow-up email outlining everything that was discussed. Send this out on the same day that a meeting took place, and make sure every meeting attendee receives it. Typically, it should include what was covered, tasks given to various members and what next steps are.

This article originally appeared in Calendar.

This article was written by Rose Leadem from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

What the evolution of AI’s onscreen depiction says about society

More than 90 years ago, one of the first onscreen depictions of an android made her debut. The Maschinenmensch, otherwise known as “Maria,” terrified audiences at showings of sci-fi masterpiece Metropolis. The year was 1927, and the futuristic idea of an evil robot disguising itself as a human was distant — a fantasy, but no less chilling. Maria played on very human fears: being controlled by that which we control, being deceived, and most importantly, being replaced. She represented a future that was bleak and scary, and though it made for an excellent film, no audience member wanted it to become a reality.

The Maschinenmensch was a proto-artificial intelligence, and like AI characters that came after, she reflected her time. Over the past century, AI onscreen has represented our anxieties, hopes, and ambitions, as well as our deepest values. Of course, that focus has shifted over time. Today, when our real-life artificial intelligence has become adaptable and dynamic, human-mimicking AI seems less a fantasy and more a not-too-distant eventuality. Because of this, our perceptions and expectations of AI onscreen have shifted, and we have begun a new exploration of what it means to be human. The future of AI is threatening, exhilarating, and wrapped in uncertainty and opportunity, as it always has been. But as AI has developed, so have our expectations of it.

The Stepford Wives tracks changes in AI perception

A clear example of changing times informing AI onscreen is in the case of The Stepford Wives. In both the 1975 original and the 2004 remake, wives in a seemingly idyllic New England town are replaced by robots modeled to look like them. These new versions are submissive, helpful, and perfect in the eyes of their husbands, but it’s a frightening concept to viewers who wonder if they, too, could be replaced by better robotic versions of themselves.

The two film adaptations, however, handle this fear differently. While the original is a thriller that reads like social commentary and drips with danger and mystery, the newer version plays the tale off as a campy horror-comedy, light on the horror. Over the nearly 30 years that separated the versions, people lost the white-knuckle fright they felt toward robotic replacements and replaced it with dark bemusement. AI had changed, and so had our expectations.

Early appearances of AI in film

Even before 1975, AI was influencing film and vice versa. The 1960s were a time of exploration in AI. There weren’t many practical applications yet, but researchers like Ray Solomonoff were working to develop thought patterns and decision-making algorithms for AI programs. It was a time of what-ifs, which naturally invited the less-than-comforting questions: What if the computers outsmart us? What if they don’t want to serve us?

To answer these questions, in 1968 a terrifying onscreen artificial intelligence chilled audiences. 2001: A Space Odyssey introduced H.A.L. 9000, the murderous machine that terrorizes a small group of astronauts. This film was groundbreaking in many ways, but what people seem to remember most is Hal’s fearsome phrase: “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” It was the moment audiences truly knew Hal wasn’t under its humans’ control, and it was the most iconic and terrifying moment in the film.

Hal wasn’t the only representation of what we thought AI would be. The 1970s saw increased development in the real world of artificial intelligence. Machines began learning and adapting to language. Though it would be 40 years until a program finally passed the Turing test, computer programs were making and publishing scientific discoveries for the first time. Artificial intelligence was just that: intelligent. It sparked imagination, both for hopeful and fearful purposes.

Films begin to show mixed emotions about AI

Through the 1970s and 1980s, a crop of now-famous androids appeared onscreen. Westworld’s Gunslinger, Blade Runner’s replicants, and The Terminator‘s T-800 represented threats, while Star Wars and Knight Rider flipped the script with the helpful and charming C-3PO, R2-D2, and KITT. These were the most dynamic and humanlike robots yet seen onscreen, reflecting our collective realization that AI could be more.

The late 1980s also introduced perhaps one of the best-known AI characters of all time: Data, from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Much debate was had on the show about Data’s human qualities, but sci-fi fans held tightly to their feeling, cat-loving android, even before the “emotion chip.” His development during the show’s run through the 1990s felt natural against the real-world backdrop of AI development, where researchers were making huge strides in machine learning thanks to the work of experts such as Ian Horswill, Gerry Tesauro, and Ernst Dickmanns. Computers were puzzle solvers, game winners, and even possibly drivers.

Representation following the World Wide Web

Then, of course, came the World Wide Web. We were connected to and by computers, and new ideas of what they could be filled screens. The turn of the millennium ushered in new visions of what a world brimming with technology could become. Films such as I, Robot and A.I. Artificial Intelligence offered complicated new takes and rose to meet audience expectations. Cut-and-dry depictions of AI were no more; only deeply complex characterizations pushed the limits of what we knew enough to still be interesting.

This complexity has continued to evolve. Ex Machina, Chappie, and Her offered unique depictions of artificial intelligence, each with a different tone and projection. Television shows like Humans and the updated Westworld show androids every bit as human as we are, and they seem believable, like it’s a future that isn’t far off. In an era when AI programs are indeed, in some ways, smarter than us, imagining that next step — our creations surpassing our control — doesn’t seem far out of reach.

Today, our relationship with artificial intelligence and technology in general has advanced to where technology influences nearly every part of our lives. We rely on our personal computers to inform us about AI, connect us to technology and each other, and even tell us how to watch films about all of that. Some of us choose to be afraid, while some choose to see technology’s advancements as essential steps into the future. But whatever AI’s future holds, we can count on one thing: We’ll have movies to document its progression.

Alex Haslam is a freelance writer who covers consumer technology, tech deals, and cord-cutting topics for PCWorld, US News & World Report, and Macworld.

This article was written by Alex Haslam from VentureBeat and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Scaling Three Levels of Change: It’s the One Skill Every Leader Needs

A theme I hear often from executives today is their desire to “reach the C-suite by age 45.” People see so many young founders rising fast and they want to succeed at an earlier age. And some organizations are indeed appointing younger leaders, including digital natives who have hastened their experience curve by rapidly rotating through a variety of roles, developing a strong organizational followership, and building up their external brand on social media. Although this is particularly true of CIOs and chief marketing officers (CMOs), who are the youngest member in the C-suite on average, outliers can also be found leading established organizations: Ralph Lauren’s former CEO, Stefan Larsson, and Ally Financial’s CEO, Jeffrey Brown, and McDonald’s CEO Stephen James Easterbrook, among others, were elevated in their ‘40s.

Reaching the C-suite at any age today requires checking many of the usual boxes in terms of experience and accomplishments. But you can also bring something new that organizations truly need right now— a natural willingness to embrace change and manage complexity. With that in mind, there are three distinct levels of change that you can build into your repertoire of skills.

  • Industry change and disruption.

The most difficult part of dealing with industry change as a leader is absorbing the constant shocks and surprises that come your way while simultaneously trying to keep the organization running smoothly. Boards and CEOs are searching for seasoned executives who can make it look easy: course-correcting fast, fending off insurgent competitors and having an intense focus on ever-changing customer needs. These and other business realities mean that you need to think on your feet.

There is an art to acting with limited information in a complex, unpredictable environment, and it can be practiced in a few ways. First, since you can’t foresee every shift, you need to get comfortable admitting when you don’t have all the answers. That humility is one of the things that will help you remain vigilant. Next, take great pains to know your strengths and limitations. This is what will enable you to surround yourself with the people who can best compliment your capabilities. Finally, be open to receiving input from others and listening to multiple perspectives. One executive I know put it this way, “It’s not that you don’t trust your own instincts, is just that you can hone your thinking faster by learning how other people see the situation.”

  • Organizational changes and transformation

The second facet of change that you must come to terms with is organizational transformation. Corporate structures are seldom static today. They can change fast when mergers, leadership transitions, and business model shifts realign the core values of an organization. The ensuing waves of change can leave the company unrecognizable to longtime leaders unless they fully understand the evolution that is occurring. You need to be able to maneuver through these internal turnarounds and transformations, which are not only a core part of leadership but also a litmus test of your ability to proceed under intense, ongoing pressure.

To rise to the challenge, you need to have a clear vision of the change that is occurring and be ready to translate it for the people working around you. One part of this is showing that you have gotten “on board” with the new normal and are prepared to proceed with the requisite sense of urgency. Next, you need to pause to acknowledge and manage the heightened concern that the employees around you frequently feel when organizational changes create widespread uncertainty. Ultimately, you need to lead the change effort in a way that removes the mindset barriers and logistical speed bumps for you and the people around you.

  • Personal change

As important as the other two levels of change are, I consider personal change to be the one most closely associated with executive success. Industry and organizational change call for preparation and proper response, but personal change? It requires proactive effort and a whole lot of nerve. There are a few relevant ways to look at personal change.

Professional development:  Leaders need to not only keep their skills fresh but also go in search of the right experiences—have I managed a turnaround?, have I launched and entrepreneurial project?, etc. As part of that, leaders should volunteer for assignments and projects that enable personal and professional growth. In some organizations, mandatory role rotation keeps executives learning and developing, while other firms require leaders to be more proactive by looking for ways to disrupt themselves and their routine. Some leaders even choose to accept lateral moves to gain experience that will serve them well later. One CEO told me she always went after the “tough tasks” regardless of the job title because she learned the most from them.

Career reinvention: One executive I know runs an $8 billion business unit in the telecom sector. He’s in line to be the CEO someday. Yet, he doesn’t want to be the chief executive at the company where he works now. He envisions leading a smaller, more entrepreneurial or philanthropic organization so he’s getting ready to resign and reinvent himself. It’s difficult to envision making such a risky career change, but it’s often the difficult decisions like this that open up the greatest possibilities and create space for leaders to find the role that they really want.

Lifelong learning. The last part of personal change that leaders need to embrace is ongoing discovery. Whether it is through role models, coaching or simply reading books, leaders need to look for things that inform them, change their thinking and keep them learning. Kelly Kramer, CFO of Cisco told me this about learning, “It’s what keeps us ahead of everything else and solves 99% of the other issues we encounter.”

Why does change make us better leaders? It forces us out of our comfort zone, plain and simple. Doing the hard things — like dealing with so much change —forces us to grow and makes our everyday leadership role seem simple by comparison.

 

This article was written by Cassandra Frangos from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How to Optimize Slack for Remote Teams

In a world where over 52 percent of employees in the United States are working remotely at least part of the time, Slack is leading the charge in the race to be the best remote collaboration app for working professionals.

Slack acts as a virtual office, with fewer of the drawbacks of other communication methods for remote teams. Follow these tips to optimize the platform for your remote team, you’ll be a Slack pro in no time.

Use Apps to Customize Your Workplace

When you’re working with an in-office team, it’s easy to see who’s working hard and who’s hardly working. Working with a remote team, in contrast, takes a lot of trust. How do you really know if your employees are being as productive as they should be?

Luckily, Slack has built-in support for apps like GitHub, Zendesk and Dropbox, so you can keep tabs on what’s going on in your virtual office. When your employees receive a new task (whether it’s a new customer inquiry or a list of issues in their latest piece of code) that task will show up in a dedicated channel, ready to be actioned.

Another great app to enhance productivity is the tomatobot. This bot utilizes the Pomodoro technique and reminds you and your team when it’s time to take a break — or to start working again.

To add apps to Slack, simply log in and click on your team name in the left-hand corner. Then, open “apps & integrations.” If you decide that an app isn’t working out for you, you can remove it or change the permissions in the Slack App Directory.

Communication, Communication, Communication

One huge problem faced by remote teams is a lack of communication between them and the in-office staff. In the long term, this can lead to serious problems such as a lack of accountability and poor teamwork.

Slack has a variety of options to help you reduce communication issues. Start by utilizing the video call feature to its full potential. By mimicking face-to-face communication, you’re creating a professional atmosphere even if your employee is working on the couch. You can maintain eye contact and use body language just as you would in an in-person conversation, and it makes a world of difference. Using video will help remote employees feel like full members of the team, instead of anonymous drones. Employees will work harder, be more honest and feel more comfortable asking for help if they need it.

This might seem obvious, but if you have an important conversation with the in-office team, make sure the remote team knows the details. Nobody wants to be left out of the loop, especially when it comes to information that impacts their work. Whether it’s something as simple as “where shall we all meet for lunch?” or something as tricky as “how can we grow our client base this quarter?” your remote employees should know about it.

Get to Know Someone New

The most important part of managing a remote team is making them feel as though they are just as valued as the in-office staff, and having engaging conversations (beyond “Hey, can you action this by Friday?”) is a great first step. The Donut app can connect you with a random coworker for a 15-minute chat — a great way to get to know your remote team without the pressure of a formal email exchange.

Complete Profiles Help Teams Gel

Slack profiles ensure that you’ll never forget the name of that one colleague again. Or realize after five hours of not having your important bulletin read that the person you were trying to contact lives on the other side of the world and is probably sleeping.

Encourage your remote workers to complete their Slack profiles with the languages they speak, the time zones they work in and the topics they are experts in. It’s important that they provide some personal details too. How else will you get to know them properly?

This article originally appeared in Prialto Blog.

 

This article was written by Scott Plamondon from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

NASA wants to send flying swarms of robot ‘bees’ to explore Mars

  • NASA commissioned a team of scientists to develop bio-inspired ‘bees’ to explore Mars.
  • The tiny drones will have bumblebee shaped bodies and wings inspired by cicadas, the optimal shape for generating lift in the Martian atmosphere.
  • The ‘Marsbees’ have a number of advantages over traditional, rotary-powered drones. 

Move over, Elon Musk. Future exploration of Mars may not be carried out by humans at all if a team of researchers has their way.

Engineers are developing swarms of robotic ‘bees’ that can hover above the Martian surface, collecting data and communicating with a mobile exploration base. It’s bio-inspired engineering at its finest.

NASA commissioned a team at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, working in conjunction with a team of Japanese scientists, to develop the flying, micro-sized robots. 

Here’s how they’d work, according to NASA: The Marsbees would be launched by a rover, acting as a sort of mobile base and recharging station. Inspired by insects, the robot ‘bees’ would have bodies shaped like bumblebees, with wing structures reminiscent of cicadas.

marsbees

NASA

The bees would be able to fly by flapping their wings, generating enough lift to hover in the Martian atmosphere. There are a few specific advantages to using flapping, insectoid robots over traditional rotary-powered drones, according to NASA.

First, the robots would make for a much lighter payload, giving scientists the ability to deploy more robots to Mars for data collection. Second, the bees would function in mini-swarms, meaning if one gets destroyed, it’s not a huge loss.

While the Marsbees are promising, they’re still years away from being deployed on research missions.

There are only a few flapping drones that can actually fly in Earth’s atmosphere (a hummingbird drone developed by the Japanese team) and NASA’s robot bees are still in Phase I — the very early stages of design.

The future of space exploration, however, could belong to the (robot) insects. 

This article was written by Jeremy Berke from Business Insider and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

What The New Google Maps Game API Says About Data As A Platform And The Future Of The Cloud

One of the most expensive elements of modern game design is the creation of the artistry that immerses players in the virtual constructed realm of play. For the growing world of augmented reality games which must allow players to freely roam at will through nothing less than the planet itself, it can become an almost insurmountable task for game companies to build out the necessary geometry to cover the entire earth and to keep that geometry updated in realtime. Addressing this need, earlier this month Google announced a new game-centric service that repurposes its planetary scale Google Maps geodatabase to offer a base layer for the next generation of games.

In just 13 years, Google Maps has become society’s defacto gateway to the spatial realm, with products ranging from its flagship navigation basemap to specialty displays like Google Moon, Google Underwater Street View and “Sheep View.” Google’s immense investment in acquiring, licensing and generating global spatial information, from geocoding databases to traffic layers to driving, biking and walking basemaps and direction algorithms to the street view, aerial and satellite imagery that make it possible to virtually walk the streets of the earth or peer at them from above to the AI algorithms that dead reckon and update all of that information from imagery, make it one of the richest datasets about the physical state of our human world at any given moment, covering 256 countries and territories.

Augmented reality game designers trying to create virtual environments that span the world could not dream of recreating such a rich global basemap of more than 100 million 3D buildings and landmarks nor keep that basemap updated with the more than 25 million daily updates that Google Maps provides.

Google’s latest cloud gaming service announced earlier this month wraps up the realtime digital replica of our world that is Google Maps and makes it available to game developers to build their games on top of, including integration with Unity. While other companies like Mapbox also offer integration with Unity and basemaps and data layers for game integration (along with 225 million daily miles of ground truthed traffic data), Google’s new offering leverages Google Maps’ sheer scale to allow game developers to finally leverage Google’s immense investments in their own game.

Looking at the trajectory of Google’s spatial evolution over the past decade and a half since it launched Google Maps and Google Earth, perhaps the most interesting story is both how it has leveraged its history as a search company to integrate all of these disparate datasets into a single unified view of earth and the way in which it has repurposed that data over time.

One particularly famous case of data repurposing was Google’s use of its Street View data, originally collected to offer ground-level views of major cities, to update its basemaps by processing them through neural networks to recognize addresses. More than a third of addresses globally were enhanced through this process, with a 90% improvement in Brazil. In essence, as the capability and scalability of neural networks improved, Google saw the opportunity to creatively reuse the immense ground-level ground truth dataset it had assembled through Street View to improve its navigational offerings.

In similar fashion, Google’s latest foray shows the company is exploring how to creatively reuse its vast data holdings to create or empower new markets to allow other developers to benefit from its innovation. Just as it has begun wrapping up its internal technology services like deep learning and security into external offerings, so too has it begun creating offerings around its datasets, such as its AutoML transfer learning service.

With its new Google Maps gaming offering, Google appears to be expanding this view beyond its internal datasets towards its externally-facing core products to allow developers to more easily build upon its data infrastructure and investments.

Putting this all together, while Google’s new offering will be incredibly powerful to game developers, the real story is that of the evolution of cloud from infrastructure and service platform to data platform. Companies have historically jealously guarded their data investments, preferring to offer hardware and software infrastructure than make any part of their data infrastructure accessible. As our future becomes ever more data-centric and the worlds (virtual or real) that applications inhabit require ever more data, the cloud of the future will be stuffed with a lot more data.

 

This article was written by Kalev Leetaru from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.