The future will be good for matchers and bad for strivers

Economist Tyler Cowen says a big part of thriving in the future will come down to attitude.

“Matchers gain, strivers lose,” he writes in a new book, “The Complacent Class.”

Matchers, aka enthusiasts, are people who are motivated by personal interests, whether that’s record collecting, hiking, cooking, or obsessing about “Game of Thrones.” “The enthusiasts are not trying to come out ahead of everyone else; rather, they seek to have some of their niche preferences fulfilled for the sake of their own internally directed happiness,” Cowen writes.

Strivers, on the other hand, are motivated by beating others. “These are the people who strive to have the biggest office, bed the most mates, earn the most money, or climb whatever the relevant status ladder might be,” Cowen writes.

It’s not hard to see how recent trends have favored matchers. This group has benefitted from technology — from Tinder to Spotify to Google — that makes it easier for them to pursue their interests and find other people who share them. Meanwhile, strivers are suffering, faced with more competition than ever and a greater awareness of how many people around the world are beating them.

“Unlike the enthusiasts, the competitive strivers often face more intense competition for what they want because everyone else also can pursue it through online means,” Cowen writes. What’s more, “[t]he internet makes it harder for them to feel they have reached the top of the heap.”

Striving is often thought of as a good thing, and no doubt Cowen would agree that some kinds of striving are good. What he’s getting at with this division, however, is the difference between people with a cooperative attitude and those with a competitive attitude: between those who are happy to share the pleasures of the modern world and those who are stuck in an old mindset.

America today has a lot of strivers. Many Trump voters, for instance, might be considered strivers if they are upset that other people (e.g., liberals, Chinese, women) are gaining income and opportunities at their expense.

America also, though, has a lot of matchers. Case in point: millennials.

“[Millennials] are not actually indifferent or lazy or lacking in enthusiasm — quite the contrary — but more and more of their passions take forms other than those of the old climb-the-social-ladder variety,” Cowen writes. “Millennials might therefore appear to be lacking to the older generations who don’t quite get the new terms of competition and satisfaction. In reality, the Millennials are doing pretty well with respect to the options the world has given them, and they are helping move that world toward more contentment and also less interest in grand projects or topping previous records of achievement.”

Cowen described a similar divide in his last book, “Average if Over,” where he talked of communities of underemployed but happy hipsters (think Williamsburg and east Berlin) spreading around the world. That’s a fine outcome for people who appreciate that lifestyle and have the skills to pull it off. It’s less good for people counting on a traditional career and middle-class lifestyle and those who lack the skills to adapt.

How good the future will be may depend on which mindset is more prominent.

Cowen admits to being somewhat torn —”I sometimes say that I am a happiness optimist but a revenue pessimist,” he writes—but on the whole, he seems gloomy. “The Complacent Class” focuses on trends like rising segregation, disappointing economic growth and technological progress, and a recent uptick in civil unrest and crime, not to mention the populist backlash that carried Donald Trump to power. His conclusion from all of this is that we’re at the start of an age of dangerous instability.

Still, it’s not hard to come away from the book with a brighter outlook. If enough people become matchers, and if happiness rises enough, then who cares about GDP?

 

 

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

These Five Tricks Will Help You Finally Complete Your To-Do List

Ah, to-do lists. The bane of our existence, the source of our stress and occasionally the symbol of our triumph. OK, I’m being a little dramatic–but those of us who’ve abided by this method of task-organization have probably felt that sinking feeling when we realize we’ve barely made a dent in our list, and it’s the end of the work day. And on rare days where we do manage to complete everything, we feel like we’re on fire.

If your list has got you feeling more stressed than triumphant lately, it might be time to modify your approach. Here are some ideas how:

1. Limit It To Six Things A Day

I remember hearing about this 100 year old “Ivy Lee” method back in college, and I’ve adopted it ever since. As James Clear previously wrote, the idea isn’t that six is some sort of magic number, it’s that by imposing a limit on the amount of tasks on your to-do list, you’re forced to make tough decisions about what’s important and what’s not. Also, the idea of tackling a to-do list of six is a lot less overwhelming than a to-do list of 20–which means you’ll be less likely to procrastinate.

2. Divide It Into Sections

There are certain tasks that are just easy to do one after another, and others require a complete switch in thinking. If we’re interrupted by a phone call when we’re heads down writing a report, it’ll probably take us awhile to get back “in the zone” after that phone call, and as a result we take much longer to complete our task because we need to allow time for brain transition. This is why lumping similar tasks together make sense; you’ll get more done in less time that way.

Fast Company writer Michael Grothaus recently tried this method. He divided his tasks between “digital quickies” (like emailing someone or making dinner reservations), “work” (writing, reporting, and pitching stories) and “real world” (personal errands like laundry or grocery shopping). Before trying this approach, Grothaus struggled to complete his to-do list. After dividing his to-do lists, he found himself crossing off every single task.

3. Try Time Blocking

Maybe you’re just not a list person, or you find it difficult to break down “making progress on that big project” to smaller to-dos. You could try abandoning lists altogether, and instead dedicate chunks of time for certain work instead.

That’s what writer Gwen Moran tried when she wanted to understand why she wasn’t getting everything done. She tracked how she was spending her time, saw interesting patterns and began to devote time slots to certain work rather than make her way down a long list. Kevin Kruse, management expert and author of 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management told Moran that not only does time blocking force you to work with discipline and order, it also has major psychological benefits.

According to Kruse, when we have the expectation of completing a task and we don’t, we tend to stress about them. “However, when we have all of our tasks placed into a specific date, time, and duration, we sleep more soundly knowing everything that needs to get done is in its place.”

4. Distinguish Which Tasks Are Truly Important, And Which Tasks Are Not

If you’re the type of person who just needs to write down everything you need to get done–regardless of how important or urgent they are–you can at least make assessments on their importance. If you don’t get everything done, you would have at least made headway on the things that are important.

Business coach and author Brian Tracy provides some guidance on how you can make this assessment. In his book, Master Your Time, Master Your LifeTracy recommends we mark our tasks A, B, C, D, or E, depending on the consequences of not getting them done.

“A” tasks, according to Tracy, is something that we must do–if we don’t, there will be “serious consequences.” Things like meeting a deadline or preparing for an important meeting fall into this category.

“B” and “C” tasks are items we should do, but not doing them will only have minor (or no consequences).

“D” are tasks that we can delegate, and “E” are tasks that aren’t that necessary and we can therefore eliminate from our list. And speaking of elimination….

5. Make Sure It Includes Things We Want To Do

We’re more likely to be motivated to tackle our to-do list when it contains tasks that we’re excited to work on. Yes, there are certain “shoulds” that we just need to bite the bullet and do, but there are probably many “shoulds” that aren’t going to affect our quality of life or career if we don’t do them. By getting rid of those from our list, we create room to do more things that actually makes us happy. In the long term that is.

Psychologist Art Markman previously wrote for Fast Company, “If you confront yourself each day with reminders of only the least enjoyable parts of your job, it’ll probably wind up sapping your motivation to come to work.”

It’s important to note that Markman isn’t saying that we should all stop doing part of our jobs that we hate; rather, he’s encouraging us to allocate some time each week to big-picture projects that contribute to our long-term career or life goals. Perhaps it’s learning a new skill that can get you on the promotion track faster or spending more time getting coffee with colleagues in your workplace in order to deepen your industry knowledge.

Markman ends by saying that we might start feeling better about our to-do list–even when it has plenty of tedious tasks–when it includes the things we want to do. These tasks “help put the more boring tasks into perspective” and remind us that our job “is more than just a sequence of small, boring, urgent duties to execute–because [we’ve] planned it to be.”

 

This article was written by Anisa Purbasari Horton from Co. Exist and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

To Get The World’s Attention, These African Farmers Turned A Field Into Data

On a field in Zambia last December, farmers and villagers spent five days tilling the land not for food but to share a message with the rest of the world: we need to invest more in agriculture in Africa.

“When connected to markets, smallholder farmers can generate an income and create a multiplier effect.” [Photo: courtesy IFAD]A series of graphs in the soil, called the Field Report, share key data. Even though Africa has a quarter of the world’s arable land, it only produces 10% of the world’s food. More young people are moving away from rural communities at the same time that the population–and the demand for food–is growing. A giant “11” makes the point that growth in agriculture is 11 times more effective at reducing extreme poverty than other sectors.

“The Field Report makes the case for investment in agricultural development in the very land that needs it the most,” says Gilbert Houngbo, president of IFAD, the UN’s agricultural arm, which is behind the project. “We were inspired by the sheer power and potential land holds to reduce poverty and hunger, contribute to vibrant, self-sustaining communities and dramatically increase agricultural outputs capable of feeding a growing population.”

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Four-fifths of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods; if production and access to markets can improve, that can help families increase their incomes at the same time as it meets a need for more food. “Rising prices and demand hold tremendous promise for the people who work the world’s 500 million small farms to grow and sell more food, lifting themselves out of poverty and food insecurity,” he says. “When connected to markets, smallholder farmers can generate an income and create a multiplier effect–sending their children to school and stimulating the economy in order to help lift their community out of poverty for the long term.”

If agriculture can be an opportunity, it’s only because the system is functioning well–and right now, young rural Africans are increasingly likely to leave for cities, hoping for better jobs. That’s happening even as the demand for food increases; as a continent, Africa spends $35 billion importing food rather than growing all of the food it needs locally.

If agriculture can be an opportunity, it’s only because the system is functioning well. [Photo: courtesy IFAD]To convince young people that working in agriculture makes sense, IFAD argues that investment is needed to improve productivity and connect young farmers with technology that can connect them with experts and the information needed to best grow food. Networks and cooperatives for young farmers need support. And most young farmers in Africa say that what they need most is access to finance.

“To foster to foster a generation of ‘agripreneurs,’ we need to listen to young people about what they want,” says Houngbo.

The Field Report will be presented at a sustainable development forum in New York City this week.

This article was written by Adele Peters from Co. Exist and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Why deep learning isn’t always the best AI solution

Deep learning is a new method of artificial intelligence that is an active, fast-moving area of research where we can expect advances to become market-ready over the next several years. Unfortunately, market hype has turned deep learning into a buzzword that can contribute to the misconception that other approaches to AI are not relevant. After all, if you are not doing deep learning, surely you must be doing shallow learning, right?

In cybersecurity, we use various techniques, such as statistics, probability theory, and multiple machine learning algorithms (of which deep learning is one example), to look at use cases and the data available, selecting the best math or algorithm for the job. We take data from various sources — application logs, source code, etc. — choosing the right algorithms based on our understanding of the dataset and use case. This process is fairly artisanal because we are working with a relatively small dataset and the behaviors we are detecting are often very subtle, such as detecting insider threat from source code audit logs. Deep learning is just another specific technique within AI.

Simply described, deep learning is a class of machine learning algorithms that learns by using a large, many-layered collection of connected processes and exposing these processors to a vast set of examples. Deep learning processing is becoming possible across various industries because we have access to large amounts of compute power and processing units, such as with technologies like cloud and GPUs. With this large dataset at our disposal, research in deep learning techniques is fast and furious. Malware detection is one great example, the focus of several security startups attempting to leverage the large set of malware examples accumulated over many years. Other approaches are applying deep learning to smaller datasets; for example, one area of research involves looking at how much data is needed to train a medical image deep learning system.

Detecting malware using deep learning makes sense because we already have a large dataset that characterizes malware. The same cannot be said for insider threats. We just don’t have access yet to enough information from when companies experience these types of attacks. We have anecdotes and sometimes simulated data based on actual events, but anecdotes cannot be used by deep learning networks, and actual log files that correspond to true insider threats are few and far between, although this may change over time. Without large volumes of data on which to base our features, deep learning is simply overkill (or worse, ineffective) for insider threat – at least today.

In the future, the ability for deep processing of security networks to automatically adjust and tune connections with increasing volumes of data will improve the process of learning. In particular, this will allow us to automate and use networks to specialize in certain areas. The networks will learn which portions of the data are more predictable than others, in a way that reduces the dependency on human data scientists to guide the learning process. This “automatic feature learning” is potentially a very big deal for security. With deep learning, the security system can automatically learn by trying billions of combinations and making millions of observations. The potential for getting more accurate results is leading to the excitement that we currently are experiencing as hype.

In the meantime, deep learning systems are very tricky to set up. They are complex and costly, and many so-called hyperparameters are difficult to determine in advance without a lot of experience or experimentation. Training a deep learning model can require several orders of magnitude more compute capacity and cost compared to other, more straightforward machine learning models. For example, a logistic regression model is simple enough to run on one machine for a small dataset, and it remains a very effective approach for many classification tasks today. Progress in hardware acceleration (via GPUs and more recently Google’s TPUs) promises to drive the cost per computational unit down. But today, deep learning systems remain the most expensive machine learning method by a wide margin, and that alone may price the approach beyond the range of most use cases.

Thus, deep learning is still just one of many machine learning methods. It is very promising when aimed at a specific class of problems, but it is not a silver bullet. Just because a technology uses deep learning doesn’t mean other traditional AI and machine learning approaches are not more valuable or practical. Artificial intelligence is multi-purpose technology we can put to work in security and other industries as well, learning, iterating, and improving as we go.

In security, we know that you don’t have to go deep to catch the bad guy. At the end of the day, as long as the good guys win and the bad guys lose, the actual weapon used doesn’t matter.

 

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

Managers, Here’s Why You Keep Promoting The Wrong People

If you’re a manager, maybe you can remember a time when you promoted someone to a position that they really didn’t deserve. And if you can, then you already know that undeserved promotions are time-wasters, morale-killers, and frustration-inducers–not just for you, but for the company as a whole.

What you might not know, even in retrospect, is why you went ahead and promoted that person in the first place. More often than not, over-promoting is a knee-jerk reaction and not a strategic decision. Perhaps your organization was going through growth or contraction, or you’d had some of your key people unexpectedly leave. Whatever the case, to avoid falling into that trap again, you’ll need to get your head around the myths and misconceptions that lead managers to promote the wrong people–or even the right ones at the wrong times.

Misconception #1: A Promotion Is Just A Label

It’s tempting to think of undeserved promotions as just lip-service that keeps whiny employees happy. But even if you think that, your employee might think otherwise. Soon he or she is sharing the promotion on social media, touting the new job title with coworkers, overstepping boundaries, and possibly even giving your clients the wrong impression about their new role. This situation can quickly get out of control, so before you give someone a title change, take a moment to think through the attitude change that might come with it.

Misconception #2: The Employee Will Grow Into It

You need to fill an open role, and the path of least resistance is promoting an employee with promise, but who isn’t quite ready yet. You’re pretty much setting them up to fail. They might have been exceeding expectations in their previous role, but without the right experience, they’ll struggle in a new position.

It can be a rude awakening for a star employee to receive criticism once they’ve been promoted, and that’s almost bound to happen if you put them in a role they’re not ready for. More job pressure and constructive feedback can also make employees defensive, feel picked on, or even go into hiding. It takes a lot of self-awareness to recognize when a job might be over your head, and that should really be a manager’s responsibility, not the employee’s.

Misconception #3: It’s Better To Over-Promote Than Be Understaffed

I once had a client with a problem employee who was actually on probation for poor behavior. After another employee quit, management suddenly got worried that she too might leave and they’d be understaffed. Sure enough, she smelled blood in the water, and threatened to resign for another job. Management panicked–instead of seeing her resignation as the gift it was, they gave her a promotion and hefty rais

Needless to say, her work ethic didn’t improve with the increased responsibility. She was literally rewarded for her bad behavior, and the company ended up with an even bigger (and more expensive) problem on their hands. Some employees even catch wind of their employers’ reluctance to fire and rehire, and use that as an excuse to stop putting in effort.

What To Do After You’ve Promoted Someone You Shouldn’t Have

If you’ve already promoted somebody you can now see wasn’t ready for it, there are still a few things you can do:

Define the position: You should start by writing up a job profile that clearly defines the role and what it takes to be successful in it. Make sure to include the gaps that need filling between the employee’s abilities and the requirements of the job. This will help illuminate any hidden issues with skills like time management, prioritization, or delivering feedback. Once you identify those shortfalls, create a training plan for the employee.

Deliver concrete feedback: Make sure to include suggestions for ways to overcome whatever isn’t working. Without beating around the bush, spell out exactly what the employee is not doing well, outline what actions they need to take to improve, and set deadlines. Focus on the level of work, not on the person. Conduct regular follow-up meetings, on two-week intervals, to manage progress and adjust as needed.

Move the person into another role: Don’t forget that this is always on the table. If you’ve explored feedback, solutions, and training, and it’s obvious that the promotion still isn’t going to work, it’s time to look for another role that might. Rather than letting the situation crash and burn to the point where your team member quits or gets fired, transferring them to another position could be a win-win.

Just make sure their skills match better the second time around. One saving grace? After the mishap that got you here, at least you’ll have a clearer view of your employees’ strengths and limitations.


Lisa M. Aldisert is a NYC-based business advisor, trend expert, speaker, and author.

 

This article was written by Lisa Aldisert from Co. Exist and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

What does the Festy mobile Dash wallet bring to the festy?

The Irish startup Festy just promoted their intended prototype of a Dash mobile wallet to be used at festivals for instant payments. A token containing an NFC chip and QR code is the add-on to the wristbands I’m familiar with at large festivals and events. The press release talks about avoiding merchant fees banks regularly charge for money withdrawals, the ability to pay at Visa contactless POS terminals and NFC phones. “Merchants accepting payments will never have a chargeback, and there are potentially enormous savings to be made compared to the crippling fees from existing payment solutions. By the time merchants scan the wearable chip, the money transfer has been executed and settled, with no risk of a double charge or fraud. We believe this is the payment processor of the future.” The Festy prototype was unveiled this week at the high tech Opera incubator in Cork, Ireland. It is expected that the prototype will be ready for a full public rollout at the end of Q3, 201 So far the business case in a B2B setting.

What’s in it for the consumer?

According to Festy, the consumer doesn’t have to worry anymore about bringing valuables to a festival. Yet, there are some prerequisites and assumptions be aware of. Irish festivals will be used for the roll-out. Dash has various advantages over Bitcoin and currently is the #6 cryptocurrency worldwide. Does Dash have sufficient users among festies in Ireland this quarter? A benefit could be the addition of tickets added to the bracelet as well to eliminate fraud and age verification for compliance to attendance or consumption of alcoholic beverages. And what is the consequence of a daily rate increase of 10% as currently is the case with Dash? What is the price for a beer on day 1 compared to day 3 of a festival? At least consumers are sure about the price of the products when plastic coins, stamp cards, etc. are used in exchange for a fixed and rather stable exchange rate of let’s say US$ or Euro.

Dash claims to be strong in semi-anonymous payments. So, how to connect the bracelet I just go at the festival’s entrance to a Dash account? Do I have to be online then? Does the token have to be activated somehow? Can it be sent to my home address to do the administrative work there and be a festy at the festival, not bothered by tech stuff? How and when can I add balance from my current account to the Dash Account? I think I still need my smartphone and possibly another token to authorize withdrawals. I was promised not to see long waiting lines anymore to withdraw money from an ATM. What if my bracelet is stolen or broken, just as my regular debit card or wallet can be stolen at a festival?   A well-intended introduction of this altcoin application should solve a consumer problem. The customer journey of Festy’s wearable Dash wallet should be clear. Enjoy the festival season with or without Dash!

This article was written by Henk-Jan van der Klis from Capgemini: Capping IT Off and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Why Great Companies Prepare For Change Now, Not Tomorrow

Leading organizational change is hard, and it has many risks. And unfortunately, most companies fall short of their transformation goals due to poor planning, competing priorities, change fatigue and lack of team buy-in. One of the fundamental reasons buy-in, support and participation aren’t achieved is because key team members and leaders across the organization aren’t included in the planning process. And the companies that win at change, do so because they anticipate it and are well-prepared. 

In the Navy SEAL teams, the mission planning process is straightforward but designed to leverage the information and expertise that everyone on the team brings to the table. When a mission comes down the pipe we start by first analyzing the information so that we can understand the overall intent and goal. What are we trying to achieve? We then identify our existing personnel, resources and time frame. But most importantly, we decentralize the planning process by empowering key leaders and team members to analyze possible courses of action and develop the plan.

This process not only allows us to gather as much data and opinions as possible, but also simultaneously gains team buy-in. How? Because everyone has a voice in developing the strategy and tactics. But Navy SEALs and the best business organizations in the world successfully navigate change because they are well-prepared. Planning is great, but preparedness is imperative. Proactively choosing to take risk, anticipate obstacles and make strategic moves is how the best leaders drive their organizations to greatness.

And while it’s always good to learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others, let’s take a look at a company that’s been getting it right for many years. I was recently came across a company with a great story about successful transformation and taking calculated risk. I had an opportunity to chat with one of their senior executives about the company’s history and how they have been able to lead change in their organization. The company, MBX Systems, has defied the odds in an extremely competitive space by making dynamic moves proactively, not reactively, and engaging the team in the mission planning process.

MBX designs and manufactures server appliances for some of the world’s largest and most demanding independent software vendors and service providers. But they didn’t start out that way. Founded in 1995, the company used to sell motherboards and other computer components – their customers mostly small businesses. As the company approached the early 2000’s, motherboards and servers were becoming commoditized. Selling to end users no longer made sense. Change was coming!

Knowing that they were going to have to make some fairly bold moves in order to survive, the senior leadership team surveyed key team members from across the entire organization to gather as much input as possible. They had always been diligent in protecting the company culture and had a good track record of leveraging cultural strengths when faced with unique challenges. One of those strengths was their employees’ deep appreciation for their customers. But one thing that became apparent very quickly, was that they were going to have to move away from small business customers and replace that revenue with larger OEM (original equipment manufacturer) customers.

At the time, about 30% of their revenue came from these small business accounts. After going through an in-depth planning process, they gradually parted ways with those customers, finding them new homes with trusted partners, and replaced that revenue as they went. Employees understood why they needed to make this move because they had been involved in the decision. They took time and care in moving their customers to other providers and were able to protect the company’s great reputation.

We went through a similar process at my last company. It feels strange to walk away from millions in revenue in order to restructure how you do business but can often mean the difference between winning and losing in the long run. Downsizing the number of customers allowed MBX to increase efficiencies and work with fewer customers that were more aligned with the new strategy.

In 2008, when the recession hit, they did the opposite of what many companies did. Instead of slashing costs and cutting heads, they invested in growth. While many of their competitors went out of business, they actually increased revenue. They had successfully shifted into the OEM space and dramatically reduced their number of customers while doubling revenue. Key team members from across the organization had been part of the planning and execution of this strategy. The buy-in allowed them to manage fear and cultivate a culture accepting of risk. And it prepared them for the changes they would face down the road.

In 2011, the senior leadership team concluded that another transformation effort was needed in order to grow the business without increasing headcount exponentially.  Again, they put a team together and dove into the numbers. The data gathered by the transformation task force revealed that 82% of their revenue was coming from only 15% of their customers. This was a risky position to be in. Another positive aspect of their culture that they leveraged was their transparency in communicating the financial realities of the organization. They let everyone know what was happening and what needed to change. By showing everyone the numbers they immediately supported the “why” behind the new strategy.

The plan was to remove 65% of their customers. You’d think that people’s heads would spin right off their shoulders when seeing the plan. But they didn’t because inclusion and transparent communication happened throughout the planning process. They transitioned those customers to new vendors and never saw a decrease in revenue. The result? A dramatic increase in efficiencies and revenue per employee. Quality and on-time delivery improved as did average revenue per customer.

The conversation with my client then turned to culture and values. I asked her how they managed these things during these major transformation efforts. What she told me proved my theories about culture-driven transformation. They intentionally created cultural experiences designed to help execute their change strategies. They leveraged the positive elements while simultaneously fixing the negative aspects. They led book clubs and set goals for being ranked one of the best places to work. They shifted away from referring to their core values as “values.” They renamed them “habits.”

Why?

Because great leaders know that values are only as good as the behaviors everyone in the company embodies every day. Values only matter if people actually live them. They only become part of the culture when the values-driven actions become habits. And those habits are openly rewarded.

By creating a culture that accepts risk, embraces transparency and includes everyone in the planning process, MBX continues to dominate their market and increase in value. And what’s more, they have never used lay-offs as part of their transformation strategy. In 2016, they achieved their goal of landing on two ‘Great Places to Work’ lists. By planning for change now and empowering everyone in the organization, they continue to be a role model for successful – and lasting – transformation.

 

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

9 companies using data to make retail more efficient

Retail isn’t exactly in it’s most comfortable space right now. With companies like Amazon on the rise, physical retail locations are being called into question. Are they actually valuable anymore? Are consumers willing to break away from their computers and go to shop when they can just order from their living room? Questions like these can easily be answered with the right information.

Retail behemoths like Sears, JCPenney, and Macy’s are closing left and right with no backup plan in sight. But their problem isn’t that they exist in physical locations, otherwise many other thriving retailers would be suffering the same fate. Their problem is failing to adapt to the latest retail tech trends and consumer demand. The retail space is constantly changing, and if they want to stay ahead of the curve, they’ll have to adapt with it.

This brings us to our list of the companies using data to make retail more efficient. These companies were all chosen because they take a unique approach to the many problems retail is facing. Instead of simply guessing at solutions, they ask the right questions, and collect useful, actionable data to solve everyday retail problems. While physical retail spaces seem to be losing popularity, many of these companies are not only making them more attractive but more efficient as well.

Lesara

Lesara is a digitally native online fashion and lifestyle retailer and pioneer in Agile Retail, a technologically advanced version of Fast Fashion. By using big data and data-backed research, the company is able to understand its customers at a higher level. Tech-driven retailers are able to curate more tailored products, have extremely efficient supply chains, be more intentional with production cycles, and do it all within days. Where traditional fashion companies produce what their stylists think will be in style that season, companies like Lesara can leverage algorithms to produce what people are actually searching for.

RetailNext

RetailNext took serious steps in 2013 to shape the industry by acquiring NearBuy, a company specializing in in-store data collection via visual analytics and IoT-style touch points throughout physical retail locations. They’re transforming stores from shopping centers to data collection hubs that monitor every possible data point. All the important things that customer service people might miss, RetailNext doesn’t. It collects it all and compiles it in a useful way to better tailor the shopping experience.

Infinite Analytics

Infinite Analytics is taking a more personalized approach and putting the human touch into the digital retail space. They’d like you to meet ian, their AI-powered retail assistant. Ian runs on a platform that collects data from all sources (text, meta-data, visual recognition, etc.) and combines it to aid with product search and recommendations. This model of Conversational Commerce has many consumer benefits, but also arms companies in the retail space with useful data and analytics to better target their shoppers.

Quri

Sales opportunities come and go every second, and if you don’t know how to spot them, you lose them. Quri has recognized the problem and developed a solution. Instead of waiting weeks to see if your latest campaign worked, Quri delivers real-time results to track the performance of your products and promotions. It gives you the opportunity to adjust your approach before a customer walks out the door.

Vend

Retail isn’t just done in-store and online. It’s often done on the fly, at kiosks, markets, and pop-up stores. Anywhere you can make a sale, retail can exist. Sadly the tech of retail is usually not conducive to this type of commerce, but Vend is bridging the gap. They’ve created a POS (point of sale) software that can not only process sales but track inventory and manage customer data on any device. They remove the headache of inputting data by handling it automatically while making the sale.

Mobee

Mobee is taking consumer data to a whole new level while at the same time getting back to the basics. They understand that customer data lies in the hands of the customer, but they’re making it easier to extract. Instead of surveys and secret shoppers, they’re using apps and touch points. They’ve created a crowd-sourcing mobile platform that let’s the customer tell you what they think instead of relying on a machine to guess. Not only that, but it’s such a convenient solution to the old ways that they’re much more inclined to actually tell you what they think.

ShopAdvisor

ShopAdvisor is pulling out all the stops. E-commerce, proximity-based promotions, in-store analytics – they’re doing it all. As an industry leader in e-commerce, ShopAdvisor is already powering the digital shopping experience. Their recent acquisition of Retailigence is now powering them to shape the physical retail space as well. They’ve developed a platform to simultaneously qualify and target customers and drive their business into local stores. This will allow companies to take the value they possess and put it in the face of their potential clientele.

Density

Density is giving physical retail stores an inside look at what’s going on, well, inside. Managing multiple locations simultaneously is nearly impossible when you can only be in one place at a time. Density eases that burden by measuring how busy any given location is in real time. With all this information at their disposal, management can decide what steps to take to drive more traffic into a specific location.

Signpost

Signpost goes beyond just data collection. Big data is an incredible tool to have but only if you know how to use it. If you don’t, Signpost is what you need. Their AI-based platform collects consumer data from hundreds of millions of unique data points and creates campaigns from the data. This allows small business owners to keep up with the evolving landscape of retail and avoid spending hours reading and analyzing piles of data.

 

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

Innovation Keeps The Big Issue Thriving

John Montague spent twenty years in the world of construction before realizing he viewed people purely as numbers. So he made a radical change to his professional life and set about launching a social business for his industry. This first foray into social enterprise was one which would change the course of his career and see him become a leading proponent of social enterprise.

Now the Managing Director of The Big Issue, a UK social business that helps people who are facing poverty take control of their lives and earn a legitimate income, John has overseen the latest transformation of an organization that bucked publishing industry trends last year by reporting a 5% rise in the circulation of The Big Issue Magazine. It was the second consecutive year of such growth.

In the following interview, John looks at how a business-wide application of innovative thinking has driven the social enterprise from its humble beginnings on the streets of London to last year celebrating the milestone achievement of 200 million copies of the magazine sold since its inception 25 years ago. The key to success, John argues, lies in adjusting the approach just enough to make that positive change.

Innovation to me means not doing the same thing and expecting a different result. So many people do the same thing, redo it, and expect a different result. Innovation, to me, is standing back and saying, “We want a change. We want to move forward. How do we do it differently? What can we use to innovate, to do something that hasn’t been done before?”

The Big Issue was, 25 years ago, an innovation. Who comes up with the idea of creating a street paper sold by a chaotic workforce with all sorts of issues and actually (successfully) create a business out of it? Despite this, our mission statement is clear: we want to dismantle poverty by helping people who need a hand-up, not a handout. We’re about business solutions to social issues.

The day people stop talking about CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and actually talk about CSV—Corporate Social Value or what value have we created—that’s when we really get somewhere. Businesses have a choice. They can come in with a traditional CSR agenda, paint three village walls, and plant reed beds for the pond. They might have a nice day, but there’s no sustainable value that they will leave behind.


Discover how the latest business and technology trends will impact your organization or industry


I think we’re trying to figure out how to engage partners and ask them, ”How do we create sustainable value through people working together?” This question is the driving innovation at The Big Issue: we should not be focusing on responsibility, but value.

There are a couple of moments where The Big Issue changed direction based upon innovation. One standout instance occurred with the realization that we need to do more than the magazine. People regarded the Big Issue as “that magazine that homeless people sell on the street.” We needed to be more than that. One of the things changing this is the power of data, data that can actually drive our business forward.

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Innovation,to The Big Issue Foundation, means taking an existing system and “turning the dial a bit” to make a positive change.

For example, we want to tackle the question, “Why do the poorest pay most?” The answer? Because they’ve got a very thin credit file, they have to pay for everything up front as they go. There’s a barrier in place because data is making a decision for them and it’s not due to bad data, but rather the lack of data. For the last four years, we’ve been working on the basis of getting rent data to be accepted in credit scoring ratings in the same way that mortgage data currently is.

There are four and a half million social housing tenants and five million private renters. I pay a mortgage; I get all the benefit. Someone else pays rent, they get no benefit. With this data-driven change and working in partnership with Experian, 30% of all social housing rent data will become shareable by September.

That’s innovation – taking an existing system and applying small but meaningful changes to influence a better outcome. I think that what we’re good at actually doing is asking, “How do we just turn the dial a bit?” We’re never going to change the credit reference agency world. But how can we move the needle to render the system fairer and more inclusive?

We tried to implement Salesforce a couple years ago without buy-in from staff and it didn’t go anywhere because we did it top-down, not bottom-up. The breakthrough came in convincing that they are supported, they have influence, that the software would change their lives. By doing this, we will save two hours a day for each member of the team. That’s ten hours a week for over 50 people. Suddenly, it’s creating time to do other things.

It sounds stupid. But our innovation lies in how our organization delivers. It’s innovation how other external organizations are supporting us to grow from the bottom up. And that’s why it will be successful. It won’t be successful because the business leaders said, “Let’s do something.” It will be successful because the team itself wants to deliver something of which they are proud.


Innovation is business strategy de jour. But large sums of money are wasted because of poor planning, buy-in, and alignment. In the latest edition of Beyond The Buzz we examine how innovation, properly managed and applied can yield superior outcomes, and reduce waste and frustration.

$9 billion startup Stripe is automating the complicated process of starting a company

When Stripe Atlas launched a year ago, it wanted to level the playing field for entrepreneurs in emerging markets so that they could have access to the same tools as people in Silicon Valley.

Now the $9 billion payments company has realized that Atlas is something entrepreneurs throughout the United States want too.

Atlas automates the complicated process of starting a company into a filling out a short web form. Atlas then takes care of incorporating a company in Delaware, setting up a US bank account with a tax ID number, and creating a Stripe account so they can accept payments.

“We wanted to see if we could help entrepreneurs in emerging markets to be on the same playing field as Silicon Valley startups,” said Taylor Francis, the lead of the Atlas project, in an interview with Business Insider. “It’s been heartening to see that it’s working.”

The company has already helped incorporate thousands of businesses from 124 countries. And on Thursday, Stripe is officially opening Atlas to US entrepreneurs, a group that had been clamoring to use it too, says Francis.

“It’s a slightly different problem, but even in the US, the process was time consuming,” Francis said.

A company in a box

The company had designed Atlas to help entrepreneurs in foreign markets understand how to quickly set up a US based company for only $500. Normally the process would include hiring a registered agent in Delaware to physically receive the paperwork and then walking into a US bank at least once to open an account. Atlas automates all of it thanks to its already established partnerships with companies like Silicon Valley Bank, where it opens all of its bank accounts. 

And there’s the upside for Stripe, the payments company that’s been powering all of this. Atlas sets up all the companies with a Stripe account so they can start receiving payments. Francis said that alone has changed how a lot of the companies do business, using an example of a business owner in Nigeria who used to receive wire payments for his software company.

While it started with a focus on emerging markets, during the course of last year, Francis heard from more and more US entrepreneurs that were looking to save the time and money by using Atlas. It’s also struck partnerships with accelerators like Y Combinator and crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to help speed up starting a company.

While it’s opening up to US entrepreneurs, Atlas will remain an invite-only tool for now. For one, Stripe has to screen to make sure the companies don’t fall on the list of prohibited businesses (like gambling or virtual currencies) and to help screen that the way Atlas sets up a company is the correct fit. 

Atlas’ process establishes companies as Delaware C-Corp, a good business status if an entrepreneur is planning on raising venture capital and building a high-growth company, but maybe not the best if they prefer to stay solo. 

It also isn’t the best option for merchant businesses like opening a restaurant or an Etsy store, although Francis is hesitant to draw the line since so many companies are hybrid across industries these days. To help assuage founder fears, the company is also launching things like forums and Q&As with tax specialists to help entrepreneurs both across the globe and now in the US navigate starting a company.

“There are entrepreneurs who have started many YC companies who have great lawyers on speed dial that have used Atlas. There are also a lot of entrepreneurs in other parts of the country who don’t have the same network,” Francis said. “I think it’s all across the spectrum.”

 

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

IoT could transform retail, but how? Part 1

Every hour, consumers all over the world and searching, comparing and shopping for their needs, online and in stores. Every consumer, whether on his mobile or walking into a retail store, today expects (almost demands) a seamless, and efficient shopping experience. With retail store footfall dropping, retailers are scampering to deliver that aspirational shopping experience, which often starts with online research but continues to culminate in the physical store, over 80% of the times.

Internet of Things (IoT), and the rapid influx of ‘connected devices’ is ushering in a new platform for retailers to bring innovative use cases that could excite the shopper. Simple devices are becoming ‘smart things’ and are accelerating the merger of the physical world around you to the digital world that you interact with. Gartner predicts that there will be more than 21 billion connected devices by 2020 and over 65% will be consumer touchpoints. Industry specific devices, for instance, for retail will triple from 2015 figures. This is both an immense opportunity and a challenge for retailers.

The Opportunity for retailers adopting IoT solutions into the shopping experience are broadly in three areas:

–    Engaging the consumer better by knowing their wants and meeting these consistently and accurately to deliver a memorable experience;

–    Improving efficiencies and effectiveness in fulfillment, store operations; and

–    Monetizing new business models and product/service offerings

  Let’s look at each in some detail.

1. Impactful Customer Experiences to build a lasting brand memory

The IOT devices are ‘endlessly attentive’, if provided a basic power source and connected to a wireless sensor network (WSN). While the well-trained, engaging Store associate can deliver that too, human ability to provide the same level of attention and service consistently all over the store and at scale, is sub-optimal.

Imagine if the ‘store shelf’ is able to, in real time, offer a discount for a cereal category that hasn’t sold enough, when a consumer is just about to pick the last box of an adjacent cereal category that is fast-moving and on the verge of being sold out in the store! This collaborative ability to work across physically adjacent sensors can avoid a stock-out on a fast-moving category while capturing a sale and pushing a promotion on a slow moving one! The system can then trigger a re-order to the warehouse of the fast-moving cereal in time for the next interested consumer.

These retail sensors capture consumer information at decision making moments within the store, and help the retailer react closer to those ‘moments of truth’. These connected devices are becoming enablers within the retail store to improve shopping experience to the shopper and retailer alike.

2. Operational efficiencies in fulfillment, supply chain and store operations

As manufacturing and logistics industries design and build service capabilities leveraging smart IoT devices, it will enable a Supply Chain that watches, listens, and can then potentially acts to adapt or self-correct. Downstream supply chains will have the ability to track dependencies for retailers so as to improve real time replenishment capabilities and supply chain visibility.

Below are some examples where retailers and components of their operations are investing with IoT use cases.

–          Inventory accuracy, and active tracking of shelf inventory using RFID can help optimize availability with respect to demand, and channelize reordering and timing of shipments.

–          Loss Prevention with product/ shelf sensors tracking items picked through the shopping journey to checkout (making pilferage a non-occurrence in an Amazon Go store!).

–          Waste Management – In a grocery supermarket, shelf or aisle sensors can track expiry dates on perishable merchandize and smart price tags can adjust pricing to enable a faster sale.

–          Heat maps within the store during times of the day or week, can help plan for the workforce needed, and reduce labor costs while improving customer service. These heat maps can also help ensure better utilization of heating, lighting, and other infrastructure services, while improving customer comfort.

These operational improvements would increase the availability of the store associates and give them more time and enable them better to engage with the consumer and service them.

3. New Products, New Business models, New Competition

Large corporations like Intel, AT&T, Cisco, GE and thousands of startups are designing and creating completely new products and use cases for IoT based applications. Ranging from smart homes, smart cars, smart factories to smart cities, the investments in R&D and product development leveraging IoT technologies is believed to grow to be in trillions by 2020. These technologies and devices will give birth to new products and even new industries over the next decade.

Retailers therefore have the distinct advantage of completely new product categories and brands, that address new business and consumer needs. Retailers in consumer electronics, home appliances, office equipment and healthcare devices are already experiencing a splurge of ‘smart’ products that create the need for improved merchandizing of these products and accelerated workforce training in stores.

IoT will also give rise to untried business models leading to either new revenue streams or unexpected competition for retailers. Smart sensing refrigerators that can demand for fresh produce directly, or automatic replenishment models for food or OTC medicines can transfer the responsibility of home/office grocery shopping to the retailer. The next step would be to collaborate with delivery providers like Instacart or Good Eggs (which might eliminate the grocery chain and source directly from the farm!). Office equipment manufacturers are already bypassing the retailer by enabling printers that can track print volumes and order their own ink cartridges or printer paper for a nominal subscription.

Part 2 of this blog will look at the path to IoT enabled retail, and what typical challenge lie ahead for retailers designing processes and systems to leverage the power of the Internet of Things.

 

This article was from Capgemini: Capping IT Off and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How I Managed A Male Staff Twice My Age As A Woman In My 20s

Judy Garvey was only 26 years old when she was promoted to chief operating officer of a drone startup. In her new role, the engineering team she oversaw consisted of six older men (some of whom had children Garvey’s age), and it grew to two more, as well as some additional contractors. “To earn respect from the teams,” she says, “I found I was always working to build their trust in me.”  

Garvey credits the startup’s culture for the opportunity to take on such a senior role so early in her career, as opposed to what might have taken years in a more traditional, established organization. That said, Garvey also notes that since she started in a more junior role and was promoted to a leadership role as COO, everyone had a chance to witness her grow as a team member. “I think [they] realized that I had earned the right to the senior role,” Garvey says. “Even though I wasn’t a technical leader on the team, I was a business leader, and they respected that I had worked hard to earn the promotion.”

Although she admits there were challenges, “We were able to build connections and they treated me with respect–as a person and as a leader,” Garvey says. Unfortunately, things were about to get worse.

The drone startup acquired another established company that had been in business for 18 years. That brought an additional five men to the engineering team. “I have never experienced such resistance when trying to get acquainted with a team’s processes and operations,” Garvey recalls. “I was actually asked to not be in weekly engineering meetings because I asked too many questions.”

Garvey tried to build connections with the new members of the team. Eventually though, despite her best efforts getting no traction, she says she stopped trying so hard and got another person to lead the team who reported to her. “To be honest, they didn’t really respect him either, which is probably just indicative of their lack of respect for the acquiring leadership team in general–not specifically just for me.”

Garvey says she resigned after a year for a number of reasons. One reason “was definitely the disrespect I felt on a daily basis from the older men I was managing.” At 28, Garvey is now working for a software development company. “I’m not currently managing any older men,” she adds, “which is kind of a nice change.”

 Microaggressions like those Garvey faced that undermined her leadership are a factor in fostering negative work environments that often lead people to look for a new job. 

Fielding Insults and Slights

Jenna Oltersdorf learned how to deal with such microaggressions early on as the founder of Snackbox, a PR and design firm. Oltersdorf was only 29 when she started the company, but she says, “I knew my stuff,” and “I’m a little sassy when it comes to female equality.”

Even so, Oltersdorf felt she needed to work even harder to prove her experience and creativity, and had three older men reporting to her. She recalls one time in particular when she was delivering a pitch to a prospective client. “He referred to me as girl, honey, and sweetie,” she recalls, but was not using similar language with the men in the room. When she “politely asked him to refer to me as a woman, as I was his counterpart in this particular meeting,” she remembers him being visibly surprised by her request. “I assured him that I would wow him in the meeting with my team’s creativity, experience, and expertise,” she adds.

Looking back, Oltersdorf says she realized he was being kind. “But in my mind, he was treating me like his granddaughter, not a potential business partner,” she observes.

“I think it’s important that women of all ages politely correct how we’re referred to and treated in a business setting. We need to set the tone and educate those who may not realize they’re treating us differently from our male peers,” she asserts.

Why You Need Allies

Although women make up 47% of the workforce, according to the Department of Labor, the most recent report by LeanIn.org and McKinsey based on data from 132 companies that employ more than 4.6 million people found that women account for only 20% of staff at the senior vice president level and 20% of line roles that lead to the C-suite. That’s partly due to lack of support and sponsorship from the men in the workplace, according to recent research in Harvard Business Review

For Garvey, that person was her CEO. “I always reminded myself that I would not be in this leadership position if my CEO didn’t think that I could do it,” she says. “His trust and confidence in me helped me see that I could lead these teams, and I could lead them well.”

Megan Bos was 23 when she learned the importance of having a male ally. Bos was brought in as a strategy consultant for a project for a major retailer to help close out the final phase of work. “I was the only female on the project except for the managing partner, who was only in the office every few weeks,” she explains, “and I was younger than every member of my team by at least seven years.”

Bos points out that she had a good relationship with the managing partner who knew she could execute. “When I first started, I was not totally convinced I was qualified to tie the bow on such a big project just because of the scope of work,” Bos confesses. But she also says she initially had trouble convincing the team she was qualified to lead because of gender, age, and cultural differences. “I knew that getting an older group of men to see me as someone who held authority, and also was capable, would be a challenge,” she says.

Advice from her female mentors was to make herself the expert in the room. “If I had a well-documented plan and could walk into any conversation and answer the questions that they had, speak confidently in meetings, and deliver a well-thought-out delivery plan, they would see me as a capable individual and trust that I was the right person for the job,” she explains.

“I also found that finding an ally on the team was helpful,” Bos says. Having a team member who didn’t have a problem with the gender and age difference helped to tip the scale when she needed someone to back her up in a meeting. “There were a few circumstances where comments were made about my age,” says Bos. “However, over the course of the [project], the comments changed to be around how impressed they were with the work I was delivering.”

Acknowledge What You Don’t Know

“Don’t spend all your energy trying to prove yourself,” Heidi Pozzo, founder of Pozzo Consulting, advises. Instead, she says, “Your job as a leader is to bring the best out in people.” She says time is better spent trying to understand the team’s interests and strengths. “Then give them the opportunity to excel and get public recognition for it.”

When she was leading a project team in her late 20s and had a dozen older men reporting to her, Pozzo says she asserted right away that they were the experts from their respective part of the business. “I did not try to act as if I knew more,” she says. “Rather, I respected their knowledge and told them, and worked to get the team to common ground to complete the project.” Pozzo says everyone had fun working together, and they eventually got recognition for their role in making a product that is still in use today–15 years later.

Finding Common Ground

“I’ve found that making connections with my team really goes a long way in winning people over,” says Garvey. “I earned their respect by consistently doing what I said I would do, executing on lots of little wins in my daily work, and being open about where my strengths and weaknesses were in the business,” she explains.

Penny Queller is now senior vice president for the Americas at Alexander Mann Solutions, a global recruiting firm, but was a manager at a golf course through college, where all of her reports were male retirees, some in their early 80s. Queller says, “Being your authentic self is a better way to motivate people.” She says she’s not afraid to show her sense of humor or let the team know she might be having a crappy day. “I have the same problems you have,” she explains. “People love it when you show you are not made of steel,” says Queller. But don’t cross the line, she cautions. “You are not going out with these folks, socializing, or going to a club.”

Be Confident

But confidence is key, according to Bos. Having confidence in her ability to lead helped others see it as well. “The best way that I get that is from informing myself thoroughly on the situation and the means necessary to tackle the task,” she says. “That way, I’m always prepared to deliver the right answer, guidance, or mitigate an issue that arises.”

Adds Garvey: “Having an ally on your side that can help encourage you when you’re feeling discouraged is valuable to help maintain your confidence.”

 

This article was written by Lydia Dishman from Co. Exist and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.