5 Time-Saving Technologies Your Company Needs to Use

No matter the size of your business, there are two things I guarantee you wish you had more of: time and money. Unfortunately, regardless of how much you wish for them, neither one will magically appear like a CGI Will Smith from an oil lamp.

Instead, you’ve got to put in a little extra effort. Improving your time management skills is a good place to start. You could also rely on the following five technologies.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Despite emerging in 1952, AI has really gained traction over the past couple of years. The main reason is that AI has completely changed the business world for the better.

Take marketing as an example. AI can gather and analyze data to generate more personalized content for your audience. AI-powered chatbots can handle customer service inquiries during off-hours or steer website visitors to the information they’re searching for.

Additionally, machine learning, an offshoot of AI, can make predictions and suggestions on how to improve processes or prevent problems. For instance, you could receive a notification to replenish your inventory before you sell out of a specific product. It could also review past meetings and then recommend when and where the next meeting should take place. Machine learning could also suggest which people to invite and which topics to include in your agenda.

AI and machine learning can, of course, also automate tedious and time-consuming tasks. For example, a tool like a Calendar cannot only make smart meeting suggestions, but it can also automatically set up recurring events so you no longer have to spend time manually adding them to your schedule and sending out invites.

Automation

Wait a minute — isn’t automation the same thing as AI? It’s understandable to connect those dots. After all, both are technologies that streamline tasks and workflows. In some cases, they can even completely take over certain responsibilities.

But the key difference is that automation only handles fixed repetitive tasks. AI, on the other hand, analyzes past data to make future predictions. When an automation tool does its job, that’s it. For example, if you use an accounting tool like Xero, it will issue invoices, schedule payments, and handle payroll. Though it provides insights, it won’t make smart suggestions on how to improve your accounting.

Your business is probably already using automation. Accounting is one example; you’re probably also using tools like ActiveCampaign to automate your email and marketing efforts through segmentation, as well as canned responses, like welcoming new subscribers. Hootsuite and its brethren let you schedule social media content in advance, publishing it for you.

The point is that automation is all around us. If you haven’t jumped on board yet, it’s time you do. If you’re not convinced, consider that 53% of employees report that automation saves them two work hours per day. Also, business leaders claim that automation frees up around three work hours daily.

Scheduling and Conferencing Tools

Scheduling technologies are meant to improve the meetings that take place within your organization. That may not seem like a priority, but meetings are often listed as the leading time waster at the office. In fact, on average, people spend more than five hours in meetings every week — that total can range up to 12 for managers. People also spend more than four hours preparing for meetings.

Thanks to scheduling and conferencing tools, meetings can become more productive and less time-consuming. Scheduling tools eliminate back-and-forth email chains when planning an event. Simply share your calendar through email or embed it on your site; participants can then choose the open slot that works best for them. Some tools, like Doodle, give your team the chance to vote on the best date and time for a meeting.

What’s more, these platforms can also reserve conference rooms and allow you to attach relevant information, like meeting agendas or data to be discussed. They can also enable virtual meetings so traveling or co-locating is no longer an issue.

Project Management Systems

Project management systems, such as Basecamp or Trello, have become essential tools for companies. After all, they allow you to assign tasks to specific employees, as well as track and monitor everyone’s progress over the duration of a project. You and your team can also share documents, post updates, and ask questions in one convenient location.

Also, because these systems are in the cloud, they can be accessed from anywhere. That’s clutch when you have remote employees — everyone can stay on the same page, no matter where they’re currently working.

Cybersecurity

According to the Ponemon Institute, companies, on average, experience 130 successful cyber attacks annually. These attacks cost around $12 million and can also harm your company’s reputation — just think how furious customers would be if their personal information had been stolen due to a weak or nonexistent firewall. Depending on the severity of the attack, there may also be legal issues, like regulatory sanctions.

To prevent this from happening, you need to invest in defending your business from potential cyber attacks. While training your team to understand security basics — like not opening up fishy emails — is a start, you also should also use technology from companies like Cisco, Symantec, and CrowdStrike. Even BlackBerry has gotten in on the game by providing secure end-to-end mobility.

When it comes to time-saving technologies your company could maximize, there’s no shortage of options. But to make sure your team isn’t overwhelmed, think about where you’re wasting the largest amount of time and money. From there, you can search for tools that will empower you and your team to focus on the bigger picture.

6 Ways To Increase Employee Productivity Throughout The Summer

As I’m sitting here writing this article, I can’t help but stare out the window. It’s gorgeous outside. The sun is shining through a blue, cloudless sky. I hear birds chirping, and I notice how green and lush the trees are. The last thing I want to do is remain cooped up inside an office.

My mind begins to drift to the fun-filled activities of summer: family vacations, barbecues, baseball games, relaxing by any body of water. I’m obviously not the only person going through this. A study from Captivatefound that during the summer, workplace productivity goes down 20 percent. Additionally, attendance dips (by 19 percent), project turnaround times increase (by 13 percent), and people are more distracted, with 45 percent reporting they grapple with distractions. Needless to say, that’s not good for business.

The good news is that as a leader, there are ways to keep yourself — and your employees — at maximum productivity throughout the dog days of summer. Here are six ways to start.

1. Throw norms by the wayside.

Obviously, you don’t want to disrupt all of your systems and processes. But the summer is a perfect time to shake things up and experiment with various motivation techniques.

The most glaring place to start is with scheduling. Instead of forcing your team to come in five days a week, offer more flexible schedules. For example, on Mondays, they can work from home. Or you can give them Fridays off so they have a three-day weekend all summer. This is ideal when your team has to worry about childcare, commuting daily in abrasive heat, or using personal days for long weekends.

It’s actually been found that summer Fridays and flexible hours can boost productivity because people feel this contributes to a healthy work-life balance. To make sure you or your team don’t fall behind, ask if they would stay an hour later Monday through Thursday so they can have Fridays off.

Besides changing schedules around a bit, consider relaxing the dress code so your team is more comfortable. Other ideas would be offering unique incentives and rewards for exceeding goals or showing your gratitude.

2. Schedule summer-related activities.

Unless it’s brutal outside, most of us want to enjoy the outdoors during the summer. Why not make that happen for your employees?

For example, you could host outdoor or walking meetings so everyone gets out of that stuffy conference room. Doing so doesn’t just improve teammates’ moods; it’s also beneficial for their health and can spark creativity.

You could also plan for a number of summer-related activities to make the workplace more fun when everyone would rather be elsewhere. Examples include having a barbecue or ice cream social. Another option is to go on a group outing to a lake or park, participate in team-building activities, or volunteer in the community.

3. Shift priorities.

We’ve all experienced this before: You have a question or need permission from a colleague or manager before proceeding. Unfortunately, the person you need is out of town. Are you going to just sit there and twiddle your thumbs?

“This may be a time of fewer distractions because of people being out,” Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant, told Forbes. “Capitalize on that by focusing on projects that require strategic thought and planning so you’ll be ready to precede with your fall proposals at a time when the pressure cooker environment returns. You’ll be glad you took advantage of any lulls.”

4. Make the most of the summer slowdown.

“The temptation during the summer doldrums is to let the time slip away,” Mike Schultz, president at RAIN Group and author of Insight Selling, explained at American Express.

“Don’t let busy work or no work seize the day,“ adds Schultz. „The summer is a great time to brainstorm, innovate and drive new initiatives. Inspire your employees to complete the proactive tasks they don’t have time for during busier times of the year.“

Additionally, the summer is a great time to allow your team to work on new projects or tackle responsibilities they’ve been itching to take on. For example, if an employee has expressed interest in contributing content to your company blog and social channels, let her go ahead and give it a spin — just make sure to review anything before it goes live.

Also, this is a great time to encourage your team to take advantage of learning or growth opportunities, like attending a workshop or seminar. While it may not sound the most exciting, summer is also perfect for cleaning up the office and laying the groundwork for upcoming projects.

5. Encourage everyone to use their time off.

Both you and your employees need time away from work. As Kayla Sloan, a financial productivity expert, explains at Calendar, this is because it will increase productivity, counterintuitive as that may sound. The reason? It prevents burnout, boosts creativity, and provides opportunities to learn more. It also motivates us to do more in less time.

Encourage your team to take real vacations this summer. The most effective way to do this is to lead by example and take one yourself. But don’t skimp on employee vacation time. To make sure everything runs smoothly, stagger vacations so there are always enough hands on deck.

6. Develop a work coverage plan.

Even though vacations should be encouraged, the sad truth is that employees aren’t using their vacation days. Mainly this is because they are afraid they’ll return to a mountain of work and believe there’s no one else capable of doing their job.

The best way to address this is by having a work coverage plan. This is simply a template that outlines the priorities for each employee. It should also cover the tasks that are time-sensitive, as well as relevant contact information for emergencies. The entire team can take turns picking up some of their co-workers’ responsibilities so they can relax on vacation.

Rather than fight the allure of summer, look for innovative ways to enjoy the season with your teammates. Most importantly, use the summer to lighten everyone’s workloads and catch up on some much-deserved vacation time. When everyone returns, they’ll be refreshed to keep forging ahead.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnhall/2019/06/09/6-ways-to-increase-employee-productivity-throughout-the-summer/#74a6584b11ae

5 Things All Great Leaders Do to Create a Culture of Leadership

What’s the secret to creating a culture of leadership that will take your organization forward for years to come? There is no secret — it starts at the top with you.

In my experience as a leadership speaker and consultant, it starts with senior leaders reflecting internally — to understand their purpose, gain clarity about what they stand for and what the organization stands for — and identifying how to communicate this with the rest of your organization.

It is the strength of individuals who make an organization world class. And companies that make leadership development a strategic priority have the ability to attract and retain the best leadership talent, and move to the head of the pack.

Leadership Culture Starts at the Top

Transformational leaders understand that a culture of leadership doesn’t start with a written document, but by the behaviours, they model every day. You can’t simply write down what you want your leadership culture to be and expect others to follow. Your culture is made up of the values you live daily — and those are not aspirational — they are actual.

Leaders must understand and communicate a clear vision to create an environment that attracts people who share their same values.

You lay the groundwork by being clear with your purpose, and by leading by example and modeling the behaviors they would like to see practiced. Only then can you begin to establish the right structures and processes to foster and reinforce the desired culture.

If you want to develop great leaders, you first need to learn to be a great leader yourself.

5 Things All Great Leaders Do to Create a Culture of Leadership

While it’s easy to assume that great leaders were born to lead — and some are — more often great leadership is a result hard work, gaining experience over time, continuously evolving, and being open to learning new skills and trying different approaches. Thankfully, most of us were not born a natural leader, we had to learn — and this willingness to grow and develop will help create a culture of leadership.

Here are 5 things that great leaders do to help create a culture of leadership:

  1. Define clarity of purpose: All great leaders find their purpose. It’s clearly defined, and it is the catalyst for everything they do. Purpose helps to fuel their work ethic and drive their passion for what they do. More importantly, they create a purpose that resonates with others, and they communicate organizational values and vision in a way that brings people together to rally behind their vision, creating a strong culture of leadership.
  2. Walk the talk: You must reinforce company culture and values daily and with consistency. Leadership culture is a living and breathing entity. Strong leaders understand that organizational culture is dynamic and know it’s critical to reflect a culture of leadership through their actions. If your team sees you practicing what you preach, they will be more open to buy-in. Values should be a regular touch point in decision-making to ensure they are being lived every day —  not just when it is easy or convenient. Leaders also establish a culture of leadership when they hire new people by hiring for character over competence and establishing expectations clearly during onboarding, training, and coaching, and by putting people in leadership positions who share the same values and live them consistently.
  3. Practice self-awareness: Leaders need to be willing to change first — before organizations can change and transform. Leaders need to have the ability to be self-aware, as well as organizationally and culturally aware, of the impact of their actions and decisions. They allow others to have a voice, they are open to critique and outside ideas, and they are willing to grow individually and professionally.
  4. Recognize the value of people: Great leaders understand that the most valuable resource in their organization is people. They invest in people and help them develop their own leadership capacity — scaling it throughout the organization. Transformational leaders have a genuine desire to lift people up to achieve their own success.
  5. Create transformative organizational change: Leaders themselves need to be transformative in order to inspire higher performance and customer-focused culture. As discussed in, 6 Ways for Leaders to Create Organizational Change, “how you approach to change is just as important as what you want to change. If you want to be a transformative leader and create long-lasting organizational change, you need to approach it in a way which minimizes negative reactions, is aligned with business strategies and corporate cultures and is inclusive in nature.”

Anyone can be in a leadership position, but this doesn’t mean they are a leader. There is a difference between managing and leading. Managers look after things/checklists (budgets, invoices, scheduling, reports) and usually do so from behind a desk.

However, people are led. Great leaders know that to connect with their teams, they need to be engaged — ready to step in and support their people, even working side by side to get the job done. Leaders take the time to build their social skills and interact with others so that there is a strong teamwork atmosphere.

Forget about looking for the secret formula or shortcuts to create a culture of leadership. You won’t find them. Start by taking a look in the mirror and reflecting on your own leadership. This is the first place to look for answers about how to create a culture of leadership.

Source: http://customerthink.com/5-things-all-great-leaders-do-to-create-a-culture-of-leadership/

MIT Just Announced the Top 10 Worst Tech Innovations of the 21st Century. Here’s What They All Have in Common

Premature scaling, lack of customer discovery, and applying outdated methods led to some of the worst innovations.

MIT Technology Review published a list of the worst innovations from the past two decades. Some were too early for market; some were a product without a customer; others were helpful, but caused more problems than they solved. The list includes:

  1. Segway 
  2. Google Glass
  3. Electronic voting
  4. One laptop per child
  5. CRISPR babies
  6. Data trafficking
  7. Cryptocurrency
  8. E-cigarettes
  9. Plastic coffee pods
  10. Selfie sticks

What do many of these innovations have in common? They were built in the 21st century using 20th-century entrepreneurial rules. They failed to put customers ahead of investors. They built solutions and products in secret, and only when the products were „perfect“ went looking for a customer. They failed to find a repeatable, sustainable, scalable business model.

Entrepreneurs in the 20th century were driven by engineering innovations, and generally the emphasis was on secrecy. Companies would spend years developing „the next big thing“ and only show prototypes to focus groups that signed NDAs. Working during the original dot-com boom in New York, I saw this daily. Many 20th-century founders raised money first and then turned their mind to users. Profit often came last. This approach often led to premature scaling (where founders invest resources before proving the need for them and knowing how to efficiently deploy them). Remember, the internet had not yet developed infrastructure, so startups had to do everything manually and by themselves.  There were no Google Adwords, PayPal APIs, Amazon SDKs, or Facebook Pixels. So launching a startup took millions.

But today, hundreds of dollars are all that is needed to test your startup opportunity. The tenets of 21st-century entrepreneurship can be found squarely in the Lean Startup methodology developed by the likes of Stanford’s Steve Blank, Harvard’s Eric Reis, and MIT’s Bill Aulet. Here’s how to ensure your business model is steeped in 21st-century methodology:

  1. Get out of the building. No answers are found in a company boardroom or a founder’s garage. Answers as to what business model will disrupt an industry lie in the collaborative space between stakeholders. „Get out of the building“ means meeting face-to-face with lots of other people in order to hear their ideas.
  2. Share everywhere. Once, founders were told to keep their ideas to themselves. But this paranoia over intellectual property has been replaced by collaborative communication. Instead of keeping your venture a secret until it is perfect, you should show it to early adopters and other stakeholders in an effort to have them collaborate on the development. Working with users early in the process increases your chances for building a successful solution that sells.
  3. Get a minimum viable product. At the heart of the Lean Startup method is the idea that „done today beats perfect tomorrow.“ The old notion that companies only have one chance to make a first impression is replaced with the idea that users benefit through early collaboration, and it is better to release an ugly prototype today than to wait for months until it is perfect.
  4. Build, measure, learn. The process of building a startup is a series of experiments that require you to build a prototype, test it with real early adopters, and use that data to drive strategic decisions on how to iterate the business model.
  5. Pivot. A pivot is a change to one of the nine key elements of a startup’s business model (customer segment, UVP, KPIs, channels, etc.). In the modern day, entrepreneurs apply a systematic and scientific approach to testing assumptions and pivoting based on the results.
  6. Continuous deployment. Just as you need to get your MVP into the hands of early adopters, that process is continuous. Ventures are always building the next version; testing the impact changes have on adoption, revenue, and profit; and pivoting as needed.
  7. Split testing. The best way to decide what color your product should be, for example, is an A/B test, where 50 percent of users see Color A and the other 50 percent see Color B. Then, track which had a greater impact (e.g., which led to more sales).
  8. No more business plans. Business models have evolved from business plans to Lean Canvases. Business plans were too static, took too long to research, and really only reflected the management’s internal assumptions. A Lean Canvas is a one-page business model representation that acts as a living document, allowing founders to evolve the business model through experimentation and iteration.

Innovations like Google Glass, Segway, and cryptocurrency were built after 2000, but using 20th-century approaches. These products were built in secret and touted as game changers, but really didn’t engage in the customer discovery and iterative evolutionary process that has led to startup successes like Tinder, Uber, and Dropbox.

So if you don’t want your new product, service, or solution to end up on next year’s MIT list of the worst technology innovations, make sure you’re building a 21st-century business using 21st-century methods.

Source: https://www.inc.com/sean-wise/mit-announced-top-10-worst-tech-innovations-of-21st-century-heres-what-they-all-have-in-common.html?cid=search

Creating a culture of accountability

A team member laser focused on creating success in their own patch could be placing dangerous constraints on team results.

Is your team driving with the handbrake on?

Are some of your staff, laser focused on creating success in their own patch, essentially choosing to serve the part over the whole?

In doing so, they place constraints on the achievement of group results and we’re familiar with the undermining symptoms of this short-sightedness: the blame game, denial, the blind eye, the ball drop, withholding information or truth, being reactive at crisis point rather than proactive at causal point, lack of collaboration and engagement, and/or a general unwillingness to serve outside of the specific KPIs of one’s own role.

In fairness, most of us could admit to engaging in these behaviours ourselves at times, but if any of this conduct becomes imbedded in team members as a long-term way of being, business results will strongly reflect it.

Call it ethos, attitude, culture or code, we’re dealing with the testing challenge of shifting an employee’s work principles and beliefs but, according to the authors of recent bestseller Crucial Accountability, the effort involved in coaxing staff towards a stronger commitment to answerability for team results can be a significant triumph.

In the book, they share a VitalSmarts case study which states: “When an IT group improved crucial accountability practices by 22%, quality improved over 30%, productivity climbed almost 40%, and costs plummeted almost 50%, all while employee satisfaction swelled 20%.”

Following are 5 suggestions for ways to help your staff release the parking brake and move forward in sync to achieve team objectives like a well-oiled machine.

1. Shift their ‘working business model’:

Use your inspirational presentation powers to create a compelling message around the fact that the practices of collaboration and accountability are the new ‘sexy’.

Help them set aside the competition to reign as performer supreme. Demonstrate that a team member now ‘stars’ with a more holistic mindset – one that engenders group trust, a personal sense of responsibility to outcomes, shared commitment to strategic goals, openness to feedback, and the courage to hold both self and others answerable.

2. Create an environment of trust

To support the above paradigm, set expectations for team engagement that is non-judgemental, accepting and respectful yet gracefully honest. When team members feel safe, they will share, contributing ideas, suggestions and feedback without fearing hidden agendas, ridicule, cynicism or one-upmanship.

3. Encourage robust engagement

Generate roundtable, solution-focused discussion to ensure the sharing of knowledge. Having one’s ideas heard and considered, inspires personal investment in any eventual strategic plan of action agreed upon.

4. Provide strategic clarity

The team needs to know exactly what they are going to be accountable for. Make it your responsibility to clarify in detail the desired end result of any plan of action, decision or goal.

5. Set ground rules

Request a commitment to the specific actions, work values and attitudes that will ensure that outcomes envisioned come to fruition, placing team results over egoistic needs.

Encouraging commitment to a culture of collaboration, trust, accountability, responsiveness and pride in group accomplishment will help transform the solo performer to valued contributor, and everyone wins.

Source: https://www.theceomagazine.com/business/innovation-technology/creating-a-culture-of-accountability/

The 10 Best Business Books of 2018

For the entrepreneurs and executives on your gift list, here are 10 great titles to read by the fire.

 

Publishers in 2018 couldn’t match last year’s headline-grabbing business books: Ellen Pao’s tell-all about sexual discrimination at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Thomas Piketty’s tell-all about the ravages of rising inequality, to name two. But there were plenty of great new titles. More books about women and the nature of work joined leadership and technology as popular subjects. And Ken Kocienda, who invented the iPhone’s autocorrect feature, explains why your device shows „duck“ when you meant to type a different word.

Here are 10 of our favorite business books of 2018.

CREDIT: via Amazon

1. Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet, by Claire L. Evans
What unites the female programmers, hackers, game designers, and others in this engaging counter-history is user empathy. „They are never so seduced by the box that they forget why it’s there: to enrich human life,“ writes Evans, a reporter for Vice. Her account begins with familiar foundational figures of computer science, such as Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper, before segueing into the age of networks. There we meet key contributors like information scientist Elizabeth „Jake“ Feinler, who made the Arpanet navigable while finessing requests to make coffee. Stacy Horn founded the early, edgy online community Echo, where more than half the users were women, many chatting among themselves in private hangouts. The internet is a reflection of its makers, Evans reminds us. Female perspectives and attitude are in its DNA.

CREDIT: via Amazon

2. Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs, by Ken Kocienda
Kocienda, a 15-year Apple veteran with a hand in the company’s most iconic products, is a generous, self-deprecating guide to life under Jobs. The phrase „creative selection“ riffs on Darwin: It casts product development as a long iterative process in which only the strongest design aspects survive. The book’s „who“–that is, Jobs, as seen through Kocienda’s interactions with him–matters less than the „how.“ Here Kocienda limns, through the lens of his own experience, the „essential elements“ of Apple’s innovation culture, which include dreaming big, combining complementary skills, making tough choices, and developing taste and empathy. This is a book about the poetry of software creation, and occasionally a thriller, as Kocienda and his team battle doubt and fear of failure to achieve something not just great but magical.

CREDIT: via Amazon

3. Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance–and What We Can Do About It, by Jeffrey Pfeffer
The Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year is toxic. That’s an apt description of the workplaces in Pfeffer’s disturbing, important book. Pfeffer, a professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, explains how overwork, stress, lack of control, and insecurity impair employees’ health–and even shorten their lives. One study found 41 percent of people say work-related stress made them sick, and 7 percent had been hospitalized. Office wellness programs alone won’t cut it when offices themselves contribute to addiction, depression, obesity, and other ills. Drawing on examples from such companies as Patagonia and Google, Pfeffer suggests how a humans-first philosophy is also good for business.

CREDIT: via Amazon

4. Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else), by Ken Auletta
Most people don’t like advertising. But they do like the media that advertising makes possible. And businesses legitimately need a way to get out their messages. So the advertising industry makes a reasonable protagonist–call it an anti-hero–for this saga of technological, social, and business model disruption told colorfully by New Yorkercommunications writer Auletta. The frenemies besetting traditional players are obvious suspects like Facebook and Google, but also the in-house agencies of media clients, global consultancies, and consumers protective of their time and privacy. The phrase was popularized by Martin Sorrell, the blunt, combative founder of WPP who is one of Auletta’s principle characters. Sorrell resigned as CEO in April following investigations into his conduct. Thus the personal crisis of an industry titan plays out against the existential crisis of an industry.

CREDIT: via Amazon

5. Leap: How to Thrive in a World Where Everything Can Be Copied, by Howard Yu
This deeply researched mix of strategy guide and business history is a strike against complacency. Competitive advantage comes and goes with the tide. And, in fact, Tide detergent encountered strong resistance from P&G executives anxious to protect the Ivory Soap legacy before triumphing in the market with synthetics. That need to cannibalize your own products is just one lesson from Yu, a professor at IMD in Switzerland, who draws on examples ranging from Southern textile mills to WeChat to demonstrate his principles of constant reevaluation, reinvention, and repositioning. Being best at what you do has never been enough, Yu says. Being best at something different–over and over–is key to flourishing over generations.

CREDIT: via Amazon

6. Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World, by Rand Fishkin
In February, when Fishkin stepped away from Moz, the SEO business he co-founded in 2004 with his mother, he described the experience on his blog: „On a scale of 0-10, where 0 is ‘fired and escorted out of the building by security’ and 10 is ‘left entirely of his own accord on wonderful terms,’ my departure is around a 4.“ That gives you a sense of the candor and humor with which Fishkin (whose new startup is SparkToro) approaches entrepreneurship and that animates this tale of a founder’s bumpy ride. More important, the book abounds with hard-earned insights, some of which take down conventional Silicon Valley wisdom. Among them: Successful full-scale pivots are almost nonexistent; and great products are rarely minimally viable.

CREDIT: via Amazon

7. The Meaning Revolution: The Power of Transcendent Leadership, by Fred Kofman
Too many leadership books blather on about meaning and mission without explaining what they are or how they work. Kofman, LinkedIn’s „leadership philosopher,“ makes those amorphous ideas concrete. The book contains useful tactics for improving motivation and satisfaction. For example, „escalating collaboration,“ an approach to defusing conflict by involving all parties in creative problem-solving; and forging an effective culture by weaving together consensus, intensity, adoptability, and attitudes and behaviors. Kofman’s writing is informed by his experience working with leaders in the most challenging situations, including LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman (who supplies the foreword), Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella.

CREDIT: via Amazon

8. New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World–and How to Make It Work for You, by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms
The best book of its kind since Clay Shirky’s Here Comes EverybodyNew Power explains the mechanisms and implications of technology-enabled movements. Old power acts like a currency: It is closed and held by a few. New power, by contrast, is a current: open, made by many, and most effective when it surges. The transition from old to new power unleashes potent effects that business and political leaders can use for good, both their own and others’. The Scottish beer company BrewDog, for example, has raised money from tens of thousands of its „equity punk“ customers. Buurtzorg, a home care organization in the Netherlands, improves community health care by giving power to small, self-directed teams of nurses. Heimans, an activist, and Timms, CEO of the 92nd Street Y, demonstrate how to lead virtuously in this hashtag age.

CREDIT: via Amazon

9. Regulatory Hacking: A Playbook for Startups, by Evan Burfield with J.D. Harrison
Yes, the Trump administration is taking an ax to regulations. But its emphasis is on rules pestering large corporations. Burfield, an investor who works with startups around the world, shows entrepreneurs–who can’t afford lobbyists–how to maneuver in markets where the government’s hand is heavy or their innovations don’t fit existing frameworks. Among other advice, Burfield suggests founders create „power maps“ to uncover sources of influence that might advance their causes. 23andMe, for example, built relationships with scientists who had longstanding ties to the FDA. Airbnb mustered the support of its grassroots users. Rules are made to be broken–or at least tweaked, Burfield says. But he cautions: Sometimes it is easiest to comply.

CREDIT: via Amazon

10. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, by Daniel H. Pink
The question „when“ ranks fourth on that list of the „Five W’s“ that famously govern problem solving and decision making. Popular writer Pink, whose previous books explore subjects like motivation and sales, argues for the primacy of temporal considerations. Timing is a science, writes Pink. Understanding how it works can improve performance and outcomes in business and in life. Afternoons, for example, bring out the worst in us. Midpoints of projects are similarly dour. Coffee followed by a 10- to 20-minute nap is the secret to rejuvenation. And how you end matters almost as much as that you end.

Source: https://www.inc.com/leigh-buchanan/best-business-books-of-2018.html?cid=landermore

21 Great Ways to Innovate

Continuous innovation is not easy and if you keep using the same method you will experience diminishing results. Try innovating how you innovate by employing some of these ideas from Paul Sloane.

How hard is it to innovate? Not once but over and over? How can you repeatedly implement great new products, processes or services? Continuous innovation is not easy and if you keep using the same method you will experience diminishing results. Try innovating how you innovate by employing some of these ideas.

  1. Copy someone else’s idea. One of the best ways to innovate is to pinch an idea that works elsewhere and apply it in your business. Henry Ford saw the production line working in a meat packing plant and then applied to the automobile industry thereby dramatically reducing assembly times and costs.
  2. Ask customers. If you simply ask your customers how you could improve your product or service they will give you plenty of ideas for incremental innovations. Typically they will ask for new features or that you make your product cheaper, faster, easier to use, available in different styles and colours etc. Listen to these requests carefully and choose the ones that will really pay back.
  3. Observe customers. Do not just ask them, watch them. Try to see how customers use your products. Do they use them in new ways? This was what Levi Strauss saw when they found that customers ripped the jeans – so they brought a line of pre-ripped jeans. Heinz noticed that people stored their sauce jars upside down so they designed an upside down bottle.
  4. Use difficulties and complaints. If customers have difficulties with any aspect of using your product or if they register complaints then you have a strong starting point for innovations. Make your product easier to use, eliminate the current inconveniences and introduce improvements that overcome the complaints.
  5. Combine. Combine your product with something else to make something new. It works at all levels. Think of a suitcase with wheels, or a mobile phone with a camera or a flight with a massage.
  6. Eliminate. What could you take out of your product or service to make it better? Dell eliminated the computer store, Amazon eliminated the bookstore, the Sony Walkman eliminated speakers and record functions.
  7. Ask your staff. Challenge the people who work in the business to find new and better ways to do things and new and better ways to please customers. They are close to the action and can see opportunities for innovation. Often they just need encouragement to bring forward great ideas.
  8. Plan. Include targets for new products and services in your business plan. Put it onto the balanced scorecard. Write innovation into everyone’s objectives. Measure it and it will happen.
  9. Run brainstorms. Have regular brainstorm meetings where you generate a large quantity of new product ideas. Use diverse groups from different areas of the business and include a provocative outsider e.g. a customer or supplier.
  10. Examine patents. Check through patents that apply in your field. Are there some that you could license? Are some expiring so that you can now use that method? Is there a different way of achieving the essential idea in a patent?
  11. Collaborate. Work with another company who can take you to places you can’t go. Choose a partner with a similar philosophy but different skills. That is what Mercedes did with Swatch when they came up with the Smart car.
  12. Minimize or maximize. Take something that is standard in the industry and minimise or maximise it. Ryanair minimized price and customer service. Starbucks maximised price and customer experience. It is better to be different than to be better.
  13. Run a contest. Ask members of the public to suggest great new product ideas. Offer a prize. Give people a clear focussed goal and they will surprise you with novel ideas. Good for innovation and PR.
  14. Ask – what if? Do some lateral thinking by asking what if…..? Challenge every boundary and assumption that applies in your field. You and your group will come up with amazing ideas once the normal constraints are lifted.
  15. Watch the competition. Do not slavishly follow the competition but watch them intelligently. The small guys are often the most innovative so see if you can adapt or license one of their ideas – or even buy the company!
  16. Outsource. Subcontract your new product development challenge to a design company, a University, a start-up or a crowdsourcing site like ive or NineSigma.
  17. Use open innovation. Big consumer products companies like Proctor and Gamble or Reckitt Benckiser encourage developers to bring novel products to them. They are flexible on IP protection and give a clear focus on what they are looking for. A large proportion of their new products now start life outside the company.
  18. Adapt a product to a new use. Find an entirely different application for an existing product. De Beers produced industrial diamonds but found a new use for diamonds when they introduced the concept of engagement rings. It opened up a large new market for them.
  19. Try Triz. Triz is a systematic method for solving problems. It can be applied in many fields but is particularly useful in engineering and product design. Triz gives you a toolbox of methods to solve contradictions e.g. how can we make this product run faster but with less power?
  20. Go back in time. Look back at methods and services that were used in your sector years ago but have now fallen out of use. Can you bring one back in a new updated form? It has been said that Speed Dating is really a relaunch of a Victorian dance format where ladies had cards marked with appointments.
  21. Use social networks. Follow trends and ask questions on groups like Twitter or Facebook. Ask what people want to see in future products or what the big new idea will be. Many early adopters are active on social network groups and will happily respond with suggestions.

Soure: http://www.innovationmanagement.se/imtool-articles/21-great-ways-to-innovate/

Long-Term Success Lessons From Tech’s Most Innovative Companies

Innovation is everything in our ever-changing business world. If you want your business to remain on top, you have to keep up with the latest and greatest trends.

However, there’s also something to be said for “tried and true” business tactics. According to members of Forbes Technology Council, the most innovative companies of the last 20 years had some common keys to their long-term success, and today’s tech leaders can follow in their footsteps. Here’s how you can implement some of the lessons imparted by these technology giants.

1. Be The Best At Something

Searching the Web existed before Google, iPhones were not the first touchscreen phones, Amazon didn’t invent e-commerce and social media companies existed before Facebook. What all these giants did was to make the product better than anyone else. They focused on what their users wanted. They tested every pixel obsessively. They made things better and became the best in their fields. – Vikram Joshipulsd

2. Be Customer-Obsessed

Amazon has created raving buyers because the company culture is focused primarily on customer obsession. They start with what customers desire most and work backward from there. It requires a bold, innovative and creative approach to building products and services, and clearly, it works very well. – Mike PfeifferCloudSkills.io

3. Keep Iterating

The most innovative companies have leveraged modern tech to move quickly and expand through iteration. Examples include Amazon’s use of the internet for e-commerce, Google’s search engine, Tesla’s electric cars or Uber’s use of GPS-enabled smartphones to connect passengers with a ride. Tech leaders would do well to emulate the speed, obsessive customer focus and agility of these innovators. – Alexandre BilgerSinequa

4. Support Your Technology With Backend Infrastructure

Apple’s iPod transformed how people navigate, organize and listen to music; iTunes transformed the procurement of music and more; and the omnipresent iPhone drove Apple’s revival into the brand it is today. However, Apple also demonstrates enviable mastery in its contracts and licensing negotiations, backend infrastructure, and so on to support an unparalleled user experience (UX). – Anand JanefalkarUJET

5. Reinvent Rather Than Revise

Companies like Apple, Amazon and Uber gave us new ways of living, not by modifying what already existed, but by reimagining what should exist. The most impactful innovations are those that people haven’t even thought of yet. My advice: Forget what you think you know about an industry, start from scratch based on solid first principles and develop something entirely different. – Ron CogburnExela Technologies

6. Learn And Improve

I think the most successful companies start with something great, but then learn from and improve that concept over time. Look at Netflix, for example. They started with a DVD mailing service, which was game-changing; evolved to streaming video; and then began developing original content. Now they are improving personalization using machine learning—Netflix is always learning and improving. – Amy CzuchlewskiBottle Rocket

7. Be A Flat Organization

Shifting companies to fewer layers of management has been key to driving business and market agility, better communication, more innovation and, especially, creativity. Business innovates best when employees can voice their ideas and concerns and have them heard. Flat organizations help innovative ideas and evolution happen better and faster, and you need to be quick to compete and win. – Artem PetrovReinvently

8. Create A Culture Of Innovation

Innovation only happens if the company culture is such that it breeds innovative thinking. One way that companies can create this innovative culture is through rewarding innovation. Nothing works as well as rewards in getting employees to think of new, innovative ways to solve problems or improve the efficiency of products, services and processes. – Michael HoytLife Cycle Engineering, Inc.

9. Maintain A Core Vision

The most innovative companies provide customer-driven solutions that solve a real need and pain, sometimes even when it’s not widely recognized. Leaders must build and maintain a core vision that is backed by everyone in the organization and a culture that drives engagement, alignment and a passion for customer success. – Chen AmitTipalti Ltd.

10. Don’t Be Afraid To Disrupt Your Own Business Model

The most innovative companies aren’t afraid to disrupt legacy industries, disrupt their own business models and jump into new opportunities long before competitors can even dream. Their leaders are able to think 10 steps ahead. They can identify a global problem and quickly form teams to create new business models. The strategy is to innovate fast and get the product to market so it can scale. – Marc FischerDogtown Media LLC

11. Labor For Simplicity

A lot of the most innovative companies labor for simplicity with their products. Apple makes their products so simple to use that toddlers are able to use them. If you own a website or software company, make your site easy to use by focusing on creating an intuitive UX design and making the checkout process seamless. – Thomas GriffinOptinMonster

12. Master Your Real-Time Data

Over the last 20 years, it has been impossible to ignore the outsized disruptive impact of the digital giants. The commonality? Absolute mastery of real-time data, without which they could not achieve what they do. And they are not slowing down. Leaders today must figure out how to gain command of their real-time data to drive their businesses in the same way. This is non-negotiable in any industry. – Billy BosworthDataStax

13. Focus On The Customer Experience

Customer experience is the key to the success of any business, and it applies to all the verticals and types of businesses. Digital solutions must be part of tech leaders’ strategy when it comes to increasing profits and providing an excellent customer experience. The true implementation of artificial intelligence, chatbots, robotic process automation, cloud and big data can bring significant transformation to any organization

 

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2019/02/01/long-term-success-lessons-from-techs-most-innovative-companies/#7bf167653163

Mission Possible: Make Innovation Open to Anyone, Anywhere

The U.S.-based International Business Innovation Association estimates that there are about 7,000 incubators worldwide, some with better track records  than others, but all seemingly working towards a common goal: spread innovation like wildfire. Early in the year, I spoke with David Mandelbrot, CEO of IndieGogo, about startup funding, support, and how our approach to innovation is shifting and have been on the search for accelerators that flip the odds.

Opening the Innovation Gates

Plug and Play is recognized as the most active venture capital firm in the United States. With over 270 global investments every year, their mission, „To make innovation open to anyone, anywhere,“ seems viable if they keep up with those kind of numbers. And with so many incubators around the world, I was curious… what makes Plug and Play unique? What exactly are they doing that is allowing this level of growth to take place? After working with startups for over twelve years, Plug and Play has refined matching up with corporations based to create „mutually beneficial partnerships“ that embody spirit of open innovation.

Modern Community As the Backbone

In an absolute change of pace, Plug and Play is focusing a large amount of their attention on partnerships, connections, and building an undeniably powerful network designed to ensure the success of their startups at every stage of growth. This mission of making innovation open  to anyone, while collaborating and involving corporations; and helping to direct innovation into projects and products of high market, and  business value, is inadvertently counteracting the effect of gatekeepers.

Intentional Inclusion

This model supports what I refer to as intentional inclusion, creating space for diversity amid platforms where this was previously unsupported. In fact, I’ve dubbed this the year of intentional inclusion, and businesses, like Plug and Play, are proving me right. They might be living the dream in Silicon Valley, but they are creating a global movement. Currently boasting 26-locations around the world, they all have strategic partnerships launching startups into supported roles in their dedicated markets.

Acceleration Aligned

My conversation with Alex Mojtahedi, Managing Director at Plug and Play, jumped from innovation, to playing chess with your eyes closed- a skill Mojtahedi possesses, and even to discussing Colin Farrell. The 4th Annual City Summit & Gala, a personal favorite, will take over the Burbank Convention Center February 21st-24th, an event Plug and Play sponsors due to aligning missions. This year, Golden Globe Award winning actor Colin Farrell will be there to accept an inspiration award. Mojtahedi pointed out that much of what City Summit’s Founder, Ryan Long, aims to do for social good non-profit acceleration is aligned with Plug and Play’s long term goals for their startups.

As if that wasn’t already exciting enough, it seems Colin Farrell is also aligned with Plug and Play’s mission possible, and equally impressed with the direction of City Summit. In Farrell’s own words, „I’m grateful to organizations like the City Summit for highlighting professionals and providing awareness and support to entrepreneurs that want to help solve today’s challenges.“

Market Proof Is Undeniable

Some of the messaging I predict we will hear at the City Summit this year, as well as continue to hear from Mojtahedi and Plug and Play is this: Incubators often fail to get true market proof, and we see this in the end numbers of case studies showing failure after failure, regardless of funding. In this venture capital ecosystem, it’s common for people to move on, for businesses to be in constant flux, and for change to happen more rapidly than we experience in most other circumstances. Fifty-six percent of success can come from having the right product market fit, and as long as our efforts reflect that truth, there’s nowhere we can’t go.

Source: https://www.inc.com/tracy-leigh-hazzard/mission-possible-make-innovation-open-to-anyone-anywhere.html?cid=search

IBM’s New „5 in 5“ Predictions Point to a New Era of Innovation

Every year, IBM publishes its list of five innovations that will change the world in five years. There aren’t just predictions, but represent grand challenges that the company intends to take on. As IBM’s Chief Innovation Officer Bernie Meyerson once put it to me, „What we’re really aiming for isn’t to predict the future, but to change the future.“

Last year, for example, the „5 in 5“ included combining crypto-anchors with blockchain to secure the world’s supply chain and it formed a joint venture with Maersk to help bring that about. It also included a new form of encryption, called lattice-based cryptography and more transparent AI algorithms, all things its scientists are actively working on.

This year’s „5 in 5“ is different in several ways. First, rather than a horizontal overview, it focuses on one industrial vertical: the food supply chain. Second, rather than focusing exclusively on information technology, it foresees an intense collaboration between the computer industry and other fields. Third, it marks a break from business as usual to a new era of innovation.

Rising to New Challenges

The shift in emphasis in this year’s „5 in 5“ is no accident, but points to a larger change in the role of information technology itself. Historically, the primary role computers played was to help organizations run administrative functions, such as accounting and payroll. The Internet helped move IT into a more operational role over the past few decades, but Jeff Welser, VP and Lab Director at IBM Research, sees an even greater shift ahead.

„Throughout our history, IBM has been an information company,“ he told me. We helped our customers run their back office. During the Gerstner years, beginning in the late 90s, we began to help firms run their business processes and we made a major effort to develop the expertise to do that.“

„Now,“ he continues „our customers are increasingly asking for our help running things in the real world and we need to rise to that challenge.“ He also noted that the shift will entail more than just developing and deploying technologies, but also how his company works with other organizations.

„One of the things that makes this „5 in 5″ different is that all of these challenges require us to work with partners,“ Welser explains. „So it is a call for action for us, but also for those who we collaborate with that these are problems that we are serious about solving.“

Reimagining the Food Supply Chain

The 2019 „5 in 5“ list imagines how technology will revolutionize the food supply chain from „seed to shelf“. For example, using a technology called twinning, which uses a wide array of sensors along with geospatial and weather data to create simulations so accurate that they effectively become a „digital twin,“ it can help farmers vastly increase yields while reducing environmental costs.

After those crops are harvested, blockchain will help each node in the food ecosystem, from farmers to grocers, to know exactly where each crop goes and where it came from. Walmart, in fact, has already begun this process, using IBM technology to track leafy green vegetables all the way back to the particular farm each piece came from.

Once crops arrive at food processors, food safety inspectors will use next generation sequencing machines combined with massive databases of microbial genomes (IBM has one of the largest), to improve food safety. When food hits the table, improved optics of smartphone cameras will enable AI systems to identify contaminants and to evaluate quality and provenance.

Finally, once the food is eaten, a new catalytic process that IBM has developed, called VolCat, will dissolve plastics down to the basic building blocks of the polymer. This will enable us to recycle many materials that today end up in landfills, improving the environment and societal health.

The company also points out that that by the end of the century the earth’s population will increase by 45 percent, while farmable land will decrease by 20 percent. So making our food supply chain more efficient is something that is critical to achieve.

Overcoming Obstacles

The „5 in 5“ points to possibilities that are exciting and certainly not confined to food. Blockchain, to take just one example, has the potential for significant impact on logistics across many industries. However, none of these developments are assured, which is why IBM wants to highlight the potential in order to spur action.

All of these have significant challenges,“ Welser says. „Some are scientific and we need to work with experts in areas like genomics, microbiology and other things. In other cases, there are scaling challenges. Going from milliliters in the lab to metric tons in the real world is no trivial thing. In others, such as blockchain, there are market challenges and we need to make sure that various market players are properly incentivized.“

„For me as lab director, I need to look at hiring more broadly and bring in the expertise we need to overcome these challenges. We also need to partner more intensely than we ever have before. Throughout our history, commercial and academic partnerships have been a big part of our success. Now we need to scale that effort and partner with researchers at other businesses far more broadly than we ever have before.“

A New Era of Innovation

We appear to be at an inflection point unlike anything we’ve since since the 1950’s, when we first made the shift from mechanical to digital computers. Today, with Moore’s law reaching theoretical limits, the digital age itself is coming to an end. At the same time, new technologies, such as quantum computing, as well as the rapid advancement in fields like genomics and materials science, require a new approach.

„I think the fact that we chose to focus on the „5 in 5″ on a particular industry represents a shift in the role of information technology in the years to come,“ Welser observes. „In the past, we were focused on solving discrete problems that our customers came to us with and we would come up with information based solutions for those.“

„Now, we’re finding we need to approach problems more holistically,“ he continues „looking more broadly at entire systems and, in some cases, entire ecosystems, to come up with solutions that involve multiple partners, multiple stakeholders and the public at large.“

The truth is that the challenges we face as a society today, climate change and food security being two of the most prominent, are far more complex than anything we’ve tackled before. Even a company like IBM, with its century of history and multi-billion dollar research budgets, can’t go it alone. In the new era of innovation, collaboration is increasingly becoming a competitive advantage.

Source: https://www.inc.com/greg-satell/ibms-new-5-in-5-predictions-point-to-a-new-era-of-innovation.html?cid=search