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.


How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life

Gather successful people from all walks of life-what would they have in common? The way they think! Now you can think as they do and revolutionize your work and life!

Wall Street Journal bestseller, HOW SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE THINK is the perfect, compact read for today’s fast-paced world. America’s leadership expert John C. Maxwell will teach you how to be more creative and when to question popular thinking. You’ll learn how to capture the big picture while focusing your thinking. You’ll find out how to tap into your creative potential, develop shared ideas, and derive lessons from the past to better understand the future. With these eleven keys to more effective thinking, you’ll clearly see the path to personal success.

Download the book here: howsuccessfulpeoplethink-changeyourthinkingchangeyourlife-150414064712-conversion-gate01-ID-3023c225-7df9-4268-9ab4-d2b9cb3d4c62

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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.


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

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



Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

A former international hostage negotiator for the FBI offers a new, field-tested approach to high-stakes negotiations—whether in the boardroom or at home.

After a stint policing the rough streets of Kansas City, Missouri, Chris Voss joined the FBI, where his career as a hostage negotiator brought him face-to-face with a range of criminals, including bank robbers and terrorists. Reaching the pinnacle of his profession, he became the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator. Never Split the Difference takes you inside the world of high-stakes negotiations and into Voss’s head, revealing the skills that helped him and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: saving lives. In this practical guide, he shares the nine effective principles—counterintuitive tactics and strategies—you too can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal life.

Life is a series of negotiations you should be prepared for: buying a car, negotiating a salary, buying a home, renegotiating rent, deliberating with your partner. Taking emotional intelligence and intuition to the next level, Never Split the Difference gives you the competitive edge in any discussion.


Download the book here: Never Split the Difference_ Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It ( )

The Edge: R&BD, JA Bulgaria and United Bulgarian Bank started a new pre-acceleration program ”Challenge YOU”

Challenge YOU is a practical 12 week program that aims to support students to start their own startup. During the program, participants form teams, learn how to recognize opportunities, develop business plans and prototypes, and practice their presentation skills by pitching to a targeted audience of potential investors and supporters.

The program is open to Bulgarian students – bachelor, master and PhD level, from all majors and universities who have an idea to launch businesses in the following areas: virtual reality, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, fintech, healthcare, clean energy, agro innovation and others.

During the program, students participate in intensive workshops and trainings that combine theory with practice – design thinking course, mentoring afternoons, Demo Day, and final competition to select the best team. The prize for the winner includes mentoring and consultations with experienced professionals from UBB, JA Bulgaria and The Edge: R&BD (e.g. lawyer, financier, intellectual property specialist).

In addition, all teams will be invited to present at the Youth Business Forum „Rising Stars“ on 9 –10 June in Sofia. The event is organized by JA Bulgaria for the 12th consecutive year and provides students with the opportunity to compete for a number of awards including funding of 10,000 leva.

For more information you can visit

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.


The Richest Man In Babylon

The Richest Man in Babylon is considered as the greatest of all inspirational works on the subject of thrift, financial planning, and personal wealth. Revealed inside are the secrets to acquiring money, keeping money, and making money earn more money.

Providing financial wisdom through parables, ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’ was originally a set of pamphlets, written by the author and distributed by banks and insurance companies. These pamphlets were later bundled together, giving birth to a book. In this new rendering by Charles Conrad, the classic tale is retold in clear, simple language for today’s readers. These fascinating and informative stories set you on a sure path to prosperity and its accompanying joys.

Download the book here:

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.