Category Archives: Current in Entrepreneurship

Opportunities Everywhere.

“When you think like an entrepreneur, you see everything around you differently.”

A few months ago, my wife and I were brainstorming ways to market our novel.  We spend three years writing it together -it’s called Mr. Nice Guy, and it  comes out October 16.  And as any author knows, publicizing and marketing a book is tough.  It’s a crowded space, few publications cover books in any meaningful way, and readers are hard to reach.

We stared into the air for a while.  Then, I thought, What would happen if I stopped looking at this like an author, and started doing it like an entrepreneur?  And with that, a new world opened up.  I don’t see entrepreneurship as a career  choice.  It’s a mindset.  That’s the thing I marvel at most when spending time with brilliant entrepreneurs,  and it’s the skill I think everyone should continually hone.  When you think like an entrepreneur, it like wearing augmented reality glasses.  You see the same things as everyone else, but you see them differently.  They appear as inactive opportunities, just waiting to be achieved.  All you need is to find a new way for something old to be useful.

There are ample famous examples of this, of course.  Airbnb realized that a house isn’t just a house;  it’s a rentable space.  Uber resized that a car isn’t just a car; it’s a taxi service.  But his happens on a smaller scale, too. Consider the inventor of a butter dish called Butteries, who told me she couldn’t afford $10,000 ini market research.  She realized the airport wasn’t just a place to travel;  it was actually a perfect polling place, filled with people who have nothing better to do than answer questions about butter dishes, and so she began showing up early for flights and surveying travelers.  Or take the man I interviewed whose camera equipment business was slowing.  He realized Amazon wasn’t just aside to sell products -it was really a giant R & D Lab, where he could scour reviews of other products to meet the commenters’ specific desires.  “I like this clock, but I wish the numbers were bigger”, someone might write.  Bingo.  Today his company, C+A Global, sells tens of thousands of products and has offices around the world.

So, I started thinking about what I’d overlooked.  What had I once thought of as just a part of my book, but that was really an inactive opportunity?  And then aha!  There’s a critical scene that features a remote-controlled vibrator.  (You weren’t expecting that, I bet.  Mr. Nice Guy is a romantic comedy about two people who each week sleep together and then critically review each other’s performance in a magazine.)  What if the vibrator wasn’t just any ol’ vibrator but was instead …some brand’s vibrator?  I called the adult product company Adam & Eve with a proposal:  I’d put them in the scene, in exchange for them emailing their entire list about our book. They said yes.  Interactive opportunity: activated.  This was exciting.  And, addictive!  I kept going.  Would Elliott Clark, a well-respected cocktail creator I met who goes by Apartment Bartender, make drinks inspired by the book?  Sounds fun, he said.  Most authors launch their books at bookstores, but…what if that’s actually an interactive opportunity?  I emailed a friend at WeWork; would they host our party and invite members?  Yes, they would!  Now, back to Elliott;  Would he come?  Yes!  Could he get us a liquor sponsor?  Yes!  Opportunities everywhere!

This thinking is equal parts thrill and anxiety.  There’s the thrill of finding opportunities and the anxiety of never possibly finding them all.  But at least there’s a solution:  Make the mindset a habit.  Do it until it become second nature, until you can’t remember what it was like to not see opportunity everywhere.  You’ll see more every day.  Why else do you think I wrote this month’s column the way I have?  This, right here, was an opportunity I needed to activate.  Now you can let me know if I was successful.

Jason Feifer is Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine jfeifer@entrepreneur.com, reprinted with his kind permission.

 

51 Countries Participate in Hive 2019

Your ‘Current in Entrepreneurship’ editor above had the pleasure of attending the Hive Global Leaders Summit August 15-18 in the Santa Cruz mountains, Scotts Valley, CA near Silicon Valley this year. Simply stated it is an event like no other. Hive members are changing the world, solving humanity’s greatest challenges, making a difference in their local communities, and are committed to personal transformation. Members are working together to create a world in which everyone has the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

This flagship annual event, the Hive Global Leaders Summit (GLS) was a 3.5-day immersive workshop on purpose, leadership, entrepreneurship, and wellness held in August. Hive also hosts major events in Germany, Mexico, Canada, Romania, Nigeria, Liberia, India, Pakistan, Australia, and The Philippines. Members become part of a lifelong community of purpose-driven leaders, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and innovators working together on creating a better world while supporting each other in their personal and professional growth. Over 3,000 leaders from 130 countries are part of the Hive community globally. The organization helps leaders improve their lives through local gatherings and high-quality digital experiences.

It is a group of like-minded social entrepreneurs forming a powerful tribe to do better world work by taking on humanity’s problems and raising standards of living through synergy and diversity. As an example at this year’s gathering, there were panel discussions, renown speakers (Marianne Williamson, a democratic candidate for U. S. President, gave the keynote address suggesting dramatic political change), and self-improvement breakout sessions (public speaking, the “Da Vinci Within”, Authentic Relationships, and Evolve Venturing). By far the the most impactful session was given the last full day by host and Hive CEO Ryan Allis and Nadia Mufti on Designing Your Life Purpose.

This segment can be life-changing for participants. Ryan and Nadia guide cohorts through an experiential exercise called Designing Your life using the Hive purpose model, “What I love doing, What I am good at, What the world needs, and What I can paid for”. As these four wheels intersect, there is a creation of passion, mission, profession, and vocation to define each person’s purpose. These questions are broken down into meaning. For example, for “What do I love doing”, you are asked to answer “When am I most ‘in flow’, what excites me, what makes me come alive, and when am I the happiest”? Near the end people draw their purpose statement and, significantly, list 90-day, 1-year, 5-year and 10-year goals that deliberately include holistic actions like health, travel, work, family, relationships and habits.

At my stage of life I help others learn and grow through entrepreneurship. But, even here I was able to think through a major philanthropic decision using the Hive technique. Three characteristics of a great purpose statement are it is understandable, inspiring, and memorable. After some effort, I was able to reduce mine to fifteen words. I also zeroed in on health as an out-of-balance factor impacting my ‘flow’ and learned new methods of eating, exercise and de-stressing. The final piece of the Hive Global Summit are the people. They are fascinating, from all over the world, and share a common desire to improve both themselves and the larger world. Discussions are extraordinary, interesting, and illuminating.

One example was a fifteen year old invited guest Joshua Gao, inventor of a fire extinguisher that uses sound waves to put out a forest fire. It detects a fire using infrared sensors, and automatically emits a beam of sound waves to the fire source to extinguish it. He recently won the Conrad International Entrepreneurship Challenge. The challenge was created by Nancy Conrad, the widow of Astronaut Pete Conrad who commanded the Apollo 12 mission in 1969. A high school student from Nashua, New Hampshire, Joshua has founded the SAFE company to market the technology to governments and corporations.

If you would like a rich, impactful, and life enriching experience, I encourage you to consider application to the Hive Global Summit in 2020. It will be held again at the 1440 Multiversity in the beautiful redwoods of Scotts Valley. 1440 was built by Silicon Valley unicorn, Scott Kriens, who founded the Juniper Networks.

 

How To Recruit Customers For Your Minimum Viable Product

Let’s talk about how we turn an audience into a customer base. And let’s start with how we don’t.

To give some context, I’ll ask a hypothetical question. Once you’ve spent all the time it takes to ideate, build, and perfect your minimum viable product, would you then head out into your neighborhood, taking your MVP from door to door to hawk your wares like the vacuum cleaner salesmen of old?

Absolutely not. But oddly enough, this is how a lot of entrepreneurs target the audience that they hope to turn into their first customers, the digital equivalent of it anyway. Find a lot of like-minded people gathered in one place on the Internet, hit them with a singular pitch and price point, then sit back and wait for the money to roll in.

I know. I used to do the same exact thing. In over 20 years creating and launching dozens of products, I’ve had to learn the lessons of customer acquisition the hard way — a path littered with expensive and time-consuming rejection.

The goal isn’t how many customers we can hit at once, it’s how much can we learn from each customer we hit. The solution is to go after initial customers one at a time, then tailor the pitch as we move on from individuals to groups.

Here’s how we break down who they are and what they need, how we sell them our MVP, and what we can learn from each of them.

Don’t know they have a problem

When we throw our product out to the Internet — the advertising platforms, social media sites, LinkedIn groups, etc. — the vast majority of our audience doesn’t know they have the problem we’re trying to solve. This is why a lot of cheesy ads start with a question like, “Are you tired of…(insert problem here)?”

This is the worst MVP audience to go after, even though it seems like the easiest and cheapest to reach.

In reality, this is the most expensive audience, because even with all of the algorithms to filter demographics and psychographics and interests and browsing history, there’s probably not a checkbox to select the audience that suffers from the exact problem you’re trying to solve. And if there is, the problem you’ve chosen is probably too broad to begin with. Either way, we’re paying for a lot of misfires.

There’s really no good way to sell an MVP to this audience, other than to start with that cheesy question. From the response, we can learn how much of our prospective customer segment thinks that they’re impacted by our problem, but that’s going to be a noisily inaccurate statistic that’s expensive to obtain, and it doesn’t tell us much about the validity of our solution.

Know they have a problem and are willing to solve it

This is a great audience to have, but it can be a hard one to find. We basically have to look for complainers — those people who actually are tired of (insert problem here). Sometimes they’ll group together, but most of the time we have to work backwards, and go looking for them in the context of a similar problem.

An example: At my current startup Spiffy, we started out doing mobile car washes on-demand through an app. One of the discoveries we made from polling our customers was that they used us primarily because they enjoyed the convenience and time savings of not having to go to the car wash. So we asked them where else they hated to go, and they overwhelmingly told us they hated going to the oil change places. So we rolled out an MVP to change oil the same way we did car washes. Huge win.

Now, our MVP audience was already in our customer base, but we had to learn why they were there first. Had we assumed (mistakenly) they were using us because they just liked things really clean, we might have instead (mistakenly) rolled out an MVP for mobile house cleaning or pet grooming, and misfired completely.

Know they have a problem and are unwilling to solve it

This is a tough nut to crack, but super valuable if we can crack it, because this audience is going to be a big part of our sustained growth down the road. These are the folks who are living with the problem we’re trying to solve, and not willing to pay for a solution, either because the problem isn’t painful enough or because the existing solutions aren’t cost-effective or frictionless enough.

So this is where our competitive advantage will come from.

We usually find this audience virally, in the same places we find the audience willing to solve the problem. But we sell this audience by stressing our competitive edge and justifying why they don’t have to live with the problem any longer.

Again, I’ll use my current startup as an example: Anyone can live with a dirty car, some can live with a dirtier car than others. We made it so easy, so cost-effective, and the results so good that this audience realized they didn’t have to live with a dirty car anymore.

Furthermore, as their unwillingness to solve the problem melts, we’re learning all sorts of things from them: Scheduling, frequency, packaging, pricing, upgrades, messaging, and the list goes on and on.

Already using a free variant of the solution

This is an outlier audience in the real world, it happens with a lot more frequency in software as a service. There may already be a contingent audience using a low-feature version of our product for free. And it may even be a low-feature version of our own MVP.

Much like the audience that doesn’t know they have a problem, this one is tricky, because it seems like a gold mine of cheap-to-find and easy-to-land customers, but it’s really just a special subset of two other audiences: The ones that don’t know they have a problem and the ones that know but are unwilling to solve it.

The free version sets up a challenge. We have to sell the audience by both fortifying their desire to fix the problem while also offering a solution that is worth the time and money to transition from the free solution. This is complex, I mean, it took me a while just to write that last sentence, let alone execute on it.

But again, crazy important to learn from, because we’re learning where and how much value our MVP really has.

Already paying for a solution and unhappy with that solution

In the short term, this is a great audience to chase. It’s where we’re going to disrupt the market. These are people who know the problem, need a solution, and are unhappy with the solution they have.

These are our competitors customers, and they can be swayed on anything from price to innovation. Just know that if it’s the former, they’ll be difficult to keep, and if it’s the latter, we can’t rest on the MVP, we have to keep innovating.

My recommendation here would not be to sell them on price, because like I said, even if that gets them to switch, it won’t keep them around. And we need them around because we can learn more from this audience than any other, not only in terms of what our MVP’s strengths are, but where we should go next.

To put it another way, these customers didn’t become unhappy because the product became too expensive, they became unhappy because the product stopped being worth what they were paying. They can help us chase innovation and maintain that value proposition for all of our customers.

Already paying for a solution and happy with that solution

OK, this audience is the holy grail, if we can convert them, because landing these customers is the difference between being a market competitor and the market leader.

These are also our competitors’ customers, but they’re the ones who are totally satisfied with the solution they have, and the only way they’re becoming our customers is if we show them something they hadn’t thought of before.

If we can show that kind of value to that kind of audience, it means we’re reshaping the industry, changing the game, whatever you want to call inventing the next generation of our business. It’s what we set out to do when we first got the idea for our product, and it’s what drove us all the way through the MVP process. It only stands to reason that this is the primary audience to target when building our customer base.

By Joe Procopio.com from Daily Medium online. 

A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence

A WHARTON PROFESSOR AND TECH ENTREPRENEUR EXAMINES HOW ALGORITHMS AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE ARE STARTING TO RUN EVERY ASPECT OF OUR LIVES, AND HOW WE CAN SHAPE THE WAY THEY IMPACT US

If you recently applied for a mortgage or a job, made a purchase on Amazon, or watched a movie on Netflix, you interacted with an algorithm. Some of them simply make suggestions, while others make decisions for us. Algorithms can drive cars, make investments, set insurance premiums, and offer doctors diagnostic guidance.

In his new book, Wharton professor Kartik Hosanagar says that while they can make our lives easier, “they are also adversely affecting us in ways that are currently beyond our control.”

Most of us are familiar with at least a few cautionary tales, since they tend to make headlines. Amazon’s gender-biased recruiting algorithm, Uber’s self-driving car that killed a pedestrian, and IBM’s Watson Health that gave potentially fatal cancer treatment recommendations are some of the best known. But, says Hosanagar, “AI-based algorithms are here to stay. To discard them now would be like Stone Age humans deciding to reject the use of fire because it can be tricky to control.”

In A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence (Viking, 2019), Hosanagar answers three related questions: (1) What causes algorithms to behave in unpredictable, biased, and potentially harmful ways? (2) If algorithms can be irrational and unpredictable, how do we decide when to use them? (3) How do we, as individuals who use algorithms in our personal or professional lives and as a society, shape the narrative of how algorithms impact us?

This important new book will deepen your understanding of algorithms and the risks associated with algorithmic decision making. Hosanagar explains how we can hold algorithms accountable: a user’s “bill of rights” clarifying the level of transparency, “explainability” (knowing why algorithms decide what they decide), and control we can and should expect from the algorithms we use. As he notes, having a “vague notion of how autonomous algorithms function is no longer sufficient for responsible citizens, consumers, and professionals.” We don’t need to become machine learning specialists, but to limit and control their power over our lives we do need a solid understanding of the big picture. A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence more than fills the bill.

Through the technology embedded in almost every major tech platform and every web-enabled device, algorithms and the artificial intelligence that underlies them make a staggering number of everyday decisions for us, from what products we buy, to where we decide to eat, to how we consume our news, to whom we date, and how we find a job. We’ve even delegated life-and-death decisions to algorithms–decisions once made by doctors, pilots, and judges.

In his book, Hosanagar surveys the brave new world of algorithmic decision-making and reveals the potentially dangerous biases they can give rise to as they increasingly run our lives. He makes the compelling case that we need to arm ourselves with a better, deeper, more nuanced understanding of the phenomenon of algorithmic thinking. And he gives us a route in, pointing out that algorithms often think a lot like their creators–that is, like you and me.

He draws on his experiences designing algorithms professionally–as well as on history, computer science, and psychology–to explore how algorithms work and why they occasionally go rogue, what drives our trust in them, and the many ramifications of algorithmic decision-making. He examines episodes like Microsoft’s chatbot Tay, which was designed to converse on social media like a teenage girl, but instead turned sexist and racist; the fatal accidents of self-driving cars; and even our own common, and often frustrating, experiences on services like Netflix and Amazon.

Every now and then, 87 million Spotify users receive a great new daily mixtape: 50 songs that feel like a gift from a music-loving friend, totally in synch with their musical proclivities. But these thoughtfully curated playlists, from Spotify, are cooked up by an algorithm.

Wharton School Professor Kartik Hosanagar’s timely new book A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence explores how algorithms and the artificial intelligence that underlies them have seeped into our lives. They have crept into areas of decision-making that were once the sole preserve of humans.

Since it’s so hard to spot, you might not even have noticed how much of your life is now influenced by algorithms which make everyday decisions for us, from what products we buy, to where we decide to eat, to how we consume our news.

Having a machine tell you how long your commute will be, what music you should listen to, are all relatively harmless examples. But while you’re scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, an algorithm somewhere is providing doctors with AI-based diagnostic guidance, helping recruiters shortlist job applicants, deciding university admissions, dispensing criminal justice and upending old ways of decision making.

“Chatbots like Siri and Alexa could ultimately be gateways through which we access information and transact online,” writes Hosanagar, who is the John C Hower Professor of Technology and Digital Business at Wharton, at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Companies are hoping to use chatbots to replace a large number of their customer service staff, employing them, for example as shopping assistants — gathering information about our taste in clothes, evaluating it, and making purchase decisions on our behalf,” he writes.

Hosanagar succeeds in making the case that we need to arm ourselves with a “better, deeper, more nuanced” understanding of the phenomenon of algorithmic thinking. To flag the lurking dangers, the author highlights how it took less than 24 hours for Twitter to corrupt an AI chatbot.

The book delves into how Microsoft famously unveiled Tay — a Twitter bot that the company described as an experiment in “conversational understanding.” The more you chat with Tay, said Microsoft, the smarter it gets, learning to engage people through “casual and playful conversation.”

Sadly, the conversations didn’t stay playful for long. Soon after Tay launched, people starting tweeting the bot with all sorts of crazy misogynistic and racist remarks. Tay — being essentially a robot parrot with an internet connection — started repeating these sentiments back to users.

The author says Microsoft didn’t anticipate that Tay would develop so “aggressive a personality” with such alarming speed.  “The algorithim that controlled the bot did something that no one who programmed it expected it to do: it took on a life of its own,” writes Hosanagar.  Ultimately, Microsoft shut down the project’s website and MIT included Tay in its annual Worst in Tech rankings.

Hosanagar’s big picture thinking on algorithms contains some profound analysis of the new technology we have built, which has now unwittingly come to constrain us. He channels powerful examples to show readers how we’ve even delegated life-and-death decisions to algorithms — decisions once made by doctors, pilots, and judges.

The book argues that the possibility of discrimination is complicated by algorithms’ mathematical complexity: the computation that turns input into output can be difficult to trace, which has led to the characterization of algorithms as inscrutable “black boxes.”

But with the right regulations in place, algorithms could be more transparent than human cognition, the author argues. And the transparency could make it easier to detect and prevent discrimination. The author proposes effectively a “bill of rights” that limits algorithims’ powers and how users can hold them accountable. It clarifies the level of transparency, “explainability,” and control we should expect from the algorithms we use. The book includes Hosanagar’s bold Algorithmic Bill of Rights, which would give enterprises a framework to help them guide their AI projects in ethically responsible ways.

Hosanagar’s big picture thinking on algorithms contains some profound analysis of the new technology we have built, which has now unwittingly come to constrain us. He channels powerful examples to show readers how we’ve even delegated life-and-death decisions to algorithms — decisions once made by doctors, pilots, and judges.

Algorithms, for all their promise, can also lead to biased outcomes. Researchers have long been concerned about algorithmic fairness. For instance, Amazon’s AI-based recruiting engine turned out to dismiss female candidates for software developer jobs and other technical posts. That is because Amazon’s computer models were trained to vet applicants by observing patterns in resumes submitted to the company over a 10-year period. Most came from men, a reflection of male dominance across the tech industry.

This gem of a book is a must-read for anyone wanting to grapple with how artificial intelligence is bringing sweeping new possibilities, while also raising seminal questions.

To Go to College or Not?

Dear Tom Tyron, (Letter to the Editor of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune)An editorial posted July 25th questioned the merits of a college education for “ROI” or return on investment value. State College of Florida President Carol Probstfeld rightly responded in a post on July 31st. Both articles have merit, but the real issue is not even addressed.

At the core of the need for higher education is the coming massive workforce job disruption caused by artificial intelligence (AI). Those of us in the entrepreneurship education field have privy to studies by the likes of McKinsey who forecast massive unemployment caused by the automation not only of repetitive manual labor but more significantly by cognitive thinking tasks done by white collar workers. If you think it is down the road, think again. State Farm has eliminated thousands of claims workers and gone to AI to replace their processing, and loan officers are losing jobs to automated applications every week.
Scorecards have nothing to do with a higher education. What counts is being able to make a living to support one’s family, and to do that work must become innovative and creative. We teach both skills in entrepreneurship as well as opportunity recognition, ideation, design thinking, and the lean, evidenced-based method to build a new small business. This newer planning method developed by Silicon Valley to utilize the internet has made learning entrepreneurship possible for all. It can now be taught and learned.
The future of higher education belongs to “hybrid”, half online and half face-to-face classes. The days of tenured $175,000 per year professors are gone. Community college are where education is at these days. NACCE, the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship, is adding partners, members, and creating new ways to reach those in need. Both SCF and HCC are members, and have just formed an alliance with the largest veterans entrepreneurship organization in the U. S. to expand entrepreneurship education three-fold using community colleges.
Only training for specific skill sets accomplishes employment. But, more important is empowering each student and every adult with entrepreneurship. We live in a Gig Economy where big employers have cut costs employing independent contractors who have to be self-employed to be contracted. They need training for entrepreneurship as a body. Further, as people loose jobs to automation, they need an option to put their passion or interests to small businesses of their own. Take the 3.5 million U. S. truck drivers who are on the verge of loosing their jobs to driverless trucks. If they had training and confidence in self-employed, they could iterate to their favorite hobby, open a small business using their entrepreneurship training, and increase their own salary with no limit on earnings.
Change is inevitable, but to write college is no longer necessary is poor journalism. It is more necessary than ever, but in a different direction and for specific skills in keeping with modern life and a changing economy.
Sincerely,  Clinton E. Day, MBA
Founder of Entrepreneurship at State College of Florida
Biography on Linked In – https://www.linkedin.com/in/clintday/
Current in Entrepreneurship Website – clintoneday.com

10 Ways Israel Changed the World

It’s no secret that Israel – the ‘start-up nation’ – is a global centre for technology. Culture Trip explores the country’s homegrown developments that are making an impact on a global scale.

In the world of technology, Israel is king. The country has more hi-tech start-ups per capita than anywhere else in the world and is second only to the US in venture capital funds. This is an impressive feat for any state, but more so for one that is only 70 years old and home to just under nine million people.
Despite its relatively small population, the ‘start-up nation’ has produced hundreds of tech developments, from everyday items like USB drives to futuristic medical devices that can offer diagnoses in an instant.

 The SniffPhone is a diagnostic tool that can literally sniff out disease. Currently undergoing field trials, this project is an evolution of the ‘NaNose’ technology developed by Professor Hossam Haick of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

NaNose is a breathalyser that can detect the symptomatic odour caused by some cancerous tumours, Parkinson’s dementia, multiple sclerosis and many more diseases to an 86% to 93% degree of accuracy. The SniffPhone aims to further simplify this diagnostic process by making the technology accessible via a plug-in that can be attached to smartphones.

It is estimated to become commercial within four to six years and will be “highly accurate, affordable, easy to use, comfortable and easy to repeat”, according to its developers.

After a tragic accident left him paralysed from the waist down, Dr Amit Goffer spent years developing a way for paraplegics to be less dependent on wheelchairs.

Enter the ReWalk by Argo Medical Technologies. Allowing the user to stand upright, walk and even climb stairs, this exoskeleton-esque robot receives movement signals from a wristwatch and is powered by a backpack battery. It’s been available for public use since 2014 and has made appearances at the London Marathon and the 2012 London Paralympics.

Inspired by a personal experience with chronic stomach pain, scientist Gavriel Iddan of Given Imaging (now Medtronic) came up with the idea of creating a digestible, disposable camera that transmits data to a receiver outside the body. FDA-approved, the PillCam is now used across the globe to diagnose infection, intestinal disorders and cancers in the digestive system. It’s also able to access areas of the digestive system that are typically out of range during a conventional procedure.

The PillCam has revolutionised modern medicine by allowing patients to avoid visits to the hospital. For his invention, Iddan received the European Inventor Award in 2011, 14 years after the prototype was first released.

4 Things Every Business Leader Should Know About Artificial Intelligence and Automation

 In 2011, MIT economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee self-published an unassuming e-book titled Race Against The Machine. It quickly became a runaway hit. Before long, the two signed a contract with W. W. Norton & Company to publish a full-length version, The Second Machine Age that was an immediate bestseller.

The subject of both books was how “digital technologies are rapidly encroaching on skills that used to belong to humans alone.” Although the authors were careful to point out that automation is nothing new, they argued, essentially, that at some point a difference in scale becomes a difference in kind and forecasted we were close to hitting a tipping point.

In recent years, their vision has come to be seen as deterministic and apocalyptic, with humans struggling to stay relevant in the face of a future ruled by robot overlords. There’s no evidence that’s true. The future, in fact, will be driven by humans collaborating with other humans to design work for machines to create value for other humans.

1. Automation Doesn’t Replace Jobs, It Replaces Tasks

When a new technology appears, we always seem to assume that its primary value will be to replace human workers and reduce costs, but that’s rarely true. For example, when automatic teller machines first appeared in the early 1970s, most people thought it would lead to less branches and tellers, but actually just the opposite happened.

What really happens is that as a task is automated, it becomes commoditized and value shifts somewhere else. That’s why today, as artificial intelligence is ramping up, we increasingly find ourselves in a labor shortage. Most tellingly, the shortage is especially acute in manufacturing, where automation is most pervasive.

That’s why the objective of any viable cognitive strategy is not to cut costs, but to extend capabilities. For example, when simple consumer service tasks are automated, that can free up time for human agents to help with more thorny issues. In much the same way, when algorithms can do much of the analytical grunt work, human executives can focus on long-term strategy, which computers tend to not do so well.

The winners in the cognitive era will not be those who can reduce costs the fastest, but those who can unlock the most value over the long haul. That will take more than simply implementing projects. It will require serious thinking about what your organization’s mission is and how best to achieve it.

2. Value Never Disappears, It Just Shifts To Another Place 

In 1900, 30 million people in the United States were farmers, but by 1990 that number had fallen to under 3 million even as the population more than tripled. So, in a manner of speaking, 90% of American agriculture workers lost their jobs, mostly due to automation. Still, the twentieth century was seen as an era of unprecedented prosperity.

We’re in the midst of a similar transformation today. Just as our ancestors toiled in the fields, many of us today spend much of our time doing rote, routine tasks. Yet, as two economists from MIT explain in a paper, the jobs of the future are not white collar or blue collar, but those focused on non-routine tasks, especially those that involve other humans.

Far too often, however, managers fail to recognize value hidden in the work their employees do. They see a certain job description, such as taking an order in a restaurant or answering a customer’s call, and see how that task can be automated to save money. What they don’t see, however, is the hidden value of human interaction often embedded in many jobs.

When we go to a restaurant, we want somebody to take care of us (which is why we didn’t order takeout). When we have a problem with a product or service, we want to know somebody cares about solving it. So the most viable strategy is not to cut jobs, but to redesign them to leverage automation to empower humans to become more effective.

3. As Machines Learn To Think, Cognitive Skills Are Being Replaced By Social Skills

20 or 30 years ago, the world was very different. High value work generally involved the retaining information and manipulating numbers. Perhaps not surprisingly, education and corporate training programs were focused on building those skills and people would build their careers on performing well on knowledge and quantitative tasks.

Today, however, an average teenager has more access to information and computing power than even a large enterprise would a generation ago, so knowledge retention and quantitative ability have largely been automated and devalued, so high value work has shifted from cognitive skills to social skills.

To take just one example, the journal Nature has noted that the average scientific paper today has four times as many authors as one did in 1950 and the work they are doing is far more interdisciplinary and done at greater distances than in the past. So even in highly technical areas, the ability to communicate and collaborate effectively is becoming an important skill.

There are some things that a machine will never do. Machines will never strike out at a Little League game, have their hearts broken or see their children born. That makes it difficult, if not impossible, for machines to relate to humans as well as a human can.

4. AI Is A Force Multiplier, Not A Magic Box

The science fiction author Arthur C. Clark noted that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” and that’s largely true. So when we see a breakthrough technology for the first time, such as when IBM’s Watson system beat top human players at Jeopardy!, many immediately began imagining all the magical possibilities that could be unleashed.

Unfortunately, that always leads to trouble. Many firms raced to implement AI applications without understanding them and were immediately disappointed that the technology was just that — technology — and not actually magic. Besides wasting resources, these projects were also missed opportunities to implement something truly useful.

As Josh Sutton, CEO of Agorai, a platform that helps companies build AI applications for their business, put it, “What I tell business leaders is that AI is useful for tasks you understand well enough that you could do them if you had enough people and enough time, but not so useful if you couldn’t do it with more people and more time. It’s a force multiplier, not a magic box.”

So perhaps most importantly, what business leaders need to understand about artificial intelligence is that it is not inherently utopian or apocalyptic, but a business tool. Much like any other business tool its performance is largely dependent on context and it is a leader’s job to help create that context.

Courtesy Digital Tonto written by Greg Satell, https://www.digitaltonto.com/about/

The Power of Genuine Human Touch in Entrepreneurship

As the world spirals more and more towards being almost entirely dependent on technology, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the old-fashioned ‘human’ touch in things.

Right from everyday casual interactions to discourses to approaches towards entrepreneurship, the continued use of technology in every aspect of life has certainly managed to leave an impact.

And as the wheels of change keep on turning, the irony that people are once again actually looking for a less machine-like approach to life is making itself apparent. Here are three ‘why’s’ on bringing genuine back.

1. Stand Out From the Rest
As history has shown us, nothing quite remains exactly the same for too long. While just as a few decades ago, companies were scrambling to acquire new technologies in order to stay ahead of their times, in order to stand out and attract customers, today it has become rather the opposite.

This does not mean that we are trying to dispose of technology altogether, but rather find the fine line that separates the needful from the overdone.

With the increased use of machine in literally every field and added to it the new technological advancement that is Artificial Intelligence, it has come to be seen that there is awfully little for humans to actually do on an interactive scale in businesses.

The seamless automation and near-perfect task execution of technology is indeed admirable, but in the end it still comes off as lacking. Humans nowadays are missing the exact thing in entrepreneurship that they set out to eradicate — the human touch itself.

2. Increase Sales
The simple charm of actual human interaction — the genuineness of the physical (or in some cases, aural or virtual) presence of a person is what most entrepreneurships today are missing.

In the race to become the technological best, they often forget that the quiet emotions and connect that come with humans cannot be replaced by entities that function on the basis of logic and code.

Complete mechanization hurts industries greatly – as well as it does small entrepreneurships. One needs to remember the more jobs (specifically, well-paying jobs) available to the public, the more potential buyers there are for any product or service at any given moment

It may seem cost-effective to entirely replace human labour with technology and Artificial Intelligence bots, but in the long run it affects the industries as a whole.

Essentially, the point is that removing a number (however large or small) of people from salaried positions to replace them with robots is only cost-effective in a very myopic sense. First, it throws several people into a jobless pit, which disallows them from having any purchasing power, which, in turn, hurts any and all industries in the long run.

Secondly, it takes away from the business something that made it able to connect with its target audiences and customers – humanity itself.

3. Create Lasting Relationships
Apart from this, it is well advised that you employ an approachable and amiable mode of interaction in your consumer dealings. While the basis on which most businesses survive is indeed competition, it is always wise to make efforts to ensure that you do not alienate your audience or your competitors.
It is better to see your competition as your peers, rather than rivals in this sense. There is much to be learned from opposing businesses and entrepreneurs themselves. They might be able to offer insight into areas you did not think to examine in detail. And it never hurts to maintain an amicable relationship with them in order to gain access to such knowledge.
Think of it as a way to maximize your profits by gaining the opportunity to learn from your opponents.

This does not mean that you must only pretend. Being a generally well-mannered, generous, and humane individual pays off in all fields of life, and business is no exception. Kindness is always repaid in kindness, and making genuine friends in the right circles is just good business sense.

A machine, however well programmed, is after all no replacement for a human. Retaining a human touch in your entrepreneurial model will set you apart from the hundreds of businesses that are opting for full automation today. The sincere and reposed faith in humanity will never come at a more opportune time.

By Devika Majumder, Founder and CEO, Youngpreneurs India From Entrepreneur Magazine India.

Gen Zers vs. Millennials in the Workplace

There’s a new generation in town

Millennials have long held the oft-craved title of youngest and laziest members of the workforce. From sneaking selfies in the break room to declaring a chipped nail a valid reason for taking a “me day” off from work, we’ve earned the ire of our bosses, but that time has come to an end.

Well, it hasn’t, but there’s a new sheriff in town. Gen Z, the generation born between 1997 and the early 2010s, is now entering the workforce. But Gen Zers aren’t exactly like us millennials. They grew up during a recession, and their attitudes about work and money vary wildly from those of their peers. Additionally, they don’t remember life before the internet (and might not even believe there was life before the internet), so they’re even more hooked on their devices than millennials are. Still, they can view millennials as a cautionary tale about what happens if you assume the economy will be good, and they’re willing to work to stand out on their own.

Let’s explore how Gen Zers and millennials differ in the workplace with respect to all the most important issues, like lunchtime, crop tops, and frequency of pee breaks (I’m a millennial — can you tell?).

Desired Jobs

Gen Zers: Grew up during a recession and understand the importance of a job. They’re willing to do many different things, and they know that without consistent work, they’re unlikely to ever pay back their student loans.

Millennials: None. Or if they absolutely have to have a job, they want that job to be A) remote; B) without a boss; and C) extremely impermanent.

Interviews

Gen Zers: Grew up on the internet and rely on it for any and all information. As a result, before heading into an interview, they obsessively research the company (and have probably been watching the company’s Instagram Stories for weeks), so they know exactly what to ask about.

Millennials: Focused on experiences. If they’re not going to get the job, which they don’t expect to anyway, at the very least, they want to get a good story out of it. So, yes, they might ask the interviewer if they’re on Tinder. Because they’re curious, and it’s funny.

First Day

Gen Zers: The first day for a member of Gen Z is probably their first day of a first job ever. Because of this, they’ll arrive early (and likely be nervous), so they’ll come overprepared with donuts (gluten-free, obviously) and a large coffee for their boss (with almond milk, duh, or oat if they have their sh*t together).

Millennials: For a millennial five years out of college, this is probably their 34th job. This job is really just the first day of the next fortnight of their lives. As such, they arrive late, because fixed hours are restrictive and—honestly—probably fascist.

Attire

Gen Zers: The most stylish generation to-date. They’ve grown up on Instagram, and they’ve found affordable ways to copy Kendall Jenner’s look. Sure, they’re probably too hot to work at a tech company, but it’s not their fault — their main hobby as a teenager was looking at photographs of themselves.

Millennials: Rules about clothing are extremely unfair and perpetuate all inequality in America. Millennials know this better than anyone else (in fact, they’re the only ones who know this), so even if they’re told that there is no dress code, they will still find a way to violate it. Like wearing leggings that allow underwear to be clearly visible? Or wearing crop tops that allow bras to poke out from underneath? You name it; they’ll buy it and wear it to an investor meeting.

(more…)

Diversity Is An Innovation Strategy

Christie Pitts is CEO of Backstage Capital, which has become one of the most high profile firms in Silicon Valley for its support of underrepresented founders. I sat down with Christie to discuss her views on diversity & inclusion, and how her experience is relevant to corporate innovation professionals.

Scott: Christie, I think a lot of people know about the incredible story of your business partner Arlan Hamilton, but tell us your own background as a corporate venture capitalist and how this led you to Backstage.

Christie: I’ve actually only worked for one company before Backstage: Verizon. I was lucky to have 11 different roles in 13 years, starting in customer service at a retail store and eventually winding up in corporate venture capital. I started in January 2005, and the growth at Verizon created a lot of opportunity for me.

Within the wireless unit, I worked in operations and marketing, where we were managing a customer base of 5 million people and over $4 billion in revenue. I was focused on customer acquisition and retention in California, Nevada, and Hawaii, and this territory has a very diverse population. Traditional marketing tactics didn’t work, so we had to be innovative about reaching new audiences to compete against AT&T, which was our most entrenched competitor. This was when I really began to think about diversity as a business problem.

After that, I was doing business development work with startups on behalf of Verizon, which then led to the opportunity to join the Verizon Ventures team.

When I eventually joined Verizon Ventures, I brought with me the overall corporate goal of reaching diverse customers. The venture group also knew that it was supposed to help the corporation adapt, which should have included this diversity objective, but the dots were not connected to make investments that helped achieve this goal. But I do want to give credit to Verizon Ventures for being very forward thinking about backing women-led businesses.

The result of those experiences was that I came away with the idea that VCs seemed to understand the social aspects of impact investing, but not the business case for funding underserved founders.  When I met Arlan, my initial goal was actually for Verizon to be an investor in Backstage. When that opportunity didn’t work out, we stayed in touch and eventually I partnered with her.

Scott: You and I have discussed the idea that big companies can put themselves at a disadvantage by ignoring diversity & inclusion initiatives. But what do you mean when you say diversity is an innovation strategy?

Christie: A lot of innovation work is envisioning the future and helping companies understand how to transition their business units and keep them relevant. Companies want to adapt and avoid the fates of Blockbuster and Kodak. But diversity seems to be a blind spot: these big companies don’t always consider who their core customers will be in the future.

This is a problem for big companies and startups, by the way. The tech startups are not always the most diverse, either. As an example, some sensor companies don’t test their products on people with darker skin, so a paper towel dispenser or automated soap dispenser might not “see” them. Similar sensors are used in IoT, A.I., autonomous vehicles, and many other innovative applications; if there is a lack of diversity in the team building the products, it’s easy to overlook potential customers.

On the corporate side, the problem is focusing on technological trends and not who the customers will be five or ten years down the road. Money is being left on the table because the people building the products just aren’t thinking about all their future customers.

Scott: What do you say to people who think that diversity is just the realm of human resources professionals?

Christie: HR folks are often tasked with limiting legal liability and not maximizing upside. But with innovation we are talking about a strategy function and you can’t expect progress and growth with a purely defensive mentality.

Scott: D&I has an obvious potential marketing benefit. How can big companies keep these efforts authentic and avoid having them be little more than marketing ploys?

Christie: Pursuing diversity as a PR strategy has really backfired on corporations. When you don’t have a diverse team yourself, it shouldn’t be surprising if you aren’t viewed as authentically caring about diversity or inclusion. You really need to be critical of what you are doing every step of the way.

Scott: Give me an example of how you’ve seen a company think about this less superficially; how a corporate D&I effort can be deeper.

Christie: Microsoft is a good example. They’ve partnered with something like 16 different groups — for full disclosure, including Backstage — to support underrepresented founders. It’s not just one effort. They’ve also hired internally to support diversity. Satya himself has said it’s a priority—it’s coming from the top and that’s why it’s working. I can’t draw causation, but I also believe they have attracted a more diverse customer base as they’ve made these internal efforts.

Scott: How would you combine diversity efforts with other forms of corporate innovation, including business development, venture capital, and M&A?

Christie: Diversity shouldn’t be isolated. It should be integrated with any other strategic effort like the ones you mentioned, and not off in its own silo. Corporate innovation folks, this is not someone else’s problem. It’s your problem, too.

Scott: How do you think about reducing defensive reactions from potential allies who might feel insulted or even threatened when confronted about topics like white privilege or male privilege or class privilege?

Christie: I’m not responsible for other people’s feelings. At the end of the day, this is a business conversation, and I don’t think there is anyone who wants to sell their product to half the potential customers. When we make these products more inclusive, it’s a better experience for everyone. Once you show people that there is enough economic opportunity for everyone, I believe there will be more receptivity.

I recently heard a sociologist on a panel say that to shift public opinion, you just need to get 30%. On the other hand, this could have been a totally made up statistic, but it gives me hope that we can get there!


Courtesy of Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottlenet/2019/07/02/diversity-is-an-innovation-strategy/#5736f3ff6106