Be a hedgehog

160309-hedgehogThe CEO of Salesforce, Marc Benioff said “Speed is the new currency of business.” It certainly is, and the rate of change continues to disregard political upheaval to drive ahead.

The adoption rates for recent technologies are almost vertical – social media, smartphones, tablets to name but three – and the pace of disruption staggering. For every 100 people in the world there are now 95 mobile phone subscriptions and 40 internet users, plus new apps are reaching 100 million users increasingly quickly WhatsApp in 3 years and Instagram in 2).

So how do we take control of this change? We do it via filtering and through our people. Angela Ahrendts, former CEO of Burberry and now head of Apple Retail, states:

“The more technologically advanced our society becomes, the more we need to go back to the basic fundamentals of human communication”

It is very easy to get distracted and pulled from pillar to post, especially as we suffer from information overload, overflowing Inboxes and streams of messaging via apps. So my route to handling this, which applies both to myself as well as my team, is to be a hedgehog.

The hedgehog only does a few simple things, but it does it with a laser focus. The fox on the other hand, changes plans and strategy to try and catch the hedgehog, but almost never does.

So be a hedgehog: define what you are good at, and deliver it with increasing quality and a bucket-load of passion.

A return to simplicity

Technology is no silver bullet and better technology doesn’t automatically mean better education.TV

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that across more than 40 countries, students who use computers for their schoolwork, but for a slightly lower-than-average amount of time, do better than average on reading exams. Students who spend an above-average amount of time on computers at school scored lower than students who don’t use computers at all. Like everything, how helpful technology is depends on how you use it.

It has also been highlighted how job roles that require empathy, for example doctors and nurses, are better positioned to withstand the changes that technology is sweeping along its path, and with 36% of the workforce in jobs that have a high risk of being automated by 2030 (via a study by Oxford University) we need to de-mystify the confusion and complexity that technology often brings to our day-to-day existence.

This leads me to a paragraph of hope – during my recent travels I read about the declining numbers of subscribers to cable television. Executives in the industry believe “skinny bundles” might be one solution to halt this decline, and I picked up on that – wouldn’t skinny everything help us in the long term? Offer consumers a menu of options and let us piece together only what suits us – move us from mass production to mass customisation.

That way we get what we need, we are satisfied with what we pay, and we don’t spend hours filtering through unnecessary material. Or maybe we just shut down the TV networks at 10:30pm and ask society to read a book for 30 minutes before falling asleep.

 

Think Different

Think Different

‘Think Different’ was created in 1997 to promote Apple, and what a company and set of products they turned out to be. The statement itself is never more relevant than today.

Because of the pace that everybody works, always connected, never stopping for breath, technology has allowed some companies to become lazy, their staff converted to order processors and order takers. But that doesn’t last forever.

How about using technology to buy time in our schedule, to give us 10% of our week back to think differently, strategically and long-term? Forrester tell us that 95% of data within organisations remains untapped and 40% of companies don’t target specific customer or visitor segments. How about using technology to create market segments of one and treating customers (and learners) as individuals with unique needs.

Segmentation is a key step toward meeting customers’ demands for more relevant experiences, and by 2018, Gartner predicts that organisations that excel in personalisation will outsell those that don’t by 20%. It’s the treadmill scenario – in this rapidly changing world, if you standstill, you go backwards.

Time away from technology

boots at lake photoThis post is something of a rebellion. I am going to make a case against technology and was inspired by my friend Richard Tubb to write this.

I describe technology as the oxygen of the net generation, but Richard took a day away from tech and found it to be a “revelation.” I am short of breath at the thought, but I think I understand.

According to a study by the United Nations of the world’s 7 billion people, 6bn of those have access to a mobile phone but only 4.5bn have access to toilet. Furthermore, 1.3bn still lack access to electricity. Technology has connected us and extended our reach but in many cases it has also cocooned us. Tech is a tool that should empower us to reach more people and bind us closer together, not separate us from our friends and families and colleagues. We must remember that social interaction is a basic need, a fundamental part of our humanity, so I welcome walking into a café that outwardly proclaims, “No Wifi Here.” Meet people, talk to them, share ideas – that is how real friendships are born and businesses are germinated.

Historically great cities were built around resources – water (harbour), minerals and fuel. Today, and certainly tomorrow, great cities will be built around people – it isn’t about ‘B2B’ or ‘B2C’, it’s about ‘H2H’ – human to human.

 

 

The Emotional Bank Account

piggy bankI enjoyed the Certiport EMEA Partner conference last week and presented my thoughts on how we can turn some of the current tech-education trends into opportunities for our regional distributors.

As usual I talked about the new mobile workforce, the mismatch between skills available and employer needs, and the importance of young people owning their learning paths and skills portfolio, but I also opened the door to one of my favourite concepts of the emotional bank account, originally defined by Stephen Covey.

When you work in consultative sales, it is all about building a strong and long-term relationship with your customers. The work you do, the time you commit, the actions you take, all deposit into an emotional account with the customer that builds your reputation and cements the partnership. Over time, you deposit enough into the account to have lots of credit and if something happens that causes the account to need a withdrawal (a technical error, a mistake, a bit of bad service) then you have enough in the account to keep the relationship strong.

As technology takes over more of the fact- and rules-based decisions, the people who excel at building and maintaining relationships and the emotional bank account with their customers, are the ones who will stand out – this is how people will make a difference in future and where technology is less likely to have a say.

Internet of Things

smart-pill-technology-marketThe Consumer Electronics Show this month has led to lots of press on the internet of things, where every gadget and device is connected to the internet, and sending and receiving data.

Samsung’s Chief Executive pledged that every single piece of Samsung hardware will be connected to the internet within five years, including TVs and domestic appliances. This is very much science fact, not science fiction, and while many will yell is there no privacy left in this world, I would like to suggest my top 3, the first of which I presented for the first time back in 2008:

1. The kitchen – imagine if you are on a controlled diet and you decide to break the rules and cook a ready-meal in the microwave followed by sticky-toffee pudding. Your fridge sensors notice what has been removed from the freezer compartment and the microwave tells your fridge you are about to cook that high-fat, sugar-and-salt meal. The microwave declines your request. You are the system administrator of your kitchen, so you override the microwave and instruct it to cook the food. Your microwave obeys, but it then notifies the fridge, which as the central processing unit of the kitchen sends a note to your doctor and your insurance company, and now you are no longer insured.

2. Fruit & Vegetables – coming from a background of food, I always wondered why my father had to keep a box of fruit that was always bruised or damaged to one side. With RFID chips on the cartons plus tighter planning with transportation schedules, more fruit makes it to its destination intact and bad apples cannot influence the rest of the crate.

3. The health pill – my favourite of the three, which is a tiny pill that you take weekly that monitors your wellbeing and sends a weekly status check to your doctor over wifi via a traffic light system. If it displays green you continue as normal; amber and you are sent a text message asking you to make an appointment; if the doctor receives a red signal, you are called within the hour. Preventative action can save the health services millions and technology must be used to help facilitate change.

I am all for the internet of things because the possibilities are endless, I just think they could have found a more interesting name for it.

A story for this time of year

CCALast week I presented at the CCA Annual Conference at the Edinburgh Assembly Rooms. An excellent event. Despite all the noise around technology – big data, wearables, the internet of things – our audience created more conversation around my stories and emphasis on talent. I liked that. This was a crowd of deep thinkers.

The greatest mix is that of old and new. Whilst I implore companies to give young talent a chance and to watch how the net generation will flourish if we attract and engage them on their terms (normally with technology in mind), I equally underlined the value of the older worker. The more experienced employee has a lot to offer, they are committed, they know the ropes and their experience is telling; and they are staying in post for longer, so the younger generations need to be better skilled to displace them.

Here is a summary of a story I told last week where two generations didn’t quite gel, or understand each other: a young lady beat off other applicants to make it to the final stage of interview and meet the CEO of the hiring company. She arrived on time and was immaculately presented. All good so far.

She was invited into the office of the CEO, a gentleman with years of success on his sleeve and decades her senior. The interview was progressing well, as planned, and then her phone start buzzing in her bag. The young lady pulled out the device mid-interview and started texting in reply, oblivious to the sudden stop in proceedings. This is what she was used to doing. The CEO waiting patiently for her to stop and then ended the interview, thanked her for her time, and saw her to the door. The interview process was about to start again, for this lady did not get the job.

I can see that the net generation does things in its own way and communicates differently, but there are certain rules of etiquette, respect and simple good manners that stand the test of time. I hope those things will never change.

A picture tells a thousand words

nikonThey say a picture tells a thousand words. Today, we know that to capture the attention of a customer, a learner or a manager, we need to be quick and to the point, and make impact.

I talk about how presentations have evolved, using slides with less (or no) text and images to tell your story. To engage today’s audiences, we need pictures and headlines. People respond to images, they like short videos, their brains filter and block out the majority of information thrown at them, so why when we send them pages of text and long documents do we expect them to respond immediately? We need to think like the customer.

Here are three stand-out stats that are worth noting:

  • Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Google, YouTube and LinkedIn combined.
  • The average online UK consumer watches 300 videos on YouTube month.
  • 40 million photos are uploaded to Instagram each day.

It is time to be creative. We don’t have a choice.

I have seen the future

I attended the Certiport Global Partner Summit and the MOS and ACA World Championships this week in California. Let me explain.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of young people enter competitions, at a national level, to see who are the most creative Adobe and most proficient Microsoft Office Specialist users. After months of competition and excitement, around 130 competitors gathered in a hotel at Disney in California this week for an intense conclusion to proceedings. As the results were announced, the young winners ran to the stage to earn their medals and prizes as family, friends and those watching from afar via live broadcast jumped into raptures. So what does this all mean?

For the winners, no doubt fame awaits them in their countries when they return home and probably a gateway to a nice job role in the near future. That is very well deserved. For the IT industry, even more. These world championships highlight everything that is good in our industry. The work the Adobe competitors delivered as part of the Kiva project, for example, could easily have been created by a professional agency. The fact that most of the kids were not native English speakers made it even more remarkable.

I saw the future. It lies with those excited kids having a fantastic time, representing the next generation of IT workers, innovators and companies. My summary of the week was that every IT vendor should have a competition, should invest in the next generation in this way, because it is some of the most powerful and compelling branding and engagement I have ever seen.

Every keystroke tells a tale

crunch2

I found the best definition of Big Data and I think it is worth sharing. It stated that big data is simply about joining the dots of all your data sources.

Amazon is a master of data – it believes it can send us our next purchase before we decide what it is, via what it is calling anticipatory shipping, based on a user’s shopping habits, age, income, even how long the cursor hovers over an item. I guess this is no different to thermostats from Nest Labs that learn from their owner’s behaviour over time.

This is my favourite tale because only data could have revealed the opportunity. Walmart, owner of ASDA in the UK, realised that prior to hurricane warnings, sales of torches increased, but so did sales of Pop-Tarts, the breakfast snack.

So as storms approached, as well as putting torches at the front of the stores, the managers also put boxes of Pop-Tarts at the entrances, and sales rocketed. No store manager would have ever worked that out unless they looked at the data and correlations of events and products. It is not what comes from individual data points that is critical here, but what they reveal in the aggregate.

Zynga, who own FarmVille and other social games, describe themselves as “an analytics company masquerading as a gaming company – everything is run by the numbers.”

I believe that big data could well be the next corporate asset and it is quite possible that it will be recorded on balance sheets in future. We shall see.