Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Higher Education and Pandemic Inspired Digital Transformation with Professor Bill Griffiths

In this episode, Professor Bill Griffiths of St. John’s University, who has over fifty-two years of teaching experience, shares how the pandemic has made the year 2020 different from all others.  We explore the impact of the pandemic on higher education in general, professors, and students.  We discuss the digital transformation journey of universities over the past decade, and how this pandemic experience has accelerated change and may have a long-lasting impact.


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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Higher Education and Pandemic Inspired Digital Transformation with Dr. Marek Kowalkiewicz, Part 2

In Part 2 (watch part 1 here) of my interview with digital transformation and higher education expert Professor Marek Kowalkiewicz, we dig deep into the technologies that support universities, digital transformation and the long-term effects of the pandemic on higher education.


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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Twitching Professors, Outsourced Parenting, Digital Transformation and the University Experience

“Even our custodians have a role to play in transforming our students,” explained Dr. Jack Crumbly of Tuskegee University, when describing the value of the “university experience.” The future is about “universities without borders,” predicted Dr. Marek Kowalkiewicz, a professor who studies Twitch gamers to improve his digital classroom teaching experience.  “It’s really about what the students want, and what those business models look like,” added Dr. Bill Griffiths, a professor with 52-years of educational experience.  These are just a few of the comments I recorded over the past few weeks while interviewing professors in higher education.

I noted four particular findings from my interviews and research:

1. It’s about the experience of learning and growing in a community focused on higher education
2. Universities must deliver for both students and parents
3. The importance of mentors, professors and engagement 
4. New players and business models are impacting the future of higher education

What does a “university experience” mean to an eighteen-year-old? Independence?  Relationships?  Parties?  Personal growth?  New friends?  New beginnings?  Escape?  YES!  To parents it may mean something completely different like - HELP!  Help me transform this obstinate teenager into an employable, self-sufficient, and responsible adult. No matter what the student’s or parent’s goals are, it will be difficult for these to be accomplished alone on a laptop in the family basement.  

Repeatedly in my interviews and discussions with professors the value and importance of an immersive learning and growing experience within a university community was emphasized.  It was my impression as a result of these discussions, that many of us underestimate the personal growth that takes place as part of the “university experience,” and focus too much on the acquired skills and degrees aspect.  Degrees can be achieved through multiple channels, but personal growth takes a purposeful village.

Online education has been around long enough that the basics are well understood.  The difficulties remain the ability to provide engagement and social connections for students in a digital environment.  Helping students feel a part of a supportive university community and a member of something important and meaningful is critical, and not easily done in digital only environments.  More work and focus are needed in this area.

If a student is just interested in acquiring skills and getting employed, companies like Google are now offering online classes that are treated as equal to university classes.  If a person successfully passes these Google courses, Google is willing to hire them without a university education.  The student, although potentially employable, will miss out on the personal growth and “university experience.”  It seems to me our communities will be less for it.

All three professors I interviewed last week mentioned the value of mentorship, guidance and advise that professors can provide when there are opportunities to form close relationships on a physical campus.  “Not all students come to us with backgrounds that enable them to easily understand a subject’s context,” Dr. Crumbly shared.  A professor working closely with a student can quickly recognize this context challenge and can help them remediate it.

Professors and instructors of all kinds are powerful professional contacts as well.  When resumes are thin, a good referral from a trusted professor can be just what a student needs to gain a foot in the door of a career opportunity.

It seems to me that the Covid-19 pandemic is helping to spotlight and clarify the required technical deliverables now and in the future for higher education.  Digital technologies should be used to enhance the “university experience” for students, parents and university staff, while providing opportunities for social engagement.  Digital platforms are valuable as a way of protecting students and staff during times of danger, they can remove geographic barriers, eliminate scheduling conflicts, reduce travel and parking issues and provide additional and alternative learning channels.

Watch "Higher Education and Pandemic Induced Digital Transformation" with Dr. Marek Kowalkiewicz, Part 1 and Part 2 on YouTube now.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Higher Education and Pandemic Inspired Digital Transformation with Dr. Marek Kowalkiewicz, Part 1

In Part 1 of this episode, we take a deep dive into pandemic inspired digital transformation within higher education with Professor Marek Kowalkiewicz of the Queensland University of Technology.  We discuss how universities are rapidly adapting to educating students during a pandemic and how many of the technologies adopted and lessons learned will permanently impact the way education is delivered.  Also covered is how the pandemic may change the global higher education market, competition for students, and university business models.

 

Watch Part 2 of my interview with Professor Marek Kowalkiewicz here.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Pandemic-Induced Digital Transformation in Higher Education

Both students and universities have been deeply involved in digital transformation since the beginning.  In fact, the origins of the internet can be found in the labs of great research institutes and universities, and Facebook was first conceived by students at Harvard University. 

As students and university staff (and the rest of the connected world) rapidly adopted these internet-based, wireless, mobile and cloud-based applications in their personal lives, they also recognized the value these innovations could offer all aspects of operating a university.  Software solutions for enterprise resource planning systems, facilities management, course management and enrollment systems were all rapidly implemented, and classroom and teaching technologies followed slowly behind.  

Many universities and professors have moved slowly to implement and employ teaching and learning technologies.  This slow adoption, however, is rapidly changing as a result of both competition and the global Covid-19 pandemic.  The pandemic has reprioritized just about everything.  Every university today is now upgrading and rethinking operations and classroom strategies.

While one might guess that universities and staff are the source of reluctance to move into the digital era, often it is students and parents that are hesitant to embrace online learning environments.  They want more and expect more from an expensive investment in a university education.  Dr. Jack Crumbly, Associate Professor and Management Department Chair at Tuskegee University explained to me that parents are often looking for universities to do more than just educate their children.  They want help transforming them into responsible and self-sufficient adults.  Students, on the other hand, are looking to leave the house and to develop an active social life where lifelong personal and professional networks of friends and relationships can be established.  All of these motivations point to a need and desire for a continuing if not enhanced physical presence.  

The key theme I keep hearing from all of my interactions with university staff is the desire for great "experiences."  Parents want to invest in a university experience that will help transform their children. Students also want a transformational experience, although their motivations, and the types of desired experiences are likely different.  Let's not forget that educators themselves want a better teaching experience and all of this still needs to be operated on a budget.

The big want for many institutions of higher learning today is for better physical experiences enhanced by digital technologies, rather than replaced by them.  This guidance should give focus to entrepreneurs and innovators.

Once the massive pandemic-induced learning curve becomes manageable for educators, then serious optimization and improvement will become their focus.  Look for a great deal of accelerated innovation in the near future from higher education, and a complete rethinking effort around operating models and budgets.  

Watch for my new interview series on Higher Education and Pandemic Inspired Digital Transformation later this week.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

The Mindset of a Digital Winner


I recently presented my views on how to succeed as a digital leader to over one hundred retail executives in Asia.  They seemed to find it useful, so now I am sharing them here in an article format in the hopes that others might benefit.  The content is my synthesis of findings that are derived from many different research projects and hundreds of interviews I have conducted with executives.

Digital winners think differently about digital innovations.  They quickly recognize how new innovations can offer benefits. They expect and look forward to finding and capturing competitive advantages in new trends and technologies.  They expect, at a higher level, to receive positive ROIs from their investments in new innovations.  They are both more optimistic and enthusiastic about emerging technologies and possibilities.  They are honest about their digital maturity, and where they are failing to keep up with change.

Digital laggards, on the other hand, are slower to understand how new digital innovations might be useful.  They often suffer from normalcy bias.  They often underestimate the amount of change that is occurring in their industry and with their customers.  As a result, they underestimate the amount of work and resources they need to invest in order to keep up with the cadence of change. They are reluctant to invest in new technologies, fearful of making the wrong moves, and they believe they can delay action today and catch up with digital leaders in the future.

It is fascinating how much the mindset of leaders determine whether a company will be successful or not.  More than products, services, technology platforms, funding, talent, ambition and creativity - it's mindset that often has the biggest impact.

Digital winners in retail watch for emerging and moving customer interaction points where they can meet with and address the needs of their customers.  These interaction points are constantly on the move.  In recent years we have watched them move from brick and mortar stores to websites, mobile  apps and then on to social media sites, podcasts, YouTube, TikTok and other digital influencer-oriented sites.  Digital winners will be where their customers are moving.

The future is too complex to predict accurately, so digital winners invest in understanding and anticipating a range of possible future scenarios.  Digital leaders will then develop playbooks for how best to win in each of the scenarios and create sense and respond strategies that help identify when and which future scenarios morph into today’s reality.

Middle managers often share how difficult it is to interpret an executives’ words, intent and guidance related to digital transformation.  When an executive says we must “innovate and transform,” it is critical to follow up with a clarifying doctrinal statement shared with everyone.  If the focus is digital transformation, then let's call it a “Digital Transformation Doctrine” that clearly and concisely defines “what, why and how” an organization should understand and respond to it.  The agreed upon doctrine will then influence the development of specific business strategies and tactics. 

Increasingly digital winners win because of information dominance.  When a competitor invests in seemingly unassociated programs and services, ask yourself what data will those programs and services provide today and how can it be an advantage?  Amazon Prime and Walmart+ are good examples.  Investing in understanding your customers better is a good investment.  Look for adjacent market data, or combinations of different data sets that help you see new and different patterns.  Winners thrive in taking action on data patterns only they see.

Speed is an important physics concept and an important business concept as well.  It just keeps popping up in my research.  Is your transformation speed aligned with the speed of changing consumer preferences?  Misalignment equates to lost business for you and more business for competitors.  Capture the speed of change and use it as an advantage.

Simplify to achieve speed and control.  Complexity is the enemy of agility, and acts as poison from the past.  Simplify to achieve speed and let leaders focus on customers, employees, high level doctrines and strategies rather than tactics. 

How fast can you take meaningful action on new data?  What is your speed to action (STA)?  What is your speed to action relative to your competition? How fast are you expanding into adjacent markets and industries, or how fast are they expanding into yours?

How much change can your organization manage in a given time frame?  How do you even measure an organization’s capacity for change?  I propose a need for a unit of measurement called “Transformative Energy Units (TEUs).” All activities either increase or decrease TEUs and knowing how much is available to work with is essential.  Leaders must understand how much change their organization has the energy to make.  They must recognize how to refresh and resupply TEUs in their organization to ensure they don’t exhaust their people and lose their talent.

How digitally friendly is your business model?  I have seen many legacy companies struggle with digital transformation because of friction related to traditional ways of conducting business, compensating sales teams and working with channels.  Of all the things that can negatively impact your business - don’t let it be your model.

Reconnaissance scouts have been used in military organizations for centuries as a way to gain greater insight and make better decisions.  Innovations and proof of concept projects provide businesses with similar benefits.  They allow leaders to make better decisions and investments on insights ahead of competitors.  Advantages in insight lead directly to advantages in business.

Today it is very difficult to build a successful business in isolation.  Investors want start-ups to invest in their unique differentiators, not on aspects of the business that can be shared across ecosystem partners.  Think about the thousands of businesses partnering with Amazon and using their logistics infrastructure and marketing engines.  Smart leaders identify and participate in winning ecosystems that provide shared business value, platforms, systems, functionality and data. As ecosystems expand, they can in themselves become a competitive differentiator. 

Digital winners do not expect or wait for a return to status quo.  Digital winners expect perpetual change and accept they will never return to a past state.  Digital winners learn to manage in ambiguity?  They create an environment that is future focused, where tomorrow’s opportunities are being anticipated and prepared for today.

Digital winners automate and execute change faster than their competition.  Winners have both the agility and the ability to quickly change course and align with fast evolving customer behaviors and preferences faster than their competition.  Avoid partners, suppliers, channels and ecosystems that may limit your ability to be agile.  The future is different, so never lock yourself into today.

Digital winners really understand what their customers want.  Based on this insight they employ the right philosophies, designs, systems, technologies and business processes to provide it.  They look for and find competitive advantages in their user experiences, personalization and recommendation engines, business operational tempos, process automations, omnichannel interactions and experiences, analytics and information logistics.

Rapidly evolving and expanding privacy laws reinforce the importance of keeping existing customers enthusiastic and loyal.  Customers are willing to share a great deal of personal information about their preferences and buying habits in exchange for fair value.  Digital winners honor loyal customers by continually increasing the value they provide.

Digital winners consider the lifetime value of their customers.  They create individual profit and loss statements (P&Ls) for each customer.  This provides them a long-term view and understanding of past, present and future value.  A loyal customer is more than a one-time transaction of a $5 product.  With today’s predictive analytics, a $5 purchase today can be considered one installment of a $200,000 lifetime transaction value.  Given this recognition, what incentives can you customize and personalize today to help capture the full lifetime value?

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Learning Content Strategies from the Best with Jenn VandeZande SAP's Editor in Chief for SAP CX

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending time with and from learning from SAP’s Editor in Chief for SAP Customer Experience, Jenn VandeZande.  We talked all about thought leadership strategies, working with influencers and other fascinating topics.  Here are some of the choice excerpts edited for readability.

KRB: Jenn, tell us about your thought leadership approach and strategy.

JV: Thought leadership means discussing current trends in a way that is relevant to the market now, and in the future.  I also focus a lot on evergreen content and making sure that we're not putting a timeline on content that we publish.  In addition, I want to be inclusive.  I purposely recruit women and people of color to be thought leader contributors, previously there were just a lot of white men sharing content on the site. I think that to be relevant we must include everybody, and in order to do that we need to be purposeful about recruiting and encouraging them to share.

KRB:  Let’s talk tactics as an editor.  Do you ever feel it would be simpler to just write all the content yourself?

JV: As an editor my job is to polish up the ideas of other people. I think it's rewarding to see other people’s ideas come to life. Some of the most meaningful feedback people have shared is how I have been a source of encouragement to them. I love writing, but my job is to help them shine.

KRB: In my experience leaders often volunteer to write content, but rarely follow through with their commitment.  Why does that happen?

JV: I think that especially this year priorities have shifted so quickly.  What might have been relevant before, just isn’t relevant now, or the content just isn’t right.  Also, some people think writing is easy, everyone will love it and it will go viral.  I have received emails from content writers asking me to make it viral.  It doesn’t work that way.  It takes a ton of work and customization to optimize a piece.

KRB:  I have a rather loose strategy for article writing.  I write as I am inspired with new ideas.  What’s your strategy?

JV: It’s not just what you find interesting or think should be a priority.  It's what your readers are thinking about. I will always look at the search terms on our sites. Covid-19 really changed how we worked, scheduled and published content. We had to adapt our strategy to address the content needs and interests of our readers.

KRB: Let's look back over the past ten years, how have you seen thought leadership and content strategies evolve? 

JV: Ten years ago, thought leadership was still very much part of corporate communications.  You'd have somebody in the C-suite drafting the messaging and giving it to spokespeople. I think thought leadership today is now more customer oriented. It’s about what the customers are interested in, and what they're searching on.  Today thought leaders look more diverse. They are more diverse. So, it evolved from a traditional corporate messaging function to be a really important part of demand generation, sales and keeping customer trust.

KRB:  There are a lot of people like me that have been writing and sharing business and technology strategies for a long time.  What are your strategies on how to differentiate your content and stay above the noise?

JV: That's the tough part of the job.  When I get content submissions, I ask what purpose does it serve? Is it what our audience wants and needs?  I think understanding our audience is very important and I dedicate a lot of time to that.  I review our search histories.  I want to know how people got to our site, and what they're looking for along the way.

KRB: As a futurist, I write a lot about things people haven’t yet thought much about or searched on.  How would you optimize new and unfamiliar content?

JV: My initial thoughts are - what does it mean for my audience?  What will my audience be looking for?  If they are new to a topic – what questions will they need to ask going into their first meeting on the subject? Put yourself in their shoes and create content for them. That’s how you do it.

KRB: If someone wants to be a business and or technology thought leader - what advice would you give them? 

JV: You have to get in the trenches and really experience things firsthand. Don't think your views are always right. A really good mark of being a thought leader is having an open mind and being able to evolve your position.  Keep an open mind and be in the trenches. Get your hands on the work. Don't assume anything. And always, always, always fact check.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

PART 2: A Pandemic's Impact on Innovation, Industry and the Future with TCS Expert Ved Sen

A few weeks back I recorded two fascinating interviews with TCS digital transformation and innovation expert Ved Sen.  This is the second interview (watch the first interview here)  that focuses on strategies for innovating.  We look at how to organize for innovation, and also how to scale innovation within an organization.  

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Retail and a History of Paying for Ignorance

During the Cold War the armies of East and West faced off along thousands of miles of borders with tens of thousands of tanks, artillery units, defensive positions, guns and soldiers.  The costs for supporting these defensive postures were enormous.  Nations invested hundreds of billions of dollars over the years maintaining these positions, not to counter a known threat, but to prevent an unknown threat.  They were investing in ignorance - a lack of knowledge.  They spent massive amounts defending against the unknown - everywhere.  That expenditure was an ignorance penalty.  A penalty, so huge, it negatively impacted the economic futures of many countries.  

Businesses that operate in the dark, and have not digitally transformed fast enough, are also paying an ignorance penalty today.  The ignorance penalty is the cumulative effect of conducting business without digitally derived data providing precise insights and knowledge, and without the ability to act instantly from afar.  In markets where all competitors are equally paying the ignorance penalty, competition is not impacted.  However, when a few companies decide to digitally transform to reduce their ignorance penalty, then competitive markets are very much disrupted.

When some competitors are stuck paying a very expensive ignorance penalty, and others aren’t, a competitive gap quickly opens.  We see this in the form of Amazon and other digitally transformed retailers precisely marketing personalized products to individuals, while traditional stores spend massive amounts marketing generic products to regions filled with unknown customers.

The ignorance penalty rate is high enough that it will bankrupt many companies required to pay it.  In my research, I see data that suggests laggard companies (those slow to digitally transform) believe they can afford to pay the ignorance penalty for a few years while slowly preparing to digitally transform in the future without suffering unduly.  This, however, is what we call digital delusion. 
  • When the retailer, Sports Authority, filed for bankruptcy analysts stated it was due in large part to their slow response to digital commerce competition.  The ignorance penalty bankrupted them.  
  • When the retailer, Aeropostale, filed for bankruptcy analyst reported they were not able to keep up with the speed of their more digitally enabled competitors. The ignorance penalty bankrupted them.
  • When the retailer, British Home Stores (BHS), filed for Administration (UK’s version of bankruptcy), analysts reported they were "very slow to embrace digital transformation, and their products were no longer relevant.”  The ignorance penalty bankrupted them.
The need to stay competitive by digitally transforming does not wait for budget cycles to finish, 5-year plans to be accomplished or alternative strategic priorities.  Your competitors certainly aren't waiting.  Digitally transformed competitors are rapidly propelled forward by new digital insights and knowledge integrated with agile business systems capable of responding to the new information in real-time.  

Businesses have a choice to pay the ignorance penalty, or use the money today to invest in digital transformation - either way, it will be payed.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Friday, September 04, 2020

Facebook's Infodemic on the Pandemic

I am a long-time technology enthusiast, analyst and futurist, and love to discuss and write about the positive impact emerging technologies offer humanity.  That said, we can’t be blind to the negative impacts as well.  Facebook’s algorithms are increasingly showing up as the source and amplifer of many false and misleading postings that are widely distributed and promoted causing serious consequences for us all.  The sheer volume of false information being distributed today by Facebook algorithms is overwhelming the truth.

A recent research paper by the organization Avaaz titled Facebook's Algorithm: A Major Threat to Public Health, found that health misinformation spreading networks on Facebook appear to have outpaced authoritative health websites, despite the platform’s declared aggressive efforts to moderate and downgrade health misinformation and boost authoritative sources.  This finding suggests that "Facebook’s moderation tactics are not keeping up with the amplification Facebook’s own algorithm provides to health misinformation content and those spreading it.” In other words, Facebook’s amplification algorithm robots are battling and winning over their moderation robots that are trying to protect truth.  This is an important research finding, because when false information overwhelms truth on Facebook people’s lives are at risk.

This year in the month of April 2020, 82 websites, a relatively small number, that were flagged by NewsGuard for repeatedly sharing false information, received over 460 million estimated views on Facebook.  That is a massive amount of influence from websites already identified as regularly sharing false information.

The total estimate for the past 12 months is that false health information on Facebook was viewed 3.8 billion times across the five countries in the study — the United States, the UK, France, Germany, and Italy.  When false health related information is viewed that many times, a lot of people are going to believe it – with serious consequences.

I don’t believe Facebook is purposely trying to destroy the world, as they do need living, breathing, humans as users and customers. I just think they have created a Frankenstein monster and no longer have full control over it. Here is what Facebook says, “False news is bad for people and bad for Facebook. We’re making significant investments to stop it from spreading and to promote high-quality journalism and news literacy....our adversaries are going to keep trying to get around us. We need to stay ahead of them, and we can’t do this alone.” I just hope they realize that in a lot of documented cases, their adversaries are their own internal amplification robots and algorithms.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Digital Intelligence

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.