Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Reimagining the Future of Higher Education with Wiley Expert Renee Altier

A couple of weeks back I was able to sit down and record this fascinating discussion with higher education expert Renee Altier, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Business Education and Careers at Wiley. We took a deep dive into what the university of tomorrow will look like. A great deal about higher education is going to change! We talked about new innovations in higher education, university campuses, personalized education and ensuring equal access to the technology infrastructures that make it all possible plus much more. I hope you learn as much as I did!

Watch more interviews on the future of higher education here.

************************************************************************
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, December 14, 2020

The University of Tommorrow with Expert Susan McCahan, Vice Provost of Innovations for Undergraduate Education and Academic Programs at the University of Toronto

Recently I had the great privilege of interviewing Susan McCahan, the Vice Provost, of Innovations for Undergraduate Education and Academic Programs at the University of Toronto. In our discussion we took a dive deep into the pandemic experience, digital transformation, and what the university of tomorrow may look like. We covered a lot of ground and I hope you will find it enlightening.



Watch more interviews on the future of higher education here.

************************************************************************
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.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

University of Tomorrow - and the Role of Technology with Cornell Tech Expert Greg Morrisett

In this series, I interview experts on the future of higher education.  We take a dive deep into the pandemic experience, digital transformation, the future of university campuses and what the university of tomorrow may look like.  In this episode, I interview Greg Morrisett, Dean and Vice Provost at Cornell Tech.  


Watch more interviews on the future of higher education here.

************************************************************************
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.

The University of Tomorrow - and the Role of Technology with Expert Mark Bramwell

In this series, I interview experts on what the future of higher education might look like.  We take a dive deep into the pandemic experience, digital transformation and how universities are likely to change as a result.  My guest in this episode is Mark Bramwell, CIO, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.  Mark has recently been voted one of the top CIO's in the UK.   

Watch other interviews with experts in higher education here.

************************************************************************
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.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Unity and Leadership

Colonel John Boyd
This afternoon while working on a project about the future of information, I came across some books I have in my library from the insightful military strategist USAF Colonel John Boyd.  He spent decades studying military strategies and learning how to unify people, and how to unhinge or divide them.  Here is his summary on how to unify people

Identify and find ways to overcome or eliminate blemishes, flaws, or contradictions that generate mistrust and discord so these negative qualities neither alienate nor set us against one another, because these will destroy internal harmony, paralyze and make it difficult to cope with an uncertain, ever-changing world at large.

Instead we must emphasize our cultural traditions, previous experiences, and unfolding events that build-up harmony and trust, thereby create those implicit bonds that permit us as individuals and as a society to shape as well as adapt to the course of events in the world.

We as individuals must look for qualities in our leaders that will create unity and purpose so we can face the chaotic world together.

************************************************************************
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, November 23, 2020

Post-Pandemic University Experiences

Last month I interviewed professors, deans, provosts and futurist on the future of higher education, and the university of tomorrow. All of them believe that the Covid-19 global pandemic will change universities forever.  The move to virtual learning environments has forced universities to adapt and learn new ways of operating.  It has also emphasized how much both students and parents crave an in-person university experience.  Both want a thriving social environment involving regular interactions between students, professors and classmates on a university campus in a park like setting with culture, sporting events, art, music, entertainment, class projects, clubs and student governments.  The pandemic, of course, has caused major interruptions to these experiences in 2020, and students are desperate for there to be a return to normalcy, but as we have all come to realize there is a very new and different normal ahead of us. 

Parents have long carried big expectations when they send their kids off to the university.  They want universities to help them transform their obstinate teenagers into cultured, skilled, self-sufficient, educated and responsible adults.  Students, as one might imagine, have some of the same goals, but prioritize them differently.  They are seeking friendships and transformative educational and social experiences.  It is during these experiences that many lifelong relationships and professional networks are formed.  In addition to classroom experiences, a wealth of valuable knowledge and experiences are gained from being coached, mentored and challenged in classrooms and during extracurricular activities by adults and classmates that don't carry the title of parent.

Monday, November 09, 2020

The Future of Higher Education, a European Perspective with Dr. David Kalisz

While preparing for another pandemic induced lockdown, Dr. David Kalisz, Associate Professor at the Paris School of Business, shares his pandemic experiences with us, and his views into the future of higher education, teaching, competition, and possible future scenarios for universities.


************************************************************************
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.

The University of Tomorrow with Futurist, Author and Expert David Espindola

What does the future hold for post-pandemic universities, university experiences, university campuses and higher education?  In this episode, futurist and author David Espindola shares his views on future scenarios for higher education.  More on David's soon to be released book, The Exponential Era, can be found here -  https://theexponentialerabook.com/.


************************************************************************
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 29, 2020

Reimagining Higher Education with Professor Jack Shannon and Futurist Frank Diana

In this compelling episode we take a deep dive with futurist Frank Diana and Professor Jack Shannon into the future of children, the future of work and the future of higher education.  We then discuss how the pandemic and emerging technologies have impacted all of them and explore what possible future scenarios may look like.


************************************************************************
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.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Digital Transformation, Caring for Students and Meeting Expectations during a Pandemic at Tuskegee University with Dr. Jack Crumbly

This year has been like no other.  Join me as I interview Professor Jack Crumbly from the historically black Tuskegee University.  In addition to the rapid digital transformation already taking place in higher education, 2020 introduced the Covid-19 pandemic and social unrest.  Learn what it is like to chair a department in this vortex of change while working to provide the best student experience possible.



************************************************************************
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.

Rethinking the Future of Higher Education with Futurist Alexandra Whittington

Join me as futurist Alexandra Whittington helps us rethink and expand our perceptions of what the future of higher education might look like.  The notion of a "traditional university experience” may no longer apply to the students of tomorrow who have different requirements, dreams and aspirations.


************************************************************************
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.

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.


************************************************************************
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.


************************************************************************
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.

************************************************************************
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.

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.

************************************************************************
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.

************************************************************************
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.

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?

************************************************************************
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.

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.

************************************************************************
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.

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.  

************************************************************************
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.

************************************************************************
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.

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.

************************************************************************
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, August 31, 2020

Our Minds on Facebook Algorithms


As a futurist, I write often about the advantages of digital transformation for organizations and how early adopters gain extra advantages that aren’t available to laggards. One of the best demonstrations of this point was when Brad Parscale, the digital director of Mr. Trump's 2016 campaign, shared that using Facebook was an important factor in their win.  In his words, "Facebook moved the needle for us."  He understood how Facebook's computer algorithms worked before others did.

Let’s pause a moment to define what computer algorithms are. A computer algorithm is software code written by people - in this case Facebook employees.  Algorithms consist of rules and code that enable software to perform automated reasoning.  How does Facebook use them?  Kevin Roose, a technology columnist for The Times, describes it as follows, "The platform [Facebook and its algorithms] are designed to amplify emotionally resonant posts, and people and organizations that are skilled at turning passionate grievances into powerful algorithm fodder win.”  

Facebook’s algorithms are programmed to amplify content based on these rules: controversy wins, and negative content beats positive content.  Facebook’s algorithms love arguments, debates and agitation.  Parscale understood this before his opponents.  A recent Forbes article also supports this view, "The recommendation algorithms on social media might be complex and somewhat mysterious, but they generally favor engagement; thus, controversy."  If you want to attract a mass audience on Facebook or many other social media sites be controversial - that's how the algorithms are programmed.  It's not truth or virtue, it's whatever causes audience engagement (i.e. high blood pressure).  Higher audience engagement, not surprisingly, equates to higher ad revenue for Facebook.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

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

In this episode, I catch up with TCS’ innovation and digital transformation expert Ved Sen just 24 hours after his return from India.  We discuss the pandemic's impact on innovation, priorities, industries, and consumers around the world.  This future-focused deep dive discussion is special and gives insights into what is happening in Europe, Asia, and North America.

 

Interview Questions and Answers: Q1: What is it like to do international travel in the age of COVID? What was your experience? A1: 0:52 Q2: What is the mandate of your group there? What are you tasked to do? A2: 2:26 Q3: How do you see the Covid-19 pandemic really affecting digital transformation? A3: 5:06 Q4: What industries do you see that are really being impacted the most, right now, due to Covid-19? A4: 11:07 Q5: How do you see that impacting the world of the future of work? How did TCS address this change in the work environment? A5: 17:40 Q6: Consumers are changing their buying behaviors, what are you seeing from your perspective? A6: 25:26 Q7: What technology did you have your eye on and how has it changed after the pandemic? A7: 31:17
************************************************************************
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.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Politicization of Everything

We find ourselves today in a hyper-politicized environment that business leaders must recognize, understand and be prepared to address.  Increasingly a business’ brand, mission statement, identified purpose, marketing themes, suppliers and the executive team’s social media activities are all being scrutinized to reveal political positions to either support or oppose.  Whether intended or not, or true or not, claims made by pundits and popular social media influencers can quickly lead to market segmentation that may have a direct impact on a business.  

Prudent business leaders will think through these issues before they happen.  They will want to discuss the most likely trouble spots and identify the most likely scenarios and impacts.  The goal of these exercises is to create a playbook on how best to respond when it happens.  When it happens, the speed at which it can impact your business necessitates foresight and planning.

Earlier this year in Boise, Idaho, new owners of a pizza joint immediately faced a huge challenge as a result of the pandemic.  Not only did the pandemic shut down restaurant dining, but disagreements with the staff led to a walk-out, public protests and a social media campaign that politicized the disagreement.  No one wanted or expected these challenges.  No one was prepared and everyone suffered.

In another local Boise, Idaho, example, a beloved French bakery received threats as a result of asking customers to wear masks.  This was widely reported in the news and on social media and much of the community united in support.  The baker had no desire to be involved in politics, but politics found her.

Some businesses embrace selling to a subset of the market that closely identifies with a well understood political persona.  Other enterprises and brands, however, wishing to maximize their market size and potential, attempt an apolitical position.  

In the past marketing messages and positions could be closely controlled.  Today, in a world of “cancel culture” where just about everything can be politicized, it’s wise to prepare.  It is shocking how many objects and brands have already been politicized.  
  • Tire brands
  • Shower heads
  • Medical tests
  • Rice brands
  • Toilet flows
  • Masks
  • Church attendance
  • Sports brands
  • Hospital vacancy rates
  • Vegan food
  • Live wrestling
  • Fried chicken brands
  • College football
  • Mortality Rate Data
  • Pandemics
  • Pancake syrup brands
  • Disease names
  • Automobile brands
  • Craft and hobbies store brands
  • Hotel brands
  • Pizza joints
  • Definitions of fact
  • Social media platforms
  • Theology
  • Borders and Walls
  • Photos in front of church buildings
  • Vaccines
  • Sustainability 
  • Plasma treatments
  • Sneaker brands 
  • Home improvement store brands
  • Birth certificates
  • Medicines
  • Nutritional supplements
  • CDC 
  • News channel brands
  • FDA
  • University brands
  • Hawaiian shirts
  • Canned bean brands
  • Brutality
  • Historical monuments
  • Recreational equipment and clothing brand choices
  • Playing sports during a pandemic
  • US Postal Service
  • US Census
  • E-commerce sites 
  • Newspaper brands
  • Scientific methods and processes
  • Voting methods 
  • Opening Schools
The ubiquitous nature of social media and social media influencers has resulted in an environment whereby businesses are always just a tweet away from chaos.  Businesses must understand this reality and have a plan.

Are you willing to take political positions with your business?  Will supporting or opposing a particular politicized issue help or hinder your business?  Is your target market aligned with a political position?  Does it align with your organization’s?  How does your leadership team and employees feel about it?  Are they both in agreement?  Is it possible to remain apolitical on an issue?

I believe social media and social networks are now a permanent fixture in our society, as such, it appears this challenge will be here for the foreseeable future.  Choosing how to position your business in a politicized environment has now become both a reality and a priority.

Very funny video on Cancel Culture in 1238 AD.

************************************************************************
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.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Reality is Required

If you have spent any time working on IT projects you will have heard the statement, "The solution is only as good as the data." It's true.  If you lack enough good data to generate an accurate output, stop and find it before moving forward.  I remember having so many good ideas for process improvement when I worked in IT.  Almost all of them, however, were shut down with the words, “We don’t have good data for that.”

Truth is important.  If your data does not reflect reality – digital solutions won’t work.  Many technology projects fail when they move from the whiteboard to reality because they were designed on a notional view of the world, rather than on the state of things as they actually exist.  

Understanding what reality is can often be helped by developing a digital twin.  A digital twin is created by integrating sensors into a thing or series of things for the purpose of capturing enough good data to clearly depict reality.  Sensor-supported digital twins fill in the blind spots. Where previously we operated on conjecture and false assumptions, we can now operate with an improved view of reality.  

Reality, however, is more than data.  Sixty-degrees is a good hiking temperature if it is measured in Fahrenheit, but it would kill you if the results were measured in Celsius. A 500% increase in your annual sales sounds impressive, unless you started with 25 cents. Data that reflects reality must also include context. 

************************************************************************
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, August 10, 2020

Driving Innovations, Enhancing Customer Experiences and Collaborating with Customers at SAP with Expert Matt Laukaitis

In this episode, I get to learn from Matt Laukaitis, EVP/GM of Consumer Industries at SAP.  He has been my friend for over 20 years and is a talented and inspirational leader.  He works closely with large SAP customers as they innovate, provide solution feedback and collaborate on the solutions of the future.  

************************************************************************
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, August 03, 2020

Innovation in Live Streaming Video with Vislink Technologies Expert, CEO & President Mickey Miller

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced dramatic changes in the economics and business models of live sports and other live events - perhaps permanently.  As a result, new ways of consuming sports and personalizing it through innovations in live video feeds is required.  It involves advances in video compression, cameras, security, data transmission and production models.  Vislink Technologies is right in the middle of this vortex of innovation supporting the media and entertainment, the military, first responders and other industries.  In this episode, we get to take a deep dive into this innovation with CEO and President of Vislink Technologies Mickey Miller.
Read more on Covid-19 business impacts here:
  • Covid-19 Responses and Marketing Strategies with Retired VMware CMO Robin Matlock
  • Customer Experience Trends During Covid-19 with SAP Expert Shalini Mitha
  • Microsoft in the Right Place at the Right Time During the Pandemic with Expert Dr. Tomer Simon
  • Moving Physical Interactions to Digital During a Pandemic
  • The Covid-19 Pandemic Impact on the Global Supply Chain with Expert Roger Blumberg
  • The Covid-19 Impact on Digital Transformation with Expert Nadia Vincent
  • Business-as-a-Service a Resilient Response to Pandemics
  • Speed, Accidents and Pandemics
  • State and Local Supply Chains Challenged by the Pandemic
  • Paying the Piper In the Midst of a Pandemic
  • What is the Destination of Technological Progress?
  • Protecting Our Global Economic Network from Pandemics
  • Post-Pandemic Risk Strategies for Supply Chain and Procurement Leaders
  • Superstitions, Spaceships and Covid-19
  • Covid-19 and the Value of Ideas
  • Six Degrees to Contagion - Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic
  • Ecosystem Commerce and Pandemic Supply Chains - Interview with TCS Expert Rich Sherman
  • Covid-19 and the Role of a Futurist
  • Pre-Pandemic Assumptions and Presumptions
  • A Mid-Pandemic Interview with Supply Chain Risk Expert Joe Carson
  • Space, Pandemics, Roman Roads and Air-Conditioners
  • Navigating a Pandemic with Dropbox's CMO Tifenn Dano Kwan
  • Thinking Like a Futurist During a Pandemic with Frank Diana
  • Napoleon, True Competition and Pandemics
  • Covid-19, Demographics, Risk Analysis and Mobile Apps
  • A Pandemic Inspired Tsunami of Channel Switching
  • Ahead of the Curve - Pandemic Responses and Business
  • Pandemic Resilience is Knowing When to Quit
  • Using Data and Deming in a Pandemic
  • The Steps Required to Stop and or Live with the Pandemic
  • Flattening the Curve of a Risky Future
  • A Faustian Bargain Involving Privacy, Pandemic and a Functioning Economy
  • Leadership and Mental Biases in a Pandemic
  • ************************************************************************
    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.

    Wednesday, July 29, 2020

    Human Thinking as Friction

    The volume and velocity of data today ensure leaders can’t effectively consume, ponder and act upon it all.  A human leader’s mind easily becomes overloaded and overwhelmed with information, so in order to maximize effectiveness leaders must purposely limit the amount of data presented to them.  In other words, humans must “dumb-down” and “slow-down” the data to reduce complexity and to give themselves time to ponder it.  This “slow-down” requirement for humans acts as friction in a real-time digital environment.  In this article we will explore how different organizations are addressing some of these challenges.

    There are many famous innovation labs we can read about that have made significant contributions to our society.  I am thinking of labs like: Palo Alto Research Center, AT&T Research, MIT Media Lab, Boston Dynamics and many others.  Innovation, however, is not limited to academia or the commercial sectors.  Many dedicated men and women within the different military branches have also committed their careers to innovation.  Today we will explore some of the innovations they are working on and look for relevance in business environments. 

    The limited speed that humans can process new information is a challenge, especially for leaders.  Leaders have a limited capacity for information processing and to expect more from a human is unrealistic and even inhumane.  If a business leader is managing real-time digital commerce operations and business processes, then there is an absolute need for instantaneous decision-making and action that is not humanly possible.  So, what is the answer? Humans need to be augmented.  They need help and the processing speed of artificial intelligence (AI) powered decision-aids.