Friday, May 29, 2020

Covid-19 and the Value of Ideas

I was recently on a call with a client who asked, “In addition to your standard services, what new ideas are you bringing to the table?”  The client obviously placed a high value on ideas.  

Competitive advantages first start as ideas.  A single competitive advantage can open doors to a tsunami of additional advantages and economic benefits (Advantages=A²).  For example, innovators and leaders always see data that laggards can’t.  That data can be used to guide new product roadmaps, marketing opportunities, sales, improvements and innovations.

The value of new ideas, however, can only be realized if acted upon.  I have personal journals full of good ideas with little to no value.  I never acted.  I can’t tell you how many times I have exclaimed to my wife, “That was MY idea!”, after having read about another company acting upon my latent good ideas.

Why hadn’t I acted?  Most often it had to do with time and focus.  My work at the time was not focused on “acting upon” that particular new idea, and my KPIs did not include acting on it.

What if companies were to recognize how valuable new ideas are to their future success?  I recently interviewed a successful entrepreneur, Richard Skellett, about his views on workforce productivity and management.  He said the business value of an employee should not be associated with a pre-defined position or pay scale, because even a junior employee could contribute highly valuable ideas to the company.  Skellett believes every employee should have a balance sheet where their personal asset and liability curves could be recognized by all in a transparent manner.  The more ideas and value a person brings to the company, no matter their position, the higher their reward.  

In this age of the global pandemic, many changes and restrictions are being imposed upon us by the Covid-19 coronavirus.  These changes, unwelcome as they are, are forcing many companies to experiment and test new processes and strategies.  These are prime opportunities to consider new paradigms and to come up with new ideas.  Use these unwelcome times to act upon your good ideas.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
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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.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Covid-19 and the Role of a Futurist

Early Futurist
Futurist Frank Diana leads Tata Consultancy Services' Future of Business team.  When people ask his predictions about the future he often responds, “We don’t predict, we identify and consider possible scenarios.”  He is also fond of saying that most predictions made after a crisis are wrong.  It’s not picking one future scenario to place a bet on that is the role of a futurist, rather identifying many possible scenarios and then monitoring and tracking which are becoming more likely or not - given new and continuous inputs.

What then is the role of a futurist during a pandemic like Covid-19?  As a Futurist myself working on Frank’s team I can say we focus on how Covid-19 is altering the trajectory of various trends and acting as an accelerate or inhibitor to change.  The value of course is for leaders to use these insights to best position their businesses to succeed.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Innovators' Equation for Success

Thomas Edison's innovative, gifted and future thinking finance and operations expert was Samuel Insull.  While Edison was inventing, manufacturing and selling electric power plants to factory owners, Insull was studying the economics of the emerging electric generation industry.  The data he reviewed eventually helped motivate him to leave Edison's organizations to lead his own.

The insights Insull gleaned from the data revealed there were alternative business models available for providing electricity to factories.  Rather than requiring every factory to buy and operate their own power plant, they could simply connect to an electric grid.  The data showed a large power plant connected to many factories could achieve far greater economies of scale that would generate higher profits and lower costs.  Insull understood that his insight was an advantage.  He also recognized that one advantage could in turn lead to many additional advantages down the road (An advantage multiplied by an advantage=A² benefits).

Leaders and innovators today can also be recipients of A² benefits.  Early adopters and innovators gain insight into what works and what doesn't before followers and laggards.  That information is incredibly useful and valuable.  Once a successful design or model is determined and implemented, new user experience data and feedback guide the way forward on paths which competitors have no data, logic or understanding to follow.  

Data by itself, however, does not deliver success.  Insull had foresight.  He was able, like a chess master, to understand how one advantage could lead to many other additional future advantages that when combined could deliver the ultimate package of A² benefits that would deliver the desired scenario.  

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
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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, May 26, 2020

Innovating for Innovators with Expert Gabby Czertok, Founder of The Builders

In this episode, global entrepreneurship expert Gabby Czertok, Founder of The Builders, shares how match making between large companies and start-ups are done, and how national entrepreneurship at scale is possible and the ecosystems necessary to support it.


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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.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Using AI to Analyze CX Across the Business

In this episode of Future of Business TV, we speak with expert Boaz Grinvald, CEO of Revuze about using the power of analytics and AI to understand customer experiences across the entire business.  Most businesses share some CX information with a limited segment of their leadership, but by using AI and automation, analytics can be shared across the entire business.


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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
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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, May 20, 2020

AI, Autonomous Programming and Karma

Autonomous Programming
Recently an artificial intelligence system in China successfully passed a medical exam for the first time.  Potentially AI can soon provide high quality medical diagnoses remotely anywhere around the world, but I don't know about their bedside manner.   Another significant step in AI and robotics happen a couple of years ago in Saudi Arabia where they granted citizenship to a robot named Sophia.  I wonder if that robot will be forced to wear a burka?  With all these rapid advancements, I think it is time we explore the spiritual life of robots and artificial intelligence.

Up until recently, human programmers coded and configured algorithms, AI, automation and machine learning system and took personal responsibility for all of their own code.  Today, however, AI has escaped the confines of human oversight and has been empowered and employed to self-program, self-optimize, self-test, self-configure and self-learn.  

There are many emerging AI self-programming projects underway.  Bayou is an AI application, sponsored by Google and DARPA that uses deep learning to generate code by itself.  DeepCoder is a joint project between Microsoft and Cambridge University.  SketchAdapt is an AI environment that learns how to compose short, high-level programs, while letting a second set of algorithms find the right sub-programs to fill in the details.  SketchAdapt is a collaboration between Solar-Lezama and Josh Tenenbaum, a professor at CSAIL and MIT’s Center for Brains, Minds and Machines. 

Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Importance of Relativistic Competition and Theory

In a race what matters most is your position relative to your competitors'.  If everyone in a race is slow, then the winner must simply be less slow.  It's all relative. 

"It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best." ~ W. Edwards Deming

Given the importance of relativity in winning, it is critical to understand how you are positioned against your competitors even in business.  This has traditionally been a very difficult exercise because of the lack of data.  Today, however, systems that use artificial intelligence can scan millions of data sources, multiple languages and dozens of news feeds for information related to your competitors.  This data when given value scores can generate a competitive ranking number that can be used to determine relative positions in a competitive field. 

“Without data you're just a person with an opinion.” ~ W. Edwards Deming

Only one company can be in 1st place in a competitive ranking.  That doesn't mean all the other companies are not profitable or competitive, just that they are in different relative positions.  The importance of competitive ranking is to help identify how different companies aka "competitive systems" deliver different results.  If a competitor with a better competitive ranking utilizes a different system than yours, then it is important to understand in what ways that system is an improvement over your's.

"Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets." ~ W. Edward Deming

According to quality improvement and management expert W. Edwards Deming, if a company is ranked behind a competitor, it is because their system is perfectly designed to place them there.  That of course means it is necessary to adjust the system to improve it, because as the saying goes, "If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten." 

Deming also taught that the purpose of capturing data is to provide a basis for action or a recommendation for action. In our discussion of relativistic competition, we would want data that shows how our competitors' systems are different from ours.  Once we have the data, we need an action plan, but first we need a prediction on the likely impact of that action.  The task of predicting means all managers must at times wear a futurist's hat according to Deming, "The management’s job is to look ahead and predict what the results of a particular action will be."  In order to make a rational prediction, however, there must first be a theory on how the action will impact results.  "Without theory there is nothing to modify or learn," wrote Deming. 

“This is a long, sad story... JC Penney offers no reason to shop there compared to its competitors, whether it’s Macy’s or T.J. Maxx or Walmart," said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics, a retail research firm. 

In summary, it's important to know (i.e. measure) how you compare relative to your competition, both now and over time.  Scoring systems can define the ranking of both your's and your competition's "competitive systems."  So to improve your competitive position you need data.  The data will help you define an action plan.  An action plan requires a prediction.  A prediction on how the action will help accomplish your goals.  A prediction requires a theory.  A theory on how actions impact results.

For more read Deming's 14 Key Principles,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Edwards_Deming#Key_principles
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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
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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, May 12, 2020

Who Will Protect Us from AI? Expert Nigel Willson has some Ideas

In this episode, I have the privilege of interviewing artificial intelligence expert Nigel Willson.  Nige spent twenty years working at Microsoft and much of it studying and speaking about artificial intelligence. He is now dedicating his time to helping societies, especially in the UK, understand how artificial intelligence should be monitored to ensure it is used for the common good.


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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.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Space, Pandemics, Roman Roads and Air-Conditioners

The author on a
Roman Road
The only definitive protection against the Covid-19 coronavirus so far in this pandemic is space – at least six feet of it.  Isn’t it interesting that space the infinite 3D realm in which all material objects are located and all events occur, is the solution to stopping a global pandemic?  Space between people, in great abundance in Idaho, is in high demand and low supply in many heavily populated urban environments where the Covid-19 coronavirus is having the deadliest impact.

Krys Johnson, an epidemiologist at Temple University explains the origins of the six foot space for social distancing commonly referenced during the pandemic, "Six feet is the average distance that respiratory droplets from a sneeze or cough travel before they settle and are no longer likely to be inhaled by other people.”  Space offers protection and the more space, the more protection.

In Roman times, soldiers were expected to be able to march at the pace of 20 miles per day on carefully constructed roman roads.  Roman Generals would use the rule of 20 miles/day to plan military campaign time schedules and resupply points.  Opposing armies knew the 20-mile rule and recognized space equaled time.  One hundred and twenty miles of space between armies equated to six days of time with which they could use to either retreat, or to prepare an attack.  Space offered protection and the more space, the more protection.

The problem today is that space, once in abundance has been shrinking for many centuries as a result of speed.  Speed eats up space, much as Marc Andreessen wrote, “Software eats the world”.  As mentioned previously, each 20 miles of space between armies in the Roman era equated to about one day’s worth of time and protection.  That equation however, changed when soldiers began riding horses, taking trains or flying in airplanes.  Soon 20-miles/day became 20-miles/hour and then to 20-miles/minute.  As a result, the protective value of space was deflated because of speed and it lost much of its strategic value in military terms, and not surprisingly in Covid-19 terms as well.

I recently came across the news headlines, “Air-conditioning spreads the coronavirus to 9 people sitting near an infected person in a restaurant.”  In a restaurant in Guangzhou, China nine people became sick as a result of an added “speed” element from an air-conditioner.  The air-conditioner’s fans carried the viral droplets farther and faster across the restaurant, thus the six-foot social distancing rule was “eaten by speed” and lost its value.  

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
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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.

Human, Digital and Future Cadences on a Time Continuum

Strategy is the art of making use of time and space. I am less concerned about the later than the former. Space we can recover, lost time never. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

Digital transformation involves the process of transforming a business from one state to another.  It is also about time.  An important part of this transformation is speeding up the cadence of business and information movement along the time continuum from human, digital and finally to future-time.  Businesses today must be capable of competing in all three of these cadences on the time continuum simultaneously.

What are the time cadences on the time continuum?

1. Human-time – time cadence governed by our physical, biological and mental limitations as humans and the regulatory environments that we work within.
2. Digital-time – time cadence supported by the digital and mobile technologies used including computers, software applications and network transmission speeds.
3. Future-time – time cadence stretching into the future and only limited by the lack of available data, computing power and the sophistication of algorithms used to analyze, predict, model, project, forecast and recommend.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Navigating a Pandemic with Dropbox's CMO Tifenn Dano Kwan

In this episode,  I have an insightful conversation with Dropbox’s CMO Tifenn Dano Kwan on how Dropbox is navigating through the Covid-19 pandemic.  We talk about working from a home office, changing customer needs, marketing strategies and future trends.  Enjoy!


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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, May 05, 2020

Thinking Like a Futurist During a Pandemic with Frank Diana

In this episode, I have the pleasure of learning from futurist Frank Diana as he shares his advice on how to think like a futurist during these chaotic times.  He walks us through his mental frameworks, concepts and methodologies, and shares how ecosystem thinking can help businesses survive and grow.



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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.

Napoleon, True Competition and Pandemics

Napoleon
In 1809, a British military expedition of 40,000 soldiers was sent to Walcheren in the Netherlands to defeat Napoleon’s troops.  After a few light skirmishes, the French army evacuated and left the British occupiers to themselves.  After a few weeks the British began to get sick with “Walcheren Fever.” Soon over 4,000 British soldiers were dead and 12,000 were too sick to continue.  The competition for Walcheren was less about the French army and more about the fever.

On June 24, 1812 Napoleon’s French army of 685,000 soldiers invaded Russia.  Over the next six months the French army won a long series of bloody battles.  Although winning nearly all the battles the French army still found itself in deep trouble.  The cold and wet of autumn and winter destroyed them.  They were forced to retreat back to France with only 27,000 out of the original 685,000 soldiers left.  Historians say that Napoleon didn’t lose to the Russian generals, rather to the weather.  

Napoleon mistakenly thought Russian army was the true competition. Today, during the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses must also understand the true nature and source of their competition.  Recognizing that the pandemic, pandemic related economic impact, and the pandemic inspired behavioral changes of consumers are the sources of our competition today is critical for us to respond appropriately.  

If the pandemic and its impact on customers is the true competition of 2020, how might your company’s business plan need adjusting?  

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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.