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2021 business strategies AI Connected Devices Data and Security data science Data scientists Soft skills

5 Vital Soft Skills Data Scientists Must Possess in 2021

data scientist

Technical skills are overrated, particularly in data science. Many data scientists quickly realize that much of their job challenges aren’t due to what they can or cannot do. Rather, the mentality with which they approach tasks matters a lot.

For instance, a data scientist who has mastered communication will present their insights better than their more (technically) skilled counterpart whose reports are jumbled. Likewise, extrapolating insights from raw data require a huge dose of creativity and critical thinking, both of which are not taught as technical skills but must instead be developed personally.

Other soft skills that are necessary for data scientists include business aptitude, problem-solving, and adaptability.

All of these are time-proof skills that transcend technological innovations. Success in 2021 and beyond as a data scientist will heavily rely on the development of these soft skills.

Critical Thinking

This author defines critical thinking as “the judicious and objective analysis, exploration and evaluation of an issue or a subject in order to form a viable and justifiable judgment.�

Critical thinking is often regarded as the most essential skill in data science.

It makes you well-informed, enhances your judgment, and makes you better equipped to make more effective decisions. As a data scientist, you must be capable of examining the available data from multiple perspectives. To develop critical thinking, do the following:

  • Question your assumptions: as a scientific field, your job is to apply empirical methods to analyzing data and extracting insights. However, the human mind remains subject to all kinds of biases and presuppositions. You must thoroughly interrogate them to hone your reason and avoid decision pitfalls.
  • Engage different perspectives: As social beings, we are drawn to people who act and think like us. But the lack of healthy dissent leads to poor decision-making. Thinking critically means consistently seeking out fresh perspectives. This doesn’t necessarily mean disagreement; it could be as simple as connecting with colleagues from another department in order to understand their outlook.

Communication

The purpose of data analysis is to make informed decisions. And your responsibility as a data scientist includes being able to present your findings in a clear manner to the non-data-scientists who have to make the decisions.

Your non-technical audience needs to know how you reached a specific conclusion, the justification for your methods, the implication of your findings, and why you consider one solution better than the other.

You can make your presentation more effective through storytelling. As Brent Dykes says in his book, Effective Data Storytelling,  “…narratives are more compelling than statistics if your goal is to make an impact on your audience.”

Visuals achieve the same effect; when used right, they help your audience see and understand patterns between scraps of data. Your insights don’t matter unless you can make others understand it and drive them to take the necessary actions.

Problem Solving

A data scientist is like a detective. Both workers investigate the available facts and data to address problems. In one case, the purpose is to solve crimes; on the other, the purpose is to deliver business value.

Data is what we make of it. And a data scientist needs to be resolute at, and equipped for, investigating issues to the root. Project managers love a data scientist who can identify creative solutions to problems.

For instance, discovering that your company’s customers behave in a certain way is different from why they behave so. And even then, the job is most likely not done. You must still use the available data to determine how to make the customers behave differently or to make the company adapt to the customers’ habits.

Data science is a continuous job of evaluating data and weighing options, determining why one approach to fulfilling a goal is better than the other. The consequences of your conclusions could be massive; so you need to get it right, at least based on the data available to you at the time.

Practice makes you a better problem-solver. There are websites that help you learn to tackle various data science challenges with real business impacts.

Business Aptitude

Analyzing data is one thing; contextualizing it to solve real business problems is another. Dr. N. R. Srinivasa Raghavan of Infosys is widely quoted thus: data science is more than just number crunching: it is the application of various skills to solve particular problems in an industry.

Without a good understanding of business processes and operations (such as supply chains, customer service, finance, human resources, logistics), it would be impossible to extrapolate actionable insights.

Data science is a field involving so much theory but has far-reaching practical implications. Therefore, a good data analyst is one that understands the business model and can quickly adapt to various business situations.

How does the business work? How does your company work? What do you know about your industry? How does your company make money? What product/service does your company deliver, and how does that work? What makes your company lose money? Who are your competitors?

These questions, and more, are important to understanding business operations. You can develop this by research. But you first need to possess a keenness for business and understand that data science is not just about Python, SQL and all the technical parts.

Adaptability

Adaptability has to do with how quickly you are able to adjust to new conditions, which may be positive or negative. In this information age, innovation grows at such a rapid pace that it is often difficult to keep up. We are living in a world of possibilities, and what’s new today can become outdated in a few months or years.

In fact, the tools you use for data analysis five years from now may be different from the ones you employ today.

Adaptability is also important for moments of crisis, a time when data scientists come under greater pressure to deliver. Consider the COVID-19 pandemic. The global spread of this virus has disrupted business operations everywhere and altered, perhaps permanently, the course of work and business.

When there is a setback, people seek answers; they want to know exactly what went wrong and how they can move forward.

Today, everyone relies on data. In this world of several unprecedented changes, you must be ready to adjust to the prevailing trends.

Conclusion

Soft skills deal with how you approach data. You may know all the technical bits of data analysis, but a wrong approach almost always leads to wrong results.

More importantly, the technical aspects may change. In five years or a decade, the currently popular data science tools may be entirely out of the limelight, edged by newer advanced tools.

But skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving will endure. Developing these skills early is a great way to secure your career in the future.

Image Credit: pixaby; pexels

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Entrepreneurs Marketing Tech

How AI is Transforming Online Marketing

ai online marketing

AI is swiftly working its way into many facets of our everyday lives. With more and more companies using AI, it isn’t an exaggeration to say AI might bring the next industrial revolution. It has already started making large strides in areas such as customer service, but what can it do for online advertising?

It’s Revolutionizing Email Marketing

Email marketing is a mainstay of the digital marketing world. It’s easy to see why when you realize over 300 billion emails are sent each day. It’s no wonder advertisers want to get a cut of the pie. Thankfully, Artificial Intelligence is there to help with some of the more laborious tasks in email marketing.

Personalization

Writing dozens of different emails for your customers individually can only work for a small, locally-owned business. If you’re a larger enterprise, you’ll eventually have to resort to sending out emails at scale to get the word out.

AI can help you with this. It’s no secret that people are different, and what might make one person open an email the moment it hits their inbox, another may not even take a second look. AI algorithms can analyze how your recipient reacts to different subject lines and opening lines and personalize these so that they’re far more likely to open them.

Sending email goes far beyond basic salesman tactics, such as using your customer’s name. AI can incorporate a person’s whole field of interest, as well as mutual contacts, in order to extrapolate what type of content appeals to them. This will, in turn, help you boost your click-through rates through the roof.

Personalized emails perform far better than their non-personalized counterparts. In fact, some case studies have reported an increase in generated revenue of up to 171%!

Another benefit of AI is that it can find the time that your customer is most likely to open an email. They might be much more likely to open an email coming at 10 AM on a Wednesday than one coming at the end of their weekly Netflix binge. AI algorithms can help identify these individual preferences at a large scale.

AI doesn’t just help with email marketing personalization – it can help with personalization on the outreach side of things, too! AI algorithms can help sales and PR teams determine the most effective points of personalization to use when sending a follow-up email, for example.

Practicality

While we humans pride ourselves on being adaptable, we cannot notice the small changes that an AI will. This, in turn, helps you optimize your email campaign towards your customer’s changing needs. What you’re trying one week might not work by the next.

One of the biggest benefits of AI, however, is how well it can see our errors. People are quite prone to handwaving errors and ascribing them to factors that they are not in control of. Luckily, AI does no such thing. Instead, it’ll let you know the weaknesses of your campaign with the brutal honesty a person wouldn’t be able to muster up. AI grammar checkers, for example, can help you identify spelling, grammar, and even syntax issues in your email copy.

Finally, using AI can be significantly cheaper in the long run than using people. The benefits of hiring a machine learning services company far outweigh the costs. While the marketers themselves will always serve a crucial role in marketing, AI can save you dozens of laborious hours. Not only will you make more money, but your workers will also thank you.

It’s Helping Target Customers with Social Media Ads

Social media is the latest large frontier in advertising. Ever since Facebook has skyrocketed in popularity, corporations have been looking for ways to use social media for advertising purposes. AI helps with this and can even help a business isolate its target audience more precisely.

Maintaining Consistent Quality Across Platforms

It’s no secret that there are many more platforms where you can advertise in order to garner attention. It’s no longer enough to simply purchase a TV ad and be done with it. Today, consumers require multiple touchpoints before they turn into buyers. If you aren’t on a variety of social networks, in addition to TV and popular streaming services – your ads may not be as effective.

Your brand needs to have its message delivered through a variety of different channels. This can be hard to manage consistently if you’re making every campaign by hand. Usually, you’ll get a few very similar campaigns that will be somewhat engaging to most of your audience.

Rather than settling for somewhat engaging, today, you’ll need to impress your customers if you want their business. This can easily be done by using AI to help subtly guide your campaigns towards your target audience. For example, Hulu has a largely older audience in comparison to TikTok. With TikTok having a primarily adolescent-teenage population and Hulu favoring older audiences, you’ll need to take two drastically different approaches.

Localization

Even as a medium to small corporation, you’ve definitely faced issues when localizing your ad campaigns. It can be hard to really know what the locals of your area want by simply doing a handful of manual surveys.

By incorporating AI, you can automate a good chunk of this process. Something especially surprising is how good AI is at optimizing a CTA to the geographical location of your choice. Since the call to action is one of the most important parts of an ad, this can lead to a massive increase in sales.

If you’re branching out to a new area, that makes localization all the more important. This is especially true if you’re expanding to an area where you’ve already got competitors. If you misjudge the cultural norms of the area, you might find yourself with a failure on your hands. AI is spectacular at detecting these nuances, and even smaller corporations can benefit from this these days.

Social Media Ad Copy

Despite the technology being fairly new, AI has been getting more and more use as a method of creating social media ad copy. Companies are using it to create copy, which is later simply edited by marketers, with some daring to hand over the whole process to the AI. Here are some advantages AI can offer in creating social media copy:

  • Speed – AI is much faster than people. It can take historical data about your customer’s behavior and come up with what you should post next by the time a writer has written the outline.
  • Time – If you’ve got writers that can do better than the AI in terms of copy quality, this doesn’t mean it’s useless. It can provide you with valuable data that your authors can use to craft the perfect ad.
  • Detect trends – AI can help you predict trends ahead of time, as well as detect subtle changes in customer behavior. This will help you better understand your target audience and improve the equity of your brand.
  • Frequency and theme – AI can check out your past posts and the posts of other companies in your niche and analyze them in order to determine what posting times and subjects are proving most effective at the time.

Product descriptions fall into a similar pattern. They will also be written faster and more effectively with AI than they will with a human author. Another benefit of AI in this area is that AI is able to update its listings at a moment’s notice.

If it notices that your customers are fans of something, it’ll make an effort to make that stick out more in the description immediately. Furthermore, this can be combined with localization to make custom region-specific descriptions.

Measuring Performance

Another use for AI which saves manpower is measuring performance. Manually calculating things like engagement rates are a death sentence for progress. Instead, you could have AI look through almost every facet of how your ads performed.

Not only can you track user engagement flawlessly, but you can also compare and contrast your ad’s performances amongst target groups and even different forms of social media. With that being said, this isn’t to be used recklessly.

With AI that’s sufficiently advanced, you can even determine which parts of your ad copy your users dwell upon the most and which goes by barely detected. This will let you put out more polished adverts with haste.

As always, it’s a good idea to have the AI’s performance monitored by a human every now and again. For example, Amazon has had a famous incident where its AI was extremely biased towards male candidates.

One example of how AI is helping with performance-based marketing is with Facebook. Facebook’s ad platform uses the performance of your ad to determine which users should see the ad. By leveraging multiple data points quickly, Facebook is able to put your ad in front of the users who are most likely to be interested in your product or service.

Improving The Customer Experience

There are a lot of ways to gain new customers; however, none of them are quite as infallible as providing an amazing customer experience to influence word of mouth. Companies have been trying to outdo each other in customer service since the dawn of modern capitalism. Today, AI is the next technology you’ll need to incorporate in order to ensure your customers get the best experience possible.

AI Chatbots

The customer service industry is one of the ones that have benefited the most from the inclusion of AI. If a customer has an issue with a product, or they’re having issues navigating your website, they’ll want to talk to someone to have it explained for them.

Now, these can be full-time employees who are paid for all of the manpower in answering the questions that your customers may have. On the other hand, you could have AI handle that (like an AI bot) while your employees are given tasks that are harder to automate.

This change is already in full swing. If you’ve seen a “Talk to one of our representatives� button on any sites you’ve visited recently, the chances are that’s a chatbot right there. With that being said, that isn’t a bad thing; chatbots are generally clear in writing and are sometimes more helpful than actual workers.

This isn’t to say that you should fire any customer service employees on the spot. No! Rather than letting these valued employees go, it is best to delegate them to other tasks, with customer support being done by people exclusively in the cases where the AI doesn’t rise to the occasion.

Predictive Marketing

Imagine being a vacuum cleaner salesperson in the ‘70s. When would the ideal time be to knock on someone’s door to sell them a vacuum cleaner? When their old one just broke.

Unfortunately, for a vacuum cleaner salesperson in the ‘70s, there was no way to know when exactly that was. Today, AI can predict most of a customer’s purchasing desires and decisions. Because of this, it is one of the most important tools to get started with.

Customers don’t want to be bombarded with ads for things they don’t currently need or care about. Because of this, any customers you advertise to that simply have no need for your product or service are nothing but wasted capital.

By using AI that puts large amounts of data together in order to better understand consumer behavior, you can ensure that the customer is going to be interested in your product.

For example, let’s say that customer A has been searching for vacuum cleaner bags, vacuum cleaner pipes, as well as vacuum cleaner alternatives. Customer B has been searching how to use Vacuum Cleaner X. The AI will be able to determine that Customer A’s current vacuum cleaner is broken, and Customer B has possibly just purchased a new vacuum cleaner. With this information, it will show Customer A an ad for your company.

This is extremely common in large corporations such as Google or Amazon. However, it’s slowly becoming more affordable for small and medium-sized businesses.

Improving Your UI

The UI (User Interface) is what your customers interact with your website or mobile app through. Having a seamless interface is crucial in making conversions because customers won’t stay on a site that’s not easy to use.

Thankfully, instead of hiring dozens of UI testers and running constant surveys among your target group, you can have AI do the testing for you. The AI has the intuitiveness of a person but is able to identify issues more quickly so that you can make changes to the UI more easily.

It looks through a variety of things, such as:

  • Where the user is when they load up the site
  • How long they stay on the website
  • The site’s bounce rate
  • The user flow
  • How many products each user views before leaving the site

These metrics can be measured by an AI at a large scale to help you make more informed decisions quickly.

Conclusion

While AI certainly has a long way to go, it’s has made massive strides in its development lately.

AI is not perfect, and there’s still a long way to go in terms of improving it. However, your business could definitely benefit from making use of AI in your next marketing campaign to improve conversions, targeting, and user experience metrics.

Image Credit: jose francisco fernandez saura; pexels

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AI artificial intelligence Machine Learning natural language processing ReadWrite

How is Conversational AI Improving Customer Experience?

Conversational AI

The Conversational AI allows the program to be a part of human-like interactions. This set of technologies empower the applications to send automated replies. It is yet another example of the exponential rate of innovations happening in the artificial intelligence field.

As a result, businesses are investing in conversational AI technologies like Chatbots to serve customers round-the-clock. Although the benefits of using this advanced technology are innumerable, you need to answer certain questions while assessing a conversational AI solution.

Conversational AI is Still Evolving

We are still undergoing the phase of revolution wherein innovators are bridging the gap between the artificial and natural interactions among humans and computers. Constantly, developers are empowering Conversational AI technologies to decipher human actions and mimic human-like conversations.

According to research, the Conversational AI market size is expected to reach US Dollars 15.7 billion by 2024. This clearly depicts the interest of investors in this technology and gives a sign of a lucrative future scope for businesses.

The incorporation of context, relevance, and personalization after deciphering various languages and tones is the end goal of this set of technologies. Chatbots are integral components of these technologies. Consequently, they undergo continual enhancements.

Conversational AI is not the Same as Traditional Chatbots

What do you like more, scripted TV shows or reality shows? Traditional chatbots are the scripted ones and Conversational AI chatbots are the non-scripted ones. The former one works with scripted dialogues whereas the latter one works with the context.

When scripted traditional chatbots are created, developers feed the dialogues with proper keywords. The bots are able to respond with the most appropriate reply out of the many replies added to their memory.

When a user sends a particular text, the chatbot identifies the keywords and sends in the scripted replies. This adds tons of burden on the owner of the chatbots. Hence, they update the conversations to make them look realistic.

The traditional scripted chatbots are not able to converse in real-time with users by understanding the context of the whole conversation. As a result, this compromises the customer services of the businesses.

This particular loophole is looked after by the chatbots powered by conversational AI. They hold the capability to engage in any dialogue after grasping the context of the whole conversation. They do not follow a script because they have in-built conversational capabilities in the software. Let’s understand how they work in detail.

Work Process of the Conversational AI

Conversational AI works with a combination of technologies. With the integration of advanced technologies, Conversational AI performs the function of interacting like humans. Here are the steps involved in the work process of these technologies:

1. Accept the Inputs

The first step involved in the functioning of Conversational AI is to accept the inputs from users. These inputs can be in the form of text or speech. If the inputs are in the written form, text recognition technology is applied. On the other hand, if inputs are spoken phrases, then voice recognition technology is applied.

2. Comprehending

Text and voice recognition is done with AI technology natural language understanding (NLU). After the application reads the inputs, the user intent is understood before forming any kind of response. Usually, businesses can use conversational AI for comprehending responses in various languages. In a nutshell, this is one of the most difficult steps in the work process of a chatbot.

3. Creating Response

In this step, the Natural Language Generation (NLG) is used to create responses in a language that humans understand. After deciphering the intent of the human, dialog management is used to create responses. Finally, it converts the computer-generated responses into human-understandable language.

4. Delivering Response

Finally, the response created in the previous step is shared with the users in the expected form. Either the system delivers it as a text or conducts the production of human speech artificially. Are you able to recall the voice of Alexa or Google Assistant? They generate their responses by following this process only.

5. Learn from Experience

Conversational AI also has provisions for improving their responses for future interactions by learning from their experiences. By accepting suggestions, the application learns to deliver better responses in future conversations.

Technologies used in Conversational AI

The Conversational AI platforms use a set of technologies at the right times to complete the work process. All these technologies are empowered by Artificial intelligence. Let’s understand these technologies in brief.

1. Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR)

The application interprets the spoken phrases by deploying this technology. Adding to this, it converts the speech into texts for the app. Voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, etc. use Automatic Speech recognition.

2. Advanced Dialog Management

This technology helps in forming the response to the conversational AI app. Dialog management arranges this response for the next technology. Further, converts it into something which humans can understand.

3. Natural Language Processing (NLP)

Conversational AI uses natural language processing along with its two subsets. The first one is Natural language Understanding which understands the meaning as well as the intent behind any text. It can decipher texts shared in multiple languages as per the programming.

Both chatbots, as well as voice assistants, use this technology. After ASR, voice apps apply NLU. The second one under the NLP technology head is Natural Language Generation. Conversational AI uses this in the last stage of the work process by Conversational AI.

It creates the responses by converting the computer-generated replies into a language that is understandable for humans. This technology deploys dialog management to conduct this task seamlessly.

4. Machine Learning (ML)

Machine learning is great at understanding a set of data. In conversational AI also, machine learning is used to understand the interactions that have happened over time. Also, ML identifies better responses to these interactions.

Therefore, it understands user behavior and guides the app to create better responses. Humans also join machine learning in this task and together make the Conversational AI app a better interactor for customers.

Benefits of Using Conversational AI for Better Customer Engagement

Businesses are struggling for quite a long time to improve their customer engagements. As a consequence, conversational AI tools like Chatbots have become an integral part of websites and apps. Hence, the developers are working hard to incorporate conversational AI in their solutions.

Conversational marketing has become a proven corporate strategy for millions of businesses operating across various domains including healthcare, tourism, education, etc. Let’s find out what exactly can Conversational AI do to empower customer engagement:

1. Never-ending Scalability

Contrary to human customer support executives, Conversational AI can provide solutions to as many customers as possible at one time. Therefore, you can scale up your operations to any limits. Moreover, it can provide human-like interactions around-the-clock without any interruptions.

2. Acts as a Supportive Wing

In an organization, teams work together towards achieving organizational goals. Conversational AI technologies work with human experts and take their burdens away. They do those tasks which are humanly not possible at the same consistency as that of Conversational AI. This leaves room for human experts to entertain customers only when required.

3. Reduces Cost

Investing in conversational AI solutions might seem an added expenditure to you. But in the long run, the functions it performs reduces your cost. You will not have to pay employees for all the shifts to satisfy customers with real-time conversations. These applications prove to be immensely cost-effective for businesses.

4. Offers Data Insights

As mentioned above, machine learning understands the past experiences and interactions to improve your Conversational AI potential for future interactions. This allows businesses to get an insight into the data.

Hence, you will be able to know your customers’ preferences, behavior, and requirements. Furthermore, you can utilize this data for various other purposes to improve your plans and strategies.

5. Improves Productivity

The primary reason for investing in conversational AI solutions should be the need to improve productivity. It enhances overall productivity with uninterrupted, credible, and prompt customer services.

24×7 support and human-like interactions decrease the risk of losing customers. Hence, conversational AI is capable of providing better customer engagement and ultimately a rise in customer retention rate.

Leverage Conversational AI in Omni-Channel Approach

Investing in conversational AI might seem lucrative after reading about its work process and benefits. Before taking the final call, make sure to identify the channels where you are going to leverage this technology.

When it comes to the customer experience journey, we need to take care of many gateways. With conversational AI solutions, you can provide live chats, social media interactions, messaging on various platforms like Whatsapp, SMS, etc., as well as emails.

Therefore, businesses are using the omnichannel approach. Under this approach, they use multiple engagement channels and offer a seamless and intuitive customer experience. It allows businesses to offer their customers a proactive engagement and prompt responses.

Conclusion

Across the world, businesses are deploying high-end artificial intelligence technologies. This, in turn, offers business solutions to enhance the engagement of customers. Therefore, we can these technologies to offer an improved experience to your users. Conversational AI holds the potential to strengthen customer and business relationships. All you need is to explore it efficiently!

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Startups

The Main Reasons Startups Fail

The Main Reasons Startups Fail

Launching a startup is ridiculously exciting. Not only do you get a chance to control your destiny and build an effective team, but if you’re lucky and you work hard, you could turn it into a “unicorn�—a billion-dollar enterprise.

Of course, most of you reading this know that the odds of your business becoming a tech unicorn are slim, even if you have a great idea in place. That’s because more than half of all startups fail within the first five years of operation.

Understanding the reasons why startups fail can help you avoid such a fate. So what are the driving factors that lead to startup failure?

Lack of Market Need

One of the most common causes of startup failure is a simple lack of market need. Economic systems rely on supply and demand. With a startup, you may be supplying a product or service, but if there is no demand for it, it’s not going to sell. You can have a great product, fair pricing, and the best customer service in the world—but it doesn’t matter if people have no need for your product.

The best way to prevent this from occurring is through market research. Before getting too deep into startup development, it’s important to research your target demographics and confirm their desire for a product like yours.

Poor Customer Experience

Another incredibly common motivator for failure is poor customer experience all-around. Not to be mistaken for customer service, customer experience refers to the overall experiences a customer has with the brand. It includes their first impressions, their experiences when using the core product or service, and their interactions with customer service.

If the usability of your product or service is poor, if your customer service is insufficient, or if other experiences are lackluster, your customers aren’t going to stick around. That’s why customer experience should be one of your top priorities for strategic development.

Running Out of Capital

Many business owners launch startups with the intention of running lean—relying on minimal resources to preserve the business for as long as possible. But even the leanest businesses need money to keep running. If you run out of capital prematurely, the business can’t sustain itself—no matter how good the business model is.

This is usually a problem with businesses that are self-funded or those that are utilizing a minimalistic approach. The solution is to start generating consistent revenue faster or to work with angel investors or venture capitalists to get more funding.

The Wrong Team

Sometimes, it’s a team issue. Your startup relies on a team of connected, experienced professionals collaborating to make your vision a reality. If there are members of your team who are inexperienced, or if they’re unwilling to put in sufficient effort, or worse, if they sabotage your efforts, your business isn’t going anywhere.

Too many startups hire quickly and with reckless abandon. But in many cases, it’s better to take your time and make sure you get the right people for your team.

Fierce Competition

Good businesses tend to get a lot of attention. If it looks like you’re making good money and dominating the market, it’s only a matter of time before another ambitious entrepreneur steps in to try and get a piece of the pie. If another startup competes with yours directly and they have a significant edge—such as offering a lower price, being more available, or offering better customer support—they’re inclined to undermine your startup’s operation.

Fortunately, there are many ways to improve your competitiveness, such by lowering prices, targeting a different demographic, or pivoting entirely.

Pricing and Cost Issues

The basis for a startup’s continuing operation is its underlying economics. If you want to continue existing, you need to make money—ideally more money than you’re spending on things like employee salaries and raw materials.

Many startups fail because they can’t manage things like pricing and cost. If they charge too much, customers leave. If they don’t charge enough, they don’t make a significant enough profit. If costs get out of hand, the company will collapse. The only real solution is careful financial planning and management.

No Real Business Model

It’s incredible how many startups get launched without a proper business model. They have a great strategy for getting attention or earning downloads, shares, and engagements, but there’s no real way to make money.

Before starting a business, you need to have a business plan. And no matter what your product or service is, there needs to be some way to monetize it. It’s possible for this model to evolve over time, but without a model, the business will inevitably fail.

Insufficient Marketing

At a certain point, your startup could become so popular that it’s self-sustaining. But most startups, especially young ones, heavily rely on marketing to increase their visibility. If a startup straight-up refuses to invest in marketing and advertising, it’s probably going to fail. If it doesn’t invest in the right strategies, it’s probably going to fail. If it invests too much in the wrong type of strategy, it’s probably going to fail.

Marketing is hard to get right, but it requires a decent investment and a solid strategy to direct its efforts. Working with a professional marketing agency is often the best solution.

Bad Timing

Sometimes, a startup just gets the timing wrong. If the product is too new, and audiences aren’t ready for it, it’s not going to make much of a splash. If you’re too late to a saturated industry, you’re going to blend in as white noise.

Timing is incredibly tricky, and unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to correct this potential issue. Market research and competitive research can help you determine the state of the market, but no matter what, there’s going to be a little luck involved.

A Loss of Focus

Some startups don’t explode in a burst of fire; they gradually wither away. Over time, an entrepreneur may become disillusioned with the business, or they may become motivated by new goals and different ideas. It could also be a problem that an entrepreneur is unable to clarify their vision, making it impossible for the business to achieve a focused goal.

In either case, there is no focus for the business, and the business declines as a result.

Internal Disputes

The greatest strength of a startup can also be its greatest weakness: the collaborative power of the team. Startups rely on an entrepreneur, a team of employees, investors, mentors, and other professionals and authorities to coordinate its actions. If these people can’t agree, or if they’re constantly undermining each other, the business can’t possibly survive.

Setting a coordinated, mutually agreeable vision from the beginning can mitigate this.

A Pivot Gone Wrong

Startups sometimes pivot; when faced with a sudden market change, new competitor, or other issue, the startup transforms to become a different kind of business altogether. This can be a powerful, life-saving move—but it can also go terribly wrong.

If you pivot too quickly or without a proper plan, you could end up exacerbating the problems that already exist, rather than solving them.

Legal Issues

In rarer cases, startups fail because of legal issues. There may be standing lawsuits against the business, copyright infringement claims, or an issue where the startup is directly breaking the law. The only solution here is proactive legal planning; otherwise, you may run out of money fighting the issue in court.

As you can see, there are dozens of ways that startups can fail, so it’s tough to stop all these potential modes of failure at once. However, with the right level of planning, research, and self-awareness, you can identify the weaknesses and threats that are most likely to impact your business and root them out.

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Why Your Business Needs Non-Stop Software Security

software security

Have you ever lost 30 minutes of creative works on your computer? Or has it suddenly occurred to you that you have a great piece of data that will augment a business proposal, only to discover that the data is missing? Oh – how frustrating!

Data loss occurs for various reasons

  • 78 percent – Hardware or system malfunction
  • 11 percent – Human error
  • 7 percent – Software corruption or program malfunction
  • 2 percent – Computer viruses
  • 1 percent – Natural disasters
  • 1 percent – Other acts.

Impact of critical data loss across global enterprises

Meanwhile, research reveals that global enterprises lose a whopping sum of 1.7 Trillion dollars due to data loss and downtime. And this excludes disruption of business activities, the loss of productivity, the diminished customers’ loyalty, the break of investor’s confidence, the cost of time spent on reconfiguration, and lots more.

While it may be difficult to establish a precise impact of data loss and downtime on organizations, it’s obvious that it would, sure, have a radical negative effect.

With a seamless increase in web adoption and constant acceptance of new technologies, both small and large scale businesses have been able to share important data as regards their products and services — using the web-as-a-service, Waas.

Hackers can compromise corporate networks

Meanwhile, hackers are seriously looking for ways to compromise the corporate network of several industries. As a matter of fact, the Verizon Data Breach Report reveals that 15.4 percent of reported incidents were related to malware and web application attacks.

Also, many of the most fatal breaches that covered the media in the past few years were caused by web-application and software security vulnerabilities. A very good example is the Equifax breach.

Simply put, “business websites possess the greatest threat to organizational security.�

Watch your data loss due to website and software patches

A sizable number of business sectors have experienced (or will experience) data loss due to website and software patches. This has reduced the efficiency and productivity of these organizations to the barest minimum. Little wonder why 70 percent of firms that experience data loss run out of business within one year of the attack. (DTI)

You may not know when the next attack could occur, but taking proper precautions can hamper or completely abolish a hacker’s attempt at gaining access to your business website.

Why your business website needs software security programs

1. Monitoring and detection

How satisfying will it be to have effective and efficient protection of your business website against the worst threat ever?

Using a software security program means your business web is on the watch, and any single vulnerability will be detected on the spot.

Software security companies provide website security scanners that check your website at predetermined intervals to detect any malicious action. You can rest assured that you’ll receive an alert as well as the next line of action when this happens.

Not only does website security monitoring protect you and your customers, but it protects your website’s rankings by checking a variety of different blacklists, and notifying you if you have been placed on one.

2. Performance optimization

Do you know that Google, Bing, and other search engines, use site speed as a ranking factor?

We live in a world where nobody is ready to wait for anything. We have become accustomed to business websites and apps working instantly and perfectly. As a matter of fact, a study reveals that 47 percent of customers abandon business websites that take more than 3 seconds to load!

Performance optimization is a major reason why your business website needs software security programs. Besides SEO, a site performance typically revolves around reducing the overall size of web pages. This includes the size of the files and perhaps, more importantly, the number of them.

3. Fast disaster or data recovery

In an age where data is king, the idea that data can be lost so easily should be enough to encourage businesses to take steps to protect it.

The U.S National Cyber Security Alliance found that 60 percent of companies are unable to sustain their businesses over six months after a data breach.

According to the Ponemon Institute, the average price for small businesses to clean up after their businesses have been hacked stands at $690,000; and, for mid-sized businesses, it’s over $1 million.

Recent events have proven that nobody is safe from the threat of data breach — not large corporations, small businesses, startups, government agencies or even presidential candidates.

When a crisis occurs, there would be one of the two scenarios:

  1. You run a licensed app/piece of software and the vendor is responsible enough to issue an update/patch when issues are reported.
  1. You run a custom software delivered by your software development company and you ask for the software to be enhanced. That is going to take just as little time but chances are your custom software will ever be hacked is drastically lower. Just because the hacker would need to spend even more time looking for vulnerabilities than the AQ department of your software developer.

Even if your website is secure, a misconfiguration or simple mistake can lead to data loss. Only a sure backup plan can save you if your custom files are overwritten or tampered with.

A website security provider can offer secure remote storage, automatic backup scheduling, and an easy recovery process without disturbing your workflow. Decent software companies offer a fast and easy way to recover all the files you need in a very short time.

4. Regular software update

A software update, also known as a service pack is a periodically released update to software from a manufacturer, consisting of requested enhancements and fixes for known bugs. A software update is mainly to present security vulnerabilities in their existing items.

You may think that you do not have anything to protect on your business website but the reality is that security software gives protection for your data. Data is valuable for the sustenance of your business. Top software security programs keep your data secure by providing regular updates to keep you safe from malicious attempts.

Summing It Up:

Since 60 percent of businesses that are affected by a breach in business websites or data will shut down in 6 months, cybersecurity experts, thereby, recommend that you have an effective software security program to save yourself and your business from this calamity.

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Employee Scheduling Trends that Deserve to Continue Even After the Pandemic

trends to continue after pandemic

It’s been a long time since you could assume that the majority of your team is at it from 9 to 5. The “global village� means that work doesn’t end when the sun sets or markets close in your time zone, and the rise of flexible working patterns made it even more complex to coordinate employee schedules.

The best employee scheduling strategies consider employee preferences as well as employer needs and consumer demands, but the enormous number of moving parts – operational needs, budget, regulations and compliance – can make it all very difficult to manage.

COVID-19 has only exacerbated the situation in many industries. Employees who are high risk may be unable to work, or can only take shifts with little contact with the public or when only a skeleton staff is present. Workers grappling with unpredictable childcare needs and unreliable transport can cause even more last-minute changes than usual.

Scheduling conflicts can cause bad feeling in a company, but it doesn’t have to be that way. New advances in tech and better communication between employees and managers help enterprises get employee scheduling right, which improves employee experience and in turn pushes up employee retention and satisfaction.

The exigencies of COVID-19 pushed new trends in employee scheduling, which may be worth continuing even when the pandemic fades into memory. Here are a few scheduling trends from 2020 that are worthy of sticking around.

Scheduling is becoming more flexible

Scheduling that is more flexible is also more complex, but flexibility is crucial for a happy, motivated workforce under pandemic conditions. Employees with more flexible scheduling arrangements report higher wellbeing, more engagement, and more effectiveness at work than those stuck in inflexible scheduling.

For example, mothers working remotely with flexible, efficient schedules that match their availability are three times more likely to have positive wellbeing than those with inflexible, inefficient scheduling.

Although employees may be coping, everyone has their own challenges. “In driving new mindsets and behaviors (such as adapting to a new virtual-working model) at scale, it’s important to engage employees in a continual two-way dialogue that takes into consideration their specific needs, allows them to configure their own journeys,� says Jonathan Emmett, associate partner at McKinsey. Even people who love their jobs need accommodation for whatever else is going on in their lives.

Self-scheduling software invites employees to choose their own shifts, make last-minute changes, book vacation days, and check their schedules independently and remotely. This helps employees to feel more in control, which is especially important during such unstable and uncertain times, increasing employee engagement and satisfaction.

AI is bringing intelligence to scheduling

AI is stepping into many more HR use cases. Now managers can use AI tools to predict changes in consumer demand, and plan ahead to meet altering workforce needs.

For example, surging customer numbers in the winter holiday shopping season can require more retail assistants; a sunny day could tempt more diners to a cafe in the park, needing the addition of more waiters; rolling out a new product version might prompt you to increase customer service agents to answer user questions, etc.

With AI and machine learning, HR teams can analyze employee strengths and weaknesses to understand which employees work best together. With these insights, you can construct the strongest possible on-schedule teams for every situation and place the right person on duty at the right time.

Employees expect remote and mobile scheduling

Managing employee scheduling manually, even with an Excel spreadsheet, has long been a joke, but today, employees and HR managers simply can’t live without remote and mobile access to cloud-based scheduling tools that sync automatically to allow use anywhere.

The COVID-19-driven shift to WFH only underlined the importance of cloud-based systems for scheduling. We live our lives on our phones, from ordering dinner to taking out a mortgage, so it’s understandable to assume that scheduling software would include a mobile app.

“You want to make it easy for your staff to access their schedules from anywhere. This isn’t possible with desktop software,� writes tech expert Neil Patel in his scheduling tool drill-down. Beyond mobile-friendliness, he continues, “The best tools will also have shift swapping, employee self-service tools, HR features, labor cost management, leave management, attendance tracking, team messaging, overtime control, time clocks, etc.�

In today’s dynamic work environments, HR needs the ability to respond to scheduling changes on the fly, ensuring that they don’t cause your entire month-long schedule to fall apart, and requesting that someone else to step in without breaking your own rules or creating a sense of injustice among your workforce.

Employers are upping the ante in communication

Employee scheduling flows more smoothly with excellent communication that increases trust relationships, creating a virtuous circle where efficient scheduling itself raises trust.

Employee trust is high at the moment, with “my employer� as the most trusted institution and 73% of workers agreeing they trust businesses to protect them by adapting scheduling and sick-leave policies as necessary. But you can’t take this for granted.

Employers need to keep up and even improve employee communications. “Given the present state of low trust, business will have to fill a further void, that of credible information,� says Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman Holdings. “For CCOs, it is time for you to initiate regular briefings for employees by your chief scientist or medical officer, to provide trustworthy content that can be shared with employee families or community.�

Enterprises should continue communicating around scheduling, asking how employee needs may have changed (e.g. working parents may prefer a night shift now) and accommodating them as much as possible.

Encourage employees to share their concerns; create more channels for communication between employees and managers and among employees themselves; and open up the conversation around mental health and anxiety, to reinforce trust and improve your understanding of factors that may influence scheduling.

Not all scheduling changes prompted by COVID-19 should fade away

Employee scheduling has never been easy, and with more moving parts, increasing globalization, and the new stresses of COVID-19, it’s only gotten more complex. But necessity is the mother of invention, and so we’ve seen new tech and trends emerge of using AI for intelligent scheduling, supporting scheduling on the hoof, enabling flexible scheduling, and building communication into schedule planning.

Holding onto these new best practices after the crisis of coronavirus has passed can make companies stronger and more resilient in the long term.

Image Credit: depositphotos _19

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How Tech Startups Redefined Gig Work (and Where It Goes From Here)

We’re living in the golden era of the gig economy. At least, some of us consider it golden. Regardless of how you personally feel about the gig economy, there’s no denying that it has reached peak popularity for consumers, employees, and businesses – thanks in part to the amazing tech startups that led us here. 

But where exactly did the gig economy come from? And where does it go from here? 

What Is the Gig Economy? 

Let’s start with a primer on the gig economy. The “gig economy� refers to a number of trends related to the issuance and availability of “gig work.� In other words, a lot of people are freelancing and a lot of companies are willing to hire and work with freelancers. 

Freelancers aren’t technically employees. They aren’t protected or bound by the same laws and regulations that traditional employees are. For example, minimum wage laws, workers’ compensation laws, and maternity leave laws may not apply to freelancers. 

Employers benefit from this because they get to save money and hire more flexibly. They don’t have to pay as much money for employee benefits, they don’t have to spend time or money complying with complicated laws, and they can hire people on a flexible basis – and only for the work that actually needs to get done. 

Employees can also benefit from this arrangement. As a freelancer, they’re generally not bound by non-compete clauses, which means they can work for multiple employers/clients at the same time. They can also work as much or as little as they want, creating their own schedule and enjoying the benefits of a practically unlimited income. 

However, there are some downsides to the gig economy as well (as we’ll see). 

A Brief History of Gig Work

Gig work has been around for a long time. The term “gig� itself was coined by jazz musicians looking for a way to describe shows and concerts for which they were hired. Over the years, businesses in certain industries employed temp workers and freelancers when they had short-term, temporary, or frequently changing needs. 

However, the gig economy itself didn’t develop much until a handful of powerful tech startups stepped in.

Early Apps and Connective Tissue

The gig economy began to grow as the internet began to see widespread adoption. Craigslist, one of the earliest classified-ad-style websites, emerged to connect employees and employers, and allow people to make temporary arrangements with one another. If you needed a fence painted, or if you needed someone to do a reading for your audiobook, or if you needed a professional model to show off your company’s latest fashion, you could find them on Craigslist. 

In turn, a number of other connection-based sites arose and the gig economy began to flourish. 

The Uber Effect

Things began to change in the early 2010s, with the advent of Uber and similar tech startups. In case you aren’t familiar, the Uber app functioned like a ridesharing and taxi hailing service in one. With Uber, you can hail a ride from an Uber driver, get to your destination, then pay your driver, all within the app. As a driver, you won’t work directly from Uber, but the Uber app can connect you to individual riders in need of a ride. 

In the wake of Uber’s early success, we saw the rise in popularity of a number of similar apps, all of which allowed buyers and sellers to efficiently find each other. These platforms made gig work both more possible and more popular for a variety of reasons: 

  • The emergence of new markets. Some of these apps created new markets where there were no opportunities before. Uber itself forged a kind of middle ground between calling for a taxi and asking a friend to bum a ride. Airbnb allowed homeowners to rent a room efficiently to new tenants in a way they couldn’t before. Other apps invented entire mini-industries from the ground up, like renting power tools or providing grocery shopping services. 
  • Convenience for buyers. Buyers, including both individuals and companies, could find professionals easier than ever before. If you have temporary needs, you can’t afford to hire someone full-time, but these apps made it possible to find a kind of temporary employee. 
  • Convenience for sellers/producers. These apps were also convenient for sellers and producers. Rather than going through the trouble of starting their own business and marketing themselves, or finding a restrictive full-time position, they could take on jobs whenever and however they wanted. 
  • Minimal interference and natural development. Most tech startups following this formula created small-scale free market conditions. Pricing, worker availability, and consumer demand found a way to balance each other out in a way that became favorable to all parties. 

Collectively, the rise of these tech startups helped change the image of gig work from a “last-ditch effort� of someone who couldn’t find a “real� job to a viable economic opportunity for enterprising individuals. It helped to transform the gig economy into a landscape of value and empowerment. 

Remote Work Options 

The options available for freelancing and gig work have only increased with the rising trend of remote work. New technologies like streamlined video chatting and robust project management platforms have made it possible for a wider range of professionals to work independently from home. 

With no need for an in-house workforce, companies are increasingly open to the idea of managing a team of freelancers. And individual workers are seeing the benefits of working remotely for a handful of different clients, rather than pouring everything into a single employer and going to the same office every day. 

The Obstacles in the Way of Gig Work

Of course, the gig economy isn’t purely advantageous, and it isn’t loved by everyone. There are some key threats that could jeopardize the future of gig work, including: 

  • Regulations. Politicians are increasingly pushing for stricter regulations surrounding gig work. Employees are currently protected by a number of fairness and safety laws, which prevent employers from taking advantage of them or putting them in unsafe conditions. Currently, gig workers have little to no protection in this area. While new protections could put gig workers in a more favorable situation, it would also reduce some of the natural advantages of the arrangement, potentially reducing the number of gigs available for freelancers. 
  • Demand for benefits. One of the drawbacks of being a gig worker is that you generally won’t have access to employer benefits. You won’t have health insurance through your employer and you won’t be able to tap into a retirement program like a 401(k). If a greater percentage of gig workers grow dissatisfied with this arrangement, they may make a conscious push to change the norms within the gig economy (or pick up a full-time job instead). 
  • Worker dependence and mistreatment. Over time, a gig worker may become dependent on a client, platform, or employer; for example, an Uber driver may not feel able to leave Uber because they’ll be without a steady income. This type of environment can lead to abuse on the part of the employer; knowing their workforce is dependent on them, they can cut pay, slash benefits, and impose stricter performance requirements with reckless abandon. Of course, in a free market, these types of actions would be unsustainable. 

What Is the Future of Gig Work? 

So what does the future have in store for gig work? It seems like new technologies and increasingly flexible environments are favoring further developments for employers and freelancers. But at the same time, there are bigger political pushes to impose new regulations and restrictions on the world of gig work. Public demands, gig worker satisfaction, and corporate lobbying will collectively determine whether the gig economy will continue to grow or whether it will be permanently reined in. 

 

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Top Futurist Speakers to Have at Your Conference in 2021

top futurist speakers 2021

The future always arrives faster than you think and it often hits before you’re ready. Some people, though, have a talent for spotting trends. They see which technologies will make an impact, how new innovations will change society, and what’s coming up next for business and commerce. They also share what they’ve discovered. I’ve put together a list of the top futurist speakers to have at your conference in 2021.

Here are 25 of the best futurist keynote speakers. Each of these futurists speaks at major tech events — and when they’re not sharing their knowledge with audiences, they help top-level executives and marketing teams to prepare for the future.

  1. Joel Comm

Joel Comm tops the list with his almost 25 years of doing business online. He co-created Yahoo! Games, published 15 books, built a chart-topping iPhone app, and hosts a top blockchain podcast. He now leads the way with digital collectibles, a fast-growing field that combines blockchain technology with collection-building.

Comm is a top futurist speaker who helps businesses and brands arrive before the competition, and makes seemingly complex material easy to understand, refreshing, informative, and entertaining.

 

  1. Lisa Bodell

New technology and work practices can be complex and confusing. Lisa Bodell makes it simple. As the CEO of FutureThink, an innovation training firm, she provides innovative solutions that cut through the complexity.

Bodell spots new changes, identifies the most important characteristics that companies need to understand, and teaches them how to adapt and use new innovations.

 

 

  1. Bran Ferren

Bran Ferren used to have the best job in the world. After creating special effects for movies and theme parks, he became president of research and development and creative technology for Walt Disney.

Ferren is now the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Applied Minds, a design and invention firm. He also invented the pinch-to-zoom technology popularized by Apple. Ferren’s talks focus on the value of innovations and explain why we should care about new technology.

 

  1. Tan Le

For Tan Le, it’s all about the brain. A former refugee from Vietnam and now the founder and CEO of EMOTIV, a neuroinformatics company, Tan Le uses electroencephalography to deepen understanding of the brain and to develop brain-computer interfaces.

Her work has won her a host of innovation awards. Tan Le is the speaker you need to hear when you want to know how you’ll be using your brain in the future.

 

 

  1. Kate Ancketill

Kate Ancketill is the co-founder and CEO of GDR Creative Intelligence, a consultancy that helps brands to identify innovation trends. Her talks are packed with research that has been tested in the field and shown to help brands stay ahead of upcoming changes.

Ancketill explains how big companies change with technological and social innovation, and adapt to new customer behaviors.

 

 

  1. Brian Solis

Brian Solis is the Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce where he focuses on thought leadership and research into digital transformation, innovation and disruption, and the cognitive enterprise.

Solis is also the creator of “Lifescaling,� a model for living a creative digital life without diversions, focused on what’s important and making the most of the possibilities that technology offers.

 

 

  1. William Higham

William Higham is the head of Next Big Thing, a consultancy whose clients have included Amazon, HSBC, and MTV. He started his career in the music industry but his focus now is on consumer trends. He helps businesses and leaders predict changing tastes and adjust to meet them.

Higham’s successful trend-spotting has included helping the drinks industry cope with the rise of the New Sobriety, identifying Wellbeing Consumers, and championing Strictly Come Dancing, a surprising hit BBC show.

 
 
 

  1. Travis Wright

Travis Wright is the co-author of “Digital Sense: The Common Sense Approach to Effectively Blending Social Business Strategy, Marketing Technology, and Customer Experience.� He is the co-presenter, with Joel Comm, of the Bad Crypto Podcast, the leading guide to blockchain technology, and is also a pioneer in the world of digital collectibles.

Wright’s views of AI, machine learning, the blockchain, and martech has brought him to keynote stages around the world, including the annual Martech conference.

 

 

  1. Poppy Crum

Poppy Crum is an Adjunct Professor in Computer Research at Stanford University and the Chief Scientist at Dolby Laboratories. She has practical experience of using an understanding of human behavior, data, and combinations of wearable and immersive technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning to build commercial innovation.

Crum helps organizations to rethink their understanding of personalization and explains how technology can make products more personal and less technical.

 

 

  1. Ben Casnocha

Ben Casnocha is a venture capitalist. He’s a co-founder and partner at Village Global, a $100 million investment fund, and was the chief of staff of LinkedIn chairman Reid Hoffman. They’ve written a couple of books together, and Casnocha has helped to form an organization to promote Hoffman’s strategic priorities.

Casnocha’s has also founded e-government firm Comcate, and mentored at startup incubator, Techstars. Ben Casnocha’s speaking topics have covered the new employer-employee relationship, millennials at work, and the importance of thinking like an entrepreneur in today’s work environment.

 

  1. Michio Kaku

Michio Kaku is best known as a theoretical physicist who is trying to complete Einstein’s unified field theory.

Kaku is a Physics professor at the City University of New York is also a trendspotter. His book “Physics of the Future,� includes interviews with 300 of the world’s top scientists to understand what the next decades, and century, will mean for science.

The science includes the future of computers, robotics, biotechnology, and more. Kaku’s talks cover both the physics of the future and the future of the mind.

 

  1. Vivek Wadhwa 

Vivek Wadhwa is a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program. He’s the author of five books and has been named by Foreign Policy magazine one of the world’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers.� His research focuses on the effect of technology on employment.

Wadhwa has explored the role of corporate training programs in the rise of Indian companies, diversity in Silicon Valley, and the risks of America’s visa program for skilled workers. His talks cover ways to navigate technological change, disruption and opportunity, and the role of technology in medicine.

 

  1. Kate Darling

For Kate Darling, the future is all about robots. A research specialist at MIT’s Media Lab, Kate Darling conducts experiments into the way that humans and robots interact. She’s taught a robot ethics course at Harvard Law School and has researched incentives in copyright and patent systems.

Although Darling has a background in law it’s her insights into the behavior of robots and how humans will interact with them that make her talks so vital.

 

 

  1. Kevin Mitnick

Kevin Mitnick is unusual among futurist speakers in having once been placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. He had hacked into more than 40 major companies to see whether he could do it.

Mitnick is now one of the world’s most skilled white hat hackers, hired by governments and corporations to test their security and cyber defense systems. Mitnick’s talks cover a range of cyber defense issues from digital privacy to remote workplace safety and social engineering.

 

 

 

  1. Crystal Washington

Crystal Washington helps businesses apply technology to increase their profits. She plots a path through social media’s most effective functions, explaining technology hacks that can increase sales.

Washington talks through her own strategies for building an effective and efficient home office, and she ensures that technology serves her clients instead of forcing companies to accommodate themselves to new innovations.

 

 

 

  1. Gary Shapiro

Gary Shapiro is the president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, the owner and produce of the Consumer Electronics Show. He’s a leading lobbyist, pushing for more skilled employees, immigration, and free trade, and the elimination of regulatory and tax burdens on innovators.

Shapiro’s talks focus on the place of innovation in America and how it can create jobs and build new industries.

 

 

 

  1. Chike Aguh

Chike Aguh is a Technology and Human Rights Fellow at the Harvard Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and a Venture Partner at New Markets Venture Partners with a focus on workforce technologies.

Aguh talks about the future of work and explains how automation could change as much as two-thirds of jobs. He also discusses the social impact and the effects of the gig economy, re-skilling, and a multi-generational workplace.

 

 

 

  1. Cate Trotter

Cate Trotter is the founder and Head of Trends at Insider Trends. Her focus is on retail. She looks for the effects of trends like wearable technology, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things, and explains to brands how those changes will affect the customer experience and future commerce.

As an entrepreneur, Trotter has created and run two companies of her own. She is able to describe both theory and its practical effects and provides these explanations to brands.

 

 

 

  1. David Hanson

If tomorrow’s world is filled with robots, it will probably be because of David Hanson. The founder and CEO of Hanson Robotics, Hanson started his career at Walt Disney, as a sculptor and a technical robotics consultant.

Hanson has now used artificial intelligence and new skin materials to create a realistic android called Sophia. David Hanson’s talks explain how the world will look when it is filled with androids.

 

 

  1. Gary Hamel

Gary Hamel is the author of “The Future of Management,� a future he’s been bringing to businesses throughout his career. As a consultant, he’s helped a number of large brands update their management and production processes, helping them get more out of their employees and develop more efficient ways to generate innovation.

While many futurist speakers focus on how demand will change, Gary Hamel talks about how management will change to meet that demand.

 

 

  1. Hakeem Oluseyi

Most futurist speakers focus on how the future will affect business. Hakeem Oluyesi is more about the science. A difficult childhood, which involved ten schools in seven years, led to plenty of reading and science television.

After completing a Ph.D. at Stanford, Oluyesi worked on computer chips in Silicon Valley then moved to NASA where he is now the organization’s Space Education Lead.

Elon Musk might be building the rockets that will take us to space but Hakeem Oluyesi understands what we’ll find when we get there.

 

  1. Magnus Lindkvist

Magnus Lindkvist notices the small stuff. In his book, “Minifesto,� he explains how small ideas will help to build large narratives.

At the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship, Lindkvist created the world’s first academically accredited course in Trendspotting and Future Thinking. His talks focus on how we think about the world, and how we can use those thoughts to understand, predict, and build the future.

 

 

 

  1. Rachel Armstrong

Much of the future will focus on building and improving sustainable environmental solutions. Rachel Armstrong is a professor at Newcastle University in experimental architecture. She looks for innovative environmental solutions to address challenges such as carbon capture, recycling, smart materials and sustainable design.

Armstrong’s expertise is in synthetic biology which she believes could offer sustainable solutions to built environments.

 

 

  1. Richard Watson

Richard Watson is a Futurist-in-Residence for the Technology Foresight Practice at Imperial College and a founding member of Futures House, a scenario planning consultancy.

Watson’s talks focus on trends and strategic foresight, but his skill is applying those trends to innovation, retail, and other industries, and explaining how those industries will need to adapt.

 

 

  1. Rohit Bhargava

After 15 years at two of the world’s biggest marketing and branding companies, Rohit Bhargava struck out on his own, forming three companies. He is the founder of the Non-Obvious Company, and also its Chief Trend Curator.

Bhargava’s Non-Obvious Trend Report is published at the end of every year and is read by more than a million people.

 

 

 

Top Image Credit: maria eduarda tavares; pexels

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Startups

What Every Entrepreneur Should Do Before Launching a Startup

do before launching startup

Launching a startup is always exciting. This is your opportunity to accumulate wealth, make a name for yourself, innovate in some unique way, and possibly leave behind a legacy. But too many entrepreneurs end up failing because they were inadequately prepared.

Before you even consider launching a startup, there are many preparatory steps you’ll need to take.

Set the Right Expectations

Before you do anything, you need to set the right expectations. A combination of media attention and survivorship bias has led people to believe that launching a startup is a surefire path to success – and maybe even a path to becoming a billionaire.

Being overoptimistic can cause you to overlook important weaknesses and threats and be disappointed and frustrated when things don’t go your way.

Consider:

  • While it’s easier to start a business today than it was, say, 30 years ago, there are still prohibitive costs to keep in mind. Depending on the nature of your startup, you may be responsible for paying for licensing, an office, employees, technological infrastructure, marketing, and more. If you’re not prepared, these costs could completely overwhelm your budget and make it nearly impossible to recover.
  • Failure rates. Some businesses explode in growth, becoming tech unicorns worth more than a billion dollars. Others make a fair amount on an ongoing basis, becoming a reliable source of income for their founders and employees. But half of all businesses fail within five years of launching. You need to be prepared for that reality.
  • Media stories often make it seem like tech startups skyrocket to success overnight. But the reality is, most successful businesses are the result of many years of hard work – including an entrepreneur’s previous failed attempts that serve as lessons for future development. You’ll need to prepare for a long, complex journey to be successful.
  • Hard work. Being an entrepreneur may seem like a lot of fun – especially when you get to choose your own employees and set your own work schedule. However, no matter what, you’re going to face significant hard work. You’ll be working long hours, often into the evenings and weekends, and facing stress from a combination of many factors.
  • Just because market conditions look a certain way at the beginning of your journey doesn’t mean they’re going to stay that way forever. Many tech startups fold because they can’t keep up with a changing market, new competitors, or other unpredicted factors.

Do Your Research

You should already know the importance of doing your research before starting a business, but many entrepreneurs skip or gloss over this vital step. You’ll need to dig deep into many areas of business development; for example, you should learn about your target demographics, the current competition, future prospects, financial models, and other factors critical to your success.

Objective data isn’t going to instantly make your business more viable, but it will give you something good to start with.

Write a Business Plan

You can’t launch an effective business without having a business plan in place first. Your idea may be brilliant, and it may solve a problem effectively, but does it have a reliable way to make money? Your business plan will force you to think through your entire business concept, modeling financials for years in the future and outlining the biggest strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats before you.

This document will serve as a blueprint you can reference as you invest time and money in your business and begin to grow. It’s also going to serve as a persuasion tool, potentially attracting new investors or partners to your startup.

Build Your Network

Not even the most seasoned, inventive entrepreneurs can build a successful business by themselves. Most businesses strongly benefit from the help of a robust professional network. Through networking, you’ll meet potential investors, partners, employees, vendors, and even peers who can give you advice. Throughout the course of your startup’s development, these people will be indispensable in helping your business grow.

It pays to get an early start here. It’s much more beneficial to have a strong network and start a business than start a business and then build a network.

Find What Makes You Unique

Your business is going to face competition, no matter how original your idea is. There may be competitors already on the market, or they may begin to arise only after establishing yourself as a major player. Either way, you’ll need to find something that differentiates you from the competition. What’s something you can offer that other businesses like yours can’t? What’s your unique value proposition?

Don’t start a business without an answer in mind, or else you’ll face significant competitive issues.

Get Support

Hopefully, you’ll have a network in place by the time you’re ready to launch your startup. Otherwise, you’ll need to start reaching out as your startup begins to develop.

Pay critical attention to:

  • You may like the idea of starting a business by yourself, but even a single partner can reduce your fiscal obligations and make your life easier.
  • Investors can make sure your startup has the capital it needs to grow and become successful; they’re also great sources of advice and direction.
  • Your employees are the people responsible for turning your vision into a reality. Don’t skimp on the hiring process.
  • When your startup begins to mature, you’ll want a few eager clients in the wings to step up and provide you with income.

Foster New Skills

Being an entrepreneur means wearing many hats. In the span of a day, you’ll take on responsibilities like accounting, hiring people, making critical business decisions, marketing, making sales, negotiating, making purchases, and more. You’ll also need soft skills like communication and emotional intelligence.

In the months and years leading up to your foray into entrepreneurship, it’s a good idea to develop some of these skills. See if you can land yourself in a leadership position, whether it’s in your job or a volunteering opportunity. Take courses to develop yourself in areas of weakness, and talk to people who may know more than you on these subjects.

Get a Marketing Strategy Together

There are tons of marketing options these days, even if you have a small budget as an emerging startup. But one thing is certain; it’s almost impossible to build an effective brand presence without marketing. Even if you’re relying on positive word of mouth and referrals, you’ll need some initial marketing to attract your first customers.

Some of the best options here include search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing, since they’re both relatively inexpensive, accessible to all businesses, and ideal for long-term growth. However, there are plenty of other options to choose from.

Come Up With Contingency Plans

Don’t forget the failure rate of startups. Even with the best-laid plans, there’s a chance your business will fail. You’ll need to be prepared for that reality with contingency plans – long before you start the business properly.

Consider:

  • Personal financing. Your income may be unstable as your business begins to develop. Can your personal finances take the hit? Do you have another source of income you can rely on?
  • If your business isn’t growing the way you expected or wanted, is there a different business model you could pivot to? What outlets for growth and development are there for your business?
  • Alternate career paths. Finally, are there alternative career paths that could sustain you? For example, is there a different type of business you could start, or could you join an established company in this industry to gain more experience?

No matter how good your startup idea is or how original it is, these steps will be vital to maximize your chances of success. Entrepreneurship is often fun, and always stimulating, but it’s not going to end in success unless you’re adequately prepared.

Image Credit: Minervastudio; pexels

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AI Culture Startups

What Is the Future of HR?

What Is the Future of HR?

Human resource (HR) departments have long been integral to organizational success, and they’re likely to remain that way for decades to come. But the nature of HR is likely to evolve with new technologies, research, and trends.

What does the future of HR look like?

Remodeling the Workforce

For starters, we may see HR leading the charge in remodeling the shape of the average workforce. Increasingly, employers and consumers alike are valuing diversity and inclusion; companies are working harder to ensure a mix of people from different backgrounds are included at all levels of the organization. In the future, this is going to become an even bigger priority.

But this is a minor change compared to the next generation of workforce management. We’re already starting to see a blend of human beings and machines in the workplace, and in the near future, this is going to become more prominent – even in businesses filled with mostly high-skilled, white-collar workers. How will you handle the transition from a human position to one handled by an AI algorithm? How will you ensure that humans and machines can collaborate and maximize productivity together? How will you optimize the balance between human beings and machines in the workplace? And how can you tell what an optimal balance is?

These will be the big-picture questions dictating HR development in the future.

Remote Work

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work was gaining popularity. Employees were getting a feel for the benefits of the arrangement, such as cutting down on commute time, improving flexibility, and even increasing productivity. At the same time, employers get to save money and see better results. After the pandemic forced businesses to rethink work and increase safety, these benefits became more apparent to a wider range of businesses.

Today, HR departments are evolving to treat remote work as the default – rather than a temporary or gimmicky new approach to conventional work. That trend is likely to continue into the future as remote work becomes even more widely accepted.

The Evolution of HR Software

Today’s HR departments and organizations rely on HR software like Rippling to handle things like payroll, benefits management, and employee device management. Using one platform, they can store, review, and gather information, send messages, and even generate reports to analyze data. It’s seemingly comprehensive.

But in the future, these platforms will likely become even more robust. We’ll see the addition of new streams of data, real-time analyses, and possibly the inclusion of machine learning and AI algorithms to increase productivity or improve results.

Culture and Unity

Part of HR’s job is to create and sustain the culture within an organization, and make the team feel unified. This is increasingly difficult in a world dominated by remote work, but it’s increasingly demanded by the workforce.

Accordingly, HR will need to find new channels for communication, teambuilding, and collecting employee feedback. Organizational culture management is going to evolve into new forms, and employees will have to develop a different set of expectations for how it’s facilitated. In line with this, HR leaders will have to remain agile, forging culture-based connections when they can while still preserving the structure of the business.

The Gig Economy: Here to Stay?

Technology is responsible for introducing the “gig economy.� Though freelancing and gig work concepts have existed for decades, apps like Uber, Fiverr, and Airbnb made it much easier for individuals to offer their services as freelancers. In turn, corporations have attempted to take advantage of this by relying more heavily on contractors and freelancers instead of making the investments in full-time employees. This is favorable as a cost-saving measure, but it also introduces more flexibility into the organization. And while workers miss some benefits, they also have more freedom to control their workloads and explore other opportunities.

However, it remains uncertain whether the gig economy is here to stay or whether it was something of a temporary detour. Either way, HR departments will have to adapt to keep in line with current trends.

The Employee Experience

We’re already seeing a wave of momentum favoring the development and maintenance of the “employee experience.� In other words, how does an employee feel about the business and engage with the business, from the moment they’re recruited to their ongoing career development? Positive employee experiences lead to higher morale, higher productivity, and higher employee retention. The subjective nature of the employee experience can also reveal a lot about how the organization operates.

In the future, employee experience will become an even higher priority – and become easier to measure and control. Better tools will make it easier for employees to provide feedback about their experiences throughout their careers, and better analytics platforms will make it easier to figure out which changes to make to improve the business.

Data-Driven Insights

Nearly all departments and all industries are increasingly relying on data to improve, and HR is no different. In the future, HR will become even more reliant on data to operate efficiently.

Today’s HR departments use a variety of data points to create images of job candidates, employees, and organizational efficiency, such as hours worked, employee retention, and metrics related to recruiting, training, and development. Data may become even more granular in the future, studying nuanced elements of employee behaviors from the moment they’re recruited.

Most of these data will be collected automatically, with the help of device tracking and robust HR software platforms – which leads to our next points.

AI and Automation

HR departments are also likely to incorporate more AI and automation. Automation is a no-brainer; if you can automate a task that ordinarily requires manual human effort, you’ll instantly reduce the hours your employees need to work. Not only does this save the organization money, it also frees up human employees to focus on more important things.

Artificial intelligence (AI) will also serve a bigger role in the future. With sufficiently advanced machine learning algorithms, HR leaders can quickly and efficiently crunch the numbers they’ve gathered and come to a final conclusion. And in the right context, a suitable AI could even handle previously human-exclusive tasks, such as handling employee conflicts or interviewing candidates.

Sustainability and Image

Today’s consumers care more about sustainability, and not just environmental sustainability. Human and social sustainability require businesses to engage in socially responsible hiring and employee management practices. Today, this includes hiring people from a diverse range of backgrounds, treating employees fairly, and compensating them well. In the future, these are going to become even bigger priorities for consumers, which means businesses will need to do more to make their operations transparent (and show off their sustainability efforts).

The very nature of human and social sustainability may also evolve in the near future. For example, if machines are gradually replacing human jobs in a certain industry, will it be considered socially sustainable or responsible to maintain at least some human jobs?

Cycles of Progression

Over time, the rate of change within HR departments is likely to increase; in other words, HR progression will be accelerating. As we’ve seen, technology tends to evolve exponentially. New technologies get incorporated into existing businesses that create even newer, better technologies. And once things like machine learning and big data analytics get thrown into the mix, it’s hard to stop that momentum.

This acceleration will also be fueled by competition. As HR departments begin pushing the limits of their productivity and effectiveness, other HR departments must follow suit to keep up. Nobody wants to be left in the dust with a years-old platform that’s now becoming obsolete in mainstream workforces.

Even with the onset of AI, automation, and a machine-heavy workforce, HR departments are going to remain important for productivity and sustainability for the foreseeable future. However, the role of an HR manager or HR director is going to change substantially in the coming years. No one can predict the future, but we can see many of these trends already developing in the present. The transformation is already unfolding.

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