by Geoff Colvin
It speaks volumes about your own tech strategy.
If you’re a CEO or manager in the U.S. right now, you know that technology is the big, secular factor holding the most danger and opportunity for your business. You’ve got really smart people in your company working hard on how technology can make you more competitive, help you avoid disruption, and maybe even let you disrupt other businesses.
But you should remember that even the smartest technology experts are consistently getting one thing wrong: the speed with which technology is advancing. Let’s take a look at the news of the past few days:
—Software developed at Carnegie Mellon University last week annihilated a group of the world’s best poker players in a No-Limit Texas Hold ’Em tournament. This is highly significant. Twenty years ago, IBM software beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov by modeling millions of scenarios per second. But that approach wouldn’t work against Go, a game too complex for modeling all possible scenarios; so Google combined neural networks and machine learning to beat world champion Lee Sedol last year. That shocked artificial intelligence experts. Christof Koch, chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, wrote in Scientific American, “Such an event was prognosticated to be at least a decade away.”
Continue reading Why You Should Care That Facebook’s Getting Really Good at Facial Recognition
by Terry Savage
If you think your finances are safer now that you use a chip card, think again. The latest Javelin Identity Fraud Study reports the number of identity fraud victims increased by 16 percent in 2016 to more than 15 million consumers. And the amount the thieves took grew by $1 billion to more than $16 billion in the past year.
A large part of the increase came from “card not present” fraud in the first year since chip cards became widely used. Fraudsters are resorting to more invasive ways of getting your identity details than simply counterfeiting mag stripe cards.
So-called “phishing” schemes have become far more sophisticated. Gone are the days of the misspellings and clumsy grammar that made fraud emails obvious. Fraudsters have gotten better at tricking you into clicking on a link in one of these emails. Once you do that on your computer or smartphone, these links deploy malware called “bots” to collect all your data, including PIN and CV authentication numbers as you shop online.
There’s also a growing trend of identity fraud crimes enabled by victims’ social media posts. Harmless items on your pages, including celebrations of your birthday, or a college graduation or reunion, give thieves information they use open new accounts in your name. Fraudulent new credit accounts for more than half the increase in identity theft crime last year.
So what should you be doing to guard your identity? Here are some suggestions, which mostly involve common sense and a commitment to regularly review your finances.
—Check online accounts regularly. Visit your bank or credit card website at least once a week to make sure that no withdrawals or unauthorized charges have been made. Yes, you’re protected from fraud, but there’s no way to avoid the hassle of getting a new account number when you’ve been attacked. At least you can minimize the trauma by catching fraudulent purchases immediately.
Continue reading Identity Theft Takes a New Turn
by Gene Marks
Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?
1 – Microsoft says its speech recognition is now as good as humans.
Based on a study it did, the software giant put its speech recognition technology up against professional transcriptionists. The result? Humans made more mistakes than the software. (Source: VentureBeat)
Why this is important for your business:
According to the VentureBeat article, Microsoft has called this a milestone in human parity and believes that it will have “broad implications for consumer and business products that can be significantly augmented by speech recognition.” I don’t doubt that.
2 – Facebook announces new features to help small businesses sell more products and services.
The social media leader has released updates so that restaurants can receive orders and service providers can accept appointments directly on their Facebook pages and have them land on Microsoft’s new Bookings app that will soon be included with Office 365. It’s also enhanced its ability to make buying recommendations when users ask a question. (Source: Recode and Microsoft Office Blogs).
Why this is important for your business:
All these enhancements are free and are designed to not only make it easier for your Facebook customers to do business with you, but to receive new business through recommendations, too.
3 – You will soon be able to receive customer texts directly from a Google ad.
Google says that advertisers will soon be able to allow recipients of their ads to send texts with questions directly to the advertiser. (Source: VentureBeat)
Why this is important for your business:
When customers see your ad now and they have a question, they have to go searching for ways to contact you – with many losing interest in the process. Allowing them to quickly text their questions right from the ad will solve that problem and hopefully keep customers buying. Continue reading Microsoft Can Now Talk Better Than Humans And Other Small Business Tech News This Week
by Chip Bell
The owner answered the phone. “Are you still open?” I asked him incredulously. “Oh no, we close at 6pm. But, I call forward the store phone to my cell in case of a customer
emergency.” I explained my attempt to repair my aging pipe and the part I needed. “Why don’t you meet me at the store,” he said. “I can be there in five minutes.” You know the rest of this story. I still smile when I drive by his store and recall his abundant service.
Abundance is a self-less gesture that changes the calculus of service from miserly subtraction to Midas-like addition. It signals to customers their preeminent importance. It telegraphs a true customer-centric operation. And, it elevates customer loyalty into the stratosphere. Such service is often the subject of stories we share for years, not just through next week.
The sports world was uplifted in the 2016 Rio Olympics 5000 meter heat when Abbey D’Agostino of the USA fell, causing her to trip up Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand, a fellow runner she did not know. D’Agostino could have regained her composure and continued toward the finish line. Instead she worked to help Hamblin to her feet. But, D’Agostino’s injured legs buckled in the attempt and Hamblin returned the favor, helping D’Agosion. Neither runner resumed the race until both could successfully run. Because neither was at fault for the fall, both were allowed to race in the finals. “It is a moment,” said Hamblin, “I will never, ever forget for the rest of my life.” The cheering fans that watched the abundant gesture are not likely to forget it either.
Give to your customers the very best that you have; their best will come back to you. The ROI will not just be in the form of retention, revenue and recognition; it will be a customer that works very hard to take care of your brand. A friend raves about her favorite restaurant. She admits she tides up the lavatory after using their bathroom so the next patron will be impressed. How can you serve with such abundance that your customers work as hard for you as you work for you?
by Terry Savage
Making decisions about health insurance is complicated and potentially very costly. It’s no surprise that Americans don’t do a great job of it. It takes work to figure out the best health insurance options. And few people take the time to do it right.
Alegeus Healthcare, a provider of platforms for corporate insurance plans, compiles an annual Healthcare Consumerism Index that measures the “degree of engagement … exhibited during healthcare spending and saving decisions.” It reports that the index this year jumped to 54.4 from 48.3. So, we’re doing better.
But, to put that in perspective, consumers score 78.9 on the index when considering the purchase of a television and 76.2 when evaluating the purchase of a cell phone!
Everyone faces choices. Medicare recipients know that basic coverage is simple, though the monthly premium depends on their income. But they must also choose a supplement plan and a Part D prescription drug plan.
Continue reading Help With Health Insurance Choices
by Jack Uldrich
Every business leader feels it and knows it–the world is changing at an accelerating pace. Business models are shifting, consumer behaviors and preferences are evolving swiftly, and emerging technologies and platforms are transforming the competitive landscape. In such an environment, it is difficult to look ahead to the next quarter, let alone the next year. Still, a business leader’s top priority is to position their company for continued future success. The question is: How?
As professional foresight consultants we’d like to offer a big “AHA” containing three unconventional ideas for how you can begin future-proofing your business today. “AHA” is an acronym that stands for Awareness, Humility and Action. You must strive to enhance your awareness of changes on the horizon; have enough humility to acknowledge that what served your business well in the past might not be sufficient tomorrow; and be willing to take action in the face of less-than-perfect information.
Awareness: See What You Can’t See
Many leaders today still rely on traditional methods to stay abreast of advances in their field, such as reading newspapers, industry websites, and attending trade conferences. This is all fine and well, but in an era of accelerating change tomorrow’s threats and opportunities are less and less likely to come at you through conventional means. This implies you must learn to see differently.
The Chinese have a wonderful saying, “The periphery is the new center.” Therefore, to see what you can’t yet see, you need to go to the periphery and expose yourself to fresh and unique ways of perceiving your industry.
Continue reading The Big AHA: Three Unconventional Ways to Future-Proof Your Business Today
by Gene Marks
If you work for some big companies, you actually get paid to sleep. I’m serious.
Just this week Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini said in an interview that his company pays his employees to sleep. “If they can prove they get 20 nights of sleep for seven hours or more in a row, we will give them $25 a night, up to $500 a year,” he said, explaining Aetna uses various ways to help workers keep track, including the use of Fitbit fitness trackers.
The Huffington Post isn’t paying people to sleep — they’re just encouraging their employees to sleep on the job. They’ve got nap rooms in their offices. They’re not alone. According to this report “other companies like Google, Zappos and Ben & Jerry’s are getting on board with the napping trend. All now have built nap rooms in their offices.”
Paid for sleeping? Napping at work? Nice! Sign me up!
In these times of low unemployment and a lack of skilled workers, big companies are coming up with all sorts of crazy perks to entice millennials through their doors. LinkedIn offers unlimited vacation. Etsy’s paid time off policy covers new parents of either gender. Spotify covers the cost of egg freezing and fertility assistance. Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) helps its employees pay down their student debt. Twilio gives employees a free Kindle and a monthly allowance to purchase books. Twitter offers onsite acupuncture and “improvisation” classes. Asana’s employees get free life coaching. Zillow pays the overnight shipping costs for moms who are breast feeding. Perks, perks, perks!
Continue reading This Is Why Lots of Talented People Choose to Never Work for a Big Company
By Chip Bell
The Platters were a favorite singing group of mine. They had forty songs that made the Top 100; four that were #1 hits. One of their top songs opens with the lyrics: “You’ve got the magic touch; it makes me glow so much. It casts a spell, it rings a bell, the magic touch.” Now, assume your customers were singing a song about their experience when dealing with you and your organization. What would it take for them to use similar lyrics in describing that experience.
The magic touch that makes customers glow is one that is more than a whimsical tease or a momentary cosmetic delight. It is enduring and memorable. It causes customers to remember their experience long after they have forgotten the outcome or product they came to you for.
My business partner and I walked into a Starbucks in LA we had frequented a few times while working with a client. It had been a year since we crossed their threshold. The barista put her hands on her hips and said, “Where have you boys been? We have missed you.” And, then proceeded to make our drinks just like we had ordered them a year earlier. Now, here is the enduring part. That was six years ago and I am still telling that story—and I would drive an hour out of my way to get a tall skinny cinnamon dolce from that Starbucks.
Make your experiences as deep, personal and enduring, as they are fun and energetic. Look for ways to customize. Make it uplifting and filled with passion. Find approaches that light up your customers’ spirit and make their day special. When you cast a spell and ring a bell, you make your customers glow and your bottom line grow. Reach out to your customers with your magic touch.
by Geoff Colvin
It’s the world’s longest, highest-stakes ironman triathlon.
Running for president must be one of the most stressful activities a person can engage in. I realize that firefighters, hostage negotiators, Navy SEALs, and others go through times of indescribable stress, but they pass. Running for president takes two years, and as far as I can tell, you never get to rest.
Now that New Hampshire is voting, the candidates must make hay in South Carolina and Nevada while also preparing for Super Tuesday, just three weeks from today, when 14 states choose convention delegates. Taking a break only damages your chances. It’s the world’s longest, highest-stakes ironman triathlon. That’s why, long ago, the political operatives who worked on the campaigns of John, Robert, and Edward Kennedy would check themselves into a hospital on the day after election day.
Our topic today is stress because it’s a centrally important issue for all leaders and it is, like sleep, an issue that big-deal leaders are supposed to laugh at. Sleep? Who needs it? Donald Trump claimed in a debate that he got along fine on three hours a night. Stress? It goes with the territory. Don’t whine about it. But in reality stress hurts you and can kill you, and, like sleep deprivation, it’s an issue that all leaders need to confront.
Continue reading The Hardest Part About Running for President
by Terry Savage
The stock market is just plain scary these days. What should you do when market gyrations make headlines? The simple answer is: Do Nothing!
Never make investment decisions based on emotion. And the two most dangerous emotions are running rampant right now: Fear and Greed. The only way to overcome them is to have a sensible investment plan – and stick to it.
That’s the kind of discipline that comes from experience. And experience is an expensive teacher. So if you can’t do it on your own, this is the time you’ll appreciate having a financial advisor. There are three key ingredients involved in disciplined investing:
1. You Need Perspective. All historical context seems to fly out the window when markets go wild. You’re influenced not only by emotion, but by your recent investment experiences.
Right now, those experiences are in conflict. You remember the three years in a row of double-digit gains in 2012, 2013, and 2014. (Last year was basically flat.) But you also remember the market crash of 2008-09, which literally cut market averages almost in half, wiping out your previous gains.
And now you search frantically for a clue as to whether this is just a temporary decline – or the beginning of another bear market. No one can give you that answer definitively — in advance!
Continue reading The Stock Market: What Should You Do Now?