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The Industry 4.0 Advantage

This visceral image of “industry” being gritty and exclusively blue-collar is true to some degree, but when “4.0” is added to it, it takes on a whole new meaning, and blue-collar workers end up believing the narrative that robots and artificial intelligence (A.I.) will delete their jobs.

Though common, this fear is unwarranted. Despite the now-proven Hard Trend that A.I., advanced automation and robotics, 3D printing, and other industrial Internet of Things (IoT) advancements often replace mundane tasks in manufacturing, Industry 4.0 transformations allow us to work alongside machines in new, highly productive ways.

Industry 1.0 to 4.0

Manufacturing in every industry has evolved as four distinct industrial revolutions since the 1800s. The first industrial revolution took place between the late 1700s and early 1800s. Manufacturing evolved to optimized labor performed by the use of water- and steam-powered engines with human beings working alongside them.

The second industrial revolution began in the early part of the 20th century, introducing steel and use of electricity in factories. These developments enabled manufacturers to mobilize factory machinery and allowed for capitalizing on manpower in mass production concepts like the assembly line.

A third industrial revolution began in the late 1950s, which brought with it automation technology, computers, and robotics, increasing efficiency and repositioning the human workforce. Near the end of this period, manufacturers began experiencing a shift from legacy technology to an increase in attention to digital technology and automation software.

The current industrial revolution is Industry 4.0, which increases interconnectivity and networked intelligence through the Internet of Things (IoT) and other cyber-physical systems. Industry 4.0 is far more interlinked than revolutions before, allowing for improved company communication and collaboration.

The general definition of Industry 4.0 is the rise of digital industrial technology. To better understand, let’s take a look at nine building blocks of Industry 4.0.

Big Data and Analytics

Industry 4.0 allows for streamlining, collecting and comprehending data from many different sources, including networked sensors, production equipment, and customer-management systems, improving real-time decision making.

Autonomous Robots

The ability for robots to interact with one another while accomplishing rhetorical tasks increases productivity and opens new job opportunities for employees willing to learn new things. These future autonomous robots will cost less while having greater range of capabilities.

Advanced Simulation

Advanced simulations will be used more extensively in plant operations to leverage real-time data, mirroring the physical world in a virtual model. This includes machines, products, and humans and allows operators to test and optimize the machine settings in the virtual world first, accelerating a predict-and-prevent operational strategy for downtime issues.

Horizontal and Vertical System Integration

Universal data-integration networks in Industry 4.0 increase connectivity among departments, suppliers, and partners. This resolves lack of communication or miscommunication within a project crossing departmental boundaries.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

Decentralizing analytics and decision making while enabling real-time feedback is key in today’s age. IIoT means connected sensors, machines communicating with each other, and more devices having embedded computing enabling Edge Computing, where networked sensors get new data instantly and automated decisions happen faster.

Agile and Anticipatory Cybersecurity

Secure means of communication and identity management is quite important to cybersecurity in Industry 4.0, as increased interconnectivity brings the risk of security issues. Manufacturing companies must pre-solve problems in cybersecurity and implement anticipatory systems by adding a predict-and-prevent layer to A.I.

Advanced Hybrid Cloud and Virtualization

As data increases, local storage will not suffice, which brings us to Cloud Services and Virtualization. Elements of high-speed data analytics coupled with A.I. and machine learning enable real-time knowledge sharing. Advanced Cloud Services also enable anticipatory predict-and-prevent strategies.

Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing)

Advanced additive-manufacturing methods will be integrated into mass production systems, providing a new level of speed and customization along with the ability to solve complex manufacturing problems while also functioning as a standalone system for custom manufacturing.

Augmented Reality

According to my Hard Trend Methodology, this relatively new technology will gain more traction as augmented reality (A.R.) apps for business and industry are developed. For example, in Industry 4.0, AR can help quickly find parts in a warehouse by looking around from one location.

The adaptation of any of the new technologies in Industry 4.0 will face an uphill battle, as blue-collar manufacturing industries are not often open-minded about embracing new technology often seen as a job eliminator. Embracing the ever-changing spectrum of Industry 4.0 technologies allows acceleration of innovation, pre-solving seemingly impossible problems, and developing and implementing digital manufacturing solutions.

Leaders should help their managers and employees anticipate disruption and change to get excited about learning new skills that will keep them employed and ensure development in their careers. Start with my latest book The Anticipatory OrganizationI have a special offer for you!

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Artificial Intelligence: Disruption or Opportunity?

Artificial intelligence (AI), one of twenty core technologies I identified back in 1983 as the drivers of exponential economic value creation, has worked its way into our lives. From Amazon’s Alexa and Facebook’s M to Google’s Now and Apple’s Siri, AI is always growing — so keeping a closer eye on future developments, amazing opportunities, and predictable problems is imperative.

IBM’s Watson is a good example of a fast-developing AI system. Watson is a cognitive computer that learns over time. This cognitive AI technology can process information much more like a smart human than a smart computer. IBM Watson first shot to fame back in 2011 by beating two of Jeopardy’s greatest champions on TV. Thanks to its three unique capabilities — natural language processing; hypothesis generation and evaluation; and dynamic learning — cognitive computing is being applied in an ever-growing list of fields.

Today, cognitive computing is used in a wide variety of applications, including health care, travel, and weather forecasting. When IBM acquired The Weather Company, journalists were quick to voice their amusement. However, IBM soon had the last laugh when people learned that the Weather Company’s cloud-based service could handle over 26 million inquiries every day on the organization’s website and mobile app, all while learning from the daily changes in weather and from the questions being asked. The data gleaned from the fourth most-used mobile app would whet the appetite of the permanently ravenous IBM Watson and enable IBM to increase the level of analytics for its business clients.

Weather is responsible for business losses to the tune of $500 billion a year. Pharmaceutical companies rely on accurate forecasts to predict a rise in the need for allergy medication. Farmers’ livelihoods often depend on the weather as well, not only impacting where crops can be successfully grown but also where the harvest should be sold. Consider the news that IBM followed its Weather Company purchase by snapping up Merge Healthcare Inc. for a cool $1 billion in order to integrate its imaging management platform into Watson, and the dynamic future of AI becomes more than evident.

The accounting industry can benefit from this technology, as well. When I was the keynote speaker at KPMG’s annual partner meeting, I suggested that the company consider partnering with IBM to have Watson learn all of the global accounting regulations so that they could transform their practice and gain a huge advantage. After doing their own research on the subject, the KPMG team proceeded to form an alliance with IBM’s Watson unit to develop high-tech tools for auditing, as well as for KPMG’s other lines of business.

Thanks to the cloud and the virtualization of services, no one has  to own the tools in order to have access to them, allowing even smaller firms to gain an advantage in this space. Success all comes back to us humans and how creatively we use the new tools.

IBM’s Watson, along with advanced AI and analytics from Google, Facebook, and others, will gain cognitive insights mined from the ever-growing mountains of data generated by the Internet of Things (IoT) to revolutionize every industry.

Advanced AI is promising almost limitless possibilities that will enable businesses in every field to make better decisions in far less time. But at what price? Many believe the technology will lead directly to massive job cuts throughout multiple industries. and suggest that this technology is making much of the human race redundant.

It is crucial to recognize how the technological landscape is evolving before our eyes during this digital transformation. Yes, it is true that hundreds of traditional jobs are disappearing, but it’s also important to realize the wealth of new roles and employment opportunities arriving that are needed to help us progress further.

The rise of the machines started with the elimination of repetitive tasks, such as those in the manufacturing environment, and it is now moving more into white-collar jobs. The key for us is not to react to change, but to get ahead of it by paying attention to what I call the “Hard Trends” — the facts that are shaping the future — so that we can all anticipate the problems and new opportunities ahead of us. We would do well to capitalize on the areas that computers have great difficulty understanding, including collaboration, communication, problem solving, and much more. To stay ahead of the curve, we will all need to learn new things on an ongoing basis, as well as unlearn the old ways that are now holding us back. Remember, we live in a human world where relationships are all-important.

We need to be aware of the new tools available to us, and then creatively apply them to transform the impossible into the possible. By acquiring new knowledge, developing creativity and problem-solving skills, and honing our interpersonal, social, and communication skills, we can all thrive in a world of transformational change.

Are you reacting to change or paying attention to the Hard Trend facts that are shaping the future?

If you want to anticipate the problems and opportunities ahead of you, pick up a copy of my latest book, The Anticipatory Organization.

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Trends for Every Salesperson

Every profession goes through changes, especially sales. A certain sales technique may have worked in the past, but that doesn’t mean it’ll work today. To be a top-performing salesperson today and in the future, you must continuously adapt to both market and social conditions.

There are several new business trends taking place—all of which affect salespeople in every industry. Understand what the trends are and how to maximize them so you can maintain a successful sales career.

Your Past Success Will Hold You Back

People who are in sales long-term tend to be successful. However, success is your worst enemy. Being at the top and doing well means you’re just trying to keep up and meet demand. You’re not looking at future opportunities because you’re busy reaping the rewards of current ones. The old saying “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” should be reworked today to state, “If it works, it’s obsolete.” If you just bought the latest device, odds are that the newer, better version is already in existence and about to be released to the public. We must evolve to stay ahead of rapid obsolescence in business.

Technology-Driven Change Will Dramatically Accelerate

While it’s human nature to protect the status quo, you have to understand that technology is changing the future, customers’ behavior, and your company’s reality. If you don’t change, you’ll be out of a job. As a salesperson, you need to embrace change wholeheartedly rather than resist and hold tight to the past. Spend some time thinking about where these impactful changes are headed. Change causes uncertainty in customers’ minds, so you bring certainty to them when you display confidence in change.

Time is increasing in value

Time is becoming more important to people because we have an aging demographic of Baby Boomers in the United States. Time gets more valuable as you get older because you have less of it. The world is more complex, with much more for people to do with their time. With so much going on, everyone is increasingly strapped for time. As a salesperson, make your customers feel that talking to you is actually saving them time. The list of time wasters is virtually endless, and these hurt your sales and profits. Prove that you’re a time saver and people will choose you over the competition.

We’ve Shifted From the Information Age to the Communication Age

Many salespeople rely on static marketing tools like company websites, flyers, and sales letters. These methods are a one-way interface. The better way is to have your sales messages be dynamic. For example, you could have a contest that encourages people to go to your site and enter. Instead of just telling people to buy your snack product, you can encourage customers to go online and vote for the next new flavor, getting them involved. The key is to generate communication, engagement, and involvement through your sales and marketing efforts. Don’t just hand out information; you want to listen, speak, and create dialogue to capture your prospects’ interest.

Solutions To Present Problems Are Becoming Obsolete Faster

Almost every salesperson has been told to be proactive by taking positive action. Unfortunately, you must wait and see to know if a certain action is positive. Instead, be pre-active to future known events. You need to look at your customer segment and identify what types of events you are certain they will experience, and focus your actions on what will be happening rather than on what is happening. Being pre-active also means that you change the way people think. When you put out a new product, it takes a while to catch on because you’re not actively changing the way people think about how the product can be used. Constantly educate your customers on the value you and your products or services offer.

The Value You Bring Today is Forgotten Faster

Sell the future benefit of what you do. Most salespeople sell the current benefits to customers who already know what they are. Your goal as a salesperson should be to establish a long-term, problem-solving relationship with customers, not a short-term transaction. Your most profitable customer is a repeat customer, so help them realize the long-term benefit of your partnership. Show them how the products and services you offer will evolve with their needs by selling the evolution of your products and services. Sit down with your fellow salespeople to create a list of future benefits that you have for your customers, and then get an idea of where the product and service developers are heading to think of future benefits preemptively.

Sales Success for the Future

The more you understand and adapt to today’s current business trends, the better your sales will be—today and in the future.

Are you anticipating future trends in your sales career? If you want to learn more about the changes that are ahead and how to turn them into an advantage by becoming anticipatory, pick up a copy of my latest book, The Anticipatory Organization.

Pick up your copy today at www.TheAOBook.com

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Changes in Manufacturing: How Will Different Generations Adapt?

We categorize everything, from sub-genres of music to which foods are the healthiest. But most categorization occurs between generational differences in the workforce and what success means to both, especially in manufacturing.

The Change Curve of Manufacturing

In recent years, the change curve of manufacturing has gone from a static line to an extreme slope. In the past, we all knew what manufacturing was, and safely assumed we knew where it was headed. But ongoing technological advancements are uprooting that sedentary perspective, and the change curve of manufacturing is now an upward climb. What the industry and job market of manufacturing were isn’t where manufacturing is today, or where it’s headed.

That change curve also has an effect on what manufacturing jobs will be in the future, and how they will differ from what they were in the past. That Hard Trend changes how we categorize success, and to us as employees in manufacturing, the word is taking on a whole new meaning. Much as we once “knew” where jobs were headed, we used to have a polarized view of what success meant. For many Baby Boomers in manufacturing, it meant working at a company until you retired, doing the repetitive and often dirty jobs to make ends meet. The paycheck you got at the end of the week meant you were successful.

But the younger generations entering the workforce have an entirely different view of life, success, and jobs in general, let alone jobs in manufacturing. Digital technology, additive manufacturing (i.e., 3D printing) and the internet of things (IoT) are already here and — in most cases — making our lives easier. Everyday tasks that used to take some time to accomplish are now shortened through the use of ever higher-tech devices, which are a constant in the lives of members of younger generations who grew up with them.

Take, for example, telecommunications. Baby Boomers grew up viewing landlines and cordless phones as appliances. Millennials see laptops and smartphones with instant messaging as appliances. Now, the next generation already sees its mobile devices and wearables as appliances. We all categorize, but that categorization changes with the times.

Different generations adapt to technology and define success quite differently.

Different generations’ adapt to technology and define of success quite differently. Also, the fact that many Baby Boomers remain in the workforce as younger generations enter the same industries is increasing the generational divide. The younger generations’ outlook challenges the past definitions of success; to millennials, for example, “success” has much to do with how much they love what they do. The Baby Boomer generation measured success differently; however, if they plan on staying in their jobs, they must open their minds to these trends and let go of the categorizations that further the generational divide.

All generations must rely on one another more than ever before, as more generations will be working together than ever before. While young generations may learn about “the old-school work ethic” from older generations, older generations can and should learn from younger generations about how to apply new tools to old tasks and reinvent the industries they are in.

For example, automation is becoming more capable and widespread, whether we like it or not. Those back-breaking, repetitive jobs discussed earlier are increasingly being taken over by machines. This shouldn’t be viewed as a bad thing; however, many members of the older generation worry about losing their jobs to robots, or believe that dependence on technology makes us weak or lazy. The younger generation can teach the older generation not to fear radically new ideas, but embrace them as progress and learn how to work alongside them.

Job Mentoring and Automation

The same can be said for older generations teaching younger generations about their work ethic and the importance of integrity, trust, and earning those things in the workforce. Forty years of experience can’t be taught via YouTube, but it can be taught in on-the-job mentoring of a younger worker who’s just starting out in manufacturing. Some things, automation will not replace, and all generations can learn to thrive in the future from one another.

We will spend the rest of our lives in the future, so perhaps we should spend some time identifying the Hard Trends that are shaping that future. You should be asking yourself questions about how your career is evolving, how people are evolving, how you can embrace new technology like you embraced past technology, and how to keep your mind open and learn from members of other generations instead of shutting yourself off from new ideas by categorizing everything. Embracing new technology can change the dynamic of the manufacturing workforce while learning from the past to foresee potential problems of the future and pre-solving them before they happen.

Are you anticipating the future of your career? If you want to learn more about the changes that are ahead and how to turn them into an advantage by becoming anticipatory, pick up a copy of my latest book, The Anticipatory Organization.

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7 Failures of Business Growth

If you want to stand out in today’s marketplace, you must work smarter, not harder. This is easier said than done, however, as despite their best intentions, companies get snarled in the glaring failures that derail business growth and stagnate profits.

In order for you to avoid these failures, you have to be aware of the most common ones and the strategies for combating them. The following will help you turn failure into success.

1. FAILURE TO ANTICIPATE
Most companies react to change as it occurs. You must anticipate and plan for future changes. You can anticipate a great deal in your industry. For example, are automobiles of the future mostly going to be electric instead of gas? Many think so. Could automobiles hover like drones instead of drive on four wheels? Of course!

Instead of being a crisis manager and reacting to change, anticipate changes so you can drive growth from the inside out. Spend one hour a week focusing on predictable opportunities to strategize and become more of an opportunity management organization.

2. FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE
There is a difference between informing and communicating. Informing is one-way and static,  and seldom leads to action. Communicating is two-way and dynamic, and usually leads to action. We have these fantastic Communication Age tools but use them in an Information Age way. If you can’t communicate internally with your staff, how can you communicate externally to customers and shareholders? When you focus on maximizing two-way communication, you can create a Communication Age organization and accelerate positive change.

3. FAILURE TO COLLABORATE
The majority of people tend to cooperate, which is a lower-level function different from collaboration. Even though we often use the word “collaborate,” we frequently really just mean “cooperate.” Cooperation means, “I won’t get in your way if you won’t get in mine.” Such an approach produces results but certainly not outstanding results, because it’s based on a scarcity mentality.

Collaboration is instead based on abundance and gets competitors to work with you rather than against you. It occurs when we put our heads together and ask ourselves, “How can we create a bigger pie for everyone?”

4. FAILURE TO INNOVATE
When asked what their last big innovation was, most companies have to go back five or ten years to cite something meaningful, as the majority of companies innovate once, form a company around the innovation, and then let it ride. They stop innovating and instead spend a great deal of effort asking themselves how they can become more efficient by doing more with less, reducing overhead, and using technology better. You must ask yourself how you can use technology and staff to create new products and services to increase sales all around. Innovation fuels profitability and efficiency.

5. FAILURE TO PRE-SOLVE PROBLEMS
Always remember that a problem isn’t an opportunity in disguise; it is a problem! A problem is only an opportunity before it occurs, and most problems we experience are predictable. If you ask customers what they want and then give it to them, you’re missing the real opportunity. Instead, you need to think at a level higher and ask yourself and your customers, “What problems are we about to have?” Develop new solutions based on those answers and base your product development on your customer’s future problems.

6. FAILURE TO DE-COMMODITIZE
Unfortunately, most companies come up with something new and make it their main product. Other companies copy the product, and then market saturation occurs. Try de-commoditizing your offering by taking your product and putting a service wrapper around it. For example, in the electricity industry, the utility provider cannot increase prices without permission from ratepayers. One electric company bypassed this limitation by creating what it calls “digital electricity.” They sold customers a product that, for a higher cost, prevented any fluctuation of voltage from occurring. Many big companies signed up for this more expensive service, and in the near future, homeowners with streaming devices will have a similar interest. This electric utility took a product and wrapped a service around it in order to de-commoditize.

7. FAILURE TO DIFFERENTIATE
Too many companies become just like everyone else. True strategic planning needs to be more than numbers based; it needs to focus on how you can differentiate your company and products from those of the competition. You differentiate by avoiding all the failure modes we’ve discussed that prevent business growth. You anticipate, communicate, collaborate, innovate, pre-problem solve, and de-commoditize. Become what your competition isn’t in order to differentiate.

BUSINESS SUCCESS IS ON YOUR HORIZON

When you know the failures to avoid and the strategies for combating them, you’ll be well on your way to learning from these failures, rethinking the way business is done, and creating an organization that continues to grow despite external factors.

NEXT STEP: Pick up your copy of The Anticipatory Organization to discover proven strategies to accelerate innovation and shape the future–before someone else does it for you!

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Selling Your Ideas Up: How to Overcome Objections and Get Your Ideas Approved

In an era of fiscal and time constraints, is it possible to sell your ideas to company leaders? Yes, but the success depends on how you frame the opportunity.

The first step is to avoid talking about the idea itself. While that may sound strange, it’s the primary sales rule that most people break. You may love your ideas, but the feeling isn’t always mutual. When you’re selling your ideas to others, you shouldn’t focus on your preferences. You must focus on the other person, and here’s how:

  • Understand the pain of the person.

Forget about how excited you are about the idea you want implemented. If you’re going to sell your idea, you have to understand where the other person’s pain is. Maybe they’re dealing with upset stockholders or perhaps sales are down. Do your research and uncover the main challenge they’re presently dealing with.

Once you know the other person’s pain, you can position your idea to sell as a solution to it. Essentially, you have to show the person that there’s a direct payoff to them if they approve your idea. If you know that the CEO’s greatest pain is a lack of communication between departments, then you have to consider your proposal and figure out how it can ease the pain and bring resolve to the situation.

Be sure to state it clearly to avoid guesswork. For example, you could say, “I know you’re dealing with poor internal communications. I’ve come across some things that I believe can help you overcome those challenges so the company can grow.”

Then talk about the new idea in terms of solving the current problem only. Don’t go into all the benefits, functions, features, or costs. Right now, you’re simply getting the decision maker on board with the idea and its problem-solving potential.

  • Solve the predictable problems in advance.

As you have this discussion, you’ll also have to address common objections. Plan for them in advance by figuring out what their objections could be and solve them before the discussion.

For example, if you’re talking to the CEO about your idea and you know budgets are tight, you can deduce that they will say, “This sounds great, but the CFO won’t approve this right now.” However, because you’ve anticipated this objection, you can reply, “I’ve already run this by the CFO because I knew it was important.”

Of course, before going to the CFO, you’ll have identified their greatest pain and presented the idea to solve it. If what you’re proposing is really a solution, and you showed how it benefits the company’s strategic imperatives with a good ROI, you will have a receptive CFO.

The goal is to overcome the potential blocks before they arise.

  • Use the power of certainty to your advantage.

When you’re selling your ideas, the people you’re talking to are thinking risk. Alleviate this fear by remembering that strategies based on uncertainty have high risk, while strategies based on certainty have low risk. Prior to the discussion, ask yourself, “What are the things I’m absolutely certain about regarding this idea? What are the current hard trends? Where is the industry, company, and economy going with or without this solution?”

Make your list the things you’re certain about. For example, mobile devices are quite popular. Is this a trend that you know will continue, or will people eventually trade in their mobile devices for an old flip phone of yesterday? The answer is obvious: people won’t go back. Look at sales trends, customers, the economy, and everything around you. Get clear on what’s a hard trend and what will pass.

Additionally, look at the strategic imperatives of the company and the current plan. Determine if your proposed idea is an accelerator or decelerator of that plan. You want to show how your idea can accelerate the plan and how your solution can help increase sales, innovation, and product development.

Go into your list of certainties by saying, “Here are things I’m certain about in the marketplace and in our company. Based on this certainty, here is why implementing this idea is a low-risk winner.”

An Anticipatory Approach to Selling

It’s important to remind yourself before the meeting that if you haven’t done the groundwork to excite the listener, you’ll lose them. As you’re busy talking about features and benefits, the other person is thinking about costs, risks, and uncertainties. Having a preemptive solution is an anticipatory approach to selling – you’re anticipating the problems, rejections, objections, and concerns so you can overcome them.

Anyone who has worked with C-level executives knows that leaders get excited about many things while carrying the weight of costs, controls, and constraints. Challenge those issues by making what you offer about priority, relevancy, and strategic imperatives to sell your ideas.

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Will A.I. Disrupt Your Profession?

Artificial intelligence (A.I.) is a technological advance for humankind that has some people excited and others terrified of what is to come. The main concern is rooted in what A.I. will do to jobs, and how we as human beings will be affected by changes in digital and mechanical techniques.

A.I. and other new forms of autonomous machine function are in the process of transforming our personal and professional lives, and this represents a Hard Trend that will happen and a subject I’ve discussed for decades now. We are just starting to see some incredible progression in the A.I. space, giving us a chance to pre-solve problems involved in real-world applications of A.I.

But while function is one thing, the newfound transformation we’ve watched come to fruition is coming from machine learning, a subset of A.I. that enables machines to become better at tasks that were previously dependent on human intelligence. With advances in a machine’s capability to think and learn like people, it’s easier than ever to pre-program physical functions so A.I. can take over menial or mundane tasks. Take, for example, a study conducted by legal tech startup LawGeex, which challenged 20 experienced lawyers to test their skills and knowledge against an A.I.-powered system the company built.

A lawyer is not often considered replaceable by technology or artificial intelligence. In this challenge, the task was to review risks contained in five nondisclosure agreements — a simple undertaking given the group of legal professionals, which included associates and in-house lawyers from Goldman Sachs, Cisco, and Alston & Bird, as well as general counsel and sole practitioners. This lineup should easily have triumphed over an A.I.-powered algorithm, right?

Wrong.

As a matter of fact, the study revealed that the A.I. system actually matched the top-performing lawyer for accuracy, as both achieved 94%. As a group, the lawyers managed an average of 85%, with the worst performer scoring a 67%.

But what about the speed of those decisions? When reviewing the nondisclosure agreements, the A.I. system far outpaced the group, taking just 26 seconds to review all five documents, compared to the lawyers’ average speed of 92 minutes. That is a tremendous spread when compared to the near-perfect accuracy the algorithm performed at in that time! The fastest review time of a single lawyer in the group was 51 minutes — over 100 times slower than the A.I. system! And the slowest time was nearly a standstill pace, as it clocked in at 156 minutes.

While reviewing documents is just one of several parts of the job of a lawyer, this data further proves the Hard Trend that I implore everyone to pay attention to in the years to come. Artificial intelligence is here to stay, and by using machine learning and deep learning techniques, new A.I. systems are learning how to think better and better every day. So the question remains: Are you anticipating how A.I. can be used to automate tasks and do things that might seem impossible today — in other words, disrupt your industry? Are you starting to learn more about A.I. so that you can become a positive disruptor rather than become the disrupted?   

For now, according to consultants, the fact remains that 23% of legal work can be easily performed using artificial intelligence; however, there are many aspects of a lawyer’s job, the obvious example being providing an emotional and compelling closing argument in court, that are currently beyond the capabilities of algorithms. While that may be the case today, what’s next? Using methods that I discuss in my latest book, The Anticipatory Organization, you can learn how to become an anticipatory thinker and be more entrepreneurial in the ways you apply A.I. technology to your profession.

Take the example of Alexa, which is utilized in an ever-growing number of applications, from ordering groceries to playing our favorite song during dinnertime. This device, enabled by A.I., has learned our routines and how to serve us better each day by listening to us ask it questions or give it tasks to accomplish.

Netflix and Spotify media streaming services are using A.I. to learn what we like to listen to or watch, and then, using this knowledge combined with their own databases, they can quickly suggest other songs or shows we may also enjoy. Over time they increasingly learn to understand the dynamics of what we like, recognizing our patterns enough to suggest new things to us we will most likely enjoy — very much like a best friend would introduce us to a new music group.

These are just two examples of many A.I.-enabled services that have been integrated into our lives, yet it was not too long ago that applications like these would have been viewed as an impossibility. In a relatively short amount of time they have become second nature in our lives. If A.I. can quickly accomplish a lawyer’s task today, then it can also learn how to accomplish many tasks in industries once thought untouchable by automation and machine learning, such as medicine, finance and design.

As an entrepreneur, it is increasingly important to understand what A.I. can do to create  business value. A.I. is presently forecast to reach nearly $4 trillion by 2022. Reacting to this opportunity will only keep you behind and disrupted. It’s time to learn to become anticipatory leaders in our fields, solving problems before they happen, and elevating our thinking to actively shape a positive future for ourselves and others.

If you would like to learn more about how you can better anticipate transformation in the professional world and developments in artificial intelligence, then be sure to pick up my latest book, The Anticipatory Organization. Let me help you take your career to the next level and remain indispensable in an ever-changing technological frontier.

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Shaping the Future of A.I.

One of the biggest news subjects in the past few years has been artificial intelligence. We have read about how Google’s DeepMind beat the world’s best player at Go, which is thought of as the most complex game humans have created; witnessed how IBM’s Watson beat humans in a debate; and taken part in a wide-ranging discussion of how A.I. applications will replace most of today’s human jobs in the years ahead.

Way back in 1983, I identified A.I. as one of 20 exponential technologies that would increasingly drive economic growth for decades to come. Early rule-based A.I. applications were used by financial institutions for loan applications, but once the exponential growth of processing power reached an A.I. tipping point, and we all started using the Internet and social media, A.I. had enough power and data (the fuel of A.I.) to enable smartphones, chatbots, autonomous vehicles and far more.

As I advise the leadership of many leading companies, governments and institutions around the world, I have found we all have different definitions of and understandings about A.I., machine learning and other related topics. If we don’t have common definitions for and understanding of what we are talking about, it’s likely we will create an increasing number of problems going forward. With that in mind, I will try to add some clarity to this complex subject.

Artificial intelligence applies to computing systems designed to perform tasks usually reserved for human intelligence using logic, if-then rules, decision trees and machine learning to recognize patterns from vast amounts of data, provide insights, predict outcomes and make complex decisions. A.I. can be applied to pattern recognition, object classification, language translation, data translation, logistical modeling and predictive modeling, to name a few. It’s important to understand that all A.I. relies on vast amounts of quality data and advanced analytics technology. The quality of the data used will determine the reliability of the A.I. output.

Machine learning is a subset of A.I. that utilizes advanced statistical techniques to enable computing systems to improve at tasks with experience over time. Chatbots like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, or any of the others from companies like Google and Microsoft all get better every year thanks to all of the use we give them and the machine learning that takes place in the background.

Deep learning is a subset of machine learning that uses advanced algorithms to enable an A.I. system to train itself to perform tasks by exposing multi-layered neural networks to vast amounts of data, then using what has been learned to recognize new patterns contained in the data. Learning can be Human Supervised Learning, Unsupervised Learning and/or Reinforcement Learning like Google used with DeepMind to learn how to beat humans at the complex game Go. Reinforcement learning will drive some of the biggest breakthroughs.

Autonomous computing uses advanced A.I. tools such as deep learning to enable systems to be self-governing and capable of acting according to situational data without human command. A.I. autonomy includes perception, high-speed analytics, machine-to-machine communications and movement.  For example, autonomous vehicles use all of these in real time to successfully pilot a vehicle without a human driver.

Augmented thinking: Over the next five years and beyond, A.I. will become increasingly embedded at the chip level into objects, processes, products and services, and humans will augment their personal problem-solving and decision-making abilities with the insights A.I. provides to get to a better answer faster.

A.I. advances represent a Hard Trend that will happen and continue to unfold in the years ahead. The benefits of A.I. are too big to ignore and include:

  1. Increasing speed
  2. Increasing accuracy
  3. 24/7 functionality
  4. High economic benefit
  5. Ability to be applied to a large and growing number of tasks
  6. Ability to make invisible patterns and opportunities visible

Technology is not good or evil, it is how we as humans apply it. Since we can’t stop the increasing power of A.I., I want us to direct its future, putting it to the best possible use for humans. Yes, A.I. — like all technology — will take the place of many current jobs. But A.I. will also create many jobs if we are willing to learn new things. There is an old saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” With that said, it’s a good thing we aren’t dogs!

Start off The New Year by Anticipating disruption and change by reading my latest book The Anticipatory Organization. Click here to claim your copy!

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Keeping Up is a Fool’s Game

Many business consultants agree that benchmarking is imperative to strategic planning. By using metrics, a business will study the practices, designs, and financial outcomes of industry leaders with one distinct purpose: To keep up with the pacesetters.

There’s just one problem. Keeping up—with technology, with the competition, with anything in business or life—is what some would call a fool’s game. Think about it: When you’re merely keeping up, what’s the advantage? In reality, there is no advantage; all you’re doing is making yourself just like everyone else.

So how do you gain advantage and truly stand out from the crowd? Here are three suggestions.

1. Get off the Treadmill

Rather than keeping up, a smarter way to benchmark means you will look to the future. Most benchmarking practices are based on two questions:

  • What path are my competitors on right now?
  • And, what are all the successful companies evolving to?

However, there is a third question to ask yourself – and it’s key to moving past the pacesetters:

  • What’s the likely progression of the industry as a whole?

Asking these questions enables you to go beyond your competition and get off the treadmill of keeping up. It opens your eyes to future possibilities—to stay ahead of the pack instead of side-by-side with them.

In my latest book, The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage, I reinforce the major competitive edge that comes from the ability to accurately anticipate the future. Think of being anticipatory as a new competency; it’s a mindset that teaches you to elevate tried-and-true strategies like benchmarking to new levels. Unlike traditional benchmarking, which looks backwards and measures what has already worked, being anticipatory requires you to look forward.

2. Use Hard Trends to Get Ahead

Ask yourself: Is your industry faced with cyclical changes, such as seasonal, economic, or sales cycles? If the answer yes, you can expect the normal ebbs and flows that go along with that. But, if the answer is no, there may be even opportunity out there.

Trends that are linear (and not cyclical) present the best opportunity for exponential change. These are trends in technology and innovation that show no signs of slowing down. Think about the future of virtualization, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT). How could advances in these areas impact your business?

I call the latter, Hard Trends, and they are things that are sure to happen based on their upward trajectory and other considerations I talk about in the Anticipatory Organization. Knowing how to identify them can give you a powerful window to the future.

3. Learn from a Leader

While Blockbuster worked to maintain its foothold as the largest movie-rental outlet, Netflix was redefining the concept altogether.

Though Netflix began in 1997 by lending or selling physical DVDs to its customers, it already had a technology platform. Consumers could order their movies online and have them delivered through the mail. One thing it didn’t do was open a brick-and-mortar store.

Ten years later, Netflix added streaming media to its mail-order business. From there, consumer behavior and digital technology took care of the rest. By the time Netflix reinvented itself as a content creator in 2012, the majority of its content was consumed online – including on tablets and phones, which didn’t even exist when the company began.

The key here is to realize that moving beyond competition into innovation wasn’t just a small tweak in order to hit a benchmark; it was a complete change in direction. Netflix didn’t even try to compete in the physical space, they made a one-way move and invested in the future of streaming technology instead.

Are you anticipating the future with confidence? If you want to learn more about the Anticipatory Organization, my new book is available on Amazon.com now.

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Best Practices Entrepreneurship Management Skills

Five Steps to Change Your Thinking

When you make changes, are they coming at you from the outside in or inside out? In my 30 years of working with top leaders from business, health care, government and education, I have found that the majority of change comes from the outside in. When a new law is passed, you have to make changes in order to comply with it; when a competitor comes in offering lower prices, you probably have to change some aspect of how you do business; and when a new technology comes out that changes customer behavior, you’ll likely request that your IT department get you on the new products ASAP.

Most of us are conditioned in both our personal and professional lives to make changes based on outside factors. For example, when the stock market goes down, people often sell, and when it goes up, they buy.

Whenever change comes from the outside, we are forced to react to it. Rather than being proactive, we find ourselves constantly putting out fires and managing the latest crisis.

Instead, let’s look at two examples. Did the crowd-sourcing disruptor Kickstarter become a dominant force because it was fast to react? Was being reactionary the driving force in Facebook’s dominance in social media? Nope.

One reason for Facebook’s success is that it picked up where the limitations of other platforms left off. Kickstarter developers took a popular altruistic concept – used by Caring Bridge and others – and applied it to entrepreneurship. I sometimes call this approach to innovating a new business going in the opposite direction.

So, how do you stop reacting to outside forces and become a disruptor instead? Think about the Hard Trends that are sure to impact your organization. Think about the problems and opportunities that derive from them. What can you do now to not only pre-solve those problems before they become genuinely disruptive, but also leverage those Hard Trends into game-changing opportunities?

5 Quick Tips for Thinking Inside-Out  

It is essential to spend at least a small portion of time thinking about your future in an opportunity mode.

1. Build thinking time into your schedule. Try spending a minimum of one hour a week unplugging from the present crisis and plugging into future opportunity.

2. Find certainty in chaos. Instead of feeling blocked by all the things you are uncertain about in your work and life, ask yourself: What am I certain about? Those are the Hard Trends.

3. Be Anticipatory. Based on Hard Trends, think through these key questions: What is sure to happen in the next two to three years? What problems will your company be facing? What problems will your customers be facing (and how can you address those pain points)?

4. Dream a Little. Another good question to ask is: What is my ideal future? What are the steps to get there – whether it’s a business goal or a retirement dream? Or, it could be a bit of both.

5. Put Ideas into Motion. Once you are clear on your vision and have identified the Hard Trends that will impact you, spend some of your opportunity time solving problems before they happen.

The level of pervasive disruption that you need comes from the inside out (making the first move) rather than the outside in (moving in response to something). What events and developments can you anticipate by using your inside-out thinking?

If you need help getting started, try my Hard Trend Methodology, which is the mindset I describe in my latest book, The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage.

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