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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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Best Practices Economics Entrepreneurship Leadership Marketing Sales Skills Technology

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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Best Practices Culture Growth Management Personal Development Technology

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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Best Practices Entrepreneurship Industries Leadership Marketing Sales Skills

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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Best Practices Entrepreneurship Leadership Skills

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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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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Best Practices Body Language Culture Health and Wellness Management

Elevate Your Success with Five Simple Steps

People often convince themselves that highly successful individuals who possess a special gift set themselves apart from everyone else. However, the reality is that your ability to have success, however you define it, can be accomplished with a few simple steps.

Personal responsibility for our actions is seldom championed in society these days, and like it or not, we all live with the consequences of the lifestyle choices that we make every day. We can sit in an office staring at a spreadsheet waiting for our situation to improve or make a few changes that will put us on a path to shaping a better future for ourselves and others. The following are five simple steps you can take to elevate your level of success.

1. Challenge Your Habits and Change Your Routine

It is incredibly easy to fall into the comforts offered by habits and routines, those that make our lives feel like a scene from Groundhog Day, in which the alarm wakes us at the same time every day as we hit the snooze button at least once before jumping into the shower. The familiarity of the daily grind, in which grabbing a coffee as you head into the office before performing the same tasks, can be comforting, yet we often wonder why nothing ever changes.

Our education system tends to encourage everyone to learn one correct answer and basically think in the same way. And when it comes to creativity, only a small number of people might be thought of as “creatives,” but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Technology is increasingly replacing laborious and repetitive tasks with automation. Creativity and critical thinking have become essential skills in the 21st century and possess the power to make you stand out from the crowd.

There are countless self-help books that advise you how to create new patterns and habits to help you achieve your goals. However, simply getting off the hamster wheel of life and allowing yourself to mix things up by both thinking and doing things differently is a great place to start, and it will stimulate creative thought.

2. Surround Yourself with People Who Lift You Up

They say that we become like the five people we spend the most time with, and ultimately they have the power to either inspire or drain us, so maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the amount of time that you spend with toxic individuals who only bring you down.

Surround yourself with like-minded souls on a similar journey or, better yet, those who can see the big picture better than you can. They will help you see failure as an opportunity and will certainly increase your odds of achieving your dreams.

Business is 80% people and 20% everything else, and this illustrates the importance of investing your time in getting to know open-minded individuals who enjoy helping turn others’ dreams into reality. What if you surrounded yourself with inspiration?

3. Fuel Your Creativity

If you begin your day reading the news that reminds you of all the negative aspects of our world, followed by looking at social media sites that show snapshots of lives that are edited to look much better than your own, you will never increase your productivity or creativity. I like to start each day thinking of all the things I’m grateful for. It’s hard to have a bad day when you start your day like this. Try it!

Whether they are stuck in a traffic jam or are on a delayed train or airplane, or even doing household chores, highly successful people unleash the power of refueling their creativity during these moments of “dead time” by reading books or listening to podcasts.

Books and podcasts on subjects that stretch your thinking are a fantastic way to stay inspired and learn new tools you can use to resolve problems that are stopping you from reaching your goals. Try having fewer calls with people who pull you down and don’t help you move forward, and instead call people who lift you up, or watch a good TED Talk or listen to podcasts or audiobooks that offer advice and insights from others.

Removing yourself from a routine or familiar surroundings and going for a walk in a direction where you haven’t gone before instead of staring at a screen will help a lot. Highly successful individuals often find that their brains will naturally join the dots when they expose themselves to new ideas, surroundings and experiences.

4. Bring Focus and Clarity to Your Dreams

Bringing focus and clarity to your dreams while working alone in front of a computer in a dimly lit room is good, but is not enough on its own. Do not underestimate the importance of sharing and communicating your vision with others. It will attract the right people to you who will begin to see where you are going and offer ideas to help you get there.

By sharing your passion for a future vision and communicating the message with transparency on how it will be achieved, you will find people who can help you to create a solid path to achieve your goals.

5. Embrace Marginal Gains

When Dave Brailsford became the manager of Great Britain’s professional cycling team, no British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France. However, he had a simple concept known as “aggregation of marginal gains” that would revolutionize the sport and lead to his team members becoming tournament champions and Olympic gold medal winners.

The philosophy involved improving tiny areas that were traditionally overlooked by 99 percent in the belief that a long list of 1% improvements would be the difference between being champions or losers.

Researching for a pillow that offered the best sleep for cyclists to take to hotels, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection, were just a few of a long list of improvements that, although they looked tiny, ended up making a massive difference.

Whether you want to lose weight, build a business or achieve any other goal in life, it’s clear that heading straight for the moon with only one step will almost certainly result in failure or demotivation.

Small changes to your daily routine, such as creating a new email signature or changing those boring, stuffy group meetings by asking better questions, could boost your momentum and enthusiasm. All these changes not only deliver long-term improvements but also improve the overall quality of your life.

Will what got you to where you are be enough to take you to the next level? There are entire chapters on how to act in the future in my latest book The Anticipatory Organization. I’ll buy the book, you pay the shipping cost. Click here to order your copy.
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Best Practices Economics Entrepreneurship Industries Marketing Personal Development Sales Technology

How Technology Changed the Billion-Dollar Ad Game

The advertising industry has had a long and successful history. It has been a very big business, especially for brands like Procter & Gamble, which topped AdAge.com’s list of the world’s five largest advertisers with $10.5 billion in advertising spending.

For decades, the personal care company kept its products front and center in the minds of consumers – on TV, in print and eventually online. The formula was simple: P&G would spend a huge amount on advertising and loyal customers would respond by buying its products.

That is no longer the case. Technology has changed the ad game for P&G – and not in a good way.

Brief Timeline of Advertising Game-Changers

So if your company is like P&G, what should you do? Start with a fresh look at how much technology and advertising have changed over the last 30 years.

As you look at this timeline, pay attention to how technology worked for – or against – advertisers throughout recent history. Then, use my Hard Trends Methodology to predict what’s next.

1990s – Hundreds of cable channels and the Internet launched, and advertisers jumped to buy space wherever their audiences would be.

Early 2000s – TiVo was one of the first disruptors to these seemingly endless advertising avenues. For the first time, consumers had power over when they got their content and began to skip the ads.

2001 – Next came iPods, which could play downloaded media while consumers were on the go.

2004 – Amazon.com launched as a virtual bookstore and began laying the groundwork for online retailers

2006 – Social media pioneer Facebook opened the News Feed, in which anybody – and any brand – could self-publish content. Facebook ads, for which advertisers once again had to “pay to play,” wouldn’t come until later.

2007 – Netflix went from DVD to streaming and never looked back. Consumers could now also choose what to watch, whenever they wanted to.

Also in 2007Smartphones came on the scene, allowing consumers to carry all types of media in their hands. The ad industry had to go mobile – often in addition to going traditional. Though it wasn’t easy to navigate at first, by 2015 mobile ad spending would top $28 billion.

2008 – Spotify started running on advertising dollars initially, but also offered premium, ad-free packages to consumers at nominal prices.

2009 – In the late 2000s, YouTube began allowing pre-roll ads; advertisers were once again able to recapture a very captive audience.

2012 – Facebook purchased Instagram. It would be five years before the $1 billion gamble would pay off, but in the meantime, real people became the faces of brands. The newest media-buying currency was the influence of the crafty, hip or carpool moms who had become spokespeople.

2015 – Amazon.com hit a milestone as it accounted for at least half of all e-commerce growth. Many experts attributed sales success to the debut of the company’s one-click ordering.

2018 and beyondNot only is data-driven advertising becoming more popular, it’s expected in today’s “show me you know me” consumer culture.

If you use my Hard Trends Methodology to look ahead to the future of advertising, you’ll be able to anticipate that the next decade will move even faster. Even more devices are likely to be developed, and they will ultimately be connected to each other as an integral part of our lives.

Now is the time to learn to anticipate the next wave of technology. Start with my book, The Anticipatory Organization, which is fittingly available with one-click ordering on Amazon.com right now.

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To See the Future, Think Both/And

Whenever a new game-changing technology is introduced, our instinct is to assume that the current technology we are using will quickly become obsolete and will vanish from our use.

History has shown that the hottest new breakthrough technologies do not necessarily replace older ones. Instead, they often coexist side by side because the old technology has its own unique profile of functional strengths that the new technology never fully replaces.

How many times have you greeted a new innovation with an either/or assumption? Either you use the old or the new. But this is not an either/or world we live in; it’s a both/and world. It’s a world that is both paper and paperless, online and in-person, old media and new media.

Yes, No or Some of Both

In my latest book, The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage, I teach readers how to gain a major competitive edge by learning to accurately anticipate the future. This is a skill that can be learned, and in this blog I’ll share one of the principles I have used for decades to accurately predict the future of technological change, one that you will be able to apply in countless ways: the Both/And Principle.

First, a bit of history. In the early 1980s, I developed the Both/And Principle and started applying it with great success. Here are some examples that will help you to see how to use it yourself.

Either/Or Assumption #1:

The introduction of digital documents meant that we would all be 100% paperless in a few years.

For example, in the late 1980s, when CD-ROMs were introduced, industry experts, the press and futurists predicted that by the mid-1990s, offices would be completely paperless. At the time I applied the Both/And Principle and predicted that we would have increasing amounts of both digital documents as well as paper documents in the future. It’s now 2018 and we are still managing both paper and digital documents.

Why is paper still around? Paper is inexpensive, portable and can be folded and tucked in a pocket or purse. It is an inexpensive display medium that does not need power. In addition, a handwritten paper note of gratitude to an employee is far better than sending a text or an email.  So instead of asking “How can I eliminate all paper?” a better question I had my clients ask was, “What is the best use for paper and the best use for digital?”

Either/Or Assumption #2:

E-commerce will render brick-and-mortar retail stores completely obsolete.

In the mid-1990s, around the time that Netscape, Yahoo!, eBay and many other Web-based businesses started rapidly growing, many futurists and the media predicted that bookstores, auto dealerships, shopping malls and retail stores in general would soon be obsolete.

The logic was that a physical store can only hold a few hundred or several thousand items while a virtual store gives you access to millions of items or titles 24/7.

So why do retail stores continue to survive and why are many even thriving? The answer is that physical shopping is experiential, not just transactional. Brick-and-mortar stores and malls that have continued to elevate the customer experience are social gathering places that create a sense of community, which technology can’t fully replace. In addition, many products are difficult to buy without physically seeing them and trying them out. Others require a knowledgeable person to help you make a decision. Why did Apple open an Apple Store? If you have been there, you know why. Why is Amazon opening brick-and-mortar bookstores? Now you know why.

Either/Or Assumption #3:

Smartphones will replace laptops.

Not that long ago, business publications were having a debate about the future of computing. They asked the question, “With our smartphones and tablets becoming our main personal computers, won’t this make laptops obsolete?” The answer is still “no.”

The reality is, we still have the equivalent of mainframe computers, we just use them differently than 20 – or even five – years ago. If they have a smartphone and/or tablet, the majority of business users are already using their laptop differently, and perhaps much less, but they are still using both.

Introducing Both/And Thinking

While others were predicting the end of laptop computers, printed paper and retail stores, I did not fall into the trap of those bad predictions because I had developed a series of research-based guiding principles that would help avoid such mistakes, and the Both/And Principle is a major one.

The premise is simple: Your technology works well for you, but you discover a new app, gadget or process that could significantly transform your business. You don’t want to part with what’s been working for you, but you also don’t want to be left behind.

The Both/And Principle allows you to keep bridging your legacy systems with the new technology or processes. Integrating them in a way that will create higher value than either has by itself provides a pathway forward.

It is a powerful corrective measure to either/or thinking, meaning that the future will only be either one way or the other. The Both/And Principle recognizes the folly of assuming that the “new” will totally supplant the old, and it recognizes that they can be integrated. Once you try it, you will see the Both/And Principle can accelerate your team’s performance because you haven’t settled for one or the other.

Powerful Both/And Duos

Digital documents have powerful strengths; they are here to stay, but so is paper. Here is a short list of Both/And Principle examples:

  • Brick-and-mortar retailers and Internet retailers
  • Digital and analog
  • Paper mail and email
  • Nautical charts and GPS
  • Full service and self service
  • Wiring such as copper and  fiber-optics and wireless
  • Traditional media and digital media
  • Gasoline engines and electric motors
  • Digital music playlists and live concerts
  • Video conferencing and face-to-face meetings

A key success strategy is to integrate the old and the new based on the strengths of each. In fact, the hottest breakthrough technologies tend to coexist and integrate to create new value with their predecessors rather than completely co-opting them. Why? The old technology has its own unique profile of functional strengths.

Case Study: Amazon.com and Kohl’s

In August 2017, Kohl’s announced it would sell Amazon products in its retail stores. But that was just the beginning of this Both/And Principle business maneuver. Kohl’s department stores and Amazon.com have been piloting a retail model that even more perfectly demonstrates an integration of the old and new.

Since September 2017, the two have been running a pilot program in which Amazon.com purchasers who want to return an item can return it to a Kohl’s customer service desk. Customers who bought a product online can now skip the post office and instead return it to an ever-increasing number of Kohl’s stores.

Consumers enjoy the convenience, and according to a number of recent studies, total visits to Kohl’s stores with Amazon’s return program have outperformed other stores in sales by about 8.5%. In other words, customers returning items end up finding more to buy at Kohl’s. Kohl’s also reported an increase in new customers.

Both/And Thinking and You

What are some examples of Both/And thinking that could benefit you? Are there any new technologies that would give you amazing new capabilities that could become something you feel your business could not live without? What are some of the newest technologies that you believe will disrupt and transform your business? What would happen if you combined the old and the new in a way that creates higher value than either has on its own?

If you would like to learn more anticipatory skills so that you can turn disruptive change into your biggest advantage, read my latest book, The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage

Click here for a special offer from Daniel Burrus

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Tesla is Redefining the Customer Experience

One of the harsh realities of this fast-paced digital world is that almost everything we buy is out of date by the time we get it home. To obtain the most value of any purchase, especially if it is an expensive one, we need to adopt a future mind-set to help us avoid picking up legacy products.

Driving has long been considered a symbol of personal freedom — an open road going forward, with almost limitless possibilities and opportunities on the horizon. For this reason alone, car manufacturers like to add new features that make us feel like we are purchasing a car that is equipped to transport us into the future.

I recently found myself wanting to replace my hybrid SUV. I have been very happy with my Lexus, but before buying, I wanted to see what the other major brands — including BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Cadillac, to name a few — had to offer, to see which was most suited to me and my lifestyle. As you might guess, since I have been forecasting semi-autonomous as well as fully autonomous car features for decades now, I was interested to see what they had to offer at this point in time.

As you would expect, all of the high-end vehicles had great features, including automatic braking and various systems to alert you if you are about to change lanes and hit another car that is in your blind spot. However, it was when I drove the Tesla Model X that I felt like I was driving in the future. After that test drive, my view of the other brands was changed. All the others instantly felt like the past.

From a customer experience perspective, that’s a powerful shift. Any time you can make the competition seem like they are offering yesterday’s features and functions, and you are offering tomorrow’s, you can accelerate growth well into the future.

Buying a car has always been both a left-brain and a right-brain experience. On one hand, we would love to buy that just-out-of-reach dream car, the one that our emotional, creative side would love to have. On the other hand, our rational, logical, sensible mind wants the car to be safe, economical and not too expensive. Tesla has found a way to do both.

The realization that the Tesla is already offering a wealth of future-oriented features — features that can save lives, features you know we will all have someday — has the power to change how potential customers think.

Tesla, like Amazon, is what I call an Anticipatory Organization, one that identifies the Hard Trends that will happen and then uses that knowledge to turn disruption and change into its biggest advantage.

With all of this in mind, where would the greatest young engineering talent want to work? Ford, General Motors or Tesla? I suspect that Tesla would attract the talent because it is showcasing the future, today.

Rather than sitting around waiting to be disrupted, maybe it’s time to jump on board and disrupt both yourself and your industry, to become the disrupter. We often talk about legacy software and hardware holding businesses back, but the reality is that legacy thinking is far more damaging.

If your company wants to attract the most talented employees as well as the imaginations of future customers, you need to follow Hard Trends and learn to become anticipatory rather than getting better at reacting.

When I returned to the showroom a few weeks ago, it quickly became apparent that Tesla is a prime example of an Anticipatory Organization. The majority of competitors within the automotive industry are still taking incremental steps rather than exponential leaps. The majority have embraced the idea of agility as the best way to turn rapid change into an advantage. The problem they are finding is that all organizations are becoming agile organizations, which greatly decreases the advantage of agility and, more importantly, the main advantage of agility is that you can be far better than your slower competitors. Being agile is very important and we all should get better at it, but it is no longer enough.

It’s true that there is more uncertainty today than ever before. On the flipside of this coin is the science of certainty, learning to separate the Hard Trends that will happen from the Soft Trends that might happen. As the exponential pace of technological change continues, having the ability to foresee growing problems, disruptions, customer demands and new opportunities has never been more important.

Technology now surrounds us. The rapid rise of the internet of things (IoT) in our cities, businesses, infrastructure and even our homes will also raise the bar of both our expectations and demands. As our world continues to evolve, why would the automotive industry remain the same? Why would a dealership stay the same as it always has been? Why would I want to buy a new car that has only a few more new features than the car I’m driving now?

Having a business strategy based on certainty has low risk. Leaders now have a choice to anticipate today, before their competitors do, or find themselves left behind in the slow lane. What are you going to do?

Why deploy customer surveys when technology allows you to collect real-time user experiences? Learn to how an Anticipatory Organization saves money in R&D, marketing and other steps along the way.

Order Daniel Burrus’ book today!

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