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If You Want To Avoid Being Replaced By A Robot, Here’s What You Need To Know

2014 March 12
i-robots

Ever since 1962, when the first industrial robot was installed on an assembly line at a General Motors plant in New Jersey, machines have been replacing human workers.  In the decades that came after, just about every industry became automated to a greater or lesser extent.

For the most part, we humans have adapted nicely. Robots could do only simple tasks, so by upgrading our skills through training and education, our living standards continued to rise.  Yet more recently, that’s begun to change.

As Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson point out in their new book, The Second Machine Age, machines are beginning to take over cognitive tasks and now algorithms are even doing the work of highly skilled professionals like doctors, lawyers and creative people.  If you want to avoid being replaced by a robot these days, you better learn the right kind of skills.

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How To Innovate Your Business Model In 5 (Not So Easy) Steps

2014 March 9
by Greg
business model innovation

In the 1950’s, Haloid Corporation thought it had a winning product.  Through some clever engineering, it had created new technology that was leaps and bound better than anything that had come before it.  The only problem was that nobody wanted to buy it.

Then the company’s president had an epiphany.  If no one wanted to buy their copy machines, maybe some would be willing to lease?  That, it turns out, was a multi-billion dollar idea and the company, now known as Xerox, became one of the world’s leading companies.

Isolated innovations are unlikely to make a significant impact on performance unless there is a commensurate change in how the enterprise operates.  A new product, target market or revenue stream may move the needle slightly, but rarely more.  To create meaningful change, we need to transform the business model.  Here’s what you need to know:

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The New Science Of Effective Organizations

2014 March 5
by Greg
Pentland

A recent survey reported that the consulting industry raked in $39.3 billion in 2012 renting out their advice to the world’s most powerful firms.  Yet still, a study by Innosight found that the average life on the S&P 500 has declined from 61 years in 1958 to only 18 today.

It makes you wonder what all those high-priced consultants are getting paid for.  With all of their fancy charts and two-by-two matrices, are they really anything more than modern day witch doctors dispensing a high tech version of folk wisdom?

We’re about to find out now that Sandy Pentland is on the case.  As one of the world’s top data scientists, he has developed a technique called reality mining that tracks human behavior through the use of a sociometer device he invented.  He’s recently published a book called Social Physics that explains his research into what really works in business.

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Why The Future Of Technology Is All Too Human

2014 March 2
by Greg
05_Flatbed_2 - DECEMBER

When Ray Kurzweil published The Age of Spiritual Machines in 1999, he predicted a new era of thinking machines that will meet and then exceed human intelligence.  The idea, which seemed outlandish at the time, doesn’t seem so crazy anymore.

Today, computers are taking over the work of humans and it appears that we are entering a new industrial revolution.  While this alarms some, many technologists point out that we’ve been through similar times of technological change and emerged better for it.

That’s true.  We are far better off than we were a century ago, when nearly half of us worked on farms, few had electricity and life expectancy was less than 50, but we endured a century of strife, two World Wars and countless genocides to get here.  The truth is that, much like in the industrial age, the great problems we face aren’t ones of technology, but culture.

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How To Do Brand Publishing Right

2014 February 26
by Greg
Brand Publishing

Content is hot!  What used to be a relatively small cadre of bloggers and YouTube enthusiasts has become a major marketing arena.  There is a slew of specialist agencies producing branded content and major media outlets offering native advertising.

Yet some believe that content marketing has already jumped the shark.  On his popular {grow} blog, Mark Schaefer argues that, because there is so much more content and only a finite attention span, content marketing is no longer a sustainable activity.

I don’t find that a compelling argument, because it could be said about anything  Today, we have not only more web sites, but also more movies, TV channels and consumer goods than a decade ago and those business keep getting more profitable.  The truth is that content marketing has ceased to be a cottage industry and it’s time to start doing it right.

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Why Experts Always Seem To Get It Wrong

2014 February 23
Professor Frink

In 1798, there were about a billion people in the world and economist Thomas Malthus predicted that overpopulation would lead to war and famine.  In 1968, at 4 billion people, scientists published The Population Bomb and The Limits to Growth, which predicted the same.

Today, in 2014, there are over 7 billion people on the planet.  Nevertheless, global poverty and violence are at all-time lows.  Even carbon emissions are dropping (at least in the US).  It seems that the experts have were mistaken.

In a sense, that shouldn’t be surprising.  There will always be a wealth of experts arguing a number of sides to any given issue and most will be proved wrong.  Yet we still seek them out because whenever there is uncertainty, we listen to anyone who professes to know more than we do.  By looking for easy answers, we’re just asking for trouble.

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How To Access The World’s Best Talent—Offshore

2014 February 19
offshoring

Every manager knows that to compete in business you need the right people with the right skills.   Yet today, we’re in a new era of talent in which there is a growing gap between the demand for skills and the supply of people that have them.

Just putting out a help wanted ad or even recruiting at top universities isn’t enough anymore.  The US and Europe make up roughly half the world’s economic output, but only 10% of the population, so much of the world’s best talent lives in developing countries.

Yet this is not Mitt Romney’s outsourcing.  It’s no longer a matter of trolling the world for people poor and uneducated enough to work in Dickensian conditions for low pay, nor can you simply sign a contract with a foreign employment agency and expect to get access to top talent.  Today, if you expect to succeed, you’ll need to learn to do outsourcing right.

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Why We Need To Change The Software In Our Organizations

2014 February 16
by Greg
cog in the machine

Years ago, there was a popular cartoon with a caption that said, “To err is human, to really foul things up requires a computer.”  Technology back then was very tightly engineered to do specific, rote operations and if you went outside that box, you were asking for trouble.

But computing has changed a lot over the years and we’ve come to expect more.  Big datamachine learning and cognitive computing have transformed our devices into helpful companions, able to adapt to our particular context and solve complex problems.

Unfortunately, our organizations haven’t kept pace.  The computing elements—also known as people—are organized by strict job descriptions and performance is measured in those terms.  That worked fine when markets were stable, but in our age of disruption, it often spells disaster.  Clearly, we need to change the software in our organizations.

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5 Things Managers Should Know About The Big Data Economy

2014 February 12
Michael Scott

At the beginning of the 20th century, most people lived as if it were the middle ages.  Almost half of the US population was employed in agriculture.  Life expectancy was less than 50 years. Indoor plumbing was rare, as was telephone use.  There were very few cars and no airplanes.

The rise of big organizations changed all that.  They enabled large concentrations of capital, which led to large scale transformations like the Interstate Highway System and the Hoover Dam. This was the environment in which modern corporations thrived.

The 21st century economy, however, will be dominated by bits and not atoms.  The change will be much larger in scope, but almost imperceptible in physical scale.  The result is that we can no longer manage our enterprises as we did in the industrial age and there is a widening gap between companies that perform in a data economy and those that don’t.

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The Inevitable Collision Of Technology and Politics

2014 February 9
Zuckerberg FWD

In The Wise Men, Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas portray a world in which business and politics flow together.  Prominent men, like John J. McCloy and Averell Harriman, floated between public service and commerce, performing both roles with honor and duty.

However, technology entrepreneurs have historically eschewed political life.  It was, at least in their minds, symbolic of the jaded and debauched establishment that they were seeking to upend, rather than the meritocratic ideal they aspired to.

Lately, that’s begun to change.  From intense lobbying on issues like SOPA and PRISM, to the Government 2.0 initiative and Mark Zuckerberg’s FWD.us Super PAC that focuses on immigration issues, Silicon Valley has begun to mobilize and the impact on politics is sure  be substantial.  But the impact on tech itself could be even bigger and more important.

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