Daniel Burrus' Strategic Insights Blog

Everyday Innovation Can Produce Big Results

thumbnailSo many companies get obsessed with scoring the next Big Innovation. Of course we’re all hungry to find that next giant disruptive idea that will revolutionize our industry. However, how often can you truly expect that big stroke of genius to happen? Once every two years, once a year at the very most? In addition, most employees of large and midsize companies don’t feel they are capable of coming up with the next Big Innovation and assume others are working on this so they go about their tasks failing to innovate. Speaking of mindsets and culture, can you expect such a huge leap to come if you don’t have a culture in your organization that fosters innovation and rewards it? In truth, the type of innovation that we need most is not the Big Innovation that happens in dramatic bursts every now and then. What we need most is Everyday Innovation.

The Privacy Revolt: The Growing Demand For Privacy-as-a-Service (PaaS)

thumbnailThere’s one thing just about every company has in common right now. Without even necessarily meaning to, they have in some way become the proprietor of a new kind of wealth. I’m referring of course to their customers’ data. But the flipside to acquiring that data is your customers now hold you to certain expectations: namely, that you’re taking steps to safeguard their privacy.

25 Game-Changing Hard Trends That Will Create Disruption and Opportunity

mail_image_previewNo matter what industry you’re in, your company can’t survive without technology. From smart phones and tablets to mobile apps and cloud-based technology, there’s a plethora of technological advancements not only to keep track of, but also to profit from. To stay competitive, your organization needs to anticipate the most significant technology trends that are shaping your business and changing your customer, and then develop innovative ways to use them to your advantage, both inside and outside of your organization. Remember, if it can be done, it will be done. If you don’t use these technologies to create a competitive advantage, someone else will.

Technology is Transforming What and How We Learn

Education and learn concept: pixelated words knowledge is powerIn today’s world of technology driven transformational change, it’s important to understand that: “If you received a PhD ten years ago, it only means you used to know a lot.”

It’s not just what you learned, but more importantly that you learned how to learn and keep learning because things change so rapidly, and knowledge, even the most specialized kind, can get out-of-date very quickly. Given the accelerating pace of change, one has to ask; does investing time and money in education still have the same payoff it once did? Does the particular expertise you acquire remain relevant and put you at an advantage in the real world? Or have you lost a step and several years on your way to attaining an impractical degree? I don’t intend to diminish anyone’s education, but these are questions worth considering.

Millennials: Underuse Them at Your Peril

Millenials

Are you taking your young employees seriously enough? Too many companies aren’t.

Case in point: In my consulting work, I once visited a large—strike that, very large—company, one of the leaders in the tech sector. Something stood out to me, something that none of their executives had noticed. There were no Millennials working in the C-suite or anywhere close to the C-suite for that matter. In addition, few if any were in important strategic meetings. And this organization doesn’t stand alone. It is shocking how many companies promote employees to those top-level positions based on tenure, rather than skill, talent, or knowledge.

Take a look at the key positions in your own organizational chart, or at the people who attended your last strategic meeting. Is it segmented by age, with your youngest workers filling entry-level roles and attending tactical meetings, while your oldest workers take on the highest leadership positions and attend the most critical meetings?

If so, what message are you sending to the young people in your company?

The age-old belief that experience trumps everything else when it comes to climbing the corporate ladder or being part of critical meetings is just plain worn out, and the best of your youngest employees might be planning to leave so they can work for a company that will allow them to make a significant difference now.

In fact, according to the Millennial Compass Report, more than 40% of Millennial workers expect to be in a management position within two years. Perhaps even more alarming is that 50% of those surveyed said that they would depart from their companies after two years.

So in short, your youngest workers want to help shape the future of your organization now and to feel like there is opportunity to move into a management position not just when they get older, but once they have had a chance to prove their value. If you don’t offer them that opportunity, they have no qualms with jumping ship. And when they quit, they take all of the knowledge and training you gave them, along with their energy and forward thinking, elsewhere—potentially to a competitor.

While projections are all over the map when it comes to what we can expect in the near future regarding the number of Millennials in the workplace, one thing is certain: As Boomers retire and more Millennials infiltrate the workplace, the influx of youth is changing the way we do business.

At the same time, it is causing complications like we’ve never experienced before. There seems to be a huge divide between the youngest and oldest workers in any given company, a problem perpetuated by myths concerning today’s youngest workers.

The bottom line is that not all 20-somethings are self-entitled, job jumpers who expect the world to be handed to them. In order to break those stereotypes, companies must start seeing the leadership potential of people at every level in their organizations, regardless of age or tenure. It begins with truly acknowledging the value that Millennials bring to the table.

There is no denying that Millennials are tech-savvy, given that they were raised on technology. But beyond that, many young workers possess intrinsic qualities that make them great leaders—and good for business.

Having grown up in a time when teamwork is consistently reinforced and being social is everything, they are natural collaborators who share openly, and consistently look to their social groups for advice on everything. That level of collaboration and transparency is critical if you want an agile organization.

More than other groups, they are able to see past color, gender, sexual orientation, age, and physical characteristics to build truly diverse teams that lead to better ideation and problem solving.

In addition, the Age of Google has made them pretty self-sufficient in solving their own problems, and they are consistently looking for better, quicker, more efficient ways to do things. That can save you money and time, while avoiding hassles and obstacles.

Perhaps most important is that they want to make a difference. They want you to value their creativity. They want you to see the merit in their ideas, and they are motivated to work harder if their work has meaning. Imagine a workplace full of that kind of enthusiasm.

Based on the growing, transformational impact technology is having on every aspect of your business, are you doing everything you can to maximize the potential of your youngest workers? Or are you just waiting for them to either get older or move on to an organization that values them?

Are you actively grooming them to take over your leadership positions? Or do you merely use them for the grunt work and leave more prestigious positions for people who have “done their time”?

It’s time to end the war between the old and the young. It’s time to start respecting Millennials for the unique high value they bring to the table. It’s time to stop putting an invisible age requirement on promotions. It’s time to make fostering loyalty among your newest employees a priority. Otherwise, you are going to experience a huge talent drain that you may not be able to rebound from.

Adaptive Ads Get Personal

thumbnailRemember the scene in Minority Report when Tom Cruise’s character walks through a mall and is hailed by ads that recognize him and speak to his specific desires and concerns?

Those interactive, all-knowing, perfectly-tailored ads are a marketer’s dream come true, and they’re now possible thanks to the development of ambient intelligent systems.

What Can Watson Do For Your Company?

thumbnail-1Companies are using IBM Watson to grow and transform their businesses in huge ways that are making a lot of professionals nervous. Instead of writing it off as “another new supercomputer,” let’s take a look at what actually makes Watson unique. Watson is a cognitive technology that processes information much more like a smart human than a smart computer. Rather than thinking humans will be replaced by a computer, you should realize that this is, in fact, a huge opportunity.

Grow Connectivity for the Developing World

GrowConnectivity

One hot frontier for innovation right now is to expand and grow the wireless Internet access for the developing world and thereby open up entirely new markets for digital services.

More and more, our world is coming to consider Internet access to be a basic human right, not unlike access to clean water. This new standard of access-for-all makes sense: connecting to the internet provides information and opportunity for such a relative low cost that it seems insensible, even cruel, to deny it to anyone.

Connectivity elevates people and gives them amazing opportunities. Right now, surveys by Pew Global show that basic cell phones are nearly omnipresent even in the most impoverished regions of the world. Smart phones are gradually becoming cheaper and more accessible to more consumers, but the connectivity to serve all those smart phones isn’t yet in place.

There are many areas of the world, especially large parts of the continents of Africa, South America, and Asia, where wireless internet access is sparse to non-existent. When we talk about “globalization,” shouldn’t the word refer to, you know, the entire Globe?

The Hard Trend Quest for Connectivity

This drive for more widely available internet access was an inevitable development. It’s a Hard Trend, a trend based on inevitability, as opposed to a Soft Trend, based on something that might occur. And the emergence of more connectivity throughout the world is an example of the former — it’s well on its way and it’s here to stay.

One of my earliest examples of Hard Trends was what I called “the three digital accelerators”: the exponential advances in processing power, bandwidth, and digital storage. These are three factors that are growing — inevitably — and as they grow, so grows the tech sector.

An exponential increase in processing power, bandwidth, or digital storage, rapidly opens dramatic new possibilities for business. If we accept that these three factors are increasing — and they are — then we can see what’s coming. One mistake you should never make is to write off anything as impossible because it is “too expensive” or “too difficult.”

As a result of these inevitable accelerators, everything in tech — including wireless connectivity — becomes cheaper to implement and easier to accomplish.

Anticipate Change, Don’t React to It

The whole reason that I spend so much time talking about Hard Trends and Soft Trends is that I’m teaching you how to reliably anticipate key changes in the business and technology landscape so that you can take steps to profit from them instead of getting swept aside.

So I encourage you to get busy right now thinking about how your company can take advantage of expanding markets that are enjoying new access to the Internet in the developing world. How can you anticipate, rather than react to this Hard Trend as it gains momentum?

How can your organization provide reliable Internet access to people who don’t yet have it? How can you take advantage of the new markets that will emerge once they do? How are you pre-reacting to the sea change about to occur?

And before you write off global connectivity as a waste of your time, consider these already-in-progress global initiatives to make the Internet more affordable and accessible to people in the developing world:

1. Google’s Project Loon

This is Google’s effort to provide “balloon-powered Internet for everyone.” Loon floats balloons up in the stratosphere. Special antennas in people’s homes allow them to connect to the Loon network for online access. Project Loon is currently working to provide Internet access possible for hard-to-reach regions by building a ring of connectivity to multiple Loon balloons around the 40th parallel.

How are all those folks connecting around the 40th parallel going to benefit from your company’s digital services?

2. BRCK

BRCK is a hardy $199 connectivity device built by an African company, Ushahidi, for use in regions with unreliable electricity and Internet connections. Physically robust, able to connect to multiple networks, carrying enough backup power to survive a blackout, BRCK is designed to work in off-the-grid locations.

BRCK operates with any 3G-enabled SIM card in over 140 countries, has a virtual mobile network operator (vMNO) for connectivity without a SIM card, and also has an external GSM antenna port to support connectivity.

What is your organization going to do to serve products and offerings to the huge amount of people in Africa who are now able to get online thanks to BRCK?

3. Facebook’s Internet.org

Internet.org is a partnership between Facebook and mobile providers like Ericsson, Samsung, and Nokia designed to support efforts to bring internet connectivity to the two thirds of the world’s population that doesn’t yet have it.

So far Internet.org is currently offering an app to consumers in Zambia and Kenya that allows them to access select websites (related to health, employment, and other basic information services) without incurring data charges.

The Connectivity Lab at Facebook, part of the Internet.org initiative, is also working to make affordable Internet access possible through high-altitude long-endurance planes, satellites, and lasers.

In Conclusion: There Will Be No Such Thing As “Off The Grid”

As the whole world gets online, a vast realm of economic opportunity opens up for those new citizens of the Internet and for you. Get busy deciding now how you’re going to participate in this Hard Trend and profit from it so that you’re not slayed by it.

©2015 Burrus Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

3 Essential Secrets to Retaining Your Best Employees

mail_image_previewYou can’t do it all alone. In order to succeed, it’s essential to build exactly the kind of staff you want. But building your staff doesn’t end at the hiring process. You’ve got to be able to foresee the challenges ahead. And when it comes to creating an amazing team, you can count on the fact that employee retention will be a challenge. Everyone wants to hire the best. How can you ensure that you’ll retain your most valuable employees amid all the changes occurring within and outside of your organization?

All that trouble that your company put into searching and interviewing and hiring the best candidate for the position, all the resources spent on training that person and acclimating them to your business culture – it all goes right out the window if they leave. Money goes right out of your pocket and into your competitors’ coffers the moment that employee decides that his or her value will be better appreciated somewhere else.

The good news is that you can retain valuable employees with the right combination of thoughtful communication and collaboration. You can’t cut corners on this piece of the puzzle without the risk of losing the best talent and brains of your organization to your competitors.

And I can tell you this: most organizations are totally doing it wrong. They’re hemorrhaging their top talent. Here’s why — and here’s how you can avoid doing it.

1. You get the behaviors you reward.

Your organization is probably rewarding plenty of counterproductive behaviors in your employees without even realizing it. Does your company reward loyalty and the creation and sharing of truly new knowledge? Or does it reward knowledge hording and an every-man-for-himself attitude and routinely make a big deal about achievements that aren’t truly meaningful advances in wisdom, but instead just puffed-up chances to showboat?

If you want employees who innovate vigorously and who stay with you for the long haul, you need to reward their hard-won wisdom by teaching them to see the importance of their contribution to building a shared knowledge base. As I’ve said before: You get the behavior you reward, so you have to put in place a rewards system for sharing knowledge — which is, after all, your most crucial asset. Keep at the top of your mind that there are many significant ways to reward people, and not all of them involve compensation.

2. It’s not just the money, it’s the purpose.

It’s common to think that the fattest salaries will do the best job of retaining talented employees. That’s just not so. Money is important, but humans don’t live on bread alone.

Your top employees need a sense of being validated, seen, and recognized for their work. They also need to feel vividly that their efforts are making an impact in your organization. How do you let your employees see and feel and experience the positive effects of their work? In a world where many of us work in intangibles like ideas and information, it’s absolutely key to provide people with the feedback letting them know that they’ve made a difference.

In order to really reward your employees, you need to not only pay them competitive salaries, you need to also align them with your sense of purpose and show them tangible signs that their efforts help to drive that purpose forward.

3. Relate to your employees — from your Futureview® to theirs.

Most organizations make the mistake of relating to their employees on the basis of the short-sighted demands of the present moment and from past habits. This is a fast way to nip innovation in the bud among even the most talented and committed staff members.

In order to succeed, you need to communicate and collaborate with your staff from your Futureview.

I coined the term Futureview over thirty years ago to refer to the vivid mental picture we each hold of our future existence. This is not the same thing as a goal, plan, ambition, or aspiration. Your Futureview is not what you hope for or are trying to create — it is the picture you actually hold, for better or for worse, of what you expect and believe about your future.

Most people are not fully aware of what their Futureview is. You have one — everyone has a Futureview — but often without realizing it or examining what it looks like. Being unaware of it does not mean it doesn’t control you; it most certainly does.

You have to become aware of your own Futureview because it puts a tremendously powerful strategic tool in your hands. It hands you the control of your own future. Your Futureview determines which actions you’ll take in the present, and which you’ll avoid taking. Different Futureviews create different realities.

Therefore, as an executive, are you managing the Futureview of your employees, regardless of current economic conditions? There are people working in your company right now who are already online or on the phone looking for another job. Why? Because of their Futureview as it pertains to working for your company. There are also people who are planning on staying. Why? Because the Futureview of working for your company factors into their Futureview.

To have the best chance of retaining your most essential employees, you need to get clear on what your own Futureview is, and communicate and collaborate with your staff to make sure theirs aligns with yours. With the proper application of these principles, you and your staff can look forward to a productive and rewarding future together.

©2015 Burrus Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Why Martin Luther King, Jr. Did NOT Say, “I Have A Plan”

Martin Luther King Monument DCWhen Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial fifty-two years ago and spoke to a great people about their greater future, he didn’t say, “I have a plan.” Instead, he shared a dream that provided a vision of equality and hope for a struggling nation. His dream was not to get elected and not to become rich; it was a dream that was to and for everyone—one meant to elevate the national conversation by providing a goal that at the time seemed impossible but would be worth achieving for all.