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Posts Tagged ‘future’

Numbers.png

In 1987 a super computer could process 2,000,000,000 calculations per second.  Think about that for a ‘second.’  In other words, this is the processing power of two billion people for one second.  That was a big deal.

Fast forward thirty years.  On June 8, 2018 the US Department of Energy introduced a new supercomputer from IBM that could perform 200,000,000,000,000,000 calculations per second. Using all of the humans on earth (approximately 7.0 billion), it would take every human doing a calculation each second for almost a year to match what this new supercomputer could do in one second.

Take a look at the following chart.  Note the numbers (powers of 10) along the bottom.  During the late 1980’s the personal computer could perform around 12 million calculations per second (126).  Look at the current time period; about 100 billion calculations per second (1011).  To put this in perspective, the IBM super computer mentioned above is (1017).  A gigantic difference.

Information Data Transition

Source

In a decade or so, the ‘calculations per second power’ of super computers today will be available to every day users.  You may ask, what does this mean to me?  My business?

Have you been reading the articles on Artificial Intelligence?  Virtual Reality?  Block Chain?  Data Analytics?  This is an incredibly important transformation and it is going to impact everything you do.  And, it is happening quickly.  You cannot ignore the impact this is going to have on your business.

Therefore, understand the advanced technologies that will impact, or are impacting, the critical components of your business (manufacturing, distribution, logistics, marketing, etc.).  Then, find ways to utilize that power for more effective decision-making.  Don’t wait until you have to; catch-up is very expensive.

 

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Outside the Lines

Have you ever watched a small child who was learning to craw go exploring?  They move about three to five feet, stop, look back to see if you are still there, and then take off again.  The more comfortable they become, the less they look back.  Somehow, many of us as adults, have lost that drive to “explore.”  Why?

Obviously, a young child doesn’t know when they are moving toward something that will cause discomfort.  Over time, they will learn, and become more selective about what to explore.  In any case, during the maturation period, they will lean toward exploring, and not worrying too much about discomfort.  They will grow up in a world riddled with rules, limits, and restrictions; even so, they will continuously test the rules.  By the time they are adults, they know where the lines are and have a predilection to stay within them.  –  Whoa, I better not go there.  It’s comfortable here.

From a business perspective, we need to operate more like an exploring child, than someone who lives within the lines.  Often the ‘fear of failure’ is the deciding factor in trying something new.  However, if you want to survive, you must go outside the lines.  And believe me, from a resource (time, people, and money) perspective, it is much better to choose to explore, than to be forced by outside forces to cross the lines.

While there are many processes that business owners use to play outside the lines, most can be narrowed down to a few simple steps.

  1. You must understand your comfort zone, AND why you are comfortable there. This is your first line to cross.
  2. Determine the best and worst-case possibilities for your journey. What is the best thing that can happen to your business and what is the worst thing that can happen to your business?  This is your second line to cross.
  3. Visualize what success looks like. This is more than a glossy picture, or sketch, of your business.  You must identify the most critical attributes of that visualization.  It’s like, being able to describe your (future) business to a new acquaintance.  Mentally, spend time there.  This is the third line to cross.
  4. At every step of the journey, you must capture the learning process.
    – What resources do you need? (time, people, and money)
       – What did you try? Did it work, or not work?  Why?
    – What competencies and capabilities are you building?  What are you going to
    need when you get there?
    – What is happening to your base business as you move along?
    –  In other words, craw three to five feet, stop, look back, and then take off again.

To create that future business, you must play outside the lines.  Successful businesses who succeed in this transition will be those that follow a plan that enables them to manage risks and seize opportunities along the way, while continuously pushing their organization forward.

It is an exciting journey; enjoy the trip.

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1493292585486_HD

Last year, the Future of Jobs Report developed by the World Economic Forum identified the Top 10 Skills in 2020.  The top six were:

  • Complex Problem Solving
  • Critical Thinking
  • Creativity
  • People Management
  • Coordinating with Others
  • Emotional Intelligence

Finding this very interesting, I did some research to see if I could identify critical skills identified in 2007 to see what has changed in just ten years.  Here are a few:

  • Communication Skills
  • Honesty and Integrity
  • Strong Work Ethic
  • Computer Skills
  • Teamwork
  • Analytic Skills

While there is some connection between these two sets of skills, the change is telling.  Let’s look at a few:

Complex Problem Solving.  According to the World Economic Forum report, complex problem solving is defined “as the capacity needed to solve new, poorly defined problems in complex situations.”  It is the ability to solve real-time problems that are not clearly defined in a dynamic and complex world that cannot be addressed by routine actions.  Whoa!

Critical Thinking.  According to the Foundation for Critical Thinking, critical thinking is defined as “… that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it….”  The focus is on objectively analyzing a problem by assessing evidence (data), patterns, relationships, etc. in order to arrive at an informed decision.

While the skill definitions seem overwhelming, in the simplest of terms, both are ‘mind sets.’  It is how we think about the problems/opportunities we are facing.  In other words, recognizing that many of the problems/opportunities facing business are not only below the observed surface, they are also complex, dynamic, and often obscured by fuzzy signals.

Compare these two to the 2007 skills, which are important, and think about how we have been educating and training our workforce for the last ten years.  Interestingly, the number one challenge I hear from business owners is that they cannot find qualified workers.  So, how does someone acquire these skills?  How does a company even begin to interview for this talent?  Where does it begin?

It begins with the leadership of the company “challenging the conventional thinking” within the organization.  It is a new mind set; it is a culture.  The first step is recognizing you will often have to dig below the surface of the observed problem/opportunity in order to grasp the substance/complexity of what you are dealing with, ‘before’ applying resources (time, people, and money) to act on it.  The descriptions say it all, we live in a more challenging environment than we did just ten years ago that requires a different skill set to survive and prosper.  Your move.

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grandad-71012_1280

It was another warm summer night as we walked the quiet streets of this small river town. For as many years as I can remember, this was a common occurrence for my Grandfather and me.  We passed neighbors, shop owners, friends, and others simply outside enjoying the summer evenings.

What I learned at that early age were the “standards” that existed for human interaction.  Standards that I would later learn had a lot to do with the return of the Greatest Generation from WWII.  Simply, respect (people and property), decency, courtesy, fairness, generosity, and responsibility.  These were never spoken of as standards, they were exhibited in everyday behavior.  Simply put, they were expected.  If you violated one of these, you stood out. – I had my share of standing out.

Over the years, we have wandered to a new place.  A place that I question as being good for society in general.   You don’t have to look far to see what I am talking about.  Watch a news channel or talk show.  Go to a sporting event (watch adults scream obscenities).  Go to a sale at a large department store.  Take an airplane flight.  Drive down a freeway (how about I-95 in Washington D.C.).  This list goes on.

We have become more of a ‘what is in it for me,’ my needs are more important than yours,’ and ‘in your face’ society.  Don’t get me wrong, it is not everyone.  However, it has become common enough to be easily observable.  To the point, that someone exhibiting exceptionally good standards stands out.  Just the opposite of what it was like when I was growing up.

I don’t know where this is going to end up, but it bothers me.   Hopefully, over the next several decades we will wander back to better standards of behavior.  If we don’t, we become less of a ‘society.’

 

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Board Mtg

A common misconception of business owners is that outside advisory boards are for larger companies – multi-million dollar international firms you read about in the news.  Smaller mom and pop shops, individual proprietors, or firms with less than $5 million in revenue would never have an outside advisory board. – Not true.

An outside advisory board consists of three or four individuals (outside of your business) that have the competencies and capabilities to help you be more successful.  It is that simple.

Most businesses are started by an individual, or several individuals, who invest their personal capital (time and money) in an idea.  In the beginning, they do everything, primarily because they simply don’t have the funds to hire employees.  If successful, they gradually develop into a more structured organization with numerous employees, customers, business relationships, and a defined capital base.  Along this journey, it becomes increasing difficult for the owners to break away from business operations to spend time thinking about the strategic perspective of the business.  They can’t work on the future because they stuck in the day-to-day.

This is where an outside advisory board can help a lot of companies.  Its primary purpose is to help/guide owners to spend time working on the future of their business.  In other words, planning for the future.  Of course, outside advisory boards also help owners work on the day-to-day stuff; but their greatest value is strategic.

There is a long list of reasons why companies say they have not considered outside advisory boards.  In many cases, the reasons are based on a lack of understanding of the role and responsibilities of outside advisors.  In other cases, the owner simply does not want outside advisors.  For companies that set up advisory boards, the board is one of the most valuable assets an owner can draw upon; regardless of the size of the business, its products or services, or its industry.  Clay Mathile, founder of Aileron and former owner of The Iams Company, has said that “if I had a popcorn stand on the corner of Third and Main in Dayton, I would have an outside board; it is the best investment you will ever make in your life.”  I know quite a few companies that have set up a Board of Advisors, and not a single one has regretted that decision.  Most wish they had done it sooner.

There are organizations that can help you develop a better understanding about the value of an outside advisory board.  Check local business listings, organizations, chambers, etc. to find out more.

On the other hand, I realize that outside advisory boards aren’t for many business owners.  If this is the case, find an strategic business expert that can help you develop and implement a “strategic perspective” of your business.  Like advisory boards, a strategic business expert is also a valuable asset business owners can draw upon to help them to be more successful.

Regardless, of setting up an outside advisory board or using an expert, you must take charge of your future; don’t leave it to chance.

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old-man

In the new normal, data has become the Holy Grail for making business decisions.  Everywhere you look the importance of data comes to the surface.  Marketing programs, websites, hiring practices, social media, finance, sourcing, and manufacturing, to name just a few, all rely heavily on data as a feedstock for decision-making.  Throw this data in to a computer and ‘presto,’ you have your answer.

As the world moves to the age of data scientists, data engineers, data analysts and data architects, I reflect on something I experienced many years ago that I believe remains true today.

I took a course at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in computer simulation of business strategies.  Part of the course was a three-day forecasting competition using the data of a real business.  We set up four groups.  Each group developed their own business strategies and entered the data into the computer system each night.  The next day we reviewed the results and decided on new input for the next run.  It was a financial simulation model that involved using random number generators and distribution functions that mirrored historic company data and performance.  At that time, this type of simulation modeling was very sophisticated.  It was like the data analytics of today.

One group who corralled at the back end of the class room, included an older gentleman (old man).  He didn’t say much but when he did, his questions and comments were measured and well thought-out.  On the final day, when we were comparing our results, he spoke up.  Out of the back of the room came, “It won’t work.”  What?  “Your models won’t work.  I just cut off your raw material supply.”  Silence.  Game over.  Using his 40 plus years of business experience, intuition, and knowledge of the industry, he made a human decision that trumped our models.  It didn’t matter what the data was saying.  I never forgot this experience.

I have built many financial simulation models in my business career and realize that in every fancy algorithm, there is an old man.  I believe he also exists in today’s data analytics.  –  Beware of the old man.

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teens

In the last 100 years, 16,307,243 men have been inducted (drafted) into the military: WWI – 2.8 mil., WWII – 10.1 mil., Korea – 1.5 mil., and Vietnam – 1.9 mil.  In 1970 the Selective Service System went to a lottery system based on your birthday.  In that year, the first 195 birthdays were drafted; my birthday was #82.  It didn’t matter to me since I was already in the U.S. Marine Corps.  The last man drafted entered the Army on June 30, 1972.

No one that I knew wanted to be drafted, but off they went to serve their country.  As the years passed, I’ve bumped into very few individuals that served in the military, including those drafted, that didn’t consider it a life learning experience.  We learned responsibility, commitment, loyalty, discipline and the experience of “serving” our country.  We learned how to work with individuals with vastly different backgrounds and perspectives.  And, we experienced some things that we would like to forget.  Most of us can still talk about it as if were yesterday.

Let me put this into perspective.  Today we have 1.4 million individuals serving in the military protecting 323 million of us; or 0.4 percent of our population.  So very few individuals will acquire that “serving your country” experience.

I realize that everyone can’t serve in the military.  In a ‘We Are the Mighty’ article in 2015, it was reported that there were 34 million individuals between the ages of 17 – 34.  Of that group 71% wouldn’t qualify for military service due to physical, behavioral and emotional issues.  Of the qualified group, only 1% had an interest to serve in the military.  We, as a country, have become disconnected from the idea of serving our country.

Here is my thought-provoking proposal.  Every young person, starting at age 18 must serve their country in one of the following services.

  • Military (two years active, or 6 years reserve)
  • Conservation Service (National Parks, recreation, energy programs, etc.)
  • Medical Service (Veterans hospitals, health service, etc.)
  • Peace Corps (as is)
  • Educational Service (Programs for supporting primarily at risk schools, preschool programs, maintenance, etc.).

There would be two commitment choices for non-military service; a two-year full-time commitment, or a four-year commitment of two active weeks each year and two days a month.  Pay grades and ‘service’ benefits would be like those for military personnel.  How about earning funds for college, college credit, help with buying a house and medical benefits?

While the service requirement starts at 18, full-time student deferments (college, trade schools, etc.) would make sense for filling certain positions; however, the deferment would have a set period.  Also, the non-military service options would provide a great opportunity for those individuals with some physical limitations that could not serve in the military.

The future of our country will be determined by how well we prepare our young people.  However, too many of them today are struggling to find a path forward or a purpose; or in street terms, a way out.  I believe this would provide a valuable building-block for growth, and it would greatly benefit our country.

 

 

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