Business opinion, thoughts, impact of business on our society and vice versa

It will become an interesting year in very many ways. I feel there are three challenges worth mentioning for 2019
* Intensifying economic challenges across the world
* Stress factor technological challenges rising
* Socio-Political challenges to deal with the global development

Let me shed some light on those challenges.

Intensifying economic challenges across the world

In 2018 the stock exchanges finished with the worst christmas day in history. The former economic leader, the USA, is in deep trouble. The country is effectively bankrupt but tears itself out of the dilemma, like every year. It does it not by smart finance politics but simply by moving assets around, printing more money and near perfect political communication (also known as propaganda). So markets reakt on the troubling US economy – who’s fault is it? Ahh – the Chinese production data. So the troubling economic situation isn’t about the US but China – really? It’s that simple. But since global financial transaction, mainly commodities are bound to the dollar – nobody wants to change their lead currency in their dealings. However – more and more actually do – but silently. In 2018 Europe became the largest export economy in the world. Export is the factor that defines a nation’s wealth and makes Europe – under the radar – the most powerful economy on the globe. Asia is the fastest growing Economy. But since most economists still look for the US development, the global economic picture is seriously distorted. Even the largest non US banks see a rosy future based on US data influence. Ok data, being the most important raw material for any decision process, come almost exclusively from the US. Europe and Asia has been successfully stimulated to see privacy and data “protection” the most important goal. Well done my friends. 2019 will be interesting as the world’s transparency is still rising, information flying at the speed of light – unfortunately without solid data from the two global power houses Europe and Asia. The result of these challenges -mainly lack of solid information – may be a massive economic crisis in the US and Japan, which can be easily “promoted” to a global economic crisis, leading to massive devaluation of the global stock markets – regardless of their actual local performance. Cash will become king and allow those who keep the cash buy top functional businesses very cheap in the next three years – history will repeat itself on a new even higher level. This may actually by far the best way for the US to rebound from their troubled economy when hundreds of US billionaires acquire top notch European and Asian businesses for change.

Stress factor technological challenges rising

Our technology development is mind boggling. In 2018 more new inventions and discoveries were made than in the previous 10 years which was more than in the past 100 years, which was more than since the existing of mankind. And the pace is still accelerating. But the advances are so many and in so many areas that we hardly notice them.

Will there be any major technological breakthrough?  NO – Not in AI, not in smart material, not with bio material, not with molecular technology, not within blockchain, not in FinTech and any of the other major topics we are talking about in recent months.

We are in a phase of the most massive technological shift of all times. However none of them will see a “breakthrough”. We may actually not see any breakthroughs at all any longer. Because, unlike 50 years ago, we are seeing thousands of revolutionary inventions and discoveries every single day – not every year.

In 2018 we saw the creation of a heart chamber that is entirely build from bio material, creation of concrete stone that is actually made of air – actually CO2 – modified carbon, the advances in enforced deep learning letting AI play, find or construct much faster than any human ever will, creating bacteria that can digest polymers, and hundreds of other “breakthroughs”. They all happened this year – 2018. Next year will be the same and again without any “big bang” but as a “rolling thunder”.

Lack of interest, not knowing where to start, not knowing what to look for and most importantly with not a single hour of education, our children and parents raising children will remain completely unprepared for what is coming in the next 10 years. That stress factor is certainly rising in 2019 and hopefully gaining enough attention for everything and everybody in education to respond.

Socio-Political challenges to deal with the global development

With the two defining drivers in our developed world: economy and technology, seeming to get out of hand, we will see three rather different developments across the planet. Based on our insights working in 27 countries we are seeing three different ways nations will respond to our major challenges:
Doing nothing, waiting what others do
We will see this – actually continuing to see this in countries from eastern and southern Europe, most of Latin America, Africa, and several Asian countries like India, Thailand, Philippines or Indonesia.
Trying to best understand the challenges and respond with actions
We already see this in Germany, France, Switzerland, Netherlands, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, Chile, Mexico, Russia and some others.
Due to lack of comprehension and in part inner instability trying to isolate the nation from the rest
Mostly countries with a strong culture, some living big time in nostalgia, or past successes, making their country great again. We see this very prominently happening in the US, Japan, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and other former developed or nearly developed countries.

Even though this third challenge is very much influenced by the first two, it is interesting to note that the world’s order is no longer east / west or developed / emerging countries but reranking itself into advancing countries which can be east and west, and also can be developed, emerging, decaying or least developed countries. One of the least developed countries to watch is Nepal. If the government takes the right actions in the next 5 years it may be a phoenix out of the ash. Already in 2017 we saw that development emerging but in the next two years it will become very apparent.

The biggest challenge in 2019 for everybody: Keeping track of what is going on on a global scale and to do so, developing the skill of “abstraction” – meaning building up the ability to focus on what is most influential and verify the sources of information. Every single human is living in the information age – whether we want it or not.

 

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Technological – Business – Societal  – Impact Development Timeline
The era of AMs – Autonomous Machines

2020 – 2025
We will see a rising number of products mainly chat bots, entering our day to day world. At the same time the work on “General AI” will be intensified and we are getting better and better results – yet no real products – despite the rapid development. The business impact will be substantial because access to knowledge will span all industries and will be substantially easier as conventional text search. Search engines will be either UI-less (meaning no keyboard, mouse, looking through lists but you speak to mic anywhere).
The societal impact will begin to bring a dark cloud. The start of significant unemployment in all kinds of call centers, info centers, support center…
Science Fiction movies may become rarer. Our development is faster than a movie maker can write a script, produce the movie and bring it to market. Ex-Machina II may possibly still not come out ;)

2025 – 2030
Technology development towards general AI will be in full swing but not yet really mainstream. Millions of engineers from around the globe will work on AI solutions. That includes Universal AI, multi purpose AI, single purpose AI. AIPU s (artificial intelligent processing units) will become more widely available. New Memory systems may arise. With that I mean silicon embedded intelligence to address memory content. There was a technology developed called “Content Addressed Memory” that may come to new life – now there may be a need for it.
The number of AMs (Autonomous Machines) such as AI Based self driving cars, AI based autonomous robots, AI based autonomous devices, AI based autonomous computers will rise significantly. By then everybody will sell their products with AI-Based XYZ. AI is like Internet in 1998. Widely used but still not fully developed. But everything will include AI one way or the other.
The unemployment rate will rise to very uncomfortable 100+ Million across the globe. Countries will start to TAX AMs in order to finance unemployment aid.
Unemployed will most likely not be able to find a new job. It’s when the wider public understands that AI is different to any other new technology: AI is used to make machines autonomous – rather then needing new skills to use the new technology by humans. AI is not even a technology, software, microprocessors, robots, cars everything existed, but a completely new way to use technology.
As a result, a significant shift in our society will begin. The makers movement will explode, social workers, nature-observers and protectors, artists, musicians, coaches and so forth will rise. We will move from “employed humans” to “autonomous humans”. We will grow more self determined across all levels of education and with a higher value to our society, environment and future evolution of humankind. A major societal inflection point may surface. Those who still need to “work” will push the AI development forward, knowing that if their jobs will be replaced, they can – like all the others – do what they really like to do and receive a UBI (Unconditional base income).

2030–2040
The AMs are substantially advanced. AI development languages and AI operating systems will become a standard in the tech space. Under the development systems the graphical application design tools may dominate as they can be used by pretty much any generally educated business manager. Just pointing and selecting data set sources, algorithms that analyze those data sets, selecting processors (neural networks) to pump it through and so forth. It will be the beginning of broadly available general AI. The number of AI based applications will grow faster and bigger than all conventional software together. The old software world is fading away.
The number of applications and functionalities leveraging IOT, sensor techniques, and robots will enter into all kinds of industries replacing ever more people. It will now be apparent – also for the last human on earth – that industrial work will be completely eradicated. Industrial unemployment will be raising to over a billion people in the next 10 to 15 years. Whether its office workers or manufacturing workers, AMs will take over the jobs. Everybody who is working on repetitive products or services can be replaced by an AM. Artists, will still keep creating Art any creative work that creates a unique ‘thing’ will obviously not be replaced because it would simply make no sense and cost too much. Those AMs work 3 times as long (8 versus 24 hours), no social cost, no vacation. Unemployment aid will at the very latest now become an unconditional base income for everybody, funded by the earlier implemented Value added AM tax. Autonomous Humans will now become the majority.
We also reached another interesting inflection point. Product costs are no longer determined by the amount of labor cost – back to raw material cost based pricing. But the raw material may actually sooner or later come from other planets. Science Fiction? No – this is now becoming reality. Not only because we understand that renewable ENERGY is limited but also recyclable MATERIAL is not infinitely available on earth. A billion cars with Lithium Batteries would require more Lithium after the first few replacement than we have on earth.

2040 – 2050
The AMs will evolve further, write complex algorithms themselves, beyond our own capabilities, create structures and construct products beyond our intellectual capacity. Humans, however, will also evolve further and deeper than we can imagine today, in 2018. Our brain will have more capacity for creativity because we will no longer need to remember when King Ramses built his empire, who his father was and so fort. We have that knowledge in our extended, collective, connected technical brain. Internet connection is omnipresent and guaranteed on every square inch on land or water on earth. Mass products in any way or shape can be constructed, prepared and produced by AMs. Only the decision, what we actually want to create, will still be coming from the human mind. And latest by then we will bring forward real self aware AMs (if not much earlier). There are many people including me working on self conscious AI concepts already. Yet even self aware AMs are far away from the human brain capabilities. The AI research will help us better understand what we are actually capable of. We will learn more about ourselves in these 10 years than in all the 300,000 years before. The human mind’s creativity is so complex that AI is still very far away from coming even close to it. We will have a far deeper understanding of the human mind than just our intelligence. We will understand that intelligence is just one power of our mind, similar to our power to move, the power of our muscles and the power of our orientation – which we have all augmented already some hundreds of years ago. We will understand artificial intelligence is no more than our artificial muscles, which we call tools.

2050 – 2075
Leveraging our added skills, collective knowledge our amazing machines, scientists will be replaced by those machines as well. Testing something new and prove a repetitive behavior to make it a scientifically proven fact, is much better done by an AI system than by a Ph.D. ‘system’. Science will be done by AMs across all factions. At the same time, innovative and creative ideas will explode, AM’s will analyze and verify those ideas in no time. AM owners will compete for those crazy but verified ideas and build it. AMs will help revitalize space exploration in a new and rather meaningful way. We will need other places than earth to harvest raw material and we need other planets for recycling or wast disposal. AMs, powered by solar energy are the best “people” to send to other planets or our moon to extract, produce, recycle, deposit. We don’t even need to terraform Mars for that. But we may safe Mars for exploring Terraforming together with AMs. Autonomous Machines and Autonomous Humans will build the most powerful synergy ever built. We will be depending on AI, more than on any other technology built so far. Most technology can be replaced by something else. But an AI system that can iterate through millions of ideas for any given solution in a few hours is something not only beyond what we built but beyond ourselves.

More details on how and why thousands of different jobs in 300+ industries, from around the world will be replaced in the next 30 years and how we manage the inflection point from the disaster of being “unemployed” to the luxury of becoming an autonomous human will be available on: Eliminating Work . AI

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In my work with artificial intelligence, thinking about the borderline between a perfect algorithm to perform a perfect action and the superiority over the human brain, I reached an area that made me think about the concept of perfection.

Hyper smart applets

In 1996 we were trying to design hyper-smart applets (applets was concept in Jave programming language). The idea was that applets travel through the internet autonomously, find receptors in routers or computers and have dialog systems in connected machines. It was a similar idea like smart contracts in a blockchain, but far more advanced in its autonomy. We were philosophizing: how far could we bring this? Would these applets become one day self aware? Would they be able to execute tasks not only based on our direction but also be influenced by incidents that occur while traveling in the net? For instance could they find their best path virtually on their own? Today’s AI discussion are a real dejavue for me. One thing we discovered at that stage: We have to allow the autonomous applets to make mistakes. We cannot predict every move and every situation. We have to add some sort of error correction mechanism and being aware that mistakes will come from probability of success calculations. This was the first time I realized that failure is not something we humans have because we are dumb – we have the behavior to make mistakes by purpose.

AlphaGO Example

20 years fast forward. The AlphaGo project 2016 showed very well that the AI system that learned to play GO, was incapable predicting every possible move in order to make a perfect moves. The variety of moves are so vast, that all computing power on earth could not perform this task in the next 10,000 years. So what AlphaGo did is taking a shortcut and calculates probabilities to win in percent from several possible and more logical moves. Obviously the way it does it was superior to how we humans can do it – but it is far away from being perfect (perfect as we humans use that term).

Permutation

I was reminded that permutation is a strategic concept of nature. We humans see permutation as a “mistake”, because we don’t know much about mistakes. We “instinctively” try to avoid mistakes at almost all cost. On the other hand we are triggered by rewards and any success is rewarded by our brain with “rewards points” also understood as joy.

Perfection

Humans are definitely imperfect. Our imperfection is mainly noticed by the mistakes we make and the joy we have when we succeed. However, the more we think about the reasons why we ‘must make mistakes’ eventually we come to a point where we understand that imperfection is the perfect scheme of development. The fear, that with the rise of AI ‘we are all gonna die’ because we are soooo imperfect, is definitely simply another mistake.

Imperfection Oxymoron

A “perfect system” that still develops makes the ‘perfect’ system being previously ‘imperfect’ or the development is a decay. Development or evolution including permutation can only be considered evolving if it is not perfect. The state of ‘perfection’ is the end of evolution or development.
Imperfection is the only thing that is perfect!

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More and more people understand today, that our future is not accidentally happening but literally created by us and by the forces of our universe.

If a large asteroid is destroying our planet before we found an emergency exit, that future is created by the forces of the universe or whatever we call it and believe in, including by chance if you like. But if we find a way to either destroy such an asteroid before it hits us – or find a way to rescue people and escape to another planet, this is a future we literally create ourselves. Everything we have today, homes, running water, accessible electricity, cars, planes, hospitals, computer, artificial intelligence, robots, machines, cranes…. was created by us. The live we live in today was the future, created by our parents – for us.

With that understanding, we should help all people understand, that every single one is helping create our future. Whether it is building a rocket to the moon where thousands of people, engineers and metal worker created that future – or agreeing that the UK shall no longer be in the EU, was  created by the sum of all of the respective people. The responsibility of every single one is much grander than most realize. Their ever growing influence is way more powerful than most people can comprehend. It is our responsibility to help everybody, understand that we are a collective and we collectively create our future – in what way ever.

For those who fear that influence – I guess we can trust that there are more people with a common sense on earth than those with destructive or criminal energy.

 

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“Please listen carefully to this menu as the menu has changed”. “Your call is important to us but please leave a voice message”. “If you need more information go to www – dot – whatever dot com…”

Sound familiar?

Customer engagement automation is the first impression when engaging with a business. The rest is history.  The intentions were good – yet the results are telling us we made huge mistakes. Automation on the business relationship side didn’t really bring any progress in our business – but alienated our business from our most important asset: our customer base.

I’m not talking about automation on the production side of the world – I’m talking about automation on the business side, the relationship side, the interaction side. Businesses are spending more time, resources and money automating whatever a team is doing then ever before. All done with the intention to be more effective – yet the ‘effect‘ is that we are loosing customers – not winning them.

Billions get invested every year in:

Sales force automation
Low touch sales model
Marketing automation
Automated Phone Systems
Business process automation
Anonymous market surveys
Market research to find what our customers want
… 
and on and on

In the end much more money is invested in automation than in smart and human customer experience models.

If you stop automating your engagement processes – you force yourself  to create real relationships. And as you “re-invent” relationships it may lead you to new ways to engage, it may lead to better an deeper relationships and it may lead to a level of advocacy that you never experienced before. Automating garbage collection is one way – reducing the volume of garbage is a smarter way.

Automating customer engagement may had been a legitimate experiment in business improvement – but it failed. Focusing on relationships and customer experience shows much more success.

Just give it a shot!

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Take five chimpanzees. Put them in a big cage. Suspend some bananas from the roof of the cage and provide the chimpanzees with a stepladder. NOW – add a proximity detector, so that when a chimp goes near the banana, a water hose opens and the whole cage is thoroughly soaked.

Soon, the chimps learn that the bananas and the stepladder are best ignored.

Now remove one chimp, and replace it with a fresh one. That chimp knows nothing about the hoses. He sees the banana, notices the stepladder, and because he is a smart primate, he envisions himself stepping on the stepladder to reach the bananas. The moment he is trying to grab the stepladder… the four other chimps spring on him and beat him squarely. He soon learns to ignore the stepladder.

Then, remove another chimp and replace it with a fresh one. The scenario occurs again; when he grabs the stepladder, he gets mauled by the four other chimps — yes, including the previous “fresh” chimp. He has integrated the notion of “thou shall not touch the stepladder”.

Iterate. After some operations, you have five chimps who are ready to punch any chimp who would dare touching the stepladder — and none of them knows why.

  • We fight against same sex marriage, only because we get beaten from somebody who is telling us that this is bad.
  • We send our sons and daughters to war only because somebody telling us that war is for freedom – even if 100,000 die
  • We buy products on black Friday because somebody tells us: that day things which are otherwise more expensive are now magically cheap
  • We support “No child left behind”, not even wondering if now all children are behind

We don’t like the nay sayer (and I do too) but is there a risk to become too much of a follower?

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Today – July 12 – is world population day

I was thinking the other day about the growth of our population and what it really means. How can we deal with it and how far can we grow?

I did the math:

If we would take the space of the entire US and populate it with a population density like for instance Munich, which is a very green city, not too crowded and has a very nice standard of living for everybody. Guess what – we could have 370 Billion people on that continent and the rest of the entire globe would be completely untouched – no human being anywhere else.

In other words: With a rather moderate squeezed in super population of 370 Billion people, still 93% of the planet would be completely unpopulated.

If we take the population density of New York we could squeeze in 1 Trillion people (1,000 Billion) in our Super continent and still 93% of earth would be our farmland with no human beings living there.

Considering regions with high mountains are just 5 – 10% of the space – water was not taken in consideration at all – So space on earth surely isn’t an issue for a long long time.

Food for everybody and the billions to come?

About 200 years ago 80% of the western population was involved in food production feeding the 100% of all. Today only 7% are involved in food production and 93% do other things. We have food for every human on earth and another 10 Billion if we re-arrange things a bit with the food production that we have already today. So availability of food isn’t an issue either.

Food distribution and clean water is a different story.

Food Distribution

The way we distribute food is one of the bigger problems. Large corporations actually sell bad food that is no longer accepted in the western world into third world countries thinking “better than nothing”. But her starts the problem. It actually is so cheap that the local food producers get out of business and need to eat that imported rotten food that causes disease and even casualties. Our understanding of the global food production and distribution is so superficial that we often times damage more than we fix – even so we want to help. And this goes on for decades now. Fixing this would make a huge difference.

Clean Water

This is one of the biggest problems on earth. And it is not only a problem of third world countries – it is even an issue in highly developed California. There is simply not enough drinking water for all right now – given the way we consume water. But here again we mess with the resources in a COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE way. Every hour one billion developed households flush their toilet with millions of gallons drinkable water. The toilet water we flush would be enough to keep 20 Billion people alive. So also here it’s the distribution that is completely messed up.

It’s too expensive to help

I understand it is expensive. We would need to have a dual water supply system to every house where we supply drinking water to the kitchen and bathroom and even the lawn and a secondary system to provide sanitized regenerated water or even prepared salt water to the toilet, washing machines and other water needs. Then we would need to build pipes into these massively large continents with all those other people who are in desperate need.

Thoughts for a possible sustainable development

We have to accept that we will continue to grow. We will become 20 Billion and we will need to find ways to help all of them thrive. We will need to find ways how we can make them all happy and healthy, even rich earthlings. And rich is the key word. We need to think differently – instead of abusing their cheap labor which is always just a short term gain – we need to make them all happy and rich consumers.

If we think about emerging countries that want to grow and thrive like Uganda or Kenya and the hundreds of others we need to invest in helping those countries become world citizens and consumers of what we provide. China thrives and countries who are very engaged in bilateral relationships with China are thriving too. Coca Cola cost only a few cent in underdeveloped countries and it seems to work – why can’t other businesses do that?

If we stop thinking short term gains and begin thinking in sustainable development of the rest of the glob – we can all grow more than we can without them. Meaing it actually isn’t about accepting the growth – its welcoming that growth. All we need to do is make them happy, healthy and wealthy consumers and a world citizens. Think of a brand new market of 370 Billion people – lots to be produced and delivered there.

Learning from the Curch

The Catholic Church has the best business model in the world since over 1,600 years. With that much experience in building a sustainable growth and wealth we can learn one thing: A growing population is the best guarantee for long term wealth. We may not need to follow their methods or believe system but we can learn to thrive over centuries.

Axel
http://XeeMe.com/AxelS

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I was recently asked by members of the European Commission about my thoughts when looking beyond 2020. And since I love thinking about long term development, I felt I should share, at least an extract, publicly.

2020 and beyond

Going beyond 2020 I see three plus one major developments. Two are already quite apparent one not so much. You may say there is no way to predict the future that far out. Well it isn’t actually that difficult. The foundation for Personal Computers were laid in 1973 – 10 years before IBM introduced the IBM PC which was revolutionizing the computer world. Internet was created in the 60’s with arpa net even longer before the launch of the public Internet as we know it. Social Media started with groups and forums long before 2003/2004 when LinkedIn and Facebook opened their doors. Cell phones gained huge popularity in the 90’s but my father had a mobile phone already in the late 70’s. In other words nothing that comes “out of the blue” and changed the world actually came out of the blue – but was invented at least 10 years earlier. The art is to identify those and predict the development of those existing technologies and their impact on the world.

Now – I don’t mention energy or environmental development in here because that is one of the challenges we are going through already today and it’s evolution is too obvious and will be a mainstream topic by 2020 – if it isn’t already today.

 

1) Democratization of influence

Our society is undergoing a massive change – probably bigger than any other change in history. With tools like social media but also and more importantly an urge to more individualism and more autonomy our society is influencing itself across all levels and traditional influence from industry or government leaders is rapidly diminishing. Co-creation of our future like co-creation of products today will have a significant impact on our political and economic landscape. The fear of creating an anarchy is pretty unsubstantiated – but the fear of missteps, failure in the experimentation phase is quite realistic. Governments will be challenged to stay involved in the democratization of influence and actually leverage the evolutionary development rather than fighting it in fear of loosing “control”. Governments, more than ever, need to be very clear about their responsibility as a function FOR the public and not a power in itself. By 2020 the democratization of influence will be in full swing and in the following decade democracy will be re-invented. There will be nations benefiting from this development and others will fail to create an integrated democratic model where the government’s role is more of a conductor orchestrating a societies development than leading it or even worst, controlling it.

 

2) Distributed Production & Service Networks

In several keynotes I described a “New Enterprise”. Already today we see the evolutionary development of distributed and rather “linking independent businesses” then “owning a complete process”. For instance: Code is developed by a software shop in India, a reception maybe managed by a “virtual assistance” who could work in Ireland, some of the production is in China and so forth. More and more of those functions get outsources to third parties. The antenna design of most cell phones was created and even patented by a small and creative shop. More and more start-ups and emerging businesses are leveraging those high energy, highly creative and highly productive small businesses, integrating them into their own product strategy. Reseller channels is an old technique to sell but in today’a age even more relevant than ever before. A company like Nokia could be as agile as a company like Apple if they would focus on market needs and designs and not on their own, old and very traditional company structure. A cellphone company doesn’t need to be more than 5,000 employees – Apple has approximately 10,000 in their iPhone group – Nokia has over 100,000. Running a business as a distributed production network means selecting the most creative people – most of them are not employable anyway, selecting teams when they are needed, selecting resources that are required while a project or a product is in high demand and needing to “keep people busy” because you have them on your payroll. It’s part of the human nature that we are thriving towards more individualism, autonomy, independence and freedom.  Significant growth in entrepreneurship is just one facet of that trend. All indications are there that in the next decades Distributed Production & Service Networks will dominate our industries. Businesses and governments should be prepared for that evolution.

 

3) Age Revolution

Fact is that our live expectancy is notably accelerating since around 1900. Fact is that within the last 50 years the acceleration level actually doubled – creating a hockey stick effect. It is more likely than not, that we are on our way to get significantly older than any previous generation. There is a good likelihood that in the next 20 to 50 years we may expect people turning 140 or 150. If average live expectancy continues to grow at current rates – we will see a growth from 80 to 120 years in the next 50 years. The implications are enormous. Somebody retiring at age of 65 would have possibly another 55 years to live – which is longer than the live expectancy 150 years ago. 2020 and beyond Age will be one of the most challenging topics our society, economy and government is facing. While people may say I don’t want to become that old – the trend shows a different development and we just will get much older.

This will change the way we work, we live, we get educated, we adopt changes and the way we think. It may allow much longer term projects, will create a massive experience pool we could not develop in the past but equally a massive problem as much of the experience from the past is no longer relevant. It will change retirement planning, work live cycles, age care and many other things.

 

The next big thing on Technology

Things like social media, Internet, smart phones, TV, Radio, Automobile never came with a big bang. It took years to create the base for the technology, years for making early market entrants successful and than finally we are talking about the big thing. The next big thing can be considered as such when three things are happening: A larger part of the population declares it as a hype that will go away, large consulting firms caution industry leaders that companies will loose billions of dollars because of it and one group of people get very laud about the security risks.

Read more

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The “new enterprise” as I call it is a network of highly engaged individuals or groups of individuals that may constitute the most successful organizationism in the future – organization + organism = organizationism. However it will be quite challenging to build the first of such “new enterprises” as many potential customers may require an organization they used to deal with: a big company. Only time will tell how this part of the business shift evolves. Here is an article from Gary Hamel “Three forces that will transform management” @ the McKinsey Blog that I highly recommend reading.

Let me share some vision for a structure where innovative leaders may create a company in the following way: Read more

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Please listen carefully to this menu as the menu has changed. Your call is important to us but please leave a voice message. If you need more information go to www – dot – whatever dot com…

Sound familiar?

The intentions were good – yet the results are telling us we made huge mistakes. Automation didn’t really bring any progress in our business processes but alienated our most important asset – our customer base. Read more

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I blogged about it a few weeks ago in a different context. But I’d like to shed more light on the dieing email technology. Yes, yes, yes, It will live on for a long time – but it’s the end of it’s relevance – and therefor eventually die.

My email account receives on average 36,000 emails a month. About 30,000+ are filtered by the server based spam filter. I don’t even notice those 30,000 – other than in a mail server log file saying – deleted 31,074 spam emails.
From the remaining 6,000 email about 5,000 get filtered by my local spam filter. So I end up with about 35 emails per day of which 50% I still care less, 15 – 20 may be informative and 5-10 are real important.
In other words 0.5% of the email volume is important.
Or: 99.5% of emails are a waste of bandwidth, wast of money as I need to buy and maintain spam filters. It’s a sad illusion for customers who trust marketers that they can “deliver the message”.
OK – I get more than 5-10 important messages a day – much more but I get them through different ways. People contact me via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter direct messages, text me, skype me and so forth. Only 20% of what is relevant to me comes through email – and steadily declining. Friends, customers and peers know – if something is REALLY important they skype me.

Now – you may say but if 5-10 are very important you can’t throw it over board. Right ! But it tells me that there will (hopefully soon) somebody come up with a cool new idea to get those 10 important messages to me without all the overhead of spam and filters.

I look forward to the day I can announce that I no longer use email – which I predict will happen within the next 18 month.

Axel
http://xeesm.com/AxelS

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Where is the expected added business?

Social media appears to be a new marketing tool. It looks like a new way to get closer to customers, win some more deals, creating a new communication channel. But where is the new business?

How can I turn it into an $800 Million business?
It was just a little bit too simple. And like anywhere else, there is no free lunch. But social media has a huge potential. It wasn’t just for fun that Zappos, an online shoe retailer was acquired for $800 Million dollar by Amazon. So what is it that makes social media work for some and not for others?

It is actually only one tiny difference:
For some social media is a new marketing channel, get done with it and go on with business as usual. Honestly, how could that work? For others social media is a whole new way of doing business with existing customers, partners and the rest of the market across all departments. Yes, it needs some thinking – but again, there is no free lunch. The latter ones are the winner.

Customers across all industries complain that the vendors, channels and suppliers they deal with provide a mediocre to lousy service, the companies are not approachable and nobody seem to listen. Businesses are so busy with themselves fighting the “business climate” that they seem to oversee that the most important aspect of getting business up are happy customers. Obviously even the coolest social media campaign won’t help at all – if the rest of the company does business as usual. If Customers complain about approachability social media can help to get the team more approachable. If service is a weakness, social relationships between service team and customer would be a great deal of improvement. If products lack functionality requested by users, social media is a great way to connect product management with the market. Interestingly enough, in none of the above scenarios a “cool social media marketing campaign” is the weakness or even required to engage.

How to solve the problem:
1) Understand that social media is a cross functional engagement
2) Don’t hire an external social media team but create a social culture internally
3) Keep sales in charge of customer relationships – but in a more social way
4) Make product development more approachable and listen to the market by being part of the social web
5) Ask marketing to help gather data and reports from the social web and escalate alerts inside the organization
6) Develop a strategy based on a thorough social media assessment
7) Engage in the social web with the goal to increase customer advocacy
8) Have a small team well educated and professionally execute the strategy

The Social Media Academy conducts a complimentary webinar this Friday Aug 14, with further details on the topic.

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The best way to prevent social media flops is to create a sound strategy in the first place. It sounds a lot of work and too much for many small businesses but this model has proven to work even in small organizations:

* ASSESSMENT
Social Media Assessment (4 quadrant assessment model) find out where your customers are, where they hang out and what is on their mind. Takes you a week or two to make it right. But you learn more than ever before. If you feel you know already – this is your first red flag to a social media flop. Check your customers presence, research how your brand is seen in the market, research your partners and your competitors.

* SWOT
The assessment leads you to a good ol’ SWOT analysis. You will find out what your (brand, product, service) strengths and weaknesses are from a market point of view – develop your opportunity and threat profile. You do that in a few hours.


* STRATEGY

Now since you know more about your market from a social connection and conversation point of view develop your strategy: Goals objectives, value to the market, major activities to achieve your goals, resources, budgets. Develop a strategy team that includes some of your customers (the X-Team) – that is the most magic difference to old world strategies. May take a few days and online conference calls. But if you do it without your customers – you flop – guaranteed.

* PROGRAMS
Once the strategy is sealed, you construct and execute your programs together with your X-Team. Instead of the old model of blowing something into the market you work with the market. May take a week or two to develop. The key to successful programs is PARTICIPATION and CONTRIBUTION. Each program need to be designed that your eco system contributes and other participates. Otherwise it is just yet another marketing splash – random noise. But your X-Team will prevent you from that type of campaigns anyway.

* REPORTING
The key like in any other business project: Measure, Model and Tune your activities until they are truly successful. Select the right tools and monitor your activities daily – some in real time.

So all in all it may take a few weeks – but you have a wonder weapon – versus yet another boring marketing campaign nobody is listening to.

Make a difference WITH your market!

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ComStar, a Cross Functional Organization Model and Strategy for Social Media engagement

When companies begin to engage in social media they typically start in the marketing department with some rather tactical marketing campaigns. In those early models a large company either hired some social media “experts” to do the campaign or found some engaged people internally. The rest of the organization does “business as usual”. The problem quickly surfaces in sales “What are these guys talking to my customers”, on the service side “what are they promising to our clients”, and the product management team still doesn’t get any feedback how to better launch the next generation products. While it is obvious that social media is a key method to create a better customer experience, a better way to listen to the market, a faster way to react to needs and a less expensive way to become part of the market, the “social media marketing campaigns” alone can’t do the job. An isolated “campaign” is often counter productive and it would be better to just not engage at all.

Learning from the early experiences we developed a holistic approach, a cross functional organization model that is able to carry out a social media strategy. The so called ComStar model integrates all departments that have a touch point with the market into the social engagement strategy. Only a small core of social media trained and experienced people is necessary to help steer even large global enterprises into a new direction. An internal social media strategy and it’s leverage effect makes it possible.

At it’s core, the ComStar Model has one principle:
– Develop a social media service team (SMST) that supports all departments in the organization
The SMST members do not necessarily tweet, blog, comment themselves instead empowers others to do so.
Similar to IT team, finance support or HR that services an entire company, the SMST functions the same way.

With the ComStar Model, the SMST (Social Media Service Team) is the guardian angel of the social media strategy. The main objective is to inspire, motivate and service the strategy relevant departments such as marketing, sales, service, product management, HR and other. The departments in turn engage with the customer base, prospects and the market in a whole. In this model the SMST is the cordial spine for the engagement, while sales keeps the control and the relationship to their customers (even so in a different more social manner), marketing keeps being the creative part in the new engagement model “not pushing the message” but fueling the conversation, product managers get the tools and methods to better listen to needs of the market and service teams get the support to be better integrated in customer issues.

Behavioral changes of “the old guard” in particular on the sales side are as painful as necessary. Change has never been an easy task. But also change has never been more important and has never shown more successful results like today. Creating some fan pages and a few tweets don’t create a better customer experience – nor does it generate the often promised millions of additional revenue. But a great and ongoing trust building relationship with the market does, as we can see in cases like Zappos.

We will present the model in greater detail on
Fri, Aug 14, 2009 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM PDT
Leasdership Series Webinar
https://www2.gotomeeting.com/404589362

Agenda:
– Social media impact to our business operations
– ComStar, an organization model for social media strategies
– Comparing structural differences
– Implementation challenges
– Job description, work flow and responsibilities
– Motivation and compensation considerations
– Cross functional reporting models
– A holistic view to corporate social media

Registration:
https://www2.gotomeeting.com/404589362

Axel Schultze Axel Schultze MyXeeSM

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Paypal was one of the first online payment services and had a great start but over time lost the edge. The company seems to struggle with their internal administration and adjusting their business processes to meet customer needs.

Company Background
Paypal has 160 million customers
Their support centers work shifts and deal with approximately 60,000 support cases every day.
Over 1,000 support people handle on average 60 calls per day.
You cannot email or use other ways of communication than phone, fax or post.

Support team
To deal all day long with frustrated customers is not a very pleasant job, so fluctuation is rather high and the level of competency very low. It takes on average three calls to find a competent person. Some customers suggest you don’t use a case number as you don’t want to get back to the same person.
Most of the support calls are very low level issues with routine answers, nothing special, simply based on lack of user help and a pretty confusing system administration (a user voice nails it: “This is done by a bunch of engineers and never reviewed by business people”). Many functions are even unclear to the internal teams. Support staff admits it is not very intuitive if it is anything other than pushing the pay now button. Everybody can read that in great detail in thousands on public complains.

Customer Experience
People still really like the product. Some even donated a website like This Link Lots of discussions with thousands of valuable inputs that – as it appears- non of the paypal people ever read. Paypal instituted a feedback form that customers are asked to fill out after each and every support case. Even so many people probably are too angry to even bother, some do, I did. But that source of customer feedback evaporates in the dysfunctional organization.

More Market Research?
Now the latest hit was that I received an invitation to participate in a survey – yet I have to be “elected” to join. However I get $200 if I participate after I am elected. But it looks like I have to drive to Mountain View to do the in person interview. A “market research institute” actually is doing the gigg. I don’t want to know what that cost in total.

So here is a company that has free feedback from millions of users and thousands of cases but just doesn’t bother to care – instead pays a research institute to create yet another source of feedback?

Paypals Social Web Presence
There is a paypal account on twitter, mainly tweeting “please follow us so we can DM you” – 63 updates, following 123 people
There are hundreds of paypal groups on Facebook from paypal fans to paypal frustrated customers
There are 18 groups focusing on paypal on LinkedIn with over 3,000 members
There are paypal customers on MySpace and many other sites, the feedback is priceless.
Yet paypal seem just not to care.

Even internally people know what the issues are: A support person inside paypal (very nice and very professional) “…I know, we asked numerous times to fix those issues but nobody seem to listen”.

How to actually fix the problem
Social Media for Paypal could become a life saver. Not as a marketing gigg but to improve and fix a dysfunctional operation.
1) At first a company team would aggregate and distill the customer feedback using established assessment methods and available reporting tools.
2) Then develop a customer supported advisory board and rigorously execute – fixing the top issues.
3) Tackle more problems and just grind through the list from top to bottom.
4) Ask the folks from “paypal sucks” groups and sites to HELP.
5) Using the, by then established, processes to figure out how new features need to be developed (co-creation)
6) Get feedback in a structured way through groups and networks rather than through useless questionnaires
7) Create forums where customers help customers, supported by maybe even less but better educated paypal support people

Non of the above has anything to do with sales or marketing – just building a better company.

Who Is Responsible?
Is this the responsibility of Dickson Chu Vice President of Global Product and Experience? Or is it Ryan D. Downs Senior Vice President, Worldwide Operations? Or is it Scott Guilfoyle Senior Vice President, Platform Services? Or Barry Herstein Chief Marketing Officer? Philipp Justus Senior Vice President, Global Markets, responsible for growing the company? Everybody has his/her fair share.

But No, Scott Thompson, the President is the one who need to engage his executive team in a cross functional initiative to fix the dysfunctional organization.

Social media is not a cool marketing gigg – it is a strategic engagement to react to the major changes in our society reflected by changing customer behavior and an ever more demanding market.

Axel Schultze Axel Schultze MyXeeSM
Social Media Academy

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