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The Electricity of Our Times

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the new electricity of our times. That’s what Chris Duffey, creative technologist says about this incredible technology revolutionizing industries the world over. Chris spearheads Adobe Creative Cloud strategic development partnerships.

His new book Superhuman Innovation showcases how AI will supercharge the workforce, the world of work, and can be harnessed to deliver powerful change. It is a practical guide to how AI and Machine Learning are impacting not only how businesses, brands, and agencies innovate, but also what they innovate: products, services and content.

In this world of product and pricing parity, the delivery of superior service experience has become the new marketing, and the new real competitive edge. With AI, companies can harness the power of data, personalization and on-demand availability at the touch of an intelligent button.

Superhuman Innovation discusses how AI will serve the superstar innovators of tomorrow by enabling them to see deeper insights and set sail for higher goals. It unearths a powerful five-pronged model which describes how AI enables innovation through the offerings of Speed (facilitating work processes), Understanding (revealing and mastering deep insights), Performance (customization of delivery to customers), Experimentation (the iterative process of reinvention and feedback) and Results (tangible, measurable and optimizable results).

 

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the new electricity of our times.” -Chris Duffey
 
A Book Co-Written by AI (!)

How in the world?! That’s my first thought as I am talking with you. Chris, how did you co-write this book with Aimé, an artificial intelligence agent?  

When I was a creative technologist working on digital health experiences, I saw first-hand how AI has the power to enrich people’s lives, and that was the source of inspiration for writing the book. We are now going through this interesting period with AI, and we go through it with every new technology – first we need to understand what it is and is not and then how to operationalize it within organizations both big and small to be able to leverage it to solve real world business and societal problems. With the recent advances of AI particularly around 2012, we had a convergence of computational power, access to a surplus of data and new AI techniques that allowed us to have this resurgence of use cases and applications.

So with this in mind, during the process of writing the book about the immense possibilities of AI as an amplifier of human ability at scale, I was inspired by a number of AI firsts: the first news articles created by AI, the first financial reports made by AI, the first car commercial created by AI, the first perfume created by AI, the first AI artwork sold at Christies, the first movie trailer created by AI… So I said to myself let’s not just write a book about AI, but let’s use AI to be a co-author. One interesting future conversation point here is, we do have a tendency to apply human traits to AI systems. In a sense it’s cognitive shorthand for contextualizing what an AI system can help achieve, so when we say co-author, we define it on 3 levels.

This framework of AI tools to help assist in the writing process was comprised of AI Voice Recognition, AI Content Understanding/Summarization, and AI Content Creation and Generation.

Voice Recognition and continuous dictation enables human-to-system interaction through a voice-user interface (VUI) for tasks such as speech-to-text, text-to-speech, voice editing, formatting, spelling, and sharing of documents—essentially a multi-model communication exchange.

AI Content Understanding and Summarization technology reviews and abridges databases, articles or research papers into quick, digestible content through approaches such as sentiment analysis, attribute labeling, and organization of higher-level concepts based on contextual understanding.

AI Content Creation and Generation is the ability for the system to develop concepts and ideas to aid the content creation process. Writing algorithms which were designed to emulate the human writing process helped contribute ideas, titles, content and responses.

The book’s format reflects and is written as the dialogue between myself and the AI system which we call Aimé, which stands for AI + Me, and is reflective of how AI has the ability to amplify the human experience.

McKinsey: AI is advancing 10 times faster and at 300 times the scale of the Industrial Revolution
 

 

AI to the Rescue

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Make Work Great

Leaders recognize that organizations are great because of the people working in them. Knowing that people make or break a company is one reason leaders are constantly trying to improve company culture.

Moe Carrick’s new book, Bravespace Workplace: Making Your Company Fit for Human Life, recognizes the importance of people so much that the dedication at the very front of it is “dedicated to workers everywhere. You are the heart of it all, and it’s what you do every day that makes your company great.” How very true that is, and how incredible for Moe to recognize it even before page one.

“If only my manager thought that way,” you may be thinking or even, “Would it be too obvious for me to buy a copy for my manager?”

Moe addresses some important issues as she advocates for people, for culture development, and for thriving organizations in the midst of rapid change. I reached out to her to talk about her work.

“Creating the kind of workplace that is actually fit for human life goes way beyond mere happiness.” –Moe Carrick

 
Make it a Bravespace

What does a bravespace workspace look like?

Most simply, I define a bravespace workplace as one where people can show up as they are, both perfect and flawed, and do great things together. Bravespace workplaces activate, enliven, and tenderly support the complex humans that we are so that we can bring all of ourselves to work every day. This means that an organization designs itself, trains its people leaders, and runs day-to-day processes so that the people who work there (any company’s greatest asset!) can bring their highest and best skills to work every day. People sometimes over-simplify what I am saying as “a workplace where people are happy” but let’s face it, an ice cream cone can make me happy!  Creating the kind of workplace that is actually fit for human life goes way beyond mere happiness.

“Brave doesn’t always involve grand gestures.” -Shauna Niequist

 

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Take a Deep Breath 

Technology has revolutionized the way we work today, but working at the pace of tech is not sustainable.

Have you ever harnessed the power of a deep breath to change your day?

Research continues to validate the power of the breath. Learning how to breathe can increase your productivity and reduce your stress. Perhaps its simplicity is the reason many do not practice it daily.

In her new book, Breathe to Succeed, Sandy Abrams talks about how to utilize the power of breath & mindset tools in a simple, fast & effective way that helps us enhance clarity, creativity, productivity & success on many levels. I reached out to her to talk about her experiences and research.

“Fear is excitement without breath.” -Robert Heller
 
The Benefits of Deep Breathing

There are so many scientific benefits to deep breathing, and you share them throughout the book. Would you just share a few of them?

Deep breaths immediately take us inward and bring us into the present moment, which is a coveted destination these days since most of our time is spent living in the past or future as well as externally: reacting to pop up notifications, emails, text, social media.

Deep breaths connect us to the part of our brain that regulates emotion; so with even just a few deep breaths we connect our mind and body and are able to work from optimal thoughts and energy rather than autopilot.

Deep breaths offer both immediate and long-term benefits like meditation but can be done in the moment, without having to master the art of stillness or reserve chunks of time.

“When you begin your day with mental clarity from slow, deep breathing, you take control of your priorities and put yourself first.” Sandy Abrams

 

What do you say to those who are skeptical (as you once were) of the power of breathing?Read the rest of this post...

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Creating Engagement

With so much focus on engagement, you would think that the statistics would dramatically improve. Instead, most of the surveys show employees are not fully engaged. Why is this, and what can be done about it?

In a her book, Employee Confidence: The New Rules of Engagement, Karen J. Hewitt, argues that employee confidence and engagement are intertwined. The difference maker in engagement is confidence. I had a chance to catch up with her and talk about her new book and work.

“Disengagement isn’t the real problem – confidence is.” -Karen J. Hewitt

 
How to Thrive

What makes an organization thrive?

There is only one thing that makes an organization thrive, and that’s its people. It’s as simple as that. The moment your people stop feeling valued, or supported to achieve their potential, or communicated with, their engagement levels fall.  And when this happens, you’re not just looking at engagement problems, but problems with all the other things engagement drives, like quality, productivity and client satisfaction for example.

Even worse, the best employees leave, which inflates costs and blows a big hole in both productivity and the engagement levels of those who remain.

Clever business leaders put 80% of their efforts into their people, because they know that people are the key to everything else they are looking for. It sounds obvious I know, but most leaders do the opposite. They get so hung up on the numbers that they place a disproportionate amount of attention on them, to the detriment of their people.

As soon as they stop taking time to understand what their people need, disengagement is the natural outcome, and with disengagement, the all-important numbers either go downhill or don’t deliver what they could because employees aren’t operating to their potential.

“Coaching is transformational leadership in action.” -Karen J. Hewitt

 
Create an Engaged Culture

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Achieve Conscious Success

If you want to achieve success, you should ponder these three questions:

  1. What is my best purpose to achieve conscious success?
  2. How can I demonstrate high awareness for conscious success?
  3. How can I positively differentiate myself from others?

Those three questions are literally on the front flap of a new book, The 9 Dimensions of Conscious Success. They pulled me into a narrative by David Nielson. In the book, David shares the dilemma of how to achieve conscious success and outlines a process that helps you move to a life that fulfils your purpose. David is a management consultant who has spent over three decades in consulting and leadership development. I followed up with him to talk about his work.

“You cannot differentiate yourself based on a false image of yourself.” -David E. Nielson

 

What is conscious success?

Conscious Success is knowing how you want to show up in life and business, and following a prescribed behavior set which deliberately produces the success you have defined for yourself. The elements and behaviors are specifically the 9 Dimensions.

“How you show up in life is a conscious choice – an import choice, it turns out.” -David E. Nielson

 

What are some ways to move from unconscious to conscious, and from incompetence to competence?

It starts with increasing your own self-awareness. We emphasize in the 9DCS model that the foundation is defining your purpose, increasing your self-awareness, and increasing your social awareness. As part of the 9DCS model and book, we created an assessment to assist individuals in increasing their self-awareness. We believe this is the starting point for developing your own plan to move toward your own conscious success.

“Gratitude drives your purpose.” – David E. Nielson

 
Know Your Purpose

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Simplicity in the Age of Complexity

“The answer is simple,” the professor said, then he waited a minute and added the important qualifier, “if you are a mathematical genius.”

He was attempting to explain one of the most complex concepts of the semester. I remember laughing along with the class as we struggled to make sense of it at all.

In business, I often wonder if there are any simple problems. We are living in a world that is complex, full of ambiguity and more difficult to navigate.

That’s why I was interested to see how David Komlos and David Benjamin tackled the subject. Their new book is Cracking Complexity: The Breakthrough Formula for Solving Just About Anything Fast. David Komlos is CEO of Syntegrity and David Bejamin leads Syntegrity’s client delivery organization.

“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.” -John Maeda

 
Solving Complex Problems

What defines a complex problem?

Complex problems are messy, unstable, unpredictable, confounding and don’t come with right answers, only best attempts. These problems require new solutions created specifically for the circumstances, and you can only know that you’ve found a good one in retrospect. Contrast that with complicated challenges which are the domain of the expert: a known solution exists, and it can be reliably and successfully applied as needed by someone who knows what they’re doing.

Building a fence between your yard and a neighbor’s yard is a complicated challenge; building a great relationship with your neighbor is complex. Fixing a car is complicated; disrupting the automotive industry is complex. Implementing a customer relationship management system is complicated; delivering a winning customer experience every time is complex.

10 Steps to Solving Complexity

You list 10 simple steps to solving complexity. Which step trips leaders up more than others?

Leaders tend to get tripped up on the early steps, and when that happens it means they don’t even get to the point where they’re trying to implement the later ones.

In step 1 – acknowledge the complexity – leaders often don’t see the difference between complicated and complex, so they can’t acknowledge it. All they know is that some challenges tend to get solved, and some don’t. This leads to the wrong conclusion – if going to the experts to solve some problems (i.e. the complicated ones) works, it makes sense to go to them to solve all of them. Since the complex ones are categorically different, the experts and the expert-centric model of solving problems is the wrong approach.

Even when leaders do recognize and acknowledge that this problem is different, steps 2 and 3 are where they’ll tend to devote much less attention than they should, and these steps are also foundational. Step 2 is about framing the complexity in a great question, and step 3 is about getting all the right people involved in answering that question.

Instead of a great, clear, compelling, aspirational question – which takes work – they’ll tend to do some problem definition, have a report written, and use this as a starting point. This easily leads to miscommunication, misunderstanding and misalignment (from the start) about what the problem is, what success looks like, why it matters, and what’s at stake.

And instead of assigning a high-variety group from inside and around their organization to develop solutions, they’ll tend to go to the usual suspects, keep the group small, and rely on what they see, know and believe (which, with complex problems, isn’t nearly enough).

“A really, really good question will launch a thousand really, really good conversations.”

 
The Power of Questions

Let’s talk about questions. Talk about the power of a good question to crack complexity.

“A really, really good question will launch a thousand really, really good conversations” – nobody actually said that, but someone should have.Read the rest of this post...

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Negotiations Can Improve Your Success

Entrepreneurs and startups face an uphill battle as they launch. That’s not surprising, because statistics show that 80-90% of them will fail. Against these daunting odds, entrepreneurs must not only be innovative, but determined to succeed not matter what happens.

And, according to Samuel Dinnar and Lawrence Susskind’s book, Entrepreneurial Negotiation, the biggest threat they face is an inability to negotiate.

That grabbed my attention; so I followed-up to discuss the findings with Samuel Dinnar. Samuel is the president of Meedance, a negotiation and dispute resolution service, and an instructor at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

“Entrepreneurs need to treat negotiation as a critical skill.” -Samuel Dinnar

 
5 Factors of Entrepreneurial Negotiations

What are “entrepreneurial negotiations” and how are they different?

In the research for our book, my colleague Lawrence Susskind and I interviewed many entrepreneurs from diverse industries and backgrounds. We found that in entrepreneurial negotiations several factors, that may also exist in business negotiations, are always elevated, often to an extreme. They are complexity, uncertainty, relationships, egos, and emotions.

Moreover, the entrepreneurial leader needs to negotiate for everything throughout the life of a startup and especially in the very early days, when the future company is just an idea or in the seed stage. On the other hand, when a corporate leader (whether a manager or an executive) is tasked to run a project that brings a new product to the market, for example, that manager will usually be given a budget and a team to work with. The entrepreneur leader continues to negotiate for resources that are beyond his or her control throughout the life of a startup. He or she will need to sell the “vision” to potential employees who might not get paid in the beginning as the company is being formed, or to negotiate with investors to invest their money in the company that has yet to deliver anything, or to convince the customer to buy a product that does not yet exist from a company that may not even be around a year from now!

As action-oriented leaders, entrepreneurs are constantly on the move. How does this affect negotiations?

Many entrepreneurs are hard-working action-oriented leaders who know how to make quick decisions and move swiftly based on their intuition. Trusting their intuition and instincts has made them successful so far, but there is a danger in that. Some of the habits that made them successful may actually backfire when used at a later stage, once the company has grown. For example, raising money from an angel investor is a very different process of negotiation than the one used with a later-stage venture capital firm. Some entrepreneurs will make the mistake of working alone without seeking enough advice, while others will make the mistake of compromising too quickly, without exploring how to create more value, so that they can go back to doing what they prefer such as developing a product.

“Some of the habits that make entrepreneurs successful in the beginning may backfire when used at a later stage.” -Samuel Dinnar

 
8 Common Mistakes of Entrepreneurs

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Trust

Every year, Gallup publishes a survey listing the most-to-least trusted professions. As you might guess, bringing up the bottom of the list are members of Congress – and car sales people. Todd Caponi, a self-professed nerd for sales methodology, had a revelation that he felt so passionately about that he left his role as a chief revenue officer of a high-flying tech company to write about it.

In his book, The Transparency Sale: How Unexpected Honesty and Understanding the Buying Brain Can Transform Your Results, he outlines how honesty, authenticity and leading with your product’s flaws actually is an evolution coming to the world of sales – which could mean a new perception of the profession.

It’s a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Service-oriented leaders will celebrate Todd’s approach to honesty and transparency. Not only did I enjoy his philosophy, I was pleased to see a common friend, Jeff Rohrs, was one of the earliest supporters of the book. That grabbed my attention even more.

I asked Todd to discuss how using unexpected honesty and understanding the buying brain will change the profession for the better.

“Transparency is the risk, authenticity the currency, and trust is the reward.” -Dr. Mani

 
How Sales Has Changed

How has sales changed with the advent of the internet, email marketing, and changing consumer expectations?

Since the beginning of time, buyers have sought answers to their brain’s desire to predict what their experience is going to be when making an unfamiliar purchase. “Will this wheel help me move my stuff more effectively, and is it worth the cost of three chickens?” “Will this sliced bread machine save me enough time to make up for the price I’m paying in terms of dollars and potential lost fingers?” For uncounted years, the primary source of information for a buyer to satisfy their predictive need was provided by the individual and company selling the products themselves.

Beginning with the advent of the Information Age in the mid 1970’s, followed by the Digital Age in the 1990’s, the way sellers provide value to buyers in their quest to predict their experience changed dramatically. Buyers now had other sources to gather information, so their expectations changed – simply because they were now better armed. With the digital age, buyers could now self-diagnose their pains and self-prescribe the solution to those pains without the aid of sellers. The good news is that human beings are not great at self-diagnosis and self-prescription. This is why websites like WebMD did not put doctors out of business, and why the internet has not and will not put sellers out of business either. In each case, it required a professional evolution, and those evolutions are not stopping.

“Transparency sells better than perfection.” -Todd Caponi
 
The Importance of Online Reviews

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Becoming an “ICONIC” company, with Scott McKain - YouTube
If you can’t see this video in your RSS reader or email, then click here.

*click above to watch*

5 Factors of Iconic Performance

What if standing out in a crowded field is no longer enough?

How do you rise above the noise and become distinct?

What does it take to become truly iconic?

Scott McKain is the founder of the Distinction Institute and one of the most iconic professional speakers in the world. He has written numerous books including the 7 Tenets of Taxi Terry and Create Distinction. His latest book, ICONIC: How Organizations and Leaders Attain, Sustain and Regain the Highest Level of Distinction, may be his best ever.

In this video interview, we discuss:

  • What an iconic organization looks like
  • Steps that leaders take to deliberately make their organizations iconic
  • What is distinctive and iconic performance
5 factors of iconic performance:
  1. Play offense
  2. Get promise and performance right
  3. Stop selling
  4. Go negative huge surprise to most
  5. Reciprocal respect

Some great quotes from ICONIC:

“Problems in differentiation are usually not about your why, it’s that you need to deliver a better how.” -Scott McKain

 

“Never forget the high price champions pay to become the distinctive best.” -Scott McKain

 

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Managing a Remote Team

More and more of us are working remotely some or all of the time. Leaders are now challenged with managing teams spread across time zones. Taking on this topic of remote leadership is Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel in their book The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.

Kevin Eikenberry is the founder of Kevin Eikenberry Group, the author of several books, and a leadership speaker. Wayne Turmel is the cofounder of the Remote Leadership Institute and also has authored numerous books.

I recently spoke with Kevin about the unique challenges of managing a remote team.

“Think about leadership first, location second.” –Kevin Eikenberry

 

Your latest book is The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership and your website on leadership is superbly done. Let’s start with your definition of leadership.

Thanks for the feedback! I love this question, Skip, and while there are a hundred great definitions, here is one to consider: Leadership is the actions taken to help and encourage others consistently in the direction of a desired future outcome.  It is a verb (action), not a noun (a position).  And, nothing gets better without leaders.

“Use technology as a tool, not as a barrier or an excuse.” –Kevin Eikenberry

 

What unique challenges do long-distance leaders have?

The obvious one is that you can’t interact with some of your people face-to-face, and you likely won’t communicate with them as often.  So that means that every interaction is important – and you should work to communicate beyond email (turn on those webcams) as much as possible.

One less obvious is that it isn’t just you and the remote team member who have to adjust.  If you are like most teams where you have a hybrid – some work together and others are remote – you have to help the whole group learn how to collaborate and communicate most effectively in this new world of work.

“Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.” -Booker T. Washington

 
Pitfalls of Long-Distance Leaders

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