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Innovation

April 5, 2021 6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

At a Fintech conference in put on by Fordham University in the spring of 2017, an AI expert made a bold prediction: Someday there would be a company with a market cap of one trillion dollars. He predicted that this valuation, which at the time seemed incredible, would be based on that firm’s extensive use of AI.

He was correct in at least one regard: became the world’s first trillion-dollar company a little over a year later. But what of the second part of the prediction? Was Apple’s staggering valuation due to the power of AI? Are AI and, more broadly, , the key drivers of business growth?

Apple uses data analytics and AI extensively. combines speech recognition and expert systems to give you reminders based on your location. studies your listening habits and assembles playlists accordingly. Apple Fitness+ uses data from the Apple watch to help users build health. In 2018, Apple’s head of AI, John Giannandrea, was appointed to the company’s executive team.

Yet the same press release announcing Giannandrea’s appointment offers a fundamental insight into why Apple has been so successful. It notes that Apple “leads the world in innovation” — not AI. The company has spent decades creating entirely new product arenas and pioneering new business models around music sales (), app subscriptions (the ), cloud storage (), and digital payments (Apple Pay). It’s easy to forget that just 20 years ago, computers made up nearly all of Apple’s business. Last year, Mac products contributed just 10.4% of the company’s revenue.

Human creativity is visionary in ways that AI can’t be

Apple’s new products and business models relied on creativity and the ability to see beyond the known, not or AI. Creative leaders like and could see the deficiencies in portable MP3 players, but no algorithm could have told them how to build an entirely new way to listen to music. The iPod, the , and the iPad emerged from their ability to envision ways to apply new technologies and their outstanding sense of user-centric design. Services like iTunes and the App Store stemmed from the company’s commitment to provide entirely new and valuable experiences for consumers. Innovation, not AI or analytics, generated the returns that drive Apple’s trillion-dollar valuation.

Related: Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to Revolutionize the …

Nor could data be expected to produce such results. Quantitative techniques, even sophisticated ones like deep learning, are backward-looking, highly constrained, and reductionist. They begin with an established dataset and seek the best answer from a limited number of pre-defined choices. The very nature of data-driven tools makes them unsuited to coming up with bold, disruptive innovations — the kind of breakthroughs that lead to something entirely new. For example, one of the most promising AI technologies at the moment is the GPT-3 “few-shot” learning model, which has shown a modest ability to do some creative tasks like generating synthetic news articles and computer code. Today, though, its domain is primarily limited to natural language processing — and even that uses a model with 175 billion parameters.

Breakthrough innovation occurs because of ideas sparked by a serendipitous conversation, an unexpected finding in a lab, or the ability to connect disparate pieces of information from very different domains into a keen insight. When Jony Ive was hired at Apple, he had designed products ranging from telephones to toilets but had done nothing in the computer industry. Yet he was at the heart of Apple’s new product successes for two decades because of his ability to envision how new technologies could build a world that did not yet exist.

Reliance on AI can actually hurt more than it helps

The danger companies today face is that an over-emphasis on AI and quantitative tools can potentially hinder breakthrough innovation. If each decision must be driven by data, how will a firm create something for which there is no relevant data? No algorithm can justify investing in and launching a breakthrough innovation.

Related: How Artificial Intelligence Is Helping Fight The COVID-19 Pandemic

Moreover, a firm’s bandwidth for business improvement can be consumed by the use of analytical tools. In such cases, incremental innovation will rule the day. Renowned computer scientist Melanie Mitchell summarizes the trap that businesses fall prey to: “The race to commercialize AI has put enormous pressure on researchers to produce systems that work ‘well enough’ on narrow tasks.” Quantitative tools are powerful and exciting, but they can come to dominate a firm, keeping it focused on narrow tasks to the detriment of breakthrough innovation.

This isn’t to say that there is no role for data analysis. Data tools are enabling technologies that can improve and extend existing products. Firms should use AI technologies within their breakthrough innovations. For example, while there is no algorithm that could have taken mobile phone data in the early 2000s and come up with the iPhone, the AI-driven assistant Siri added value to this breakthrough innovation. AI is one of a number of functional areas at Apple, where it sits alongside software, hardware engineering, design, and other business areas.

The importance of breakthrough innovation is further illustrated by the other members of the trillion-dollar club. Amazon, Alphabet, and Microsoft built their success not on AI or big data, but on breakthrough innovations that transformed the way we shop, work, and consume information. These companies have benefited substantially from analytical capabilities, but they are largely selling products that sprang from human .

The surest path to success isn’t through incremental advances, but breakthrough innovations. While a trillion-dollar firm built on AI may someday rise, it’s not here yet. Companies should not let the shininess of AI and big data distract them from the importance of human processes like creativity and discovery to unlocking breakthrough innovation.

Related: What Is Artificial Intelligence? Whether You’re a Student …

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April 2, 2021 6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Leaders today have a problem. New products and services are being created and adopted at dramatically faster rates.  In measuring how quickly innovations reached 50 million users, we see a dramatic difference. Electricity took 46 years to reach 50 million customers after being installed in a small section of a New York City park. Telephones needed 50 years. TVs took 22 years, and cell phones took only 12 years. While Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies are revolutionizing multiple sectors, urbanization, globalization, emerging middle classes worldwide and social media’s influence add to the barrage of change that businesses have never experienced. It’s challenging our ability as humans to make sense of the change and develop an appropriate action plan. We’re at risk of becoming the frog in boiling water.

While change has always been constant, it was slow enough to be absorbed into the planning processes and the business’s overall business culture and strategy. Not anymore. Today strategy executives with vast organizational resources at their command stay up at night worrying about five college students creating a product that can displace them overnight. Leaders fear that they aren’t innovating in the right way, at the right pace, or with the right partners. Employees worry that they may no longer be relevant when the next organizational changes and corporate direction occur. More and more, those leaders are calling for their employees to be more innovative as well. This quest for a more resilient posture that allows an organization and its employees to thrive amid the radically changing environment will require more resilience for their efforts to succeed.

At the risk of overusing the frog analogy — none of us want to be boiled in water. Yet dealing with constant change, change on a grand scale, or continuous change initiatives can leave people feeling less willing to engage in change. People exposed to ubiquitous change are wearing out like an old ball that’s lost its bounce. This mindset fatigue affects other critical employee thought and patterns in areas of work engagement and innovation, which can erode a company’s competitive advantage, make change initiatives more likely to fail, and cause high employee turnover. Inoculating your business against change fatigue requires a healthy dose of resiliency.

Related: 3 Reasons Investing in Employee Resilience Pays Off

Research bears this out. In fact, a recent survey of employees of large tech companies found a strong relationship between resilience, work engagement and innovative behaviors and suggested that a company’s competitive advantage directly relates to employees’ resiliency. According to scholars, individuals with high change acceptance readiness are likely to have high levels of resiliency. Furthermore, resilient individuals also show increased engagement, energy, curiosity — which align with the characteristics of innovative work behaviors. Those innovative work behaviors — including accepting change, leading change, and noticing problems and opportunities — drive employees to more readily create and adopt new processes, policies and products. 

What does this mean for you?

If you’re a leader, you’re going to need to build your employees’ resilience and innovative work behaviors. If you’re a strategist, you’re going to have to plan on the rapid, multifaceted change that causes pivots at an alarming rate. If you’re an individual contributor, it means that landing that next job, gig or contract could depend not only on your skillset or degree but also your ability to adapt and thrive in an ever-changing environment. What may surprise you is how much control you have over becoming that go-to person in many work environments. It’s a lot more about mindset and behaviors than finding the perfect job. Being resilient may be on the list of essential traits, and innovative work behaviors and engagement might factor into your interview questions. Resilient, innovative, engaged employees adapt to the organization’s needs while taking on new skills for themselves. Enhancing organizational resilience boosts an organization’s capacity to adapt to change. 

Related: 7 Excellent Reasons to Focus on Employee Engagement

Here are five ways to build resilience in your organization.

1. Focus on the positive 

Researchers have found that it takes three positive experiences to balance out each negative experience. So seek out and emphasize the positive experiences you, your and your organization have. Celebrations can be simple. Showcase the birth of a team member’s baby. Create a background screen of accomplishments. Send an organization-wide e-mail acknowledging the hard work of a team — even if the hard work means they have to find a different solution than the one they were pursuing.

2. Take one bite at a time

Handling multiple changes simultaneously can feel overwhelming, yet it seems necessary on a more and more frequent basis. Keep in mind, when put a man on the moon, it took 10 years. They developed all sorts of technology, letting each team focus on their area of expertise. So, manage your change by addressing the long-term goal and the critical path one step at a time.

Related: 5 Principles for Dealing With Constant Change

3. Create virtual time

If you’re anything like my team, coffee keeps you running from early in the morning to late in the afternoon as you move from meeting to meeting. Set limits on meeting length to allow for five minutes of uncommitted at the end of each hour. Then make sure meetings end promptly. Give people time to get up, move around and refill their mugs. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll buoy spirits with this simple time trick.

4. Host a happy hour

Getting together with coworkers shouldn’t be left to chance. Everyone is too busy. Let your employees know that their membership in your team is essential. Make it virtual if you’re team isn’t all in the same office, and emcee a trivia game — you may learn that you have enough aspiring singers on your team to form a quartet.

5. Provide air support

Perhaps this one should have been first because it’s vital. If you’re asking your team to change, you have to demonstrate your support for those who rush forward on your behalf in a concrete manner. Remember that change is hard.  Be vocal in your encouragement and appreciation of your change agents. Take the time to coach your team members who are asking questions to make sense of it all. Acknowledge the risk and challenge of tackling change head-on. Get excited about the attempts, not just the successes. Most importantly, get engaged when the team identifies a roadblock. Successful change leaders block and tackle the challenges for their teams more readily when they do it proactively — and it often only takes five minutes. 

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March 26, 2021 6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If the 2020 hack on IT giant SolarWinds offered anything of substance to the business world, it should be an unquenchable desire to protect their employees. The hack — targeted to infiltrate SolarWinds’ Orion network management tool — affected thousands of customers, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to several government agencies. Unfortunately, the effects will be felt for years. 

Early this year, American intelligence agencies pinned the attack on Russia after discovering several similarities between the code used in the attack (referred to as UNC2452) and an older Russian malware (called Turla). The extent of the infiltration is still unknown, but the is already staggering. More than 18,000 customers downloaded the infected update, including national agencies like the U.S. Treasury, the  and the Department of State. 

The ramifications of this attack are sobering; nation-states and their agencies are able to infect a top-rated IT company’s software and spread it to thousands of companies when they patch their systems. Such an attack, known as a supply-chain attack, is insidious because patches and updates are considered a must for maintaining a defensive cybersecurity posture. When the patch gets compromised, the results can be devastating.

Related: 5 Signs of a Smartphone Hack (and How to Protect Yourself)

Tech-savvy users are more conscious about data-sharing

With such risks out there, enterprises should be doing everything in their power to protect their employees and data. When the resources of a hostile nation-state are stacked against you, you can’t afford to miss out on easy victories. Cue the recent controversy with WhatsApp, a messaging platform that owns. It started bleeding customers when it began sharing data with its parent company. With data an ever-present concern, enterprises should shy away from using apps that allow data to be shared with any outside party.

If the thought of sharing company data with one of the biggest data-harvesters in the world scares you, it should. With its pioneering of end-to-end (E2E) encryption on standard text messages, WhatsApp quickly built up a huge customer base among people concerned about their privacy with Facebook messenger and notoriously insecure SMS messaging. 

That customer base is quickly leaving as WhatsApp becomes that which it swore to destroy,  requiring users to consent to share their data with Facebook. Suddenly, there’s no real reason to keep using WhatsApp, so users are flocking to alternatives like Signal or Telegram. 

As of January 12, Signal reported it had 50 million downloads on Android devices alone. In January, Telegram hit 500 million users, with 25 million of their new users joining within a 72-hour period. For reference, it took Telegram about six months to add 100 million in 2019 and 2020. Clearly, WhatsApp’s mass exodus shows that secure messaging apps are still something most people want and need.

These apps are also using clever ways to get more people to download and use their app — like giving users the ability to migrate an entire group chat from WhatsApp to Signal with a simple link. Using this feature, Signal can grow its user base exponentially without asking people for their contact lists. Signal had around 20 million active users in December 2020. While the company hasn’t disclosed how many new users they’ve added since WhatsApp started hemorrhaging users, it was downloaded 7.5 million times in a five-day period in January 2021 after Elon Musk tweeted about it. 

Related: The Pivot to Remote, and What It Means for Security

Finding a Secure Alternative for Business

As more people join these secure messaging apps, they’re becoming a viable alternative for other users. A messaging app is only as good as its customer base, after all. If you can’t find a user on it, why use it? But are these apps suitable for widespread enterprise use? 

Truthfully, Signal is a pretty bare-bones app without a lot of features, and it can be clunky to use. Many believe it’s primarily useful for messaging, but enterprises need more robust features from an internal-communication app. Additionally, privacy advocates have their concerns because it requires a phone number to be associated with the account. Additionally, any contacts that are already using the app get a notification when one of their contacts signs up for Signal, which strikes many as a privacy issue. Enterprises simply can’t afford to have this type of unsecured platform as part of their communications. 

Similarly, using WhatsApp across devices is difficult. It may be cloud-based, but it requires all data first be sent to your phone. Then, other devices can sync from that. 

Although it is not end-to-end encrypted by default (you must enable it), Telegram is somewhat better for businesses because it allows customization and lets users access their group chats and messages from any device simultaneously. It also allows direct-to-consumer marketing, similar to emails, by offering companies the capability to send one-way messages to people who sign up for notifications. 

It’s worth noting, though, that as these free, widely-adopted apps expand their customer base, they become more of a target. For example, a collection of 13 different vulnerabilities was recently discovered in the Telegram apps for both Android and iOS. The vulnerabilities existed in a library that Telegram uses to parse and render animated stickers in chats and created an attack surface for potential remote code execution.

Also, these apps are still in their nascent stages without the server capacity to handle huge migrations of large enterprises or government organizations. Already in widespread use across many government agencies, apps like Teams offer much more robust options for enterprises, such as file storage, two-factor authentication and voice/video chat. It still lacks in the security arena, however. All in all, many of these solutions are not viable for securing employee communications, leaving their devices vulnerable to intruders. The best solution is a secure messaging app that is end-to-end encrypted.

Companies looking to secure their employees’ online activity, devices, and messaging need to seek out innovative solutions. Research is critical for enterprises to understand whether or not their communications and data are as secure as they think. With threats lurking everywhere online, they can’t afford to leave anything to chance. While not the only solution, using encrypted messaging platforms is an important way to secure vital communications and keep employees safe — especially in an era when more and more professionals are working remotely. The SolarWinds hack should be a wake-up call that organizations can never stop innovating.

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The UK-based pharmaceutical maker’s two-shot solution appears to be even more efficacious against symptomatic infection than Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose injection.

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March 22, 2021 2 min read

Every major vaccine developed in the race to ward off Covid-19 has experienced a similar narrative arc: initial optimism over its potential; momentary wariness over its efficacy and/or side effects; and eventual acceptance and desirability. AstraZeneca‘s two-shot offering — already in widespread use around the world, though not without intermittent hesitancy — appears headed toward its ultimate destiny in the U.S.

This morning, the UK-based, British-Swedish pharmaceutical company released partial results from late-stage testing on more than 32,000 adult U.S. participants. Of those, only 141 developed symptomatic Covid-19, according to AstraZeneca’s press release, which summarized its findings. That amounts to a 79% efficacy rate against symptomatic cases (80% for participants 65 and older). The test results yielded a 100% success rate in shielding against hospitalizations and deaths related to Covid. The studies were conducted under a randomized, 2:1 distributions vaccine versus placebo. 

Related: FDA Says Johnson & Johnson’s One-Dose Vaccine Is Safe and Effective

As AP reports, AstraZeneca will apply for authorized FDA use of the vaccine in early April and, if approved, be prepared to deliver 30 million doses right away and another 20 million by the end of that month. As of this writing, the CDC tabulates that more than 13 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. Roughly half of those have been 65 or older.

Recent fears over a possible link between administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine and subsequent blood clots have been largely allayed by the global scientific community. 

Related: AstraZeneca Claims to Have the ‘Winning Formula’ for Its Vaccine

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The next revolution in data privacy is coming. Be ready.

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March 19, 2021 4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In this digital-oriented world, hackers are evolving in parallel to technological advancements. Fortunately, engineers, mathematician and physicists are simultaneously working on innovative concepts that harness the progression of classical methods. New devices are utilizing principles of quantum physics and deploying sophisticated and powerful algorithms for safe communication. 

Related: Platform With International Community Adopts Quantum For Humanity

What is cryptography? 

Cryptography is a means of securing data and information to dodge malicious hackers. Thanks to cryptographic methods, everything from web conferences to individual browsing history remain privileged and safe. Data are protected using  algorithms that require a unique key for decryption and encryption. Utilization of the same private key, i.e. a specific string of bits for decryption and encryption, is called symmetric cryptography. Utilization of public keys for encryption and private keys for decryption — each of which are created by algorithm-fueled random number generators — is called asymmetrical cryptography. 

Genuine randomness is considered unachievable by purely classical means, but can be accomplished with the added application of quantum physics.

Quantum key distribution 

There are two methods by which large-scale quantum and classical computers can obscure private information. 

Quantum key distribution (QKD) is a quantum cryptographic primitive designed to generate unbreakable keys. QKD ensures key agreement, including well-known BB84 and E91 algorithms. In 2017, a Chinese team successfully demonstrated that satellites can perform safe and secure communications with the help of symmetrical cryptography and QKD. 

Still, it’s clear that QKD alone can’t satisfy all protection requirements, but there are other mechanisms for security enhancement by utilizing “quantum-safe” encryption algorithms based on solving mathematical problems instead of laws of quantum physics.

An optimistic view of quantum-computing obstacles 

The most immediate challenge is accomplishing the most sufficient number of fault-tolerant qubits to boost quantum computing’s computational promises. such as , , and Honeywell are taking this problem under consideration and investing in it to come up with a solid solution. 

Currently, quantum computers are programmed for individual quantum logic gates. This might be acceptable for small-scale quantum computers, but less so once we come across a large number of qubits. Organizations such as IBM and Classiq are developing more and more abstract layers in the programming stack, allowing developers to nurture incredible and powerful quantum applications to provide solutions to real-world problems. 

For the implementation of complex problems including error-correction schemes, organizations need to prove that they can control numerous qubits. This control must have low latency and it must come from adaptive-feedback control circuits based on CMOS. Ultimately, the issue of “fan-out” must be addressed. The question that needs to be answered is how to pace up a number of qubits within a quantum chip. Multiple lasers or control wires are currently required, but it’s hard to see how we can develop multiple qubit chips with millions of wires connected to the circuit board or coming out of the cryogenic measurement chamber.  

Applying quantum computing to cybersecurity 

In recent years, researchers and analysts have been striving for the development of quantum-safe encryption. According to American Scientist, the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology is presently evaluating 69 new methods known as “post-quantum cryptography,” or PQC. Quantum computing offers an eminent, potential solution to cybersecurity and encryption threats. Any security-forward organization ought to develop an understanding of crypto agility.

Related: AI For Cybersecurity: Maximizing Strengths And Limiting Vulnerabilities

Quantum revolution is uncertain. While the intense impact of extensive fault-tolerant quantum computers may be far off, near-time quantum computers still present enormous advantages in enhancing levels of communication privacy and security. All organizations must consider developing innovative strategies around the long-term benefits and risks of quantum technology and computing, and be ready for the forthcoming quantum revolution.

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March 17, 2021 7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Growth hacking. MVPs. Beta-testing. Pivoting. These strategies are now practically clichés — start-up principles that drive almost every high-growth company hitting the market. I’ve experienced them all firsthand in my career, working everywhere from scrappy five-person operations to powerhouses at the cutting edge of AI. 

Here’s the thing: Sure, these principles can help businesses. But in key respects, these same tenets can also be used to supercharge your own career — especially at a time when the way we do is in flux. 

The fact is, for many of us, the world of work has been turned on its head during the global health crisis. People have had to switch roles, return to school to reskill or start totally fresh in new markets after a job loss. 

This has only accelerated existing trends. In the past, staying at a company for decades wasn’t uncommon; today the average person stays at a job for less than five years. Then there’s the gig economy boom in full swing, and the added impact of digitization and automation on workplace roles. The bottom line is that being able to evolve and adapt is key, during a global crisis and beyond.

With that in mind, here’s how to apply start-up principles to yourself — whether you’re climbing the ladder inside a growing company, looking for a new job or even thinking of blazing your own path as an entrepreneur. 

Related: How to Think Like an Entrepreneur, According to Reid Hoffman

Identify your unfair advantage

In a business sense, start-ups need to have that special something if they’re going to compete with the big, established players. This is something that can’t be bought or copied by competitors. Ali Ash, marketing director at Just Eat, wrote the book on The Unfair Advantage and has documented how the world’s most impressive start-ups have defined their own categories and offered something no one else was providing. 

If you look at your own career, the same question applies: what’s your unfair advantage? By leaning into your unique strengths, you’re positioning yourself to offer what no one else can — just as put its own unique spin on photo-sharing and pioneered high-performance electric cars. When you lean into your own personal value proposition, you’re eliminating the competition and setting yourself up to be a of one.

I was an accounting major in college, a qualification that’s a dime a dozen. But early on in my career, I possessed a willingness to explore new fields and untested companies. Instead of sticking to my lane, I developed a diverse sales background — jumping, for instance, from selling multimillion-dollar software contracts to $9-per-month SaaS subscriptions. Ultimately, that breadth of experience, lateral flexibility and pattern recognition became my unfair advantage.  

So how can you isolate and leverage your own unfair advantage? Think about the unique intersections of your passions, training and personal disposition. You may be trained as a lawyer but have a passion for languages and a knack for networking. That’s a combo not everyone can replicate. Once you’ve found your unfair advantage, think like a start-up and leverage it every chance you get. Look for roles and opportunities where you, uniquely, can shine, and don’t be shy about your unique skill set in interviews and networking opportunities.  

MVP your next role 

Another tenet of start-up philosophy is “”: the idea of testing an early version of a product in the market before investing tons in R&D. By measuring consumer response and iterating, you can either improve the offering or pivot to a new direction — all without spending a lot of time or money. 

In a career sense, this means being open to testing the waters for new opportunities, even ones you may not be entirely comfortable with yet. Instead of waiting to be fully “ready” for something (a new career, a new role), be willing to dive in and learn some elements on the go. You may need to scramble, adjust, even backtrack. But — just as in the start-up world — the opportunity cost of not going for it is too big to ignore. 

In the middle of my own career, for example, I left business software behind to join a company, just years after started. Though I could see the growth potential was huge, this was a brand-new industry for me. And there was always the chance social media might be just a passing fad. But I put myself out there, acquired skills on the job and grew into the role. (My unfair advantage — curiosity — definitely came in handy.)  

So how do you MVP yourself? Understand that no role will ever be perfect, nor will you ever be perfectly positioned to seize it. Exploring lateral roles within your own organization is a great way to test the waters and observe what “sticks” and what doesn’t. Above all, give yourself permission to set aside perfectionism. (I’d go so far as to say you should always feel a bit unqualified for a role.) And don’t be afraid to switch gears or pivot when you need to. Just as in the start-up world, career iteration never ends.   

Related: Resilience Is One of the Most Essential Entrepreneurial Traits. Practicing This Can Help You Build It

Disrupt yourself

The best businesses, even when they’re all grown up, still think like start-ups. describes its corporate culture as one that “avoids rules.” That means the company prioritizes innovation, autonomy and risk-taking in everything it does. Rather than resting on its laurels, Netflix is constantly exploring ideas and isn’t averse to disrupting the status quo of its own organization.  

That same philosophy can be applied to our own careers. Far too many people fall in love with their product. They put themselves in one category and are unable to evolve beyond that. They get too comfortable — with a role, a company, a city — and stop being curious and pushing themselves. In this process, career prospects are curtailed or short-circuited altogether.   

I continue to try to live by this self-disrupting philosophy. Case in point: I recently jumped from almost 20 years in the SaaS space to the world of AI and software-enabled robotics. A more traditional route would have been to stay in my vertical and stick to senior roles in industries I was familiar with. But I would have missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity with a robotics company. And more importantly, I would have missed out on a chance to grow personally and professionally.  

How do you disrupt yourself? For starters, keep an ear to the rails for the next big thing — technologies or cultural shifts that promise to upend how we live and work. Right now, for instance, automation and AI are opening up brand-new horizons. Continue to push and stay curious, even as you grow more senior in your career. And I’d even go so far as to say you should be downright skeptical of your comfort zone. If you’re not moving forward, you’re bound to go stagnant. 

That being said, start-up principles can be taken too far — in business, and in life. “Move fast and break things” doesn’t really work in sensitive industries such as health care, security, even social media. Likewise, in life, adopting “lean start-up principles” shouldn’t be about being flighty or disloyal. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be building the necessary nimbleness to thrive in a shifting terrain, but providing stability and leadership for your team even when things are chaotic. 

Related: 5-Step Formula to Rewire Your Brain for Entrepreneurial Success

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March 16, 2021 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Demand for machine learning is skyrocketing. This growth is driven not only by “middle adopters” recognizing the vast potential of machine learning after watching early adopters benefit from its use, but by steady improvements in machine-learning itself. It may be too early to say with certainty that machine learning develops according to a predictable framework like Moore’s Law, the famous precept about power that has borne out for nearly 50 years and only recently began to show signs of strain. But the industry is clearly on a fast track.

As machine-learning algorithms grow smarter and more organizations come around to the idea of integrating this powerful technology into their processes, it’s high time your enterprise thought about putting machine learning to work, too.

First, consider the benefits and costs. It’s quite likely that your could leverage at least one of these five reasons to employ machine learning, whether it’s taming apparently infinite amounts of unstructured data or finally personalizing your .

Related: Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to Revolutionize the World of Art and Creativity

1. Taming vast unstructured data with limited resources

One of the best-known use cases for machine learning is processing data sets too large for traditional data crunching methods to handle. This is increasingly important as data becomes easier to generate, collect and access, especially for smaller B2C enterprises that often deal with more transaction and customer data than they can manage with limited resources.

How you use machine learning to process and “tame” your data will depend on what you hope to get from that data. Do you want help making more informed product development decisions? To better market to your customers? To acquire new customers? To analyze internal processes that could be improved? Machine learning can help with all these problems and more.

2. Automating routine tasks 

The original promise of machine learning was efficiency. Even as its uses have expanded beyond mere , this remains a core function and one of the most commercially viable use cases. Using machine learning to automate routine tasks, save time and manage resources more effectively has a very attractive paid of side effects for enterprises that do it effectively: reducing expenses and boosting net income.

The list of tasks that machine learning can automate is long. As with data processing, how you use machine learning for process automation will depend on which functions exert the greatest drag on your time and resources.

Need ideas? Machine learning has shown encouraging real-world outcomes when used to automate data classification, report generation, IT threat monitoring, loss and fraud prevention and internal auditing. But the possibilities are truly endless.

3. Improving marketing personalization and efficiency

Machine learning is a powerful force multiplier in marketing campaigns, enabling virtually endless messaging and buyer-profile permutations, unlocking the gate to fully personalized marketing without demanding an army of copywriters or publicity agents.

What’s especially encouraging for smaller businesses without much marketing expertise is that machine learning’s potential is baked into the top everyday digital-advertising platforms, namely Facebook and Google. You don’t have to train your own algorithms to use this technology in your next microtargeting campaign.

4. Addressing business trends 

Machine learning has also proven its worth in detecting trends in large data sets. These trends are often too subtle for humans to tease out, or perhaps the data sets are simply too large for “dumb” programs to process effectively.

Whatever the reason for machine learning’s success in this space, the potential benefits are clear as day. For example, many small and midsize enterprises use machine learning technology to predict and reduce customer churn, looking for signs that customers are considering competitors and trigger retention processes with higher probabilities of success.

Elsewhere, companies of all sizes are getting more comfortable integrating machine learning into their hiring processes. By reinforcing existing biases in human-led hiring and promotion, earlier-generation algorithms did more harm than good, but newer models are able to counteract implicit bias and increase the chances of equitable outcomes.

5. Accelerating research cycles

A machine-learning unleashed in an R&D department is like an army of super-smart lab assistants. As more and more enterprises discover just what machine learning is capable of in and out of the lab, they’re feeling more confident about using it to eliminate some of the frustrating trial-and-error that lengthens research cycles and increases development costs. Machine learning won’t replace R&D experts anytime soon, but it does appear to empower them to use their time more effectively. More and better innovations could result.

Related: Develop a Basic Understanding of Machine Learning With These Courses

If the experience of competitor businesses that have already deployed machine learning to great effect is any guide for your own experience, the answer to this question is a resounding yes.

The more interesting question is how you choose to make machine learning work for your businesses. This prompts another question, around what operational and structural changes your machine learning processes will bring. These changes, up to and including reducing headcounts in redundant roles or winding up entire lines of business, could be painful in the short run even as they strengthen your enterprise for the long haul.

Like all great innovations that increase operational efficiency and eliminate low-value work, machine learning does not benefit everyone equally. It’s up to the humans in charge of these algorithms to make the transition as orderly and painless as possible. It seems there are some things machine learning can’t yet do … yet.

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March 12, 2021 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Nothing propels a company more quickly than innovation, and nothing stifles it more quickly than a “that’s how we’ve always done it” attitude.

News startup Axios is an excellent example of a company breaking barriers and thinking outside the box. The company is making a big bet that other companies will pay to learn how to write like Axios reporters. The new communications platform, AxiosHQ, launched in February and enables companies to send Axios-style, just-the-facts internal newsletters. Its cost? At least $10,000 annually. It remains to be seen whether executives will be willing to invest that kind of money, but it’s a fascinating proposition.

Related: Why Your Marketing Team Should Be Journalists

What does it take for organizations to vet, approve and develop similarly innovative ideas? The answer is not simple, and it varies from company to company. Innovation efforts get plenty of lip service, but it’s much harder to perfect a process for selecting and implementing top ideas.

No magic wand for innovation

In the same way that data-driven decisions run many aspects of an organization, leaders need to use data to create a rubric for vetting innovative ideas. This enforces discipline and keeps everyone on the same page.

Without an evaluation process, innovation programs become short-sighted and may fall out of alignment with long-term organizational goals. Having an organized process also removes emotion from decision-making to keep project focus and dollar spend as data-driven as possible.

For innovation to succeed, leaders also have to be aligned around critical factors. This forms a living rubric that can be adapted throughout the organization as business needs shift and evolve. Generally, some sort of innovation leader — a chief innovation officer, a chief strategy officer or a business unit leader — will lead this team to ensure the process runs smoothly and stays on track.

When we developed our rubric at Coplex, we struggled to find a technical solution that was flexible enough while still enabling us to manage our ideas. We ended up building one ourselves. We now use this tool to drive the underlying engine of our entire idea management process, and it works because effective innovation strategy always starts at the top. Bring your entire leadership team together from the beginning of the process to discuss priorities and foster conversations about ideas, outlining your concrete vision along the way.

Related: Did Someone Reject Your Idea? Because of Coronavirus, They Might Reconsider

Here are three ways to evaluate your innovation ideas and create a framework to make them a strategic reality:

1. Create an innovation blueprint

Before you begin to gather ideas from your team, you have to first come up with a blueprint — such as Google’s Eight Pillars of Innovation — that defines the initiative’s overall structure. This helps put up guardrails around the problem spaces the organization is willing to play in and, more importantly, which problem spaces are off-limits.

An innovation blueprint consists of three distinct components: statement, antithesis and thesis. Your statement defines your company’s ambitions and outlines why you believe in what you’re doing, why now is the best time to do it and what makes you the best candidate for the job. From here, develop an antithesis that defines the problems, business models and core technologies you don’t intend to address. Why? It removes distractions and keeps the focus on priorities. Finally, create a thesis that gives you a clear lens into how you’ll invest in problem spaces, business models and technologies to create the change you want to see.

2. Define innovation themes

Once you’ve developed a solid blueprint, it’s time to identify the themes of problem spaces you intend to solve. This step will define the categories in which your innovation ideas should fall while clearly outlining how your solutions could come into play.

Think of this as similar to how the National Association of Engineers (NAE) outlines the many challenges left to overcome in its field. In its report on the grand challenges of engineering, NAE defines themes (e.g., joy, sustainability, health and security) as areas ripe for innovation and abundant with opportunity.

The core reason for taking this approach? It allows you to consider potential ways to innovate beyond what the organization had imagined before — and to set goals with those parameters in mind.

Related: What Sustainable Innovation Might Look Like in 2021

3. Map measurement criteria back to a rubric

Once you’ve defined your innovation themes, it’s time to develop the criteria you’ll use to measure your success. Global design firm IDEO made it a goal to quantify innovation by looking at its clients’ internal team dynamics as well as other companies focused on innovation. The firm identified six areas key to innovation and then sent its survey, coined “Creative Difference,” to larger organizations to understand how team members were performing when it came to innovation. Once the survey was complete, IDEO sent results with tangible innovation metrics and recommendations on how to follow and meet them moving forward.

As you define how you measure innovation and create your unique rubric, keep in mind that you aren’t limited to traditional metrics. Feel comfortable being creative and innovative as you decide on those! It’s possible to measure everything from societal impact and economic value to organizational scale and new market discovery.

The process of pursuing innovative ideas requires much more than a quick brainstorming session or selecting an appealing idea from a list. By creating an underlying philosophy and structure governing the prioritization of ideas that flow through an organization, you can retain control over your innovation program’s outcomes instead of leaving anything to chance.

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March 12, 2021 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If the numbers are any indication, you might think and voice assistants were poised to take over the world. Since the start of the pandemic, nearly a quarter of businesses have increased their spending on , and 75 percent plan to continue or launch new initiatives post-pandemic. Global spending on AI is expected to double by 2024.

AI is quickly becoming a cornerstone of especially, but is mixed. Fifty percent of customers believe chatbots and VAs make it harder to resolve an issue, but 37% say they’d prefer to get immediate help from a bot than wait on a human. AI might be growing at an unprecedented pace, but that growth will only continue as long as the tools enhance — rather than detract from — the .

Forward-thinking companies understand that AI is only worth implementing if it makes the customer experience better. Here are four CX-friendly ways you can incorporate AI.

 

1. Use AI to enhance the shopping experience

As becomes more competitive, brands are turning to AI to enhance the quality of their experience. pioneered the use of AI to provide tailored purchase recommendations with its “Customers Also Bought” section. It also uses AI to adjust its pricing so that it’s always competitive. 

These innovations don’t just drive more . Personalized recommendations create a more pleasurable shopping experience, and consistently low prices provide a layer of comfort. Customers know they’re bound to find something they like at a reasonable price.

But aren’t just being judged on price and personalization; consumers also expect them to be responsive. Research shows that consumers prefer to interact with a in real time while making a purchase, much like interacting with a sales associate in a brick-and-mortar store. 

By adding automated chat functionality to your store, you can help your customers find answers to their questions while they’re placing an order. This gives the impression that your brand is always there for them, even during a late-night shopping binge.

Related: How Data and AI Will Keep Your Customers Happy and Engaged

2. Help customers resolve problems faster

Customers don’t just expect instant gratification when making a purchase; they also expect lightning-fast customer support. In a recent survey, more than half of respondents said the most frustrating aspect of customer service was the slow response time or waiting on hold. Today, 90% of consumers say getting an immediate response to a customer-service question is “important” or “very important.”

One advantage to chatbots is that they are available to assist your customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can help answer frequently asked questions, point customers to helpful articles or initiate a return. This doesn’t just reduce labor costs; it actually helps your customers resolve issues faster.

Take State Farm, for instance. The company has always relied on an army of human agents, but it’s now using AI to help policyholders process claims more quickly. If a policyholder gets in a car accident on a holiday or weekend, he can use the app to start the claims process. A chatbot gathers all relevant information, and the customer can get his vehicle repaired sooner.

Related: How AI Changed Customer Service in the IT Industry

3. Use sentiment analysis to analyze customer feedback

When an agent is juggling hundreds of customer messages each day, it can be difficult to know which ones to prioritize and escalate. But sentiment analysis can help agents gauge the urgency of a customer inquiry by tagging messages as “frustrated,” “angry” or “excited.”

Two-thirds of companies say sentiment analysis helps reduce the cost of customer service, and 72% say it improves CX. Clothing retailer began running sentiment analysis on its CX data back in 2019 to close the customer feedback loop. You can incorporate sentiment analysis at any stage of the customer journey and use those insights to improve the customer experience.

Related: How AI Can Make Customer Service More Efficient

4. Use AI as a customer-service assistant

While AI tools are great at fielding straightforward customer questions and performing simple tasks, more complex issues are still best handled by people. In these cases, AI can be useful in assisting human agents. AI tools can generate support tickets and call summaries while the agent is on the call. Taking over these tasks allows the agent to focus all their attention on helping the customer.

In other cases, a chatbot can serve as a customer concierge. Chatbots can help with simple tasks such as updating a customer’s contact information, placing an order or scheduling a service call — all without making the customer wait on hold.

These cases exemplify the hybrid human-AI approach contact center solution Five9 recommends. The company has added a suite of AI-based products to its lineup that it’s dubbed “Practical AI.” Practical AI should deliver tangible business outcomes (like shorter call times) while reducing the potential for customer frustration, thanks to its use of human fail-safes. The goal is not to replace human agents, but to help agents deliver a better CX.

With brands investing so heavily in AI, it looks as though it’s here to stay. But consumers won’t tolerate a bad customer experience, whether it comes from a human or a bot. You can only afford to offload tasks to bots if it actually improves your CX. That should be your litmus test for implementing any new piece of technology.

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According to neuroscience, taking a break from our busy schedules and devoting some time to doing absolutely nothing is key to fostering creativity.

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March 9, 2021 4 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

This story originally appeared on Alto Nivel

An essential element to achieving success is implementing a proper routine on a daily basis, as science and history point out.

Although your daily routine might be healthy and productive, it can also be hectic and kill creativity, an article in Inc magazine notes.

The magazine also points out that many successful people have dedicated a large part of their lives to “no time.” 

Steven Kotler, author of the book “The Art of the Impossible” and a TED speaker, pointed out that “no time” has to do with a quiet moment in which a person can isolate himself, herself or themselves from the noise and demands of the world.

It’s no wonder that the internet is full of articles related to the morning routines of important and famous figures, giving suggestions on how to add positive activities to your day-to-day life.

In order to have a beneficial and satisfying life, it is advisable to take into account  gratitude practices, nature walks and connection with oneself, since they are backed by research that confirms that all these activities are good for people. Likewise, science indicates that “no time” is much needed in such a routine, because if you spend most of your day with all of these existing habits, it is unlikely you will have time for yourself.

You don’t have enough time for ‘no time’ in your schedule

“No time” is also known as “a quiet time, alone, isolated from the noise and demands of the world,” as Kotler describes.

“The ‘no time’ is the term for that vast stretch of emptiness between 4 am (when I start my morning writing session) and 7:30 am (when the rest of the world wakes up). This ‘no time’ is a total darkness that does not belong to anyone but me,” he writes. “The urgent concerns of the day have not yet arrived, so there is time for that supreme luxury: patience. If a phrase takes two hours to get right, who cares?” 

Image via Depositphotos.com

Kotler says that neuroscience shows that disconnection time blocks have a large influence on creativity.

“The pressure forces the brain to focus on the details, activating the left hemisphere and blocking the whole picture. Worse yet, when we are pressured, we are often stressed. We are unhappy with the rush, which embitters our mood and further restricts our focus. Being limited in time, then, can be kryptonite for creativity,” he explains.

In other words, “no time” helps us relax enough to see the big picture and allow innovative ideas to come to light. The hustle and bustle brought on by everyday life, even your well-intentioned morning yoga class, can chase away the timid and ungainly ideas of emerging thoughts.

Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein agree on “no time”

Despite the fact that Kotler considers himself an expert on the neuroscience of creativity, many successful figures have also understood the same truth. Albert Einstein accepted that many times the most valuable ideas occurred to him while doing nothing and enjoying his own “no time.” Steve Jobs was also a “famous bum.”  

“The time Steve Jobs procrastinated and pondered the possibilities was time well spent letting more divergent ideas emerge,” Wharton professor Adam Grant once told Business Insider of Jobs’ long periods of aimless inactivity. 

It is worth mentioning that both geniuses — Einstein and Jobs — managed to do a great job of putting their ideas into practice.

Not only is “no time” enough to be able to change the world, it is an essential ingredient and a part of the whole. When you’re planning the perfect morning routine, it’s easy not to give “no time” the attention it deserves, but you should definitely always include it in your everyday life. You will see a change in the way you think and create, and achieve a more successful version of yourself.

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