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Companies across every industry are looking for ways to provide more immersive and interactive experiences for their customers, and to use those experiences to work more creatively and efficiently. So where are enterprise brands turning to create those experiences?

Increasingly, the technology behind many of today’s video games – immersive, real-time 3D – is now empowering industrial users to build next-generation experiences. Building on its gaming foundation, Unity recently released Unity Industry, a bundle of premium tools that enables developers, artists, and engineers across industries to build and deliver custom real-time 3D experiences for augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mobile, desktop, and web.

Unity Industry became widely available to anyone to purchase online in late July, making it easier for industrial users to get started with real-time 3D. For the first time, professional industries like manufacturing, auto, retail, and energy, had a dedicated set of Unity tools to create immersive VR and AR experiences and build digital twins.

From retail to automotive.

As the real world continues to merge with virtual ones at increasing speed, we’ve seen the automotive industry progressively embrace real-time 3D to build vehicles, improve manufacturing processes and enhance in-car technology. At Mercedes-Benz, real-time 3D is powering the infotainment of its new operating system across its vehicle portfolio. The in-vehicle software experience is paramount to luxury buyers, and 3D capabilities from Unity help them meet the demand for more visual fidelity and immersive experiences.

In the energy industry, real-time 3D is changing the way large-scale solar projects are designed, created, and operated. In the construction world, streamlined creation of real-time 3D experiences takes minutes instead of days to optimize large design models. And in the federal government, immersive 3D experiences are helping prepare for natural disasters by building bases capable of withstanding major catastrophic events.

What industrial users need.

Unity Industry focuses on several key offerings tailored for industrial use cases:

The Unity Editor allows you to build immersive AR and VR experiences, providing powerful physics tools to simulate anything, including sales and marketing configurations, assembly lines, entire factory floors, complex machinery, traffic, buildings, or digital twins of entire buildings.

Unity Industry also includes the Pixyz Plugin, which allows you to use existing 3D data to create unique 3D experiences. Creators in many industries are using Pixyz to bring their CAD and 3D data interactively into their real-time 3D experiences made with Unity without any expertise needed.

Plus, Industry includes dedicated tech support from Unity engineers, access to on-demand training, and other services to help address the specific needs of each industry and company.

See how the exciting tools available through Unity Industry can help create custom real-time 3D experiences to help your business move forward.

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The family social networking app Life360, which relies on location-sharing to help users stay connected, is built, in part, to give parents peace of mind. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the company sees an uptick in registrations and usage around this time of year with back-to-school season — and all of the anxiety that comes with it — in full swing.

The company reported a roughly 30% registration jump in the weeks of August 15 and August 22 last year and another 30% increase in returning monthly active users who’d had the app for 30 days or more.

Life360 co-founder and CEO Chris Hulls deferred his spot at Harvard Business School to launch the company back in 2008, initially inspired during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when so many people weren’t able to find their family members.

“It was right when Facebook was getting big with the social network, [and] LinkedIn was getting big with the professional network, and everyone was trying to figure out how to bring families online. And we realized [that safety could be] the way of serving digitally native families,” Hulls tells Entrepreneur.

When Hulls approached venture capitalists about Life360, he faced criticism on two fronts: They didn’t think teenagers would ever have smartphones and believed location-sharing was “creepy.” But Hulls didn’t give up. Life360 eventually got funding and became the giant is today, surpassing 50 million monthly active users earlier this year.

Even now, the company is “overlooked” relative to its size, Hulls says.

But just a few years ago, back in 2019, a very specific subset was looking at Life360 — and at Hulls himself. Teenagers on TikTok weren’t fans of the granular access Life360 gave their parents to their lives, and they had a bone to pick with its founder.

Related: How to Use TikTok to Promote Your Business | Entrepreneur

Hulls recounts the “funny story” that actually led to the development of a new Life360 feature.

“His kid said, ‘He’s a TikTok guy.’ And I was like, ‘No, I don’t even have TikTok.'”

“The first time I heard about anything going on I was at a friend’s house,” Hulls recalls. “He was older than me, had teenagers, and his kid said, ‘He’s a TikTok guy.’ And I was like, ‘No, I don’t even have TikTok. What are you talking about?'”

That’s when Hulls learned he was the subject of a meme making the rounds. Teenagers wanted to know who started Life360, and once they discovered it was Hulls, they made his headshot the background of their videos while they performed skits that vilified him set to different sounds and music.

Although Life360’s president Alex Haro is also the company’s co-founder, he wasn’t caught up in the TikTok storm.

Related: Blow Up On TikTok By Following These 4 Rules | Entrepreneur

At first, Hulls didn’t think much of the videos, though he hoped no one would take it too far. It all just seemed like a joke. Then the teens’ tactics shifted. They started leaving Life360 one-star reviews in Apple’s app store, mistakenly believing their efforts could get it removed altogether.

A “tidal wave” followed. It wasn’t just teens having fun anymore — “There was a bandwagon about how evil Life360 is, and it was actually spreading to parent influencers, and we were like, ‘Okay, we need to do something here.'”

“We said, ‘Well, how can we demonstrate that we’re here for you?'”

Hulls wanted to make it clear that Life360 wasn’t about “tracking,” though he also understood that could come off as “corporate speak.”

“Seriously, we’re not a tracking app,” Hulls says. “Yes, it’s literally maps, but when used properly, we’re giving you independence, and it should actually be a way that your parents [can] give [you as a teen] more freedom.”

Hulls took to TikTok Live to set the record straight and shatter the “really straight-laced” image people had of him. He shared stories from his past, like the time he was expelled from Catholic school, describing himself as “the ultimate free-range kid.” He’d never thought that over-controlling parents would turn what he’d built into something so negative.

“Then, as part of that just humanizing me and the company, we said, ‘Well, how can we demonstrate that we’re here for you?'” Hulls recalls.

After crowdsourcing among the teens, Hulls came up with the “Bubbles” feature. It’s an optional way to customize location sharing for your “Circle,” or group of users. With the “Bubble” in place (set for an up-to-25-mile range), only an approximate location is viewable. But the “Bubble” will “burst” in the case of a car crash or other emergency, and any group member can toggle it off if there’s a safety concern.

@life360ceo Bubbles demo mode is now live exclusively for TikTok users! Let us know what you think. #life360 #banlife360 #fyp ♬ Classical Music – Classical Music

“Your parents can see you’re still within a given region, but not fine grain,” Hulls explains. “[And we were] surprised at how well it worked. We were able to completely change the narrative and actually had teens advocating for us where it’s like, ‘Hey, don’t blame Life360, blame the parents who are going overboard.'”

“This is a way of graduating to the next stage of life.”

Not only was the dialogue inspired by TikTok able to “shift sentiment” toward Life360 in a positive way, but it also served as the company’s stepping stone “into the mainstream,” Hulls says.

In fact, Hulls considers the chain of events that led to the new feature “the biggest turnaround” Life360’s ever had. Usership’s been ramping up since then, and the app is on 13% of all iPhones in the country now, Hulls says, adding that “there aren’t many apps bigger than us.” And TikTok now “drives significant positive traffic” for the company.

What’s more, a new report from Life360, which surveyed 1,200 adults across the U.S., found that 89% of Americans say their life benefits from location-sharing — and 94% of Gen Z respondents agreed. “Safe” is the first word that comes to mind for 66% of Gen Z when thinking about location-sharing, per the research.

Life360 “weirdly” ended up exactly where Hulls always envisioned it might — “but bigger.” Of course, it was more of a daily “slog” and less of an overnight success (“and it’s still a slog every day,” Hulls quips). But the co-founder’s always been fascinated by how things can move “slowly then all of a sudden,” as was the case with Life360’s trajectory.

Related: How to Integrate TikTok Into Your Video Marketing Strategy

Today, as a parent with two daughters of his own, Hulls understands firsthand how back-to-school season is a “new era” full of change, one that includes additional responsibilities and privileges. Hulls is excited to see Life360 continue to play an important role in increasing independence.

“We are becoming part of that rite of passage,” Hulls says, “where [kids are going to] get this new set of freedoms, this fancy new phone. And this is a way of graduating to the next stage of life. [Life360 is] front and center in that.”

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The sky appears to be the limit for the ways entrepreneurs and CEOs can incorporate generative AI tools into their workflows. The one thing you can’t afford to do with generative AI is ignore it.

I recently hosted a workshop for 30 early-stage CEOs to discuss ways to fuse generative AI into their business strategies. Here is some of the intel I shared, plus how you can give yourself an edge by responsibly and effectively incorporating this technology into your startup or business.

Entrepreneurs wisely using generative AI can strategically implement it into their narrative and general storytelling of their companies to in turn receive higher valuations from investors as well — here’s how.

Related: How AI Is Becoming a Game-Changer in Startup Fundraising

1. Expand your product offerings and stay competitive

I suggest reading up on Microsoft’s collaboration with OpenAI. Microsoft jumped to incorporate ChatGPT’s technology into Bing and its other products. Now, its users can work more efficiently in PowerPoint and its suite of Office products. Google responded by exploring the use of generative AI to expand its search capabilities.

Software development is another key area getting gen AI attention. Gen AI is helping developers code more efficiently, predicting the next lines of code based on code already written and responding to prompts. There’s a spotlight on generative AI algorithm models like Large Language Models (LLMs) that can craft text based on the user’s input data.

Every entrepreneur who wants to edge out the competition must find ways to apply generative AI to improve products and develop new offerings.

My company, Verbit, hosted an internal hackathon to gamify identifying ways to incorporate generative AI. It helped to get greater buy-in and inspire ideas. Our hackathon uncovered 13 ways to employ more AI, including two that we’re commercializing.

Consider replicating this hackathon idea or encouraging brainstorms. Run them company-wide. Instead of just involving your more obvious teams, acknowledge that generative AI has the ability to impact the roles of nearly everyone. By involving less obvious stakeholders, you’ll identify use cases for generative AI to disrupt processes you weren’t even aware of.

Engaging your team in these ways won’t just boost morale; it will release apprehension around the “negative” human impact of greater generative AI use. Instead, your team will be inspired by how they can apply it to expand your offerings to deliver better.

Related: The Secret to How Businesses Can Fully Harness the Power of AI

2. Drive employee productivity

AI should be seen as a gateway to make work more meaningful and efficient, not replace jobs. Using generative AI to eliminate dreaded, time-consuming tasks will keep your employees engaged. It will grant them the ability to focus on more creative tasks they’re passionate about. Employee engagement is a metric entrepreneurs can’t overlook because it translates to 23% higher profitability.

Since newer forms of AI are learning to be intuitive and interact naturally with humans, start by using AI that communicates with your teams and learns from their feedback to boost productivity. For example, generative AI has advanced the possibilities of working with chatbots. Teams can now summarize and pull data from chatbot-powered customer surveys and much more.

3. Predict market trends more accurately

For entrepreneurs to make informed decisions about investments, strategies and products, they must understand market trends. Generative AI is helping entrepreneurs gather more quality data than earlier AI forms.

AI is excellent at analyzing large sets of data, but generative AI can gather insights from unstructured data, like social media posts, audio files, text and other content. To be successful, entrepreneurs must pull in this additional information accessible to them through generative AI.

Generative AI can also create simulations to determine the impact of hypothetical “what-if” situations. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania used generative AI to simulate the spread of COVID-19 and the efficacy of different responses. Audi used simulations to model manufacturing strategies and reduce its assembly line cycle time by 30%.

As an entrepreneur, you can benefit greatly by using generative AI for market simulation. If you don’t use these tools, you’ll be operating with less complete, lower-quality information than your competition.

Related: How to Protect and Improve Your Business with AI During Challenging Times

Know where to draw the line

There are dangers in relying too heavily on gen AI. For example, AI uses data inputs for results. If the data is flawed, it can have consequences. This issue is already appearing in recruitment and hiring practices. Amazon canceled an AI-powered recruitment program after it proved to be biased against women. If you lean too much on AI alone, you could find yourself violating employment laws.

You’ll need to be aware of ethical concerns to avoid instances of sharing sensitive information or violating data privacy laws as well. Generative AI can also hallucinate, meaning that it might give entirely wrong information, but package it in convincing language and reassuring confidence. Turning over too much responsibility to a chatbot could cause more harm than good.

For example, experts are warning against relying too much on tools like ChatGPT for search engine optimization (SEO). Google may decide to penalize companies that publish automated content, undermining their past SEO work. Make sure that your team has a process in place to check the outputs of the AI it’s using.

There was the case of the “ChatGPT lawyer,” who used the tool to draft a motion and ended up citing fake cases in court. The firm faced a fine and public humiliation, but in fields like health care, the consequences of faulty information could be worse and more dangerous.

Smart entrepreneurs will understand how to intelligently and strategically use generative AI, but they’ll know where to draw the line. My advice is to be as savvy about the technology you employ as you are about the people you hire.

However, don’t delay. Challenge your teams to use generative AI to work productively. Decide on a few areas of focus to implement it now, whether it’s personalized content creation, marketing efforts, software development, customer operations or data analysis. Trust me, your competitors are already doing so.

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I’ve been a lawyer for 20 years now. That’s mind-blowing to me because it seems like just yesterday that I was driving down to New Orleans for my first year of law school. But the fact remains, 20 years have passed, and I seem to be way better at getting injured doing harmless things than I was back when I was 23 years old. But what is really scary is how little the practice of law has changed in the 20 years since I started. Let me explain.

Twenty years is a long time, but technology (good technology) existed back then. We had powerful desktop computers, laptops and handheld devices (queue the Blackberry jokes) that could still do amazing things, automating complex tasks and allowing us to communicate across the country with ease. Yet, when I would go to state court for hearings, we would use carbon paper (yes, carbon paper) to make duplicate copies of orders. If you needed a document from a prior case, you would head down to the clerk’s desk and ask for the redweld so you could leaf through the paper file. I would record my time in six-minute increments on a daily basis by writing it in pen on a paper time sheet.

For the 11 years I was in private practice, nothing changed. In fact, I’m not sure anything has changed in the nine years since I left private practice. For all I know, attorneys are still looking for the least used piece of carbon paper to make sure they don’t have to press too hard to make a legible copy. Many court decisions are still memorialized solely in paper files or unscannable pdfs. There is an abundance of attorneys who are demanding a return to in-person hearings instead of virtual proceedings.

Related: Why Embracing Change is the Best Catalyst for Growth

The costs associated with ignoring innovation

While this all seems amusing (and a little mind-boggling), it speaks to a larger problem in the legal industry and several other industries as well. The entrenchment of ideas and processes. The fear of the novel. The trepidation associated with changing things from “the way they’ve always been done.” I don’t mind tradition, and it most certainly has its place. But the fact is, there are real costs associated with doing things the same way simply because they are familiar and comfortable. And those costs can trickle down.

Let’s take a basic example of in-person hearings. Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon for an attorney to have to attend a status hearing in person, even if it was occurring across the country. That would necessitate airfare, lodging, meals, as well as additional travel time billed to the file. Depending on the number of attorneys involved in the case, it is not remotely inconceivable that an in-person hearing could cost the client five to ten times what a Zoom hearing would cost, maybe more. If the company has a lot of litigation, those costs will increase exponentially for each case on the company’s docket. In contrast, with a basic Zoom hearing, an attorney can now jump into the proceeding, inform the court of the status and jump back out, all while never leaving their desk. But not all attorneys like virtual proceedings. Because they’re novel … different.

Related: The Power of Innovation

Why should you care?

Why do you care, you may ask? Well, those are costs associated with doing business that need to be mitigated or paid for somehow — which may mean an increase in prices passed on to consumers. Long story short, the impact doesn’t simply end at the company’s income statement and balance sheet. Even worse, those dollars could be better spent on human capital, technology, training, education, and yes, innovation.

These issues aren’t relegated to the law, however. Insurance is a good example. There are now several exciting apps that allow you to document damage by using your phone. Some even use AI to evaluate and price the repairs. Despite these innovations, it isn’t uncommon to have insurance companies that require you to get an in-person estimate from an examiner or to take your car to a physical repair shop so the damage can be evaluated. There are costs on both sides of the transaction in those instances. You may incur costs by missing work and taking time out of your day, while the insurance company incurs costs associated with compensating the adjuster and/or the repair shop. These may get passed along to you through increased insurance premiums or in other ways.

Does the adoption of technology and acceptance of innovation solve all of these problems? No. But there are consequences to ignoring innovation. The most direct are the ones described above which may be passed down to you as a consumer. But there are ancillary effects as well. The next amazing product may not flourish if the old-school mindset continues to dominate. The next great entrepreneur may never get off the ground because their idea flies in the face of hundreds of years of “tradition.”

Related: 11 Innovation Strategies That Can Effectively Increase Your Businesses’ Growth

Innovation and change can be scary — particularly if innovation threatens your job directly. But we now live in an innovation culture. For example, you can communicate across the globe from the palm of your hand. Tourists are going into space. You can ask a computer exceedingly difficult questions and get thoughtful and reasoned answers. None of this is going away. But there is still an abundance of entrenched old-school mindsets out there that continue to rail against new ways of doing things. Unfortunately, that can cost all of us. As mentioned above, there is certainly a time and place for tradition. And technology doesn’t fit for everything. But if we don’t at least consider the options out there, we all end up paying the price.

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Self-limiting beliefs will tank your chance of success way before any external obstacles. So how do you remove those beliefs, and replace them with a more useful framework?

Good question, and Craig Siegel has the answer.

Craig is a value-based and high-energy global keynote speaker. He believes removing limiting beliefs is the key to success in all areas of life. Most people feel unworthy. Craig helps people release the negative beliefs they have cultivated over time and implement positive and constructive thoughts. These thoughts then create powerful and positive beliefs that change your behaviors and ultimately create brand-new results in your relationships, business, and all facets of life.

His work has been endorsed by some of the world’s most well-known celebrities, entertainers, athletes, and entrepreneurs, such as Eric Thomas, Ed Mylett, Darryl Strawberry and Tom Bilyeu.

In his new book, The Reinvention Formula: How to Unlock a Bulletproof Mindset to Upgrade Your Life, he provides practical strategies and inspiring stories to help you create a life filled with purpose and fulfillment.

I chatted with Craig during a recent episode of the Launch Your Business podcast and shared a few of my key takeaways below.

The eulogy exercise

After years of work on Wall Street, Craig found himself in a successful career without direction or passion. He was caught in that low-grade miserable that happens when you’ve backed yourself into a corner of how other people think you ought to live your life.

One of the key exercises that helped get him out of the haze was the eulogy exercise. You read that right: A eulogy exercise.

Here’s what that looks like: You imagine if your funeral is a few weeks into the future. What will people say about you? What’s in your obituary? Did you leave a mark?

Craig realized he was not proud of what his eulogy would have looked like. He knew it was time for change.

“I woke up one day and realized all I had to change was absolutely everything,” Craig said, “And so I started investing in a different story.”

After that moment, Craig said it was impossible to go back.

Related: Boost Your Productivity and Creativity in 3 Steps

How to reinvent yourself

Like so many things, Craig says that reinvention starts with a list. Two lists, actually.

First, you make a list of five or six things that you love. If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you wake up tomorrow and do?

Next, make a list of five or six things that you’re really good at. Everyone has something that comes naturally to them, while others struggle.

Your superpower will be where the venn diagram of what you love, and what you’re good at overlaps.

“You will absolutely find some commonalities,” Craig said. “Then I would marry the two. And right away we are onto something. Now we have some clarity.”

Related: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Crafting a Successful Future

There’s a difference between failure and failing

Craig defines failure as trying something once, seeing that it didn’t work, and throwing up your hands and walking away.

Failing, he says, can actually be a positive thing. It means that you tried something, and it didn’t work. This happens to everyone, and as long as you keep rolling, you’ll be okay. As long as you keep trying and failing, you’ll make progress.

“Specifically in entrepreneurship, you gotta have thick skin, you gotta be bold, you gotta be able to take a punch,” Craig said. You gotta be able to take things, not so personally, and understand that every time you have a setback or you make a “mistake”, as long as there’s a lesson learned that you can extract to make you better, more experienced, more seasoned for the next endeavor, it’s actually a win.”

Next steps

Ready to learn more from Craig?

Start by grabbing a copy of his new book, The Reinvention Formula: How to Unlock a Bulletproof Mindset to Upgrade Your Life.

For a sneak preview, listen to our full interview on the Launch Your Business podcast.

Be sure to check his podcast as well, The CLS Experience, where you’ll hear from the most well-known celebrities on the planet who overcame struggles on their journey, on their way to achieving massive success in different facets of life.

And give him a follow on Instagram as well to keep up with his latest content and live events.

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You’re reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

This article was co-written with Ayman Fakoussa, co-founder and Managing Partner, The Qode.

It was in 2008, amidst the global financial crisis, that the two of us -Ayman Fakoussa and Dipesh Depala- embarked on an ambitious journey with The Qode. At the time, The Qode consisted of just four people- but we were a nimble, excited team, motivated by a clear vision. We sought to elevate the Middle East’s luxury public relations (PR) landscape. Today, as we reflect on what we’ve accomplished so far, and anticipate what we plan to achieve in the coming years, we recognize that our story is an age-old one- albeit with some added sparkle and flair!

The Qode today stands as a testament to the power of perseverance, strategic thinking, and innovative practices. But most of all, it provides tangible proof of the hard work our team put into drafting its story. We have a growing family of remarkable souls who joined us, supported us, and dedicated a part of their lives to sharing in our vision, and helping us take the company to where it is today.

For those of you reading this, we hope that our experience will offer insights, and perhaps even shed light on undiscovered possibilities as you navigate your way from startup to stability, growth, and success, hopefully alleviating some of the “fears” that plague our ilk, a natural side effect of the entrepreneurial spirit. At the beginning, Ayman was an industry insider working in marketing for L’Oreal and Villa Moda, where he played a pivotal role in introducing renowned brands to the region.

Meanwhile, Dipesh had a background in business, specifically in trade, distribution, and retail. The UAE’s growing publishing sector, dominated by two main groups, was aiming to create more localized content, a goal requiring a flourishing entertainment and events sector in order to succeed. Dipesh had done a remarkable job of tapping into this over the years, becoming a regular feature across all the UAE’s print media, to the point where he had become somewhat of a local celebrity.

That said, there was an absence of agencies that really understood the nuanced communications required by the global luxury sector that Ayman loved, with local agencies prioritizing the transactional, advertising dollars approach to communications. This method didn’t cater to the specialized conversational mindset of premium luxury consumers, an exploding regional demographic.

Source: The Qode

Our combined backgrounds, Ayman’s on the client side of luxury retail and PR, along with Dipesh’s access to and relationships with the predominant media of the time, gave us both the client-centric perspective and practical ability to identify and fill the gap, positioning The Qode as the region’s first boutique luxury communications agency.

We faced a lot of skepticism for launching during the global financial crisis, but we knew that with so many brands recently introduced to the market, the competition for the UAE’s luxury market would be aggressive, with larger agencies caught up in the ad sales web. Brands could no longer justify US$10,000 and $20,000 per-page ads, and we saw the opportunity for The Qode to step up and offer them an affordable and results-driven alternative. This allowed them to communicate, engage, and stay relevant during the challenging period that echoed through the market, calling for disruption. It wasn’t long before more agencies began popping up across the region, which presented a new set of challenges for us.

Sustaining our growth became more complex as the Gulf historically had a very dynamic and transient workforce, with new people arriving, leaving, changing jobs, and even industries, regularly. Fully aware that to understand any market means understanding its people, we needed to strategize. We committed ourselves to learning, knowing that we’d need to evolve to stay ahead of our often capital-rich and highly connected competition.

Related: Every Brand Has A Story, But It’s How You Choose To Craft It That Ensures Its Impact

Our network, and the ability to constantly change, and add to our contacts have been a lifeline for us. As any business professional or entrepreneur knows, fostering relationships is fundamental to long-term partnerships, whether as an employee or a business owner. The ability to build and maintain relationships is very often the key difference between success and failure. In fact, it was the associations that we built and nurtured over the years that eventually led to our being acquired.

Today, we believe that our network is as much a part of The Qode’s net worth, as the innovative service offering we’ve honed over the years. But it’s important to understand that networking isn’t only about building external connections; it’s a personal character trait that needs to be developed as a skill and applied throughout one’s career. It’s our muscle for the workplace that we all need to train.

At The Qode, we are adamant about nurturing a culture of trust and compromise. We firmly believe that differing perspectives spark creativity and growth, with openness and compromise the cornerstones of our leadership style. In fact, we’d rate our ability to create a happy, comfortable, and positive culture as key to the success we’ve had over the years.

For entrepreneurs who are just starting up their businesses, it can be difficult to delegate at first. In the early years, we had to remind ourselves to have faith in our team, to let go when appropriate, and trust in the company we were working so hard to build.

Source: The Qode

As first-generation businesspeople, it can be very hard to do this, and risk losing control. After all, we want to make sure that everything is up to the high standards that we ourselves would expect as clients, suppliers, and business partners. But, with growth comes the absolute need to trust and empower your team.

Today, we are convinced that the comfort we instilled through trust resulted in the happy, motivated, and high-performing workforce that we are so proud to have with us today. Businesspeople in this modern era can chart the growth trajectory of most companies by looking at the willingness and ability of the founders to entrust, invest in, and empower their teams.

Those who refuse to relinquish control might not fail entirely, but they generally tend to have a flatter growth trajectory and risk becoming irrelevant by disregarding the external and human forces driving the transformational agenda. As the oft-repeated aphorism goes,”culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Our commitment to fostering an inclusive, flexible, and empowering culture was instrumental in weathering the challenges, making us an attractive employer, and later overcoming the catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic, which brought our industry to its knees.

Our involvement with Endeavor, a prominent global network of entrepreneurs, was probably the most transformative experience we’ve had, as it drove us to restructure, transform, and prepare the business for growth and investment. We credit our experience with them, alongside the guidance and mentorship they offered, as a pivotal factor in making us an attractive acquisition candidate. We had developed very strong relationships with several international agencies over the years, but were particularly close with Karla Otto, with whom we had worked on several projects, and recommended clients to one another regularly.

Therefore, when The Independents Group was formed as a partnership between K2 and Karla Otto, The Qode was a natural fit, given our geographical standing, financial position, established network, and core competencies. Today, we’re proud to operate as an independent entity within The Independents Group, a global collective of agencies with offices around the world, comprising other industry leaders such as Bureau Betak and Prodject.

This development has really bolstered our offering, and has enabled us to shape the luxury and lifestyle communications landscape more profoundly than ever before. It brought us unprecedented opportunities, and it has also expanded our network through proxy, whilst allowing us to preserve our unique identity, culture, and core values. For us, it marked the moment when we turned the page to the next exhilarating era of The Qode’s growth and evolution- and we’re more excited than ever for the opportunities that lay ahead of us.

Related: Pushing Boundaries: Evangelos Kaldelis, CEO, 3S Money (MENA)

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About 15 years ago, I noticed the revenue of my company had flatlined. I work in the language-services industry, and at the time, we were primarily providing translation services through humans. Large technology clients had stopped buying from us, and we were determined to uncover the problem.

As it turned out, we weren’t offering our big tech clients what they needed: machine-based language models that could train artificial intelligence and improve automated translation outcomes.

This left us with two choices: adapt or lose business. Even though we knew incorporating AI into our company was critical to its success, the transition wasn’t easy. From the C-level down, the idea of incorporating machines into our workflow and changing the nature of our people’s jobs was met with a lot of resistance. The new direction would completely change the DNA of our company, and not everyone was on board.

With the recent acceleration of generative AI tools like ChatGPT, businesses in virtually every industry are being forced to change. A report from the World Economic Forum, showed more than 75% of companies are looking to adopt AI tech in the next five years. And with AI expected to contribute 14.5% of the U.S. GDP by 2030, there’s no denying its impact on economic growth.

As leaders across corporate America navigate the era of AI in the workplace, here are three insights I learned from the digital transformation of our company.

Related: 3 Smart Things to Know Before Getting Started with AI

Reskilling is key to rescaling your workforce

Change is hard for everyone, but we found a lot of the resistance from our people came from not knowing what skills would be required of them as our company embraced AI. To ease their concerns, we brought in senior leaders who were adept at leading digital transformations to help reskill our workforce.

Offering employees an opportunity to reskill in the age of AI has cross benefits. Not only did it allow us to retain many top employees who had institutional knowledge of our business and were critical to our culture, but as our people obtained new technical skills, it made them more employable: being a human language translator is great, but being a human language translator who has trained artificial intelligence engines is even better.

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2023 report showed 44% of employers surveyed from a cross-section of the world’s largest companies expect workers’ skills will be disrupted in the next five years. Such significant disruption requires business leaders, government and educational institutions alike to ensure we are providing the right training and reskilling of our human workforce.

For us, at times reskilling required merging different divisions of our company together for cross-learning opportunities. A division that understood the technology, for instance, could collaborate with a division that understood the customer experience to uncover new client solutions. This enabled us to reutilize valuable team members and also set them up to grow and prosper in their individual careers.

Related: 5 Tips for Integrating AI Into Your Business

Robots can’t replace complex critical thinking

I was given a demo by an AI vendor recently, and when asked if the translation technology could be used in a healthcare setting, he said “no.” This was due, in part, to the precise nature surrounding healthcare communication.

It got me thinking about my father. He was a great citizen who immigrated to America to provide a better life for his family. Later in life, he got dementia and lost much of his speech. I imagined how awful it would have been for him to go through an MRI, for instance, being aided with AI, rather than a human, for language interpretation.

As much as AI can help inform our decision-making and maximize efficiency, it can’t replace the emotional intelligence or critical-thinking skills of humans. An in-person interpreter is a multi-dimensional being with compassion that can mimic the gestures of a doctor and communicate to a vulnerable patient with empathy. That simply can’t be replicated through AI.

AI bases its decision-making off of the aggregate of data that’s been programmed into it — data that often contains preconceived biases. For example, I went into DALL-E by Open AI recently and asked it to create an image of a woman CEO. All of the images produced were of Asian women with zero differentiation in body size, race or emotional expression. With the volume of content being created through data analytics, we need human’s complex critical thinking skills more than ever to help audit and regulate machine output.

We also need human leadership skills more than ever. As a leader at our company, my role is to ensure we stay relevant — to be a step ahead of the trends and innovate to the benefit of our clients and team. These are skills that can be informed, but not replaced by AI.

Related: The Perfect Blend: How to Successfully Combine AI and Human Approaches to Business

Great tools require even greater responsibility

At the time of the Industrial Revolution, we had regulations in place for physical crimes. To this day, if you go into a supermarket and steal a physical product, there is legislation in place to prosecute you. The same cannot be said for the digital economy. Our justice system is not currently set up to protect Americans from the volume of cybersecurity issues the age of AI presents.

A recent report from Gartner showed that by 2025, consumerization of AI-enabled fraud will drive more focus on security education and awareness. From managing large volumes of private data to protecting our election systems, it’s extremely important that our laws and regulations catch up with the digital age.

For business leaders, one of the biggest mistakes you can make when incorporating AI into your organization is to violate the privacy of your stakeholders. And it’s not just humans that put privacy at risk. Machines and systems themselves can become non-compliant if they aren’t tested and implemented in a responsible manner. Privacy breaches can be extremely damaging and harm a lot of people, which is why it’s critical that AI is used responsibly and in conjunction with robust cybersecurity measures.

It’s early days in the era of AI, but already leaders around the world are recognizing its transformative capabilities. With great power comes great responsibility, and I believe it’s critical that as we go further down the road of incorporating AI into our workplaces, we establish regulations and uphold policies to protect the value of human life.

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A few years ago, I was attending a business conference and had an interesting conversation with a fellow business leader. We were discussing what we do and the challenges we faced. What stuck with me was her comment on artificial intelligence (AI): “You either embrace it or get left behind.”

Her words stayed with me, and as I delved deeper into the topic, I realized how crucial it was for every company to incorporate AI into their strategies. No, really. Embracing AI is no longer an option but a necessity for companies looking to thrive and succeed in the digital age.

And as CEOs and business leaders, we have the responsibility to stay ahead of the curve and identify opportunities that can propel our companies to new heights. Today, I want to urge you to join the AI revolution and explore the untapped potential that AI has to offer your business.

Related: 3 Ways to Drive Business Growth Using AI

AI as a catalyst for explosive business growth

The potential for AI to catalyze business growth is unprecedented. Imagine unlocking an entirely new level of operational efficiency, freeing up valuable time for your employees to focus on higher-value activities that can drive innovation.

AI technologies allow us to streamline operations and automate processes, significantly reducing human error while providing unparalleled speed and accuracy. With AI powering our businesses, we can gain a substantial competitive advantage in the data-driven business landscape.

The need for a brave and comprehensive AI strategy

AI solutions are unlikely to be effective if they’re not implemented wisely. CEOs and leaders need to embrace a brave and comprehensive AI strategy that aligns with our business objectives. It means that we must identify relevant use cases in advance, assess the technology infrastructure, address ethical and privacy concerns and implement the strategy from the bottom up, regardless of what naysayers in your company might say.

We must spend time building a robust AI strategy, ensuring our organizations are set up to take data-driven and informed decisions, optimize operations and articulate exceptional customer experiences.

AI’s impact on real-world applications

The impact of AI is evident across various industries. Technologies such as machine learning and natural language processing have advanced the art of simplifying life for humans. In the healthcare sector, AI enables us to analyze patients’ data from various outlets, making diagnosis times faster and more precise.

In finance, AI algorithms are automating processes, optimizing investment strategies and detecting fraudulent activities. For manufacturing, AI is enhancing efficiency and productivity. By taking advantage of the transformative power of AI, businesses can innovate and create disruptive business models. Real-world success stories cement the potential for AI, whether it’s improving processes, delivering personalized customer experiences or making data-driven decisions.

Related: 4 Ways to Use AI to Enhance the Customer Experience

Driving progress through data-driven decision-making

It’s a fact that technology has shaped the way businesses operate. However, AI analytics enables CEOs to make data-driven decisions across various departments and functions. These decisions can range from predicting market trends to optimizing supply chains and enhancing customer experiences.

AI algorithms continuously learn and improve over time, offering endless possibilities to refine decision-making processes and increase operational efficiency. As a result, driving progress through data-driven decision-making is now a necessity to prove to your customers that you are genuinely putting them at the center of your business.

Empowering personalized experiences and customer engagement

AI demonstrates tremendous potential for delivering personalized experiences at scale. With AI, companies can gather customer data from various touchpoints, drawing deeper insights into individual preferences, behaviors and needs.

This knowledge helps organizations tailor their products, services and marketing efforts to cater to each customer segment, driving higher engagement, loyalty and customer lifetime value. The benefits for ecommerce are tremendous as AI-powered recommendations increase purchasing intent, which in turn, works in the favor of your business profitability.

We can’t shy away from AI anymore because the old ways of conducting business are not going to be enough. We must change and embrace brave, transformative technologies such as AI to build better business futures.

Related: Ashton Kutcher Warns Companies to Embrace AI or ‘You’re Probably Going to Be Out of Business’

As CEOs and business leaders, we have the responsibility to lead our companies to embrace AI technologies, unlocking their potential to drive explosive business growth, optimize operations, make data-driven decisions and deliver exceptional customer experiences.

We must have the courage to take that first step of embracing AI to stay ahead of the competition and unlock new possibilities for our organizations. So, let’s seize the AI revolution, driving our companies to new heights of success.

Let us embrace AI, leverage its power and together create a future where our companies thrive, innovate and shape industries like never before.

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For centuries, the traditional driver for bringing a company or business of any size to fruition has been profit. This is the net gain one realizes after accounting for all the effort, costs, labor and time in order to maintain the business.

The possibility of generating income far beyond what a person may earn simply by working as an employee for someone else has always been a factor in overcoming the challenge of starting a business. Despite the fact that starting and scaling a successful business can be one of the most difficult and turbulent times for any entrepreneur, it is currently only surpassed by real estate as the most attractive means of investment for greater personal gain.

Much of this attraction is because businesses are inspiring and tangible; people see successful small and large businesses operating every day, all around them. The idea, whether it involves opening a restaurant or selling a homemade product, seems practical, doable and attainable for the average person, especially when considering assumed profits.

In reality, running a business is extremely hard. Many business owners struggle, chasing cash flow to fend off debt, and many more fail after less than a year of operation. However, successful companies are led by those with an entrepreneurial spirit that motivates them to keep trying. In the chaos of getting your business up and running, it can be easy to forget about marketing, philanthropy and social entrepreneurship. These initiatives are hidden keys to success that allow your business to connect with consumers on an emotional level.

Related: Purpose-Driven Companies Grow 3 Times Faster — So Here’s How to Become One Without Sacrificing Profit.

Showcasing your mission

The internet and access to social media have had a huge impact on the success of businesses, especially those in their growth stage. A single viral TikTok can sell out a product and change the life of a business owner overnight. Consumers are more interested in a business’s ethics, relatability and purpose than ever. That being said, businesses have to develop new purposes for operating beyond just driving sales. Mission and common goodwill have become incredibly valuable, especially as more and more consumers utilize the Internet to make their decisions about whom to buy from and whom to avoid. In this regard, the social entrepreneur has evolved, operating a business for both the greater good and making a profit in the same operation.

Social entrepreneurship builds the given business strategy around a social issue first and profit second. The business’s ability to achieve income and net profit is oftentimes treated as an added benefit, with the primary goal of achieving the socially positive impacts driving much of the activity involved. The social issues can vary considerably, from benefiting the environment to providing work opportunities for low-income communities needing career change assistance. Identifying the social issue your company is passionate about and solving can oftentimes drive sales from those in the community, as well as inspire a sense of purpose, belonging and camaraderie within your team.

3 steps to integrate social entrepreneurship into your business

  1. Education and advocacy: Beyond selling products, emphasize adding educational value and resources to your consumers that enable them to make more informed decisions regarding their purchases. This can include blog posts, social media content, webinars or highlighting your employees on podcasts or in thought leadership pieces. By allowing your brand to become a reliable source of information and advocating for further education on consumer habits, your company will establish itself as a socially responsible entity that genuinely cares about the well-being of its consumer base.
  2. Cause marketing and donations: Tie sales to a social cause or charitable organization that aligns with your brand. For example, for every product sold, a certain percentage of the proceeds could be donated to initiatives in your community, like providing the homeless with meals or a national scale to nonprofits or charities. This approach creates a win-win solution where consumers feel good about their purchase, knowing they are contributing to a greater good while your company gains customer loyalty and positive brand perception.
  3. Sustainable and ethical sourcing: Emphasize social entrepreneurship in your supply chain by sourcing ingredients and materials in an ethical and sustainable manner. Ensure that your products are not only beneficial to consumers but also considerate of social and environmental impacts. For instance, prioritize sourcing from fair trade suppliers, environmentally responsible farms or manufacturing plants or even local communities that support sustainable practices. Transparently communicate these efforts to your consumers, who increasingly value companies with social and environmental consciousness.

Related: How Social Entrepreneurship Can Benefit Businesses and the Communities They Serve

In a world where purpose-driven businesses are gaining momentum, social entrepreneurship stands as a powerful and inspiring concept that merges profit with positive social impact, offering a compelling path for entrepreneurs to make a difference while pursuing success.

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It is no secret that brands and companies are always on the hunt to elevate their presence in a competitive realm. Even the most recognizable brands are finding new ways to adapt to the sway of their consumers’ expectations to grow. However, some become too comfortable in a state of stagnation once they’ve reached the highest step on the winning podium.

Innovation is the lifeline of many companies, and to remain in stasis could eventually make your brand outdated. Thus, innovation is the key to growth that shouldn’t be overlooked. It doesn’t, however, have to be a drastic change that reinvents the wheel. Innovation can be subtle but significant, and there are many ways to achieve just that. Let’s explore the importance of easy ways to achieve innovation and how you can implement it into your internal strategy.

Related: 4 Ways to Drive Growth-Unlocking Internal Innovation in Your Organization

Keep your company competitive

When your business achieves significant success with its product or service, it becomes crucial to uphold the principle of continuous evolution at its core. While this may appear self-evident, it is a common occurrence for prosperous brands to fall into complacency, stagnating their innovation process. Periods of inertia often provide an opportunity for competitors to outperform them with superior versions of those very same products or services. To maintain a sustainable competitive edge, companies must keep innovation perpetually in motion. The next out-of-the-box idea is easier said than done — however, keeping your brand relevant and modern is a more subtle, but noticeable way to keep your brand in a constant state of renewal. The best way to achieve this is through a brand refresh.

In our digital design agency, we have witnessed first-hand that when we assist industries with brand rejuvenation, it often leads to a surge in conversions and audience growth. Whether it’s a minor tweak or a comprehensive transformation, modernizing your brand’s design language, website or marketing materials can be a potent form of innovation. This involves making forward-looking visual UI decisions that harmonize with your existing brand style, thereby ensuring your design is future-proof. Even something as simple as a logo refresh can be a powerful statement to your audience, signaling that your brand is keeping pace with the times. Every upgrade contributes to the ongoing evolution of your brand’s identity.

Updating your brand website with tweaks to usability and accessibility is also a great way to innovate. When your company considers all users of all abilities, it not only makes it a great experience for everyone, but it also demonstrates to your consumer base that their experience with your brand is also prioritized just as anyone else’s. Incorporating ADA-compliant standards into your website, color schemes, typography sizes, alt text incorporation and more are just a few ways to boost users’ experience.

Related: 3 Startups Making a Big Difference with Small Innovations

Make a difference with demographics

To truly ignite innovative thinking, fostering a culture of shared ideas and collaborative brainstorming is often the crucial catalyst to the next breakthrough concept. Consequently, it is vital for industry leaders to not only welcome but actively encourage input from their in-house teams.

This strategy may involve ensuring a diverse workforce, inclusive of both younger and older generations, to infuse a breadth of fresh perspectives and experiences that create a productive ground for ideas to thrive. Engaging team members from a younger demographic can be particularly beneficial, as they are typically current with the latest trends, user expectations and potentially outdated practices that the company might unwittingly still be employing. This collective knowledge and shared perspective can be the driving force behind meaningful and relevant innovation. According to UNICEF, hiring younger team members can help tap into the millennial and younger audiences since they are more attuned and familiar.

Further, innovation means growth and scalability. When you innovate for people of all demographics, you are expanding your audience base as well as growing your company’s conversions. Another best practice to achieve collaboration for fresh ideas is holding weekly idea sessions to share ideas internally on how to improve certain products or services based on client feedback and surveys. The crux here is to create an inclusive environment where every idea is heard and valued. Any dismissive attitude can rapidly quell team morale and stifle their enthusiasm for sharing their insights. Therefore, nurturing an open and receptive atmosphere is pivotal to driving successful and continuous innovation.

Related: Great Minds Think Unalike — 3 Ways to Drive True Innovation Through Diversity

Adopt a design-thinking mindset

Often utilized in the digital design industry, including our agency, design thinking can help the structure of the way ideas flow. Design thinking is a problem-solving approach that emphasizes human-centered design. Design thinking incorporates empathizing with user needs, defining problems, ideating ways to improve a problem/idea, prototyping, testing, then circling back in iterative increments. Design thinking fosters a collaborative environment where multidisciplinary teams work together to find solutions. This diversity of perspectives can lead to more innovative ideas and solutions for your brand.

Additionally, it emphasizes an iterative process. Ideas are tested and refined based on user feedback, leading to continuous improvement. This ensures your brand stays updated and resonates with evolving customer expectations. Concepts and ideas can become more defined and not simply live on as ideas but can be put into an actionable space to eventually flourish. By incorporating a design-thinking approach into your company, your team can view growth with a fresh perspective.

In the relentless pursuit of brand supremacy, companies must continuously innovate to keep pace with ever-evolving customer expectations and outdo the competition. However, the idea of innovation often connotes seismic shifts and grandiose changes. Instead, the reality is that innovation can, and often does, happen incrementally — through brand refreshes, website updates and diversity in demographic insights — in a subtle, but powerful approach.

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