Deep learning techniques

If you have been wondering how there is always so much to do yet so little time, time has come when you can finally put a halt to that thought as artificial intelligence has just the things you need. In fact, with artificial intelligence and cognitive computing you can get things done with greater efficiency and much lesser effort than you thought was possible. Deep learning, which is one of the technologically superior methods behind the formulation of Artificial Intelligence, traces the evolution path of human intelligence design to develop machines that can perform tasks on their own and without human supervision helping in automation. It is very interesting to note how deep learning has altered the way we operate in various aspects of daily activities and necessity areas. Let us take into consideration 10 practical use cases of Deep Learning Techniques that have been witnessed in the last few years. ONE: Facial Recognition using visual intelligence of machines It is astounding how security cameras have grown over the years. Today, machine learned security cameras used at airports or secured parking lots use their analytical ‘mind’ to not only record a particular intrusion but also review and analyze the scene. Objective: To identify, detect and track persons of interest, parked vehicles, missing luggage and many more using CCTVs or other high-end cameras. Deep Learning Technique:  A VPU or a Vision Processing Unit, is a much advanced deep learning product that takes over the conventional CPU or GPU. A lot of processing and machine learning is conducted on the device which helps it to analyze a particular scene. It uses Convolutional Deep Learning Models to detect and track objects and individuals. Inference: Most of the airports are now able to use the deep learning techniques to identify and track persons of interest (e.g. terror suspects, etc.), track your luggage and detect any suspicious item very quickly. These VPU-enabled security cameras installed at airports, generate alerts the moment they find someone leaving their luggage, thus making it possible to detect airport security threats within minutes. Installed in traffic scenarios, they can also recognize driver-less cars and help them find the right parking spots.  TWO: Understanding customer behaviour in ecommerce Deep learning is being used to develop techniques to get clearer ideas about customer wants and expectations in the ecommerce industry. Let us see how. Objective : To understand customer behaviour and their propensity to purchase a particular product. Deep Learning technique: Recurrent Neural Networks (RNN) has a potential for higher accuracy than any other machine learning technique. An RNN network is generally made up of computational cells which are fed with consumer histories. These cells are provided with a given-time step, which helps the program to understand the consumer’s step-wise behaviour when he/she is viewing a particular product on a site. For example, an RNN cell will note when the consumer clicks on an ad, is directed to a site, views a product and adds it to the shopping cart. These RNNs are often long-time memory cells and they remember and relate customer behaviour across a line of products. Inference: E-commerce sites, such as ebay and Amazon, are greatly benefited through Deep Learning.  The entire session journey of consumers are noted. The longer and dynamic an event is, the greater is the propensity of people to click on the ‘buy now’ button. Once a particular consumer behaviour is noted in case of a range of products, the site is optimized to ensure that the next time a similar consumer visits, they get a more engaging experience so as to convert into a purchase within the shortest time.  THREE: Having a private tech self-support With the introduction of computers, there were recurring talks about how machines would replace humans one day. It is now possible to minimise human-labour and improve efficiency with machine learning. Objective: To improve work efficiency of an organization by installing machine-learned support staff unit, instead of hiring manual labour. Deep Learning technique : Algorithmic Scheduling Agents are built using a blend of deep learning algorithms that ensure distribution of labour so that a number of tasks are performed within the shortest possible time and at minimum costs. Agents like cyborg systems are developing using the technique. Inference: For calendar coordination and scheduling, we have Clara and to gather staff report and consolidate meeting information we have Howdy. Google Now is the preferred program for keeping on schedule through proactive alerts, and for follow-ups after meetings, GridSpace Sift is a brilliant manager. FOUR: Transforming industrial sector through Internet of Things Data Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) refers to the interlinking of physical devices, buildings, vehicles and other items through electronic, sensors and software so that the data is collected and exchanged. Objective : To initiate preventive maintenance of machine units through machine learned sensors, in order to improve longevity and improve performance. Deep Learning technique: Sensor data analysis. By using machine-learned sensors and IIoT, accurate maintenance time predictions are made. Timely maintenance of machines is very important to ensure that work for a long period of time. Initially manufacturers would mostly rely on guesswork to time the maintenance interval of machines. IIoT is combined with predictive analysis gives the perfect maintenance times. Machine learning of prior downtime incidents also play a great role. Inference: In several countries, chemical manufacturing units and aircrafts units are installing machine learned sensors to get complete idea of new challenges and insights. This has helped in reducing pitfalls and machine breakdown, thus considerably reducing costs and maintaining a healthy and hygienic environment in manufacturing units. FIVE: Convolutional neural networks finding minerals Multi-special satellite images have helped found mineral resources in several countries like Australia. Geologists have been able to use the mineral indexes integrated with the algorithms to find traces of minerals (even gold) deep inside the earth’s crust. Objective: Detecting mineral deposits using multi-special satellite images have helped found mineral resources. Deep Learning technique: Transfer learning is a great way for convolutional neural networks to carry out this function. These networks are pre-trained and fed with data over minerals and geographical location accuracy, before they are operated. Converting information into geospatial data is the challenge that has to be undertaken. Inference: Geologists in Austria, are currently using the procedure to locate minerals in relatively unexplored areas of the land. SIX: Deep learning facilitating automatic grading of eye diseases GPU-based medical research machines are now using deep learning methods for medical break-throughs. […]

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Small Business trends to look out for in 2018

Australian businesses are facing an onslaught of international competitors vying for market share at the expense of local small businesses.  Technology has had a large impact on businesses, allowing for innovation with new advances or face being left behind with possible closure. The rise of the sharing economy such as Amazon, Uber and AirTasker has disrupted the traditional structure of businesses in terms of price, location and choice. To globalise your business and open your market, all businesses, small and large should have an E-commerce setup and rethink the size and purpose of their ‘brick and mortar’ formats. While this will require significant investments in IT, the returns will be recouped through increased sales and possibly greater margins. Marketing personalisation using enhanced customer relationship management programs will assist in tailoring messages for your customers, using click segmentation to assist in retention and sales growth. As we move towards originality, the days of using stock images, generic electronic database emails and impersonal calls will no longer cut it. Consumers are looking for original and authentic content, particularly if your business operates solely online. Social media advertising presents a new way to connect with your audience in a timely and relevant manner which has reduced media spend in traditional outlets such as TV and PRINT.  The move to digital E-commerce poses risks and, as time goes by, the sophistication of IT hacks and attacks will become more prevalent. Customers are largely unforgiving of data breaches and so trust will be paramount in ensuring emails aren’t considered spam messages. According to Symantec, 5,000 spam messages are sent per person each year, meaning malware could infect unsuspecting users for bank information and personal details resulting in identity theft.  The modern workplace will also contribute to the way employers and employees interact with each other and the way they get on about doing their work. Businesses will become smarter in how they use workplace space to drive productivity, install new technology and improve motivation. While highly divisive, the evolving formats of “remote workplaces” is set to expand despite employees finding it more productive to be in a workplace environment.   One of the most important times of the year is the Federal Government Budget handed down every year in May. Following international policy trends and Australian Government initiatives businesses should keep an eye out on new policy decisions including asset write-off programs, discussion around lowering corporate tax rates and reducing State and Federal business red tape.  To hear more about these ideas or developments, the Australian Small Business Champions Conference is being held at The Star, Sydney between April 21-22, 2018.  It will connect Australia’s leading experts across various business sectors to share insights to help business “Grow, Shape & Plan” taking their small businesses to the next level.  For more information and special IdeaSpies pricing – click on the link below:  https://championsconference.com.au/register John Wanna – Taurus Marketing

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The focus is now on Employee Experience (EX)

There are now signs that employee experience (EX) is the next priority for organisations, following the major emphasis on customer experience (CX). This is good news for staff! While CX is the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company, EX is the sum of everything an employee experiences throughout his or her connection with an organisation. Innovative leaders and HR teams are thinking beyond staff satisfaction and employee engagement to look at the entire employee experience. Successful organisations offer better employee experiences that attract better staff and keep them engaged.  They proactively design and manage EX, not just respond to annual staff engagement surveys. A key result is better customer service- a virtuous circle. Consumerism is now part of the recruiting process. Just as customers can choose from a variety of brands based on reviews they can search on the web, employees can also use online resources to choose potential employers. Websites such as Glassdoor make it much easier for prospective employees to assess the EX at a company they’re considering. We are now in a very competitive environment where the best people are in increasing demand. They are less likely to want to work in organisations where they are not valued and don’t have a voice to influence outcomes. Instead they want to work in organisations that value innovation and the role that they can play in it. According to a Gallup Report the percentage of adults who work full time for an employer and are engaged at work — they are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace — is just 15% worldwide. While this is a problem it’s also a huge opportunity- business units in the top quartile of Gallup’s global employee engagement database are 17% more productive and 21% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile. How EX can be improved EX should be considered as a strategic priority by Management and Boards. Deloitte suggests that the EX journey in organisations can be mapped, perhaps using design thinking, just has been done for CX. Ford is an example of a company focussing on innovation, including CX and EX. Some suggestions to improve EX are to take a holistic view: define purpose; recruit staff that suit the organisation culture; provide staff development that suits their needs; move people more often; offer continuous feedback; consider work/life balance with flexible work options; review workplace design; hackathons; invest in an idea capture tool that gives people at all levels a voice in contributing ideas; and ensure leaders are well trained so they are receptive to suggestions and ideas as well as to developing their staff. In sum More and more people want to work in an innovative culture where work has meaning, brands have genuine value and new thinking leads to useful ideas being implemented. Purpose and passion are now the lifeblood of a successful organisation. There is a significant opportunity to increase employee engagement through EX. Organisations with innovative cultures embracing new thinking such as EX are the most likely to succeed. Innovation should involve all people in an organisation, not just a select few. IdeaSpies Enterprise is a new, fun and effective idea capture tool that’s designed to encourage ideas from staff. It’s been successfully trialled by KPMG Greater Western Sydney and was launched this month at Ashurst, a leading international law firm. You can see a video that shows how it works here. Lynn Wood – Chief Idea Spy

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Fighting Tech Innovation’s Dark Side

Since we live in a machine age, the growing concern is that new technologies like artificial intelligence, cryptocurrencies, autonomous cars, and precision medicine are so powerful, pervasive and evolving that they can become uncontrollable. So how do we overcome it? New technologies can be potentially scary and bad. It’s a step into the unknown with uncertainty whether it may fail and it takes to integrate into society. Since we live in a machine age, the growing concern is that new technologies like artificial intelligence, cryptocurrencies, autonomous cars, and genetically customised ‘precision medicine’ are so powerful, pervasive, and fast-changing that they become uncontrollable. All this can put society and quite possibly the entire human race in grave danger. For instance, July 2017 saw Facebook abandon an experiment after two artificially intelligent programs appeared to be chatting to each other in a strange language that only they understood. The two chatbots communicated with one another having created their own changes to English which seemed to make it easier for them to work, but it was mysterious to the supervising human engineers. The chatbots’ bizarre discussions happened as Facebook challenged them to try and negotiate a trade with one another in attempt to swap items like hats and balls that were all given a certain value. But negotiations quickly broke down as the robots appeared to oddly chant to each other in a pattern of incomprehensible English that didn’t seem to be a glitch. Were the robots becoming uncontrollably too intelligent for their own good? Even more recently, Amazon’s voice assistant device, Alexa, let out unprompted creepy cackles. The device is designed to respond or act only when prompted by with a wake word that’s “Alexa” or “Amazon”, but this apparent glitch is happening without any prior interaction, spooking Alexa owners. Alexa is intended to be a domestic device in the home, so the use of voice assistants is often met with caution — voice commands are recorded and sent to the cloud for processing, a system that stokes a fear of eavesdropping, unintended or otherwise. Incidents like this and at Facebook, where an AI assistant seems to rebel against its owner, naturally furthers such concern. Upon that note, tech pioneer Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has  said, “AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilisation.” He has also said, in relation to a self driving car ,“You’d test the living daylights out of it before you let it on the streets.” To counteract that and to control the different levels of future technological uncertainty before going to market, would be to apply regulations to the technology sector. After all, within any industry, regulation is necessary to keep things in check — it should not be too restrictive, but obviously progressive. However, there is a lack of government involvement within technological innovation because government ministers don’t understand it and they don’t know what to do about it. This is starting to change on an international scale with the World Economic Forum which is tackling the dangers of big tech. Within the UK, there are such organisations like Nesta, an innovation charity which works globally and always in partnership, as they do with Manchester University on the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (MIoIR). They address the strategic intelligence, governance, and responsible research and innovation aspects of new and emerging technologies. Organisations supporting innovative entrepreneurs are London Innovators who help radical London-based entrepreneurs and GSMA supporting initiatives that shape the future of mobile communications and expand opportunities for the whole industry. There’s also N77 Society, whose recruited field experts as members assess advancing technological projects’  benefits or dangers to society. They all add a strong filter to adjust and cancel out technology’s bad with good. All organisations and societies in the the technology field can help develop an ‘innovation culture’ for larger regulatory bodies i.e. government to certainly promote the positive impact of innovations. It can inform and teach public officials who regulate technologies, business people who build them, and citizens who use or are affected by them — to craft inclusive policies that governments or companies can try out. Overall, technological innovation is necessary. We as humans constantly progress together as a society, country and a world. Throughout time, technology has enhanced our daily lives and we all take it for granted in all areas. Whether it be communication with the Internet and smartphones; travel with planes and motor vehicles or entertainment with televisions and music formats, it’s all there right before us. The attraction towards more advanced technological innovation is a belief in progress towards an improved or more advanced condition — a brighter future as we all move forward. Francesco Segramora 16 March 2018

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Creating an innovative culture that sparks useful ideas

IdeaSpies Enterprise

Research has shown that long term organisational success depends on developing, testing and implementing new ideas- not being satisfied with the status quo.  The increasing pace of change resulting from the digital age is putting more pressure on the need for ideas that lead to new products and services as well as ideas that improve the way we work. The easiest way to get ideas to improve your business is from your employees. They understand your business and want you to succeed, so why don’t most organisations do this well? There are three key reasons: Established organisations are focused on execution. Managers want their people to focus on what needs to be done soon rather than think about the future. Many managers believe that ideas from lower level staff are not useful, hence it’s a waste of time to ask for and consider them. There isn’t a simple process to capture and rate ideas from employees. An innovative culture- what is it? The most successful organisations have leaders who understand the value of innovation and address the above issues They encourage an innovative culture by offering positive employee experiences which results in high employee engagement The best people stay and there is a constant flow of ideas that improve the business. Innovative cultures offer jobs that promote teamwork and offer opportunities to make a contribution so talented people can learn and progress. When a culture is innovative, people are honest and open, encouraged to share ideas and able to explore initiatives without fear of failure. There is recognition that failing to try anything new is often the biggest risk. People feel more empowered and rewarded when they know that they will receive credit for ideas they suggest, their ideas will be seriously considered for testing or implementation, and rewards are both transparent and timely. For anyone thinking that innovation is a fad, 2018 will mark adoption of the world’s first global standard for innovation processes. We all have choices about how much thought and time we put into something. When our ideas and suggestions are not adequately considered those of us on the left of this chart just seek to contribute elsewhere. Insync research has shown that 51% of people rate lack of job enrichment as the most important reason they leave their job. More and more people want to work in an innovative culture where work has meaning, brands have genuine value and new thinking leads to useful ideas being implemented. Purpose and passion are now the lifeblood of a successful organisation. Organisations with innovative cultures embracing new thinking are the most likely to succeed. Encouraging an innovative culture Leading tech companies have innovative cultures. However many more established organisations have hierarchical structures that make it difficult to adapt to change. Therefore they are vulnerable to disruption. To avoid disruption and encourage an innovative culture there must be leadership from the top with innovation as a key strategic focus. There needs to be a process for encouraging useful ideas that’s well understood. Some organisations have established innovation management positions that are tasked with promoting and supporting innovation across the organisation. Other suggestions to encourage an innovative culture are: including ideas from employees or innovation on committee agendas, an award for innovation, investing in an idea capture tool that gives people at all levels a voice in contributing ideas, and ensuring leaders are well trained so they are receptive to suggestions and ideas from their employees. Innovation should involve all people in an organisation, not just a select few. IdeaSpies Enterprise is a new idea capture tool that’s designed to turn the tide in your favour… naturally.

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DIY PR 101 – Bootstrapping your own communications

Freelancer’s Liam Fitzpatrick explains how to get your startup in the media:  You’ve got a great business, but no one knows about it. Time to get yourself noticed. And sites like Ideas Spies are always on the hunt for people doing new and interesting things. So how do you go about it? ‘Be interesting and interested’ A former boss of mine had a phrase for most scenarios. Little pocket-sized mantras. ‘Be interesting and interested’ sounds obvious, but it involves being able to know what will appeal to others. You spent time honing the audience for your product – now you should spend a little time reading the media to understand which journalists already write about your sector, and what gets them excited. Would I read it? Generally the media will be looking for a human interest angle – whether that’s your founder’s story or the impact you’ve had on your customers’ lives. Stats will help to quantify success in the mind of a journalist or their readers (number of users, fundraising figures, etc). At the end of the day, ask yourself if you would read the article if it wasn’t about you. Not every announcement is going to cause bottle-popping celebrations outside of your business. Which is fine. For those stories which you ‘have’ to get out there, make them work from an SEO perspective and document it on a free listings site like: PRLog, BusinessWire, PRweb, MediaPost, there are hundreds of sites – just Google ‘free press release distribution’. Thinking about context You will need to demonstrate that you’re aware of things outside of your own world. Be interested in what is going on in your industry and trends from other sectors. It will help you when you’re trying to illustrate to the media where your business sits in the wider world. What are you doing that others aren’t? Does your business sit in a trend which a journalist can include in a wider feature? Get out there The ‘be interesting and interested’ advice applies to networking too. It’s not all take. The most famous startup communities are well-known because of the amount of time people give back. But you need to build your network. Event sites like Meetup and Eventbrite will give you access to a world of people who could help your business. Give up the occasional evening and reap the rewards. Most of these events are free and it could result in your startup’s next investment. If your startup is based on a clever idea, which it should be, you can also post your “elevator pitch” on IdeaSpies for free. ‘What matters is what matters, to the people that matter’ When speaking with the media be aware that the journalist will likely have to pitch in your idea to their editor. So think like an editor and argue why readers will be interested in your story. Tips Avoid jargon – general rule, if you can’t explain it in a sentence your mum would understand it’s too complicated. Talk about the benefits not your product – why should the reader care about your business? Get to the point – who, what, where, when, why in two paragraphs both in emails and releases. Look for journalists who write similar stories – both Fairfax and News Corp news brands have ‘Small Business’ sections looking for startups to feature. Liam Fitzpatrick , Communications Manager of  Freelancer, recently talked about getting PR for your startup as part of the StartCon Leadership series.

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Inspiring action by sharing a clever idea

The purpose of IdeaSpies is to inspire action by sharing clever ideas and this story is a perfect example of how this can happen. Our son told me about rain gardens being installed by the City of Sydney Council. These self-watering gardens are often installed when new traffic public works improvements are made to the City’s streets. They are typically at street corners in the space where cars cannot park, and they replace what was once asphalt road pavement. I thought this was a clever idea so posted it on IdeaSpies- Raingardens  Then a while later early on a Monday morning I saw Council workmen installing islands in our street. I was really pleased- I thought they were installing rain gardens. However I was very disappointed to be told that they weren’t installing rain gardens. They were instead planning to pour concrete in the islands. We live in a heritage street and I was very disappointed that it would look like we had sewerage outlets in our street! I was told by the workmen that the work was planned for Friday of that week. Unfortunately I had no time to deal with the issue with the Council as I was attending a 3 day course to help develop IdeaSpies. I did however visit my next door neighbour that night, show her the idea on IdeaSpies, and say how disappointed I was. When I returned home from the 3rd day of the course on the Wednesday evening I was was very pleasantly surprised to find a stack of signed petition forms from neighbours on our entrance table. My next door neighbour had drawn up a petition and taken it to others in the street. The petition asked our Council to give us rain gardens per the idea on IdeaSpies. Based on this support from neighbours I called our Council then, when I couldn’t get through, I called the local newspaper and a reporter was very interested in the story. Simultaneously our Council changed plans. A street meeting was arranged and we all agreed on the flowers to be planted in the islands, instead of the concrete. The idea on IdeaSpies had inspired my neighbour to take positive action- our street is now looking good! What are you doing to inspire action that makes something, somewhere or someone better by sharing an idea you see? Idea Spies are observant people who care about the world and make it better by sharing clever ideas happening around them.

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Life outside the box

Among the gadgets in the kitchen the knife appears as the most simple tool. It is not as flashy as the electronic machines that make kitchen tasks so much lighter. Yet it is unimaginable to have a kitchen without this unassuming knife. Actually, scientists consider this humble tool as the first machine of the mechanical evolution. Thanks to the creative capacity of our ancestors. They saw the sharp edges of an angular stone as a means to easily tear apart their raw food. Through innovations, the knife was transformed from a stone in a dirt  to that useful gadget in modern-day kitchens. This process of thinking that generates or recognises ideas and alternatives to problem solving that are workable or functional is called creativity. Man’s capacity to be creative and innovative has made major contributions to humanity through the fields of science and the arts. Yet studies have proven that it also plays a very important role in everyday life. Experts in the field consider creativity as necessary in solving everyday problems and in adapting to changes. In fact, they consider it also as an indicator of mental health. Without creativity there is no innovation. Creativity is what drives a person to consider things from different perspectives and to work out of the box. It enables him to seek different ways of solving complex problems and to conceptualise strategies. It gives him the capacity to produce unique ideas. Innovation, on the other hand, is creativity at work. That is, it implements what creativity conceives. How does creativity and innovation arise? Case studies have come up with different theories to address this question. But the current views support the comprehensive  framework conceptualised by Teresa Amabile, doctor in Psychology and Head of the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at the Harvard Business School. It suggests that creativity arises from the  integration of three factors: KNOWLEDGE: All the relevant understanding an individual brings to bear on a creative effort. CREATIVE THINKING: Relates to how people approach problems and depends on personalityand thinking/working style. MOTIVATION: Motivation is generally accepted as key to creative production, and the most important motivators are intrinsic passion and interest in the work itself. Many theories point to innovation and creativity as competencies of emotional intelligence (EI). This is so because EI enables one to transform emotions into motivators of creative activity. And during the creative process, innovation and creativity are at work with other EI competencies. People lacking in this competence: Find it difficult to deal with change and become anxious when there is a need to shift priorities. Often complain and has negative attitudes towards new situations. Are narrow-minded and are intractable from how they view things. Are not up to taking on new challenges. Can’t change track when confronted with changing circumstances. People with this competence: Seek out fresh ideas from a wide variety of sources. Are open to new and original solutions to problems. Ask lots of questions to acquire new ideas; they love exchanging ideas  such that they encourage others to brainstorm & think out loud. Question accepted practices, patterns and assumptions. Are naturally curious and take risks in their thinking. They seek new ways of doing things as they take views from other perspectives. Are resilient and adaptable; view failures as learning opportunities and not as burdens to be carried. Man has the natural capacity to be creative but it is not uniformly allotted. Some have more of this capacity than others. But just like an athlete who works on his muscles to increase his strength or an artist who practices to enhance his talent, creativity can be increased and developed with appropriate training and focus done in an environment that encourages innovation. The amount of training and its diversity are important factors as studies revealed that they are directly proportional to the creativity output. The following are tested ways to get a person on track. Maximising the use of all senses and avoiding self-censorship in brainstorming. Generating varieties of ideas, options and possibilities (asking “what if” questions) when approaching a challenge. Taking time off (creativity can be drowned by too many demands). Clearing space and finding new ways  to de-clutter. Cultivating an attitude of curiosity in all things. Trying out or exploring things that spark the interest. Exploring one’s polarity – that is, exploring the opposite of what one is. Allowing self to be surprised by something new every day. According to an IBM survey, the number one attribute CEOs look for in their incoming workforce is not discipline, integrity, or intelligence. It’s creativity.  It does not only give man the capacity to adapt to a fast-changing and technology-driven environment but it also gives him the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of innovation to make a difference in his life and in this world. Have you been living in a box? Are you running out of ideas in facing your problems? Need fresh ideas in sorting your life out? Have you been living in a box? Are you running out of ideas in facing your problems? Need fresh ideas in sorting your life out? Contact us today. by peoplebuilders peoplebuilders.com.au

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Will local businesses WIN THE WEST?

PARRAMATTA Square and the cultural infrastructure currently underway will deliver a Smart City and core CBD to greater Sydney. Expansions at Westmead will create a world class health precinct, as well as opportunities for nearby hospitals to expand their services to an ageing population. Rail, light rail and road infrastructure, intermodal facilities at Moorebank, expansion of the higher education sector and new high school campuses, all point to new developments that will accommodate the rapid growth of Western Sydney’s population in future decades. The Federal government’s decision to directly invest in the development of Western Sydney’s airport at Badgery’s Creek is a milestone. By providing a gateway for lightweight freight, domestic and international travellers, Western Sydney will not only have better access but more competitiveness on the world stage. Innovative businesses, local councils and not-for-profit service providers will all benefit from this growth. The current job and entrepreneurial opportunities in Parramatta and the growth corridors in Western Sydney are distinctively different from the region’s blue-collar heritage. Knowledge-based employment and business opportunities will require digitally savvy, customer-centric and flexible workers who are able to constantly learn and adapt. Western Sydney’s new-found accessibility will create export opportunities but this will also open us to increased global competition. Automation of routine physical and clerical tasks will take away many of the jobs employing people today. New digital and easy-to-use technologies can lead to more knowledge based jobs for those businesses investing in human capital and innovation to improve their agility and profitability. Automation of low-value added activities will become the norm with intuition and customer-centric thinking keys to enabling sustainable growth. Success isn’t a given though, and local businesses will need to work hard to reap the benefits. KPMG Enterprise’s R&D and incentives Partner, Paul van Bergen, who is based in Parramatta, advises businesses on the best way to maximise opportunities. “Think about what customers will demand in the future,” he says. “The winners in the West will be companies which strategically invest in developing products and services that customers want and need, creating alliances to leverage skills to provide world class solutions from local suppliers. “Some of this investment will be in the form of R&D, some in trialling innovative business models. For many, this might involve encouraging entrepreneurial behaviours to create, accelerate and commercialise new business models. “Increased funding from NSW and Federal governments is available for collaborative R&D and developing digital technologies for established businesses.  “Through the Western Sydney University LaunchPad accelerator, companies can access expertise and leading-edge technologies subsidised by the NSW government technology vouchers. “For example, the School of Engineering Computers and Mathematics has assisted traditional manufacturing companies in developing solutions that apply the Internet of Things to create new service lines. “This enables closer relationships with technologically demanding customers. Partially funded by R&D tax offsets, this reduces the after-tax cost of transforming a business to become a global player.” Cloud technology has changed the way we work, how health and social services are delivered and how businesses provide goods and services in the future. For businesses looking to capitalise on Western Sydney’s growth, this means that the need to invest in and embrace cloud technology is no longer a choice. It’s an imperative. It’s important to keep tabs on the cost effectiveness of all business activities. Understanding what cloud technology can contribute to improve profit margins, better decision making and ensuring businesses deliver a unique and consistent customer experience. Gordon Irons, KPMG Enterprise’s Partner – Technology Advisory, says: “Cloud-based solutions make it possible to get more value out of existing data and IT services.  The mid-market can now access user-friendly business systems at a fraction of the cost of the amounts historically paid by their larger competitors. “This increased flexibility will enable Western Sydney businesses to become more nimble, responsive and entrepreneurial. “The ability to harness accurate, meaningful and real-time information from systems that can be accessed via a mobile device or any internet connection will help all these Western Sydney businesses to become more competitive, agile and profitable.” by David Pring, Partner-in-Charge at KPMG Enterprise Parramatta. First published in Western Sydney Business ACCESS.

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The right time to innovate

Successful businesses such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Airbnb and Uber are rightly lauded for changing and innovating everything from products and processes to underlying business models. They have radically reinvented the nature of business and society. They are truly innovative. “Innovate or die!” business is told as the word disruption becomes a catchcry for companies around the world. Despite the ubiquity of these concepts, there are abundant examples of successful organisations and industries that have been found wanting due to hubris, poor planning and strategy or an inability to conceive of futures that nimble new entrants then exploit. Part of the problem is the term “disruptive innovation”, introduced by US academic Clayton Christensen who used it to describe a particular style of attack by new entrants. It is now so widely used it confounds and confuses any change an incumbent did not see coming. Almost every company now pursues the rhetoric of innovation, though they seldom think carefully about what it means for them. In fact, the language of business is now so packed with the emotive nomenclature of innovation and disruption that it’s not fully understood by most organisations even as it is invoked as the platform for change. Environments dominated by rapid technological change and fickle or uncertain consumer preferences are fertile ground for innovative rivals to displace incumbents content to rest on existing sources of competitive advantage. Thus the timeframes that constitute sustainability in the new business landscape are much shorter than in the past. Companies that aim to maximise shareholder wealth must seek value-creating opportunities that cannot be readily replicated or displaced by other firms. That success will also be affected by the organisation’s ability to change and continually innovate in a process of “creative destruction”. When to change The dilemma for incumbent businesses facing a paradigm shift (through new products or processes or from the “Uberisation” of entire industries) is the timing of change. When do you move from your existing business model to the new model? Move too quickly, and you may leave a lot of money lying on the old table. Move too slowly, and you may never be a player in the new game. How do we decide when to move from our existing product portfolios and geographies to new, creative, entrepreneurial opportunities? What shape does our organisation have in such a world? The answers marry strategy with underlying organisational architecture. One without the other is bound to fail. While far from easy to do, Intel moved from dominance in the semiconductor and then memory chip markets to the ubiquity of the branded microprocessor (Intel Inside) and is now tethering its future strategy to artificial intelligence and the internet of things. Netflix is a truly disruptive company that began as a mail-order DVD service and has evolved into a platform provider for streaming movies and other entertainment content and a producer of the content itself. For incumbent businesses, innovation is indeed the key, but many firms espouse the value of innovation while ensuring their organisational architecture doesn’t allow for risk-taking. Even when companies are willing to think and see differently, there is still a big gap between having a range of plausible ideas and a coherent portfolio of strategic bets embedded in an organisational architecture that will enable the business to capture value across time. The empirical reality suggests a disconnect between the creativity and innovation aspirations of companies and the reality of mediocrity that mires many. Herding effect There are many reasons incumbents fail, but one of the biggest is the tendency to consider the landscape as fixed and to pursue standard practices such as benchmarking as the basis of which the strategic directions of the company are set. This leads to a herding effect that ensures a sameness of endeavour and a limited vision of alternate possibilities. If we wish to truly be relevant in tomorrow’s world, we must do much more than talk the rhetoric of innovation and disruption, while living the reality of business as usual and seeing tomorrow through yesterday’s lens and hoping if we can catch up to the leader of the pack, we too can earn greater profits. The reality for businesses around the world is that survival in tomorrow’s world is far from guaranteed. Innovation in its many possible forms is crucial to performance. But the devil, as always, is in the detail. Starting to see differently and expanding the horizon of possible strategic bets is a necessary condition, but we must also embed a broader portfolio of such bets into the organisational architecture. Companies such as Apple or Amazon are successful because they have created organisations that are geared towards embracing innovation. Language can often obfuscate detail and the rhetoric of innovation and disruption is clouded and confused. Business performance has always been about creating and capturing value across time. There is no dearth of Australian companies that espouse the value of innovation yet are ripe for all the forces of disruption because of their inability to adequately embrace and harness the organisational architectural shifts required to position for tomorrow. Right incentives Australian business has been too easy for too long and that breeds a complacency and reluctance to reinvent companies for the future. Iconic Australian companies such as Telstra in telecommunications, or Myer in retail, even our currently very profitable banks, are far closer to extinction than much of the Australian business community would believe. The problem for companies today is that tomorrow is coming faster and faster, so they need to plan and strategise differently. With the right incentives, structures and culture, businesses will be able to exploit value from the world as it is and explore for value in the world as it could be. That’s innovation. And a failure to do so is the beginning of the end. by Associate Professor Vivek Chaudhri Associate Professor Vivek Chaudhri is the academic director of executive MBA programs at Melbourne Business School. He advises CEOs and boards in Australia and overseas on innovation and strategy. This content has been produced by Melbourne Business School in commercial partnership with BOSS magazine.

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Truly great innovators do these 4 things

In the process of researching my book, Mapping Innovation, I talked to dozens of successful innovators, from world class scientists seeking to cure cancer and create new computing architectures, to senior executives at large corporations and entrepreneurs at startups. It was a pretty diverse group. One of the underlying premises of the book is that there is no one “true” path to innovation, so I expected to see a variety of approaches and that’s indeed what I found. Some of the people I talked to were slow and deliberate, spending years or even decades on a difficult problem. Others were fast and agile, iterating and pivoting toward a viable solution. However, I also noticed that some remarkably constant themes emerged. Over time, it became clear that while the people I talked to were vastly different in background, training, personality type and method, they tended to have four attributes in common. While none of these will make you a great innovator, you are unlikely to innovate without them. 1. Actively Seek Out Important Problems The most striking thing I noticed in my research was how innovators approached problems. They didn’t wait for them to arise, but actively sought them out. It is that passion for solving problems, rather than any particular personality type or ambition, that separates all of the innovators I talked to from most people and organizations. Experian, for example, set up a special unit to seek out and solve its customers toughest problems. IBM regularly sets up “grand challenges,” like developing a system that can beat humans at Jeopardy!. Steve Blank, whose ideas inspired the Lean Startup movement, encourages entrepreneurs to “get out of the building” and talk to customers. One of the most interesting people I talked to was Jim Allison. Low key to the extreme, he’s the type of guy who you would scarcely notice in a room. As a boy, he decided to be a scientist because he just liked “figuring things out.” So for more than 20 years, that’s what he did, sought out gaps in our understanding of the immune system and tried to figure them out. But in the mid-90’s he had what turned out to be a revolutionary idea. His decades of study led him to believe that our bodies were shutting off the immune system too early to fight cancer. It was this insight that led him to develop cancer immunotherapy, which today is considered a miracle cure that saves the lives of thousands of terminally ill patients who once had no hope. Allison is an extreme case, but I found that most innovators had some version of the same story. Most never dreamed they would do anything important, they were just trying to solve a problem. 2. They Overcome Failure Not all of Jim Allison’s story was happy. In fact, after he had his initial breakthrough, he spent three whole years trying to convince pharmaceutical companies to back his idea. There were no takers. “It was depressing,” he told me. “I knew this discovery could make a difference, but nobody wanted to invest in it.” This is more common than you would think. Often, the stories we hear about great innovations are fairy tale versions that gloss over the uncomfortable parts. We hear about the triumphs, but not the frustrations and so we mistakenly believe that pathbreaking ideas are supposed to come to us as magical epiphanies. Consider the case of Alexander Fleming. We often hear about how he discovered penicillin when the bacteria colonies he was growing became contaminated by a mysterious mold. Yet what is rarely mentioned is that his discovery couldn’t have cured anyone and that it was another team altogether who made penicillin into a useful drug. The truth is that innovation is never a single event and rarely is it ever accomplished by a single person. It often takes decades for a fundamental discovery to have an impact on the world and along the way countless people play a part in making it happen. 3. They Have A Vision, But Remain Flexible When Alph Bingham was a chemistry graduate student at Stanford in the 1970’s, he was struck by how many ways there were to approach a tough research question. “The professor would present us with a problem and 20 different people would have 20 different ideas about how to solve it,” he told me.“ So when he first came up with the idea that became InnoCentive at Eli Lilly in the late 1990’s, he envisioned a platform that would work much the same way. It would allow chemists to post unsolved problems in order to attract insights from other chemists. What he found though was that most of the time answers came from some adjacent field, like physics or biology. So it became important to encourage experts on the platform to cross disciplines. Something similar happened when Children’s Health in Dallas set out to create a revolutionary new program that would go beyond simply delivering care by going out into the communities to address the social determinants of health. At first, it seemed clear that the best way to do that would be to leverage the hospital’s primary centers. Alas, the plan proved to be unworkable. So it created an entirely new infrastructure made up of health care navigators who help families connect with other resources in their community, such as Children’s Health and Wellness Alliance, a nonprofit that weaves together more than 100 community resources such as schools, social service and faith-based organizations. Every story I came across had an initial vision that was flawed in some way. So to be effective, innovators need to be quick to recognize problems and pivot to a new idea. 4. They Maintain A Deep Commitment To Collaboration What struck me most about the dozens of people I interviewed was that the vast majority, with few exceptions, were not only helpful in providing me with their formidable expertise and experiences, but showed a genuine interest in my project and asked me a number of questions about it. That’s unusual. Later, when I sent them excerpts to fact check, in almost all cases they pushed me to give more credit to others and less to themselves. In some cases they agreed to look over early versions of chapters. You can imagine my surprise when, more than once, the early […]

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Inside The Race To Build A Battery That Can Power The 21st Century

The garage startup has become as much of an American icon in the twenty first century as the automobile and the drive-in were to earlier generations. The idea that anyone with an idea can change the world is as romantic as democracy itself, but it’s not altogether true. A garage startup only works if there is existing technology to build on top of. The problem is that every technology eventually runs out of steam. When that happens, progress will grind to a halt without a significant breakthrough. As technology becomes more complex, that type of advancement becomes so hard to achieve that it becomes out of reach for any single organization, much less a few guys in a garage. That is essentially where we are with energy storage. Lithium-ion, the 40 year-old technology that powers everything from smartphones to electric cars is nearing its theoretical limits just as the renewable energy revolution is demanding cheaper batteries that can store more energy at lower cost. Solving problems like these requires a massively collaborative approach. A Brief History Of Energy Storage The lithium-ion battery was originally discovered by the American scientist John Goodenough, in 1979, with funding from the National Science Foundation. Over the next decade, the technology steadily improved and by the early 1990s, it became commercially available in Sony Camcorders. Since then, lithium-ion batteries have increased in energy density by a factor of six, while costs have dropped by a factor of 10. That’s made them good enough to power our phones and laptops, but they’re still not powerful enough — or cheap enough — to power electric cars or the electric grid. Experts believe that to create a true transformation, battery costs need be below $100/ Kw/hour and the current technology is unlikely to get us there. So getting where we need to be is not a matter of simply improving efficiency, we have to come up with completely new materials with greater energy density and lower cost. When the Department of Energy began thinking about how to solve such an enormous and seemingly intractable problem, it realized that it needed to take a very different approach. The result is the Joint Center For Energy Storage Research (JCESR), which is currently in the fourth year of its five year mandate to develop next generation batteries. Pooling Scientific Knowledge The basic idea behind JCESR is that the knowledge required to create a breakthrough solution is spread out among a diverse number of scientists working at a wide variety of institutions, such as the national labs and academic institutions. So the first step was to combine their talents and coordinate research through a single hub focused on the energy storage problem. Venkat Srinivasan, Deputy Director, Research and Development at JCESR explains, “National labs tend to have bigger teams of people working on bigger problems, while academic researchers are more specialized in their expertise. Our structure allows us to access stars in the academic world and apply their specific expertise to the problem of next generation storage.” “For example,” he continues, “Matthew Sigman and Shelley Minteer at the University of Utah have done pathbreaking work in chemical stability in the pharmaceutical field, but we recognized that the same technology can help us make better batteries. Their work has really propelled our mission forward, while working on batteries has taken their research into new areas.” So combining the expertise of five national labs along with a number of the country’s top universities gives JCESR an incredible amount of scientific talent. Yet the battery problem is about more than science. The aim is to come up with a solution that not only works, but can win in the marketplace, which is why getting input from private companies is crucial. Bringing In Private Industry Scientists are focused on discovering new phenomena, but have little insight into the practicalities of the marketplace. For example, a researcher that discovers a new material with vastly more energy density than current batteries will have no idea whether it is feasible to procure, manufacture and distribute. That’s a big problem, because by the time a scientist verifies his results, prepares them for publication and goes through peer review, it can take years before he realizes that he wasted his time. So getting input from partners and affiliates in the private sector has been invaluable for focusing research at JCESR on the most promising paths to a better battery. It has also greatly benefitted the companies that have participated. As Brian Cooke, a Group Vice President at Johnson Controls told me, “We saw our involvement as an opportunity to shape the future, so the science coming out of JCESR would have the greatest benefit for our customers, our company and our industry. It has also enabled us to interact with top notch researchers from some of the country’s best labs.” Yet it isn’t just big companies that are benefitting. Through JCESR’s affiliate program even small companies can participate, which gives them a better idea of how to focus their efforts. That’s especially important for firms that can’t afford to go off in the wrong direction and waste limited resources. Mike Wixom of Navitas, a four year old company that focuses on military and industrial applications, told me, “As a small company, we’re fighting for our survival on a daily basis. Becoming JCESR affiliate gives us an early peek at technology and you get to give feedback about what kinds manufacturing issues are likely to come up with any particular chemistry.” Innovating The Discovery Process Historically, the process of making a new battery has been mostly trial and error. Building a battery for use in a car has vastly different requirements than, say, for the grid or a power tool. So, for the most part, battery developers experimented with different combinations until they get the right specifications for the product they were trying to make. One of the major achievements at JCESR has been to build tools to make this process more rational and efficient. The first is a computer model that analyzes the complex interplay between technical and economic factors that a battery will need to achieve. The second is materials and electrolytes “genomes” that known properties of the various possibilities. “Moving to the materials genome is like moving from your local library to the Internet,” says Mike Andrew, a […]

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