6 simple points to address in a startup

When you are starting a business you will experience many difficulties and stressful times, as well as fun. You can overcome difficulties if you address some crucial points right at the beginning of the business. Given below are points that, if you follow them properly, can help in laying a solid foundation for the startup. Understand your idea This sounds obvious as you can never start a business without an idea or a vision. You will be surprised however to know that a number of startup founders believe that they have a good idea, but they find it extremely difficult to explain it. Founders often face difficulties in explaining their ideas and vision to others or they explain it in different ways when asked by different people. This sends mixed messages to the potential investors as well as to potential customers and it can have a negative effect on your business. Keeping your basics clear like who you are, what you are doing and why is extremely important. When you understand your idea well you can state your purpose which is increasingly important for all organisations, including startups. IdeaSpies is a platform that encourages startups to post their ideas simply as “elevator pitches” so they can be well understood. This is a free service. 2. Set out the values of your startup It is important that you specify the values of your startup. You need to set a few core values which will be helpful for you, as well as for any supporters and employees, to understand the behaviours you are encouraging in your startup. These values will be important when you are thinking of expanding the team and the business, as well as how it is explained. Values help in keeping people connected with your business moving in a similar direction. 3. Understand the target market When you have a good idea, can express it well and the core values have been set, you should do research to determine your most likely customers. You should first try to understand what potential customers think about your idea and how they could use it.    You also need to conduct research to understand if similar products or services are already present in the market so you have a clear understanding of the competition. Narrow down the research to a particular group and gather important demographic information like gender, location, age, job and income range. There are many ways to do research depending on your idea. 4. Brand your startup When the vision of your business has been clearly explained and the target market has been identified, you will need to consider branding. Your brand is related to the vision for your business and the core values that you have set. You need to consider the tone and the visual language Ensure that it can be identified easily and is beautiful and eye-catching. It’s not easy to attract attention in a crowded marketplace. A good brand connects with people at an emotional level, they feel good when they buy the brand. 5. Share your idea Ensure that you are active on  social media to get as much free publicity as possible. Set up  social media accounts for your startup that connect to a website. Ensure your website is mobile friendly mobile friendly as many people prefer using smartphones instead of desktops or laptops. 6. Do your sums A financial analysis is an important part of starting a business. You need to add the expenses: overheads, the projected cost of wages, purchases and everything else your startup will need. You also need to make assumptions to estimate the income needed to cover expenses and make a profit. At least a 3 year budget for income and expenses is suggested to survive in a competitive market. Isabella Rossellini  Liberty Lending

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How to use AI in E-commerce

Do you run an e-commerce store that sells fast moving products or services? Well, if you do, then you are lucky. Research by Statistica shows that in 2018,  total e-commerce sales hit $2.8 trillion. It is expected that this figure will significantly increase in 2019, and might hit $4.88 trillion by 2021. This means that, if you do everything right and reach a wider target market, your business will grow tremendously. Similar to e-commerce,  artificial intelligence (AI) is another booming field. A survey by Statistica shows that the global revenue of products and services using AI is over $482 billion, and is expected to hit $3.61 trillion by 2024. With the above statistics, you learn one lesson – if you want to succeed in your e-commerce endeavours, you should incorporate AI. But how do you do this? Below are some innovative ways you can use AI for your e-commerce store: Provide A-class service Today, your credibility, trust, and reputation are dependent on how you serve your customers. If they have a bad experience, they are not likely to come back to your business, and they will most likely give you poor reviews in multiple review sites. However, if you give them the best customer service, they will come back for more, refer you to others and give you good reviews which will enhance your reputation. You can use AI to enhance customer service by using chatbots, which give customers 24/7 customer support even when you are not online. Chatbots are capable of saving you money by improving response times and offering quick solutions to the most pressing issues about your website. They also enhance personalisation in your business, which goes a long way to increasing sales and profit margins. Optimise searches and recommendations Most people who visit your e-commerce store will search for products using natural language, and if they are unable to find them, they will believe they are having a bad shopping experience and leave your site. You can fix this by using AI. Today, it is not wise to create a search box and leave it as it is. Instead, optimise it and include some recommendations with the help of AI. For example, when a user searches for a product the system could automatically recommend similar products and display their prices. This will ultimately increase your sales. Retarget potential clients Are there people who showed interest in your products or services, but never completed a transaction, or didn’t perform any action? You don’t have to ignore them and carry on with your business life. You can retarget them using AI. AI will automate your sales process and give you necessary information such as user behaviour which you can then use to retarget your client. It will also give you insights on the types of products you can target for a particular audience depending on their behaviour patterns. You can also use AI to; Create an efficient sales process through voice and natural language inputs Identify exceptional target prospects through predictive analysis Automate back-office processes such as product data management and manual mapping of products If you want your e-commerce store to succeed don’t treat AI as an emerging technology. Treat it as a mature technology, and use it in the innovative ways mentioned above.  Danny Kariuki  https://fitzallblades.com

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Sparking useful ideas by creating an innovative culture

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 marked 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 we 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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How to get your startup noticed- be interesting and interested!

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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The Perfect Name For Your Business Is Out There–Here’s How To Find It

Naming your business is a critical aspect to consider when you’re launching your startup. It is typically the very first thing that your future customers will find out about your new business. It should attract customers while summing up your brand’s identity. Even though naming a new business is challenging, it should not have to feel you are like stepping off the edge of a cliff while wearing a blindfold. If you can follow the three unique naming stages described in the article below, you can organize your ideas and get the most out value out of your business name.   Stage One: Mission and Vision Outline your brand Writing down a couple of existing brand names that you think are effective can help you brainstorm your own business name. When analyzing these names, write down what you like about them and if you want to achieve a similar vibe. For example, IdeaSpies is a good startup name because they focus on tracking innovations and sharing it to inspire others Create a list of six to eight of your favorite existing names, then you can begin to analyze them. Go through this catchy business name list to get started on this step. Write a few notes or bullet points about what you like and dislike about each name. Examining your top names can help give your naming process a direction. Consider your audience Make sure that when you’re naming your business you keep your target audience in mind. A great example of this is the investing app, Robinhood. Their platform is focused on making the investment process very accessible and cost-free for the typical average person, not just the rich. Their business name summarizes their brand’s values perfectly by utilizing the story of the hero bandit Robin Hood. In addition, the name appeals to their target millennial audience. The name is both youthful and unique, and it matches the millennial values of convenience and equality. Look ahead Where do you see your brand at in the next five years? What about ten years after that? If you are planning to start a company that might grow into new areas in the future, be considerate not to select a name that pigeonholes your business. Try to summarize your values and vision in a couple of short project statements like this: We need a name that shows our exciting, unique approach to selling shoes. We need a name that establishes us as a hip, youthful brand We need a name that hints at our pet friendly business practices Get started by writing down a couple of your own project statements. Stage Two: Get Creative The essentials Start with the basic principles of a good name. A strong name is easy to say, easy to spell, and easy to hear. If people have a hard time sharing your brand, they won’t share it at all, stunting your brand’s climb to success. Gather some names Brainstorm business names by writing down every possible example for each type of name on our list. This will help you get a better idea of what you’re looking for. The higher the number of names you have on your list to work with, the better scope you’ll have.   Narrow your list Now that you have gathered a wide range of ideas, start getting rid of the names that won’t work for you until you have a list of five or six of your favorite business names. This is a handy opportunity to get yourself a second opinion from your friends, family, or people in your target audience. Stage Three: Check your Boxes Get Your Domains Since a brand name often needs a website, it is important to reserve the domains you need for your business. Register a .com and any other extensions like .co, .io, and more that you think may be relevant. Your business name should have a .com you can use with it, though you do not always need an exact match. Get creative with domain add-ons. Then, you should reserve any necessary social media handles for your business before anyone else does. Assess your risk Trademark validation for your company name is another great way to help you secure your brand name. All you need to do is run a simple trademark risk test to make sure that your name isn’t already being used by business with similar products or services. If your name too closely resembles another name for a brand you might accidentally find yourself in trouble with trademark law. Be proactive when preventing trademark risk to keep yourself out of any potential messy legal issues. Conclusion Creating a solid brand name can be a tough task. A name can make or break your business. It is the crux of your brand’s identity, and it should be first connection between your business and your target audience. You might think that all the best names are taken already, or that you don’t have any good name ideas, but the perfect name for your startup is out there! Grant Polachek is the Director of Marketing at Inc 500 company Squadhelp.com, the world’s #1 naming platform, with nearly 20,000 customers from the smallest startups across the globe to the largest corporations including Nestle, Philips, Hilton, Pepsi, and AutoNation. Get inspired by exploring these winning company name ideas.  

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Innovators are now focussing 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. According to IdeaSpies Employee Innovation research, staff 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. A Gallup Report concluded that the percentage of adults who work full time, and are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work, 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 and used by KPMG  in Sydney You can see a video that shows how it works here. Lynn Wood – Chief Idea Spy lynn.wood@IdeaSpies.com

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Great to Good Innovation

Yes, you read it right. The title of this piece is ‘Great to Good’. I’m going to talk about how, in the 21st Century, we need ‘Goodness’ more than ‘Greatness’ when it comes to innovation. Between 1996-2001, Jim Collins’ team researched and wrote a bestselling book called Good to Great. They described 11 out of 1,435 companies that had shown the highest level of success over the decades. Most of them were organizations that ‘make and sell’ products (Abbott Laboratories, Kimberly-Clark, Philip Morris, and Gillette Company). Other books such as Built to Last (1994) by the same author and In Search of Excellence (1982) by Tom Peters made similar studies with concurring results. However, the majority of these great 20th century companies failed to sustain their level of greatness in the Open-Source era. The management consultant giant McKinsey and Co. did a follow-on study that found 32 of the 50 companies described in these books to only matched or underperformed the market over their subsequent 15-to-20-year period. In fact, the ‘great’ Circuit City and Kodak both went bankrupt. The question is “Why?” If I asked you to name some innovations of the 20th Century, which ones would you think of? Well, many of you might already be thinking “Stop asking and just Google them, silly!” That is true; excuse me. So, I typed ‘Innovations of the 20th Century’, and the results I got are 1) Nuclear Power 2) Personal Computer 3) Airplane 4) Automobile 5) Antibiotics 6) Television, etc. We are familiar with all these inventions. Here is another question: Do you know who these people are? And what they invented? In parentheses are their dates of birth. Charles Darwin (1859), Thomas Edison (1879), Albert Einstein (1921), Alexander Fleming (1928), Edwin Land (1948), Robert Metcalfe (1973), and Peter Dunn & Albert Wood (1998)? They were inventors of the 20th Century; many of which gave rise to the said products. Now, how about these? Jack Ma (2000), Jeff Bezos (2003), Mark Zuckerberg (2004), Reed Hastings (2007), Brian Chesky (2008), Travis Kalanick (2009), Anthony Tan (2012). They were also inventors, but of the 21st Century. Obviously, all names listed are ‘innovators’ of their time. But the real question is, what is the difference between the first and second set? The answer, to me, is how the meaning of innovation has changed. We have spent over a century making and producing ‘things’. Never has the world experienced so much wealth, consumed so much resources, collected so much assets, and generated so much wastes. In fact, most of us own at least 4 of the 6 examples of Innovations of the 20th Century that I outlined above. Books such as Consumptionomics (2011) by Chandran Nair and Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think (2012) by Peter H. Diamandis provide further evidence of this prosperity. By the way, in case you were wondering, Peter Dunn & Albert Wood (1998) are inventors of the performance-enhancing drug Viagra. Innovation in the 21st century, however, is about sharing – not producing. If I were to now Google Innovations of the 21st Century; here is what it would tell me about inventions that are impacting lives: “The world’s largest taxi firm, Uber, owns no cars. The world’s most popular media company, Facebook, creates no content. The world’s most valuable retailer, Alibaba, carries no stock. And the world’s largest accommodation provider, Airbnb, owns no property. Something big is going on.” These businesses own virtually nothing they are providing to customers, yet they have created tremendous values and changes in the world. Unicorns, Decacorns and Hectocorns are the theme of the present era. It is the age of making money out of nothing; what Hamish McRae @TheIndyBusiness dubbed ‘The rise of content non-generator’. As a matter of fact, businesses of the 21st Century are being invested based on their ‘value-ation’ rather than the traditional Return on Asset or Profit & Loss statements. Even Google does not own the search results that were returned. It merely drew them from existing data generated by millions of resources around the world. The innovations in the 21st Century are different. Something big is indeed going on. The 20th Century was an era of geniuses; one needs not ponder for long to think of Albert Einstein (1879-1955), the inventor of the E = mc2 equation; the special theory of relativity; and a recipient to the Nobel Prize in photoelectric, which serves as the basis for Quantum Physics. Or, even before that we had Thomas Edison (1847-1931) who was a prolific inventor, holding 1,093 US patents in his name. These genious discoveries have since gave birth to products like nuclear power, lights, television, automobile, spacecraft etc. Such influence partly explains why most parents strive to raise their kids to be as smart as possible. The genius craze led to children books with titles like ‘Raising Genius’, the ‘Baby Genius’ DVDs, and movies such as ‘Goodwill Hunting’, starring Matt Damon as the improbable ‘genius’. Notice that none of the innovators in my second list has a Nobel Prize. And I think it is unlikely that any of them will ever get one. Innovations of the 21st Century era do not rely on one to discover secret codes of the universe. Facebook basically lets people around the world share their diaries; Airbnb is a brokerage for vacant rooms; and Grab is a virtual concierge who goes out and get us a cab. There is no complex ingenuity at play here; only laymen who see questions that the world has been waiting for answers. These start-ups simply integrate and utilize things that already exist to provide good answers. In the current era of resource abundance, one does not need to have an IQ of Einstein’s, or to dedicate a life of failing 10,000 times like Edison to concoct an invention. A good idea or two will suffice. 20th Century was about a few people finding GREAT discoveries. 21st Century is about all of us, using the breakneck speed connectivity that technology provides, to do GOOD things together for a better future. That is my meaning of Great to Good. Leadership Insights 1. The New S Curve: Organizations in various countries that I am working with are all buzzing about disruptive innovation – how to build the new growth cycle? To begin cracking that code, one must understand that innovations of this era are unlike anything we have ever seen before. I would argue that even […]

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10 Practical uses of Deep Learning

Deep learning has altered the way we operate in various ways. These are 10 practical use cases of Deep Learning in the last few years. ONE: Facial Recognition Most airports are now able to use deep learning techniques to identify and track persons of interest (e.g. terror suspects), track your luggage and detect any suspicious item very quickly. VPU (Vision Processing Unit)-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 E-commerce sites, such as ebay and Amazon, are greatly benefited through Deep Learning. The entire session journeys of consumers are noted. The longer and more 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 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 the industrial sector through Internet of Things Data In several countries, chemical manufacturing units and aircraft units are installing machine learned sensors to get a 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 Geologists in Australia are currently using the procedure to locate minerals in relatively unexplored areas of the land. SIX: Deep learning facilitating automatic grading of eye diseases Researchers today are very close to developing digital assistance to radiologists, ophthalmologists and other clinicians. Significant progress has been made in the field in the past years. SEVEN: Defining personal style through artificial intelligence Visit a page of your favourite shopping site a few times and you will find that products as per your preference are displayed on your personalized page. Thus, your work of choosing and shopping has been made simpler. EIGHT: Deep learning reducing error rate for diagnosis of breast cancer Adoption of this machine-learning method has enabled pathologists working with computers, to outperform independently working pathologists. Machine learning has been adopted by several breast cancer research organizations. The algorithms put together in the technologically enhanced machines help pathologists identify cancer cells through lymph node images. NINE: Deep learning is now a part of baby monitor systems Instead of conventional baby monitors that just track breathing and heart-rate of children, advanced baby monitors have hit the market that detect wrong postures and movements of the baby, generating alerts to parents from time to time. Thus, if your baby is accidentally sleeping on her stomach, mum can get an alert in the kitchen through the baby monitor and rush to her cot to perfect the posture. Furthermore, if a baby is sleeping on the edge of the bed, an alert is sent to the mum, so she can settle the baby before a fall. TEN: Machine learned cars can now find their way through complex traffic routes A DNC (Differentiable Neural Computer) has been developed by Google’s DeepMind and today it is being installed within cars so that, if it is simply presented with maps, lines and stops, it can take the shortest and simplest route to navigate from one point to another. Thus, making it possible for new drivers to make through new roads without difficulty. Machine learning through neural networks is picking up speed and increasing in popularity all over the globe. Continuous research and improvisations in the field can give us many more ways that deep learning can ease human involvement and accelerate productivity. SHAILENDRA KUMAR First published in Cognitive Today

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Employee Innovation Survey- Results

About Us

Introduction The purpose of the Survey was to determine if employees have a voice in helping their organisations succeed. Employee involvement in innovation was specifically researched. Innovation was defined simply as “implementation of ideas that add value”. Recommendations Based on these results it is recommended that leaders of organisations: Acknowledge that innovation is necessary to grow businesses and employees are a key source of innovation Recognise that innovation includes ideas that staff have to improve the way they work and how the business operates Check whether resignations and/or low employee engagement is related to difficulties employees have in contributing ideas at work Offer employees a way to contribute ideas Consider using a simple idea capture tool that all levels of staff can use Recognise employees who contribute useful ideas Allocate resources to capture employee ideas and implement selected ideas Assess outcomes in terms of both business improvements and employee engagement Detailed results Although 84% of leaders in organisations covered in this survey are talking about the need for innovation, only 69% of employees believe the culture of their organisation actually welcomes new ideas. Many employees doubt whether their leaders want new ideas as much as they say they do   This result indicates there is a significant gap in organisations ‘walking the talk’ on innovation. Frustration was expressed when organisations said they wanted innovation but were not resourcing it. The main reason employees don’t contribute ideas is when they believe their boss is not interested. Employees don’t contribute ideas when their boss is not interested A key finding is that over 90% of employees believe they are the best source of innovation, with 57% strongly agreeing and 34% agreeing. The best source of innovation is employees Leaders often don’t recognise that their employees are the best source of innovation and could contribute many more ideas than they do now. 76% said they could contribute more useful ideas than they do now, especially those who are 26-35 years old (89%). Younger people and those in lower level positions find it most difficult to get their ideas up the line and these are the people who are often facing the customer and aware of new trends. Employees could contribute many more ideas than they do now When asked what would make it easier for them to contribute ideas the top response was 45% wanting a software tool/digital platform that’s easy to use, with lower management particularly in favour at 59% as well as organisations with 5,000 plus employees at 64%. A software tool/digital platform that’s easy to use would make it easier for employees to contribute ideas Only 26% of employees said that their organisations offer a software tool/digital platform to contribute ideas, including 41% of organisations with 5,000 plus employees. When an innovation tool is provided, 75% of employees use it. When asked about incentives being offered for ideas 87% of 18-35 year-olds said they would contribute more ideas if an incentive was offered. Recognition can be a significant incentive. Young employees (18-35) would contribute many more ideas with incentives Another key finding is that over 90% of employees would be more likely to stay with their organisations if they could contribute more ideas. Losing employees who want to contribute more would be a significant cost to these organisations. Employees would be more likely to stay if they could contribute more ideas Comments showed that employees want more power to implement ideas they suggest. They also want management to be more supportive in testing ideas. Many were annoyed when time was spent developing an idea and either they weren’t empowered to test it, or they received no feedback on why it wouldn’t be accepted. Feedback was shown to be important in building employee engagement. It seems that there is a mismatch in goals between givers and receivers of ideas. Givers expect ideas to be implemented while receivers may just be seeking information. This mismatch can lead employees to overestimate the likelihood that their advice will be taken. As a result they can become disillusioned and less likely to offer advice in future. Therefore it’s very important that leaders allocate resources to both capturing employee ideas and implementing selected ideas. Comments on the survey results David Thodey AO, Chair of CSIRO and Jobs for NSW “I have a strong view that the best source of innovation is your staff. They know the business and how to improve it better than consultants. The issue has always been how do you provide an open forum for those ideas? I really like the IdeaSpies Enterprise solution.” Tony Nimac, Partner in charge of KPMG Enterprise NSW “We trialled IdeaSpies Enterprise last year and have continued to use it. It was very well received by staff. It’s thought provoking, fun and easy to use, with no training needed. People see the tool as an opportunity to suggest ideas that could improve the way they work. In addition to specific ideas, we’ve seen themes coming from the ideas that have led to improvements. We give selected staff the opportunity to implement ideas they suggest and have benefited from improving staff engagement.” Respondent comments Great to get this out there. We need to encourage staff in enterprises to bring all their ideas to work. My organisation’s leader is fixated on innovation however doesn’t have the resources to fund it. It’s extremely frustrating as the health of the business is crumbling. It’s one thing to contribute ideas to an organisation but it is even more important to know that you have been heard. Many times the act of being asked to contribute is hollow. Management give the illusion of wanting contributions/ideas but then lack the skills to either give feedback or implement or recognise good ideas. Motto of our Social Enterprise “One individual can make a difference, but it takes a team effort to make it happen”. Organisations are too wrapped and comfortable in the way they do things. I often hear ‘don’t go re-inventing the wheel’ or ‘that’s the way we have always done things’. What innovation can people expect when organisations are afraid of change no matter how prepared they think they are. Innovation in Government is such a challenge when there are cut backs like in WA. Any suggestions are piecemeal. Culturally Australia is a long way behind places such as Scandinavia […]

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Trends in early education

Recently I saw a headline article on the ‘School of the future’, with a particular focus on design, or to use the relevant term, the “built environment”. Whilst the focus was important and necessary, any content that referred to how the design of the built environment promoted best practice teaching was conspicuous in its absence. How often is discussion about structural environments contributing to culture, and very little about people? Talk to most parents and you quickly realise that the relationships between their children and their teachers are front and centre. This becomes particularly important in early education, the period of time before attending ‘school’ as it known. In the early education sector, which is largely composed of preschools and long day care centres, the discussion assumes another dimension. There is not only a difference between the built environments of an early learning centre and a school, but also the nature of the educators and the skill sets required of them now and into the future. In fact, a glimpse into the future of early learning quickly alerts us to the realisation that the educators of tomorrow will need to assume a range of skills that are quite different to the educator in (say) a  primary school. Here are just a few some likely scenarios, hopefully with a lot more rigour than a Nostradamus prediction: The educator of the future will need to be more adept in recognising factors that inhibit learning. The earlier these are identified in a child’s development, the better. This implies that an early educator will play a more essential role in this process. Following on from that, the early educator will need to be better trained in how to best address these factors, particularly in children who have  special needs. Again, remedial action sooner rather than later is advisable. Early learning centres will need to form stronger pathways and links to local schools so that children can transition more smoothly. The wealth of data and knowledge gained by the early educator would be invaluable to the next teacher, and the strength of this link can go a long way toward addressing the learning challenges of a young child. The manager and staff of your local preschool or long day care centre may assume a role as the parental counsellor and guide. Apart from the faithful local nurse, pediatrician or doctor; who stands beside the parent who is finding it tough adjusting to parenthood? Add to this the pressure on family relationships, financial adjustment and a busy lifestyle and all of a sudden, your child’s first educator becomes a confidant, counsellor and resident shoulder to cry on. How do we equip these people whose career was chosen based on other criteria? The educator of the future will need a deep understanding of diverse cultures and backgrounds. As a nation Australia has a unique blend of  many cultures that challenges our established ways of understanding and relating. A better understanding of a child’s background can be essential in delivering better learning outcomes, particularly if it is assumed that ‘success’ in the early learning revolves around effective partnerships with families. So, what does this have to with the built environment and design? Everything I say, if not a lot. If engagement with parents is important in these years then providing spaces for this to occur is important. The need to train and equip staff continually requires intelligent design. If we are truly committed to the individual requirements of children with  special needs then thought needs to be given to how we best create the environment for our early educators to enable them to succeed. The school of the future may look impressive, but education of the future needs to involve the educator of the future. Domenic Valastro CEO Integricare   

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Innovation in the fitness industry

Over the past five years, the fitness industry has undergone considerable structural change due to the rise of digital technology and entrepreneurs forging a career in helping people achieve fitness goals. Fitness Centre revenues in Australia are forecast to reach $2.4 billion in 2022/23. In 2017 the ‘licensure for fitness professionals’ industry grew reflecting the rise in fitness professionals and personal trainers worldwide. To stand out from the crowd, these fitness entrepreneurs are tapping into the thriving digital space to innovate their offering and reach a wider audience. Lauren Hannaford (ex-Wiggle and Dorothy The Dinosaur) has created FHIT, a digital fitness program for subscribers to use at the comforts of home, at work or even while travelling. All the online streaming program requires is an internet connection – no equipment, no gym, just a personal coach who happens to be Lauren Hannaford. Speaking to IdeaSpies, Lauren says the fitness industry has come a long way in terms of innovation. “If there continue to be new discoveries in the way the human body functions, the industry will continue to create new innovative ways to train,” said Lauren. “Whether that’s using new machines or through greater understanding of the mechanics and functionality of the body, new styles of training and techniques will continue to evolve and improve the way we train.” The FHIT program is largely based on various HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts, which is the first choice of training technique among many fitness experts in the industry due to its lack of equipment, time efficiency and flexible space arrangements. Lauren has also incorporated techniques as a former National gymnast, including body-weight training, into her workouts. The move towards an online streaming workout program is both cost effective and convenient. It eliminates the hefty cost of gym memberships, waiting for gym equipment to be free, travel time to and from the gym and working out in an uncomfortable environment. FHIT users are encouraged to embark on a fitness journey at their own pace, increasing in intensity as they progress. For motivation, Lauren joins the session with you as your personal trainer with workouts ranging from 15, 30 or 45 minutes with quick add on options of 5 and 7-minute burner workouts. To provide a holistic approach, users receive personalised messages from Lauren, regular blog updates and personal check-in messages to keep you in check, motivated and on-track. Lauren cites social media as a major reason for creating FHIT with frequent requests for fitness programs, tips and advice. “I started FHIT for both personal and professional reasons. Over the years I have constantly been asked to write programs, give fitness tips and advice for people. I decided the most effective way to achieve this is to create an online platform like FHIT where people could exercise anywhere, anytime but in a way, that is personable, instructional and motivational.” said Lauren. As the convenience economy grows in Australia, online based platforms are also growing and the need for products and services at the click of a button is stronger than ever. This has allowed for the emergence of an alternative personal training system. “As personal trainers are becoming more digitally focused and want to be able to train anywhere and at any time, their clients still crave the communication and connection that comes with a trainer.” Lauren said. To learn more visit https://www.laurenhannaford.com.au  

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How to get your startup better known

The following are ways you can make your start-up well known by publicity through guest posting. What is guest posting? Guest posting can simply be defined as the act of contributing to another web owner’s or blogger’s website. How do you get started?                                                     The first step will be to search for an authority website that allows contributors. You can search over the internet for relevant sites that have blogs You can find them on social media or forums. Be on the lookout for brands or people who get talked about a lot in your niche or industry as well as noted authors and influencers. Examples of authority websites you can contribute to are www.outbrain.com  www.huffingtonpost.com  www.about.com  and www.IdeaSpies.com which all have impressive global ranking. There are also many magazines that may be looking for guest writers. Once you establish an authority publication to write for, reach out. Do a pitch, identify yourself and express your interest in contributing..  When you have done your pitch, you need to sit back and wait for approval. The time it will take for you to get feedback will depend on how busy the webmaster and editors are. They are getting requests from other bloggers to contribute to their sites. Ask for feedback. The publication may be able to suggest ways to improve your post. When your post is published share it to your social media. When you do the value of the post is maximised. What role does guest posting play in making your business known publicly? 1.    It allows you to share your news with more people Guest posting will expand the size of the audience you will be able to reach. You already have an audience. If you contribute to a relevant website, you will be able to draw more audience to your site. Provided you contribute quality and relevant content you will be able to increase your following: which signifies that your brand has more value. 2.    Link building By guest posting, you will be able to build links for your website: which is a smart move. Remember that search engines consider quality backlinks in ranking a site on search results. If you do it well, guest blogging will earn you backlinks and in turn, search engines will rank your site more highly.  Hence your site will be easier to find. A bigger audience will be able to find you, therefore your brand will become better known.                          3.    Building relationships While guest posting, you will be able to establish relationships with other web owners and bloggers. Most of them are influential in the market and they could help you to be influential. 4.  Guest posting will improve your online authority There is no better way of improving your online authority than guest posting. When you contribute to a brand or business that already has authority you will gain credibility hence  more brand awareness . 5. Honing your content marketing skills The best way to learn content marketing is by doing it. For your brand to be known publicly your content marketing skills should be on point. Guest posting will give you an arena to research and an opportunity to learn. Through guest posting you will experience growth in every area of content marketing, which you can use to grow your own brand by increasing awareness. Guest posting is one of the surest ways of creating brand awareness. If you have not yet put it to the test, use these guidelines to get started, and it will be worth your while. Dancun Kingori   Dealstream

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