How Physical and Knowledge Work Are Not Independent

In this interesting post ‘The Ingredients for Making Something that Lasts’, I noted an important statement: “We forget that there’s physical work involved in knowledge work, too. That we learn with our whole bodies and not just with the head. And it works both ways.”

The prime mover is work, and work involved our entire being, not just our head or our body. It is important to remember because this needs to influence many aspects of our activities, be they mostly intellectual or physical.

The way we feel or behave physically will influence our creativity and intellectual production. The way we feel mentally will heavily influence our physical performance. As humans both dimensions are intertwined, something we need to grow to respect and build upon.

Physical work and knowledge work are intertwined and indisociable. Let’s remember this in everything we do.


How Implementing AI Requires Organizational Transformation

This interesting article ‘Artificial intelligence: Everyone wants it, but not everyone is ready‘ takes an interesting angle on the spread of AI-driven systems throughout organizations: as for all new tools, success requires to change the way organizations work, and not all organizations are ready for that change.

While many AI and machine learning deployments fail, in most cases, it’s less of a problem with the actual technology and more about the environment around it,” says Harish Doddi, CEO of Datatron. Moving to AI “requires the right skills, resources,?and?systems.

While it’s arguably true that AI can add significant value to practically any department across any business, one of the biggest mistakes a business can make is to implement AI for the sake of implementing AI, without a clear understanding of the business value they hope to achieve“. In particular, understanding how data biases or poor data hygiene can affect AI algorithms, understanding those effects and how they influence performance appear to be an essential capability.

In addition, the organization processes and particularly the data production, gathering and structuring appears to be an essential area for review and upgrade when implementing AI-based tools.

Like any new powerful tool, AI has transformational impact on organizations and the way their data is gathered and managed. This should not be overseen when implementing those new capabilities.


How Marketing Rules Have Changed Significantly In a Few Years with AI

Since the beginning of the Fourth Revolution there is a growing concern of the gap building between technology have and have nots. This has been quite alleviated since the arrival of the smart phone. However, there is still a growing issue when it comes to understand how algorithms work and take advantage of them. In this eye-opening piece ‘What’s On My Mind: What About the Gap?‘, Christopher Penn provides a compelling example about the difference it can make in marketing to understand AI-driven algorithms, because it drives directly what potential customers see or not.

In the era before popular, commercial use of machine learning, success in business was largely a combination of effort and luck. Effort encompasses the skill needed to make a good product and sell it well, and luck encompasses being in the right place at the right time, whether you’re the local burger joint or a multinational corporation.”

Today, data science, machine learning, and AI have thrown a bit of a wrinkle into this. So much of our lives are intermediated by machines and machine learning. What products we see, what ads we see, what news we see, what friends we see in the digital realm – which is the primary realm now for so many of these tasks ever since the smartphone became our external brains – are all controlled by machines and algorithms.”

Christopher Penn then continues to provide the example of what he could achieve easily given his background in data science for a florist shop friend, substantially increasing ranking and visibility on the internet through clever understanding of data analytics.

For a while, the Internet presented a level playing field where a small business could appear larger than it was, where relevance and not budget could win the day. That 20-year golden era of Internet marketing – 1997-2017 – has been supplanted by the AI-powered marketing era, and this is an era in which whoever has the technical resources to win will do so.

To be clear, having great products, good prices, and phenomenal service will still be fundamental to succeeding at business. No amount of AI will change a crap product, prices that aren’t competitive, or abusive service and get people to buy, long-term, who would not have bought before. But becoming visible, being seen, will be harder for those without skillful use of AI.”

Certainly a very useful warning. AI and data analytics knowledge is now the key to being visible and we all need to understand that the game has changed only a couple a years. Marketing is now different, rules are different and thus the game changed.


How Telling a Story Makes Start-Up Pitches Successful

This article ‘I Boiled Down Hundreds of Successful VC Pitches to One Winning Formula‘ provides some advice as to how to build start-up pitches for them to be successful in funding.

My answer is always the same: tell a story. Humans have responded to storytelling for all our evolutionary history — we’ve been passing down oral history and painting tales on cave walls for literally thousands of years. When you want to nail your pitch deck, the best way is to lean on that common love of stories we all have — and the fact that stories are far more memorable than facts, figures, data, numbers, bits and bytes.”

According to the author, this includes a vision of where the company will be when successful, how to resolves the pain of the future customer, how your product will slain the villain pain, and how the world will be better ever after.

From my experience it is certainly an excellent advice because it will create an emotional connection with the audience, even more so if it can relate to the story somehow; and we are all longing for a story where everything ends well.

For successful pitches, try to tell a compelling story providing at the same time a comforting vision of a bright future.


How the Next Big Idea Doesn’t Need to Be Original or in a New Market

I love this blog post by Seth Godin ‘The next big idea‘ that reminds us that it does not need to be new not have no competition.

There are two confusions. The first is that the next big idea must be fully original. The second is that it have no competition. This is almost never the case.”

It is true that many thriving enterprises have just reinvented a small part of a business model, or have built on existing industrial practices just changing one parameter. At the end of the day it depends on the client: “The future of all of these types of organizations isn’t based on a lack of customer choice. It’s based on customer traction.”

Seth Goding reminds us that “The hard part is showing up to lead.”, leading through to get perfect execution in the market that is being addressed.

Looking for an idea to create your company? Don’t necessarily look for original or to create a new market: that’s often too hard. Just execute better than others and get customers to love what you are doing.


How To Develop the Skills of Successful Strategic Advisors

This article by Valeria Maltoni ‘The 12 Qualities of Extremely Valuable, Highly Paid Strategists’ provides an interesting insight into the skills of strategic advisors.

The skills she mentions are the following:

  • Know which problem the insight can solve
  • Have a broad and expanding scope of knowledge
  • Understand the psychology of leaders
  • Respect high-value experts
  • Improve the person, not just the project
  • Be fluent with language
  • Be adept with varied tools and techniques
  • Understand the power of words
  • Know how to write and present
  • Preserve the expert’s voice
  • Work fast
  • Work well

I find this list quite interesting, and in particular the statement “improve the person, not just the project”. It is something I have always felt, taking a coaching certification to enable this work on the client as a person in addition to working on harder stuff.

Certain skills make a huge difference when advising on strategy. And they are not about being better at strategy! A lot deals with interpersonal skills and asking the right questions.


How Splitting Megaprojects in Smaller, Shorter Projects Brings Huge Benefits

Following up from our posts ‘How Infrastructure Projects Cost Has Increased Dramatically in Developed Countries‘ and ‘How to Increase the Effectiveness of Infrastructure Projects in Developed Countries‘, this HBR article by Pr Bent Flyvbjerg provides some answers: ‘Make Megaprojects More Modular’

Bent Flyvbjerg is a Danish university professor that has been studying public infrastructure projects for a long time and is now professor at Oxford. He has written numerous articles showing that public infrastructure projects always have their cost underestimated and their benefits overestimated at investment decision, mainly for political reasons.

Anyway in this article, he explains the benefits of having smaller projects that also benefit from some series effect learning curve rather than going for very large, very long and one-of-a-kind projects that are necessarily going to suffer overruns and generate disappointments. “Two factors play a critical role in determining whether an organization will meet with success or failure: replicable modularity in design and speed in iteration. If a project can be delivered fast and in a modular manner, enabling experimentation and learning along the way, it is likely to succeed. If it is undertaken on a massive scale with one-off, highly integrated components, it is likely to be troubled or fail.”

Bent Flyvbjerg continues by explaining why speed is essential for megaprojects, because of our inability to predict the future beyond a few months or years. Iteration is also essential to improve, while picking existing and proven technology is also a major success factor.

There is a definite trend towards smaller infrastructure including series effect. Still, all projects cannot be made in a short time and using only proven technology. However, those are projects where we should accept a measure of cost and schedule overrun; most infrastructure projects can certainly be done using proven technology and on a smaller scale. The question of keeping consistency of a programme combining several smaller, shorter projects is also a challenge.

Still, to tackle excessive cost and delays of large infrastructure projects, splitting large projects into smaller, shorter projects using proven technology is certainly a way to go.


How the Debate About Shorter Work Time Has Reignited

This Wired article promotes the 5-hours day: ‘The perfect number of hours to work every day? Five‘. Based on some experiments, the concept of compressed working is being more widely tested, sometimes with mixed results.

Some companies that have tested the concept reported mixed results. Shorter workdays result in people being more focused on their tasks, but also some stress about getting things done. There is also a debate between 4-day week and 5-hour days concepts.

Promoter of the 5-hours day assert that “Research indicates that five hours is about the maximum that most of us can concentrate hard on something. There are periods when you can push past that, but the reality is that most of us have about that good work time in us every day.” In that sense some organizations report significant effectiveness increase of having shorter days with no breaks. However “not all jobs are suitable to be done in five-hour bursts. Research may have found that people’s creativity dwindles after five hours of concentration, but not all jobs require people doing them to be creative. “There’s an awful lot of work that doesn’t require deep focus,” Pang says. In call centres, care homes and factory lines, staff are needed simply to get the work done and, as Ford Motor Company demonstrated, there is a very good reason to ask them to do it in eight-hour shifts“.

In any case, the debate about the best working timetable remains open. For creative work it would seem that shorter but more intense worktimes is favorable, and this needs then to fit around personal schedules.


How Third Workplaces Become a Trend

‘Third Workplaces’ are alternative working environments, close to home but within a dedicated working space, co-working with other people. According to this article ‘The rise of “third workplaces”‘, they are clearly on the rise. “People aren’t working from the office, but they’re not working from home either.”

Third workplaces allow to work outside of home constraints, concentrate on work in an environment that provides the possibility of such focus, coffee and sustainable, and (optionally) exchange informally with other people doing the same.

In my working environment, I have observed how this is really needed for people that don’t have the space at home to have a working desk, or have small children and can’t concentrate on their work.

According to the article, there are even startups created to benefit from the trend, not to mention older startups created around the concept of co-working spaces.

I have been working in my consulting company for 10 years not having any other office than a home office, being mostly in client’s offices and otherwise meeting people in coffees. I welcome such ‘third workplaces’ concepts and I firmly believe this will be a strong trend in the years to come.


How Meeting in Person Remains a Need

This excellent Atlantic article addresses the question we all ponder: ‘Do We Really Need to Meet In Person?‘. Employers generally consider that some face-to-face meeting is needed in particular for creative endeavors (see our post ‘How Face-to-Face Work is Needed for Innovation‘; employees would rather stay at home and avoid commuting.

The Atlantic article takes a clear position in favor of remote work, and provides as well interesting data. In particular “The amount of meetings doubled during the pandemic“! It is true that our days have been packed with much more interactions and the need to switch from one topic to the other.

On the other hand, I observe since we have been able to meet again with people in person, how rich those encounters are compared to remote meetings. From informal exchanges around coffee to the enhanced environment of discussion, reading body language cues and understanding the working environment of people you meet.

In particular for all commercial and business development aspects, face-to-face meetings still remain much more powerful than remote meetings in conveying messages and conviction.

I have also observed that for audits and reviews, there is much more to be captured when working in the office being reviewed than remotely, and it remains essential to travel on site to provide a good quality analysis and feedback.

I am convinced that while remote work will certainly increase compared to pre-Covid time, face-to-face work is also here to stay and develop. We will have to learn what method works best for which purpose.


How The Covid Crisis Is Leading to a Historical Shift in Employment

The future of the workplace is one of the big question marks at this time. Plenty of people write and contribute on this topic. In a series of posts we will explore some of those thoughts. First, on the basis of this Capitalogix blog post ‘The Rise Of Remote Work‘, let’s just observe how prevalent remote work is becoming.

This post – based on US data – shows that after the pandemic-driven transformation, remote work is appreciated by people and particularly in some industries, software & IT being of course the main adopter.

The shift in how people work is translating in what is called “the great resignation” with many people moving out of more traditional employment and changing industry. This excellent Atlantic article dated October 2021 ‘The Great Resignation Is Accelerating‘ provides data on this historical migration and changes in worker expectations. This affects in particular the hospitality industry (hotels and restaurants), but also many other industries.

I love however the conclusion of the post: “The culture of work is in a massive period of transformation. Regardless of where your specific company or industry ends up, all businesses will have to increase the amount of employee care they provide. Just as the heart of AI is still human, so is the heart of our businesses.” The point is that employee expectations about life quality has risen, and organizations have to adapt.

The Covid crisis has unexpected effects on the employment market. It is certainly only an acceleration of existing trends. Still, it will require a lot of adaptation capability for organizations.


How Robot Chefs Start Selling Food To Go

In this excellent post ‘The New Top Chef‘ Alex Tabarrok explains how “During the pandemic a pasta restaurant launched on UberEats in Paris. Cala quickly attracted a top 1% rating for it’s high quality to price ratio. Only now has it been revealed that the chef is a robot“.

This was actually a startup hidden behind the storefront, conducting a real blind experiment to prove its concept. This saves a bit on labour and also mainly on real estate as mentioned in this article: ““With three metres squared, we can serve 1.2k meals an hour,” says Richard. “A traditional McDonald’s restaurant is 125m2, and usually they can serve 550 meals an hour.”

This gives a glimpse of a future where the preparation of common food will increasingly be automated to support delivery or on-the-spot consumption, while competition between restaurants will be increasingly on fancy food and great atmosphere. The price gap between various options can be expected increase, while labour will move from burger-flipping to service and delivery.

The advent of robot-chefs is just a visible change that automatization will bring to our daily lives. Are you ready for it?