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Author Archives: Trevor

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The Call Center Industry: The Next Big Thing For Economic Development?

Trevor No Comments

Nowadays you open a newspaper and most jobs relate to call centers. Advertising competitive salaries, great growth opportunities and low entry barriers, companies like Xerox, Capgemini, Telus and [24]/7 have enchanted the young workforce who want to make a lot with the little they have.

Between 2009-2013 the BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) industry in Guatemala experienced an incredible income growth of 300%, reaching $650M in total revenues by the end of that period[1]. Focusing mostly on customer service and financial operations Guatemala soon became the Central American hotspot for outsourced call centers employing around 35,000 agents[2].

This boom, however, did not only attract business investors and entrepreneurs. Economists and development agencies also grew interested, as call centers became a promising solution for poverty alleviation in developing countries.

“If you want Guatemala to prosper take the people from the fields and give them a job in a call center.” Economics professor Edgar Ortiz from the “Universidad Francisco Marroquin” expressed.

Being labor-intensive and known for profiting on low wages it is hard to imagine call centers as poverty alleviators. Surprisingly enough, these businesses paired up with other forms of investment can promote development and break the poverty trap in more than one way.

 

 

Source: IB/Economics

Source: IB/Economics

 

  1. Call Centers Offer Income+

 The Human Development index calls education, health and disposable income the three pillars of development. Therefore, to be poverty alleviating, companies must (1) create stable income-generating opportunities for the poor, (2) offer their workers enough income to live and (3) make health, education and financial services accessible to their workers.

Call centers achieve this in the following way:

  • First, they create job opportunities that target the poor by setting low entry barriers (regarding experience and skills) and opportunities to grow.
  • Second, call centers offer most of their agents a higher wage compared to their alternative source of income. For example, an average Guatemalan farmer that makes $354 a month can now make up to $700 by working at a call center. An increase of 100% allows workers to meet their essential needs, spend more on health, nutrition and education and accumulate capital for later investments or remittances (which spurs development even further especially in Latin America).
  • And third, the different worker benefits offered by call centers give agents and their families the opportunity to save and afford otherwise unaffordable options such as health insurance, credit services, family planning, meal plans and other essential packages.
Source: celfoundation.org

Source: celfoundation.org

         2. Call centers have a direct effect on education

Another development benefit of call centers is the direct role they play on education. Although they provide specific training to their workers, these end up learning much more than that.

Studies from Princeton University show that people who worked at call centers often left with newfound interpersonal, confidence, language and communications skills that made them more competitive and eligible for better paying jobs.

Furthermore, those who sacrifice school for work could consider call centers as the next best option, since they act as vocational training entities that have the means and talent to prepare skill-savvy workers. Although, to achieve true development, countries must set policies in place that allow all citizens to finish their studies.

Source: World Bank

Source: World Bank

           3. Call centers attract large amounts of foreign direct investment (FDI), which leads to economic growth

Finally, if we think macro economically, call centers spur a country’s development by attracting large amounts of direct foreign investment and growing sustainably over time.

FDI increases a country’s capital stock, improves productivity and brings better and more globalized skills and technology into the host country. Additionally, investments also encourage competition, forcing companies to develop themselves and their workforce continuously to stay in the market.

Higher productivity and competition means more and better choices for all owners, clients and workers, better wages, better education opportunities, better products and more profits.

Before you bet on FDI, it is important to understand that FDI can work only if there’s little political interference, a proper investment environment, little corruption and capable individuals to administer the capital.

Source: Sundaytimes.lk

Source: Sundaytimes.lk

Conclusion

In conclusion it might be wise to admit that call centers could indeed be the next solution for poverty alleviation. Their structure and labor-intensive nature makes them ideal to attract and develop the poor by offering income+ opportunities without compromising profitability. Nonetheless, in order to achieve true poverty alleviation, call centers need to focus on reducing their attrition rates and in giving their benefit packages a genuine poverty-alleviating focus. Also, if they were truly going to alleviate poverty, call centers have to offer jobs that give people enough time to gain all the skills, benefits and financial boosts they need to reach a sustainable and increased standard of living, on top of creating environments that won’t be detrimental to the worker’s physical and mental health.

A couple recommendations to reduce attrition and create stability, according to experts, are to reach less stressful work environments, provide various schedule options, create physical and mental care programs and adopting a culture that promotes a healthy life-work balance.

Call centers can help countries develop but they need to focus on people as much as they focus on profits and attract investments both for industry and infrastructure growth.

 

Sources:

[1] BPO Industry In Guatemala, recovered from: www.investinguatemala.org on August 2016.

[2] Ibid.

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Seal That Deal!

Trevor No Comments

Some say it takes a lifetime to become a master negotiator. But, you’ve got to start somewhere, right?

To help you get started or just to refresh some concepts, we’ve put together a short list of 5 things experts consider vital to conduct a successful negotiation and close that deal!

  1. Do not confuse people with interests

 Negotiation experts Roger Fisher and William Ury, emphasized in their bestseller “Getting to Yes”, the need to treat people softly but tackle problems the hard way.

Usually when people negotiate they take one of two positions: they’re either the “hard” negotiator (all or nothing) or the “nice” guy (let’s just agree on something we both want). The problem with the first one is that you may shatter relationships, but the second one may not lead towards the optimal outcome.

Fisher and Ury then propose a third position: the “principled” negotiator. In this scenario, participants are not friends or adversaries; they are problem-solvers that have come together to reach an optimal outcome that is both efficient and amiable. Negotiators take emotions into consideration but act unbiased, they propose several scenarios and reach a result based on objective standards not mutual “agreement”, being influenced by reason and not pressure.

An interview with 700 Club and to Chris Voss helps explain this negotiation strategy:

 

  1. Develop a solid negotiation strategy months before the meeting

Sanders, Lewicki & Barry outline the ideal strategy in their book “Essentials of Negotiations.” And although I can’t cover it all in this post, here are some highlights:

  • Define your issues & interests: Issues define what you will be negotiating. To outline them you can make a list of all the things you want to cover during the negotiations. If you’re selling or buying stocks, for example, make sure to cover price, transfer costs, legal implications, etc. Then proceed to evaluate all your interests. Why are you negotiating? list your interests and make sure you can differentiate between objective and subjective interests to plan a better strategy.
  • Build your bargaining scenarios – based on your issues and interests proceed to build your scenarios, combining all desired outcomes from best to worst. Build different packages and offers you can give your adversary, always taking your adversary’s interests and possible bargaining mixes into consideration.
  • Pick objectives and opening offers –. Experts suggest you set your starting offer higher than expected to give enough room to negotiate all the way down to your desired outcome.
Source:

Source: Stattys.com

  • Define your best alternatives to the desired outcome (BATNA) – define what would be the last offer you can take before you leave the negotiation. Be ready to walk away if what’s being offered doesn’t appeal to you.
  • Analyze your adversary – this involves understanding your adversary’s agenda, their bargaining scenarios, their interests and needs and of course to understand their walk-away points and best alternatives. (Pretty much, seek to learn your adversary’s strategy before the negotiation).
  • Write down your meeting’s protocol – make sure both you and your adversaries know who is attending the meeting, where will it take place, at what time and what will be negotiated. Set common rules and share the meeting’s agenda.

It is vital that the negotiating team takes time to conduct research, review the proposals, go over the different scenarios and know their walk-away points by heart. The best negotiations are reached after long months of studying and hard work.

For more strategy techniques visit the following link.

  1. Beware of the cultural and social context

When handling a negotiation is very important to understand the culture and context in which you’re negotiating. People in Asia value different things from those in Latin America or Europe. Many cultures seek to start meetings by addressing each adversary’s personal life. Others consider it inappropriate.

Beware of social structures, the value of hierarchies, the value of honor and reputation and different negotiation styles. Pay attention to those at the negotiating table. What and why are they negotiating? Is it for them or their boss? What does winning mean to them? Are you dealing with prestige interests? Or simple financial interests?

Knowing where your adversaries come from and what they value as people and citizens, will give you a better standing point in any negotiation.

Source: Stanford.edu

Source: Stanford.edu

  1. Do not fear emotions, take advantage of them

For years it’s been said emotions are detrimental to negotiations. To contemporary negotiation experts, however, this couldn’t be more false.

Nowadays, the best negotiators do not only have a high IQ but also a high EQ (emotional intelligence). Great negotiators know how to regulate and manage not only their emotions but also those of the other party and steer conversations towards a desired outcome.

Emotionally intelligent individuals can adjust a message and share information like others would like to hear it. Hence convincing the other party to feel the way they want about an offer, issue or interest.

Good body language and gesture reading is key to the topic. Usually it is your adversaries’ physical behavior that gives away their emotional state towards any given informaiton.

And finally, although this seems like a “manipulating” game, make sure you don’t stray from protocol to ensure an ethical interaction.

Source: Sessioncam.com

Source: Sessioncam.com

  1. Rest & Relax

And the last piece of advise: give your team time to rest and relax before and during the meeting. To ensure that your team is sharp at all times, make sure they get a good night sleep thenight before, plan for small breaks every 20-30 minutes and, If protocol allows, have drinks and snacks available for the teams.

****

For more information on the topic I recommend the following books and articles. And remember you can learn all the theory in the world, but to become a great negotiator you need a lot of practice!

 Resources:

  1. Essentials of Negotiations by Roy Lewicki, David Saunders and Bruce Barry
  2. Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury
  3. Top negotiations Books, Videos, Exercises and Simulations
  4. How to Talk Anyone into Doing Anything with Chris Voss
  5. Harvard Business Review:  Negotiations

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Focus Groups

Trevor No Comments

On previous posts I discussed “Human-Centered” design and talked about how it all starts with empathy and relationships.

Although there are many tools to conduct primary research on customer needs, one of the most effective tools is focus groups: meetings where you interact with and gather first-hand information from a solid batch of potential users.

To help you build and conduct a successful focus group, we’ve assembled 10 steps, that according to field experts, you must take into consideration!

Source: metacconects.org

Source: metacconects.org

  1. Establish a clear purpose for the meeting

 Experts from Duke University stress that a focus group is NOT a marketing opportunity, a lecture, a partnership meeting or a problem-solving session.

Instead, these meetings focus solely on gathering feedback and customer perspective on a specific product or service that will be offered. That’s why it is important to set conversation boundaries and work with predetermined questions.

  1. Decide how many focus groups you’ll need

Marketing professionals suggest you conduct between 3-4 meetings to gather all pertinent information.

You may schedule following meetings a week apart and ask the exact same questions to different groups. When no one has anything new to say, you know you’ve reached your goal.

Read More: Human-Centered Design
  1. Choose your participants…very closely

 Although diversity is a very important concept, when you conduct a focus group, Duke University suggests you keep the group fairly homogeneous.

The ideal is to have people who’ve never met but can feel comfortable around each other. That’s why you must take into strong consideration the social and cultural contexts of the group you’ll be interviewing.

Beware of recruiting mixed groups if there’s a strong sense of “machismo” in the country. Be also mindful of economic and social power gaps. You wouldn’t want people to feel intimidated or inferior to other participants, so much that responses may be biased or anchored.

Try to set a specific age range for your group and make sure you don’t bring in extremely dominant personalities that may steer all the conversation in one direction.

And finally, remember to keep the group small! If you don’t know how many are too many, follow the “two pizza rule”: if the team can’t be fed with only two pizzas then it is too big.

Source: hubspot.net

Source: hubspot.net

  1. Structure your questions

 Try to stay within the 8-12 question range. Remember focus groups are based on open-ended questions and it may take a long time to gather every perspective.

 Make sure the questions are short but not written in a way that inspire “yes” and “no” answers.

 Start with simple questions to get the group acclimated, then proceed to the most insightful ones and finish by asking the group if there’s anything else they would like to add.

If you’re making a comparison, experts suggest you interview groups A & B in separately.

  1. Find a stellar moderator

Moderators are the key to incredible results. To avoid bias, Ruth Peebles, President of The INS Group, advises that moderators be third-party facilitators that are not affiliated with your organization.

Moderators must have an engaging personality to make participants feel free and welcomed at all times. They must keep the conversation within scope and prevent the meeting from steering in a wrong or biased direction.

Also, it is suggested you also find a separate note taker!

image_the-moderator

  1. Set you meeting “specifics” and agenda

 Set a date, place and time that works for your chosen demographics. It is advised you seek a place outside your offices to make the conversation feel neutral.

Times are better after working hours so it doesn’t interfere with people’s schedules.

Write down your agenda and share it with your moderator and note taker before the meeting. Make sure you clearly communicate your goals and expectations and go over the questions at least once.

  1. Build your recruitment strategy

 All right, so how are you going to approach your participants?

If you belong to a large multinational social media and public ads could help your case. You can offer monetary incentives to participants and have them register on your website.

If you’re a smaller business you may like to email or call the people you consider would give you a good perspective. And, if you can’t offer money for participation, you can always offer coupons, certificates or prizes (company care packages are usually great!).

Duke University also recommends using local newspaper ads and flyers. If your participants are youngsters posting your call on university bulletin boards might work pretty well.

Think about your demographic and then take advantage of the means of communication they use most. And then make sure they feel the meeting would be a win-win situation.

Once people register or show interest make sure to call or email them to confirm participation. Share once again the place and date of the event.

 

 

LibGuides focus group recruitment flyer. Recovered from,slanypublications.org

LibGuides focus group recruitment flyer. Recovered from,slanypublications.org

 

  1. When conducting the meeting…

 Ruth Peebles recommends you start with icebreakers to make participants feel comfortable.

Continue to communicate the purpose of the meeting, procedures, expectations and desired outcomes. An important thing you must never forget is to promise confidentiality! Make them sign agreements if needed.

Make sure the meeting goes accordingly to the agenda and record responses in more than one way. You can write them down on posters, post-its, use video, voice recorders or any other material you can think of.

9. Be precise to analyze

 After the focus group it is important that your team sits down to discuss major findings, segment these appropriately and identify specific thoughts, stories and suggestions.

You can log your result using spreadsheets, graphs and tables. And then present them on a slide show to help the team visualize where your new product stands amongst your target market’s needs and expectations.

For more guidance on analyzing data, you can check out Duke University’s “Guidelines for Conducting a Focus Group”

Source: datapine.com

Source: datapine.com

  1. Share

Finally, share the results of your findings with your participants and keep scheduling meetings to gather more and more information!!

For more empathy-building tools check the LUMA Institute’s “Innovating for People: Handbook of Human-Centered Design”.

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Human-Centered Design

Trevor one comments

Whether you run a large multinational or a successful foundation, if you don’t know what your target market wants you’re most likely going to stumble.

Over the years we’ve seen organizations waste time and money launching products that don’t work. Either they didn’t understand their markets or didn’t pay attention to important details early in the process.

To avoid this from happening, various organizations from universities to design firms have adopted the “Human-Centered Design” approach, where client feedback becomes the essential component in every product and service’s development.

 

So, What is Human-Centered Design?

 As +Acumen beautifully states it, Human-Centered Design is “innovation inspired by people”. It is a framework used by designers and managers to find solutions for pressing problems considering their beneficiaries’ perspective in every step of the problem-solving process.

hcd-circles

Source: SD23 Makes

 

How do you differentiate HCD from a traditional design process?

 As said by IDEO.org, you know your design is Human-Centered when “you’ve kept the very people you’re looking to serve at the heart of the process”

It all starts with empathy. To build a successful product, “solutioners” must clearly understand the deepest needs and incentives of their target market. To do so, it is crucial to observe, ask and spend quality time with your clients. Unless you know and live the hassles of their everyday life, you won’t understand the depth and gravity of a problem.

Going further, because HCD it is based on empathy, it must be collective. When you look for human-centered solutions you won’t find them behind a desk by yourself. The more you get involved in your client’s life and the more feedback you get from them, the easier it will be to understand the solution that they’re craving. Plus, having more people in your research and development team brings more perspective and creativity into the process.

And finally, HCD is different from traditional design because it relies on constant experimentation. Human-Centered solutioners think big but start small. They learn by doing and build the solution based on feedback. This takes more time but saves a lot of resources, mitigates risks and secures success. After all the solution was pretty much given to you by those who will use it.

Source: Grameen Foundation

 

 That said, what are the necessary steps to develop a Human-Centered Design Process?

 First, you need to get out there and understand your target market’s problem and ideas for solutions. +Acumen calls this the Discovery phase.

Later on, after you’ve gathered all your key information and have a clear understanding of your market’s needs, you move to what IDEO.org calls the Ideation phase. Here your team and you start brainstorming for creative solutions to solve your market’s most pressing problem.

Once you’ve landed a couple great ideas you start the Prototyping phase, where you bring to life an initial “sketch” of your solution and present it to the public for feedback.

Based on this feedback you continue your development process until you reach the final version of the solution and the Implementation phase.

Source: IDEO.org

 

What tools can be used to successfully complete every step of the process?

 Throughout your discovery phase, you will be observing and contextualizing most of the time. Some great tools to do this are: surveys, interviews, photo journals and guided tours (to help you live your beneficiaries’ daily life).

After you gather your information you need to map both people and needs to start ideating. You could use stakeholder maps, people profiles, problem tree analyses and some affinity clusters.

Then, for your prototyping phase, the LUMA Institute suggests you storyboard and sketch your ideas before building them. Sketching the idea helps the team visualize the concept and storyboarding helps them understand how they expect users to adopt it. Then you can continue by creating rough prototypes out of simple materials to bring the concept to life.

If you want a complete guide of tools to research, understand and ideate for your target market, check “Innovating for People”: the LUMA Institute’s handbook for Human-Centered Design.

 

Source: Luma Institute

Source: Luma Institute

 What can you use Human-Centered Design For?

 According to +Acumen, you can use HCD, to create innovative products, services, spaces and systems.

Because HCD is based on human behavior and empathy, this approach can be used not only to build useful products but also to create better experiences for people, nurture more impactful relations and build more efficient facilities.

Who employs Human-Centered Design Today? 

Just to mention a few organizations:

IDEO – World leading design and consulting firm
+Acumen – Global learning platform for change makers
Stanford University – Ranking #3 in the world!
Grameen Foundation -Global nonprofit dedicated to sustainable development.
Frog – Global design and strategy firm.
Luma Institute – Global innovation learning platform for businesses and nonprofits.

Why should you employ Human-Centered Design? 

HCD will help you save time and money. By focusing on your beneficiaries from the start you are investing in products and services that are guaranteed to work. HCD mitigates risk and increases customer loyalty. Internally, HCD can also improve your design team’s creativity, open up their minds to more perspectives and put your company at the top when it comes to understanding your target market and delivering useful and innovative designs!

So don’t wait anymore to start involving your beneficiaries! I assure you it will pay off.

 

If you found this post useful, please let us know with a comment!

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Young Guatemalan Entrepreneurship

Trevor No Comments

The Lucky Attitude describes millennials as the “Startup Kids”, the generation that wants to be their own boss and the ones that see more value in creating something for themselves than climbing the corporate ladder.

Although such is a general statement, millennials in Guatemala are proving it right. With 40.3% of adults between 18-64 intending to start a new business and 60% of them believing they have the right capabilities to do so, you find yourself facing a country that ranked #107 in the Global Entrepreneurship Index.

But why are Guatemalans so special when it comes to business? My visit to the annual “Product Fair” sponsored by “Empresarios Juveniles” and “Universidad Rafael Landívar” gave me a good idea.

Image Credit: Katia Arias

Image Credit: Katia Arias

The program “Young Enterprises” is a semester long workshop where first and second year students from the business department come together in groups to build a functioning small-scale enterprise from scratch. Throughout the workshop, students must adopt different managerial roles, develop a product and create a business/marketing plan to launch their final concept at the product fair, where they are judged based on how well they developed and presented their idea.

As I walked by “grading” the stands, I couldn’t help to notice four prominent trends:

  1. Taking advantage of what’s local and traditional

The new generation of Guatemalan entrepreneurs has rediscovered the power of tradition and is exploiting it right!

Why are traditional products so attractive?

Because they not only offer a useful piece of clothing or accessory, but also a culturally valuable piece that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. By printing the Guatemalan identity on bags, shirts and wallets you’re giving these products a level of authenticity and “exoticness” clients inside and out of the country find very attractive. When clients buy traditional products they’re buying a story, a piece of the country and an “authentic” pass into global citizenship (which many people find extremely desirable and valuable).

Local products, however, have another advantage. While you’re promoting your country’s uniqueness you are also helping the artisanal community both socially and economically. Since entrepreneurs rely on indigenous craftsmanship to create their pieces, they embark themselves in a journey to better understand their people and roots. Also they keep the money within the local economy helping the country grow.

So, when clients see “local and traditional” they are sold. They see artisanal (which is “cooler” than commercial), they see cultural value and they see social impact (which makes them feel good about the purchase, and as I mentioned before, almost 90% of purchases are made through the emotional brain).

 

Image Credit: Katia Arias

Image Credit: Katia Arias

  1. Using social causes as marketing tools

 Speaking of the emotional brain, young Guatemalan entrepreneurs have also learned to take advantage of the country’s critical situation to create marketing campaigns with social aspects.

With the huge spectrum of social and economic gaps in Guatemala, people have many “causes” to choose from when they think of Social Corporate Responsibility. I was surprised of how many students chose to support a cause as part of their marketing. Their products were simple, almost useless to the eye but buying them helped someone, so suddenly the products had a social value impossible to ignore.

There was a stand selling bottle openers. The products didn’t have anything special on them, but if you bought one (for very cheap) you would be helping a kid’s shelter. So technically you bought the cause not the product.

Another stand offered bracelets to support breast cancer. I liked their approach when they said to me; take a bracelet for a meaningful donation of Q.20. Notice they didn’t say the words price or cost. Although they had adopted the structure of an nonprofit, I was happy to see that the salespeople prepared themselves to offer their products using the right vocabulary and approach.

Image Credit: Katia Arias

  1. Targeting Millennials

 According to PFS, “millennials may only comprise 26% of the population, but they contribute to approximately 35% of retail spending. That said, new and old businesses must seek to understand what millennials value to properly market to this generation; and, in consequence, their baby boomer parents.

The World’s leading research and insight platform, Qualtrics divided millennial values in four: relationships, socio-ecological impact, easy-grab and high-tech.

Most of the stands did offer products that fell in one of these categories: from fashionable iPhone chargers to eco-friendly bottles, one-step make-up removers, traditional clothing and artisanal jewelry.

Image Credit: Katia Arias

Image Credit: Katia Arias

  1. Employing charismatic salespeople

 The category of “relationships” in the millennial value circle refers to how well the company seeks to relate with the customers before they sell them a product.

Latin America is comprised by what sociologists call “primary cultures.” Where most people rely on inter personal relations to meet their needs. These cultures value extended family systems and social connectivity as well as oral forms of communication and natural-spiritual concepts.

These cultural traits have helped Guatemalan entrepreneurs become natural salespeople (at least some). “4Her” was the small business that captivated me the most. They had incredible traditional products and they knew the story behind them. But, what really helped was the team’s customer service. The only reason I didn’t buy from them was because I didn’t have any cash on me!

image4

Image Credit: Katia Arias

Conclusion

 In conclusion one could say that Guatemalans are growing to become great entrepreneurs because they are taking a proper advantage of their local resources and causes as well as their natural sociability. On the improvement side, I youngsters still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding their customer and sharing their story. The products I saw at the fair were great but I left wanting more information from each one, I left feeling as if students didn’t do enough research on their market and as if they were doing it “just for the class”.

Overall, however, visiting the product fair was a very enriching and insightful experience to see what young people value and believe is important. I was impressed by the quality of the products and marketing material (given they only have a semester to plan everything) and would definitely recommend the activity to anyone interested.

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Could Artificial Intelligence Mean The End Of The Human Race?

Trevor No Comments

Artificial Intelligence

Source: erichstauffer.com

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has declared our time’s technological breakthroughs as “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”, where all existing technologies fuse to break barriers between the physical, digital and biological worlds.

Amongst the biggest advances of the revolution we find Artificial Intelligence (AI), a computer system able to carry out human tasks such as decision-making, speech recognition and visual perceptions.

Source: mirror.co.uk

Source: mirror.co.uk

Using AI companies like Google and Tesla created the first self-driven car. Facebook has used it to recognize faces, Apple created Siri; and NASA is developing an air security program where planes can dodge storms and other hazards. No wonder, the world of science is eager to dive even deeper into the field.

 

 

But, even if AI seems great so far, what would happen to us when machines take over the world?

“We are approaching the time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task” Moshe Vardi, computer science professor at Rice University expressed. And, if not developed responsibly, Cambridge professor Stephen Hawkins noted, “artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race”.

Studies carried out by Citi in the USA and the Center For Economic Policy in the EU and Japan, show that AI can indeed spell the end of humanity by, widening the inequality gap, increasing levels of unemployment, and taking away the “human” factor of work, which, in turn, upsets entire economies and poses moral concerns.

 

  1. Increased Inequality

 According to the Citi report, the inequality theory caused by AI can be summarized as follows:

“The benefits from the new industrial revolution are not being equally shared amongst all people in the world.”

With higher technology, the skill requirements for labor also become higher, leaving all those who didn’t study a computer science almost out of the game; hence creating a new 1% vs. 99% division.

The 1% represents the tech savvy, highly skilled population that benefits from AI and can complement its knowledge with the new automated processes. And the 99%, on the other hand, represents the middle to low skilled populations whose job will be taken away by AI, and whose knowledge will be substituted by computers.

As the Business Insider would put it, the cities with more rapid income growths that hold more 1% income earners and offer very specialized jobs are less susceptible to automation; while cities that offer more generic jobs, hold 99% income earners and have slow income growths are most likely to be taken over by machines. Leading towards mass migration, the death of some towns amongst other issues.

Source: VOX - CEPR's Policy Portal

Source: VOX – CEPR’s Policy Portal

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-10-18-35-am

Source: VOX – CEPR’s Policy Portal

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Unemployment

The new inequality gap also leads to the next major issue, which is mass unemployment. As more and more factory workers, taxi drivers, and lab technicians are replaced; the world will find itself with a higher dependency rate than ever before. More people will need to survive but less people will be able to work for it.

The Citi Report proposed that education would be the only solution to solve the problem. With only 0.5% of the US Workforce shifting to tech industries in the 2000s, the World Bank estimated that 47% of US jobs would be replaced by automation in the near future and only high skilled Tech training could land these people new and stable jobs.

Going even further the World Bank estimated that in China the replacement rate would be of 77%, in South Africa 67%, India 69%, UK 35% and Thailand 72% (amongst others), landing with an OECD average of 57%. Which, according to the World Economic Forum, represents the net loss of more than 5 million jobs in 15 major developed and emerging economies by 2020.

 

Source: uk.businessinsider.com - World Bank Development Report (2016)

Source: World Bank Development Report (2016)

Read More: Is Uber doing bad by doing good?

3. No More “Humanity”

While machines can predict the weather and avoid traffic accidents by 90%, they cannot replace humans when it comes to common sense, creativity, multitasking, learning, morality  and feeling.

As infant psychologist Alison Gopnik would point out, “machines are not [yet] as smart as a two-year-old child.” Simply because they can’t form hypotheses, create theories or learn from experience and imitation.

Innovation sounds great. But what if robots can solve puzzles but they can’t really learn from the world around or find new solutions on the spot. Or, what if robots can increase your company’s efficiency but they do so trespassing the rules because they have no moral compass?

This is why scientists & entrepreneurs like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk are paying special attention to the revolution and encouraging developers to be careful. We want machines to help humanity not to take over it.

 

Source: Intelligence.booklikes.com

Source: Intelligence.booklikes.com

Conclusion

 In conclusion, whether or not we want it, AI is here to stay and ready to make an impact. It all depends now on how governments, business owners and individuals will adapt to the revolution and how they will choose to mingle with technology.

On the public side, governments should create policies that bring technology at the same pace workers can adapt to it, paired up with technical programs to retrain the population.

On the private side, businesses must recognize that machines, even if they bring cost and time efficient solutions to the table, cannot replace humans when it comes to design thinking processes or morality. Hence they must study their companies and keep a sustainable balance between people and machines.

And as individuals, people must learn where they stand. If the technology is growing around you, get informed, seek to learn and keep on working to stay competitive.

 

If you found this post useful, please let us know in the comments!

 

Sources:

  1. “What Will Artificial Intelligence Mean For The World of Work?” Recovered from: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/feb/17/artificial-intelligence-future-of-work on September, 16
  2. “Robots Will Steal Your Job: How AI Could Increase Unemployment & Inequality” recovered from: http://uk.businessinsider.com/robots-will-steal-your-job-citi-ai-increase-unemployment-inequality-2016-2 on September, 16
  3. “Artificial Intelligence And Employment” recovered from: http://voxeu.org/article/artificial-intelligence-and-employment on September, 16
  4. “AI And Robots Threaten To Unleash Mass Unemployment, Scientists Warn”, recovered from: https://www.ft.com/content/063c1176-d29a-11e5-969e-9d801cf5e15b on September, 16
  5. The Fourth Industrial Revolution: What It Means, How to Respond”, recovered from: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/ on September, 16
  6. “Applications of AI”, recovered from: http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/whatisai/node3.html on September, 16
  7. “AI Has Arrived And That Really Worries The World’s Brightest Minds” recovered from: https://www.wired.com/2015/01/ai-arrived-really-worries-worlds-brightest-minds/ on September, 16
  8. “Five Million Jobs by 2020: The Real Challenge Of The Fourth Industrial Revolution” recovered from: https://www.weforum.org/press/2016/01/five-million-jobs-by-2020-the-real-challenge-of-the-fourth-industrial-revolution/ on September, 16
  9. “Weighing In On The Pros And Cons Of Artificial Intelligence” recovered from: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/pros-and-cons-of-artificial-intelligence.html on September, 16
  10. “Stephen Hawking Warns Artificial Intelligence Could End Mankind”, recovered from: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-30290540 on September, 16

 

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Is UBER Doing Bad By Doing Good?

Trevor one comments

Disruptive innovation is a great thing. In fact, we need this type of innovation to offer better products and services in time. The catch is, however, when a business model seeks to “disrupt” an existing system, the adjustment period can be very tough and harshly unbalancing for those disrupted. Which, in turn, raises the questions of “does innovation do more bad trying to do good? Or, “Is the “bad” more an excuse for big corporations to keep the status quo?”

The incredibly successful carpool platform known as UBER was officially launched in San Francisco, California in 2011. Built as a mobile application, the founders intended to shift the cab services from the “market economy” into the “shared economy”, where every-day car owners could put their car to work and those who were carless could get a pleasant ride for cheap.

In theory it all seems great, more jobs have been created and people get cheaper rides. Why then, are there so many parties fighting against new e-based models?

twitter-picture

Source: twitter.com/WetpaintMena

The primary allegation comes from the taxi industry. The fact that UBER drivers don’t have to face the strict regulations taxi drivers do creates a competition gap that is perceived as unfair.

According to an article from Bruegel.org, taxi licenses can cost as much as $1M in the USA, which, in turn, creates an entry barrier to the industry and keep the competition in check. With UBER previously requiring no license, taxi license prices went down by almost 30% in some states and taxi drivers were slowly being kicked out of the market. In Toronto, Canada “drivers have lost a third of their business since 2012” due to this issue.

On a similar note, fixed ride rates have also given UBER a significant advantage over the cab industry. UBER drivers are allowed to “surge price” and fix their rates depending on demand volumes and time of the day/year. Cab drivers, on the other hand, depend on the government for pricing regulations and are limited to an hourly wage.

Source: bizjournals.com

Source: bizjournals.com

So, even if it is understandable why Taxi drivers consider their UBER counterparts a “scam”, the cab industry complaints went further to say UBER was unsafe and even threatening to passengers since drivers were not required to fulfill background checks and driving tests like taxi drives do.

Taking everything into consideration, UBER has advanced its application requirements by requesting a proper background check along with a vehicle check and a city-specific set of regulations.

The second allegation, though, comes from drivers themselves. Although UBER currently employs 160,000 drivers who seem happy with the job, many find it to be below decent standards.

UBER drivers get paid after every ride but 20% of what they make goes back to the company. On top of this they are responsible of covering gasoline, repairs, insurance and registration costs plus any depreciation. Drivers are also required to own a smartphone (unless they rent from UBER for $10/week) and do not receive proper worker compensations for they are considered contractors and not employees.

Source: Uber.com

Source: Uber.com

Read More

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7 Tips To Craft A Compelling Newsletter!

Trevor No Comments

More action is taken through a company’s newsletter than from any other digital source!

According to the US Direct Marketing Association, “every dollar spent on email is projected to bring [back] $35.02”, making newsletters one of the most effective communication tools of all time.

That said it’s time to get your newsletter up and running!

 

  1. Define a clear purpose

Before you write anything make sure you know exactly where you’re going with it.

Knowing your purpose will help you attract the right type of followers and will increase your chance to get readers involved.

To identify that purpose ask yourself key questions:

What do you want your readers to do after reading your letter? Are you looking to close a sale or are you just trying to inform your readers?

ACPRail international has its purpose bright and clear in this newsletter,

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  1. Make it personal

 Now that you have figured out your purpose is time to spread the news!

 Research from the Aberdeen Group shows that personalized email messages improve click-through rates by an average of 14%”.

 Making an email “personal” –however– is not only about greeting your readers on a first-name basis. The entire letter hast to make your audience feel as if it was written specifically for them.

Here are some tips to achieve that:

  • Keep greeting your readers by their name.
  • Make the message sound like a personal story you would tell a friend. Add passion and details to help your reader visualize the experience and feel a part of it.
  • And last make it all about your reader. Remind the audience of how much you care about them and how important their participation is for your organization!

Here’s a great example from the World Wildlife Fund:

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  1. Make your template user-loving

 Truth is: First impressions matter!

To make your newsletter attractive, I suggest you add some key information but let your visuals speak for you! Nowadays people are more attracted by images than they are by words.

Remember, however, not to saturate your letter with too much content and make it easy to navigate.

And finally, make your template mobile friendly! According to Campaign Monitor, about 53% of emails are opened on mobile device” and no one likes it when the content doesn’t fit the mobile screen.

Source: https://freshmail.com/guide/create-email-marketing-campaigns-mobile-devices/

Source: https://freshmail.com/guide/create-email-marketing-campaigns-mobile-devices/

  1. Pick a reliable email provider

To make your newsletter the best you need a provider that lets you write, edit and share content easily. Not to mention one that makes sure you comply with CAN-SPAM laws and gives good discounts!

I would advice you to do your research before you chose. Make a list of your organization’s main marketing needs and match it with the provider’s offers.

Some great providers to chose from are: GetResponse, AWeber Communications, Benchmark Email, Vertical Response and MailChimp.

  1. Make your info “sharable”

Social media can be a great marketing asset if it attracts more people to your email list. So go ahead and add Twitter and Facebook buttons to your letter!

By enabling social sharing, you take advantage of your readers’ social networks and increase engagement levels.

In addition, enabling social sharing increases your reach and exposes your organization’s work to larger and more diverse audiences.

National Geographic Magazine is a great example when it comes to social media sharing:

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  1. Craft Effective “Calls-To-Action”

To increase your involvement rates you need to transform your calls-to-action into an opportunity no one would like to miss.

To do so, the Bloomington Volunteer Network suggest the following:

  • Choose a headline that makes the call feel totally personal! Examples like “We need YOUR skills to reach our goals” and “Your purchase can save a child’s life” will do the job.
  • Outline the specific features of your call. Information such as when, where, doing what and with whom is key to inform and attract the right followers.
  • Make sure to specify the benefits and barriers of your call.
  • Add contact information! People need to know who to call or where to sign up to get involved.

Even if organizations choose to add many calls in one letter, I suggest you follow the “Rule of Three”. This will make it easier for people to explore and remember your content.

Short and straight to the point, Project Aware outlines it’s call to action as it is:

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  1. Give an “exit option”

Please, listen to me when I tell you: always add an “unsubscribe” option at the end.

Allowing your readers to unsubscribe gives them the power to choose, which in turn makes them feel more engaged towards staying.

Another great advantage of this option is the “exit surveys”. If your newsletter needs some updating you will know through your deserters’ feedback.

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Taking these steps will help you craft and deliver an effective newsletter. Also they might increase your email conversion rates in the short and long run~

Owning your story and being able to share it properly can get you more than just sales and likes. It will help you build a solid network of loyal and involved followers!

If you found this post useful, please let us know in the comments!

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5 Easy Steps To Become Sustainable At The Workplace

Trevor No Comments

Our planet is under great pressure. With populations and corporations growing at irresponsible rates, it is no surprise that we’ve reached the point of  increased global warming, ocean acidification, extreme poverty and mass deforestation.

Saving the planet, though, cannot be seen as only as a “big player” issue. Sustainability concerns all of us and it starts with ourselves at home and the workplace.

So, if you ever thought about becoming more sustainable but had trouble getting started, here are some tips to help you make that first step and sustain it in the long-run:

  1. Go paperless

Unless you really need to keep a print copy of your documents, digitalizing them can reduce your company’s costs and carbon footprint exponentially.

According to an article from TIME Magazine, our deforestation rate has gone up to 15B trees annually, with the paper industry using 4B or almost 35% of those trees.

Looking at it more closely, choosing to digitalize 1 ton of paper could save up to 17 trees, 60,000 gallons of water and 225 Kilowatt hours.  Plus, it will save you all the money you would have spent buying 1 ton of paper.

Want more information on the topic? here’s a video from ICM explaining why everyone should go paperless:

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Adopting this mantra as a part of your culture could save your company a lot of money and the planet a lot of life.

Let’s start with “Reduce”. When you use less of something you immediately save up money, cut your waste rates and decrease pollution.  Businesses can reduce their resource consumption by buying in bulk (which saves all the packaging costs and waste),  outsourcing some operations and choosing to adopt planet-friendly technologies.

“Reusing” is the next big step and your business can excel at it by repairing what you already own, buying second-hand and replacing disposable items with reusable or rechargeable ones.

And finally, “Recycling”. What you can’t save or reuse then you should recycle. Label bins accordingly to help your personnel sort out the waste properly and then give it to companies that can transform your trash into new products and new jobs!

The HappyDancingTurltle.org explains this concept a bit better in the following video:

  1. Adopt Eco-Friendly Technology And Practices

Another way to ensure that your company is working hand-in-hand with the planet is by behaving sustainably everyday.

Here are some ideas to start:

  1. Change your traditional trash bins for color-coded recycling bins.
  2. Encourage your employees to save and reuse resources as much as possible.
  3. Replace traditional toilets and faucets for water-efficient models.
  4. Replace paper towels with energy-efficient dryers.
  5. Choose natural air over AC.
  6. Employ motion-sensor lights.
  7. Install timers and control systems for electronics and machinery.
  8. Digitalize your accounting and your marketing.
  9. Promote the use of public transportation to reduce carbon emissions from fuel burning.
  10. Adopt a benefits program that praises sustainable behaviors.
  11. Make sustainability an important part of your company values.
  12. Choose the eco-friendly option for products like paint, ink and air-fresheners.
  13. Schedule regular maintenance for your electric equipment.

Click the link to read this amazing success story presented by Quora, where workers in Japan reduced 1.85 Million tons of greenhouse emissions by reducing their AC consumption during summer months.

  1. Build a sustainable supply chain

If you are serious about making your company planet-friendly, then you must restructure your your supply chain to meet sustainable standards.

Make sure your providers treat the earth and its people according to your values and those of your clients.

Continue to review your production processes, your company culture and your employees’ work habits. Do all these consider the planet as a key stakeholder? Do you seek to reduce resource usage, reuse as much as possible and manage waste properly?

In every step of production from getting a quote to closing a sale you must seek to cut negative environmental impact and work towards a cleaner footprint.

Here is an incredible example from Campbell’s Soup supply chain plan presented by the Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire:

Campbell's Soup Sustainable Supply Chain, recovered from: www.csrwire.com

Campbell’s Soup Sustainable Supply Chain, recovered from: www.csrwire.com

  1. Benchmark and keep learning

Finally, It is never a bad idea to look for inspiration. If someone in your industry is adopting sustainable practices that work then mimic them!

Do some research on creative ways to become more sustainable and don’t be afraid to try them out. Get your employees involved, take field trips to visit sustainable facilities or have someone you admire in this area give a lecture at your workplace.

The more you learn the better you’ll get at it! And remember:

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it” – Robert Swan.

 

If you found this post useful, please let us know in the comments!

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Overview: Social Entrepreneurship

Trevor No Comments

You have probably heard of social entrepreneurship at some point in your career. Probably defined as the “charitable work of some business people” or by its true definition: the type of entrepreneurship that wants to solve the problems of the world using business solutions.

As a social entrepreneur I can’t remember the amount of glares I got when I told people about my career choice. For people it seemed unconceivable to use corporate structures to decrease food insecurity or save our oceans.

But it can be done. With a lot of passion and hard work, businesses that adopt a social/environmental focus can indeed save the world and make profits at the same time. And, through this post, I’ll explain how…

 

Social entrepreneurs don’t usually have a personal agenda

It is rare to hear a social entrepreneur say that his main driver is money. As an SE myself, I know the hustles that go into building a social enterprise, the endless hours and effort you put into creating something that will not necessarily bring a fast ROI and will take some time to prove its effectiveness. It is impossible to stick for long if you’re in it for the money.

Social entrepreneurship is about passion and the genuine desire to create a better world. The social endeavor usually comes from the heart and belongs to those who are serious about sacrificing their own commodities to give others the optimal life they deserve.

 

Here’s a great video from Devex for a broader explanation…

Social enterprises employ social processes

A holistic social enterprise seeks to empower the community and preserve the environment in every step of the way.

Take Trash to Cash, an Indian company launched to help people with disabilities raise their standard of life. Their model includes collecting old flowers from temples (that would otherwise go in the rivers) and getting people with disabilities to transform them into colored powder that is then sold to celebrate the Holi Festival of Colors. On top of that, workers are given extra training to improve on various technical skills.

Looking more closely, this model does not only get money and dumps it into a fund to make a company look good. On the contrary! From the start Trash to Cash prevents water pollution, then it gives disabled communities the opportunity to get an income and live a decent life. And finally, they provide the Indian people with essential products to celebrate their heritage. In every process there is impact!

I invite you to watch this  Walmart video on Madhumita Puri (founder of Trash to Cash) and her advancements for the Child Development program…

Social enterprises are self-sustainable

While traditional CSR programs can tackle social needs, social enterprises exist to tackle these needs sustainably through time. If a company decides that their CSR program no longer works for them, then all the “donation” money will go away and communities are left to wonder.

To avoid that, social enterprises teach people to fish rather than giving them the fish. It creates holistic opportunities where communities take their development in their hands and learn to sustain themselves on their own.

On the financial side of things, social enterprises sustain themselves through their own revenue models. CSR programs, on the other hands, depend on company funds or outside donations.

“Happiness belongs to the self-sufficient” – Aristotle

Social enterprises attract a larger pull of financial contributors

Because social enterprises are self-sustaining and produce financial and social returns on investment, they are eligible for many more types of funding than charities and foundations.

Yes you can still rely on pilot stage funding like crowdfunding and relative/friend donations. But also you can enter business competitions, reach to angel investors and, if your idea is strong enough, you can get some funding from venture capitalists.

To go even further, there are many particular social and environmental investors interested in putting their money to work for good. Social entrepreneurs also may have access to social impact bonds and other financial alliances with organizations and people that wish to contribute to the planet’s development.

The Center of Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology does a great work in explaining “social investing” and why it attracts investors…

Social entrepreneurship opens doors to innovation and disruptive thinking

Social entrepreneurs are disruptive innovators. People who want to change the status quo and challenge the present system to build one that is more just and beneficial for everyone. And they do so by breaking barriers of accessibility, affordability and impact.

Disrupters see opportunities in every market, they are not afraid to take the least traveled road and they prototype often based on customer feedback! This, in turn, leads to incredibly (hard to copy) creative solutions that appeal more to both customers and beneficiaries.

Here’s a video from The Explainer: Harvard Business Review to give you a better idea on the concept…

Social Entrepreneurship is about the triple-bottom line

When you see a social enterprise, you see an organization that values people, planet and profit. To make a decision, social entrepreneurs consider the environment and the community as important members of the board.

Success is not measured only through financial ROI. For social entrepreneurs success is measured also through SROI, which is the social (and environmental) return on investment. Social investors are interested in measure organizational transparency, stakeholder involvement, net impact and of course the effectiveness of the enterprise’s theory of change (how well was the problem solved).

Image Source: CSR Ambassadors

Image Source: CSR Ambassadors

If you really want to help the world and save the planet I encourage you to invest in the present and future social entrepreneurs. Get involved in social enterprises or start your own! Social Entrepreneurship is about earning profits by doing good and creating positive impact using your own business skills! Don’t be afraid and start working for the sustainable change you want to see.

If you found this post useful, please let us know in the comments!

 

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