Tag Archives: fear of technology

4 Reasons for Procurement to Back Blockchain

What is blockchain? How can it impact your organisation and help establish trust? Why should procurement be embracing it?  We answer all of your burning blockchain questions… 

Blockchain belongs to the (long?) list of buzzwords that are part of the growing hype surrounding new technology. Many people equate blockchain with Bitcoin, the first relatively mainstream cryptocurrency. For some, this association makes blockchain seem like something for hackers and illegal commerce, and far removed from typical B2B or B2C applications.

However, what many may not realise is that blockchain can have a significant impact on business because it can be a powerful tool in establishing trust. Trust is at the heart of business and drives:

  1. How we cooperate with other people (blockchain makes it easier to build trust in new business partners),
  2. How we automate activities (blockchain can ensure that a “machine/process” performs as expected)
  3. How we make decisions (blockchain creates more confidence in data),

What Is Blockchain?

Blockchain can be intimidating. It is a complex technology and understanding and explaining it is far from easy (I still haven’t entirely figured it out). However, for procurement and supply chain professionals, understanding what blockchain enables and the associated implications is much more important than knowing how it works. What makes blockchain so valuable is linked to how records are added to the database:

  • A network of computers stores and verifies any new record, making the blockchain more robust than a single instance (like in most traditional databases),
  • Every transaction (“block”) is linked to the previous one (“chain”), creating complete traceability and preventing any data alteration,
  • It is decentralised (peer-to-peer), which means there is no authority deciding the rules or with a personal interest in manipulating data in one way or another.

Data in the blockchain is therefore immutable and impartial. It is shared among parties (publicly or privately) and cannot be changed by anyone.

“Protected from deletion, tampering, and revision. In this world every agreement, every process, every task, and every payment would have a digital record and signature that could be identified, validated, stored, and shared. Intermediaries like lawyers, brokers, and bankers might no longer be necessary. Individuals, organisations, machines, and algorithms would freely transact and interact with one another with little friction. This is the immense potential of blockchain.” The Truth About Blockchain, Harvard Business Review

Therefore, blockchain is a form of digital trust. More trust makes doing business easier, streamlines many processes, and creates transparency. Furthermore, and more importantly, it means that blockchain can serve as the backbone for new types of cooperation between machines (M2M) and between humans (H2H) that were, until now, limited by the cost of building trust or by a lack of trust altogether.

Businesses and business relationships stand to benefit significantly from what blockchain technology has to offer, and here are the main reasons for why procurement and supply chain professionals need to start taking notice:

1. Streamlining Operations

Beyond making transactions more secure and efficient by removing intermediaries, blockchain technology can also increase transparency in the supply chain. At each step of the value chain, from the extraction of raw materials to the customer, blockchain technology can store and record every transaction and exchange of ownership. This would provide companies with a complete, trustworthy and traceable record that would facilitate and simplify the process of due diligence, which companies need to complete in order to ensure compliance with rules and regulations restricting illegal or unethical corporate activities (child labor, modern slavery, conflict minerals, product traceability, fraud, counterfeit, etc.). Not only would this streamline internal processes (increasing efficiency and reducing costs), it would also establish more trust between companies, suppliers, regulatory bodies and the consumer. This is why many companies with a complex supply chain in industries with strict regulations and requirements related to product traceability (pharmaceutical, food & beverage, etc.) are already testing blockchain technology for that purpose.

2. Better Cooperation Between People

Blockchain can also enhance and improve Human-to-Human (H2H) cooperation because collaboration between people also relies on trust. This is particularly true when partners do not know each other, which is especially common in new business models (platform/ gig economy).

Identity and reputation are the two pillars of building trust. Because of its cryptographic nature, blockchain embeds mechanisms that ensure that users are who they say they are. That covers a user’s identity and extends to other credentials:

“Using the blockchain and strong cryptography, it is now possible to create a certification infrastructure that puts us in control of the full record of our achievements and accomplishments. It will allow us to share a digital degree with an employer while giving the employer complete trust that the degree was in fact issued to the person presenting it.” Certificates, Reputation, and the Blockchain, MIT Media Lab

Reputation is nothing more than the result of past transactions. As noted earlier, the blockchain logs all transactions securely and transparently. So, the blockchain makes it easy to measure and know someone’s reputation. Blockchain therefore makes it easier to do business with new partners by reducing the costs and risk which are often associated with new business relationships. Traditionally, a fear of risk and unexpected costs has been behind the rationale to aggregate spend towards a limited number of suppliers and/or to favor (consciously or unconsciously) incumbents. The use of blockchain can allow procurement organizations to revisit their category strategies!

3. Better Cooperation Between Machines

With blockchain organizations can

  • Trust the data stored in it,
  • Create new data collection points by digitalising more processes,
  • Execute automated programs (called smart contracts).

This creates a distributed system (data + process) that they can trust (completeness, accuracy, authenticity, resilience). So, it is possible to automate further without being exposed to typical risks due to lack of data, poor/corrupted data, unreliable execution, interferences by third parties/intermediaries,…

Blockchain is the ideal infrastructure for machine-based activities that the Internet of Things (IoT) has been lacking. It opens the door to new “apps” that will run precisely as programmed. An immediate area of application that is relevant for Procurement is Supply Chain Management.

For example, companies can track the movements of a container at all times. Whenever it reaches specific points, the blockchain will record the activity and smart contracts will execute automated actions (e.g. registration for customs, payments,…). The same concept also extends to upstream/downstream activities like inventory tracking/management or ordering/requisitioning/replenishing.

4. Better Insights with the Convergence of IoT, AI, and Blockchain

“Blockchain and AI are the two extreme sides of the technology spectrum: one fostering centralised intelligence on close data platforms, the other promoting decentralized applications in an open-data environment. However, if we find an intelligent way to make them working together, the total positive externalities could be amplified in a blink.” The convergence of AI and Blockchain: what’s the deal?, Francesco Corea

When considering the Internet of Things (IoT) + Blockchain and adding Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the landscape, a bigger picture emerges that covers data, insights, and actionable intelligence: the core of business activities! When combined, these technologies represent an opportunity to address the “big data” challenge summed up in the “6 Vs”: Value, Volume, Variety, Velocity, Veracity, and Variability.

Some of the latest technologies represent critical components for building better insights and actionable intelligence:

  • IoT = Provides the ability to collect more information (Volume) and in a real-time manner (Velocity & Variability). This is especially true when monitoring physical supply chains (e.g., sensors and geolocation for containers) and changing demand (e.g., sensors in machines for predictive maintenance). It is the foundation that makes gathering data possible and keeps the Big Data engine running and improving (e.g., machine learning).
  • Big Data = Makes it possible to consolidate, aggregate, and slice more data coming from multiple sources (Variety), both internal (e.g., ERPs, or other information systems) and external (e.g., IoT sensors, third party data providers…).
  • Blockchain = Increases trust and reliability (Veracity) in the data collected and stored which is a critical factor in trusting the insights and decisions derived from that data. It also creates a “data backbone” that can be utilized to create interoperability (internally and externally) opening the door to further automation and “interconnections” between physical and financial supply chains.
  • AI = Exhibits tremendous computational capacity to analyze massive sets of data to build new knowledge (Value) and continuously learn and improve from new data.

Too Good to Be True?

Blockchain represents an important for the business world. Procurement organisations cannot afford to ignore it because it has the potential to open doors to further improvements from streamlining paper-based processes to enhancing cooperation and developing new strategies and supporting new operating/business models.

Despite the potential benefits, however, organisations should still make an informed decision about testing blockchain bfore rushing in. Blockchain is still a relatively new technology, and in addition to understanding the potential it holds, procurement organizations also need to understand the limitations and risks, which we will cover in our next article. Stay tuned!

Procurement Leaders: Stop Talking About Headcount Reduction!

If you want your procurement teams to be more open to adopting cognitive solutions and less scared of them, stop talking about headcount!

BUTENKOV ALEKSEI/Shutterstock.com

There are many factors that require careful consideration to bring about effective cognitive solutions.

It’s akin to conducting a group of musicians – it might be possible (easy even!) to attain a pleasant sound from a solo instrument… 

But, if expertly managed,  you could accomplish a symphony from the entire orchestra! 

This week, our podcast series will guide you through the five steps required to conduct a dazzling cognitive symphony. 

On Day 4 of Conducting A Cognitive Symphony Marco Romano – Procurement Chief Analytics Officer, Global Procurement, Transformation Technology, IBM talks on the common pitfalls in the adoption of cognitive solutions, the most impactful actions procurement pros can take to increase the speed of adoption and how to overcome the fear factor!

The Fear Factor

“How the leadership works with the teams to remove barriers (operational, physical and psychological) will ultimately have a huge influence on the rate and pace of adoption of cognitive and analytics solutions” explains Marco in his white paper. 

When it comes to the fear factor, “there is no doubt that there is a concern that rich insightful analytics will show opportunities that imply the practitioners have historically failed in their jobs.

“There is also no doubt that there is fear that cognitive solutions could replace some of the activities currently carried out by practitioners.”

One factor that causes this fear is the “poor messaging on why you want to commit these tools, and what the desired outcome is which creates fear and resistance, to adoption and change.”

How can organisations manage their employees fear to ensure the adoption of cognitive solutions isn’t impeded?

Stop talking about head count!

When procurement professionals look at something that brings new information and insights that haven’t been available before, it leads them to question a number of things:

  • Is it a challenge to what I’ve done before?
  • Is it a challenge to the accuracy of what I’ve done before?

and, ultimately:

  • Is this technology going to make what I do now redundant?

“Fear is something that we see. CPOs are constantly talking about robotics, automation, right?”

“And very often, I hear head count being brought into the discussion, Head count reduction being brought into the same discussion with cognitive analytics, and whilst that might be the eventual outcome, I think it’s a dangerous way to enter into the dialogue”

“If that is the primary driver, to reduce head count in the organisation, I find that very often that’s reflected in your metrics. It’s reflected in the behaviours. And in turn, it’s reflected in poor adoption, and resistance by practitioners.”

“You’re creating that fear of job security. And invariably, I find practitioners push back, and they’ll find they spend their time trying to justify why a tool won’t work for them.”

“To overcome this you need the right methods, but secondly, and very importantly, I think you need to provide practitioners with the road map on how to change, and sharpen their skills in this changing environment.”

Educate your teams

Procurement professionals need to have an understanding of the strategy and impacts new solutions will have.

You need to be able “to show the practitioners how the change benefits them, not just the enterprise” Marco explains.

“And this sounds really basic, but it is so important. [You need to be able to show them]  I’m going to help you spend less time on those lower value, tedious, time-consuming tasks, allowing you to focus on the higher value activities.  Most professional practitioners that I know, prefer to spend their time on those higher valued tasks -negotiating with suppliers, rather than crunching numbers”

That’s the first thing. But the second thing  is, providing them education and training, on this new data skill set. I think you very quickly erode that resistance. They see a path for them, within the enterprise, within the organisation, but you’ve given them a marketable skill, which in turn removes resistance and fear.

“I’m not talking here about turning practitioners into data scientists. I’m talking about arming them with knowledge about how they impact data, teaching them the art of the possible, with regards to how technology can help them to be more effective consumers of that data, and insights.”

Striving to conduct a cognitive symphony but in need of some expert guidance? Our podcast series runs throughout this week and will have your orchestrating cognitive success in no time! Register here.

2017 Rewind- The Impact Of Blockchain On Procurement

As part of our 2017 Procurious rewind, we’re taking a look at the top blogs of the year. Blockchain was one of the hottest topics on the site this year. It’s time to brush up on your knowledge and understanding right here, right now! 

Blockchain technology will not only impact procurement and procurement professionals but is expected to be more pervasive in our business and personal lives than the internet itself. To put the enormity of impact on procurement and procurement professionals in perspective picture yourself twenty years ago trying to explain how the Internet is going to change things. Where would you even begin?

Like the Internet the Blockchain is a network. In the case of Blockchain comprised of decentralized “ ledgers”, many are referring to it as Internet 2 or more commonly the Internet of Value or Internet of Trust.

The benefits

The most important thing to understand is that Blockchain addresses many of the most critical problems we’ve encountered doing business on the internet.

1)  Security: Practically speaking the Blockchain is unhackable.

2)  Transactions are verified by network participants (consensus), eliminating the need for third-party intermediaries’ (banks) costly, time-consuming and predominantly manual settlement processes. In addition to slowing down our supply chains banks alone have estimated these processes are costing them more than $20 billion annually.

3)  Eliminating high transaction processing costs for high volume/low margin retailers who accept credit cards could significantly add to their bottom line.

4)  Once transactions are verified they are secure and immutable. (unchangeable)

5)  The immutability of the Blockchain means that supply chain provenance can be assured. This is particularly important for conflict minerals, pharmaceuticals, food and many other supply categories where provable chain of custody is critical.

6)  Payments can be made directly from buying entity to selling entity “ledgers” by-passing intermediaries (banks, brokerage, clearing houses, title companies, etc.)

7)  Payments can be automatically triggered based on the codified terms of “ Smart Contracts” stored in transaction blocks.

8)  Blockchain capabilities will change, if not eliminate the role of accounts payable and accounts receivable departments.

9)  Blockchain enables the concept of micro-units and micro-payments. It is estimated that approximately one -third of the world’s economic opportunity exists for products and services such as energy or digital rights where backend settlement costs currently constrain those markets.

10) It is also estimated that 25 per cent of the global population does not participate in the global economy because they have no bank accounts and/or credit cards. Without these tools they cannot participate in the Internet economy. The primary reason they do not have these economic tools is because they cannot prove their identities. Immutability of the Blockchain can enable these people.

What do I need to understand?

The capabilities I’ve outlined just scratch the surface on how Blockchain impact all of us. Aside from the aforementioned, as a procurement professional are several important things to understand.

1)  Blockchain is a much wider and more pervasive concept than Advanced Cognitive Systems, Big Data, Predictive Analytics, Robotics, 3-D Printing or even the Internet of Things. In fact these technologies will become infinitely more practical and secure because of Blockchain.

2)  Do not think of Blockchain and BitCoin, FinTech or Crypto Currencies as synonymous. They are not.

3)  Do not think that it will take 20 years to mature and be mainstream. The estimate is 5-7 years for full maturity.

4)  Do not assess progress by the US/Euro FinTech Community. While they were the first to recognise Blockchain’s inherent value and arguably have the most to gain by adopting it, they also have the biggest hurdles to overcome and could very well be last to cross the finish line.

5)  Don’t make the mistake of waiting to become knowledgeable about Blockchain; it is the most highly disruptive technology we’ve seen since the Internet and it won’t wait until you are ready for it.

Michael Shaw is CPO and Executive Board Member of Sourcing and Procurement Executives (ACSPE) and Chief Information Officer at Blockchain Executive.  This article was originally published on LinkedIn

How To Convince Hostile Stakeholders To Adopt New Technology

Simona Pop’s Big Idea provides a recipe for convincing even the most unwilling departmental heads to embrace new technology.

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

Deciding to adopt a new technology has historically been a pain in the ass. An expensive, dull, prolonged pain nobody wants to deal with. The problem I have is that those adjectives belong to OLD tech. Putting nimble new technology in the same pile with 90s software is like mixing vodka with milk. It may have worked for the Mad Men of the 50s but it is an unnatural association. (I watched Mad Men until the 5th series then lost interest, by the way.)

Here’s the gist of it: people need to be comfortable with the cost and potential risk of adopting new technology. How do you make them comfortable? By providing “proof of concept” and calculating these costs and potential risks. One simple guideline is the 10X rule: if you can expect a return of 10 times your investment, then it’s worth it.

However, with technology – especially if it spans across different departments – you must take into account that your gains will come from any of several improvements, or a combination of improvements:

  • Cost reduction
  • Efficiency improvement
  • Fraud prevention
  • Admin processing speed
  • Mobilising the workforce
  • Product/service enhancement
  • Competitive environment

Your gains will be the sum total of all factors. If adopting a new technology provides an improvement in one factor but it’s at the expense of another factor, it may not be worth adopting. This tends to limit everything to a financial view though. A far better formula includes non-financial factors, some of which will outweigh the financial ones. You need to also remember that some investments in new technology can require at least a year to show their true value.

Managing risk should also be incorporated into your analysis, but remember that you take a risk whether you adopt a new technology or not. The advantages a new technology provides may not be obvious – until a competitor adopts that technology and makes your competitive disadvantage clear. In that case, adopting a new technology reactively will put you on the back foot. Playing catch-up is never a good business move!

Risk Reduction Recipe

Let’s call it – new tech is the unknown. The unknown is typically scary to humans. And since I am all about the H2H in business, working to remove that fear is key to successful tech adoption.

One sure way to reduce the risk is to go for a taster: a proof-of-concept implementation. Starting small & early allows you to identify problems early when they are far easier and less expensive to correct. It also makes it easy to start over if the proverbial hits the fan.

When rolling out new technology across multiple departments, you’re guaranteed to encounter a mixed bag of responses. From enthusiastic stakeholders who “get it” straight away, to nervous – and sometimes downright hostile – departmental heads who are terrified of change, you’re going to have to manage them all.

Here’s the secret – rather than trying to beat hostile stakeholders into submission with the force of your arguments, ask the willing departments to do the job for you. Carry out a proof of concept with your supporters so you have the evidence required to overcome any objection, and go back to the risk-averse stakeholders with your advocates at your side.

Also keep in mind that both organisational and process changes will be needed when bringing in tech. Procedural changes are very common. The reason why you are looking at that tech is typically to improve current processes you have found lacking. You must be aware that tech is here to improve NOT replicate. Trying to fit clunky processes on efficient technology is not only frustrating but a complete waste of time and resource. Changes to previous processes will need to happen and you will have to expect some resistance to those changes. Again, human nature.

The mark of good technology for me is its accessibility and great user experience across the board (from top to bottom, from left to right). Because you are effecting change (and that’s difficult enough), the very last thing you need is that change to come in the form of clunky, pain in the ass – MS-DOS looking software.

In my quest to empower people through tech, one problem I come across a lot is: “How much resource do I need from our side because we really cannot spare anyone?” This question is proof of a bad reflex left over from dealing with old tech. The type of tech that takes a year just to implement, another year to train for and another to realise it’s not right for you anyway even though it is costing you serious cash. The type of tech that is SO unlike what you know and love in your personal life, it might as well be alien. A vintage alien at that.

Clear communication will help overcome the organisational and process challenges. When people get that you are in fact trying to empower them to work better and easier, they will want to be part of that higher drive.

As Richard Branson says: “Screw it, let’s do it!” Move quickly, find out what works and what doesn’t. Stalling, procrastinating of burying your head in the sand are NOT ways to avoid a pain in the ass.

This article was first published on InstaSupply.

Stay tuned for more Big Ideas from Simona Pop as we lead up to the Big Ideas Summit 2017!

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 now!

Food, Glorious Factory Food! – Challenging the Tech Status Quo

If procurement continues to accept the technological status quo as some kind of given, we’ll continue to be fed the same poor diet. Paul Blake explains why it’s time to challenge the hard-and-fast rules we’ve adopted for so long without question. 

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

Have you ever wondered why food made in factories is so awful?

Please don’t assume this is going to be a rant about organic carrots and the danger of the shop-bought cake. Let me reassure you that it’s on the contrary.

There’s nothing quite like a home-cooked meal 

Modern living and demands on personal time mean that conveniently available, ready-to-eat food is a fact of everyday life. Everything from jam to lasagne is made in factories, often with minimal human interaction. This can be a very good thing in many ways.

So, if we accept that industrially manufactured food is a thing, one question still remains. Why is it just not as good as the homemade or handmade equivalent? Again, we should allow for the dependency on precisely whose hands are involved. But, all things being equal, a dish made by a competent cook, from scratch will out-score a factory-made one.

At first glance, it might seem obvious. Factory products resource lower cost raw ingredients, preservatives and flavourings for longer shelf-life. No wonder your canned chilli ain’t a patch on your own efforts. This is basic profit-driven economics. And, it’s true, you get what you pay for.

But there is another, more subtle reason, that factory food doesn’t quite hit the mark. A reason that is in no way immediately apparent. And it has to do with our relationship with technology.

Robots that POUR!

For a dish to be easily manufactured in a factory, in large quantities, on a production line, it is crucial that the components, from raw ingredients to part finished elements, are able to be pumped.

How do you get the meat sauce for your lasagne from its cooking vat to the line where it’s assembled? The sauce, the pasta and the béchamel must be sent through a pipe, and often for a considerable distance. The pumping of certain traditional ingredients, such as butter, is impossible. As such, the food industry has had to identify, develop and sometimes engineer alternatives.

The infrastructure, the routing process has had such limitations that it has defined the very nature of the outcomes that are possible. But, as the presenters of the great BBC technology show of the 70s and 80s, Tomorrow’s World, used to say “that is, until now!”

The food factory of the future will be populated, not by machines that pump – but by robots that POUR. And with that simple change, a whole new world of possibilities opens up.

By analysing how a chef systematically puts a dish together, and replicating that, with industrial upscaling, into a robotic process – and eradicating the notion that the conventional wisdom of “pumpability” was some kind of hard-and-fast rule. This new paradigm in food production could forgo the need for chemically-altered shortening agents. You know those ones that taste terrible (requiring added salt as a mask), have dubious health impacts but which, can  at least,  be pumped along a pipe.

Limitations in procurement

In business, and without doubt in the procurement business, we have precisely that same relationship with the technology available to us. We’ve been limited in the quality of the results we can produce because of how the tools and technologies we use are built.

Until recently, the software used in procurement has restricted the procurement professional to working in ways determined by how the software was written, and not by what is best for the outcome. This means procurement has become attenuated to these limitations and now accepts them as hard-and-fast rules.

A good example of this is the notion of “best of breed”.  This uses the most sophisticated software tool available for each step in the source to pay process. We’re indoctrinated to see lists of features and functions as the sole measure of suitability of software.

Dividing up the entire spend management process from strategy planning to invoice payment into a set of silos, and then equipping each step with the best tool for that task might at first seem to be a sound approach.  But this is only if you look at the steps in isolation. That’s just the same as looking at each ingredient in your recipe and only considering whether you can pump it around your factory.

How can tech make procurement processes more palatable?

In procurement, the separation of sourcing from contract into entirely different systems does nothing to promote positive outcomes and the isolated software components actively compound the difficulty of realizing savings and value.

However, technologies are emerging that are permitting us to look at the entire source to pay process as a single business requirement.  This allows us to consider how the various “ingredients” interact and work with each other to create the optimum result.

In the future, we will no longer be restricted to working the way the software dictates. Whilst a good part of the process may be run automatically, we will get to determine the ideal set of inputs and outputs to suit us.

The emergence of AI founded on big data, mobile, always-on connectivity and, crucially, the unification of strategic procurement and day-to-day purchasing into a single operational environment are changing the effectiveness of the procurement operation.

Challenging the status quo

By accepting the technological status quo as some kind of given, we will only continue to be fed the same poor diet.

Returning to the analogy, we don’t have to reject the notion of manufactured food entirely. Not if we can see that technology can actually make it better, possibly even better than we can do ourselves. There’s a thought!

The same applies completely to the idea of the automated supply chain. It needn’t (and won’t) be the death of Procurement. The smart use of new technology will actually give our industry new lease of life. As long as we stop adhering to the outdated technology rule book.

There is another way. The time is now.

Paul Blake is Senior Manager, Technology Product Marketing at GEP Worldwide. He’ll be speaking at the 2017 Big Ideas Summit next week. Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate here.

How To Inspire Creativity With The Three Fs!

To achieve creative cultures  within our organisations and inspire creativity in individuals, we need to Fund, Foster and Fill!

Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock.com

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

James Bannerman, a creative change agent and author of Non-Fiction best-seller Genius! firmly believes that everyone has the capacity to be creative and innovative. He’ll be speaking at the Big Ideas Summit 2017 in London on 23rd February but we’ve picked his brains ahead of the event to find out his top tips for inspiring creativity and his plans for the future..

What is a creative change agent?

A creative change agent is essentially a ‘lateral thinking’ specialist. It’s someone who combines creativity with psychology to help businesses innovate and perform more effectively in a rapidly-changing world.

What’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

When I was younger I was a laid-back song-writer and did not fully appreciate how important it is, in business and life, to ‘make your own sunshine’. Over the years, however, and especially  when I wrote my books Genius! and Business Genius! I came to realise that books don’t write themselves; they ended up taking me far longer to write than I ever imagined, and involved far more hard work than I ever envisaged. However, fortunately the hard work paid-off – because they ended-up becoming best-sellers in the UK and then being translated into multiple languages from Chinese to Japanese, and Italian to Thai – and that taught me that ideas alone are not what makes the difference; it’s turning those ideas into reality that makes the difference.

What are your three top tips for inspiring creativity in organisations?

My three top tips for inspiring creativity in organisations would be what I call The 3 Fs: Fund, Foster, Fill.

Fund (i.e. invest in) ‘Creative Thinking’ training

Upskill people by teaching them ‘how’ to be more creative. Evidence suggests, for example, that virtually all of us were incredibly creative up until the age of about 5, but then this natural creativity was ‘schooled’ out of us by the double whammy of criticism and conformity. Effective ‘Creativity Thinking’ training can help to redress this situation by inspiring people to re-become creative.

Foster an atmosphere of Psychological Safety

Einstein once said that ‘a person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.’ With this in mind, if an organisation genuinely wants to inspire creativity, it needs to provide employees with enough ‘wriggle room’ to make the occasional ‘excusable’ mistake – rather than ‘inexcusable’ mistake (which is a very different matter).

Fill the well 

I’ve long believed that in order to inspire others we need to feel inspired ourselves. Psychologists refer to this as ‘mood contagion’. So, if an organisation wants to inspire creativity, it needs to keep ‘Filling the Well’ (as the author Sheila Davis describes it) by encouraging people to branch out and watch new films, read interesting books, travel to different places etc… After all, bang in the middle of the word ‘Innovation’ we find the word ‘Nova’ – which meant ‘new’ in Roman times – so a constant inpouring of fresh stimulus is likely to inspire a culture that goes beyond ‘what is’ to explore ‘what could be’.  

You’ve composed hit pop songs, written best-selling books and work as an innovation consultant. What’s next?

I’m currently working on a wide range of projects – linked to ‘Lateral Thinking’ in business and academia. However, longer-term, I’d love to take my Business Genius and ‘Lateral Thinking’ work to whole new level, and develop Lateral Thinking TV, movies, and animations etc…

How do latest technology developments influence the way you consult with organisations and drive innovation?

To be honest, although technology developments have influenced the way I consult with organisations and drive innovation – eg. by making it far easier for me to communicate with clients around the world without always having to ‘be there’ in person – technology itself does not influence me as much as it helps other innovation consultants I know.  I tend to focus more on ‘innovativeness’ than ‘innovation.’ In other words, I focus more on the people-side of innovation – the psychology side.

It’s easy to think that our modern age is infinitely more ‘innovative’ than any other with its amazing advances in technology. Without a doubt the ‘pace’ of change does keep getting faster and faster, which academics label ‘accelerated evolution.’ However, just look at the Edwardian Age. Within ten years along came the Car, the Plane, the Radio and the TV. Each one of them radically transformed the world we live in, far more than the latest XI78 or X189, that will soon end up somewhere in a design museum like the DVD or the first Blackberry.

I work with the ESA,  European Space Agency, who are putting 3-D printers on Space Stations. In fact, there are even 3-D printers now that can make 3-D printers ! We must not lose sight, however, of how technology is driven by ‘people’, and inspired by ‘people’.  The human factors that make innovation happen can also ‘stop’ innovation from happening if they are not addressed and resolved.

Do you ever get tired of thinking up ideas?

Yes and no. I personally get a buzz from ‘divergent thinking’ – i.e. thinking outwards towards multiple possibilities – more than ‘convergent thinking’ – i.e. analysing and dissecting data.

However, when I’m working with groups on Idea Generation, I fully appreciate that ‘thinking up ideas’ can be deceptively tiring for some people. Especially those who have a strong preference for sequence and structure.

Tony Buzan,  the inventor of mind-maps, is a great inspiration of mine. I spoke with him a few years ago and  was struck by how well he manages to fuse the two. Mind-maps, for example, can energise people by stimulating ‘radiant thinking’. They also make it easier for them to think up new ideas, yet at the same its ‘systematic’ approach can also give people a flexible structure to prevent them feeling overwhelmed and swamped by imaginative solutions.

It’s important to remember that everybody has an imagination. We continually ‘think up ideas’ whether we see ourselves as creative or not. In fact, one of the biggest buzzes I get in business is helping people to realise that they are a lot more creative than they give themselves credit for…

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 in London. 

The Coming Backlash Against Artificial Intelligence and How to Handle It

How can organisations use AI’s potential to augment, not abolish jobs?

This article first appeared on Manoj Saxena’s LinkedIn profile. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly moving from a mesmeric technology to a powerful teammate and a foundation for enterprise and consumer decision making.

However, AI is a young field full of amazing potential. It’s mystery and lack of understanding is also allowing for hype to grow unchecked. Unrealistic claims by advertising agencies of large technology companies of an “AI nirvana” and portrayals by Hollywood movie producers of an “AI apocalypse” are creating a hype machine that is unparalleled in recent history. The reality is somewhere in between these two extreme scenarios.

Every transformative tool that people have created – from the steam engine to the microprocessor – augment human capabilities and enable people to dream bigger and do more. It also creates massive job dislocation and AI will be no different. Except this time around it will impact not just the blue collar jobs but also white collar jobs such as this Japanese Insurance company replacing insurance workers with AI. 

Lost within all of this hype and fear is perhaps the greatest benefit I see as an entrepreneur, a senior technology company executive, and an investor – the potential for AI to do good for business and for society.

Done right, AI has a massive potential to make our business and our society much more efficient in terms of how we use our scarce natural resources and make a living. Research from Accenture estimates that artificial intelligence could double annual economic growth rates of many developed countries by 2035, transforming work, and foster a new relationship between humans and machines.

Machine intelligence, which is a sub-set of AI, will power and create efficient, real-time adaptive businesses. A “Cognitive Business” that makes sense of all available data and rapidly transforms how it engages it customers at the edge and deploys self-learning, self-assuring business processes at the core.

It will greatly help businesses that are drowning today in Big Data analytics and machine learning science projects but are starving for actionable insights and agility. Despite significant investments in customer big data, business intelligence, machine learning, and cognitive computing, these businesses are struggling with three problems:

  1. Too much data and too little insight
  2. Poor linkage between insights discovery and business action
  3. Scarce learnings from actions taken

Going forward these businesses will deploy AI powered cognitive cloud platforms to augment every user experience and business process. These Augmented Intelligence platforms will pair humans and machines so they can achieve something new and exponentially valuable together: intelligent user engagement and business processes that get smarter and more useful with time.

By emulating human cognitive abilities in software such as memory and sequencing, perception, anticipation, problem solving, and decision making, Augmented Intelligence Platforms will help make sense from messy, disparate first and third party data. They will then use the hidden meaning within all data to engage a human being by providing the right advice, at the right time, with the right evidence across any contact point.

These new class of technologies will create a new range of “new collar jobs” to design, model, build, test and manage these systems – much like the Internet and the world wide web created a new class of jobs in the late 1990s.

Keen to learn more about cognitive technology and the impact it will have on procurement? Join our FREE Webinar, Man & Machine, on the 8th February. 

The Fear of Technology in Hospitality

Legacy systems and poor past user experiences are creating a fear around technology in the hospitality industry.

Brian A Jackson/Shutterstock.com

“I think it’s difficult for technology to get to the top of the list of things to do next” said Jane Pendlebury, CEO of HOSPA, in our recent roundtable on the topic of technology in hospitality. And with that, she nailed what I had been dealing with ever since InstaSupply started.

There is always something more pressing that needs attention before looking at a tech solution. Even if that tech solution will save you, or make you the money to pay for that other pressing something.

There’s this fear of the unknown that’s keeping a lot of hospitality businesses stuck in the past and relying on tools and systems that for a lot of other industries became obsolete years ago.

Hospitality Lacking Information

Lack of information and education is a key factor here. Peter Hancock, CEO of Pride of Britain Hotels, rightly pointed out that most people involved in the running of a hospitality business aren’t necessarily the “tech-iest” of individuals.

Experience with older systems and their tendency to create rather than solve problems has left a bitter taste in a lot of mouths. Couple that with expensive upgrades that weren’t made clear at the start of the contract and we have an added layer of mistrust.

The result of all this is an industry that’s still heavily reliant on paper, lacking transparency on spending and full of overworked staff. Front of house staff not only have to ensure their guests enjoy a great experience but in many cases handle a lot of finance and procurement tasks that are absolutely outside their job description.

Lightening the Workload

Technology is created to help lighten the workload and improve productivity, not to take away jobs or swindle businesses out of money because they don’t understand what it does.

Just as a washing machine will handle a lot more clothes and get them done a lot better and a lot quicker than you would by hand, so too will the right technology remove manual data entry, managing 145,789 spreadsheets and let you know exactly what you are spending and on what in real time.

Watch our full discussion on the fear of tech here:

InstaSupply is all about working smarter and simplifying business through technology.

InstaTalks are about bringing great minds together and uncovering where the fear of tech comes from when it comes to business operations.

Finding out what the pain points are and then educating people in plain language. No jargon, no small print. It’s time to understand that technology is a revenue generator, not a budget sinkhole.