2018 and the ‘Customer Trust Economy’: Building blockchain in to your business strategy

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A customer’s relationship with a brand is borne from the sum of the breadth of the rational and emotional touches as they wind their way along a journey with a business. Build strong confidence and trust through the customer’s journey explicitly or subconsciously, with your product, service or proposition, and you hit one of the highest notes of emotional engagement, against which higher rates of retention (or churn-reduction), loyalty and advocacy follow.

One relatively new technology, Blockchain, the foundation of which was conceptualised in the early 1990s and then developed after the financial crash of 2008 to facilitate an alternative de-centralised, accessible, alternative financial network. It is best known for virtual crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin, and has the credentials to strengthen the fundamental trust between businesses and customers across a multitude of industry sectors that use financial transactions, contracts, and trading along a number of steps in a supply chain.

Blockchain technology secures a record of step-by-step digital transactions, using an encrypted ledger, from the original creator through various partners / intermediaries / channels / logistics service providers, to the end customer. Throughout this chain the individual blocks of information are updated at every step and saved as an uneditable encrypted digital record, which provides any end-recipient with ultimate trust in the authenticity of what they have received. A list of indelible digital ink signatures if you like!

Ethereum is one of the platforms on which sector-relevant Blockchain protocols are being developed. Start-ups, and existing businesses within industry verticals, which have a number of structured transactions in their supply chain, can research and select the protocol, and design the set of commercial usage rules, which will best fit-with and strengthen their transaction journey and customer trust.

2018 is the year when larger country Governments and Regulators will understand and accept that Blockchain is a long-term technology enhancement for the digital economy, and invest in the expertise and resources to further legitimise such an important global trading platform.

Such legitimacy will reinforce the parallel momentum that has already captured the imagination of the innovators and early-adopters of Blockchain and those who have made investments in the technology, both financially and in terms of innovation, around the world. With such momentum and confidence comes the shift of Blockchain across the chasm to the larger early majority stage of the diffusion cycle, with the requisite sector case-studies, signalling a more mature phase of its evolution as a technology and a further fillip to a more frictionless global digital economy.

Blockchain is a rapidly maturing financial transaction, contract confirmation and trading technology, which can also play a strong role in enhancing customer trust and emotional engagement. All of which strengthens the financial results of the adopting business, and boosts the wider customer trust economy.

 

Useful web links:

https://www.blockchain.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptocurrency

http://uk.businessinsider.com/blockchain-cryptocurrency-regulations-us-global-2017-10

https://bitcoin.org/en/

https://www.ethereum.org/

https://medium.com/blockchannel/understanding-the-ethereum-ico-token-hype-429481278f45

https://ondigitalmarketing.com/learn/odm/foundations/5-customer-segments-technology-adoption/

https://www.coindesk.com/information/what-is-a-distributed-ledger/

https://www.slideshare.net/andrekearns/crossing-the-chasm-2521385

https://techcrunch.com/2016/04/24/the-future-is-the-trust-economy/

Five reasons marketers must embrace contextual marketing

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Contextual marketing is one of the most disruptive forces to explode into the marketing discipline since the mantra of all marketers – price, product, placement and promotion – came into being. In fact, says Harvard Business Review, it is set to throw the ‘Four Ps’ approach ‘into constant flux’.  It’s a technique that takes user information from a variety of sources – web browsing or online location check-in for example – and uses it to deliver precise, relevant, tailored content, to the right people, at the right time.

Today’s marketers may well be digital-savvy analytics experts, but contextual marketing adds an entirely new dimension to customer engagement. Marketers, avoid this at your peril. Here’s why it’s more important, and more relevant, than ever:

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  1. It fits perfectly with a device-driven market and a shift in customer lifestyles

1.3 billion smartphones were shipped in 2014, and we’re not just using them for calls: research1 shows we’re spending more time accessing the Internet using smartphones than via our PCs. There’s no doubt that smartphones and other mobile devices are enabling contextual marketing. The more time we spend connected to the internet through our devices, the more information we’re sharing. Along with the rise in devices, we’re seeing a less community-focused society, now geared towards individual status and achievements. Contextual marketing is a perfect fit: mass marketing, irrelevant and untargeted, has no place in the marketing industry, and it seems even more intrusive when sent to our devices which are personal to us. Conversely, tightly targeted marketing messages, sent to individuals at the right time, in the right place – retrieved from whatever device we want – can be extraordinarily successful, driving customer retention, creating new sales and adding depth to our omnichannel world.

 2. It empowers customers and consumers

Contextual marketing puts customers and consumers firmly in the driving seat. Firstly, because they can control their device settings to limit advertising, or choose to opt-in to allowing location-based services on smartphones. And opt-in, they do: research2 has found that 74% of consumers with smartphones choose to use location-based services. Note the word ‘choose’:  businesses empower consumers with choice, as they choose to use these services due to their relevancy at that point in time. Secondly, because consumers are freed from restrictive, expiry-date driven marketing.  No-one is sending them to a website, or making them wait until the weekend for an online sale. Contextual marketing suits the desire for instant gratification: those companies which respond instantly to consumer demand are rewarded, and pushing content to the customer at exactly the right time is a great way of doing this.  And thirdly, because, by sending precise and accurate messages directly to consumers, firms are removing the need for them to sift through the marketing clamour to get to what they really want, freeing them from the noise generated by the Internet.

  1. It fits with the economic climate

Post-austerity, consumers love a bargain – more so now than ever. Armies of thrifty consumers refuse to buy anything online until they’ve found a coupon to reduce the cost or used a comparison App to secure the best deal. Contextual marketing fits here perfectly, with hyper-targeted messages sent at exactly the right stage of the buying cycle, with offers appropriate to the customer. It’s cost-effective to deliver, and it generates revenue. But don’t worry, it isn’t quite sounding the death-toll for the billboard just yet: yes, expensive, one-size-fits-all marketing might seem crass and expensive by comparison, but clever above-the-line advertising techniques still have their place. Digital marketing teams can integrate above-the-line within a contextual marketing campaign, with cameras embedded in smart interactive billboards to record views, and send reactive messages accordingly.

  1. It uses location intelligence

Contextual marketing uses data drawn from different sources to create a precise buyer profile and analysis of buyer behaviour. Location intelligence technology is critical to this, as it enables place and position to be worked into the marketing strategy. There is more location intelligence available to us than ever before – points of interest, in-building maps, building footprints. Location data adds value to a customer relationship, and more and more marketers are boosting their success rates by incorporating it into their marketing strategy.

No longer about the marketing ‘four Ps’, location-based intelligence has instead facilitated the ‘four Rs’:

  • Relevance
  • Response
  • Revenue
  • Results

Leveraging location intelligence adds a new dimension to marketing. It’s the reason contextual marketing came out of the marketing departments and into reality.

  1. It works

Whilst contextual marketing is still in its infancy, businesses sharing their success rates are not hard to come by. Take the Western European mobile phone operator, which generated 64% year-on-year revenue growth and improved customer satisfaction from contextual continuous engagement. Response rates and conversion rates are from five to twenty times higher than the results from conventional online advertising, according to Nathan Hull in The Guide to Internet Marketing.

It’s cost-effective: you’re not shouting with a megaphone hoping someone will respond, but sending a valid and personal message, generating a one-to-one relationship. And it needn’t be complex: now, companies such as SAP are offering Contextual Marketing platforms, so you can benefit from the dynamic nature of contextual marketing and respond in real-time, with accurate content, reaching the consumer at the exact point of need.

It permits businesses to foster a two-way instantaneous dialogue with customers, by using such techniques, combined with devices and technology, in order to more adeptly adjust on a regular basis. This can affect Net Performer Scores and other ways by which a customer’s experience will be enhanced.

With contextual marketing, the physical and digital worlds fuse to boost results and deliver the ultimate in smart marketing. It’s a game-changer – and one that will create impact for your organisation.

1 Nielsen,  Digital Consumer Report 2014

2 Pew Research Internet Project 2013

Five ways to improve your brand’s wellbeing

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Your brand is the heart and soul of your organisation. It needs not just to represent your business visually but must create interest, attract, engage, reflect, empathise, empower and excite. It must tell a story, reflect your heritage, create lasting impact, and position your business for the future. Brands need to be refreshed, to evolve and stay relevant. It follows, then, that an outdated brand can have the reverse effect, confusing and alienating audiences, and negatively influencing a company’s performance.

In commerce, we are in a constant cycle of reviewing insights, dedicating time to learnings, to help us plan successfully. In our personal lives, it’s much the same, especially early in the year, as we offset our indulgences with new exercise programmes and commitments to wellness: more stretches, less stress, more meditation, less mediation.   The Five Ways to Wellbeing are actions devised by NEF, the New Economics Foundation, for individuals to adopt in everyday life. They are:

  • Connect
  • Be active
  • Take notice
  • Keep learning
  • Give

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They’ve been used by organisations, schools and communities across the UK to drive people to improve their wellbeing. I think they provide the perfect framework for businesses refreshing their identity.  Brands can adopt these actions to ensure there is a place for them in the future, and here’s where they can start:

  • Connect – with customers, with staff, with communities, both digital and physical; share your brand vision and strategy as well as your brand identity
  • Be active – as a brand, there must be no resting on laurels; be a challenger brand, be dynamic, confident, agile, and change when you need to
  • Take notice –make sure your brand stays relevant; stop, look and listen to your customers, your competitors and their products, your employees and their chosen communications channels and platforms, your perception in the market; take time to understand them
  • Keep learning – from your customers, staff, from competitive brands, from industry experts, from digital influencers – never stop learning
  • Give –share your brand’s expertise and experience, give inspiration and time, be approachable, give some thought to your brand’s position and its place in the future; and create a strong CSR policy, not just because it improves the perception of your brand but because commerce has the power to make a difference

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Here at Pitney Bowes, we’ve undergone a fantastic, energetic brand transformation. In our 95 year history, we had only ever had two logos, and our last brand refresh was in 1971. Having announced the beginnings of a transformation programme two years ago, we recently announced a major programme centred around our changing brand. On the outside, there’s a unique, vibrant new logo, a new website and an entire new look and feel; on the inside, a new ethos, a change in culture, and a fresh digital direction.  And at the heart? People, technology and a commitment to the wellbeing of the business and brand.

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pb Brand Strategy, and impact on Culture.

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Personally, today is an exciting time to be a Marketing and Communications Leader. A company with a clear brand strategy possesses a major ingredient for success, as it describes the essence of what it stands for and what it does. The planning and launch of a Brand is a catalyst for the development of the culture of the organization in order to drive greater performance in business results, stimulate heightened innovation, creativity and passion, to deliver customer relevance and experience. It is a great pleasure and privilege to be involved in launching such a new brand at Pitney Bowes ‘pb’.

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The pb brand strategy and identity have been carefully prepared to ripple-out its character and capability in the rapidly evolving world of physical and digital commerce. It breathes further vigour and energy in to the pb business, by taking from a proud legacy, stretching back nearly 100 years, and building for an exciting digital future.

The proud pb legacy started with Arthur Pitney developing the postage meter in the United States, with the breakthrough technology to track the ascending postage with descending value on the meter. Arthur Pitney partnered with Walter Bowes, who focused on lobbying the US Government to pass legislation for such technology to come in to service and revolutionize Postal distribution. This was the first example of pb Precision and Accuracy with Impact.

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pb now has a portfolio of physical and digital solutions that can be used in concert to help customers deliver commerce to their own customers. These include: Customer Information Management, Location Intelligence, Customer Engagement, Shipping and Mailing and Global Ecommerce. www.pb.com

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“ (at pb) We deliver accuracy and precision across the connected and borderless world of commerce to help our clients create meaningful impact.”

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The leadership and teamwork across the pb business, working together to deliver the new identity, messages and assets, is testament to the passion and drive across the organization. I am at the pb Henley site today to launch the brand, and celebrate with colleagues. Henley will be one of around 40 pb sites where celebrations take place as the sun moves around the world.

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The pb Culture will shape the next chapter of a proud business journey. The introduction of the new pb brand today is the first new chapter of that journey.

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PB Digital Commerce Solutions Software. Why wouldn’t You? for business performance!

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Last week I attended the Pitney Bowes Digital Commerce Partner Event at the Grand Hotel Huis Ter Duin, Noordwijk, Netherlands, and had the pleasure in meeting delegates, some of whom had been working with Pitney Bowes for 20 or 30 years.

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The atmosphere surrounding such a Partner event took me back to my earlier days in the technology industry, and working with numerous channel partners, which permits greater reach and choice for end-user customers. The Partners display such dedication, professionalism and loyalty, which needs particular acknowledgement. Indeed an awards dinner on the Wednesday evening reflected their tenure, along with accolades for more recent performance.

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I also had the opportunity to present the Pitney Bowes brand story and journey to delegates, in terms of what the marque ‘is’ and what it ‘does’. Such a story requires telling, as Pitney Bowes has a rich legacy of helping customers / clients with their ‘commerce’ through constant innovation since the compaby’s inception by Arthur Pitney and Walter Bowes in Stamford, Connecticut nearly 100 years ago in 1920. The latest chapter of innovation and supporting client-commerce relates to crucial Pitney Bowes Digital Commerce software categories of: Customer Information Management (CIM); Location Intelligence (LI); and Customer Engagement (CE). I had the good fortune to sit through CIM and CE demos that illustrated how a company may harness Spectrum (CIM solution) to achieve clarity in their exceptionally valuable, yet disperate, customer data, and then target the right customer with the right message and offer using Portrait (CE solution). LI, with software such as MapInfo, can augment such targeting with greater relevance based on a user’s geographic location, movements or reference points.

http://www.pitneybowes.com/us/customer-information-management-software.html

http://www.pitneybowes.com/us/location-intelligence-software.html

http://www.pitneybowes.com/us/customer-engagement-software.html

My reaction as a Marketing / Commercial Professional is ‘why wouldn’t you??’ invest in such a  brand and technology solutions, which would provide a more focused customer experience across a business, with a correlated business results and competitive advantage.

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GoogleGlass Social Acceptance – Style, Etiquette and Compelling Services

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I worked on an HP Labs Market Trial in 1998 whilst based at the HP Bristol site, as I was keen to be involved in some cutting-edge innovations. The Market Trial was entitled ‘Casual Capture’ and involved carrying a Digital Camera with me and ‘capturing’ photos that I liked – such as a Sunrise at Heathrow for an early flight, a powerpoint slide displayed during a meeting or simply people I met.

In 1998 the Selfie and ubiquitous uploading of digital photos with Smartphones was not de rigueur! It has taken 16 years, including a new generation, for it to become socially acceptable, wherever you may be doing and with whom you may be spending time.

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https://twitter.com/googleglass

With the launch of GoogleGlass, however, there have been examples of people snatching the devices from people’s faces in bars, if they believe that they are being filmed without their knowledge. Social acceptance for the majority hasn’t yet been reached. More recently the BBC’s Rory Cellen-Jones carried out his own social and user experiment:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-27585766

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What can be done to aid the adoption of such new breakthrough technology? Google Glass in Contact Lenses will certainly help, although this could still be deemed clandestine! A proactive mobile ‘Social Calling-Card’ to Multiple Mobile Devices, using Bluetooth or Social Media Profile, would provide the required etiquette for those who have the receptor turned-on to such filming. On the counter-side this could also be linked to Facial Recognition and a Socially ‘Turned-off status’ for those not wanting to be filmed, with their own faces automatically blanked-out. The integrated ubiquity of the technology in stylish eyewear / clothing brands, which also provide an emotional halo, will also aid its diffusion with people becoming used to it being a part of every day life. And of course if a plethora of compelling lifestyle  ‘Pull Services’ could outweigh any social discomfort (check out Ambarish Mitra, CEO, of http://www.blippar.com which offers 3D Augmented Reality technology across all devices, including GoogleGlass).

http://live.wsj.com/video/blippar-brings-image-recognition-to-google-glass/7096A144-F3DA-4623-AE7D-AF0AC340C13B.html#!7096A144-F3DA-4623-AE7D-AF0AC340C13B

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The Style and Etiquette are vital for adoption, and acceptance, by the majority..

Airbnb gets traction. Tipping-point for Marketplace.

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airbnb_800pxWidespread London Underground adverts for a brand are a sure way to generate broad awareness. Add in a newspaper article or two and the cross-media awareness builds. This is what is happening with Airbnb, the marketplace for those with and those looking for accomodation across the world. Upwardly mobile people of all cultures and walks-of-life can now find a place to stay pretty much anywhere in the world. As such a new Marketplace, in a similar way to the launch of online dating sites a few years ago, the social tipping-point has been achieved on both the Demand and Supply side. More opportunities for innovative Marketplaces to come!

https://www.airbnb.co.uk/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/jeremy-warner/10715151/Airbnb-has-been-criticised-by-hoteliers-which-means-its-a-genuine-threat.html

Human to Human. Marketing and Sales Cohesion more important than ever!

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On Linkedin recently, I read a photgraphed slide that stated ‘It’s no longer about B2C or B2B, its about H2H = Human to Human!’ I could not agree more with this statement. It converges the once estranged Consumer and B2B Marketing techniques, by focusing on what the individual person requires in order to make the right investment decisions when individuals are using devices, communications and cloud services, and evolves the narrative to keep pace with world of social media / ubiquity of information sources.

In this context a company wishing to sell a solution to an organisation must contend with three related dynamics.

1. Marketing must understand where Decision-Makers and Influencers seek information, which will be used to help inform their own decisions during the Purchase Process?

2. How does the Sales Account Manager have the requisite skills (and confidence) to understand the personal priorities of Decision-Makers / Influencers in the target organisation?

3. How are these important aspects of the purchase decision experience threaded together in order to optimise the chance of a successful selection and perhaps selection as a strategic partner?

In the book ‘The Challenger Sale’ by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, a survey of 5,000 people involved in procurement decisions established that 53% of Customer Loyalty was driven by the Purchase Experience – covering the one on one engagement through to the cross-functional contact.

20140218_172657This means that access to information, and supporting the individual to understand its impact on the business will be vital in order to provide a competitive advantage. An integrated approach such as this is no mean task, due to the heightened challenge of 1, 2 and 3 above!

What do the Sales and Marketing teams need to do?

1. Inbound Marketing (including SEO, Content-Marketing, Social Media) must be acurately planned based on regular insight analysis, based on primary and secondary research, on how information is being sought and consumed in order to best brief the Decision-Maker / Influencer team. The aim here is to use the right blend of publications, communications and media to ensure the optimum consumption of your information. A useful article is available at:

http://www.startupsmart.com.au/sales-and-marketing/sales/five-top-lead-generating-tips-for-2014/2014021811709.html

2. Sales Account Managers must be trained in order for them to be confident at being ‘Business Managers’ based on detailed knowledge of the commercial objectives, measurements and personal priorities of the matrix of Decision-Makers and Influencers across the target business. With this role they can make proactive proposals or respond to RFPs in order to position solutions that will help the business achieve such objectives, measures and other priorities. ‘The Challenger Salesperson’ is adept at such a holistic business management approach.

3. This is the hard part, which is ensuring that a mutual focus on the customer exists across the Marketing and Sales spectrum. This is achieved through shared objectives / defined accountability, a robust planning, pipeline management and training regime, and constant review and measurement to ensure the customer-focus remains and grows over time.

A more sophisticated, integrated, customer-led approach will deliver business results. Leadership and collaboration between Sales and Marketing has never been more important!

Resources:

The Challenger Sale – How to take control of the Customer Conversation, Matthew Dixon & Brent Adamson

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Challenger-Sale-Customer-Conversation/dp/0670922854/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392032524&sr=8-1&keywords=the+challenger+sale+taking+control+of+the+customer+conversation

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inbound_marketing

Andrew Ford, February 2014

Facebook future-proofs its business with WhatsApp! ‘Social Messaging gets stronger.

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My daughter had her 13th Birthday recently, which entailed me transporting her and a couple of her friends to the venue for her celebration. All three of them insisted in sitting in the back of the car to be chauffeured, with their Smartphones and taking selfie photos that were immediately uploaded to WhatsApp and shared amongst their friends – some of whom were travelling to the same venue in a different car.

I indeed also use WhatsApp to communicate with my daughter, to immediately share photos of her birthday, when I’m away travelling and sporting events (although not quite as intensely of course), and other friends and business contacts. It’s great for communicating with others across such a ubiquitous Wifi / 3G and platform-agnostic environment.

Instantaneous, fun, self-contained, easy, dynamic, in-the-moment, compulsive, useful – this is why Facebook spent an inordinate amount of money on a relatively new App, however one that has approaching 400 Million users.

Facebook has made a hugely strategic decision to buy WhatsApp for some very compelling reasons:

  1. The Facebook parent captures a broad youth audience, which reverses the recent trends that saw the brand being seen as a more mature social media / tech company, used by parents and grandparents.
  2. Facebook moves to the trend of Smartphone instant messaging, on a stable and burgeoning platform. It helps Facebook to keep social messaging on an open platform.
  3. WhatsApp provides control with regards to what is shared and with whom. The experience also provides a huge amount of emotional intimacy and attachment, which is a trend that will only become stronger.
  4. The commercial return is a longer-term play and continued WhatsApp autonomy – for a period at least. The importance being the community of users and the affinity and loyalty they have for a brand over a period of time. Monetisation over and above the 99 cents can wait for the moment.

A fascinating development by a technology giant that wants to become bigger AND more youthful, and cement its place in ‘social communications’. The interest will be to see what other key technology players do next!?

Andrew Ford, February 2014

Artificial Intelligence requires Organisation Culture Revolution

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My Mother’s passion for Mathematics has always been to the fore, and she has had great pleasure in teaching maths to students, during her career as a teacher, and discusses its incredible impact on any number of walks of life – which has influenced my own interest in putting statistics, data analytics and insight at the centre of business, and be curious to understand trends and rhythms in order to anticipate improvements.

Recently my daughter’s homework on Alan Turing, the Cambridge genius, and the team of Mathematicians at Bletchley Park, underlined the UK’s rich heritage of using applied mathematics to predict and solve important new challenges.

Data analysis and targeting Technology has delivered productivity gains and heightened customer relevance during the last 20 years. Amazon has used predictive modelling since its launch in 1998. Tesco achieved a significant competitive advantage with the establishment of Club Card and the 50% Share in Dunn Humby in order to mine its data to segment and target customers. I’ve used innumerable online and social analytics to measure and improve online businesses.

The recent £400M sale of DeepMind to Google emphasised the burning importance of advanced Applied Mathematics to deliver Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the rapidly evolving world of Online / Mobile and Organisation performance. The Sunday Telegraph article by Sophie Curtis, 2nd February 2014, covered companies such as Swiftkey, Celaton, Lincor, Featurespace and Darktrace, with the Cambridge ‘Silicon Fen’ a key contributor to incubating an important revolution in UK Tech.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/10610734/Artificial-intelligence-the-companies-behind-Britains-smart-revolution.html

AI increases the sophistication much further by using algorithms and automatically augmenting rules which can propel the business forward at greater speed and productivity. Organisations can capitalise on such a competitive game-changer, if the right recipe for a revolution in behaviour is in place:

  1. The Leadership Team, combined with forward-thinking and innovative people across the business, along with other experts in the field, refine the Strategic positioning and intent, like never before. The objective must be to have a plan for AI-driven agile growth that uses the very latest techniques, which can evolve over time.
  2. Functional and Business Unit silos are broken down and reconstructed to ensure an ‘outside-in’ AI view of the world. This must happen in order to capitalise on the potential of such a fundamental change in the operation of the business. Sales, Marketing, Finance, HR, Engineering, Support and Customer Service must work effectively together in a highly-matrixed structure. This will be a test of Leadership with constant Operational rigour using measurement across numerous demensions within the business, with related methods of remuneration for all employees.
  3. A sophisticated curricula of Education and Training for all team members across the business will be instrumental in driving a quantum leap in agile insight-based business. All Employees are trained and developed to complement AI at the core of the business, and understanding their role in such a modus operendum.
  4. The whole team is behind the revolution in working, with an emphasis on individuals having the ability to contribute to the creativity, innovation and fun across the business. With the right parameters in place, this can aid retention of employees and their own desire to perform and drive the business forward.

There will be need for an increased velocity of change in businesses of all types with the adoption of AI and the associated cultural shift, however this will require a revolution, not an evolution.

Andrew Ford, February 2014