Innovation

The Future of Meetings

This blog post was originally written for HP’s Business Value Exchange and was posted at CloudTweaks.com.

Meetings have been a scourge on business productivity for many decades. British comedy genius John Cleese released a corporate training film back in 1976, entitled Meetings, Bloody Meetings, which not only became an instant classic, but spawned a sequel in 2012. The problems inherent in meetings are timeless and universal. And sadly, they take up way too much time. But things are changing.

A combination of factors now places the traditional meeting on the endangered species list. People no longer have the time or patience that they used to, and for the new generations of employees and managers who have grown up with sophisticated video gaming and unconstrained access to online resources, a tedious one-hour or longer meeting often fails to prove its worth. When that happens at the outset, engagement is sure to evaporate.

We have moved well past the era in which the only way to share ideas with a group of people was to corral them in the same room. Numerous options now exist from the good-old teleconference, to multi-screen video chat, through to virtual meetings using VR tools; but this leads to a conundrum: how important is physical presence to the efficacy of a meeting?

Many of us have participated in tele-meetings where Internet-based video conferencing– was available, but in which the participants still chose not to use the video component, opting solely for voice. For small meetings, this might be due to shyness or vanity – we don’t always look the way we want to, especially when working from home. There is also something decidedly disturbing about the “downwards glare,” where inexperienced video conference attendees look at the onscreen images of the other participants, rather than looking into their own camera. This creates an immediate sense of disconnection between people and points to the importance of eye-to-eye contact during discussion.

In multiple participant teleconferences, additional frustration comes about through the lack of body language cues, especially in regard to the rhythm of an actual conversation. We use facial or body gestures to signify comprehension of a point, as well as to signal our desire to speak. Such subtleties are lost when the visual component is missing or inadequate.

This does not mean that virtual meetings should not happen – they should. In fact, they should happen more often, since they save enormous amounts of time and money, and can actually be more productive than their analog counterparts, in most cases. What is critical is that the chairperson of a virtual meeting delivers and enforces an updated set of rules that ensure optimum behavior and synergy.

Firstly, if a company has access to a high-end video telepresence setup – using good video cameras and a bank of screens showing the other participants, then book this well ahead of time. These types of premium virtual meeting rooms are generally available in large organizations with numerous offices locations. They are not available to everyone, but they are worth it, since they offer the chance to see other people as if they were sitting across the table from you, and the 3D sound and video quality is generally superb. When these are not available, a phone or VOIP teleconference can do just as well, but the rules must be adjusted accordingly.

  • Go for “visual” whenever possible. Humans place greater trust in people when they can see who they are dealing with. They can also read body language cues, and frame the dynamic of the conversation accordingly. Instruct participants to spend a few minutes preparing, prior to the call. This doesn’t mean calling the stylists and makeup artists in, is simply means just allowing adequate light and establishing a desired visual look.
  • If video is not possible or not desired, then ensure photos are available. This could be as easy as inserting participant’s pictures on the meeting agenda (sent by email or posted in a meeting space.) A photo is a more controlled version of a person’s image, and although it does not allow for visual cues, it still flavors the dynamic of the conversation in a more human way.
  • Set up a system for side chats. It is very disturbing when people need to make a side comment while another person is speaking. Whispering is impossible on a conference call, but texting is easy. Whether this is done through an onscreen conference hub, or just texting to each other’s phones, this is an essential component of meeting dynamics that reduces interruptions while boosting synergy. It can also be used as a way of “raising your hand to speak,” by texting the chairperson from miles away.

There will always be some occasions which necessitate pulling people physically into a room for a meeting, but these are becoming fewer and fewer. The technology exists to bridge the obstacles put up by distance, time and money, but what is needed now is a revised mindset, that focuses pro-actively on the dynamics of human communication, and curates the available technologies to achieve the meeting’s intended goal. This way, Mr. Cleese will not have to make another sequel in 2018.

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The Blended Mindset

This blog post, written for HP’s Business Value Exchange , entitled, The Blended Mindset is available for review at CloudTweaks.com. This post proposes that people need to maximize their human skills such as creativity and relationship to match their technological abilities.  Click here to read.

CloudTweaks

Facebook’s Effortless Marketing

This blog post, written for HP’s Business Value Exchange , entitled The Facebook’s Effortless Marketing is available for review at CloudTweaks.com. This post discusses the ease by which certain groundbreaking technologies become part of our lives simply because they connect with our innate desire for communication and human connection.  Click here to read.

CloudTweaks

The Internet of Everything and Africa

In addition to my own posts, I also write for CloudTweaks, an authority on cloud computing. Cloudtweaks is currently working with Cisco, who have released and exciting new thought leadership platform called InnovateThink. I have been asked to contribute some material to this project, and it is an honor to do so.

My most recent article looks at the way that the connected technologies of the Internet of Everything are making changes in the lives and economiesof Africans, who have long struggled to keep pace amid war, poverty and difficult weather. I hope it is appropriate. I would love feedback (positive or negative) from people who lived in, or have lived in an African nation, and who perhaps have experienced change through technology.  Here is an excerpt:

Digital banking, for example, has freed workers in places such as Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Soweto, from the dangers of carrying cash through lawless areas, as well as allowing them easier and safer transfer of funds to relatives with lower remittance fees and the elimination of the need for physical travel. Cellphone-based banking has also cut down on corruption and illegal “dipping” made by employers. The dual benefit of cloud-based money transfer not only assists individuals in keeping their cash safe, but stands also to coax wary Africans from storing their savings under their mattresses – an amount estimated to be the equivalent of two billion dollars in South Africa alone. Additional funds feeding the banking sector hold the promise to trickle through to the establishment of stronger commercial sectors and social programs.

With the agricultural sector currently accounting for seventy percent of Africa’s total employment and thirty percent percent of its GDP, technological innovations in areas such as drought prediction, low-cost machinery for quickly draining flooded fields, smartphone apps that assist with the health of herd cattle, or point-of-sale transactions and supply chain management are the first steps towards growing the economies of African countries, moving them towards stability and greater competitiveness on the world stage.

To read the full article, please visit CloudTweaks here.

IDG-DELL Article on Choose Your Own Device (CYOD)

In addition to my own posts, I also write for CloudTweaks, an authority on cloud computing. I was asked by Cloudtweaks clients IDG and DELL  to write a quick blog which will become part of their End-To-End Solutions group on LinkedIn.  My topic is the shift from BYOD to CYOD in the corporate, cloud-based workspace. Here is an excerpt:

This dilemma – how to satisfy and engage employees while still protecting corporate assets is being answered by a new trend – a hybrid in and of itself – between the open market of BYOD and the more rigid, traditional world of company-issued laptops and phones. In this new approach, employers make available a range of devices that vary in terms of brand and functionality, and which have been fully loaded and prepared, in terms of virus/malware protection, network access and secure compatibility with the company’s network and cloud management structure. These devices are offered as a selection from which the employees are allowed to make a selection. This concept is called choose your own device (CYOD), and many industry watchers are confident that this will soon eclipse BYOD as a milestone in smart mobility management.

To read the full article, click here.

 

The Internet of Everything and the Public Sector

July 10, 2014

In addition to my own posts, I also write for CloudTweaks, an authority on cloud computing. Cloudtweaks is currently working with Cisco, who have released and exciting new thought leadership platform called InnovateThink. I have been asked to contribute some material to this project, and it is an honor to do so.

My sixth article looks at the way governments, or more precisely the public sector are taking advantage of the The Internet of Everything to deliver new services to its citizens. Here is an excerpt:

If you live in Chicago and you want to know when the street sweeper is coming around so you can move your car and avoid getting a ticket, well, there’s an app for that. It’s a simple yet elegant solution produced by one of an army of app developers that the city’s public service has engaged to capitalize on the ever-growing usefulness of the Internet of Everything, defined by Cisco as the juncture of people, process, data and things.

Traditionally the public sector has been maligned as a place and mindset that is far from the cutting edge, with bureaucracy and partisan politics dominating. But increasingly an opposite perspective can be seen. Given the enormity and variety of the responsibilities held by government, the constant scarcity of funds, combined with increased calls for transparency and accountability, the opportunities offered by the connected technologies of the Internet of Everything are both appealing and fiscally prudent.

To read the full article, please visit CloudTweaks here.

 

My take on cloud computing for business, for Mint.com

MintRecently I was interviewed by online personal finance powerhouse Mint.com. The topic: cloud computing for business. It is always a great honour to be called upon to discuss such matters. A short excerpt is below. The content is (c) Mint.com.

It’s hard to believe that just five years ago not many people outside the tech world knew anything about cloud computing. Wikipedia only had a couple of sentences about it, and not too many websites were discussing it either.

So Steve Prentice and his colleagues decided to cash in on what they suspected would be game-changing technology by creating CloudTweaks, a site devoted to educating business leaders, entrepreneurs and techies about cloud-based technology.

“We knew that this was going to be a high-growth industry with lots of interest due to the online accessibility and low costs of SaaS and cloud computing,” Steve says. “This is when we decided that it was a good time to start to educate CEOs CTOs, governments and students on the subject, and we have not looked back since.”

Their gambit has paid off. Today, everywhere you look there are references to cloud computing, and CloudTweaks has continued to position itself as a highly regarded source of industry news.

We recently checked in with Steve, a senior writer at CloudTweaks, to learn a little cloud 411 and find out how the technology can help business owners. Here’s what he had to say:

To read the full article on the Mint.com website, please click here.

 

 

The Internet of Everything: Value at Stake Index

In addition to my own posts, I also write for CloudTweaks, an authority on cloud computing. Cloudtweaks is currently working with Cisco, who have released and exciting new thought leadership platform called InnovateThink. I have been asked to contribute some material to this project, and it is an honor to do so.

My fourth article discusses the Value At Stake index, a calculation of the potential profits up for grabs for companies that embrace this third wave of Internet engagment. Here is an excerpt:

The potential for the range of the Internet of Everything is virtually infinite, with an expectation from some observers that up to 99% of the items people use, in life and business, will be connected within the next few years.

Along with such a far reaching vision of usage, comes an equally astronomical assessment of the profit potential for companies that embrace it. Cisco, which sits on the leading edge of the IoE frontier, incorporates this assessment as part of its overall Value Index, and puts its estimate in the form of a Value at Stake of $14.4 trillion worldwide over the next 10 years (2013-2022). That refers to net profit up for grabs.

The Cisco IoE Value Index combines survey data and third-party metrics on business and technology environmental factors to gauge IoE capabilities around the world. The Value at Stake component highlights the potential bottom-line value that can be created, or that will migrate among private-sector companies and industries, based on their ability to harness the Internet of Everything over the next decade. Cisco predicts that this IoE Value at Stake will be $14.4 trillion for companies and industries.

To read the full post, please visit CloudTweaks here.

The Internet of Everything: Invisibility in your Kitchen

In addition to my own posts, I also write for CloudTweaks, an authority on cloud computing. Cloudtweaks is currently working with Cisco, who have released and exciting new thought leadership platform called InnovateThink. I have been asked to contribute some material to this project, and it is an honor to do so.

My third article discusses the ways in which the Internet of Everything can change one of the most intimate places in your home: your kitchen, and the challenges it faces to truly succeed there. Here is an excerpt:

What could be simpler than opening the fridge and grabbing yourself a snack? That’s the challenge for designers and engineers who are looking to bring the Internet of Everything into the kitchen. Eating food is based largely on sensations of hunger, an age-old instinct which is pretty difficult to ignore. As for preparing food, people either enjoy it or they hate it. Either way, when preparing to integrate a kitchen into the Internet of Everything sphere it is important to realize that the kitchen is an area where emotions rule, not facts.

People go to the kitchen when they are hungry. They meet in the kitchen during parties. Many take pride in cooking from recipes handed down through the generations. A kitchen is a hearth; it is a place for being human, and as such the often highly practical, yet overly logical inventions that have been designed for the kitchen over the decades face steep opposition from the simple fact that if it needs to be thought about, that’s one step too many.

To read the full post, please visit CloudTweaks here.

The Internet of Everything: Wearables

In addition to my own posts, I also write for CloudTweaks, an authority on cloud computing. Cloudtweaks is currently working with Cisco, who have released and exciting new thought leadership platform called InnovateThink. I have been asked to contribute some material to this project, and it is an honor to do so.

My second article discusses wearables, the fascinating concept that clothings and other items that we can carry around without actually holding onto them, can connect to everything else. Here is an excerpt:

Imagine a hospital gown capable of reading a patient’s vital signs even during a walk to the washroom or around the grounds. Imagine military fatigues capable of detecting gunshots and allowing for split-second protective or retaliatory action against snipers. Imagine your next smartphone as a color-coordinated piece of jewelry mounted in your lapel or worn as a necklace allowing hands-free communication with your clients, your car and your home-delivery grocery list, or one that could transmit business contact information and up-to-date product website links to a prospect through a handshake.

These are just a few of the types of applications that fall under the category of wearables in the expanding universe of the Internet of Everything. They represent the next generation of Internet usage, following in the footsteps of Generation 1 (web pages and email), and Generation 2 (social media), in which technology is not merely placed on the physical body, but is in touch with dozens, hundreds or thousands of other devices, not just computers, through a wide range of networks, from traditional Wi-Fi through to a personal body area network connected, for example, to a heart and health monitor worn on the wrist.

Wearables are coming to the consumer and industrial markets quickly and from all directions, and analysts, both technical and financial, are expecting the total market value in this area to increase ten-fold – from $3-5 billion to $30-50 billion – over the next three to five years.

To read the full post, please visit CloudTweaks here.