Your Tech Is Great - Now, Get Your Employees To Use It

Whether you lead a company, a function or a team, here's a problem you've probably faced: Your company just invested a lot of money in a new technology, which can do 99 things better and faster than the old way, but no one is using it, or they're using just one or two of its capabilities, not all 99.

This example corroborates the findings in a report published by IDC (via CIO), which stated that "70% of siloed digital transformation initiatives will ultimately fail because of insufficient collaboration, integration, sourcing or project management."

In marketing, I see it all the time. From my experience, customer-centric modern marketers should be using the latest marketing technology. AI-driven marketing analytics, for example, can help marketers tailor and pace communications for each targeted individual, measure results in real time and alter campaigns on the fly while giving professionals and partners the right data at the right time for strategic decisions.

But most employees don't have a tech background. Many view the essential eight technologies (including AI and blockchain) as mystifying, not exciting. Plus, they already have jobs to do. They're not thrilled with spending hours at training sessions. Many will drag their feet and do as little as they can with the new tech for as long as they can unless you roll it out just right.

Give insiders the outsider treatment.

I like to think of my team the way I think of my company's clients, which is as valued individuals whose professional lives I want to make better and more productive. So when we roll out new technologies in-house, we use some of the same strategies that we do with clients:

Earn attention. You don't expect clients to be a captive audience. Don't demand it from your employees, either. Instead, make learning a game through engaging apps that turn lessons into friendly competitions. The best of these apps make the competition team-based to strengthen a collaborative mindset.

Offer bite-sized pieces. You wouldn't ask clients to sit through hour-long lectures. With your employees, offer apps that provide lessons in bite-sized pieces so they can "nibble" in their spare time. And if those apps are games, these "snacks" will feel like breaks, not extra work.

Make it active. Some of the most effective marketing gets people doing something, not just watching. Similarly, the best upskilling apps enable employees to quickly accomplish something with the new tech. People retain 5% of what they hear in a lecture but 75% of what they practice.

Be transparent — and humble. You wouldn't keep your clients in the dark or ignore their feedback. Similarly, tell your team exactly what your expectations are, and provide channels for them to say if anything isn't working. And when they talk to you, listen!

Win the influencers. In companies, the key influencers aren't social media stars but middle managers. Get those internal leaders on board by demonstrating the new tech's benefits for their teams, giving them some authority over the rollout and listening to their needs.

Keep track, and stay agile. Just as modern marketers follow the progress of campaigns in real time and adjust as needed, do the same with your tech rollout. Monitor employee engagement with usage analytics, and be ready to course-correct.

Give more power to your people. Make it easy for those who are accountable for business goals to see adoption progress and steer that behavior.

Everyone is trying it.

Most large companies, by their nature, resist change. But every large company has to change, rolling out newer and better digital technologies and getting its workforce to use them. Even Amazon and Microsoft have recently launched major upskilling initiatives.

But even if everyone is trying to get its workforce even more digital, many are failing. That's why if you want your company to be a winner of the Fourth Industrial Revolution instead of a casualty, you'll have to do more than offer your employees new opportunities. You need to get your teams excited to learn and use them.

How to become a consultant without experience

Become a Consultant Without Experience

If you are reading this article, you probably have thought about becoming a consultant. You may have one or more reasons, all shared by a surprising number of people in a wide variety of job fields.

But not many people feel comfortable taking those first steps to pursue their dream of working for themselves and determining their own destiny by becoming a consultant. Therefore, the aim of this article is to offer a few guidelines to show you how to become a consultant without experience.

Do You Feel Stifled and Powerless?

Maybe you feel stifled in your current job. Maybe you have been hopping from company to company, looking for that elusive perfect opportunity that makes you giddy when you get up in the morning and think about the day ahead. Be honest. When last have you relished the opportunity to get out of bed for work?

Maybe you feel you have reached a ceiling. Perhaps you want to learn and experience more. Utilize your potential better. Take back the power you have once felt. Or, you simply don’t like your boss very much – it happens!

What does it take to be a good consultant?

In simple terms, a consultant is a person who gives professional advice to an organization or individuals in a business or field of expertise. To an aspiring consultant, this definition may seem a little daunting. Many people believe that they don’t have the experience to become a consultant. Hence the reference to becoming a consultant without experience in the title of this article.

However, although you may feel that you don’t have experience to get you going with confidence, I want to stress that experience comes in many forms. It goes without saying that anyone who first starts in a line of work doesn’t yet have the formal practical experience in that position. That comes with time. But what you do have in your corner is a lifetime of knowledge, skills, and observations that you can apply to guide other people. After all, this is what consulting is all about! This is fine, you may think, still, if I decide to get up tomorrow and quit my job, what do I do to become a successful consultant?

Steps to Become a Consultant

Now that you understand the theoretical context of what consultants do, here are my recommended first steps to become a consultant in less time than you think.

#1 – Identify Your Strengths & Expertise
Even if you think you have insufficient experience to take the leap into consulting, I bet that you have ample strengths and expertise to be able to guide others to success. Take a quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of your life. Turn off distractions like your mobile phone and email. Take a pen and paper or open a word editor.

Make a list of the knowledge and skills that you have acquired over the years. It may be tools that you have used like software, protocols, or methods. It could be information and knowledge that you have learned in your field, such as how to lead a team, or how to sell products effectively. It may even be inner qualities that you value and have helped you to achieve your goals. Resilience in bad times, encouraging others, or the ability to organize are all examples.

Start a second list. This time write down the fields or areas of your expertise. Some ideas are leadership of multi-disciplinary teams, sales of consumer goods, marketing of IT products, or design of systems.

By looking at both lists – they don’t have to be long and exhaustive – you should have a good idea of what, where, and to whom you can offer consultancy services.

#2 – Specify Your Niche
Together with your passion and interests, use your lists of strengths and expertise to specify a niche on which to focus. This will form the basis of how to get into consulting with the quickest turnaround.

As the consulting world is competitive, clients expect quick and efficient service from their consultant. The best way to achieve this is to focus on a well-defined area that fits your knowledge and skills and has a high demand for good guidance.

Your niche should be specific enough to enable you to start building a network of potential client from the get-go. Consider the companies and business areas that you know, as well as your existing contacts to choose a niche. As you gain momentum, your focus can change but, for now, select a specialty area that you feel most familiar with.

#3 – Define Your Goals
Your dream has brought you to this point. Now it is time to become more precise so that you can develop an action plan and work toward milestones. Describe at least one medium and one long-term goal. A good framework is 3-12 months for the medium-term goal and 2 to 5 years for the long-term goal.

Make sure that your goals are SMART, the acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. This means your goals must be realistic. You should be able to know when you have achieved a goal or how much progress you have made at any time. And each goal should have a target date or frequency.

For instance, stating that you want to offer consulting services to make enough money is much too broad and vague. Instead, you may want to establish 5 paying clients in mid-sized clothing retail companies within 6 months.

#4 – Research Your Market
If you have chosen your niche wisely, based on the knowledge and skills that you already possess, you already have a solid base from which to research your target market. Use the internet and your existing contacts to look for ideas and opportunities. Do not hesitate to ask people for their input. “If there is one thing that someone can do to help you improve your business, what would it be?” This is a very insightful question to ask.

Divide any segments of your target market that come up. Use a diagram or chart to identify the issues or opportunities that you can help resolve in each of the areas. Keep your solutions brief but specific. Be sure to test your ideas with your contacts and keep refining according to their input.

If you follow the principles of mindful communication, you will be astonished to see how your contacts grow organically and how eager people are to answer your questions. Especially if they start to notice that you can positively influence their business.

Two Indispensable Ideas to Become a Consultant in Your Own Field

Now that we have covered the basic steps to follow when you start out on becoming a consultant, let’s talk in more practical terms about building your network and using mindful communication in the process.


#1 – Start from you existing list of contacts: You can use a simple spreadsheet or specialized CRM (customer relationship management) application to order and manage your information. Examples are, Google Contact Manager or Trello.

I use LinkedIn to build my network and transfer the information of every new, relevant contact into my contact management system. Constantly look at the associations of your existing contacts and connect with new people if they can be useful to your business offering.

#2 – Communicate sparingly but pointedly: Every communication should have a purpose that is aligned with your target market. Be specific and to the point. Make your communication worthwhile to your recipients.

#3 – Be respectful of your contacts’ preferences, needs, and workload: Needless to say, you should always respect people’s beliefs, culture, and other aspects of their identity. Keep messages friendly but professional and at the level of your recipients’ language skills.

#4 – Be careful when using mass emails: When used with care, mass emails can be extremely useful. However, it can be annoying too and easy to dismiss if it does not have a personal touch. His or her name is the most obvious but also put work location, company, field of business, whether you have or have not met them in person, and anything else of personal value into the text of your message. That way, it will come across as a genuine personal message and stand out.

Also ensure to maximize the probability of getting a response. For instance, ask an interesting question at the end that only demands a short answer but will make the recipient feel valued and important.


Simply speaking, mindful communication is when you put the recipient first, consider his or her needs, and above all, listen to what they have to say. These principles apply to in-person, voice, video, and text communications alike.

#1 – Show curiosity in the other person’s issues and desires
#2 – Consider what they have to say with thoughtfulness
#3 – Don’t make assumptions of the meaning behind their words (ask for clarity if needed)
#4 – Put yourself in their shoes and show understanding
#5 – Be sympathetic but not emotional

Practice these principles from now on and you will be surprised to notice the positive effect on the quality of your communications and the growth of your network.

Final Words

This article is not meant as an exhaustive guide to starting and setting up your online and offline workspace as a consultant. Rather, my hope is that it has provided you with enough ideas to make your dream of becoming a consultant a reality.

Structure and planning are essential. If you find the information a little overwhelming or need a nudge in the right direction, it is often a time-saver and comforting to find a seasoned professional to show you the ropes when you learn to be a consultant.

Get Paranoid About Securing Your Data

If you are not paranoid about cyber security, identify theft, or fraud, you should be.

Today’s hot news from the Washington Post:

“Marriott discloses massive data breach affecting up to 500 million guests.  The hotel giant said an unauthorized party had accessed the reservations database for Starwood hotels, one of Marriott’s subsidiaries. The breach included names, email addresses, passport numbers and payment information.” (Nov. 30, 2018)

If that doesn’t motivate you to protect your data, nothing will.

The financial loss can be devastating, But, it’s worse than that. It’s not just your financial information at risk. You expose your entire life, reputation, friends, address, travel plans, health information and other private personal information to grievous harm.

The Internet opens up an entire new universe. However, it can also be a bad neighborhood. But, in any bad neighborhood a little caution goes a long way toward cutting down your chances of being mugged.

To paraphrase an old Navy saying, a data breach can ruin your whole day.. Even if you recover every cent, it will lead to months of aggravation.The threat is real, persistent, and menacing. You need to set your defenses.

It’s critical that you secure your data, but much easier than you think to do it.  It’s not hard. Existing tools make it remarkably easy. Now would be a great time to get started.

Password management: The first step to building a moat around your data

It doesn’t take long to use a hundred different sites that require your log in. That’s for your security. But, nobody is going to remember 100 passwords. So, most people cheat, opening themselves up to unlimited mischief.

Right now get a good password manager that will sync across all your devices, and suggest really strong unique passwords like “or!MXY3$VLWw7eHD” for every one of your accounts. Of course, you are never going to remember this password but the application will, and it will open your sites directly from the password manager. So, you can have a different virtually unbreakable password for every site you log into. And, you will have secure access to them from any place in the world.

Password managers are available for all the major operating systems, easy to install, secure, synch data across all your devices and cheap. There just isn’t any excuse for not using them.

Browsers as password managers

Modern browsers like Google’s Chrome or Microsoft’s Edge will remember your passwords and sign you into any of your accounts once you are logged into either your Google or Microsoft account from any device in the world. Just remember to sign out any time you are not on one of  your own devices.

Simple passwords won't hack it

Even very sophisticated professionals get lazy and use the same password for multiple sites and/or use something simple like 123456, or abcdefg. They might as well wear a target on their backs.

A remarkable number of people use simple passwords. Searching Google yields the most used passwords:

  • 123456
  • Password
  • 12345678
  • qwerty
  • 12345
  • 123456789
  • letmein
  • 1234567

Really? Any child can figure those our in a few seconds. But most hackers are sophisticated, highly motivated criminals. It won’t take them too much longer to try variations of your birthday, address or spouse’s name.

Let’s be honest, any self respecting hacker has programs that will grind through a million possibilities in a few seconds. So, long complex passwords are essential to keep them at bay. Sixteen digits with upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters are a reasonable standard.

Plan for the worst

Get used to the idea that sites you use will be breached. But when it happens you must contain the damage. Don’t reuse passwords.

If you use the same password on multiple sites, one data breach opens up your whole life on all your other sites like so many falling dominoes. So, if Marriott gets breached (it did) it could open up your password for Amazon and other sites that use the same password, no matter how strong it is. Not good.

You know better than to write down your passwords. But, half of you probably have them neatly typed under your keyboard or in your top drawer.

By using your browser’s password memory, and a good password manager gets you down to just two passwords you have to remember. Of course those two passwords are the keys to your kingdom, so use a little thought on them. It gets even simpler and more secure if your devices have fingerprint or facial recognition. But you have to make it exponentially harder for a bad actor to access your data.

Start now

It’s going to take some time to change all your passwords. However, it will be well worth the effort. Just do a few a day, but get it done. Start with financial and credit card accounts. Then work your way down to the least important.

Once you are done your life will be a lot simpler, and secure.

There’s lots more to do before your moat is finished. But, if you don’t do these first steps, there isn’t much hope for you. Now would be a great time to get started.

The Internet is a jungle. Be safe out there.

Artificial Intelligence: What's The Difference Between Deep Learning And Reinforcement Learning?

The various cutting-edge technologies that are under the umbrella of artificial intelligence are getting a lot of attention lately. As the amount of data we generate continues to grow to mind-boggling levels, our AI maturity and the potential problems AI can help solve grows right along with it. This data and the amazing computing power that’s now available for a reasonable cost is what fuels the tremendous growth in AI technologies and makes deep learning and reinforcement learning possible. With the rapid changes in the AI industry, it can be challenging to keep up with the latest cutting-edge technologies. In this post, I want to provide easy-to-understand definitions of deep learning and reinforcement learning so that you can understand the difference.

Both deep learning and reinforcement learning are machine learning functions, which in turn are part of a wider set of artificial intelligence tools.  What makes deep learning and reinforcement learning functions interesting is they enable a computer to develop rules on its own to solve problems. This ability to learn is nothing new for computers – but until recently we didn’t have the data or computing power to make it an everyday tool.

What is deep learning?

Deep learning is essentially an autonomous, self-teaching system in which you use existing data to train algorithms to find patterns and then use that to make predictions about new data. For example, you might train a deep learning algorithm to recognize cats on a photograph. You would do that by feeding it millions of images that either contains cats or not. The program will then establish patterns by classifying and clustering the image data (e.g. edges, shapes, colors, distances between the shapes, etc.). Those patterns will then inform a predictive model that is able to look at a new set of images and predict whether they contain cats or not, based on the model it has created using the training data.

Deep learning algorithms do this via various layers of artificial neural networks which mimic the network of neurons in our brain. This allows the algorithm to perform various cycles to narrow down patterns and improve the predictions with each cycle.

A great example of deep learning in practice is Apple’s Face ID. When setting up your phone you train the algorithm by scanning your face. Each time you log on using e.g. Face ID, the TrueDepth camera captures thousands of data points which create a depth map of your face and the phone’s inbuilt neural engine will perform the analysis to predict whether it is you or not.

What is reinforcement learning?

Reinforcement learning is an autonomous, self-teaching system that essentially learns by trial and error. It performs actions with the aim of maximizing rewards, or in other words, it is learning by doing in order to achieve the best outcomes. This is similar to how we learn things like riding a bike where in the beginning we fall off a lot and make too heavy and often erratic moves, but over time we use the feedback of what worked and what didn’t to fine-tune our actions and learn how to ride a bike. The same is true when computers use reinforcement learning, they try different actions, learn from the feedback whether that action delivered a better result, and then reinforce the actions that worked, i.e. reworking and modifying its algorithms autonomously over many iterations until it makes decisions that deliver the best result.

A good example of using reinforcement learning is a robot learning how to walk. The robot first tries a large step forward and falls. The outcome of a fall with that big step is a data point the reinforcement learning system responds to. Since the feedback was negative, a fall, the system adjusts the action to try a smaller step. The robot is able to move forward. This is an example of reinforcement learning in action.

One of the most fascinating examples of reinforcement learning in action I have seen was when Google’s Deep Mind applied the tool to classic Atari computer games such as Break Out. The goal (or reward) was to maximize the score and the actions were to move the bar at the bottom of the screen to bounce the playing ball back up to break the bricks at the top of the screen. You can watch the video here which shows how, in the beginning, the algorithm is making lots of mistakes but quickly improves to a stage where it would beat even the best human players.

Difference between deep learning and reinforcement learning

Deep learning and reinforcement learning are both systems that learn autonomously. The difference between them is that deep learning is learning from a training set and then applying that learning to a new data set, while reinforcement learning is dynamically learning by adjusting actions based in continuous feedback to maximize a reward.

Deep learning and reinforcement learning aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, you might use deep learning in a reinforcement learning system, which is referred to as deep reinforcement learning and will be a topic I cover in another post.

10 Amazing Examples Of How Deep Learning AI Is Used In Practice?

You may have heard about deep learning and felt like it was an area of data science that is incredibly intimidating. How could you possibly get machines to learn like humans? And, an even scarier notion for some, why would we want machines to exhibit human-like behavior? Here, we look at 10 examples of how deep learning is used in practice that will help you visualize the potential.

What is deep learning?

Both machine and deep learning are subsets of artificial intelligence, but deep learning represents the next evolution of machine learning. In machine learning, algorithms created by human programmers are responsible for parsing and learning from the data. They make decisions based on what they learn from the data. Deep learning learns through an artificial neural network that acts very much like a human brain and allows the machine to analyze data in a structure very much as humans do. Deep learning machines don't require a human programmer to tell them what to do with the data. This is made possible by the extraordinary amount of data we collect and consume—data is the fuel for deep-learning models. For more on what deep learning is please check out my previous post here.

10 ways deep learning is used in practice

1. Customer experience
Machine learning is already used by many businesses to enhance the customer experience. Just a couple of examples include online self-service solutions and to create reliable workflows. There are already deep-learning models being used for chatbots, and as deep learning continues to mature, we can expect this to be an area deep learning will be used for many businesses.

2. Translations
Although automatic machine translation isn’t new, deep learning is helping enhance automatic translation of text by using stacked networks of neural networks and allowing translations from images.

3. Adding color to black-and-white images and videos
What used to be a very time-consuming process where humans had to add color to black-and-white images and videos by hand can now be automatically done with deep-learning models.

4. Language recognition
Deep learning machines are beginning to differentiate dialects of a language. A machine decides that someone is speaking English and then engages an AI that is learning to tell the differences between dialects. Once the dialect is determined, another AI will step in that specializes in that particular dialect. All of this happens without involvement from a human.

5. Autonomous vehicles
There's not just one AI model at work as an autonomous vehicle drives down the street. Some deep-learning models specialize in streets signs while others are trained to recognize pedestrians. As a car navigates down the road, it can be informed by up to millions of individual AI models that allow the car to act.

6. Computer vision
Deep learning has delivered super-human accuracy for image classification, object detection, image restoration and image segmentation—even handwritten digits can be recognized. Deep learning using enormous neural networks is teaching machines to automate the tasks performed by human visual systems.

7. Text generation
The machines learn the punctuation, grammar and style of a piece of text and can use the model it developed to automatically create entirely new text with the proper spelling, grammar and style of the example text. Everything from Shakespeare to Wikipedia entries have been created.

8. Image caption generation
Another impressive capability of deep learning is to identify an image and create a coherent caption with proper sentence structure for that image just like a human would write.

9. News aggregator based on sentiment
When you want to filter out the negative coming to your world, advanced natural language processing and deep learning can help. News aggregators using this new technology can filter news based on sentiment, so you can create news streams that only cover the good news happening.

10. Deep-learning robots
Deep-learning applications for robots are plentiful and powerful from an impressive deep-learning system that can teach a robot just by observing the actions of a human completing a task to a housekeeping robot that’s provided with input from several other AIs in order to take action. Just like how a human brain processes input from past experiences, current input from senses and any additional data that is provided, deep-learning models will help robots execute tasks based on the input of many different AI opinions.

The growth of deep-learning models is expected to accelerate and create even more innovative applications in the next few years.

3 Ways To Embrace Digitization To Improve Productivity

Going back to Economics 101, productivity is the stimulus that our economy needs. When productivity increases, wages and standards of living follow suit, causing the demand for goods and services to increase along with them. In a world where technology advances on a daily basis could we really be seeing a decline in productivity? You bet.

According to a recent report by McKinsey, “Productivity growth has fluctuated over time; it has been declining since the 1960s and today stands near historical lows.” In fact, between the years of 2010-2014, the total labor productivity growth stood at a negative 0.2%, compared to a positive 3.6% in 2000-2004 – just a decade difference.

There is hope, however. McKinsey believes that there is potential for the productivity levels to recover to at least 2 percent. But how? Thanks to the ever-growing realm of tech, we now have digitization and the digital transformation.

Let’s discuss how digitization and the transformation can both be the key to our productivity struggle.

Transformation Through Upskilling and Training

There is always talk about robots taking all our jobs. However, it is being proved to not be the case. Digitization and the transformation will impact both high-skill and low-skill jobs yet will create more in the long run for us all. However, those who are digital natives including millennials, Generation Z, and their kids will be the majority; those that have the skills necessary to perform these positions. To increase our productivity at ground level, we need to begin upskilling our current workforce and implementing training that fits.

Companies such as AT&T are beginning to see the true value in upskilling their employees. Scott Smith of AT&T put it this way, “You can go out to the street and hire for the skills, but we all know that the supply of technical talent is limited, and everybody is going after it. Or you can do your best to step up and reskill your existing workforce to fill the gap.” Since beginning their upskilling initiative, AT&T has reduced its product development lifecycle by 40% accelerated time to revenue. It’s an impressive feat that only upskilling and dedication can create.

During digitization and the digital transformation, your business will need to create a strategy for cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and more. How will you be able to manage these technologies? You must have a current talent base that can implement these tools once they hit your front door. Upskilling and training can completely change the game.

Digitization Through Diffusion

It is critical that digitization and technology are adopted by all enterprise, not just a select few, to boost productivity. Also called digital diffusion, McKinsey states, “Action is needed both to overcome adoption barriers of large incumbent business and to broaden the adoption of digital tools by all companies and citizens. Actions that can promote digital diffusion include: leading by example and digitizing the public sector, leveraging public procurement and investment in R&D and driving digital adoption by small and medium-sized enterprises.”

The digital transformation will have an impact on businesses that do not choose to adopt the up and coming technology. In fact, these businesses may suffer the consequences and be left behind. True digitization to boost our productivity will need to include all sectors and enterprise to make a difference. This means that large corporations will need to face their tech demons head-on and solve their adoption issues with strategy. Small businesses and mid-size enterprises will need to begin adopting technology to remain competitive.

Reinvention Through Strategy

McKinsey asks the question: “How do companies, labor organizations, and even economists respond to the challenge of restarting productivity growth in a digital age? Companies will need to develop a productivity strategy that includes the digital transformation of their business model as well as their entire sector and value chain.” Every change that must be made, every training strategy and move towards digitization is part of a larger digital transformation strategy.

When it comes to businesses that place emphasis on their digital strategy, “We found that more than twice as many leading companies closely tie their digital and corporate strategies than don’t. What’s more, winners tend to respond to digitization by changing their corporate strategies significantly.”

Businesses that are investing in digital transformation by changing their strategy are boosting their productivity through revenue growth and return on digital investment. In fact, McKinsey found in further research that 49 percent of leading companies, in revenue growth, EBIT growth and digital investment, are investing in digital more than their counterparts do.

McKinsey concluded that bold strategies win. And I agree. With a digital transformation strategy, strong levels of digital diffusion and upskilling of the workforce, we are sure to see the increase in productivity that is predicted. It is time now to embrace digitization more than ever, from the top of the ladder to the bottom. After all, our economy depends on it.