Amazon HQ Blunder

I’m not quite sure what corporate folks think when they make blunders as the one Amazon did with deciding its next HQ location.

Well, maybe they meant to do it this way. During the review process cities across America vying for Amazon’s attention sent in their detailed proprietary city plans to lure the giant.

Essentially, Amazon now has detailed plans on how cities will expand and what they are planning to do next. These plans give Amazon a significant advantage with their corporate expansion plans.

The hunger for growth is getting ridiculous on how far corporations will go for any advantage.

Jeff Bezos also recently said he thinks Amazon will eventually fail. So, what is the plan? Take as much as you can while things are going well?

This total disregard is a significant reason society is falling out of love with tech. Facebook is already in some deep trouble. Google also.

I doubt they are in trouble trouble, but things do feel a bit different.

What happened to thoughtful business? Is there even such a thing?

I for one am for the “thoughtful revolution.” It’s time.

Diversity will help your company make more money...seriously!

Is diversity in the workplace just a cool statistic we talk about or a critical part of your company?

Let’s forget for a moment diversity, in general, is just the right thing to do as a society.

Let’s forget that no matter your race or gender, equality and inclusion should never be an issue.

Let’s say with all the recent events you’re still not on board with diversity.

Let’s forget for a moment diversity in an organization could be the most important strategic advantage your company could ever deploy.

Wait! Let’s not forget that one.

You are running a business, and it's has been created to make profits.

“When it comes to building a product, diverse thinking helps organizations appeal to a larger customer set by incorporating different voices. After all, you can’t sell to people whose perspectives you can’t understand.” - Hackernoon

Still, don’t believe it?

Advancing Gender Inequality

California recently became the first state to require a woman on a corporate board. In a rare message included in the bill, Gov. Jerry Brown said, “I don’t minimize the potential flaws that indeed may prove fatal to its ultimate implementation. Nevertheless, recent events in Washington, D.C. — and beyond — make it crystal clear that many are not getting the message.”

Government agencies are forcing the issue of diversity because people are not getting the message. Force feeding is truly sad we have to resort to political force.

It is to our strategic advantage as a company to maximize shareholder value, and diversity does just that.

The one reason to convince you diversity is important is the company will build better products with a more diverse workforce and diverse thinking.

You will make more money!

This also includes diversity from different ethnic backgrounds and races.

McKinsey & Company reported that companies in the top quartile of racial diversity are 35% more likely to have higher financial returns than the national median in their industry.

Product Development and Diversity

Let’s focus on the product side for a moment.

In our podcast episode “Machine learning and data bias,” we discuss actually how unsettling a lack of diversity can be for a company. For example, many claimed Pokemon Go discriminates against predominantly minority neighborhoods. Whether this is true or not is one thing, the main issue here is we should be using technology to break down these barriers, not put more up.

I am particularly interested in Internet of Things (IoT) and autonomous cars. I have heard from friends some smart assistant devices have a hard time understanding women. Interesting. I am also curious who is building all this self-driving technology? Are they all males? Are these companies considering how different people drive and their product experience?

Without a proper understanding of the user base, the user experience could suffer, resulting in lost revenue and a tarnished reputation. After all, over half the population are women. Probably a good idea to include different perspectives.

Don’t blame the algorithms either. Chris Stoll, a software engineer at Skiplist wrote a fascinating piece on machine learning and data biases. In the article, he discusses that data isn’t just data. It is indeed the people who build these algorithms have their own intentional and unintentional biases baked in.

We must account for these biases and diversity.

However, an issue companies face is there are just not enough minorities and women in tech. The limited pipeline of good talent is already a challenge. Tech companies, in particular, are very competitive when it comes to software talent.

While we can’t speak for other companies on fostering a more diverse workplace, especially in the software industry; we observe and learn. We work on projects that span many different industries, and because of this, we prioritize a diverse staff. It’s quite interesting to see the different perspectives from tech-leading companies to more traditional ones that are transitioning to more of an emphasis on tech.

The value of a diverse staff and varying backgrounds and perspectives becomes quite apparent. We have the unique opportunity to see what works for different types of companies when it comes to diversity, and to witness the challenges.

This perspective allows for us at Skiplist to continue improving and growing, ourselves.  Without a doubt, we see that more diverse teams tend to produce better results.

Our employees come from various non-traditional software backgrounds as Scott Stahl, a software engineer at Skiplist discussed in his article, Does diversity matter for success?

We’ve also seen that diversity of thought matters to our team, and not just for software. Our marketing coordinator, Samantha Wolfe reviews and edits our content. As someone who previously worked in the public health and non-profit field,  her perspective is equally essential to align what we say to the world, mainly because she does not have a technical background.

We know that Skiplist has room to grow regarding diversity and we look forward to that challenge. We can, and we will continue to do better. And in that same arena, we will continue to seek out partnerships with like-minded companies that hold the same values.

The Last Tech Humans Will Invent

Artificial Intelligence (AI) that can cure cancer. AI that will know what you want before you want it. AI that can invent anything humans can invent but better and faster. As Scott Phoenix, co-founder of Vicarious calls it, “the last tech humans will invent”. It may take 10, 20, or 50 years to get there but it is coming.

AI Is Hot In Here

The new hot thing is artificial intelligence (AI). I started to look into AI and quickly found out most AI today is what is known as weak AI or narrow AI. Things like Siri and Google Now. Designed to do specifics tasks. Not as interesting as it used to be. I would classify this as smarter software. I am far from an expert in this field yet AI will be changing rapidly as computing power gets faster and as more investments pour in.

Vicarious is working on human-level AI. Some call it artificial general intelligence (AGI). Where things get interesting in the AI field is with AGI. This is where a machine has the ability to think like humans. AGI is what science fictions writers and futurists have been craving. Think HAL 9000, Tony Stark’s JARVIS, or the movie “Her”.

There is no need to worry though. A Terminator Skynet future is highly unlikely. AGI is not going to take us over. Rather AGI will “augment” our lives as Marc Canter explained it to me. Just as any technology today, AGI will help us do what we do.

“Possibly our last invention”

The bold claim is AGI will be able to solve our hardest problems. Such as a possible cure for cancer and create better inventions than humans. Possibly our last invention. This is a big “what if” however the implications are profound.

Today AI tools for sales and marketing professionals is mainly “rules based” AI. If something happens then do this. Software will scan your email and calendar and make suggestions. Salesforce is working on something called Einstein with AI built into its core. A smarter Salesforce for more predictive insights. This AI is more of an assistant. Obviously it is considerably more sophisticated. It is exciting progress but I see there is a need for much more.

I don’t know yet how I feel about a bot reminding me to call a client just because someone programmed in a timed trigger. Rules based AI has its place but it doesn’t yet think about our originality. There are so many nuances in human behavior unique to each individual. Particularly with buying and selling.

Originals

What makes the human brain amazing is its ability to create mental models with very little information. We learn primarily through our environment and experiences. Each person has a unique way of learning and applying what they learn. We are all original.

This is my beef with the traditional training models today. Essentially teach everyone the same thing the same way, Especially with sales trainings. Usually some veteran sales guy who teaches the entire class the same model he has been using for the last 30 years. Nothing adaptive or unique to me. I am left to figure it out on my own. Mainly conform to someone else’s opinion.

I can see the value of an AI engine automating some of my manual tasks. For me though I am more interested in an AI powered partner. Kind of like Steph and Klay. Han Solo and Chewbacca. Milk and cookies. Creating a dynamic duo. Someone or something that understands my unique style while merging it with effective methods. A personal AI just for me.

Granted AI is just in the beginning stages of getting interesting. My hope is Vicarious and other entrepreneurs are successful and we get a more personalized environment. More customization.

With Google’s announcement today of their Google Assistant, their vision is clear. Build a unique Google for each person. A personal assistant for everyone. Google understands the uniqueness of each individual. By tailoring Google to each person they understand the experience becomes more personal. Why does that matter? When we make the experience more personal, we tend to buy more. Simple concept, hard to implement.

A personal AI just for me. Now only if there was something like this for work….tbd.