What is an innovation strategy and 7 reasons you need one today

What is innovation?

What is an innovation strategy and 7 reasons you need one today  In today’s business landscape two things are undeniable:

  • The first, you must innovate or face extinction and the second;
  •  Innovators have dilemmas.

In this age of disruptive technology and globally integrated markets, an innovation strategy is key to success. Some companies even define their raison d’être as being at the forefront of innovation, but what does innovation actually mean?

Innovation is many things. It is an essential evolutionary mechanism that allows species, and—for our purposes—businesses, to survive the changes in their environment and/or prosper in a new environment. It can happen purposefully or accidentally. It can be radical or subtle. It happens in some companies and some countries with much greater frequency than others.

The history of business is littered with examples of companies that failed to innovate and died as a consequence of that failure, and also those bold firms who innovated their way to global relevance seemingly overnight.

There are four major types of innovation:

1. Incremental innovation is by far the most common type of innovation. It is the process of implementing an existing technology within an existing marketplace to add value and deliver a better product or service more efficiently. The continual incremental improvements to user interfaces in software products are examples of incremental innovation.

2. Architectural innovation is the process of taking your existing skills, technologies and lessons learned and creating value by applying them to a new market. For example, NASA-developed viscoelastic polyurethane foam is now commonly used to build mail-order memory foam mattresses, and consequently a booming industry.

What is an innovation strategy and 7 reasons you need one today  3. Radical/breakthrough innovation gives rise to completely new industries. Electricity, the telephone, the internal combustion engine, the airplane, the mobile phone are all examples of radical innovation.

4. Disruptive Innovation is perhaps the most misunderstood of the four. It is the application of new technology to an existing marketplace. That technology is initially more expensive and addresses an underserved market, as such, the products or platforms using the new technology are considered niche. But as maturity and economies improve, the technology eventually becomes compelling to mass audiences and renders incumbent companies uncompetitive. Blockbuster video’s fall to Netflix is an example of disruptive innovation. We call disruptive innovators “blindside attackers” because you usually don’t realize your business is threatened until it is much too late.

 

Innovations Strategies – what are they and why do they matter?

What are they?

An innovation strategy is a plan to improve profitable revenue or market share through service or product innovation. Innovation strategies most often involve the application of technology. They are conceived through deep analysis of customer needs and “jobs-to-be-done” (filling a gap) or through the nurturing of certain kinds of company culture and/or leadership style. Innovation strategies define how much and what kind of resources need to be assembled and how they will be deployed, and can even be used as a means of creating an early warning system of disruptive innovator threats and preparing responses to potential competitive threats.

Why does it matter?

The traditional approach to a company’s strategy has been the application of operational excellence. This makes perfect sense—if we can service our customers more efficiently then our products will be more competitive, and we will be rewarded with greater market share and repeat business, improving the returns to our investors.  The challenge is that the predominance of this lens can leave a company vulnerable to missed opportunities and competition from companies that are not playing by the same rulebook.

Almost all established companies should leverage their core competencies and work to more efficiently address their existing customer’s needs. Succeeding in this is what keeps the lights on and your employees showing up to work each day. However, in this age of increased change and technological advancement, it is becoming more and more difficult to stay in business, let alone succeed at a rate better than average. If you don’t have an innovation strategy, work diligently to foster a culture of innovation, develop distinctive measurements, and protect the budget and people allocation against the inevitable quarter to quarter pressures of delivering bottom-line results, your company is going to have problems.

The innovation strategy should be a core element of any company’s business strategy.

 

7 reasons every company needs an innovation strategy

Reason #1: We live in an era of rapid change. Artificial intelligence, blockchain, IoT, 5G, 3D printing, intelligent automation, autonomous transportation, and low earth satellites all have the potential to redefine existing markets and create new ones. Charting a course to survive and prosper is fundamental to business success.

Reason #2: The danger of blindside attacks is very real. Disruptive innovators are leveraging technology in entirely new ways the consequences of which can be hard to recognize until it is too late (as Netflix example above). You may spend way too many resources trying to protect your market share only to wake up one morning and discover that the rules have changed, and your market no longer exists.

What is an innovation strategy and 7 reasons you need one today  Reason #3: Customers are more informed and more engaged. Customer behaviour is being shaped by technology and ready access to real-time information. Customers increasingly view innovative companies as better aligned with their needs.

Reason #4: The rate and pace of change are accelerating. As the pace of technology-driven change and shifting customer expectations accelerate, companies will need to show up in the marketplace with new products that better address customer needs on an increasingly shorter timeline.

Reason #5: technology transfer friction has fallen. Advances in one field can now quickly jump to and impact another industry. For example, digital imaging put film manufacturers out of business and personalized medicine will redefine the pharmaceutical space.

Reason #6: Skill acquisition and retention are much easier for innovative firms. Talented people want to work for firms that have a vision, are forward-thinking and do not tend towards complacency as a result of their success. They view working on something innovative as being meaningful, and get fulfillment from “inventing the future”.

Reason #7: Brand value is accelerated by innovation. Customers and investors value innovative companies. Customers believe that their purchases are more future-proofed and that their value is magnified through innovative extensions, new versions, and the network effects caused by other like-minded customers. Investors value companies that don’t sit on their laurels and are leveraging technology and the rapid and scalable value magnification enabled by it.

 

By: Douglas Heintzman, Innovation Practice Lead at The Burnie Group


What is an innovation strategy and 7 reasons you need one today


 

The 2019 Innovation Podcast and Book List

Here at The Burnie Group, even in our downtime, we like to be on top of the ideas and innovations that are dramatically changing the businesses we work with, our country, and the world we live in. With that in mind, we’ve prepared this list of our favourite innovation themed books and podcasts.

If you’re getting into that ‘back-to-school‘ study groove like we are, our innovation list will get sparks flying so you’re ready to hit the ground running this September.

The Listen List – Podcasts we love and why 

1. NPRs Hidden Brain
2. NPRs How I Built This
3. Interchange Podcast
4. Economist Radio’s Babbage – Science and Technology
5. HBR Ideacast

 

1. NPRs Hidden Brain

The 2019 Innovation Podcast and Book List

Shankar Vedantam uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behaviour, shape our choices and direct our relationships in Hidden Brain.

Why we like it:
The stories are fascinating, engaging, and well told. There are not only great lessons to be learned but also a way of looking at the world. This type of in-depth analysis gives us ideas about how to better engage the crowd, inspire creativity, and drive innovative thinking.

Recommended episodes:
  • Getting Unstuck – At one time or another, many of us feel stuck: in the wrong job, the wrong relationship, the wrong city – the wrong life. Psychologists and self-help gurus have all kinds of advice for us when we feel rudderless. This week on Hidden Brain, we explore a new idea, from an unlikely source: Silicon Valley. Listen here.
  • What’s Not On The Test – Smarts matter. But other factors may play an even bigger role in whether someone succeeds. This week, we speak with Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman about the skills that predict how you’ll fare in life. We’ll also look at programs that build these skills in the neediest of children – and new research that suggests the benefits of investing in kids and families can last for generations. Listen here.

 

2. NPRs How I built this

The 2019 Innovation Podcast and Book List

Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world’s best-known companies. How I Built This weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists—and the movements they built.

Why we like it:

You really get a sense of how many different ways there are for an idea to grow. Some success is due to collaboration, some due to someone’s singular vision, some due to dogged persistence and sometimes it’s pure luck. It is great to hear stories told by inspiring entrepreneurs.

Recommended episodes:

  • Instagram: Kevin Systrom & Mike Krieger – Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger launched their photo-sharing app with a server that crashed every other hour. Despite a chaotic start, it became one of the most popular apps in the world. Listen here.
  • Patagonia: Yvon Chouinard – In 1973, Yvon Chouinard started Patagonia to make climbing gear he couldn’t find elsewhere. Over decades of growth, he has implemented a unique philosophy about business, leadership and profit. Listen here.
  • WeWork: Miguel McKelvey – In 2007, architect Miguel McKelvey convinced his friend Adam Neumann to share an office space in Brooklyn. That was the beginning of WeWork: a shared workspace for startups and freelancers looking for an inspiring environment to do their work. Today, WeWork has created a “community of creators” valued at nearly $16 billion. Listen here.
  • Bumble: Whitney Wolfe – At age 22, Whitney Wolfe helped launch Tinder, one of the world’s most popular dating apps. But a few years later, she left Tinder and filed a lawsuit against the company alleging sexual harassment. The ensuing attention from the media – and cyberbullying from strangers – prompted her to launch Bumble, a dating app where women make the first move. Today, the Bumble app has been downloaded close to 30 million times. Listen here.

 

3. Interchange Podcast – GTM Green Technology Media

The 2019 Innovation Podcast and Book List  The Interchange is a weekly podcast on the global energy transformation, hosted by Stephen Lacey and Shayle Kann. Each week, the duo provides deep insights into technology, markets, projects, company financials, mergers and acquisitions, policy changes, and market data.

Why we like it:

Transactive energy is a great passion of ours. Interchange looks at the colliding forces of energy, climate change, business, technology, policy and consumer behaviour. Every week this podcast looks at another dimension of the evolution of this essential industry that touches all of us.  The interviews are well structured and very engaging.

Recommended Episodes:

  • A Guide to Blockchain and Energy: Over the last 18 months, blockchain has evolved from an obscure concept in cryptocurrency circles into a mainstream corporate tool for “disrupting” entire industries. If you don’t have a blockchain strategy, you are not innovating hard enough. People love throwing around the term. But wait, what is it again? And why is it relevant to energy? Listen here.
  • A Blueprint for the Transactive Grid: Ryan Hanley is convinced that the distributed electric grid will create vastly more economic, security and societal value than today’s centralized system. Over the course of his career as a civil engineer — working at Pacific Gas & Electric, SolarCity, Tesla and now Advanced Microgrid Solutions — Hanley has worked to understand and extract that value. In this week’s conversation, Shayle Kann talks with Hanley about the tools at hand to re-engineer the distributed, transactive grid system. Listen here.
  • What Should We Do With All This Distributed Energy? Distributed energy resources (DERs) are going to double in the U.S. grid by 2023, according to our researchers at Wood Mackenzie. By then, we’ll likely have somewhere around 100 gigawatts of flexible capacity — made up of distributed solar, combined heat and power, electric vehicles, smart thermostats, and battery storage. Those technologies alone could amount to the current bulk power system in Texas. Today, utilities are less likely to see those DERs purely as a threat. But figuring out how to manage all those resources is still a monumental challenge. Now that we’re squarely in the middle of this doubling of DERs, how do we get markets right? This is an age-old question that many are working to answer — and we think it’s a good time revisit it. Listen here.

 

4. Economist Radio’s Babbage – Science and Technology

The 2019 Innovation Podcast and Book List  Babbage is the Economist’s weekly podcast on science and technology. It examines the innovations, discoveries and gadgetry making the news. New episodes are posted every Wednesday.

Why we like it:

It is very topical and currently relevant look at technologies impact on business people and society. It brings with it the high quality of Economist journalism and often features some very engaging interviews with newsmakers.

Recommended Episodes:

  • Babbage: Big data versus privacy: Data is becoming the world’s most valuable resource. Governments use it to monitor and control their citizens. Corporations use it to persuade consumers to buy their products. But as machine learning and algorithms advance, will people still be able to harness the power of big data without losing too much individual privacy?Listen here.
  • Babbage: Megatech: Technology in 2050: This feature-length episode dives into the technology that will shape our world over the next decades. Host Kenn Cukier and The Economist’s Executive Editor Daniel Franklin are joined by experts in artificial intelligence, cyber-security, healthcare and warfare to discuss how technology will transform many aspects of our lives. Listen here. 
  • Babbage: The automation game: How quickly will robots disrupt global industries and what will the implications be? We explore with economist Andrew McAfee at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Also, neuroscientists often compare the human brain to a computer chip, so what happened when the idea was put into practice? Listen here.

5. HBR Ideacast

The 2019 Innovation Podcast and Book List  This podcast highlights some of the best articles from the Harvard Business Review. Top leaders in business management, discuss the future of work and what innovation means from and individual and team perspective.

Why we like it:

The stories are well-conceived and very interesting.  You almost always finish an episode with one or two ideas that bounce around in your head for a number of days until you figure out how you might approach something in your own life a little differently.

Recommended Episodes:

  • 375: What the Best Decision Makers Do: Ram Charan, coauthor of “Boards that Lead,” talks about what he’s learned in three decades of helping executives make tough decisions. Listen here.
  • 645: Understanding Digital Strategy: Sunil Gupta, a professor at Harvard Business School, argues that many companies are still doing digital strategy wrong. Listen here.
  • 436: Making Good Decisions: Stanford’s Ron Howard, one of the fathers of decision analysis, explains how it’s done. Listen here.

The Must-Read List – Books we love and why

1. Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence
2. Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations
3. The Innovator’s Dilemma
4. The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators

 

1. Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence

Author: Ajay Agrawal,  Joshua Gans, Avi Goldfarb

What is it

The 2019 Innovation Podcast and Book List  From the publisher: Artificial intelligence does the seemingly impossible, magically bringing machines to life–driving cars, trading stocks, and teaching children. But facing the sea change that AI will bring can be paralyzing. How should companies set strategies, governments design policies, and people plan their lives for a world so different from what we know? In the face of such uncertainty, many analysts either cower in fear or predict an impossibly sunny future.

But in Prediction Machines, three eminent economists recast the rise of AI as a drop in the cost of prediction. With this single, masterful stroke, they lift the curtain on the AI-is-magic hype and show how basic tools from economics provide clarity about the AI revolution and a basis for action by CEOs, managers, policymakers, investors, and entrepreneurs.

When AI is framed as a cheap prediction, its extraordinary potential becomes clear:

Prediction is at the heart of making decisions under uncertainty. Our businesses and personal lives are riddled with such decisions. Prediction tools increase productivity–operating machines, handling documents, communicating with customers. Uncertainty constrains strategy. Better prediction creates opportunities for new business structures and strategies to compete. Penetrating, fun, and always insightful and practical, Prediction Machines follows its inescapable logic to explain how to navigate the changes on the horizon. The impact of AI will be profound, but the economic framework for understanding it is surprisingly simple.

Why we like it: 

Like many books, there are only a few big ideas, but those ideas are slotted into an accessible intellectual framework and brought to life with some fascinating stories.

2. Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations

Author: Thomas L Friedman

What is it?

The 2019 Innovation Podcast and Book List  From the publisher: In his most ambitious work to date, Thomas L. Friedman shows that we have entered an age of dizzying acceleration–and explains how to live in it. Due to an exponential increase in computing power, climbers atop Mount Everest enjoy excellent cell-phone service and self-driving cars are taking to the roads. A parallel explosion of economic interdependency has created new riches as well as spiralling debt burdens. Meanwhile, Mother Nature is also seeing dramatic changes as carbon levels rise and species go extinct, with compounding results.

How do these changes interact, and how can we cope with them? To get a better purchase on the present, Friedman returns to his Minnesota childhood and sketches a world where politics worked and joining the middle class was an achievable goal. Today, by contrast, it is easier than ever to be a maker (try 3-D printing) or a breaker (the Islamic State excels at using Twitter), but harder than ever to be a leader or merely “average.” Friedman concludes that nations and individuals must learn to be fast (innovative and quick to adapt), fair (prepared to help the casualties of change), and slow (adept at shutting out the noise and accessing their deepest values). With vision, authority, and wit, Thank You for Being Late establishes a blueprint for how to think about our times.

Why we like it:

It is by Tomas Friedman. Pretty much everything he writes is well researched, thought-provoking and highly relevant. In this book he looks at many of the major forces that are shaping the world we will be living in, and not only presents us with difficult challenges, but also with some pragmatic solutions.

 

3. The Innovator’s Dilemma

Author: Clayton M. Christensen

The 2019 Innovation Podcast and Book List  What is it?

From the publisher: The bestselling classic on disruptive innovation, by renowned author Clayton M. Christensen.

His work is cited by the world’s best-known thought leaders, from Steve Jobs to Malcolm Gladwell. In this classic bestseller—one of the most influential business books of all time—innovation expert Clayton Christensen shows how even the most outstanding companies can do everything right—yet still lose market leadership.

Christensen explains why most companies miss out on new waves of innovation. No matter the industry, he says, a successful company with established products will get pushed aside unless managers know how and when to abandon traditional business practices.

Offering both successes and failures from leading companies as a guide, The Innovator’s Dilemma gives you a set of rules for capitalizing on the phenomenon of disruptive innovation.

Sharp, cogent, and provocative—and consistently noted as one of the most valuable business ideas of all time—The Innovator’s Dilemma is the book no manager, leader, or entrepreneur should be without.

Why we like it:

It’s a classic. One of the most profound and useful business books ever written about innovation. It examines the difference between sustainable & disruptive innovation. The phenomenon of the blind side attacker leveraging disruptive innovation to redefine a marketplace is both fascinating and very important. As the authoritative source of much of the innovation worlds buzzwords, this is worth a read or re-read.

 

4.  The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators

Authors: Jeffrey H. Dyer, Hal B. Gregersen, Clayton M. Christensen

The 2019 Innovation Podcast and Book List  What is it?

From the publisher: You can be as innovative and impactful — if you can change your behaviours to improve your creative impact. In The Innovator’s DNA, authors Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and bestselling author Clayton M. Christensen (The Innovator’s Dilemma, The Innovator’s Solution) build on what we know about disruptive innovation to show how individuals can develop the skills necessary to move progressively from idea to impact. By identifying behaviours of the world’s best innovators — from leaders at Amazon and Apple to those at Google, Skype, and Virgin Group — the authors outline five discovery skills that distinguish innovative entrepreneurs and executives from ordinary managers: Associating, Questioning, Observing, Networking, and Experimenting. Once you master these competencies, the authors explain how you can generate ideas, collaborate with colleagues to implement them, and build innovation skills throughout your organization to sharpen its competitive edge. That innovation advantage can translate into a premium in your company’s stock price — an innovation premium — that is possible only by building the code for innovation right into your organization’s people, processes, and guiding philosophies. Practical and provocative, The Innovator’s DNA is an essential resource for individuals and teams who want to strengthen their innovative prowess.

Why we like it:

In this follow on to “The Innovators Dilemma” and the “Innovators Solution”, the authors explain the skills required to move progressively from idea to impact. An easy read with great storytelling making great points very concisely and providing some practical guidance on how to integrate innovation into your way of looking at the world.

 


The 2019 Innovation Podcast and Book List


 

A Brave New World: Fourth Generation Blockchain

Blockchain’s unavoidable link to the highly tumultuous cryptocurrency market (i.e. Bitcoin) has recently made it vulnerable to criticism and dismissal. Despite this climate, blockchain technology, now in its fourth generation, continues to push forward, evolving beyond its cryptocurrency origins and becoming increasingly simple to use.

The evolutionary generations of blockchain

Before we discuss the future business impact of the fourth generation of blockchain, let’s first look at the stages of blockchain’s evolution since it was first conceived in 2008.

A Brave New World: Fourth Generation Blockchain  First Generation

Developed by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, the first generation of blockchain saw the emergence of distributed ledgers and enforced digital scarcity, as exemplified by Bitcoin. Blockchain appealed to cryptocurrency creators because of its Proof of Work1 algorithm, which validated transactions and prevented people from “double spending”, or using the same money for more than one transaction.

 

A Brave New World: Fourth Generation Blockchain  Second Generation

The second generation of blockchain, led by the automation and the development of trusted code platforms like Ethereum and Hyperledger, introduced the concept of smart contracts and made possible the digital tokenization of physical assets.

It was also around this time that the technology suffered initial scrutiny and concerns with regard to scalability, transaction speed and network efficiency.

 

A Brave New World: Fourth Generation Blockchain  Third Generation

Third-generation blockchain platforms like Aion, Cardano, and EOS, introduced technology such as sharding to tackle scaling issues in order to cut down on cost and speed of transactions.

These platforms also matured the distributed application capabilities of blockchain. (eg. La’Zooz, a decentralized, community-owned transportation platform that turns a vehicle’s unused space into a variety of smart transportation solutions.)

 

Fourth Generation Blockchain

The first three generations have been pivotal in increasing the scope of blockchain’s applicability, but there remained challenges (e.g. complexity, cost) that hindered widespread adoption.

Fourth generation blockchains resolve prior challenges and enable trust in easy-to-consume ways, accelerating the formation, operation, and reconfiguration of business networks. In addition to greater ease of onboarding, these lower cost, and highly scalable platforms make pragmatic trade-offs such as recognizing that not all transactions are created equal. For example, a variable consensus mechanism will allow you to incur different transaction time and cost when buying a cup of coffee when compared to buying a house.

Fourth generation Blockchain platforms like Insolar2 and Aergo, are enabling business networks to be easier to use through business-oriented interfaces that hide the complexity of the underlying blockchain technology. It is this moment in the evolution of blockchain technology–where we stop talking about blockchain and just start using it– that we believe will spark the true disruptive potential of blockchain.

 

What does it all mean?

Business networks—companies combining their resources in the pursuit of common objectives—are the key drivers of value creation and innovation in our modern economy. Their productivity and potential have traditionally been constrained by transactional frictions, principally informational and trust. The internet has significantly reduced informational friction and blockchain is the mechanism that can radically reduce trust friction.  A world with low informational and trust friction will innovate and create value at a dramatically accelerated pace.

By: Douglas Heintzman, Innovation Practice Lead at The Burnie Group

NOTES:

  1. Proof-of-Work: Proof-of-Work was the first blockchain consensus mechanism and is still arguably the most popular choice in achieving distributed consensus (the ability to trust a stranger without having to go through a third-party). https://medium.com/nakamo-to/what-is-proof-of-stake-pos-479a04581f3a
  2. Disclosure: Insolar is a client of The Burnie Group

 


A Brave New World: Fourth Generation Blockchain


 

Six Industries where Blockchain is Making Waves in 2019

Blockchain is a technology that holds the potential to disrupt several industries with many innovative applications. Despite its roots in cryptocurrency, some of the most creative and disruptive applications of blockchain go beyond pure financial transactions.

Automation through smart contracting, security through encryption, and transparency through shared information are just of a few of the novel ways that blockchain is enabling business disruption. As a peer-to-peer, distributed network, blockchain technology is helping the businesses that use it become more transparent, democratic, decentralized, efficient, and secure.

Blockchain has shifted the way we view security and transparency and will continue to transform several industries as it becomes more popular and widely adopted. Below, we look at six industries currently adopting blockchain to gain competitive advantage.

 

Six Industries where Blockchain is Making Waves in 2019  1. Financial Services

Financial services have traditionally received the most attention within the blockchain ecosystem. Blockchain’s secure approach to exchanging data, increased transparency, and lower operating costs make it attractive to the highly regulated and security-focused financial services industry.

In 2019, some of the biggest opportunities for blockchain in financial services will be in:

  •  •  AML/ KYC
  •  •  Clearing and settlement
  •  •  Trade finance
  •  •  International payments
  •  •  Identity as a service
  •  •  Onboarding
  •  •  Remittances

 

Six Industries where Blockchain is Making Waves in 2019  2. Healthcare

Blockchain’s features offer countless benefits in the healthcare and long-term care industries. It can improve the accessibility and accuracy of patient data, facilitate better and faster treatment and enhance patient safety. It can also create a common, secure health information database that medical staff can access seamlessly. With less time spent on administrative tasks and better access to patient data, the quality of patient care can be greatly improved.

Blockchain helps reduce instances of fraud, reduces operational cost through optimized processes, and improves transparency and interoperability, reducing duplication of work in the healthcare space. These areas, in particular, are ripe for blockchain:

  •  •  Electronic health records
  •  •  Clinical trials
  •  •  Claims adjudication and billing management
  •  •  Prescriptions – provenance, double-Rx

 

Six Industries where Blockchain is Making Waves in 2019  3. Supply Chain Management

Today’s supply chains are increasingly complex, involving multiple parties across multiple regions and modes of transport. Blockchain provides these intricate supply chain networks with increased transparency, improved traceability and optimization through automation.

In supply chain, we expect to see blockchain used most prominently in:

  •  •  Provenance tracking, ex. Agricultural and pharma products (any place where spoilage or counterfeit can be introduced)
  •  •  Monitoring location, conditions (e.g. temperature, exposure to elements, any agitation/tremors) and security of products during transport
  •  •  Contract and Sub-contract management
  •  •  Bidding systems
  •  •  Invoicing and bills of lading
  •  •  Customs clearance

 

Six Industries where Blockchain is Making Waves in 2019  4. Government and Public Service

Governments have generally been slow to prioritize blockchain’s potential. At present, Canada is one of more than a dozen countries that are examining blockchain’s potential and running exploratory pilots. The public sector is expected to leverage blockchain for the benefits of increased security, efficiency and enhanced customer experience.

Record management in public services and government is an area where blockchain can automate paper-based processes, minimize fraud, and increase accountability between governmental agencies and those they serve.

Areas with a high degree of promise for blockchain include:

  •  •  Civil registries and identity management
    •  •  Immigration management
    •  •  Refugee management
  •  •  Land and personal property registries
  •  •  Voting systems
  •  •  Toll-roads
  •  •  Micro-loan capitalization (enforce scarcity)

 

Six Industries where Blockchain is Making Waves in 2019  5. Insurance

Insurance is an industry that is ready for the adoption of blockchain. Blockchain’s ability to increase transparency, manage identity, and generate smart contracts will allow the insurance industry to improve efficiency (e.g. Oracles1 will provide inputs to smart contracts, reducing manual processing and instances of fraud.) and enhance the ability to accurately underwrite risk.

Some of the areas where we expect Blockchain to gain traction include:

  •  •  Parametric insurance
  •  •  Claims processing
  •  •  Risk modelling
  •  •  Peer-to-peer
    1. Individuals can take out insurance policy with eachother rather than through an insurance provider

 

Six Industries where Blockchain is Making Waves in 2019  6. Energy

A historically centralized industry that relies on intermediaries and inefficient energy transport across long distances, blockchain provides the infrastructure to support innovation in the form of peer-to-peer energy networks, microgrids, electric vehicle (EV) charging, automated billing, and invoice settlement.

The energy sector, in particular, will be impacted by IoT devices creating an opportunity for blockchain. For example, having a ledger of things to complement the Internet of Things will ensure that all the many minute IoT data transfers and transactions are accurately represented and logged.

In the energy sector, we expect to see blockchain used in:

  •  •  Microgrid/ decentralized management
    1. moving electrons in barter
    2. establishing contracts for peer-to-peer storage/extraction
    3. use of smart appliances
  •  •  EV charging
    1. Transactions & identity management
  •  •  IoT
  •  •  Metering and payments

 

The Final Word

Businesses in these and countless other industries need to consider incorporating blockchain into their strategies so as not to fall behind. As we look forward in 2019, Blockchain’s potential to transform the way companies operate to reduce costs and create new revenue streams will be transformative.

As businesses explore the disruptive potential of blockchain, we will begin to see more progress made beyond proofs of concept and limited scale pilots.

If you have questions about how blockchain could impact your industry, contact us. The Burnie Group will help you to set the right strategy and build the right foundation to help you become a pioneer in this emerging technology.

 


Six Industries where Blockchain is Making Waves in 2019


 By: Madison Wright, Associate

NOTES:

  1. An oracle, in the context of blockchains and smart contracts, is an agent that finds and verifies real-world occurrences and submits this information to a blockchain to be used by smart contracts. https://blockchainhub.net/blockchain-oracles/

PRESS RELEASE: The Burnie Group achieves second consecutive top 100 rank in 2018 Growth 500 ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies

–Canadian Business unveils its 30th annual list of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies – 

PRESS RELEASE: The Burnie Group achieves second consecutive top 100 rank in 2018 Growth 500 ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies  TORONTO, ONTARIO– (Sept. 13, 2018) – The Burnie Group is pleased to announce that it has ranked No. 82 in the Growth 500 ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies. This is the 2nd year that The Burnie Group has ranked in the top 100, with five-year revenue growth of 1,030%. The Toronto-based management consulting firm ranked No. 2 in the category of Canada’s fastest-growing professional services companies for 2018.

“The companies on the 2018 Growth 500 are truly remarkable. Demonstrating foresight, innovation and smart management, their stories serve as a primer for how to build a successful entrepreneurial business today,” says Deborah Aarts, Growth 500 program manager. “As we celebrate 30 years of the Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies program, it’s encouraging to see that entrepreneurship is healthier than ever in this country.”

“Ranking in the Growth 500 two years in a row is a great honour, and we’re delighted to find ourselves amongst Canada’s best and brightest companies,” says David Burnie, Principal and Founder of The Burnie Group. “I believe this second nod confirms that we’re on the right track with our approach to client service and innovation. We want to thank our team and clients for making this possible once again.”

Ranking Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies by five-year revenue growth, the Growth 500—formerly known as the PROFIT 500—profiles the country’s most successful entrepreneurial businesses. The Growth 500 is produced by Canadian Business. Winners are profiled in a special Growth 500 print issue of Canadian Business (packaged with the October issue of Maclean’s magazine) and online at Growth500.ca and CanadianBusiness.com.

 

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About The Burnie Group

The Burnie Group is a Canadian-based management consulting firm that helps clients improve their businesses through the application of innovative strategy, rigorous analysis, world-class technology, and the continuous pursuit of operations excellence.  The Burnie Group specializes in Strategy, Operations, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI)Blockchain, and Workforce Management (WFM). Our programs deliver measurable, transparent, and guaranteed results.

 

About the Growth 500

For 30 years, the Growth 500 ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies has been Canada’s most respected and influential ranking of entrepreneurial achievement. Developed by PROFIT and now published in a special Growth 500 print issue of Canadian Business (packaged with the October issue of Maclean’s magazine) and online at Growth500.ca and CanadianBusiness.com, the Growth 500 ranks Canadian companies on five-year revenue growth. For more information on the ranking, visit Growth500.ca. 

 

About Canadian Business

Founded in 1928, Canadian Business is the longest-serving and most-trusted business publication in the country. It is the country’s premier media brand for executives and senior

business leaders. It fuels the success of Canada’s business elite with a focus on the things that matter most: leadership, innovation, business strategy and management tactics. Learn more at CanadianBusiness.com.

 

Media Contact:

Bruna Sofia Simoes

Marketing & Sales Manager

Bruna.simoes@burniegroup.com

416-909-6379

 


 

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution

While the umbrella of digital ledger technology (DLT)—technologies which distribute records or information among all those using it—can be traced to 1991, it was Bitcoin’s cryptocurrency model that demonstrated blockchain’s—a special case of DLT—potential. Since its unveiling ten years ago, it has evolved and been repurposed for tasks beyond simple currency transactions. Below, we follow key moments in blockchain’s evolution in the last decade.

1. 2008 – Satoshi Nakamoto* releases whitepaper, Bitcoin: A Peer to Peer Electronic Cash System

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  Unlike real-world transactions, Nakamoto’s proposed cryptocurrency system is independent of third-party regulators such as a central bank. Its online peer-to-peer network facilitates unchangeable and indisputable public recordkeeping. Its timestamp servers provide proof-of-work to address trust issues and enforce rarity in the digital domain. Importantly, the proposed architecture solved the “double spending” problem (since digital information can be easily reproduced, it carries the risk that digital currency can be spent twice). In practice, Bitcoin becomes the first blockchain database.

* An unidentified pseudonymous person or group of people.

 

2. 2009 – First Bitcoin transaction and the establishment of the Bitcoin Market

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  Bitcoin’s currency is released (created) through “mining.” This is an incentivized process that includes compiling recent transactions into blocks and solving computationally difficult puzzles. The first member to solve the problem is rewarded with newly-released bitcoin.

Within two weeks of mining the first group of transactions (the genesis block), Nakamoto and a computer scientist named Hal Finney tested the system, with Nakamoto sending ten bitcoins to Finney.

The Bitcoin Market is established later this year. It features automated and escrowed payment-processing options, which allow individuals to exchange real-world currency for the cryptocurrency (and vice versa).

As of June 30, 2018, more than 325 million Bitcoin transactions have taken place.

 

3. 2010 – First documented goods purchase using Bitcoin

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  As cryptocurrencies cannot be used for real-world purchases, Laszlo Hanyecz and Jeremy Sturdivant trade 10,000 BTC (US$25, at the time) for two large pizzas.

On June 30, 2018, 10,000 BTC was valued at more than US$64 million.

 

4. 2014 – Experts explore blockchain’s value outside of Bitcoin

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  Companies see potential in blockchain technology for non-currency-based uses and begin exploring how blockchain could be harnessed. Sectors such as healthcare, insurance, and transportation take a keen interest. Experts investigate its potential in improving the management of specific areas such as supply chain, contracts, and elections.

 

5. 2014 – R3 consortium with global financial services companies to explore distributed ledger technology

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  A group of nine global financial services firms formed a consortium with R3, blockchain technology company, to examine and implement blockchain. Two years later, the growing partnership announced Corda, a private decentralized platform for financial institutions. Unlike traditional blockchain, where all data is copied to all participants, Corda only allows verified transactions to be shared with relevant members.

 

6. 2015 – Ethereum launches

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  In late 2013, Vitalek Buterin’s releases a whitepaper that re-envisions the uses for Bitcoin’s public blockchain. While the Bitcoin platform focused on peer-to-peer transactions and tracking cryptocurrency ownership, Ethereum’s purpose centred on allowing developers to run and deploy decentralized applications.

In 2015, Buterin launches Ethereum, a blockchain-based open software platform. It features smart contracts (self-executing agreements with terms directly written into lines of code, on a platform that made activities traceable, transparent, and irreversible). It allows traditionally centralized intermediary services to be redesigned into decentralized ones. Ethereum also smooths the way to creating Decentralized Autonomous Organizations. These are fully autonomous, personless organizations, run by programming code, owned by those who hold Ether (the system’s proprietary payment token). Like Bitcoin, the Ethereum platform features a proof-of-work consensus mechanism.

 

7. 2015 – Stock Exchanges evaluate blockchain technology and the first private securities transaction using blockchain

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  Chain.com used Linq, the Nasdaq’s blockchain-based solution, to complete and record a private securities transaction. At this time, The Australian Stock Exchange begins evaluating replacements for its Clearing House Electronic Subregister System (it later chose a blockchain-based system). In the following years, exchanges in Canada, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, and the United Kingdom announce various blockchain-based trading system prototypes and evaluations.

 

8. 2016 –The Linux Foundation launches Hyperledger

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  The Linux Foundation launches Hyperledger, an open-source collaborative effort created to promote cross-industry blockchain technologies. The global initiative’s objective was to coordinate and focus efforts on improving the technology’s performance and reliability so it could support global business transactions. Among its 30 founding members were ABN AMRO, ANZ Bank, Blockchain, CME Group, Deutsche Börse Group, Fujitsu Limited, IBM, Intel, J.P. Morgan, R3, and Wells Fargo. It is hoped Hyperledger Fabric (a blockchain framework implementation) will become the foundation of many large-scale, banking, supply chain, and digital identity systems.

 

9. 2016 – First international transaction between banks using blockchain

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  A transaction of AU$35,000 worth of cotton, shipped from China to the United States, is completed using blockchain applications. The deal takes place between the Australian and US divisions of Brighann Cotton Marketing; Wells Fargo & Co. and The Commonwealth Bank of Australia provides banking services. Blockchain is credited with streamlining the exchange by eliminating issues rooted in duplicated processing and differing time zones.

Read more about The Burnie Group’s offerings in the financial sector here.

 

10. 2017 and 2018 – Adoption in enterprise-level companies and large-scale operations

From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution  AIG and IBM use blockchain to manage complex international coverage for Standard Chartered Bank PLC, to develop a “smart” insurance policy. This first-of-its-kind policy used the technology to share real-time information for a main policy that was written in the United Kingdom and had three local policies in Kenya, Singapore, and the United States.

IBM, JD.com, IBM, Walmart, and Tsinghua University’s National Engineering Laboratory for E-Commerce Technologies announce the Blockchain Food Safety Alliance in late 2017.  Its primary goal is to achieve greater transparency across China’s food supply chain through improved food tracking, traceability, and safety.

TradeLens, a collaboration between IBM and Maersk, is unveiled in 2018 as the first industry-wide cross-border supply chain solution based on blockchain technology. It allows those in the global shipping industry to share real-time information securely. With approximately 1 million shipments daily, more than 154 million shipments are logged by mid-August 2018. At this time, 94 partners were involved in the project, including more than 20 port and terminal operators, global container carriers, customs authorities, freight forwarders, and logistics companies.

In the spring of 2018, Facebook announces an internal blockchain start-up, while Google announces partnerships with BlockApps and Digital Asset to offer customers blockchain solutions as part of Google’s Cloud Platform Marketplace. At this time, Amazon also launched AWS Blockchain templates—pre-set blockchain frameworks that support Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric.

 

In the past ten years, blockchain has gone from being one of Bitcoin’s key underpinnings to a transformative technology in its own right. With this year’s worldwide spending projected to be US$1.5 billion—double that of 2017—and could grow to US$11.7 billion in 2022, it’s clear blockchain will play an increasingly important and significant part of the business technology landscape.

 


From cryptocurrency to food safety: Ten key events in blockchain’s evolution


PRESS RELEASE: The Burnie Group receives Blue Prism Silver Partner Award in Robotic Process Automation

PRESS RELEASE: The Burnie Group receives Blue Prism Silver Partner Award in Robotic Process Automation  TORONTO, ONTARIO– (June 1, 2018) – This latest achievement builds upon an already deep and long-standing relationship with Blue Prism. One of North America’s first Blue Prism partners, The Burnie Group helps clients transform their operations through the delivery of robotic process automation, augmented by thoughtful business process redesign and performance management. This approach provides substantial cost savings, streamlines and simplifies operations, and eliminates waste, errors and the risk of fraud.

“The Burnie Group is honoured to be recognized as a Blue Prism Silver Partner,” said David Burnie, Principal and Founder of The Burnie Group. “We constantly strive to be at the forefront of what’s new, and what stands to have incredible influence. We were the first consulting firm in Canada to adopt and embrace Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and we’ve been very successful in building this practice, this award is a testament to that.”

Recently, The Burnie Group supported ATB Financial in achieving Blue Prism’s 2018 ROM Excellence Award. An accolade presented to the company who has been judged to have achieved the best performance through implementing the Robotic Operating Model that leverages object reusability, appropriate controls and organizational design to maximize business benefits and scalability.

With the demand for RPA and The Burnie Group’s services continuing to increase, together The Burnie Group and Blue Prism are helping clients deploy digital workforces across North America.

 

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About The Burnie Group

The Burnie Group is a Canadian-based management consulting firm that helps clients improve their businesses through the application of innovative strategy, rigorous analysis, world-class technology, and the continuous pursuit of operations excellence.  The Burnie Group specializes in Strategy, Operations, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Blockchain, and Workforce Management (WFM). Our programs deliver measurable, transparent, and guaranteed results.

 

 

Media Contact:

Bruna Sofia Simoes

Marketing & Sales Manager

Bruna.simoes@burniegroup.com

416-909-6379

 


 

29 Cutting Edge Applications of Artificial Intelligence

29 Cutting Edge Applications of Artificial Intelligence  Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the theory and development of computer systems that can perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. These tasks include visual perception, speech recognition, decision making, and language translation. Systems capable of performing such tasks are steadily transitioning from research laboratories into industry usage.

AI technology is unique in that it is flexible in application. It can be used to improve processes, enhance interactions, and solve problems that, until recently, could only be performed by humans. AI’s advanced abilities include natural language processing (NLP), machine learning, machine perception, and enhanced analytics.

The list below details 29 cutting-edge applications made possible by AI technology.

 

NATURAL LANGUAGE PROCESSING

Natural language processing (NLP) is a sub-category of AI that attempts to bridge the gap between human and computer communication. AI-enabled systems such as IBM’s Watson use NLP to understand and respond to the nuances of human language. This allows for more accurate analysis of data sets and communication of insights.

  1. Customer interaction chatbots — Chatbots are computer programs that are commonly used to interact with customers by audio or text. Conversica, for example, is a virtual sales assistant that communicates persistently and politely with prospective sales leads. Conversica uses email to engage, qualify, and follow-up with leads, allowing the sales team to focus their efforts on closing deals.
  2. Financial chatbots — In the financial industry, chatbots such as aLVin are used to interact with brokers. They can answer questions, understand intent, and direct brokers to their desired products and information.
  3. Virtual assistants — Beyond chatbots, AI can power more complicated virtual assistants that can recognize client needs and complete various tasks. Expensify‘s virtual assistant, Concierge, assists in the automation of expense reports and travel arrangements for companies. It can inform clients of real-time price changes and can even file receipts on their behalf.
  4. Communication systems – AI-powered communication systems can also be used to manage relations between peers and stakeholders. CrystalKnows, a personality detection software, uses NLP to evaluate LinkedIn accounts and develop a profile of how to most effectively speak to, work with, or sell to an individual. Crystal can even draft emails to anyone based on the preferred tone suggested by his or her online presence.
  5. Legal assistants — The language processing capabilities of AI assistants can be tailored to a specific industry. LegalRobot’s AI assistants are designed to review legal documents and make suggestions for language clarity and strength.
  6. Cognitive retail – Virtual assistant capabilities can be integrated with other customer relationship management products to provide in-person levels of service via online platforms. The North Face‘s personal web-shopper, XPS, uses NLP to understand customer need as would a human representative. It then uses machine learning to make informed product recommendations based on customer history, location, and other data.
  7. Personal assistants – AI can also be used on a personal device to simplify daily tasks. Gluru technology, for example, is used to power a task management application that uses NLP to analyze a user’s conversational data, such as their email. This app can identify tasks, generate a personalized to-do list, and even provide actionable buttons to complete each task.
  8. Web speech – New language-based technological advancements in AI can improve the web navigation and searching experience. These web speech APIs integrate voice recognition technology, syntactical analysis, and machine learning to seamlessly convert voice to text and vice versa. This click- and typing-free internet interaction can improve information accessibility for those with a disability or low technological acumen.

 

MACHINE LEARNING

Machine learning is an application of AI that allows systems to process data and learn to improve the performance of a specific task without explicit programming.  Deep learning is a form of machine learning that mimics human learning patterns to gain an understanding of unstructured data sets and generate intelligent decisions.

  1. Medical decision making — Deep-learning programs such as Enlitic can optimize physician decision making by analyzing a patient’s past medical history, diagnostic information, and symptoms to provide actionable insights. These programs learn as they process data, improving their ability to identify diseases and provide treatment planning.
  2. Healthcare analytics — Deep learning can also be used to compile, analyze, and interpret collaborative data. Flatiron, for instance, has developed a cloud-based platform for healthcare professionals that compiles insights, empirical data, and patient experiences to improve oncological care on a real-time basis.
  3. Bioinformatics – In the field of bioinformatics, scientists use AI-software to identify patterns in large data sets, such as sequenced genomes and proteomes. This analysis can help in the development of new drugs to tackle diseases by determining which proteins are encoded by a certain gene. Atomnet is a deep-learning technology that analyzes the structure of proteins known to cause disease and designs drugs accordingly.
  4. Emotional detection —Emotional detection systems powered by AI can detect human emotions without visual input. Researchers at MIT have developed EQ Radio, a system that learns to identify human emotions based on heartbeat data collected by wireless signals. This technology may one day be used by smart homes to detect if a resident is experiencing a heart attack.
  5. Fraud detection — Fraud prevention has always been a major challenge for the financial industry. PayPal and other eCommerce companies have started to use deep-learning fraud-detection algorithms to monitor customers’ digital transactions and identify suspicious behaviours. A study by LexisNexis found that this deep-learning approach to security has reduced PayPal’s fraud rate to 0.32% of revenue, a 1% improvement over the industry average.
  6. Cyber Security — AI-enabled cybersecurity programs analyze and organize internal network data to identify potential threats. The security program RecordedFuture uses machine learning and NLP to contextualize information and provide actionable analyses.
  7. Procurement optimization – Companies can use AI internally to enhance business operations such as procurement. Tamr, a data unification software, uses machine learning to clean, analyze, and sort procurement data. It identifies savings opportunities, bundles spending across business units, and exposes supplier risk.
  8. Customer interactions — While NLP allows virtual assistants to interact easily with customers, deep learning allows them to locate and provide the desired information. The AI model DigitalGenius analyzes historical customer service transcripts in order to recognize successful customer interactions. This allows the model to predict meta-data for new cases and provide suggestions for automated customer responses.
  9. Optimized gaming — The gaming industry, previously focused on the level distinctions of “easy,” “medium,” or “hard,” is now using AI technology to develop self-optimizing and -evaluating games.  These new AI-powered games keep players engaged by continuously adjusting difficulty and strategy to suit player ability.
  10. Military planning — In a military setting, AI can be used to increase deployment efficiency. Autonomous machines (including drones and satellites) share data in real time to develop actionable strategies. The U.S. military AI system JADE evaluates historical data combines information with learned reasoning and presents suggestions to execute large-scale plans in minimal time.

 

MACHINE PERCEPTION

Machine perception is the ability of a system to simulate the human perception of the world. AI uses machine perception to extract information from different data sources. Computer vision is a type of machine perception that allows AI to extract information from images.

  1. Medical imaging — Computer vision represents a huge technological advancement for medical imaging and preventative care. The diagnostic program Zebra Medical Vision collects and analyzes medical scans for various clinical identifiers. It then accesses a database of millions of scans, enabling it to provide critical information such as the location of a tumour or a patient’s risk of cardiovascular disease.
  2. Manufacturing — The manufacturing sector is increasingly turning to robotics to speed up repetitive tasks. AI-enabled robots use computer vision to complete tasks and to adapt to changing environmental conditions, broadening the types of tasks available to robots and preventing costly mistakes on the assembly line. Fanuc‘s Gakushu robots use computer vision and a machine learning software to collect and evaluate data for path, speed, and task optimization in aerospace manufacturing.
  3. Service industry – Some AI-enabled robots can not only understand human language but can recognize human emotions. Using computer vision, Softbank‘s humanoid robot Pepper can interpret facial expressions as human emotions and generate responses accordingly. Pepper can also recognize and remember individual faces and preferences. It is primarily used as a greeter in Japanese office buildings, restaurants, banks, and stores.
  4. Financial industry — In the financial industry, AI programs can learn to identify potential high-yield customers, to recognize fraud, and even to forecast changes in stock trends.  To further reduce fraud, the financial application Face++ uses computer vision for facial recognition to secure users’ financial transactions.
  5. Autonomous delivery – Companies are increasingly using AI for commercial navigation purposes. Autonomous delivery systems, such as Amazon‘s delivery drones and Domino‘s Robotic Unit, use computer vision to efficiently navigate obstacles and optimize routes. Beyond commercial delivery, Matternet’s autonomous drone network in Switzerland aims to reduce medical testing times by flying diagnostic materials between hospitals and labs.
  6. Transit safety — AI technology is paving the way for autonomous cars and accident-free transit systems. The combination of deep learning and computer vision allows cars to observe and safely interact with the surrounding environment. Road safety can be further increased by AI-enabled navigation systems, which alert drivers to potential accidents and suggest alternative navigation routes.
  7. Geospatial analytics — Geospatial analytics use computer vision to gather and compare satellite imagery with historical data in order to develop insights. Using these insights, AI-enabled satellites can track economic trends from space. Orbital Insight, for example, predicts retail sales based on satellite images of retail store parking lots.
  8. Childcare — AI devices use computer vision to recognize faces and navigate around obstacles, but a new Google patent suggests they can even be used to provide childcare.  Google’s AI babysitter system learns to recognize different features of a home and to differentiate between family members. The system can recognize when a child has been left alone for too long, or has wandered dangerously close to a socket, and alerts the parents accordingly.

 

PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS

Predictive analytics are used by programs to analyze historical data in order to predict future outcomes. When combined with AI platforms, analytic ability increases in speed, scale, and application.

    1. Marketing — Some predictive models can be used to analyze consumer data and inform marketing decisions. Magnetic, for instance, can predict the most effective advertisement to present a particular consumer and can choose to present the selected advertisement to the consumer without human supervision.
    2. Data extraction — Data-extraction programs use AI to analyze and extract specific information from documents. Xtracta, for example, allows various retail applications to extract data from receipts. This information, combined with predictive analytics, generates useful statistical reports and relevant buying suggestions for the application user.
    3. Social Network Analytics — Social networks can provide valuable marketing data, but also produce linguistically complicated datasets. In order to produce usable information, user profiles must be semantically analyzed using NLP. Companies can then use predictive algorithms to identify a customer’s preferences and web navigation patterns in order to provide targeted web advertising.

Development of AI technologies is actively being encouraged through projects like Soar—a cognitive architecture project aimed at developing computational building blocks for intelligent agents—and OpenCog—an open-source software project intended to create a framework for artificial general intelligence. Through such collaboration, AI capabilities continue to advance, thus expanding application potential.

Is your organization ready for AI? Read more about our AI consulting capabilities here. 


29 Cutting Edge Applications of Artificial Intelligence


 By: Jenya Doudareva, Associate & Lokesh Patil, Associate

EDGEtalks: Executing on the Blockchain hype

EDGEtalks: Executing on the Blockchain hype  On January 15th, 2018, The Burnie Group hosted EDGEtalks: Executing on the Blockchain hype, the potential application of blockchain technology to business practices. The keynote was delivered by Don Tapscott (CEO, Tapscott Group; Executive Chairman and Co-founder, Blockchain Research Institute; Co-author, Blockchain Revolution). A panel discussion followed, moderated by Doug Heintzman (Head of the  Blockchain practice, The Burnie Group). Panelists included Dr. David Jaffray (EVP Technology and Innovation, University Health Network), Dr. Marek Laskowski (co-founder, Blockchain Lab; Professor, Information and Computing Technologies, York University), Dr. Atefeh Mashatan (Professor, Ted Rogers School of Information Management, Ryerson University), and Chris Owen (VP, Enterprise Shared Platforms–Blockchain, TD Bank).

 

Blockchain: Solving Problems for the Digital Economy

In 2008, a person, or group, known as Satoshi Nakamoto, published a paper describing the first blockchain database. Three months later, it was used by Nakamoto to launch the bitcoin cryptocurrency network. Since then, interest in cryptocurrency investment has exploded, but industry experts insist that crypto’s true value lies in its underlying technology: blockchain.

A blockchain is a distributed ledger technology. Its core value lies in its ability to provide a reliable common version of the truth to members of a business network. Digital records (transactions) receive a unique signature (hash) of a fixed length.  Transactions are then bundled and stored in time-stamped “blocks” that are “chained” to the blocks of previous transactions. This chain of blocks is synchronized across a network of distributed “nodes.” By comparing the last hash in a chain, nodes find consensus on the contents and integrity of the blockchain, making it virtually immutable.

This new technology was the first real solution to a problem that had plagued digital transactions since their inception: the double-spend problem The issue being that a digital payment was merely a copy of a token of value. Tokens could be copied multiple times and spent in more than one location. With blockchain’s continuous validation and replication of transaction history, single-use for digital tokens can be guaranteed. This, in turn, positively affects the trust deficit.

Another valuable characteristic of the technology is “smart contracts,” which can be stored and executed on a blockchain. This coded feature enjoys the same immutability, and therefore trustworthiness, as the data it manipulates. It allows for the use of business logic with automated transaction attributes, solving, amongst other things, the renege problem. In this situation, a customer might leave a queue (reneging) for various reasons before completing a transaction. When a smart contract is introduced, the customer is no longer disengaged by redirection to a banking intermediary to complete the transaction. The smart contract easily completes the transaction by triggering and validating payment securely and independently.

These problem-solving characteristics are representative of blockchain’s many potential advantages. The following will explain how blockchain can generate value, enhance business efficiencies, and bring about the new era of the Internet.

 

The True Value of Trust and Data

Business networks are built on top of available infrastructure, which inherently contains deficiencies that can introduce friction into business activities. Many business networks, therefore, engage third-party intermediaries to mitigate deficiencies, such as trust deficits between parties.  These third parties can take many forms: banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, PayPal, Alibaba, auditors, and regulators. However, this centralized intermediary system is hackable, infamously slow, and costly.

Because a blockchain network addresses the trust deficit problem it allows for peer-to-peer transactions (P2P) completely independent of intermediaries. Individuals become owners of their own data, and that data an asset, protected on a blockchain from theft and fraud by immutable, time-stamped record keeping. In a blockchain-powered world, an individual’s medical records, financial records, academic degrees, voting history, professional history, and consumer history, can all be stored in encrypted transactions. A musician’s intellectual property might be stored on a blockchain, with smart contracts triggering automatic payments every time a song is featured in a film. A patient could allow a government temporary access to medical records to help identify and prevent possible outbreaks of disease.  The sharing of this information with specific people for a fixed duration is the choice of the individual, un-beholden to the delays, rules, privacy exposure, or costs associated with an intermediary.

 

Rethinking the Firm

According to Ronald Coase’s theory of the firm, companies only exist due to the high cost of transactions within markets. Traditionally, performing activities in-house has kept these costs low and companies strong. The Internet, created as a network of information, began the process of unbundling the firm. With the creation of blockchain as an entirely new network of information, these transaction costs are so greatly affected that companies have no choice but to evolve as the underlying rationale for their existence is altered.

Blockchain features, such as smart contracts and autonomous agents, can cut costs by enhancing business efficiencies through automation. The scale of this automation can alter the very concept of what constitutes a company; a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), for example, is a company run entirely through computer programs with next-to-no human participant. This model uses business logic and decision making embedded in smart contracts to automatically execute actions when triggered by pre-determined situational criteria. This new platform dramatically reduces business network friction, and eliminates nearly all traditional transaction costs, paving the way for distributed companies that resemble networks rather than centralized firms.

 

The Second Era of the Internet

Blockchain is a new paradigm that addresses the very purpose of computing: to automate business processes with the goal of reducing headcount and friction in business networks. It provides unprecedented peer-to-peer trust and can enhance business efficiencies in nearly any industry. When the existing Internet of Things—which is currently held back by the available software infrastructure and related trust deficits—is combined with blockchain’s new “ledger of things,” a partnership is formed. This partnership represents a second era of the Internet, in which discrete devices can confidently engage and contract each other to accomplish a goal. With widespread blockchain implementation, intermediary functions become redundant, companies more automated and decentralized, and the individual consumer more autonomous with improved privacy and increased control of their information assets.

Working with an experienced partner can help you harness the full potential of blockchain technology for your business. As a leading professional services enabler of blockchain strategy and implementation in North America, The Burnie Group will help you to identify areas where blockchain can increase your business’s security and efficiencies, set the right strategy and build the right foundation to substantively advance business goals.

Contact us to learn more about blockchain.

 

Key insights from the #EDGEtalks panel of speakers:

 

“This is nothing less than the second era of the Internet”

Don Tapscott, executive chairman and co-founder, Blockchain Research Institute

 

“This is not about bitcoin. It’s not even about crypto assets. It’s about something much bigger”

Don Tapscott, executive chairman and co-founder, Blockchain Research Institute

 

“What if there were not just an Internet of information. What if there were an Internet of value. Some kind of vast, global, distributed ledger where anything of value, from money to stock to votes to music could be managed, transacted, stored in a secure and private way.”

Don Tapscott, executive chairman and co-founder, Blockchain Research Institute

 

“I think this is a new paradigm, and a paradigm is a mental model. And they create boundaries around… assumptions we don’t even know that they’re there.”

-Don Tapscott, executive chairman and co-founder, Blockchain Research Institute

 

“the biggest problem for me…today, the net effect of all this digital on our economy is that we have growing wealth but declining prosperity. Our economies are growing but in most OECD countries the middle class is shrinking. We have a bipolarization [sic] of wealth”

-Don Tapscott, executive chairman and co-founder, Blockchain Research Institute

 

“For the first time in history, people have can now trust each other and transact peer to peer. And this is creating a great opportunity for… people in the middle to rethink their whole value proposition and the way that they operate, to deliver better value to customers at a lower rate.”

Don Tapscott, executive chairman and co-founder, Blockchain Research Institute

 

“Blockchain is no different than any other technology that preceded it. What happens with new technology is that people think about that, they digest it in the context of what they know and understand today. How can I take that technology… apply it to what I do today, and make it faster and cheaper?”

Don Tapscott, executive chairman and co-founder, Blockchain Research Institute

 

“It’s your data. It’s your history. You should own it, and you should grant permission and access to whoever you think of as an authorized user of that accumulated suite and wealth of data.”                                      – Chris Owen, VP, Enterprise Shared Platforms–Blockchain, TD Bank

 

“People need to roll up their sleeves and invest the time to understand it… They need to sit down and understand what is this, how does it work, and then how does it disrupt your industry and the way we manage data.”

Chris Owen, VP, Enterprise Shared Platforms–Blockchain, TD Bank

 

“Little by little, increment by increment, we’re going to migrate into a world where people are going to operate differently, and it’s going to be a weird and wonderful place.”

Chris Owen, VP, Enterprise Shared Platforms–Blockchain, TD Bank

 

“The promise of blockchain is a disruptive technology and disintermediary technology…These monolithic business models based on exploiting the data of their customers are going to have to change.”

Dr. Marek Laskowski, co-founder, Blockchain Lab

 

“I think that’s one of the biggest decisions that need to be made is which data can you share into this commons of data, and in what cases does it make economic sense to do so? And I think that where we discover those golden points where there’s economic sense and it’s feasible to share that data in a way that the entire ecosystem benefits, I think it’s a matter of finding those. It takes work.”

Dr. Marek Laskowski, co-founder, Blockchain Lab


EDGEtalks: Executing on the Blockchain hype


A Performance Culture…Don’t we already have that?

Why does culture matter, and what exactly is it?

A Performance Culture…Don’t we already have that?  Many companies today are so focused on their product and customers that thoughtful management of employee culture falls by the wayside. Despite this lack of attention, those same companies will often assert that their culture is one based on high performance. How is that possible? Performance cultures don’t grow organically, they take thought, planning, and care. Does your company walk the walk or just talk the talk?

According to a BI Worldwide survey, 55% of employees who self-identified as unhappy in their jobs said that they would still be willing to work hard to please their company’s customers. Although this is not a drastically low number, the percentage grew to 87% amongst employees who were happiest in their jobs. The notion that engaged employees are more likely to improve customer relations is also supported by the findings of a 2017 Gallup report. The report went on to add that this behaviour could result in a 20% increase in sales. These findings are illustrative of the value of employee engagement within a well-managed company culture.

“Company culture is a collection of well-established values and habits in the organization that dictate how the company functions. It is strongly influenced and driven by senior leadership.”

David Burnie, Founder and Principal of the Burnie Group

High-performing employees are engaged in their work. They are aware of and encouraged by their performance record. They also have a strong working relationship with both their peers and managers, and a clear understanding of their department or team’s purpose. Realizing these workplace attitudes is just one of the ways in which your company culture can go from low-pace to high-performance.

 

Corporate culture: Low pace versus high performance.

Corporate cultures can vary greatly from business to business. Some emphasize a more traditional, low-pace culture, whereas some recognize the benefits of adopting a high-performance culture.

A high-performance organization is not afraid to try new things. These companies are often early adopters of innovative new technologies. However, they achieve their business goals not only by looking to the newest technologies but by looking at what they can do to improve employee performance through adjustments to company culture. A workplace that allows for seamless collaboration, access to necessary tools, and staff empowerment is a high-performance organization, with satisfied employees and customers alike.

Low-pace corporate culture

High-performing culture

Lack of staff enablement

  • Lack of trust in staff decision making.
  • Staff have little access to necessary tools and skills.

 

Staff are truly enabled

  • Staff can make decisions within defined limits.
  • Staff can easily access necessary tools and skills.
  • Staff are motivated to make the right decisions.
Failure is unacceptable

  • Staff are afraid to make mistakes.
  • Staff are not encouraged or motivated to try new things.

 

 

Failures is seen as part of the learning process

  • Management sees mistakes as learning opportunities.
  • Staff are expected to learn from mistakes.
  • Staff are not reprimanded for mistakes made while trying new methods.
Tenure is used to support advancement

  • Only the highest-producing employees are promoted.
  • Limited leadership skills and formal management training.
Staff are advanced based on merit and ability

  • Staff are motivated to develop their abilities.
  • There is a sense of “fair” recognition.

 

Productivity is evaluated by a direct supervisor

  • Subjectivity is highly prevalent.
  • Limited or no objective data to evaluate performance.

 

 

Staff are assessed using accessible, and trackable performance data

  • Staff performance is evaluated without bias.
  • Leaders can act quickly when performance is subpar.
  • Leaders are equipped with data to effectively discuss group performance and provide due credit to individual employees.
Training and coaching are not top priorities

  • Rigid standardized
  • Little specialized coaching or training for staff members.
  • Training sacrificed in favour of other priorities.

 

 

Capable and skilled staff is an organizational priority

  • Comprehensive initial and regular training on relevant themes.
  • Personalized training and coaching where needed.
  • Encouragement of career and skills development.
  • Support of personal development through direct managers. This could include access to resources or actionable feedback.
Lack of transparency during execution

  • Managers only see the final output. There is no established method for them to influence the result during the process.
  • Limited opportunity to instruct staff on process topics due to lack of process visibility.
Full transparency into each process stage

  • Managers have a line of sight into staff capabilities as well as the status of each process.
  • Managers can identify areas of inefficiency and provide staff with the coaching necessary to make improvements.

  

The Burnie Group Case Study on Culture Change

Recently, The Burnie Group assisted one of the largest North American workforce management (WFM) software providers in implementing a plan to overhaul its organizational culture. The project involved the design, introduction, and institutionalization of a new, high-performance company culture. To achieve these steps, the following goals were identified:

  1. Increase collaboration across all groups.
  2. Build higher performing teams.
  3. Make group performance more transparent.
  4. Increase support for coaching.
  5. Facilitate one-on-one conversations between managers and staff.

The results of the implementation were immediately evident. The sales teams, for instance, became more knowledgeable of the innovations created by the development team, thanks to increased best-practice sharing and knowledge transference. Facilitation of coaching and one-on-one conversations ensured that all team members were aware of group priorities, resulting in targets being met more often. Attentive change management resulted in the accomplishment of these project goals.

How did The Burnie Group help to accomplish these goals?

Topic

Issue

Solution

Communication
  • Collaboration and communication between groups were poor and highly isolated.
  • Expertise was concentrated in certain groups and was not shared with others. This reduced the efficiency and efficacy of staff.
  • Collaborative meetings, like “lunch and learns,” were firmly ingrained into the new culture.
  • Groups now routinely meet to share learnings across the organization so that no one group holds all the relevant information and updates.
Clear Targets and Accountability
  • It was difficult for employees to ascertain if a group was or was not meeting organizational This lack of understanding was rarely addressed.
  • Through daily discussions around the visual control boards, it was discovered that standard operating procedures (SOPs) were not in place in several areas, resulting in uncertainty, inefficiency, and lost time.
  • A well-defined set of key performance indicators (KPIs) was decided on and used to determine progress.
  • Progress was discussed daily at visual control boards and team huddles.
  • SOPs were designed and deployed to clarify expectations and increase consistency.
Coaching
  • Coaching sessions and one-on-one conversations were often seen as negative events and were rarely scheduled.
  • An agenda was developed to help managers direct conversation. It included topics like performance metrics, escalations and issues, and career development.
  • Regular touch points are now scheduled between managers and staff. Such conversations are no longer seen as negative in nature.

 

How to begin your own company culture transformation

While large-scale cultural shift programs can yield impressive results, proper planning is paramount to successfully changing company culture. Below are some ways in which you prepare your organization for a successful transformation.

  1. Take time to plan your program
  • –  What level of rigour can your staff handle, given the current and projected workloads and service level agreements?
  • –  How will you deliver learnings and materials? This can be challenging for companies with distributed workforces.
  1. Communication matters: plan your messaging
  • –   How will you frame the reasons for this change?
  • –   Who will become the face of change?
  • –   How frequently will communications be issued?
  • –   How can you ensure communications are understood?
  1. Form the ‘right’ team
  • –  Form a team to conduct the day-to-day work that comes with a large-scale cultural shift. These responsibilities may range from managing communications to following up with complaints.
  • –  Define team roles and responsibilities.
  • –  Establish a shared understanding of the process and a clear vision of the end state.
  • –  Facilitate clear lines of communication between team members and senior
  1. Be prepared for pushback
  • –  Have a management plan for potential dissent.
  • –  Address concerns and incorporate concerns into solutions.
  1. Involve senior leadership
  • – Ensure senior leadership is heavily and visibly involved in the process.
  • – Ensure all leaders have a common understanding of the opportunity, the desired outcome, and the rollout method.
  • – Have leaders clearly communicate project expectations with the staff.
  • – Encourage leaders set expectations of behaviour and lead by example.
  • – Have leaders be vocal proponents of the change, communicating the organization’s reasons for making the
  • – Establish effective methods of top-down communication to assist staff in the prioritization of tasks.
  1. Identify and empower Change Agents
  • –  Enlist people who are resourceful and eager for change.
  • –  Ensure roles and responsibilities are clearly
  • –  Empower agents to be positive ambassadors for the change.
  • –  Ensure agents have frequent touch points with each other and with the project management team to keep messaging and priorities aligned.
  1. Manage for desired results
  • –  Adjust current SOPs, KIPs, or incentives as needed to fit the new company culture.
  • –  Measure results of the project using data to ensure the identified opportunity has been correctly addressed.
  • –  Make metrics visible to publicize positive effects of the project.

We hope that these ideas and insights will inform your future company culture transformation. Although there will always be challenges implementing a pervasive change, having a set plan for communications, timelines, and staff responsibilities, increases the level of transitional success. If you are interested in learning more, our project leaders are ready to share their extensive experience and insights with you.

 


A Performance Culture…Don’t we already have that?


 By: Shane Nightingale, Associate