We all remember in science class as kids the theory of Darwinian Evolution: survival of the fittest, or more simply, adapt or die. Unfortunately, the fear of impending death is usually the case for action for adapting in modern business as well. That’s what makes it so tough to reinvent business—when the pressure is on with the figurative gun to the head of the chief executive. But what if you could adapt to change or anticipate the need for it before the hammer was cocked, before the competition? You’d become a business chameleon, protected for self-preservation and dangerous to competitors, hitting them before they see you. Heck, you’d be the business Predator.
Business Reinvention Ain’t Easy
You’ve probably read articles if not books on business reinvention as a strategy to keep evolving. Easier said than done. Actor Robert Downey, Jr. reinvented his career, but had to go through extensive rehab after hitting rock bottom to do it.
In Forbes, Bill Fischer talks about the poor success rate that businesses have in The Reinvention Epidemic, and for every IBM that successfully navigated the change proactively, there are dozens of Kodak’s that got run over by the change truck without so much as getting the license number. The message is simple: reinvention is a terrific and necessary defense against business failure, but few know how to do it well and thrive in the process.
Recognizing Change in Your Market
In a recent article I wrote on Committing Nicheocide, I highlighted three ways to discover when it was time to ditch your niche, as my friend Jean Serio likes to put it. Stagnation, negative association, and obsolescence — if two of these three happen, it’s time to bail. Asking the right questions starts to lift the veil of mystery that enshrouds many businesses and helps to spot threats that, if not acted upon, can kill a business unit and even an entire company. The challenge here is that this data is monitoring things that are happening to you, so at best you’re on the middle of the curve. How do you get ahead of it?
How to Anticipate the Need to Change Business Direction
To become the Predator in your industry, to adapt and strike on the leading edge of the trend line, there are certain practices to hone the skill of anticipation so you can act first.
Use Business Intelligence tools
If your business is heavily data driven, with high transactional volume, customer count, and number of moving parts like suppliers, it’s a good idea to use modern technology to crunch through your data and spot trends that you may not be able to otherwise see. Business Intelligence (BI) tools jockey for position in the big data marketplace, and analyze your performance data and present information graphically to help CEOs see the company reality in real time and act to fix things, blow them up, and launch new lines of business to capitalize on.
Understand that Reinvention need not be Revolutionary
Sometimes little improvements to your product or service can make a big difference. We don’t have to go from walking to flying when sometimes a better way to walk can have a huge impact, and the good part is, we know there is a market for walking. This kind of thinking allowed Paul Brown to come up with a $13-million idea of a better way to get ketchup out of a bottle. Simple works.
Tap Collective Thought
Classic brainstorming leverages the gray matter of others in your company or peer group to ratchet up anticipatory power, if only you have the will to ask. Often, selecting who in your company is in on the think tank is the hardest challenge. Look for people, not necessarily executives, who have demonstrated a desire to recommend change and a skill at creative problem solving. Cross-functional representation is never a bad idea either. Keeping the size of the group at 10 or less will be a tough task, but beyond that group think starts to become unproductive and time consuming. The collective output of a well-formed strategy group will far exceed the sum of its parts.
Ask Future Thinking questions
Questions provide focus, and to anticipate change, you need to train yourself to step back from your current business world and ask future thinking questions that define both opportunities and threats to survival. Futurists like Alvin Toffler and Faith Popcorn make terrific money predicting what’s going to happen next. You don’t have to be famous or make a career out of future thinking, though, to be useful to your business.
Fast Company Magazine lays out an extended process for the basics of future thinking. For your business, try asking versions of these questions:
1. What are the major dynamics happening in the world right now?
Think of things like Russia possibly consolidating power again, aging baby boomers and the states of Social Security and Medicare, and the rapid move toward cloud-based SAAS services in business.
2. What possibilities could any of these present for business?
Entire companies have been formed on tracking the baby boom generation and its needs. Recently I had a potential client with Ukrainian capital backing go south because of the uncertainty in the region, just one day after the occupation of Crimea.
3. What are customers really complaining about?
Listen to what customers of yours and in your industry are saying, and read between the lines as to what they aren’t saying. Often the initial complaint is a surface symptom of the real issue. This is a bit like determining what business you’re really in. I’m sure world history has had millions of gripes similar to, “How do we make these damn horses and carriages go faster?”
4. What possible outcome would change everything in my business were it to happen?
In the Fast Company piece, author and futurist Jamais Cascio speaks to the importance of understanding that there is more than one possible outcome to any event. So this question goes backward, picking one or more of those possible outcomes based upon how it would impact your business. If you’re a banker, what would happen if the U.S. dollar collapsed?
Get the picture?
These questions are simply a few to get started. If you’re not asking them, you can bet that someone in your industry is.
This entire process starts you down the road of anticipating change, usually outside of your control, that may impact your business in the years ahead. By getting out of the day-to-day and going through this process, you start to arm yourself with the chameleon-like weapons to not only defend your position, but seize opportunity to be a market leader.
Karl Walinskas is the CEO of Smart Company Growth, a business development firm that helps emerging technology firms build competitive advantage and move the sales needle. His Smart Blog covers sales and service, office technologies and SEO, leadership, business communication, and has been named by Buyerzone and others as a top business blog. He is the author of Getting Connected Through Exceptional Leadership, available at Amazon.com, and has been a featured expert for Inc.com with articles published in many online and print venues.
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The developers are calling it the “one card to rule them all” and they may not be too far off the mark.
Announced earlier this month, Pocket Change is a new and innovative way to move funds electronically. It started as a project to create a mobile app for parents to be able to remind kids to do their chores and pay them by moving money to their debit cards. What’s come from it is a reloadable Visa debit card that links with users’ credit card, debit and bank accounts.
Pocket Change, the Smartphone app, monitors all of them.
“Pocket Change is a multi-functional e-wallet that will allow you to transfer funds to or from any bank account or card you link to through the software app,” founder Myles Binford said in a press release.
The app does more than that, though, as users are able to make purchases from online merchants and can move funds around to anyone with a debit card or bank account by using their e-mail address, Twitter handle or their Facebook account.
It eliminates the need to carry cash.
And while the app’s development seems far fetched, Binford said it’s exactly how it was created.
“Development of this application really started when my daughter came to me and said, ‘Dad, I want allowance,’” he stated. “I reached in my pocket and realized that I don’t carry cash anymore. So I decided to figure out a way to use my Smartphone to transfer money from my checking account onto a card that she would be able to use at school or at the mall.”
More important, though, is the security.
The debit card can be turned on and off at anytime through the app and all online purchases made with Pocket Change are done so using a temporary CCV number, assigned at the time of purchase and valid for 20 minutes only.
“It wouldn’t matter if a card thief knew your name, your card number, your card’s expiration date, and the CCV number you used for a purchase last night,” Binford stated. “They could not make a purchase with your card this morning, as they would not have a valid three-digit CCV number. And if this patented card security protocol isn’t enough to put your mind at ease, your money and your account are 100 percent insured from loss by Visa, MasterCard, and the FDIC.”
W. Brice McVicar is a staff writer for SiteProNews.
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If you build it, they will change it.
Perhaps that’s a corny twist on the famous line from the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams, but it’s applicable when it comes to Google’s new Project Ara modular Smartphone project. That’s because when the phones make their way into the hands of consumers next year they’re expected to change them.
Ara leader Paul Eremenko has announced the phones will be gray and retail for about $50.
The Smartphone project being launched by Google will allow users to change the physical appearance of the device. This is more than just adding a new skin to the phone but will, instead, enable owners to mix and match bodies and interface features ranging from wallpaper to the phone’s shell.
The Android device is still in the development phase and, as reported by CNet, has no lack of hurdles to surpass before the January launch date. The biggest being that Android systems, as of now, do not support the necessary drivers for control modular components.
Eremenko, during a press conference Tuesday, shrugged off the matter.
“It’s true that Android does not support dynamic hardware today,” said Eremenko. “The good news is that we’re Google.”
The necessary drivers, he said, will be due in December. That’s cutting it close with the phones going on the market one month later.
Regardless, the move could pose a serious threat to other manufacturers. Users will no longer need to change phones to get the latest components, they’ll simply be able to switch them.
Further information on Project Ara will come in July at the next developer’s conference. A few months later, in September, there will be another. This will all be followed by regulatory certification and carrier certification in November.
W. Brice McVicar is a staff writer for SiteProNews.
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WebmasterWorld Members discuss how some Google SERPs remain unchanged, and what it means for all sites in those markets.
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The Internet is still in a panic a full day after security researchers went public with the Heart Bleed Bug, a flaw in OpenSSL that enables hackers to steal logins, passwords and even credit card information.
The massive vulnerability in the open-source software package broadly used to encrypt Web communications means information normally protected by SSL/TLS encryption is useless leaving Web applications, e-mail communications, instant messaging (IM) and some virtual private networks (VPNs) vulnerable.
Essentially, that means a lot of Internet users are affected, the team of security engineers at Codenomicon and Neel Mehta of Google Security, who jointly discovered the bug, said.
“Your popular social site, your company’s site, commerce site, hobby site, site you install software from or even sites run by your government might be using vulnerable OpenSSL,” reads a Web page devoted to explaining the massive bug.
“Many of online services use TLS to both to identify themselves to you and to protect your privacy and transactions. You might have networked appliances with logins secured by this buggy implementation of the TLS. Furthermore you might have client side software on your computer that could expose the data from your computer if you connect to compromised services.”
But what can you do to protect yourself?
Not much, according to the Vox’s Timothy B. Lee.
“Unfortunately, there’s nothing users can do to protect themselves if they visit a vulnerable website. The administrators of vulnerable websites will need to upgrade their software before users will be protected,” he wrote in a blog post.
According to news reports, Yahoo and dating website OKCupid have been affected, although Yahoo has reportedly patched the problem.
A Yahoo representative told the Vox its “team has successfully made the appropriate corrections across the main Yahoo properties (Yahoo Homepage, Yahoo Search, Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Food, Yahoo Tech, Flickr and Tumblr) and we are working to implement the fix across the rest of our sites right now.”
Lee said once “an affected website has fixed the problem on their end, users can protect themselves by changing their passwords. Attackers might have intercepted user passwords in the meantime … there’s probably no way for users to tell whether anyone intercepted their passwords.”
That means you should change your passwords for all sensitive sites you visit — Yahoo users especially should change their passwords. SplashData offers the following tips for choosing more secure passwords:
• Use passwords of eight characters or more with mixed types of characters. One way to create longer, more secure passwords that are easy to remember is to use short words with spaces or other characters separating them. For example, “eat cake at 8!” or “car_park_city?”
• Avoid using the same username/password combination for multiple websites. Especially risky is using the same password for entertainment sites as you do for online e-mail, social networking, and financial services. Use different passwords for each new website or service you sign up for.
• Having trouble remembering all those different passwords? Try using a password manager application that organizes and protects passwords and can automatically log you into websites. There are numerous applications available, but choose one with a strong track record of reliability and security like SplashID Safe, which has a 10-year history and more than one million users. SplashID Safe has versions available for Windows and Mac as well as Smartphones and tablet devices.
There is some good news at least: the researchers who discovered the Heart Bleed Bug informed developers behind OpenSSL a number of days before going public with the flaw, so much of the problem was fixed before word got out yesterday, according to Business Insider.
“Most major service providers should already be updating their sites, so the bug will be less prevalent over coming weeks,” the report said.
To determine if a site you want to visit is safe, check here first.
Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.
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Many articles have been written on the Google Knowledge Graph and its impact on SEO, but have you given thought to how the Knowledge Graph potentially impacts your content strategy — or even your entire revenue model? For many publishers, it’s time to take stock of how to work with the…
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Google uses a wide range of IP addresses for its different services, and the addresses may change without notification. Google App Engine is a Platform as a Service offering which hosts a wide variety of 3rd party applications. This post announces changes in the IP address range and headers used by the Google App Engine URLFetch (outbound HTTP) and outbound sockets APIs.
While we recommend that App Engine IP ranges not be used to filter inbound requests, we are aware that some services have created filters that rely on specific addresses. Google App Engine will be changing its IP range beginning this month. Please see these instructions to determine App Engine’s IP range.
Additionally, the HTTP User-Agent header string that historically allowed identification of individual App Engine applications should no longer be relied on to identify the application. With the introduction of outbound sockets for App Engine, applications may now make HTTP requests without using the URLFetch API, and those requests may set a User-Agent of their own choosing.
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“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”
The above quote has widely been attributed to the philosopher Socrates, but, in truth, is a boiled and massaged version of a university dissertation by Cambridge student Kenneth John Freeman.
Still, it’s very telling in that Freeman penned his dissertation in 1907 and it has been widely quoted since as an example of generational mistrust and skewed perception of generations that preceded and succeeded ours.
One might think, with what one generation believes — and that is the nut of it all, the perception — of itself and those that preceded it, each ensuing generation would surely make the world a better place in which to live.
Take, for instance, the chest-puffing self-satisfaction of the generation that followed the Second World War in that it believed it single-handedly ended discrimination in the United States. Racial discrimination, one would believe from speaking with Boomers, was put to its grave by the ideological generation that spoke out against it and elected politicians to end it.
Really? Institutionally, perhaps, and from a legal standpoint, maybe, but does anyone really believe racial discrimination has ended?
It’s little wonder each generation that emerges believes it has the moral high ground on those that follow or it succeeds.
That is borne out in the findings compiled by Douglas Watt in 2010 for the accounting periodical CA Magazine, “Different generations, same objectives,” generational impressions and biases of others most always affect the collective wisdom or group-think of the latest generation, or those that preceded.
“All generations perceived their generation as adaptable. Generation Xers and Millennials considered Baby Boomers as less adaptable than themselves. Specifically, it was thought that Baby Boomers were less comfortable with technology, resisted change, and were not accepting of diversity.”
Anyone who has studied the dynamics of the workforce, for instance, has come to find that there are now three commonly recognized generations in the work force, Generation Y, or the Millenials, (18-29), Generation X (30-47) and the Baby Boomers (48-65). Each of these three generations grew up in distinctly different eras that helped impact and shape perspectives, expectations and cultures. When we consider each of these groups grew up in distinctly different periods of history, it’s not hard to understand how these perceptions were formed.
The Boomers grew up in a time when they made an impact on society by hard work and personal sacrifice which equated financial success.
Generation X was the first generation where it was typical to have both parents (the Boomers) in the workforce corresponding to why they grew up to be very independent and somewhat cynical. Typically the most important value to this generation is a balance between their work and the rest of their life.
The author found Generation Y has a “very unique set of qualities that profoundly distinguishes them from the other two. They are the most confident generation, as they grew up in a period where America was focused on the importance of self esteem.” Although the “Gen Y” parents were more dedicated to raising them, this is often taken to extremes.
Along with the stereotypical differences, there are the other major areas of disagreement between the generations. It is human nature for people to judge other people based on their own values and experiences.
Whereas the Boomers prevailing attitude is “live to work,” the Gen X and Gen Y are much more “work to live.” These perceptions of the different generations lead to major conflicts in the work place including how to communicate, expectations regarding feedback or the need for it, receiving rewards/bonuses and company loyalty.
In a commentary on the comparisons of generations through society and the ability or inability of societies to achieve a state of critical thinking in order to, quite simply, make the world a better place, Linda Elder and Rush Cosgrove concluded each generation harbors too many ingrained prejudices and perceptions of itself and other generations to truly make any headway.
According to a website dedicated to critical thinking, a critical society is a community of people who value critical thinking and value those who practice it. It is a society continually improving. Its most distinguishing characteristic is its emphasis on thinking as the key to the emancipation of the mind, to the creation of just practices, to the preservation and development of the species.
Elder and Cosgrove conclude there is no such utopian society, nor has humankind ever attained those lofty goals.
Unfortunately there are no critical societies in the world. Nor have there ever been. The idea represents an ideal not yet achieved, a possibility not yet actualized. There is no culture on earth where critical thought is characteristic of everyday personal and social life. On the contrary, the world is filled with superficiality, prejudice, bias, distortions, lies, deception, manipulation, short sightedness, close-mindedness, righteousness, hypocrisy, on and on, in every culture in every country throughout the world. These problems in thinking lead to untold negative implications – fear, anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, pain, suffering, injustices of every imaginable kind. Yet humans have great capacity for rationality and reasonability. The history of human accomplishments, achievements and contributions well documents this fact. But for the most part this capacity must be developed, actively, by the mind. It is our second, not our first, nature. What is more natural to the mind, what comes first in terms of human tendencies, and often takes precedence, is an orientation focused on self-gratification, self-interest, self-protection. This perspective is innate, and many would say, necessary for survival. Still it leads to many problems and ultimately stands as a barrier to the development of fair-minded critical societies.
More on their treatise can be found on The Critical Thinking Community’s website.
Each generation uses its biases and perceptions of the previous generation to mold legislation and assign priority to “problems” that must be addressed — problems that, in many cases, are mere bogeymen spawned from the misconception of reality as it relates to generational shifts.
Barry Glassner, in his 1999 book The Culture of Fear, noted an interesting phenomenon in the 1990s, where the ‘war on drugs’ was stepped up as a result of a largely generational fear that drugs were ruining the nation.
“In the late 1990s the number of drug users had decreased by half compared to a decade earlier; almost two-thirds of high school seniors had never used any illegal drugs, even marijuana. So why did a majority of adults rank drug abuse as the greatest danger to America’s youth?”
That, I would suggest, can almost entirely be attributed to generational bias and a glaring example of why we find it difficult to make strides in improving, as a society, because of ingrained generational bias. We simply, it seems, can’t get past the fact that we think we were the last good and true generation and any that follow are flawed and need immediate and drastic remedial action.
Little wonder, then, that while each generation believes it is advancing the cause of human civilization in some small way, they are in fact doomed to follow the human track of their preceding generations – that of mistrust and pre-formed notions of how and where to right the ship.
That ship will continue on its listing course, unfortunately, while human nature dictates how one generation perceives the next.
Chris Malette is a retired newspaper journalist with 35 years of experience as a reporter and city editor. Over his career, Malette covered municipal and federal politics, military, health and court beats. He has reported from Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti and covered relief efforts in Honduras in the wake of Hurricane Mitch in 1998. He now works for SPN News as an editorial columnist.
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Ask a business owner or marketer about the recent Facebook algorithm changes, and you’re likely to be met with a glare. The social networking site switched the way updates are seen with the aim of putting more high-quality content in newsfeeds and knocking out posts based on memes aimed at building cheap traffic. It was hard to argue with the theory, but in implementation it’s been borderline disastrous for many sites.
That’s because it’s not just the viral and meme sites that Facebook was targeting that have suffered. Businesses say they have seen their Facebook views plunge from what they were before the changes were put in place. Many have complained vocally, but Facebook doesn’t seem inclined to make any further tweaks.
Here’s a more in-depth look at the changes that were implemented and exactly what impact they are having on businesses.
What Facebook Changed
Every social or search site is constantly updating its algorithm to reflect the evolving nature of its audience. So when Facebook announced in December that it was making modifications, it was hardly a surprise. The social media site outlined the changes in a blog post, but they boiled down to:
Why the changes? Everything boils down to engagement. Facebook doesn’t want people getting turned off by the memes from sites like Upworthy that keep showing up in their feeds just because they’re trending; the site wants content people engage with so that it can sell that engagement to advertisers.
Plus, Facebook takes its high-value concept very seriously. It wants to be seen by advertisers as a site that provides people with what they want, not a place where spammers go to play. That kills any sort of prestige that might attract advertising.
Declines in Organic Reach
Since the changes were implemented late last year, there’s been a backlash among businesses who say that their organic reach has taken a hit. Organic reach is basically the views that your content got without you advertising it. It includes people who saw your Facebook post from your page, as well as those who saw it on others’ pages (i.e., one of their friends commented on your status so it showed up in their newsfeed), plus viral views. Organic reach is separate from paid reach, which includes everyone who saw your content stemming from an ad.
The numbers seem to back up these complaints. For example, data culled by Moz from Edgeranker found that organic reach measured as a percentage of fans who saw a post fell from 26 percent in September 2012 to 7.7 percent in December 2013, when the new algorithm went into effect. That’s a huge dropoff.
Another study done right after the change was implemented found that reach plunged by 44 percent in the week after the switch. Surprisingly, only one page of the hundreds studied by Ignite Social Media saw organic reach rise.
Facebook has argued that while reach has fallen, engagement has actually remained strong. That backs up its argument for relevancy, meaning that it’s essentially trimming the fat. While fewer people may see your status updates, the ones who do see them are also the ones most likely to click or respond. And isn’t that the goal of any social media post? Still, businesses seem unconvinced that this is actually the case and argue they’re missing out on thousands of likes and shares because of the change.
How Businesses Can Increase Reach
Clearly it’s a bold new world of Facebook. Most businesses have spent the past few months kvetching about the change, but it seems unlikely to be abandoned anytime soon. Facebook made a few further tweaks in January 2014 to its policies to devalue text-only posts from businesses after noting that they generate less interaction than text-only posts from friends.
So how can businesses make sure that their posts are still being seen with all the changes? Here are a few ideas that should boost those sagging organic reach numbers:
Making Peace With the Changes
Fighting an 800-pound gorilla is pointless. While it’s easy to complain about how Facebook’s algorithm changes have hurt businesses, it’s smarter to funnel that energy into figuring out what works best with this new system. Experiment with different approaches and keep a record of how your posts do. Soon you’ll figure out the secret to raising your reach once again.
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