How Will Drones Change Your Industry?

While drones are unlikely to become a part of our daily lives in the immediate future,  they will soon begin taking on much larger roles for businesses and some individual consumers, from delivering groceries and e-commerce orders to revolutionizing private security, to changing the way farmers manage their crops — perhaps even aerial advertising.

In a new report from BI Intelligence, we size the commercial and military drone market to estimate how big the drone industry could become, and which industries are most likely to see drones become part of their business model in the next few years. We also look at what components industries, like GPS and sensors manufacturers, will be working to become drone-ready. And we assess how drone development will proceed in light of stiff safety and privacy concerns and regulatory hurdles.

Responsive companies in all sorts of industries should be keeping an eye on developments with drones right now, especially because commercial drones are likely to debut next year. Particularly with regard to e-commerce, it’s worth thinking about how your company can prepare for the new delivery technology before it’s too late and you find yourself behind the competition.

This report provides some valuable information about the sectors that are most likely to be affected by the introduction of drones, so it’s worth a read.

Responsive Design for Responsive Companies

As this philosophy becomes more commonplace, you can imagine a new role developing inside newsrooms. This person would combine a deep understanding of the editorial mission with empathy for the user to constantly tweak the algorithms governing how readers consume content, and design responsive pathways throughout the site that keep users engaged.

Media outlets aren’t the only organizations that could benefit from a more holistic approach to responsive design. On the web, the definition of a publisher has become fluid. Anyone who wants to reach a user through media can become a publisher. Increasingly, brands are co-opting tools designed for publishers to offer better experiences for their customers.

As brands become more publisher-like, they’ll also need to incorporate a responsive philosophy that adapts to the user so that they can reach them at the right time, with the right messaging, and an understanding of cultural events.

But to truly adopt a responsive philosophy, you can’t slap new paint on an old house. You must create dynamic systems that can ingest, analyze and act on information to serve a tailored experience. In the future, these systems can adjust to incorporate new editorial needs, technologies, and user behaviors.

Responsive design for websites has been a hot topic for the past few years — a trend which has led to some great outcomes. But many websites still fall short. This great article discusses what’s likely to come next as both publishers and businesses learn to adapt their content strategies to individual interests and online behaviors.

To stay ahead of the curve, it’s important that your website develop the capacity to engage customers on an individual level, meeting them where they’re at. It will help keep you relevant.

Women at the Top

In fact, the results were so surprisingly clear — see the chart below — that Natella initially questioned their accuracy. “It’s almost as if there’s a symmetry to it,” he says. Companies where at least half of the key “front office” jobs were held by women had average annual returns of 28.7 percent, compared with returns of 19.1 percent for all companies, 22.8 percent for those where a quarter of the top jobs were held by women, and 25.6 percent where at least a third were filled with female execs.

“You can argue whether companies are performing better because they have more women in management or because better companies employ more women,” Natella says. But the effect, he notes, is the same, and the answer is probably that both are statements are true. “There’s a point where you can put too much into trying to prove causality.”

It’s been a while since we posted about the importance of hiring a diverse team, so I thought I’d share this little gem of a study. Women in power is directly correlated with high returns for a company, and if you ask us, the reason is that you’re incorporating a variety of perspectives and a variety of skills and experiences into your collective brainpower that wouldn’t be there otherwise. Companies cannot expect to create products and marketing plans that appeal to different kinds of people if they have a staff that is completely identical.

Move away from standardization. Embrace divergence. That is all.

Thriving in a Time of Corporate Distrust

The survey reports that 40 percent of millennials see corporations as a source of fear.  They don’t even think their good deeds are genuine—49 percent of millennials believe that corporations are only undertaking philanthropic efforts for tax benefits. However, millennials vote with their feet when it comes to price points. They polled to be less resistant than their elders to outsourcing and products made abroad. When shopping, millennials said they’ll buy the less expensive option even if it’s made overseas.

Overall, people in emerging markets have a much more positive view of corporate entities in their economies, whereas those in developed markets remain skeptical. Though there’s one thing we can all agree on: Everyone loves the tech sector right now. 90 percent of those in emerging economies and 84 percent of developed economies feel good about the technology industry. As part of the same question, the mining industry was dead last. News media wasn’t ranked so high either.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that America is experiencing an era of corporate distrust. But if your company is aware of this and responsive to it, it may be able to find opportunities to thrive in such an environment. Now it’s more important than ever that people understand your purpose as an organization and that they trust you to see it through. That’s what will set you apart from other companies.

Are Subscription Services for You?

So should your business go subscription? Some veterans say, unequivocally, yes. There’s “a lot of experimenting, but we really feel we’ve stumbled onto something big,” says Seth Peterson, CEO of All You Can Arcade. The startup delivers, yes, monthly rentals of Mortal Kombat, Ms. Pac-Man, and other old arcade games, mostly to tech companies looking to provide hip employee perks.

Subscriptions have paid off handsomely for some startups, including Birchbox (beauty products), Blue Apron (make-at-home meals), and Dollar Shave Club (men’s razors). The three have collectively raised more than $150 million, and each serves hundreds of thousands of customers per month. When the model works, it’s great. Customers pay up front, giving the business the cash flow to fund operations, and recurring sales mean predictable revenue.

Here’s another prevailing trend to be aware of: subscription services. This article is definitely helpful if your company is considering how it might get in on this sort of model, which — if you’re selling the right product — can have a lot of perks.

But that’s the key. You have to be selling a product that really works with subscriptions, and it has to be something that your customers will be able and willing to adopt easily. If that’s the case, go for it. Otherwise, recognize that this may simply be another passing fad, and resist getting sucked into it without the appropriate amount of critical reflection. Does this kind of service align with your corporate purpose? Start there.

Marketing and Men

In the race to attract consumers, major American food companies are tweaking their playbooks to go after a once-ignored group: men.

Men are now the primary grocery shoppers in about four in ten households. But men, food companies have found, have their own priorities. They often do not look closely at prices or carry a coupon book. They want to get in and out of the store quickly. Men are also more likely to be enticed by bold flavors and high protein meals, companies have found.

The increase in men who cook and shop for their families is a direct result of shifting gender norms, which can likely be attributed to women taking over a greater percentage of the workforce. If you work in food, this is extremely important to think about; companies like Dannon and Campbell’s have already adjusted marketing efforts, advertisements, and even flavor of products to accommodate men’s preferences. You’ll want to think about how to be responsive to this shift, as well, so you don’t get left in the dust.

But even if you don’t work in food, it’s worth considering how changing gender norms might affect your own industry. I’d guess that women are more likely to participate in what were male-dominated activities, and that they’re more likely to buy some products that are primarily marketed towards men. A good way to stay ahead of the curve is to think about how you might be able to engage both genders.

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Venture Capital


Are You Ready for Bitcoin?

Antonis Polemitis, manging partner at Ledra Capital, a venture capital firm that has invested in a number of bitcoin projects, says that as more and more people hear about bitcoin, the user base will growing to incorporate more mainstream customers.

“Remember, in the 1990s, the Internet was not that big of a deal,” he says. “People needed to get comfortable with the concept. We needed AOL to bring it to the general public. It took time. Bitcoin is at the same stage right now. None of this is going to happen overnight. The next few years are all about making the on-ramps simpler.”

I probably don’t need to tell you that responsive companies are keeping an eye on bitcoin developments, and that yours should, too. But here’s an interesting look at how the use of bitcoin in Vegas casinos might be just the thing to really launch it among everyday people, taking it outside of the realm of tech enthusiasts and finance gurus.

Also worth noting is that companies such as Paypal, Expedia, Overstock, and Amazon have already announced that they will accept bitcoin as payment.

Ignore the MBA, Hire for ‘Soft Skills’

When it comes to hiring the right person for the right job, scientifically valid assessments that take factors such as cognitive ability, work style and work culture into account are key, says Kerr.

With that thinking in mind, employers might rethink a policy of only hiring MBAs, but they should also rethink the idea of avoiding them, too. If it’s the person’s “non-observable factors,” as Kerr calls them, that are most important, an MBA may be as likely to have the right set of characteristics as any other candidate.

There’s been a lot of debate lately about the real value of MBAs, with many business managers claiming that they will not hire any MBAs. The reasons they give are that an MBA hire is too expensive in relation to the real skills most graduates acquire from the education, and that many MBAs are overly competitive, self-serving, and brusque for a non-hierarchical, collaborative work environment.

While it’s important to consider in each case whether an MBA in itself does actually add tangible value to the position, it’s probably unfair to assume that all candidates with MBAs are unfit for hire. In any case, if your hiring criteria are this black-and-white, you’re probably not hiring as effectively as you can. Abundant research shows that it is most often the “soft skills” of a candidate that are the most important indicators of success, so focusing too much on things like GPA or years of experience is unwise.

Few Companies Are Actually Disrupting Anything — Make Yours the Exception

Still, some companies are pursuing risky innovations and disrupting established industries. Business publications are full of stories about them: Google and Uber and Amazon and Salesforce and Workday and many more. They just haven’t had a measurable impact on the overall economy yet. One group of economists says to give it a few years— the adoption of new technologies has always affected productivity in fits and starts, and the rise of smartphones and cloud computing and Big Data will show up in the numbers eventually. The other view is that today’s technological innovations pale in significance beside electricity and the internal combustion engine—they’ll have some positive impact, but growth will be slower than it used to be.

What these arguments share is the conviction that, however sick many of us may be of hearing about it, disruptive innovation is something we need more of, not less. We, in this case, means some abstract collection of current and future humans—not people with jobs that are about to get disrupted out of existence. The uneven dispersal of rewards from technological change is always a problem, and may be especially fraught this time around. But uneven progress still seems better than  no progress at all.

Here’s an interesting article about “disruption” and how, despite all the hype, it has actually measurably declined in the past few decades. Few companies are being displaced by start-ups, and even fewer are creating major innovations in product or process themselves. And this is ultimately bad news for the economy.

That said, it’s great news for those major companies that are constantly experimenting and adapting, because it means they are even more likely to find themselves on top. So while other companies shy away from risk, think about how your company can embrace uncertainty and encourage divergence.