Showing posts with label innovation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label innovation. Show all posts

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Port Negotiations Should be About Wages, Skill, and Technology

We have heard a lot about ports and negotiations with workers that recently resolved itself in a tentative agreement. The Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union set upon some key provisions based on wages and benefits but have not yet completed all of the details. Formal announcements are still in the works. The ports offer an opportunity to understand how wages, benefits, skill, and technology should work together to create win-win situations.

This dispute has been bitter and raged on for over 9 months with the White House having to put pressure on both sides to get things done. Arbitrators were accused of bias and workers are accused of slowing down port operations intentionally. Ships waited over a week to unload their cargo that has a negative impact on economic growth.

Increasing trade over the past decade or so creates more product volume throughout the ports and this can have an impact on national commerce.  Larger businesses are able to weather the port slowdown but small businesses could be more seriously impacted as they need these supplies to keep their fragile operations going. A short delay could put them in the red.

Wages and Benefits are standard negotiation subjects and generally are set through market need and negotiation tactics. Increases in import and export containers have caused increasing demands on workers and wages are part of that process. The implementation of new technology and better infrastructure development could improve these issues.

Contracts last 5-6 years but set a precedence for future negotiations and create an expectation in the mind of employees. Ensuring that the implementation of new technology is part of the expectation is important to avoid  that failure change doesn't result in ports that are less efficient. Wage increases should be based in learning, growth and productivity.

There is no denying that wages in many places of the country have not kept pace with inflation or the profits that many businesses earn. But wage increases should be based in part on the cost of living as well as improvements in skill and ability. Doing so will help ensure that workers market position rises with increases in skill and the better use of technology that ensures ships are unloaded faster and at a lower cost that saves the company money.

Each negotiation should see improvement in worker skill, wages, job security and port efficiency. At least this is the case in theory when an economy is growing. If a middle ground can be found that ensures workers are accepting of training and new technology it lends support to the unions wage case while ensuring the ports are innovative and adaptive. This can be a hard sell when the rhetoric is negative on both sides and finger pointing becomes the predominant logic.

Ports are a fundamental transaction cost for businesses importing and exporting products. Economic growth relies on these ports to ensure products and supplies are making their way to their final destinations. American ports need to stay competitive, reduce costs, and continuously improve. That will require worker populations to grow in productivity, better management of operations and the implementation of new technology to make sure our ports do not slow down the rest of the economy.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Creating Higher College Value By Connecting to the Business Community

A common question arises about how to raise the value of higher education. With any societal institution there are stakeholders who look on at the changes and scratch their head as if to state something helpful. Alas nothing comes out! Connecting the business community and their ideas to higher educational may just help raise the value of a college education while promoting higher forms of experimental knowledge.

The end user is the ultimate feedback loop that evaluates the product as successful or a failure. The same concept applies to higher education, government, or retail outlets. If the end users are not happy with the product then it will have less value in the future. Turning the scratching of heads into  useful dialogue may just shed a little light on methods of improving higher education output for public consumption.

Advanced economies encourage the creation and dissemination of knowledge for growth. Higher education is the formal institution in charge of that process and fosters higher levels of learning. Developing higher education to advance the civic and economic output of society is fundamental to its existence. Universities should be concerned with the quality and cost of their output.

Higher education develops products in the form of knowledge, degrees and intellectual contributions. End users have a vested interested in the the production of that output and their needs should be considered in any meaningful discussion. Drawing in the businesses community helps to develop stronger curriculum and better scientific models.

Curriculum:The business community is an important source for understanding their employment needs. Curriculum that offers the type of knowledge needed to further society and business interests helps expand America's economic influence. Universities should seek out the business communities input in terms of what knowledge is needed in the market. Lower level courses offering more basic knowledge when compared to upper level courses that include experimentation and application of new ideas.

Experimentation: Ideas developed in academia need to be tested somewhere. Typically after initial experimentation a model is defined and published. A few businesses may read these scientific discoveries and apply the same concepts to their business. Connecting the business community with universities to test and try out new theoretical models encourages faster innovation in society. Business becomes the feedback loop and turns the theoretical into the practical.

Business colleges have a great advantage if they develop appropriate mechanisms to harness the power of the business community and draw them into the discussion to help develop programs that are beneficial to compete in today's market. Modern technology offers the ability to poll and synthesize information that was not possible just a decade ago. Higher education can exploit this information to raise its societal and market value.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

National Innovation Through Online Scholarship

Research is an important component of both online and ground based professorship. As matter of concern, trying to differentiate the two is dangerous as more universities move online and adjust the expectations of professors to fit online modalities. The institutions of higher learning have an important contribution to furthering knowledge through discovery and it makes no difference what modality they use. Removing this function can slow the pace of development for the nation by slowing new discoveries and innovation.

The nature of that scholarship may be a little different than that which we find in the laboratories of hard sciences. The far majority of new ideas and scholarship activities don’t require a formal laboratory setting and often can be conducted in virtual format. Modern technology allows for data collection, research, and scholarly writing on a new level. 

It could be argued that online tools could allow scholarship to flourish by connecting people, institutions and ideas to expand the body of knowledge. As more research moves online, and virtual libraries expand, information will move from theoretical conception to the practical output as decision-makers become more aware of existing discoveries.  Awareness and implementation in the private sector helps grow the nation.

It wasn’t that long ago that only printed forms of research were available and unless a person paid for, was a student, or otherwise provided with a library card to some a large university they would not be able to engage fully in scholarship. Small schools and adjunct faculty simply were not much part of the process. This appears to be changing as information becomes more available and consolidated in online libraries. 

Online scholarship can be theoretical or applied; perhaps a bit of both. On the theoretical side a mix of practical experience and scholarly writing can lead to new and profound discoveries. On the applied side those theoretical discoveries are implemented to create practical examples of the theory at work. Practical academics, or pracedemics, can do both research and practical implementation.  

Online education doesn’t need to damage, destroy, or negate the function of research in a professor’s life. As a practical matter online education can encourage higher forms of scholarship and at a faster pace than what was seen in the dusty halls of manual libraries by exchanging ideas and information for greater public consumption. The very function of research in today’s society can be enhanced by online education.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Intuition and Science that Lead to Solutions

Science and Intuition seem like they have been at odds with each other but the more we learn about intuition the more we understand its knowledge base. There are two ways to gain insight into particular problems that can lead to a path of discovery and knowledge. Science and intuition are not opposed to each other and are based in some of the very same methodologies. 

Intuition is a blend of logic, experience and subconscious (Robinson, 2007). It is a fast paced analysis that leads to a better understanding of the environment as well as those “awe” inspiring moments that create insight. As a logic, experience and subconscious process it cannot be discounted as a valid method of understanding the world. 

The process of intuition offers a way of seeing and experiencing the world that some people call the “sixth sense”. This is not a third eye as common folklore states but is similar to sensing and perceiving the world around us (Hales, 2012). It is an understanding of a solution without having the knowledge of where that solution came from.  

Intuition is seen as a higher form of knowledge through instant cognition. That instant understanding cannot occur unless there has been enough background knowledge to make such insight possible. The subconscious connects the information and puts forward a solution without our conscious awareness. It is quick and many times very accurate.

Immanuel Kant discussed intuition as something derived without direct observation while Benedict Spinoza thought of it as understanding of the world as an interconnected whole. The latter is a knowledge that takes the big truths and breaks them down into individual insight. The greater concept leads to the truth of smaller elements. 

Intuition and science can actually work in tandem. Intuition, like innovation, requires a deeper understanding of product purposes before a new solution can be found. This means that someone must have the education, experience, or skill to create the pieces of information that lead to a new idea. When that initial insight occurs it must be explored and tested to become something tangible. The scientific method can be an enhancement to self-generated knowledge.

Hales, St. (2012). The faculty of intuition. Analytic Philosophy, 53 (2). 

Robinson, L. (2007). Trust your gut. Business Book Summaries, 1 (1).

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Designing Your Team for Effectiveness

Teams are a popular method of organizational problem solving. The very design of the team is often ignored in an effort to hastily put together a team of people who can achieve goals in the least amount of time and effort. However, the formation of the team, personalities contained within, and the background of members will have an unyielding influence on whether or not that team will succeed in its endeavors.

Let us consider a problem a department is having in terms of making themselves more efficient and customer focused. The standard approach is to gather together the leadership team of the department and demand that they come up with new solutions. They will certain put their minds together and come up with a laundry list of solutions of which they have already said before.

The problem is that we are not necessarily sure that this will lead to the "right" solution. The right solution is that which is comprehensive and streamlines processes while raising customer satisfaction. Including all of the same people that allowed the department to become less efficient and customer friendly in the first place really isn't that wise.

This doesn't mean all is lost. By swapping out a few of the old guard for some new blood will be helpful. However, if your going to move that far you might as well be a little more strategic. Consider some of the following tips:

Include Different Stakeholders:

Finding new and unique solutions requires including people on the team that have new and unique perspectives. This isn't possible if you continue to include the same members over and over. Try keeping managers who don't dominate the group but do have knowledge of the operations of the department while adding a few managers from other departments.

No department works in isolation and processes & procedures run together and mesh in many ways. When solving problems be sure to include a representative from the departments that will be impacted by the change. They will provide insight into how well, or poor, things worked before and whether or not they can be improved. Good solutions will have a wider group of supporters.

Include Different Personalities:

Personality has an impact not only on the group dynamics but also the way in which people perceive information. Having serious personalities mixed with more artistic personalities may create some friction in the group but ultimately does lead to higher levels of development. Experienced personalities may help steer creative ideas into something more practical while creative personalities will ultimately push innovation.

Each group comes with its own dynamics. Switching around personalities helps to ensure that the dynamics don't become solidified unless it is beneficial. For example, an extremely dominant person may attempt to force their will o  each group but this doesn't necessarily mean that the group dynamics are beneficial for solution creation.

Include Knowledge Based on Goals:

In our example of improving customer service and improving efficiency it is necessary to include those people who have the actual knowledge to contribute meaningfully to the discussion. Operational questions will need someone that can understand operations while customer service will need someone who understands customer service.  Without this knowledge it is likely that results will be off.

Depending on the type of business you are running it is beneficial to include a marketing person in the group. Ideas must have market utility and raise the value of the company. Marketing people have the ability to understand the utility of ideas and whether or not they will achieve certain external expectations. A goal of improving customer service should have the knowledge support from marketing, customer service, or other qualified representatives.

Provide Skills for the Team:

Any serious ideas should be vetted through finance, legal, and others to determine if they are feasible. Even though all of these skills need not be on the team the support to analyze this information should be available to the team. Having someone who can understand and manage the process of analysis is important.

This means someone on the team that will have a basic level of statistical understanding, data metrics, finance, and human relations abilities to understand the feasibility of proposed ideas. Before coming to a final recommendation numbers will need to be run and a SWOT conducted. Without the ability to analyze options the team will not know which are likely to be approved.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Signs of Scientific and Creative Genius in Business

Genius, previously termed gifted, is a person who excels in one or a number of fields in a manner that contributes something new and unique. Geniuses develop new ideas, concepts, artistic forms, or new scientific breakthroughs in order to advance the field. Businesses are naturally interested in geniuses because they can either solve new problems or create new discoveries. A study by Dr. Keith Simonton helps define the differences in creative and scientific genius and how these are impacted by genetics and life. 

Genius as a Creative Output

Genius is more than being intelligent or ranking high on certain abilities tests. It is also about the actual output marks the individual that creates it. For example, having all the abilities in the world is great but eventually they must be used to create something. A telltale aspect of genius is the advancement of a new artistic piece, a scientific theory, or literary work. 

Genius as Intelligence:

Creative genius and scientific genius may hold some similar traits but ultimately rely on different types of skills. For example, scientific genius typically has intelligence over 140 while creative genius has an IQ over 125. The reason may be more associated with the nature of test taking whereby creative individuals could see multiple answers to problems and may take longer to answer questions.  The higher forms of genius having greater broader skills that applies across multiple spectrums. 

Genius as an Environmental Factor:

Genius is not all biological. Some places and times in the world created more geniuses than others. These are certainly not due to the slow pace of biological development and more likely oriented toward the sociocultural aspects of society at the time. The right atmosphere can help more geniuses come forward with ideas and created golden ages in societies. 

 The Benefits of Applying Genius to Business:

Genius can have many uses and each advancement in knowledge or creative output helps push society forward. When applied to the business world it can have a significant impact on the type of products developed and the amount of profits a business can make. A single invention can change the trajectory of development creating new lines of market solutions and put companies on top of their game.

It may seem like genius in one field cannot be applied easily to business but this is not always the case. Artistic genius can be transferred to media arts and design, scientific genius to product development, and creative genius to solve strategic problems. The transference of skills may not be one to one but the general skills can apply to solve unique problems. Developing the right exploratory environment and applying the skills to a specific task can make a big difference.

Simonton, K. (2012). Creative Genius as a Personality Phenomenon: Definitions, Methods, Findings, and Issues. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6 (9).

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Using Business Intelligence to Make Business Strategic Decisions

Business Intelligence (BI) improves through the use of analytical data streams that help companies overcome market challenges and create internal growth mechanisms. Because the international business environment is complex and large it needs improved analytical tools to be successful. Small, medium, and large businesses are increasingly relying on BI to help them make strategic decisions. A paper by Khan & Quadri (2014) discusses the growing use of BI in everyday business decisions and how to improve on exiting models. 

Proper BI requires the collection of data, analysis of that data, and providing a conclusion on the meaning of that data. BI uses proper analytical methods based in scientific research to achieve its goals. The same principles that apply to any research study would also apply to the business intelligence and strategy formation; in theory anyways. 

BI has been defined as, “The process of collection, treatment, and diffusion of information that has an objective, the reduction of uncertainty in the making of all strategic decisions” (Zeng, et al. 2007). Such information is collected analyzed and then disseminated among those who can use the information to the advantage of the organization. 

BI relies in part on the collecting and analysis of information from the market environment. This can be difficult when there is data scattered all over the place. This is even more possible when even more data makes its way into cyber sphere and creates a type of data collection net that offers higher possibilities for global analysis. 

Data mining can be defined as the search for relationships and patterns that exist among data (Holsheimer & Sibes, 1994). In essence, data is an amebic entity that doesn’t necessary show anything in and of itself. It is up to the user to find patterns and make predictions of this information based upon what they understand and which type of data they can capture. 

The data’s fundamental practicality is the ability to put it to strong use. According to Stackowaik, et al. (2007), BI is the process of taking large sections of data, analyzing it, and then presenting useful report for managers to help them make accurate decisions. BI becomes more of an analytical tool that continually updates based on algorithms for real time decision making.  

BI has the ability to help companies grow and develop beyond their current decision-making processes. Proper strategy formation requires understanding how data can help narrow down the options and choose that which is most likely to influence and improve upon the successes of the business. Data is getting stronger and so will the need to analyze that data in new and more accurate ways. 

Holsheimer, M., & Siebes, A. (1994). Data mining: The search for knowledge in databases. CWI (Centre for Mathematics and Computer Science), Amsterdam, The Netherlands .

Khan, R. & Quadri, S. (2014). Business intelligence: an integrated approach. International Journal of Management & Innovation, 6 (2).

Stackowiak et. al. (2007). Oracle data warehousing and business intelligence solutions. Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing, Inc.

Zeng, et. al. (2007). Techniques, process, and enterprise solutions of business intelligence, 6, 4722.