Innovation [Sponsored]

Building a Culture of Innovation and Intrapreneurship to Compete

30 October, 2018
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“Organizations under pressure from more nimble startups must find ways to harness and direct employee ambitions to catalyze growth and future-proof.”

As venture capital continues to flow into growth markets, incumbent companies of all sizes will be forced to contend with increasing competition from fast-growing disruptors. Asian venture investments, for example, represented the bulk of global venture capital growth from 2016 to 2017 and are on track to account for over 40 percent of all VC investment in 2018, according to data from PitchBook. This influx in investment has fueled the emergence of unicorns across the region—from India’s Oyo Rooms and Big Basket to Southeast Asia’s Traveloka and Tokopedia to China’s Didi and Lu—threatening established firms in industries ranging from retail to hospitality to transportation to finance.

As in the United States, incumbent companies have responded to this boom in well-funded upstarts by making their own early stage investments. This corporate venture capital (CVC) leverages a critical, but often misallocated asset enjoyed by many large companies: cash. As of last year, per CB Insights, Asian companies accounted for over a dozen of the top 50 CVC firms and constituted nearly 30 percent of deals—up 8 percent from 2016. Yet, for some companies, wading into the VC landscape can seem complex and risky. CVC often forces executives to think differently about their growth strategy, hire consultants and investment bankers, and even question the viability of their business model and the nature of their marketplace.

Despite its popularity, CVC isn’t right for every company in every instance. Many companies often overlook the ideas and ambitions that already exist within their employee base. If the worldwide surge in side hustles tells us anything, it’s that workers’ current positions are not adequately fulfilling their financial and existential needs. According to a 2017 GoDaddy survey, for example, 77 percent of Filipinos, 54 percent of Singaporeans and 37 percent of Hong Kong residents have side hustles. Decision makers at companies under pressure from more nimble startups must find ways to harness and direct the excess ambition of employees to help catalyze growth and future-proof their organizations.

Accomplishing this requires cultivating a culture of innovation and intrapreneurship that can produce new ideas and new ventures. The strategy required to build this type of culture cannot be entirely organic, however. It has to be carefully designed and actively managed. This entails implementing systems and programs that encourage and incentivize employees to ideate, collaborate, experiment, and even dream—and then ensuring they can share in the upside if their idea is implemented, commercialized or spun off.

One way of approaching these types of programs is to borrow the criminal justice adage of means, motive and opportunity. In order to take action that’s mutually beneficial to the company and the employee, employees must have the means to act, the motive to act and the opportunity to act. What does this entail more specifically?

  • Means — Providing the funding, knowledge, tools, and authority necessary for employees to conceive an idea, establish the right team, build the business case and develop and test the idea. This may mean creating an internal venture fund or pitch contest, holding intrapreneurship or design thinking workshops.
  • Motive — Inspiring people to think beyond their immediate job function, incentivizing them to take risks within a predefined framework and allowing them to participate in any financial upside that may result from their work. This may mean giving employees a bonus for ideas that merit further investigation, ensuring they receive royalties for inventions or allowing them to retain an equity stake or leadership role in a subsidiary.
  • Opportunity — Creating time and space for ideation and collaboration, enabling them to work on their internal side hustles in balance with their primary responsibilities. This may mean creating an internal startup incubator, setting aside time each day or week for intrapreneurial initiatives or providing essential workspace and equipment.
     

It’s not enough for companies to simply encourage employees to innovate from within. They have to implement programs and processes that give workers the means, motive and opportunity to do so. Beyond this, however, inculturating an intrapreneurial mindset requires that people at every level of an organization rethink the purpose of work and the parameters of the workplace. In decades past, it would be anathema for an employee to spend more time developing a new idea than fulfilling their primary function. Yet, in today’s environment, that new idea may end up creating exponentially more value than the employee’s day-to-day work product.

While a balance needs to be struck to maintain productivity and manage risk, it behoves leaders to begin rethinking how human capital should be deployed. Are your human resources more effectively used to sustain your core business so you can survive today or evolve your business so you can thrive tomorrow? The need to wrestle with these questions is especially acute in many growth markets where workplace norms and organizational structures skew traditional.

As the number of new entrants rises across growth markets, established companies are going to have to take proactive measures to stay relevant and competitive. While some have turned to corporate venture capital to gain upside exposure, CVC isn’t for everyone. In concert with a CVC strategy or in lieu of it, companies should look inward for innovation. Employees often prove to be ready and capable intrapreneurs in need of the means, motive and opportunity to develop their ideas. Not every company has to invest in startups to secure growth in changing markets. Forward-thinking companies will invest in the ideas and talent native to their organizations to unleash a startup culture that can help them grow from within.

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Deb Clarke | 07 Feb 2019

It is human nature to celebrate success. People love trophy ceremonies and hugs, confetti and high fives. Everyone loves a winner. The specter of “winning” associated with highly achieving firms in the investment industry, however, can be dangerous. Sometimes the intoxication of an extended period of laudable returns can lead to cultural apathy, lack of humility and reduced desire to innovate. This collective mindset can ultimately result in future woes. Underperforming firms, in contrast, constantly seek new ways to create value, leverage innovation and force their way into the winner’s circle. CIOs responsible for investing on behalf of asset owners should recognize that underperforming firms could offer tremendous opportunities—especially when currently successful firms have become too comfortable with, well, winning. Below are five reasons why CIO’s should not overlook underperforming firms when seeking new avenues to invest an asset owner’s assets: 1. The Continued Success Fallacy      The investment industry is predisposed to viewing past success as an indicator of future success. Reasoning tells us that firms that have generated winning returns in the past have the talent, mindset and resources needed to generate high returns in the future. This bias, however, can be misleading. Continued success is never guaranteed in the investment industry, and could even be considered a liability. People are innately fallible, and investment firms are run by people—who are prone to the familiar trappings of success: apathy, entitlement, hubris and being lulled into complacency by the inertia of the past. The world is full of parables about the many perils of success, and human nature is always at the center of those failures. The Chinese proverb “The spectators see more of the game than the players,” highlights the dangers of tunnel vision and why it is wise to consult outside opinions. Relying solely on proven resources can lead to an echo-chamber of the same strategies, attitudes and insights over time. The investment industry’s tendency to view past success as an indicator of future success is an understandable, but precarious, bias. Replicating effective strategies is a formula for obsolescence in an industry that is constantly evolving. In contrast, underperformers keenly aware of their shortcomings are always thinking about new opportunities on the horizon. Experienced CIOs who have witnessed the inherent dangers of presumed continued success are more inclined to value a focus on inventiveness and creating the future. Just look back at how much the investment industry has changed over the past ten or twenty years. Change never stops.             2. The Complacency Trap                 CIOs must exercise due diligence on behalf of their stakeholders when evaluating the perceived benefits of working with currently successful investment firms. Complacency is a very strong and common psychological pitfall. After all, if the clients are happy and value is being created, why change? But complacency is deceptively quiet; it creeps in unnoticed over time, almost imperceptibly, and becomes part of a firm’s culture and operational routines. Complacency, as the byproduct of success, can masquerade as success itself and take root as soon as a firm begins patting itself on the back—and showcasing its latest industry awards beneath the bright lights of their lobby display box (you’ve seen them!).  The antidote to complacency is vigilance, humility and action. Investment firms must seek out groundbreaking or contrary ideas and learn to leverage evolving technologies and new regulations. Successful firms may ignore the inevitability and sweeping power of change because they are blinded by the glow of their current fortunes. What worked yesterday will certainly work today and probably tomorrow, they think. All investment firms—regardless of their prevailing circumstances—need to focus on what comes next. Firms that experiment with strategies and mechanisms that might give them a competitive advantage are more likely to stay ahead of change instead of chasing it. Investment firms with something to prove to themselves and the market, embrace change as opportunity.      3. The Client Conundrum                    Contented clients resist change for obvious reasons. Who in their right mind would change a strategy that is currently providing healthy returns? The onus to implement new strategies and a bold vision, therefore, falls on the investment firm. Educating clients today about future opportunities is key to winning tomorrow. An investment committee needs to be sure of its convictions if it wants to deviate from a historically lucrative path. Changing course and going out on a limb will be more difficult if the historic performance of the incumbent has been strong. The client conundrum constrains investment firms with the disadvantage of being trapped in a relationship that is inherently opposed to change. Underperformers, particularly less-established firms that are still making a name for themselves, tend to not have long-term clients, and therefore do not face the same obstacles. Not having to fight the gravitational pull of long-term success frees them to explore new or less traditional approaches to creating value. For investment firms that can only move as fast as their slowest parts, sometimes happy clients create headwinds that, in the long run, work against their interests.       4. Timing Is Everything                       The investment industry is filled with firms that are at some point in their ascendancy or decline. CIOs, to effectively serve the asset owners that employ them, should strive to be as informed and insightful as possible with regard to timing. They must have the ability to read the tea leaves, so to speak, to identify where the most innovative ideas are coming from and know how to capitalize on those ideas before anyone else. Outperformers could be deceptively close to decline because they have realized their potential, and in an effort to maintain that success, have focused their energy inwards instead of outwards—which is where change and opportunities are born. When determining the best investment strategies for their clients, CIOs should conduct qualitative, forward-looking assessments. The competitive edge could be found in underperformers who offer strategies that provide fresh perspectives. If a CIO waits too long to replace declining outperformers with ascendant underperformers, it could be too late to capitalize on the opportunities ahead. In this competitive industry, news regarding the “newest best thing” travels fast. Timing is key. CIOs who lack conviction can miss game-changing opportunities presented by lesser-known firms. In the famous words of financier James Goldsmith, “If you can see the bandwagon, it’s too late.”          5. Evolving Technology and AI                        The investment industry is entering a new era of technological experimentation. There will be winners and losers; disruption from modern technologies like AI will be the norm. FinTech is revolutionizing the industry, and it is especially poised to catapult lean, tech-savvy underperformers into new spheres or relevance. CIOs will be increasingly tested on their understanding of how technologies, like blockchain, impact the future of the industry. AI and automation are progressively doing the work of actual people, which means outperforming firms with resource intensive products or services and aging operations are particularly vulnerable to change. This charged atmosphere makes new, and maybe untested, investment firms more prone to seek out alternative sources of information and apply technology in new ways to derive value. Underperforming firms can also use new technologies to leapfrog into prominence, as the digital age has democratized access to information and resources. The history of investing teaches us that the future of the industry will come from unexpected places. Measures of past success such as assets under management and length of time running a particular strategy often counter-predict future success. To outperform through active management, CIOs need to consider underperformers who offer new, innovative strategies and mindsets. The digital transformation of the investment industry is underway and advancing rapidly. Finally, it is human nature to seek the familiar and comfortable. The brand names and reputations of some outperforming firms may offer a reassuring and intangible sense of security. To compete, underperforming firms must offer forward-thinking strategies that differentiate their services from long-established rivals. That fight for survival is what drives innovation and change. And that survival instinct is what many of today’s successful firms can lose as a result of their good fortunes.  

Sophia Van | 07 Feb 2019

Health is the new wealth. Our physical and mental well-being impacts every aspect of our lives—including our ability to be loving parents, supportive friends and successful professionals. Information about our health is profoundly personal. No one beyond our trusted medical caregivers should have access to our most private details. The sensitive nature of our medical records, however, makes them a coveted target for sophisticated cybercriminals. Growth economies are particularly vulnerable. Cybercriminals target healthcare for two fundamental reasons: the healthcare industry is a rich source of valuable personal data that commands a high dollar value on the black market, and the healthcare industry’s existing technologies and processes are fraught with vulnerabilities. The exponential growth of personal health data is being generated from an increasing number of connected devices and networks. By the end of 2020, about four billion people will be connected via the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). According to the INFOSEC Institute, more than 70 percent of IoMT devices lack fundamental security safeguards as applications primarily focus on the features of the software rather than the security of the data. IoMT, therefore, presents cybersecurity experts with unprecedented challenges that require the collaboration of many different stakeholders and care providers within healthcare ecosystems. This is a growing war. Cyberattacks are increasing in terms of number, scale and level of sophistication. A recent CBI Insights report reveals that, “Since 2017, roughly six billion confidential digital records have been stolen from around the world and counting. Just in the last two years there have been at least three separate data breaches in which at least one billion confidential records were stolen or exposed at once.”1   From a single laptop in a rural village to elite teams of experts sponsored by nefarious governments, cybercriminals can operate from any location with an Internet connection, and they are targeting healthcare organizations in growth economies that have not implemented modern, sophisticated defense systems. Healthcare communities, cybersecurity professionals and governments must acknowledge these five stark realities as they seek ways to combat the persistent and ubiquitous threat of cyberhackers. 1. Healthcare has a target on its back.   The three main targets of cybercriminals are electronic health records, healthcare infrastructure and individual medical records. Sensitive information has become a very powerful commodity in modern society. Just as gold, diamonds and printed money have attracted thieves for centuries, information has become one of earth’s most valuable assets. The more sensitive, damaging or revealing the information is, the more value it possesses. Details about how healthy, or unhealthy, individuals and groups are can be ransomed for astronomical prices.     In July 2018, ransomware targeted SingHealth, Singapore’s largest healthcare institution, and stole the information of 1.5 million patients, including the profile of the country’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong—who was identified as a specific target in the attack. These types of ransomware attacks are constantly being perpetrated against healthcare facilities as they struggle to implement comprehensive defense strategies. This trend will only escalate as cybercriminals and healthcare institutions attempt to outsmart and outmaneuver each other as bank robbers and banks have done throughout history.2 2. Hacks can mean life or death.   One of the most concerning current threats to health information privacy is a serious compromise of the integrity and availability of data. Those risks include possible harm to a patient’s safety and health, loss of protected health information (PHI) and unauthorized access to data. In fact, in 2013 The Washington Post reported that the doctors for Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the disabling of the wireless functionality of his heart implant out of fear that it could be hacked by terrorists.3 It’s arguable that cybercrimes in the healthcare industry can have much more drastic consequences to brand equity for institutions than major financial losses. The fear of not being able to access one’s critical health information is a legitimate, and intense, sense of unease. This anxiety is partially what gives the information its value and power. Data security breaches can directly impact the health and well-being of patients, and even result in fatalities. Destroying medical records and hijacking critical pharmaceutical prescriptions can quickly result in casualties and cause death. By stealing information and manipulating public fear, cybercriminals can leverage their stolen assets in unprecedented ways. The reality is these crimes have life-threatening consequences and can be perpetrated from across the world in the middle of the night. 3. Breaches are inevitable and may be internal.   The potential monetary gains for cyberhackers are enormous. Unsurprisingly, more than 70 percent of healthcare industry companies expect a breach from financially-motivated cybercriminals. However, the pervasive image of a lone cyberhacker working from a dark apartment in an anonymous city, or nefarious state-sponsored groups of squinting cyberthieves lined up in rows of bland cubicles, only represents part of the story. Internal employees also pose a great threat to healthcare institutions. Every employee is a human being, and whether or not they are disgruntled, financially distraught or simply unaware of how their behaviors can impact security protocols, there is the potential for corruption. Having the right security clearances, passwords and access to sensitive information may simply be too tempting for internal employees with an ulterior motive.  4. Robust security measures are needed.   The cat-and-mouse chase and confrontations will continue to evolve as cyberhackers continuously seek new ways to penetrate the defenses of healthcare institutions and stakeholders within the healthcare systems—including the manufacturers of connected medical devices. Today’s international and tech-savvy criminals are determined, sophisticated and creative. Healthcare institutions must be even more so. Though the growing awareness of cybersecurity threats have shaken the entire industry, many companies in growth economies have not set up and executed a holistic security framework that provides comprehensive governance and board oversight. Security measures lack an integrated approach that leverages the talents and acumen of not only healthcare professionals, but cybersecurity forces and policymakers at every level of government. The seamless integration of defense resources is required to combat cybercriminals who pose a dynamic and evolving threat. All stakeholders dealing with health data should shift from passive cyber defenses, to active cyber defenses. Cybersecurity for IoMT must also be a major agenda for next-generation medical devices. Governments and policymakers should provide security guidance and regulatory protocols for medical device manufacturers. The industry must quickly develop and adopt best-practices, frameworks and architectures for ensuring cybersecurity protections across all of IoMT. Hospitals and health systems need to secure medical devices in the same way that banks ensure the security of the credit cards they issue. Growth economies must respond, and lead, with appropriate security measures and cybersecurity policies. 5. Healthcare can fight back.   Ransomware and cybercrimes can create unimaginable chaos. But businesses, communities and growth economies are not powerless. When working together, they can create a network of systems, assets and protocols that can thwart even the most tenacious hackers. Diligence is key. The healthcare industry must be proactive about preventing cyberattacks before they occur and be smart about responding to them and mitigating damage when they do occur. Though many healthcare institutions have begun to develop effective security strategies, few have implemented a complete plan that addresses preparation, prevention, detection, and response and recovery strategies.  The healthcare industry and associated stakeholders must approach cybersecurity defense strategies with the same level of seriousness and strength that militaries apply to their own defense strategies. For instance, an effective and aggressive defense program would include the use of deception technologies that stop attacks by deceiving the attackers. Also, artificial intelligence (AI) can monitor traffic in and out of each connected device and differentiate between normal and abnormal behavior in real-time—alerting network security professionals when the device is listening to or talking to criminal networks, servers or individuals. AI can proactively block bad actors in real time before they can gain access and inflict damage. Winning cybersecurity strategies intercept and prevent attacks proactively; after all, once a device has been compromised and higher-level servers have been breached, the damage has been done. Lastly, the healthcare industry should consider other innovative defensive measures such as quantum computing, cybersecurity war rooms that provide around-the-clock security operations centers, and a holistic strategy that leverages not only technology but also human behavior and processes. To learn more about how cybercriminals are holding healthcare institutions hostage, and what the industry can do to protect itself, read this whitepaper.   1 Why Ai, Blockchain, & Enhanced Encryption Are The Future Of Enterprise Data Security http://www.cbinsights.com/research/ai-blockchain-encryption-enterprise-data-security-expert-intelligence/ 2 Singapore Suffers 'most Serious' Data Breach, Affecting 1.5m Healthcare Patients Including Prime Minister Eileen Yu - https://www.zdnet.com/article/singapore-suffers-most-serious-data-breach-affecting-1-5m-healthcare-patients-including-prime/ 3 Intermountain Healthcare Launches Security Operations Center To Combat Health Data Cyberattacks https://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20151114/MAGAZINE/311149977

Martine Ferland | 24 Jan 2019

Imagine this. At the start of his day Mike speaks to his smart phone and his virtual assistant pops up a personalized screen dedicated to his health and wellbeing.  There is a congratulatory message telling him he’s earned a reward voucher for his favorite cycling store for hitting his body composition target. The power of this system is that it integrates work needs with personal health requirements. It shows the morning’s schedule of meetings, and suggests a slot for a lunchtime group run that fits with his day. There is a to-do list already organized based on Mike’s priorities and deadlines, but also an analysis of last night’s sleep pattern, some suggestions for how to improve his sleep, and a flag that Mike needs to rehydrate if he is to maintain peak cognitive function. To create this pleasant morning ritual, Mike’s employer uses AI to connect and analyze data generated by his preferences, behaviors and biometric data. The new technology encourages Mike to bring his whole self to work and, by doing so, strengthens the connection to his employer. In the end, everyone benefits.  The scene described above provides a glimpse of the future of work, one where employers use digital technology, big data and AI to enhance employees’ entire well-being and strengthen that employer- employee relationship. Technology drives engagement, which then improves productivity and company culture. Employees want careers that complement their personal lives, not vice versa. This is seen with greater demand for role-flexing, which brings benefits to the employee and the employer. Fifty-one percent of employees want more flexible working options that allow for extended time off, for gym breaks, caregiving and avoiding rush-hour commutes (or commuting altogether).1 With this ability to balance, more headspace can be used for innovative ideas rather than worrying about who is picking up the children from school. Indeed, one in two employees wants a greater emphasis on well-being in the workplace.1 Technology is crucial in facilitating that desire. Technology not only enables employers to provide choice, flexibility and on-demand benefits in a practical sense, but also enhances the overall employee experience by being relevant to the audience of one. Employees now expect the technology experience they receive outside work to reflect the technology they are given access to inside work. Organizations who are slow to adopt will find they are actively disengaging their workforce. Since 61 percent of employees choose health as their top concern2, it is important to pay attention to this concern. Providing solutions that span the range of true well-being, from meditation apps, virtual doctor visits, biometric-led fitness coaching, and other tools enhances company values, culture and productivity.  That’s why Mercer acquired Thomsons Online Benefits in 2016 with its leading technology, Darwin. Darwin helps employees connect their benefits with their wider lives by giving them access to personalize their benefits offering. It provides employers with a single source of truth for benefits data, enabling a complete picture of your scheme at a country, regional, or worldwide level, and the ability to make better decisions about how to invest your benefits spend for optimum return on investment. For employers, offering customized solutions using technology helps personalize benefits for employees, resulting in higher impact and engagement. Companies that are using a technology-enabled approach are having the greatest success. Those with the technology to measure the impact of their benefits program are 80 percent more likely to respond to the employee need for well-being.3 We have only begun to scratch the surface on understanding how technology can be applied to advance well-being. Companies that invest in technology have a competitive advantage because their healthy, happy employees can thrive.4 By placing the diverse needs of their employee at the core of their efforts, employers can drive engagement and productivity to unimagined heights.                                1. Global Talent Trends Study 2018 https://www.mercer.com/our-thinking/career/global-talent-hr-trends.html 2 Global Talent Trends 2017 https://www.mercer.com/newsroom/global-talent-trends-2017.html 3 Global Employee Benefits Watch 2017/18 Report https://www.thomsons.com/resources/whitepapers/global-employee-benefits-watch-201718/ 4 Thriving in a Age Of Disruption https://www.mercer.com/our-thinking/thrive/thriving-in-a-disrupted-world.html

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Peter Fuchs | 27 Dec 2018

The meteoric rise of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin thrust blockchain to the forefront of the daily news in late 2017, and its subsequent epic fall cast a new pall over a technology that was just beginning to overcome its early reputation as a perfect vehicle for swindlers, drug dealers and traffickers. While awareness of blockchain has increased markedly over the last few years, most organizations and people are still unable to grasp what this new technology will really mean to their businesses and lives. Today, blockchain technology is about where the Internet was in the early 1990s. It’s an exciting and important technology, but one that is still in its fledgling stage. The truth is, similar to how people were trying to figure out the Internet in the early 1990s, no one really knows exactly how it will revolutionize economies and cultures. But we do know—much like the Internet in the early 1990s—that blockchain is going to be a game changer. Blockchain: The Efficiency Revolution Blockchain will profoundly impact the intersection of business and individuals by unleashing a new era of connectivity and efficiency. Because blockchain is secure, streamlined and can be both transparent and anonymous simultaneously, the technology will revolutionize operational processes by eliminating costly intermediaries. Suppose, for example, a VP of engineering in Beijing, China is being relocated—along with his wife and two daughters—to a new long-term position based in Perth, Australia. Historically, just finding and securing housing across borders has involved an overwhelming amount of paperwork, people and processes. Local real estate protocols are fraught with legacy registry systems, sprawling bureaucratic channels and intermediaries including brokers, title agents, title attorneys, notaries, escrow agents, land registry officials and bankers in both countries. These processes are bloated, expensive and susceptible to fraud. The streamlined transparency and security provided by blockchain technology will eradicate many of those wasteful and vulnerable practices. Blockchain enhances efficiency not by collecting data, but by securely connecting data across a decentralized network of participating computers called nodes. Nodes store the blockchain’s data, follow the rules of the blockchain’s specific protocols and communicate with other nodes, which can be located anywhere. Each follows the same rules and maintains an identical copy of the network’s immutable data set. New information is added only when the nodes agree, and the change is distributed simultaneously to each node. To alter it, would-be hackers would not have to simply hack one node, but all (or most) of the individually protected nodes distributed throughout the world. By ensuring the data is simultaneously tied together and yet independent, anonymous and secure, blockchain ensures the integrity of the data network. This allows all participating parties to know that the shared data is valid, and no intermediaries are needed to confirm that a home buyer has enough money, or if the house has water damage, or if the title deed has been signed, notarized and delivered. Blockchain In Growth Economies Blockchain is gaining traction and disrupting growth economies at an increasing rate. Not only is it being touted as a possible solution to endemic and institutionalized corruption, but it is also gaining acceptance in important industries, especially financial services, healthcare and government. Financial Services Blockchain first gained traction in growth economies as the technology behind Bitcoin, the first digital currency. However, experts soon recognized that blockchain’s transparency and security features could significantly change the financial services industry—much as the Internet changed the media and entertainment industries 20 years ago. Banking institutions across the globe are adopting blockchain and advanced distributed ledger technologies for a wide range of functions, including trade settlements, payment processing and cross-border transactions. In fact, India recently launched India Trade Connect, a trade finance strategy that uses blockchain platforms to empower an unprecedented collaboration between IT juggernaut InfoSys and seven of the nation’s biggest banks.1 Modern blockchain technologies allow these financial entities to streamline trade finance systems and oversee international supply chain transactions at every step of the operation. Healthcare The global healthcare industry manages vast amounts of clinical and administrative data, from the pharmaceutical supply chain to patient medical records to claims management. The introduction of smart medical devices including everything from personal fitness trackers to connected surgical suites, is introducing an entirely new ecosystem of information to mine. The pool of data collected from healthcare-related devices is growing exponentially. Accurate, accessible data is critical to improving clinical outcomes and reducing waste, and blockchain’s immutability and ability to connect currently siloed information and serve as the “single source of truth” are key enablers. In South Korea, the healthcare industry has been very proactive in implementing blockchain to centralize patient information and marginalize the prevalence of counterfeit drugs through transparent supply chain management. Blockchain records of patients’ medical histories provide Korean hospitals and caregivers with a single, accurate record of a patient’s treatments, procedures and pharmaceutical needs.2 Government Governments in growth economies around the world are using blockchains for everything from property records and voting registries to driver’s licenses and financial histories. Its ability to provide a chronological and immutable digital record makes it ideal for transactions that impact populations and economies—from single individuals to entire industries. Blockchain increasingly allows governments in Africa to better organize records and services through improved identity management systems—which legitimizes processes key to successful societies, from collecting taxes to counting votes.3 For many growing nations, blockchain may soon offer the potential to leapfrog from antiquated and bloated operational processes, fraught with malfeasance, to streamlined, incorruptible systems that attract international investment and encourage entrepreneurship. Blockchain is gaining rapid acceptance with businesses and policymakers in part because the continent doesn’t have deeply entrenched incumbents or legacy systems that might resist this new technology in an effort to maintain their influence. Blockchain: The Unknowns When the Internet gained acceptance in the early 1990s we knew that the ways human beings communicated and interacted with information was about to experience extraordinary changes. We didn’t know, however, that it would lead to the rise of other revolutionary forces such as Google, peer-to-peer file sharing platforms like Napster, ubiquitous smartphone devices such as the iPhone, or the invention of social media channels like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. All cultural disruptors that continue to shape the world in significant ways, from unhealthy personal digital addictions to the influence of government-sponsored disinformation campaigns. Blockchain promises similar benefits and risks. The impact it will have on growth economies, international commerce and human culture cannot be fully assessed or appreciated at this point. But its potential is real and pervasive in every region of the world. Businesses, CEOs and governments should adopt strategies that don’t necessarily mandate a call to action, but a call to awareness—an earnest effort to gain a sophisticated understanding of the technology and how it can create positive changes, or negative consequences, in a world that is still figuring out how the Internet of the 1990s has transformed the human condition.   1Infosys Finacle Pioneers Blockchain-based Trade Network in India in Consortium with Seven Leading Banks: Infosys Limited - https://www.infosys.com/newsroom/press-releases/Pages/pioneers-blockchain-based-trade-network.aspx 2Will Blockchain Transform Healthcare in South Korea: https://techwireasia.com/2018/06/will-blockchain-transform 3Why Africa’s Emerging Blockchain Movement Is Growing So: https://media.consensys.net/blockchain-month-in-africa-920945771100

Nicol Mullins | 13 Dec 2018

Businesses around the world are entering an age of disruption. Starbucks, for example, is changing its business model to accommodate payments made via mobile devices, which now account for 30% of transactions in U.S. stores. Disruptions driven by digital transformation are re-shaping business models and human resource structures in just about every industry. Mercer’s 2018 Global Talent Trends Study – Unlocking Growth in the Human Age revealed that businesses that self-identify as a digital organisation are twice as likely to report high scores on change agility as a differentiating organisational competency.1 A continent of different nations   While the world embraces a shared and on-demand economy, many countries in Africa continue to grapple with an old and entrenched world order. In fact, many African countries prefer familiarity over change. This mindset prolongs the influence of legacy issues that impede the advancement of labour policies in Africa, and impacts the continent on every level, from political and economic to cultural and legislative.  Interestingly, the legislative policies and culture of individual countries and nationalities shape important factors such as employee compensation and reward structures. Throughout Africa there are two distinct payment structures: Francophone (which involves multiple cash allowances) and Anglophone (which is a consolidated approach including a salary, bonus and benefits). If you compare Nigeria to Kenya, for example, the payment structures differ vastly. Nigeria’s Francophone-style market demands various allowances and remunerations based on existing practices and employee expectations, even though the nation attempted to implement legislation that would consolidate compensation through a structure based on tax benefits. Kenya, in contrast, offers few cash allowances and can be characterized as Anglophone in nature, where the salary and other benefits are consolidated. Africa’s labour market   How will disruption affect Africa’s labour market? Ultimately, it is vital for employers to take cultural nuances into account in order to hire with purpose. According to our 2018 Talent Trends study, embedding a higher sense of purpose into the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) unlocks individual potential and spurs people to be change agents. To find purpose, employees crave professional development, learning opportunities and experimentation. If employees do not experience these motivating forces, they will look for inspiration elsewhere. In fact, 39% of South African employees satisfied in their current jobs still plan to leave due to a perceived lack of career growth and opportunity.1 Embracing the pace of change   Some countries in Africa are embracing disruption better than others. For example, Ethiopia—the second most populous country in Africa—has seen massive growth since it opened up its borders twenty-five years ago. By creating more investment opportunities, Ethiopia has attracted foreign investors who now recognise the tremendous potential that lies within the consumer market, as well as the benefits of lower labour costs throughout the country. Rwanda is another notable example of an African nation embracing digital transformation, as it continues to make significant investments in technology and transitions towards smarter cities. According to the report, the African countries at the forefront of disruptive technologies are all being transformed by the speed at which businesses are adopting change. In fact, 96% of these businesses are planning an organisational redesign in the next two years, and 46% of HR executives are planning to reskill current employees for new roles. Aligning skills with opportunities   The intention and ability to embrace change is vital to business ecosystems. Fifty-three percent of executives believe at least one in five roles in their organisation will cease to exist in the next five years. However, only 40% of those executives are increasing employee access to online learning courses, and only 26% are actively rotating workers within their business.1 To take advantage of opportunities that arise from disruption and transformation in Africa, nations should invest in the potential of other revenue-driving industries. For instance, previously war-torn Liberia could develop more tourism-related businesses and enterprises—following Dubai’s example, which transitioned from a primarily oil-based economy into a tourism-based economy. Innovation and workforce skills development are critical to the future of Africa. The human capital resource strategy of “managing a pipeline of talent” is becoming obsolete as employees seek new, aspirational approaches to developing skills that are aligned with the future of business in a digital age. Though Africa faces a number of legacy challenges, it understands the need for change. By focusing on digital transformation, the continent—and the nations that comprise it—could usher in a new era of prosperity for their economies, businesses and people.   1 Global Talent Trends Study 2018: https://www.mercer.com/our-thinking/career/global-talent-hr-trends.html

Nicol Mullins | 30 Oct 2018

Kenya’s vaunted Silicon Savannah continues to advance the prominence of e-commerce and online shopping throughout the continent of Africa. Online retailer Jumia, headquartered in Nairobi, grossed $597 million in 2017, expanding its reach from four countries to 14.[1] Now, as Africa’s startup epicenter seeks to attract more international investors, tech-savvy entrepreneurs and local suppliers, it is catalyzing a profound shift in consumer behavior across Africa. Leapfrogging the Retail Divide   Megacompanies like Amazon and Alibaba have changed the core of retail shopping in western and eastern markets, but the continent of Africa has yet to witness the ascendance of tech gurus like Jeff Bezos or Jack Ma. For Africa, that’s just fine. A new generation of young tech pioneers is driving digital transformation throughout the continent, and changing the way consumers not only purchase products, but organize their lives. For decades, markets in Africa have been incredibly challenging places to shop. Online shopping and digital banking, however, are enabling African retailers and consumers to leapfrog from shopping experiences defined by antiquated infrastructure, unreliable banking mechanisms and poor distribution processes, to streamlined e-commerce experiences. The impact of improved online connectivity (Kenya ranks among the world’s fastest internet speeds[2]) and M-Pesa, the mobile banking platform that streamlines financial transactions and microfinancing, are leading a revolution in consumer expectations throughout Africa. This elevation of consumerism, will not be spread evenly throughout the continent. The Incomparable Future of Africa   Investors are learning that digital transformation in Africa will not evolve in the same ways as in western and eastern cultures. Human intuition posits that economic priorities and trends in one area of the world can serve as precedence for other areas of the world. But this ilk of thinking is misguided with respect to the circumstances in Africa. The explosion of the middle class in places like China will not be reflective of increasing wages across Africa. Multinational corporations must be mindful that different cultures espouse different values, and those values guide how populations perceive, save and spend money. The African continent, and its 1.2. billion people, live in very different nations and cultures. Investors and financial prognosticators cannot approach Africa with the same strategies and expectations as they do other large populations, such as India’s 1.32 billion people or China’s 1.38 billion people. Africa’s spectrum of governments, cultures and economic scenarios span a vast array of unique obstacles and opportunities. Africa’s rising middle class isn’t as intent on purchasing products that symbolize societal status or seeking individual attention. Instead, Africa’s consumers are proving to be more conservative, and are reallocating extra income to savings or family networks in areas with less economic viability.[3] Africa, Technology & Time   One of the top-selling items on Jumia is disposable diapers, which provides a glimpse into how consumers in Africa are prioritizing their financial resources.[1] The obsolescence of traditional cloth diapers for more expensive disposable diapers indicates that convenience and time management are leading drivers of purchases in an evolving continent. Though luxury items such as cosmetics have failed to gain traction, e-commerce is changing consumer behavior when it comes to providing the most valuable resource in anyone’s life: time. It all begins with access to the internet. Eighty-five percent of Kenya’s population is online.[4] As the country’s hubs in Nairobi and Mombasa continue to attract innovative companies and ambitious entrepreneurs, the businesses arising from the Silicon Savannah such as Twiga—which connects local farmers to stores in more urban settings—are changing everything from supply chains and distribution to the transparency of operations. In fact, technologies such as blockchain could significantly reduce corruption throughout Africa, saving tech startup entrepreneurs time (not months, but years) navigating costly bureaucracies and political quagmires when establishing their businesses. Though the continent of Africa is full of rich and disparate cultures and countries, Kenya and the Silicon Savannah have proven to the international investment community that positive changes transcend borders and barriers. Kenya’s tech hubs are incubators for ideas and businesses that will transform not only Africa, but the world. After all, there was a moment when Amazon and Alibaba were small startups with big dreams. All they needed was a place to call home and time to grow. For African entrepreneurs that home is the Silicon Savannah… and the time is now.   1 Meet the Startup Building a Market From Scratch To Become Africa's Alibaba Matina Stevis-Gridneff https://www.wsj.com/articles/with-c-o-d-and-goat-promotions-jumia-aims-to-be-africas-alibaba-1527073200?mod=e2tw 2 Kenya's Mobile Internet Beats the United States For Speed Lily Kuo https://qz.com/1001477/kenya-has-faster-mobile-internet-speeds-than-the-united-states/ 3 3 Things Multinationals Don't Understand About Africa's Middle Class William Attwell https://hbr.org/2017/08/3-things-multinationals-dont-understand-about-africas-middle-class 4 Africa Internet Users, 2018 Population and Facebook Statistics https://www.internetworldstats.com/stats1.html

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