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Four Ways to Transform the Consumerization of IT into Competitive Advantage
It used to be that any change in an organization would flow from the top down—from the executives to the front line workers. But today, especially when it comes to the consumerization of IT, the change process is quite different. What we have been seeing in the past few years is a “bottom-up” approach, where the end user (the employee) is pressuring the C-suite leaders to change. This new paradigm is extremely disruptive for the leaders. Not only is the change coming in the opposite direction from what the executives are used to, but it’s also coming so fast that many leaders are unsure what to do.
What’s really behind this consumerization of IT trend? In a word…mobility. Because of advances in bandwidth, storage, and processing power, the tools an average consumer can purchase are extremely powerful. Even as recent as five years ago, technology tools for the consumer weren’t that impressive and didn’t have much business application. As such, leaders simply had to make mandates like “no video games on your work computer” or “don’t bring your personal computer or outside CD-ROMs to work,” and the problem was solved (or so they thought).
But that was then, and this is now. Today the average person can purchase, understand, and easily implement an array of new technologies designed to make work and life easier. Consider this. A recent survey found that…
• 45 percent of employees felt that their personal consumer devices and software are more useful than the tools and applications provided by their IT departments.
• 43 percent of employees felt comfortable and capable in making their own purchasing decisions to apply technology tools for work.
• 27 percent were willing to pay for their own devices and applications to use at work.
Now here’s what’s really eye-opening: Only 27 percent of executives have begun to address the consumerization issue in a structured way. Now it’s easier to see why the consumerization of IT trend is so disruptive.
Realize that this trend is not just in the United States; it’s global. In fact, the leaders in the consumerization trend are China and India, followed by Brazil and Mexico. In other words, it’s spreading and growing rapidly. So if you’re one of the 73 percent of executives who has not addressed this trend yet, you need to do so now.
The Big Boost
What really gave the consumerization of IT a big push was Apple with their game-changing iPhone and iPad. Apple took the concept of a smartphone and raised it to a new level. Additionally, it launched the mobile apps trend, which also started as a consumer oriented offering rather than a business one. Now, with an iPhone or iPad, consumers could have a true multimedia computer in their hand. Of course, competitors quickly came and launched even more consumer oriented powerful tools, making the trend grow quickly.
Armed with these new tools and the widespread deployment of 3G and 4G wireless, improvements in WiFi, and access to the cloud, employees quickly realized, “My personal technology is better than what my employer gives me to use. By using the device I want to use, I can be more productive. And I can use amazingly powerful software tools in the form of apps that are inexpensive or free. They’re easy to install, powerful, and focused. If I don’t like one, I can easily uninstall it with the push of a button.” From the employee’s perspective, they know their job and what they need to do better than anyone in IT, so why shouldn’t they decide what tools they use and how they use them? From an IT perspective, it’s important to keep in mind that perception is reality to employees.
The “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend is continuing to grow fast! In a Unisys-sponsored research study of 2,660 information workers, researchers found that employees are bringing personal devices into the enterprise at an increasing rate. In fact, 40 percent of the devices they use to access business applications are personally owned—that’s a 10 percentage point increase from the previous survey year.
Additionally, the survey concurred with my statement that the increasing penetration of consumer technology in the enterprise is being driven by a desire for mobility. According to the findings, 65 percent of employees surveyed said that mobile devices such as laptops, smart phones, and tablets were their most critical devices for doing work in 2012, and even more so in 2013.
Despite this growing awareness, however, the research found that IT departments are falling further behind in the consumerization race. For example, employees report using their mobile devices for business purposes at twice the rate that IT executives believe to be the case (69 percent usage reported by employees versus 34 percent usage reported by IT executives). In addition, 44 percent of employees report using social media for customer communication, while only 28 percent of employers believe that to be the case.
Stop Reacting and Start Anticipating
Unfortunately, most IT departments tend to be reactionary. They didn’t anticipate the consumerization of IT trend even though it was relatively easy to see. And when it hit in full force, they became crisis managers rather than opportunity managers. They viewed the consumerization of IT as a threat and tried to protect and defend the company and the network, never realizing that the consumerization of IT is a Hard Trend. It’s not here today and gone tomorrow; it’s here today and accelerating tomorrow. Why? Because the trifecta of bandwidth, storage, and processing power is continuing to march on, giving us even more powerful tools in the consumer market in an inexpensive way…and very quickly.
If you’re ready to stop reacting and start seeing the opportunity staring at you right now, here are some steps you can take to turn the consumerization of IT trend into your company’s competitive advantage.
1. Start a dialogue. The benefits of the consumerization of IT are clear: It provides greater business agility, faster problem solving and innovation, increased collaboration, increased communication, higher productivity, and overall improved employee satisfaction because people are using the devices they want to use. Additionally, your Gen-Y and Gen-X employees are vey techno-savvy and need to use what they consider to be the newest devices so they can feel empowered. All employees like to feel empowered, and the consumerization of IT is empowering the worker. Therefore, survey the people in your own company and find out what’s working and what’s not working for them technologically. Learn what technologies they are using and trying, and then ask them such things as, “How are you using the device or technology when you travel?” “What do you wish you had that we don’t currently provide?” and “What tools do you think are best?” In other words, start the dialogue. Engage your employees so they see IT as a strategic resource rather than a deterrent to technological innovation.
2. Spur innovation with BYOD. You and I both know that no matter what policies you enact to keep outside technologies away from the enterprise, the employees are going to buy them and bring them into work anyway. So instead of defaulting to “no” when something new comes out, encourage your people to bring their new device to IT to look at it, track it, and provide suggestions for how the company can use it. After all, the next new device may have a huge business use. And if your people are using it, you want to know how they’re using it so you can replicate their successes with the technology company-wide. So rather than have employees hide their technology tools from you (which makes IT out to be the “bad guys”), strive to co-create the future with the staff.
3. Create a list of recommendations to help employees make an informed decision. After your IT staff analyzes the potential tools, create a list of the ones you recommend employees use, even though the company does not supply that particular item. In other words, if someone wants to get a tablet, an ultra-light laptop, a smart phone, or even an app, they can go to IT and see which ones IT recommends and why. This approach puts you in collaboration with the employees and elevates IT to the status of a trusted advisor.
4. Help your employees stay safe. Implement tools to help secure consumer technology, and create secure doorways of entry for your staff. Again, your employees are going to find their own ways around any security features you enact on the network. So why not create a path, a “doorway,” to help them get in and work in a secure and productive way. A few years ago, you had to build your own, today there are a number of great options for any size organization.
The consumerization of IT and BYOD strategies brings change into the organization from a different direction. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can become more innovative and opportunity focused when you lead the change by embracing the trend rather than fighting it. It’s time to stop enforcing the status quo as so many are still doing, and instead look at the new consumer-focused devices and tools from a business perspective. When you anticipate what your employees want and need to do their jobs better and then devise smart and flexible policies for managing and securing those technologies, you’ll find that the consumerization of IT can unlock new opportunities and revenue streams for your organization.
The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.
- A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
- It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
- The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
Humanity knows surprisingly little about the ocean depths. An often-repeated bit of evidence for this is the fact that humanity has done a better job mapping the surface of Mars than the bottom of the sea. The creatures we find lurking in the watery abyss often surprise even the most dedicated researchers with their unique features and bizarre behavior.
A recent expedition off the coast of Java discovered a new isopod species remarkable for its size and resemblance to Darth Vader.
The ocean depths are home to many creatures that some consider to be unnatural.
According to LiveScience, the Bathynomus genus is sometimes referred to as "Darth Vader of the Seas" because the crustaceans are shaped like the character's menacing helmet. Deemed Bathynomus raksasa ("raksasa" meaning "giant" in Indonesian), this cockroach-like creature can grow to over 30 cm (12 inches). It is one of several known species of giant ocean-going isopod. Like the other members of its order, it has compound eyes, seven body segments, two pairs of antennae, and four sets of jaws.
The incredible size of this species is likely a result of deep-sea gigantism. This is the tendency for creatures that inhabit deeper parts of the ocean to be much larger than closely related species that live in shallower waters. B. raksasa appears to make its home between 950 and 1,260 meters (3,117 and 4,134 ft) below sea level.
Perhaps fittingly for a creature so creepy looking, that is the lower sections of what is commonly called The Twilight Zone, named for the lack of light available at such depths.
It isn't the only giant isopod, far from it. Other species of ocean-going isopod can get up to 50 cm long (20 inches) and also look like they came out of a nightmare. These are the unusual ones, though. Most of the time, isopods stay at much more reasonable sizes.
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During an expedition, there are some animals which you find unexpectedly, while there are others that you hope to find. One of the animal that we hoped to find was a deep sea cockroach affectionately known as Darth Vader Isopod. The staff on our expedition team could not contain their excitement when they finally saw one, holding it triumphantly in the air! #SJADES2018
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What benefit does this find have for science? And is it as evil as it looks?
The discovery of a new species is always a cause for celebration in zoology. That this is the discovery of an animal that inhabits the deeps of the sea, one of the least explored areas humans can get to, is the icing on the cake.
Helen Wong of the National University of Singapore, who co-authored the species' description, explained the importance of the discovery:
"The identification of this new species is an indication of just how little we know about the oceans. There is certainly more for us to explore in terms of biodiversity in the deep sea of our region."
The animal's visual similarity to Darth Vader is a result of its compound eyes and the curious shape of its head. However, given the location of its discovery, the bottom of the remote seas, it may be associated with all manner of horrifically evil Elder Things and Great Old Ones.
If computers can beat us at chess, maybe they could beat us at math, too.
- Most everyone fears that they will be replaced by robots or AI someday.
- A field like mathematics, which is governed solely by rules that computers thrive on, seems to be ripe for a robot revolution.
- AI may not replace mathematicians but will instead help us ask better questions.
The following is an excerpt adapted from the book Shape. It is reprinted with permission of the author.
Will machines replace us? Since the origin of artificial intelligence (AI), people have worried that computers eventually (or even imminently!) will surpass the human cognitive capacity in every respect.
Artificial intelligence pioneer Oliver Selfridge, in a television interview from the early 1960s, said, "I am convinced that machines can and will think in our lifetime" — though with the proviso, "I don't think my daughter will ever marry a computer." (Apparently, there is no technical advance so abstract that people can't feel sexual anxiety about it.)
Let's make the relevant question more personal: will machines replace me? I'm a mathematician; my profession is often seen from the outside as a very complicated but ultimately purely mechanical game played with fixed rules, like checkers, chess, or Go. These are activities in which machines have already demonstrated superhuman ability.
Some people imagine a world where computers give us all the answers. I dream bigger. I want them to ask good questions.
But for me, math is different: it is a creative pursuit that calls on our intuition as much as our ability to compute. (To be fair, chess players probably feel the same way.) Henri Poincaré, the mathematician who re-envisioned the whole subject of geometry at the beginning of the 20th century, insisted it would be hopeless
"to attempt to replace the mathematician's free initiative by a mechanical process of any kind. In order to obtain a result having any real value, it is not enough to grind out calculations, or to have a machine for putting things in order: it is not order only, but unexpected order, that has a value. A machine can take hold of the bare fact, but the soul of the fact will always escape it."
But machines can make deep changes in mathematical practice without shouldering humans aside. Peter Scholze, winner of a 2018 Fields Medal (sometimes called the "Nobel Prize of math") is deeply involved in an ambitious program at the frontiers of algebra and geometry called "condensed mathematics" — and no, there is no chance that I'm going to try to explain what that is in this space.
Meet AI, your new research assistant
What I am going to tell you is the result of what Scholze called the "Liquid Tensor Experiment." A community called Lean, started by Leonardo de Moura of Microsoft Research and now open-source and worldwide, has the ambitious goal of developing a computer language with the expressive capacity to capture the entirety of contemporary mathematics. A proposed proof of a new theorem, formalized by translation into this language, could be checked for correctness automatically, rather than staking its reputation on fallible human referees.
Scholze asked last December whether the ideas of condensed mathematics could be formalized in this way. He also wanted to know whether it could express the ideas of a particularly knotty proof that was crucial to the project — a proof that he was pretty sure was right.
When I first heard about Lean, I thought it would probably work well for some easy problems and theorems. I underestimated it. So did Scholze. In a May 2021 blog post, he writes, "[T]he Experiment has verified the entire part of the argument that I was unsure about. I find it absolutely insane that interactive proof assistants are now at the level that within a very reasonable time span they can formally verify difficult original research."
And the contribution of the machine wasn't just to certify that Scholze was right to think his proof was sound; he reports that the work of putting the proof in a form that a machine could read improved his own human understanding of the argument!
The Liquid Tensor Experiment points to a future where machines, rather than replacing human mathematicians, become our indispensable partners. Whether or not they can take hold of the soul of the fact, they can extend our grasp as we reach for the soul.
Slicing up a knotty problem
That can take the form of "proof assistance," as it did for Scholze, or it can go deeper. In 2018, Lisa Piccirillo, then a PhD student at the University of Texas, solved a long-standing geometry problem about a shape called the Conway knot. She proved the knot was "non-slice" — this is a fact about what the knot looks like from the perspective of four-dimensional beings. (Did you get that? Probably not, but it doesn't matter.) The point is this was a famously difficult problem.
A few years before Piccirillo's breakthrough, a topologist named Mark Hughes at Brigham Young had tried to get a neural network to make good guesses about which knots were slice. He gave it a long list of knots where the answer was known, just as an image-processing neural net would be given a long list of pictures of cats and pictures of non-cats.
Hughes's neural net learned to assign a number to every knot; if the knot were slice, the number was supposed to be 0, while if the knot were non-slice, the net was supposed to return a whole number bigger than 0. In fact, the neural net predicted a value very close to 1 — that is, it predicted the knot was non-slice — for every one of the knots Hughes tested, except for one. That was the Conway knot.
For the Conway knot, Hughes's neural net returned a number very close to 1/2, its way of saying that it was deeply unsure whether to answer 0 or 1. This is fascinating! The neural net correctly identified the knot that posed a really hard and mathematically rich problem (in this case, reproducing an intuition that topologists already had).
Some people imagine a world where computers give us all the answers. I dream bigger. I want them to ask good questions.
Dr. Jordan Ellenberg is a professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin and a number theorist whose popular articles about mathematics have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wired, and Slate. His most recent book is Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else.
Laughing gas may be far more effective for some than antidepressants.
- Standard antidepressant medications don't work for many people who need them.
- With ketamine showing potential as an antidepressant, researchers investigate another anesthetic: nitrous oxide, commonly called "laughing gas."
- Researchers observe that just a light mixture of nitrous oxide for an hour alleviates depression symptoms for two weeks.
The usual antidepressants don't work for everyone. That's what makes a new study of the antidepressant properties of nitrous oxide so intriguing. It looks like just a single low dose of what your dentist may call "laughing gas" can help alleviate symptoms of depression for weeks afterward.
The study, from researchers at University of Chicago and Washington University-St. Louis, is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Resistance to anti-depression medications
Nitrous oxide: two atoms of nitrogen, one of oxygenCredit: Big Think
According to the senior author of the study, Charles Conway, "A significant percentage — we think around 15 percent — of people who suffer from depression don't respond to standard antidepressant treatment."
"These 'treatment-resistant depression' patients," Conway says, "often suffer for years, even decades, with life-debilitating depression. We don't really know why standard treatments don't work for them, though we suspect that they may have different brain network disruptions than non-resistant depressed patients. Identifying novel treatments, such as nitrous oxide, that target alternative pathways is critical to treating these individuals."
"There is a huge unmet need," says lead author Peter Nagele. "There are millions of depressed patients who don't have good treatment options, especially those who are dealing with suicidality."
If ketamine can help, can nitrous oxide?
Credit: sudok1 / Adobe Stock
The researchers wondered if some of the anti-depression properties seen in ketamine might also apply to nitrous oxide. Nagele explains, "Like nitrous oxide, ketamine is an anesthetic, and there has been promising work using ketamine at a sub-anesthetic dose for treating depression."
The researchers conducted a one-hour session — they describe it as a "proof-of-principle" trial — in which 20 individuals with depression were administered an air mixture with 50 percent nitrous oxide. Twenty-four hours later, the researchers found a significant reduction in the participants' symptoms of depression versus a control group.
However, the individuals also suffered the unpleasant side effects that laughing gas often causes in dental patients: headache, nausea, and vomiting.
Smaller dose, longer effect
Credit: sudok1 / Adobe Stock
"We wondered if our past concentration of 50 percent had been too high," recalls Nagele. "Maybe by lowering the dose, we could find the 'Goldilocks spot' that would maximize clinical benefit and minimize negative side effects."
In a new trial, 20 people with depression were given a lighter nitrous oxide mix, just 25 percent, and the individuals tested reported a 75 percent reduction in side effects compared to the a control group given an air/oxygen placebo. This time, the researchers also tracked the effect of nitrous oxide on symptoms of depression for a far longer period, two weeks instead of just 24 hours.
"The reduction in side effects was unexpected and quite drastic," reports Nagele, "but even more excitingly, the effects after a single administration lasted for a whole two weeks. This has never been shown before. It's a very cool finding."
Nagele also notes that, despite its popular renown as laughing gas, even a light 25 percent mix of nitrous actually causes people to nod off. "They're not getting high or euphoric; they get sedated."
Delivering help to people with depression
Nagele cautions, "These have just been pilot studies. But we need acceptance by the larger medical community for this to become a treatment that's actually available to patients in the real world. Most psychiatrists are not familiar with nitrous oxide or how to administer it, so we'll have to show the community how to deliver this treatment safely and effectively. I think there will be a lot of interest in getting this into clinical practice."
After all, Nagele adds, "If we develop effective, rapid treatments that can really help someone navigate their suicidal thinking and come out on the other side — that's a very gratifying line of research."