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Blockchain is Like the Internet of 1992

blockchain

If you’re in the banking or healthcare industry, you’ve likely heard the term “blockchain.” On the surface, this technology behind the exchange of bitcoin may not be taken seriously because some think that bitcoin, now valued at $41 billion, is a passing fad. But as the framework that makes bitcoin exchange possible, blockchain provides an innovative level of security that allows anonymous people who do not know each other to exchange money, without the traditional safety net (or fees) of a bank acting as a middle-man to authenticate funds transfers. And since this solution has opened up so many possibilities within the financial sector, many other industries are preparing for how blockchain can fundamentally change the way we all do business.

Imagine it’s 1992. Think back to what the internet was to you at that time. During this year, the first readily-accessible browser of the “World Wide Web” was launched. At the time, how would you have explained to people what the internet was?

In 1992, the internet was described as “a wide-area hypermedia information retrieval initiative aiming to give universal access to a large universe of documents.”

HUH? Sure, this description is technically true, but in 1992 this didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how the internet would fundamentally change daily life for us all in 2017. In the ‘90s while we would wait 15 minutes to dial-up to the World Wide Web or wait 10 minutes for a picture to download, it would have been hard to imagine a day when we would do most of our banking, shopping, reading and communicating online.

Today is not so different from 1992, because we still have the same difficulties describing new technology and envisioning how it can change our lives as we know it. In the context of bitcoin exchange, blockchain creates an encrypted peer-to-peer network where every single bitcoin transaction is recorded and validated throughout the entire network. This is different from our traditional model of transferring money from one account to another, where we rely on a bank (a central location) to verify that originating funds are available, to guarantee the safety of the funds while they are in transit, and to ensure that these funds reach the destination account as intended. Today, banks act as intermediaries for financial transactions, which allows us to trust in the safety and security of our money as we transfer funds.

Blockchain is a solution that also allows us to trust in the exchange of money, only the process works differently. The blockchain is referred to as a “ledger,” a series of records of validated monetary transactions, where the identical updated ledger resides throughout the peer network, not in one central location as under the traditional banking model. The system of blockchain is characterized by a few unique attributes that make this solution uniquely secure and positioned to transform many types of traditional business transactions:

  • Distributed: This describes the fact that the ledger exists throughout the blockchain network, and is not maintained in one central location.
  • Smart Contracts: We can think of this as an automated execution of a legal contract that governs the rules of each financial transaction.
  • Consensus: In order for each transaction in blockchain to take place, “consensus” prevents fraudulent transactions by ensuring the validity of each transaction and agreement between parties of the transaction.
  • Immutability: The record of a transaction in blockchain lives forever and it cannot be erased. The benefit of the inability to erase a transaction is that one single asset can be tracked throughout its entire life. In this sense, if a bitcoin were a dollar bill, the blockchain would track where and when the dollar was printed, who the first owner of that dollar was, and it would record every single date and exchange of hands along the blockchain, and none of these transactions could ever be erased.

Today, blockchain is a solution looking for problems to solve. The healthcare industry has high hopes for blockchain technology since interoperability, or the ability to securely share medical records across providers and patients, is the driving force behind many technology investments within healthcare. It’s widely believed that blockchain will be the technology that will form the basis of securely creating and sharing medical records that will solve many of healthcare’s current issues of siloed stores of data that lead to the delays and administrative burden of sharing health information. Designing an overlay of blockchain throughout the healthcare system reimagines a world without duplicate paperwork, inefficient payment systems, and delays in sending health records from provider to hospital, and these improved processes could all take place with a superior level of security.

Just as the internet was to 1992, so is blockchain to 2017.  We’re just getting started, and we can barely describe what is to come. This technology is indeed already transforming some industries, but in relation to identifying new ways it can enhance transaction security, prevent fraud, remove “middle man” fees, automate legal agreements, and increase the speed of information-sharing, we have yet to scratch the surface.

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If you are interested in exploring what blockchain means to the future of healthcare, banking, government and cyber-security, join us on November 29th at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island for Blockchain, Bitcoin and Crypto-Currencies – Is Your Organization Ready? organized by the Rhode Island Israel Collaborative.

Also for more information on blockchain and bitcoin, we recommend this succinct explainer video: Bitcoin Made Simple

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BetaXAnalytics is a healthcare consulting firm that helps payers and providers to maximize their CMS reimbursements and helps employers to reduce their healthcare spending through proven strategies to contain costs. For more insights on using data to drive healthcare, pharmacy and wellbeing decisions, follow BetaXAnalytics on Twitter @betaxanalytics, Facebook @bxanalytics and LinkedIn at BetaXAnalytics.

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2 Reasons Why Your Data Is Lying To You

2 Reasons Why Your Data is Lying to You

Data

Big Da·ta noun

An overused buzzword, which, despite its lofty sound, basically means “lots and lots of data.” A Mount Everest of tangled data. 

The term “Big Data” gets thrown around all too often these days, but anyone who works closely with healthcare data is intimately aware of its shortcomings. From lack of sharing patient data between providers to inconsistencies with recording patient data, the more we know about the problem, the more impossible it seems to unlock the powerful potential that lies in healthcare data. But at the heart of the issue, there are 2 main reasons why people don’t get accurate insights from their data.

Reason #1 Your Data Lies: It’s Dirty

Software expert Hollis Tibbets, formerly the Global Director of Marketing at Dell, estimated that duplicate data and bad data combined cost the U.S. economy over $3 trillion every year. This staggering number is just about two times the national deficit.

Unfortunately, the healthcare industry in particular is a breeding ground for duplicate data. The U.S. Attorney’s office estimated that 14% of healthcare spending is wasted due to dirty data; this includes duplicate and/or incomplete data. With 16% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product attributed to healthcare spending – or $2.14 Trillion total spend – that would mean that duplicate and dirty data costs the healthcare industry over $300 billion every year. And the sad reality of this issue is that 50% of IT Budgets are spent on data rehabilitation.[1]

Larry English, an acclaimed information quality expert and creator of the Total Information Quality Methodology (TIQM) has estimated that that 15-20% of a company’s operating budget can be wasted due to dirty data. This number is quantified by the exhaustive effort to extract, manipulate, append and scrub data via SQL, Excel or other means. And this estimate is independent of the fact that 30% of healthcare provider records are inaccurate or missing information due to inconsistent entry of codes and inaccurately transposing metrics or patient identifiers.[2]

Reason #2 Your Data Lies: It’s Interpreted by People Who Do Not Understand It

A study by McKinsey has projected that “by 2018, the U.S. alone may face a 50 percent to 60 percent gap between supply and requisite demand of deep analytic talent.” The shortage is already taking hold across industries, including healthcare, finance, aerospace, insurance, and pharmaceuticals. In April 2014, the consulting firm Accenture surveyed its clients on their big-data strategies, and more than 90 percent said they planned to hire more employees with expertise in data science—most within a year. However, 41 percent of the more than 1,000 survey respondents said a lack of talent was their main hurdle.[3]

Data Scientists are important in the process of data cleansing, appending and analysis because they work with unstructured data. These are the people who write algorithms to extract insights from the mounds of disparate data sources, including e-mails, text notes, photos and other user-generated content. They sort through the mess of dirty (messy, incomplete, and inaccurate) data and neatly append it to uncover the true insights.

All analytics must start with data investigation. Since data is inherently messy, the analysis process must start with a multi-faceted cleansing process by someone who, while working with health data, has deep clinical understanding. This knowledge enables them to identify and appropriately treat negative values, reversals, duplication, adjustments, and they understand how to handle data anomalies. This experience also enables them to check for clues throughout the process as to why data may not make sense.  For example, thoroughly examining data may reveal issues with recycling patient IDs and inadvertently mixing patient data together. Yes, this happens. Dirty data is not to be trusted…ever.

Bring Truth Out of Data

It is easy to get caught up in the buzz of “Big Data.” You may have a strategy for collecting data…and maybe even an analytics department. But neither of these efforts means your data is telling the truth. If a significant part of your data management strategy is not allocated to 1) scrubbing data and 2) ensuring those who work with the data truly understand it, your data’s actionable insights (read: truth) may still be hiding.


If you liked this post, please share it, and follow BetaXAnalytics on Twitter @betaxanalytics, LinkedIn at BetaXAnalytics and Facebook @bxanalytics!

Shannon Shallcross is the CEO of BetaXAnalytics, a company that leverages data insights to improve clinical outcomes, improve patient well being and decrease health care costs. They deliver custom tools and data analytics to managed care organizations, providers and employers to reduce costs and improve the quality of healthcare and pharmacy services.

 

“Originals” by Adam Grant: A Study In What Turns a Great Idea Into a Legendary Success

Review

Have you ever wondered how some ideas become wildly successful while others just fizzle out?  Why is it so hard to spot the winners?  The answer, as it turns out, is much more complex than the question.  But Adam Grant has combed through mountains of research to find the answer in his bestseller Originals – and his insights will surprise you.

Adam Grant, and why he wrote this book:

This 2-time bestselling author is a 34-year-old professor at Wharton School of Business.  He is the youngest person to ever earn tenure at the school at the ripe age of 29.  His inspiration for the book was what he calls his “worst financial decision.”  He was approached by a group of 4 of his students looking for investors for their online eyewear startup—and he didn’t invest.  At the time they pitched their idea to him, he saw what he felt were early signs that the company would not make it.  The company would sell eyeglasses online for $95 per pair while donating a pair to someone in a developing country with each purchase.

Fast-forward a few years, and Fast Company named this company, Warby Parker, the most innovative company on the planet in 2015.  It was valued at over $1 billion.

This experience of his failure to recognize a good idea led Grant on a quest to study patterns throughout history, examining successful businesses, great artists, musicians, and athletes to illustrate the common threads among ideas that take off and the ideas that flop.  He mixes research with entertaining illustrations of why Seinfeld was almost never created and the lessons that can be learned from the anti-climactic introduction of the Segway.  Grant uses case studies to outline how to both generate and recognize original ideas, as well as how to encourage original ideas as a leader.  He then gives strategies to build support for your ideas to help to make them reality.

Originals—those people whose ideas take off—aren’t necessarily the extraordinary geniuses of the world.  They are just those who are more afraid of what happens if they don’t act on their idea, and less afraid of what happens if they do. 

The mere premise of Originals challenges some common misconceptions about how to identify winning ideas.  He disproves the widely accepted thoughts that successful entrepreneurs are free-wheeling risk-takers, first-movers, or just plain lucky.  As I read, I found myself underlining what I thought were good insights, only to go back and de-underline them because the seemingly logical idea was disproved through Grant’s research in the next few pages.  The book is full of “a-ha” takeaways of successful originals – here is a sampling of my favorites:

1. Great ideas come from regular people.  What Grant finds is that originals—those people whose ideas take off—aren’t necessarily the extraordinary geniuses of the world.  They are just those who are more afraid of what happens if they don’t act on their idea, and less afraid of what happens if they do.

2. Generating more ideas increases your likelihood of success.  Grant found that a hallmark of originals is that they build a large body of work “to give them more variation and a higher chance of originality.”  Their great ideas didn’t automatically blossom; for every one great idea they could have had a thousand flops—and even great masters like Beethoven and Picasso couldn’t accurately judge which version of their works would become a success.  But the people who we accept today as the experts in their field and masters of their craft share the common bond that they kept creating, kept modifying, kept testing and re-creating.

3. You don’t have to be a first-mover to become successful.  Grant outlines the flawed thinking that being a first mover is always the best way for an idea to succeed.  In fact, he cites a study of over 3000 startups where 75% failed because the market wasn’t yet ready to support their idea.  Instead, he outlines the benefits of waiting on an idea and learning from others, saying,

Being original doesn’t require being first.  It just means being different and better.

4. Most successful entrepreneurs are risk-averse.  Many think of extreme risk-taking as the hallmark of successful entrepreneurs because we tend to publicize the stories of risk-taking entrepreneurs who go on to fail.  Grant reveals that entrepreneurs who keep their day jobs while pursuing their idea had 33% lower odds of failure than those who quit their day job to pursue their idea full-time.  Overall, the entrepreneurs who throw caution into the wind have much more precarious odds of success.  In fact, he writes,

The most successful originals are not the daredevils who leap before they look.  They are the ones who reluctantly tiptoe to the edge of a cliff, calculate the rate of descent, triple-check their parachutes, and set up a safety net at the bottom just in case.

Originals is one of those books that I filled with underlines of takeaway insights.  Whether you are an entrepreneur, a person with an idea, someone who is looking to gain support for your cause, a parent or a leader—you will find this book entertaining, personally challenging and intellectually insightful. And because of the extensive research that reveals the common threads between ideas that went on to become legendary successes, this book is inspiring.  If you make Originals your next read, I guarantee you will not regret it.

 

I Asked Leaders What They Do to Stay Motivated – Here Are the Top 5 Responses:

Leadership

I once had a boss named Allison who was incredibly energizing.  Talking to her was like plugging into an electric socket.  When she talked to you, it was like you were the only person in the world.  She never made it seem like an impromptu knock on her door was an interruption.  Even though I knew she had a full schedule, she would drop everything to have a conversation and would make me feel like she was truly listening and that what I had to say was important.  I was no one special; she treated everyone this way.  If she had a free moment she would make her rounds in the office and it seemed she would attract a small crowd everywhere she went.  She would tell funny stories and would encourage others to do the same.  Whether we were talking about something work-related or telling a personal story was inconsequential.  Any interaction with her was one where you felt important, you felt like you were part of a winning team, and you felt motivated.

When I became a manager, I no longer had an Allison around to energize me.  It was just me.  Not only was I missing my energy source, but I felt the responsibility of being that revitalizing force for my team that Allison had been for me.  This sent me on my quest to find out how I could be an energy source for the people around me.

Where does a leader get their energy to rally their team?  Over the years, I asked this question of people in leadership roles, from leaders in small companies right up to Fortune 10 leaders.  Here is a sampling of the top responses I collected from leaders on how they kept their energy at an optimal level:

  1. Keep yourself in check with a daily question: “What did I do to earn my paycheck and add value?” This one question holds you accountable to producing results. If you can’t answer this question on a given day, find something outside the box that adds value.  This could be setting the wheels in motion towards a goal you had previously put on the back-burner, generating a new idea, or strengthening a relationship with a key colleague or client—anything that helps to advance your work.
  2. Keep your eyes 6 months ahead. When feeling bogged down in some of the less exciting aspects of their role, some leaders opt to remind themselves to take the long-term view.  Reminding yourself of your big-picture objectives keeps you from getting mired in the temporary drudgery of short-term tasks that lower your energy.  The practice of reminding yourself daily of how you are moving closer to achieving your goals helps to reveal the big-picture meaning in every day.
  3. Diversify what you’re involved in so you can constantly be doing something that shows results. Every job, even at the highest levels, can have potholes that veer things off course.  And getting caught in the weeds can be discouraging, particularly if you are spending large amounts of time on things that take a long time to show value.  Diversifying your areas of focus keeps things changing so you can come back to key tasks with fresh eyes and renewed enthusiasm.  Some leaders build time into their day to step away to go for a run, to be involved in a charity or even to just walk around and have casual conversation with people.  Afterwards they come back to ongoing priorities with new energy and a fresh perspective.
  4. Expect to work outside of your comfort zone. Living outside of your comfort zone will challenge you on a daily basis because it forces you to do things that you would not normally do.  For instance, if you are an introvert, maybe you challenge yourself to initiate conversation with someone new each day.  While this may seem exhausting on the surface, what it actually does is it conditions you to become more dynamic and flexible.  This way, the things that used to drain your energy are now more of a conscious habit.  Once this is your baseline, you will constantly extend yourself beyond your default, and this practice can take you places you never would normally go.
  5. Have your own personal board of advisers. Many leaders find it energizing to surround themselves with mentors, work colleagues, and friends who challenge and inspire them.  These are people they trust with whom they can share challenges, solve problems, and learn.  Building relationships like this helps to harness the experience of others and to gain insight from people with a different perspective.  These people become your cheerleaders as they encourage and challenge you.

What I learned from asking leaders how they stay energized is that the answer is not the same for everyone–each leader had a different way to keep their energy high.  So the key for any leader is that you first need to know the answer to the question, “what energizes you?”  Because knowing your answer to this question helps to make you the electrical socket for your team.  And when it comes to achieving your goals, in the words of Emerson, “enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success.”

How about you?  What strategies have you used to keep yourself energized?

 

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Inspiring Your Team to Peak Performance – Four Questions to Ask

Leadership

How many times have you heard the phrase, “You’ve got to love what you do”?  Loving what you do for a living is often touted as the key to success.  After all, if you love what you’re doing, work never feels like work.  Along with a love of your work comes a passion that is infectious.  It helps to build momentum behind what you’re working to accomplish as your enthusiasm rubs off on those around you.  Without passion for your mission, you might as well be rolling a huge boulder up a hill.  Without enthusiasm for what you do every day, the days are so long and the work is incredibly difficult.  But passion…passion turns the tables and suddenly your boulder has gravity working in its favor and it is rolling downhill in the direction of your goals.  The energy that comes from loving what you do is both inspiring and infectious.

Do you love what you do?  How does your energy affect those around you?

You may or may not love what you do.  But as a manager (read: leader) your energy is the fuel for your team’s performance.  Is it possible that you could help your team to love what they do?  Ultimately, the leader sets the tone for the entire team.  Leaders of high-performance teams help to ignite excitement for the team’s objectives.  Enthusiastic team spirit comes from the leader.  A passion to be part of a shared mission comes from the leader.  No half-hearted leader is going to be able to rally their team to achieve difficult goals.  A leader is the fuel source for their team.  If your energy level is at 70% every day, it’s safe to assume that your team’s energy is below 50%; your team’s energy will exist in proportion to yours.  This is why, as a leader, bringing fresh energy to your work makes a marked impact on others.

So how do you know that your energy is fueling your team’s performance?  Here are 4 questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do I have a passion for reaching my goals? The sum of your team’s enthusiasm will be gauged based on your passion.
  2. Do I speak positively about my team, when they are present and when they are not in the room? This communicates your belief in your team’s ability to reach their goals.
  3. Do my team members all know what big-picture goals they’re working towards? Many leaders are surprised to find that not everyone understands the key objectives of the team.  Breakdowns in communication, competing priorities, or ambiguity in the workplace can get in the way of people understanding the team’s battle cry.
  4. Do I see signs of commitment from my team members in reaching these shared goals?  A motivated team will show their drive in their actions.  If you have ever felt like you were pulling teeth trying to get people to stay late to hit a deadline, this may be a sign that your team needs an energy boost.

It is critically important for every leader to actively work on the magnitude and quality of their energy, since this energy is fuel for their team.  Keeping your enthusiasm high is important not only in order to bring your best self to what you do every day, but also to help those around you to bring their best selves.

So how does a leader keep their energy high to ignite performance in their team?  For more on this topic, look for Part II of this post on LinkedIn or subscribe below to updates on shannonshallcross.com.

RobbinsB

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3 Reasons Why We Need to Love Our Service People

Customer Service

Your customer’s “punching bag” holds the keys to your company’s success.

Customer service is one of the most challenging career roles out there. Over my 20 years working in service positions from the front lines up to executive decision maker, I have been screamed at by customers, cursed at, personally threatened, and told that I am incompetent. Countless times, I have been on the phone for over an hour with customers who were on a furious tirade on how my company (referred to as “you people”) wronged them. Being a customer’s “punching bag” used to bother me. In fact, I still remember my very first night on the job as a waitress in my teens, pin-balling between 10 tables during my shift. After burning my hand while serving mushroom bisque, I quickly brushed away tears, hiding them from the expectant eyes of my 3 tables that were unhappy with their meals. The time that I spent on the service front lines has helped me to gain a special appreciation for how those dedicated to providing customer service in our companies play a big role in our success. Here’s why:

  1. Good service people have an uncanny skill set.

Let’s face it — jobs in service are not for work-criers. Service professionals need to not only develop a thick skin, but they also need to have a soft approach that is likeable so they can diffuse tough customer issues. Being tough and soft at the same time? Not easy. It takes a rare combination of skills. When people who work in service are good at what they do, they have excellent people skills, they are optimistic, and they are good at humbly listening to lengthy soapbox speeches. They can remove emotion from the conversation in order to identify the true problem and the right solution. Good service professionals have empathy, humility, patience, and the emotional control to not be threatened by a customer who is so angry that they lose their cool. Empathy, the ability to listen, approachability, and humility — not surprisingly these skills are traits that are shared with some of the most respected leaders. And successful leaders understand how the voice of the customer drives a company’s success. Good service people who aspire to hold leadership positions can take heart in knowing that their hard work in the trenches of a company is fine-tuning a rare set of skills that can set them up for future success.

2. Great service people love the challenge of making customers love your company.

The angry customers, the recurring issues that seem to never end — this is the ugly part of client service. Who wants to be yelled at for a living? But this negative view is only a corner in the big picture of a job in service. Sure, there are customer problems that need to be solved, but in most companies handling issues is only a small part of providing great service. Filling much of a service professional’s time are wonderful, positive customers whose calls are the highlight of their day. This is what working in service is really about — strengthening relationships with people. The fun part for a service person is talking with people who have been 30-year customers, people who have enthusiastically referred their entire family to the company, and the customers who take the time to say that your company just made their day. Great service professionals love people, and they care about helping them. They understand that getting customers to the point where they love your company solidifies a customer’s loyalty to your business for years to come. To them, interacting with customers is uplifting, interesting, and fun. They love making people love your company. THIS is how great service people see their job.

3. Your best service people will drive your business’s success (if you let them).

Within the feedback that your front-line people hear every day from customers is the true quality of your company’s products and services. When there’s a problem in your product or distribution, it is often your front line team members who hear of it first from customers. Your service people are capturing your company’s “report card” from customers every day. Customer feedback on whether you’re doing a great job or whether you need some serious improvement is right in front of you, but in some companies this feedback is buried beneath several layers of corporate hierarchy. The key for companies is to develop a way to capture this feedback to put it in front of those who are involved in making the strategic product and service decisions for your company. Companies need to pull their service people close to tap into this valuable feedback. And when pulling your service people close…it wouldn’t hurt to give them a “high five” and a “thank you” for the time they invest every day to help to make your company great.

To all the service people out there — Thank you for what you do. Working in customer service can be challenging, but know that it enables you to gain stellar skills that you carry with you throughout your career. Your job centers on building relationships with people and these people can be the most rewarding part of your job. Every problem you solve and every difficult conversation with a customer is adding to your professional skill set. And despite the difficult interactions of each day, the big picture is that you have the ability in both small and big ways to influence your company’s (and your own) success.

To company leaders — Your service professionals have a unique skill set, they love making customers love your company, and they hold the keys to making your company even better. So why not take some time today to show them some love? Your gratitude will pay back in dividends.

Gandhi Quote Large

 

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What Every Leader Needs to Know About Snapchat

LeadershipMarketingSnapchat

It’s no longer wise for businesses to ignore America’s fastest-growing millennial social media platform.

If you’re like me, scrolling through daily news feeds you’ve suddenly been seeing a little yellow and white ghost icon everywhere.  The icon for snapchatbillboardSnapchat.  Some of you may have even seen this logo during your morning commute as part of a confusing albeit successful ad campaign. Up until now every time I’ve heard Snapchat come up in passing, I’ve immediately put it out of my mind as a passing trend by “kids these days” (cue the image of an old man on his porch shaking his fist at the neighborhood kids on his lawn).  But then I saw Forbes change their icon to this on my daily newsfeed.   ForbesThen the White House joined Snapchat in early 2016.  The Wall Street Journal, CNN, ESPN and a myriad of other media outlets are on Snapchat.  Then I realized this is serious.   A Harvard IOP Poll has called Snapchat the fastest growing social media platform for millennials.  So now it’s finally time to stop pooh-poohing this trend and to understand what it means for businesses today.

I don’t know about you, but it seems I’m often last to the game with new technology.  In fact, I remember hearing about Facebook in 2005 (which I ironically also thought was the trend of “kids these days”) and thought, “who would be interested in that?”  Now that they have reached 1.6 billion monthly active users with their December 2015 Q4 earnings at $5.841 billion, I admit I’ll not be giving stock tips anytime soon!

To give you a sense for what Snapchat means to the evolution of social media, two years after Snapchat’s 2011 launch, Facebook tried to buy it for $3 billion, an offer that was turned down by Snapchat’s founders.  For reference, Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion.  Even at that early stage, both Snapchat and Facebook understood the growth potential of the platform…and they were right.

What is Snapchat – a 1 Minute Explanation:

It’s easiest to think of Snapchat as an app for self-destructing texts and media.  Here are some ways that people use it:

Snap: A snap is a self-destructing text that you send to a specific person with words and/or video that lasts 1 to 10 seconds before it disappears.  You can “chat” with an individual using text or by sending a snap, and each of these “chats” disappear after you view them.

Stories: Users can also create “stories” which is a collection of snaps from throughout that day that can be viewed for 24 hours by any of your followers.  Stories can be viewed by all your followers, unlike Snaps which are like texts sent directly to an individual.

Discover: Snapchat launched the Discover feature in 2015, which allows users to receive media from select outlets (which currently include WSJ, CNN, ESPN, The Food Network, People, and Mashable, to name a few).  This feature is fascinating for marketers, as the content style mirrors the informal, spontaneous and eye-catching spirit of Snapchat.  Consumer online attention span has dwindled down to 8 seconds, and the Discover feature plays to the need for content to be quickly digested.  To show you what this looks like, here is a snippet from the Wall Street Journal:

Lenses: Lenses are a daily collection of ways you can morph your face when you send a snap of yourself to someone.  It’s a pretty clever way to give yourself rabbit ears, googly eyes or an Elmer Fudd face.  Ironically, yesterday Facebook just acquired Masquerade (MSQRD), a similar face-swapping selfie app, in a move to likely compete with this addictive feature on Snapchat.

FullSizeRender (1)FullSizeRender (2)

Lenses – the surprisingly addictive face-morphing feature of Snapchat.

Why Snapchat is different from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:

Snapchat is a different kind of social media platform, and that’s why it has filled an untapped niche.  Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel explained, “It’s much more for sharing personal moments than it is about this public display.” In social media terms, Twitter is all about sharing thoughts, Instagram is about sharing eye-catching photos, and Facebook is where people share life events.  Snapchat is spontaneous, unfiltered communication that is not cataloged.  There is no “timeline” or “feed” where you can visit past posts or communication.  It’s in-the-moment, quick, informal (and sometimes silly) communication that disappears after it has occurred.

And so…why do I care?

Businesses need to take Snapchat seriously.  Business leaders need to know what it is and marketers need to make decisions on how, if at all, it will be included in their social media strategy.  If you are still skeptical, consider the following:

  1. Snapchat represents a business opportunity to speak to a large, younger audience.  Snapchat has over 100 million users with over 7 billion daily video views. This means Snapchat has the same number of daily video views as Facebook, which has over 10 times as many users as Snapchat.  36% of Americans aged 18-29 have a Snapchat account, which makes this the fastest growing social network for millennials.  45% of Snapchat users are under 25, and the number of individuals over 25 who are using the service is rapidly growing.  According to Nielsen, 41% of adults in the U.S. under 35 spend time on Snapchat.  For companies looking to target millennials, Snapchat is a dynamic platform to reach this demographic.
  2. Snapchat represents the need for ever-evolving marketing strategies. Snapchat’s wildfire adoption represents the rapidly changing mediums that capture the public’s attention.  Companies cannot stay afloat using their marketing plan from 5 years ago.  To illustrate the evolution of marketing to millennials, Snapchat’s Discover feature with their short collections of catchy and easily-digestible content snippets represents a completely new way to market to a captive audience and it holds a lot of potential.

SnapchatDiscoverExample

Gone are the days where we can disregard the rapid pace of technology changes around us.  Gary Vaynerchuk, a social media guru, author and investor who predicted the success of today’s most popular social media platforms said,

“It took thirty-eight years before 50 million people gained access to radios. It took television thirteen years to earn an audience that size. It took Instagram a year and a half.”

Today’s most popular social media platforms have gained an audience so quickly that businesses need to sprint in order to stay in front of their customers.  Snapchat’s adoption by millennials has taken off, and this reality holds great marketing potential for your business…and that of your competitors. So many companies have been late to table where social media is concerned, but the ones who have understood what social media means for their marketing strategy and have evolved are the ones that win in expanding their market share.  Snapchat may not be right for every business.  But every business should understand what Snapchat means to their customers.

Are Women to Blame for the Gender Wage Gap?

FeaturedNegotiation

Despite the complexity of the gender wage gap issue, there is one simple thing that every woman can do to minimize this issue–negotiate their compensation.

We have been hearing a lot in the news lately about the gender wage gap.  The reality of business today is that men are paid more than women…A LOT more.  By latest estimations, for every dollar a man makes, a female makes $0.79.  This is becoming such a hot topic that governments are starting to intervene.  Last month, President Obama moved ahead with plans to require that companies disclose to the U.S. federal government what they pay employees by race, gender and ethnicity.  The U.S. is not the only country to attack pay disparity head-on; Britain, Austria and Belgium are doing the same.

It is easy to point a finger at big business or blatant gender discrimination as the root of this problem that is plaguing efforts towards fair and equitable compensation.  But the gender wage gap is a much more complex issue.  There are many reasons that could explain the disparity between men and women’s pay.  Occupation segregation can explain the gender wage gap since women hold a larger proportion of lower-paying positions.  In addition, another explanation for the pay gap is that some women self-select out of certain positions and even promotions due to family obligations.

The problem with explanations like these is that they do not address why studies show that when occupations are separated by job class, the numbers show that a man is still paid more than a woman to do the same job. Claudia Goldin, a labor economist at Harvard, found that women one year out of college earn 6.6% less than men who are hired to do the same job.  After examining the salaries of female doctors and surgeons, she found that the females earned 71% of what their male colleagues made.  Females in finance made just 66% of what their male colleagues earned.  These statistics are compelling enough to expose that the gender wage gap is a real issue that we need to address.

Despite the complexity of the gender wage gap issue, there is one simple thing that every woman can do to minimize this issue–negotiate their compensation.  Linda Babcock, an economist at Carnegie Mellon and co-author of the book “Women Don’t Ask” has done extensive research on the gender wage gap and has found that men are four times more likely to negotiate their pay.  And she found that even when women do negotiate their salary, they ask for 30% less than men.  And not negotiating salary can be a costly mistake.  She found that failing to negotiate a first salary can lead to an overall loss in excess of $560,000 by age 60.  Other research shows that a woman can be leaving $2 million on the table over the course of their career if they do not negotiate their salary.

Rather than relying on the government to fix the salary inequities among genders, women can make enormous strides to close the gender wage gap now by taking charge of negotiating their salaries.  If you are unfamiliar with how to successfully negotiate, here are some strategies to help:

  1. Have a healthy view of negotiation. Negotiation is a normal part of any business agreement, especially in high-dollar transactions.  No one expects to pay the sticker price on a car or the list price on a home; instead, people accept that negotiation is all part of the process of arriving at a fair price agreed upon by both buyer and seller.  In the same way, people accept that negotiation is a normal part of the employment process.  No sales person can ever be successful when they feel guilty about soliciting someone’s business.  Similarly in negotiation, it is so important to have first convinced yourself that salary negotiation is normal and expected before you can be successful.
  2. Do your homework. Understand what the going rate is for your line of work and where you fall compared to others in your industry based on your experience, education and skills.  We are fortunate to live in a time where there is so much information at our fingertips through resources such as Glassdoor and Salary.com to adequately prepare before going into a salary discussion.  The more facts you have at your disposal when coming to a negotiation, the better prepared you will be to feel confident in your position and to support your position in the course of the discussion.
  3. Before going into the discussion, decide what your desired outcome will be. How much would you like to be paid?  In negotiation, an employer always enters the discussion knowing what the salary floor and ceiling are for the position they are offering as well as what other terms (i.e. vacation, sick time) are negotiable.  Since employers come to a salary discussion armed with this information, similarly you must come to the table with a desired outcome of the discussion based on your research.  Have a number in mind that is your target goal.
  4. Understand that the first number on the table is significant. The first real number tossed in the ring in a negotiation is the jumping off point.  Whether this first number is put forth by you or the employer, it is important to understand that this number is the basis off of which your discussions take place.  So choose this number wisely.  Or if the employer has put out a number first, choose your response wisely.  A low initial offer does not require a counter that is lower than you would like to make.
  5. Understand your floor and be willing to walk away if it is not met.  Your floor is the minimum you would be willing to accept as a salary offer.  This is the lowest you would go while still accepting the offer.   Your floor is of course based on your research, and it is important to be comfortable walking away from the offer if this minimum is not met.  While walking away may seem daunting, it is important to not settle!  From the perspective of an employer, I can tell you that far too many women accept less than what they were hoping for without ever asking for what they wanted.
  6. Negotiate anything. While an employer may not have unlimited negotiation room for salary or annual bonuses, there are a whole host of other things that are much easier for an employer to agree to that will make the position more attractive to you.  Negotiating sick time, vacation time, work hours or a remote working arrangement are all very common, and are all ways to help you to feel satisfied with the all-in value of your work arrangement.  Many companies today are getting even more creative with job perks based on what is important to employees; transportation costs, professional development, and phone bills are also examples of things you can negotiate.

As one woman to another, I urge you – understand your value.  It is important to negotiate during the employment process and to learn to do it well.  Do not confuse negotiation with being perceived as pushy or aggressive; if you come to the table with facts supporting your salary requirements, this just builds a case to establish your value.  This is so important because if women do not negotiate to earn what we are worth we are actually contributing to the gender wage gap issue.  For the sake of yourself and for women everywhere, ask for what you are worth and do not settle for less.

 

This piece is based on a talk I gave last week to the talented networkers of PVD Lady Project at their 4th anniversary celebration in Providence, Rhode Island.  Lady Project is described as an “’Old Boy’s Club’ for fabulous women” co-founded by Sierra Barter.  The movement has rapidly grown to 10 chapters across the U.S. in counting.  Learn more about Lady Project at http://www.ladyproject.org.

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