Of destinations and feeds

In An Ambient Future, I had written about how Google was potentially poised for something really interesting because technically, it had things in place to harness mobile, social and sensor data and overlay it with machine learning and AI. An early version of how this data could be surfaced contextually and be shown in an interface would be Google Now, as Christian Hernandez had pointed out. And that was why I was quite surprised and dismayed when I read that most of the team that had been working on Google Now had left!

The larger context though is about content discovery and two possible approaches to it – destination (platform?) and feed. I remember reading Neil Perkin’s post on the subject last year (it’s a fascinating rabbit hole of related reads, you’ve been warned!) and it has had me thinking ever since, especially in recent times, with apps increasingly replacing the traditional website as a destination. So far, the feed largely served as a distribution method to destination, but I believe it is no longer that simple on the web, let alone mobile.  More

Re-framing employment

For untold generations work was simply a matter of maintaining the status quo.

Across the world, the debates on productivity, reduced work hours, 4 day work weeks, DND after work hours etc are intensifying. Add to this the narratives of “the end of employment” and the “gig economy”, (and therefore the case against full time employment) and the signs of an upheaval of our concept of work seems imminent. I can vouch for that from my own experience as well – expressed to a certain extent in earlier posts –  The Entrepreneur & the Professional, and Re-skill. My posts on AI and its impact on employment are also related to this in a “bigger picture” way.

It is personal in a different way too, because it’s increasingly an application of a broader life framework and worldview. In fact, I was accusing myself of over thinking this, until I read this fantastic piece – How Not to Let Work Explode Your Life. That’s where the quote at the start has been taken from. It traces the origin of the clashes we are facing in our work-life environments now to trends that have been forming for centuries. Long, fascinating read, and a confirmation of many of my complicated thoughts! More

Money : AI :: Present : Future


I might have found a remedy for the Mad Men withdrawal symptoms. “Halt and Catch Fire” – that’s where the line is from. While the show has me glued, it also made me really consider the connection between money & AI.

A key factor that is driving the increasing adoption of AI in the work context is efficiency. Somewhere in the equation of calculating efficiency lies money, and how much of it can be saved. I am ignoring ‘time’ for now, because even that, mostly comes down to “time is money”. Jobs increasingly become task oriented and the objective is to make each task more and more efficient. If we continue that way, the pessimistic AI future is easy to imagine – it will happen in a ‘frog in boiling water’ manner, but it will happen. More

Brand Interfaces

A couple of months ago, I had written a post on the inevitable ambient future of what we now call the internet, and the role of AI in it. The post was mostly on the rapidly changing nature of interfaces. The ones we actively interact with – mobile, VR/AR, gesture/haptic based tech – and the relatively more ambient ones like a certain kind of wearables and IoT. In that post, the argument was that Google was best placed to tie together data from mobile, social, sensor, location etc and give it context with the help of AI. (Hello, Alphabet!) As this Wired post states, Google is not a search company, it is a machine learning company. Do read about Google Brain while you’re at it! It has a role in several Google products we use, and shows the potential of what is possible when machine learning really works on content surfacing.

But all that is only context setting. Something that has been occupying a lot of my mind space these days is the impact of these continuing developments on brand communication and distribution. For years, the limitations of traditional media have forced brands to communicate to lumpy masses of ‘target audiences’. As the internet transitions into a much more ambient an ubiquitous form, all of brand marketing will be digital either overtly or under the hood. But even digital’s early versions have been on the same path, with incremental changes based on intent/interest. That, I think, is about to change fast. This superb article on the same subject puts it really well – we need not simply digital strategies but strategies for a digital world. It also explores the technological and platform advances that will allow frictionless experiences for consumers and what it means for brands.  More

Re: Org

Timehop, which takes me on a nostalgia trip everyday, reminded me recently that it has been a year since I wrote The Change Imperative. The opening slide features a quote – “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less“- attributed to Gen. Eric Shinseki. In the times we work in, I believe this cannot be overstated, not just for individuals but for organisations as well. Even as business dynamics force changes on the external manifestation of an organisation – the brand – any organisation that faces a client/consumer will also be forced to adapt its internal structure and practices to suit changing needs.

For a long while now, I have been ambivalent about processes. I have worked in an era, and in organisations, where processes had a way of getting things done. But in parallel, I have also felt that many a time, processes have a way of forgetting what they were made for. The output overshadows the outcome. Over the last few months, my surmisal has been that, to use a Taleb classification, processes can make an organisation robust, but not anti-fragile. This very informative post by Aaron Dignan of Undercurrent – The Last Re-Org You’ll Ever Do -highlights many ways that organisations have tried to change standard structures and practices, and even suggests a six step path to reorganisation. More

The purpose of brand

The Guardian had an interesting post recently, titled “Brand is becoming meaningless“, it (brand) is being replaced by a company purpose that the organisation can rally around. Yes, there is a study that this is linked to, and quotes. To paraphrase, brand is the effect, not the cause, and that has made it lose its fashionable shine.  Someone should tell Maggi this, they just lost $200 mn in brand value, even as the corresponding goods value is ‘only’ $50 mn! (via) Now, just so we are clear, I am not completely against this thought, all the more because this is something I have been writing about for a while now.


(via) More

In an ambient future…

Digi-Capital claims that by 2020, Virtual and Augmented Reality combined would have hit $150 bn, eclipsing mobile. What is interesting is that a recent Juniper report predicts an $80 bn market for wearables by 2020. (via) If I read that together, by 2020 we would have witnessed three interface cycles – mobile, wearables and AR+VR. The shelf life of interfaces is shrinking, much like other business cycles. In fact, in Trendwatching’s No Interface trend brief, you can get a preview of this. I’d think that by 2020 web access would be much better than what we have now, and with other technology like IoT advancing sufficiently, we would be poised for ambient interfaces to consume and create what we do on the web and mobile now.

It is widely believed that Google is only a challenger in the  mobile and wearable domains – to Facebook and Apple, despite Android. With Facebook’s Oculus move and Glass’ demise, it would seem that the interface that follows the two above would also see a fight. In an insightful post, Ben Evans asks “What does Google need on mobile?” He notes that all of Google’s play is about reach – to collect and surface data. Mobile, and specifically apps, challenge this and create a world of perfect complexity. He ends with saying that Google needs to win at search,  whatever that means and wherever and however far from PageRank that leads you. Christian Hernandez goes further in his post ‘Into the Age of Context‘. He points out that the glue that connects mobile, social and sensor trends is data, but to take it to the next level, it needs machine learning and AI. He sees Google Now as the perfect example of The Age of Context. More

Re: Skill

In The Entrepreneur and the ProfessionalI brought up the challenges at work faced by my generation. The focus was on an approach to work and the changes that have been forced on it because of rapidly shifting business environments. In addition to the business’ external dynamics, another factor that has been changing the organisation is the entry of a different kind of workforce.

How the Millennial Workforce is Changing Business” calls this a revolution, and writes further that they will prepare the organisation for the future by making them Digital, Clear, Fluid, Fast. PwC’s layered report on the same subject brings out this workforce’ motivations, acknowledges the generational tensions and suggests what the organisation would need to do to attract, develop and manage millennials.  More

The Entrepreneur and the Professional

A fantastic article in The Atlantic titled ‘The Case Against Credentialism‘ traces the social-cultural and academic  roots of America’s current business dynamics. The part that interested me most was what the author calls the tension between the two cultures – the entrepreneurial and the professional. While both are cultures of achievement, the basic tenet of the latter is that he who goes further in school will go further in life.

It gave me an impetus to write about this in the Indian context. Nothing as exhaustive, but a little note based on my experiences thus far, with much generalisation. My skin in the game is that it affects me personally and professionally. More