Staff blog: How does team diversity contribute when things do not go to plan?

As it does in life, at times even the best laid plans go astray and at Appearition, we believe that if there are no bumps along the way then we are not moving forward. A mix of age groups bring to the table a mix of thought patterns and reactions in crisis. In addition to this, varied backgrounds, thought processes and internal value systems curate a unique “team voice”.

This collective perspective enables different cognitive models for looking at and understanding issues. Individual mental models are driven largely by assumptions and personal belief systems. When aggregated – these give the team a common sense of value and perspective, which become particularly useful when approaching complex business decision. Consistently, we have found teamwork to result in more efficient solutions with clearer directives for all involved.

blog-diversity-img1However, we mustn’t forget that too many cooks spoil the broth – and within the diversity that we strive to incorporate into building our teams, clear leadership becomes a critical to success.

Another critical factor is education and training. The knowledge that a team is diverse and people come from different backgrounds needs to be inculcated as a strength – and team members should be comfortable enough to identify each other’s strengths (and weaknesses) as well as their own while developing solutions.

Encouraging conversations and dialogues with an emphasis on people’s backgrounds as well as celebrating shared milestones and personal triumphs lead to an increased awareness in times of conflict, enabling objectivity.

Here at Appearition problems are thrown at us daily and we strive to use our diverse team strengths to provide sustainable solutions for these. Be it a simple decision regarding the coffee machine in our office pantry or identifying the best solution to a customer challenge – the team brings our best to the table.

 

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Staff blog: Silicon (something)

In the tech-world, there is little one can do to avoid constant references to Silicon Valley. My initial research provided little insight, so I turned to a colleague in pursuit of clarity. In typical tech-marketing fashion, he spared no word or phrase, providing me with a detailed insight into his understanding of the term.

Still seeking more understanding, I put the task to Great Aunt Google. My initial research provided the following – SV is in California – geographically this posed a significant challenge, considering I was at my desk in Australia. I began exploring terms that I had come across, “Sending winners of an entrepreneurship competition to SV” (I have recently been volunteering in managing this event) and the incessant #hashtags that circled this term within the twitter-sphere, and discovered that SV is/was in fact the beating heart of this industry.

SV is located in Santa blog-silicon-imgClara Valley and the city of San Jose. The “Valley” refers to the Santa Clara Valley and the word “Silicon” referred to the numerous innovators and manufacturers of silicon chips in the area. The term was introduced in 1971 by a reporter who started a column entitled “Silicon Valley in the USA”. Through the 80s, the term caught like wildfire and became the norm it is today.

Some tech giants in Silicon Valley include Netflix, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Tesla Motors, Adobe Systems, San Disk, Intel, Apple Inc., eBay, Cisco Systems, Google, Facebook, Visa Inc. and much more.

As I journeyed further through, I looked around at my colleagues and wondered what it meant to be be in SV, and conversely, being not being in the Valley for a tech start up like ours. Were there opportunities we could be missing as our USA office is in Portland, Oregon and not the valley itself. Exploring the initiatives we have launched in the past year, I came across some facts that connected us to the valley by association. Appearition is a member of AREA – the Augmented Reality Enterprise Association – an industry body led by thought leaders who are paving the way for this industry to grow in coming years, headquartered in Santa Clara. We were also sponsors and presented at the Augmented World Expo 2016 – hosted in Santa Clara.

As for a physical presence, Appearition may not be in Silicon Valley, but we are certainly in the vicinity. Further research revealed Portland to have a moniker of its own – the “Silicon Forest” – another leading hotspot of tech development and related industry activity. The term Silicon Forest was first used in a Japanese company’s press release in 1981, although Lattice Semiconductor trademarked the term in 1984 and are often accredited with establishing the term. This area is more known for companies that focus on hardware, computer chips, electronic displays and printers.

Companies in Silicon Forest include Airbnb, Macafee, Mozilla, Nike, SurveyMonkey, Xerox, Yahoo and many more.

This co-existence of multiple silicon localities is apparently merely the tip of the ice-berg, as I discovered a number of other pockets globally who had their own term for aggregations of tech companies and innovation. To name a few;

  • Singapore (Asia’s Silicon Valley) – Because of its popular location to set up an international business
  • Bangalore (India) – Often referred as “Silicon Plateau” (At Appearition India, we have two offices, including Chennai, also in the South of India and just off said plateau)
  • Cambridge (England) – referred as “Silicon Fen” and sometimes “Cambridge Cluster”
  • Dublin (Ireland) – This location is increasingly becoming the “Europe’s Silicon Valley” and also sometimes called “Silicon docks”
  • Berlin – in early 2000s Berlin earned being the location for start-up companies
  • Zhongguancun (China) – Known as “China’s Silicon Valley” located in Haidian District, Beijing

Thinking back to my home in Greenland, I would guess the capital Nuuk would be best primed to have our own silicon (something). While advanced technology is still on its way to Greenland, the speed of westernization is rapidly increasing back home and I don’t think we are a long way away from companies realising the opportunity in Greenland. Click here to learn more about Greenland’s technology story line from one of our previous blog entries.

 

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Staff blog: Entrepreneurial energy – the significance of a pit-stop at Stanford.

The energy of an entrepreneur in pursuit of a vision, harnessed, could potentially power a household for a week. In life, it’s not uncommon for one to face a dip in motivation, gusto or focus – and as I learned recently in my experience at Stanford, there is little as revitalizing as sitting in the midst of a room full of hungry entrepreneurs (budding and successful, alike).

blog-entrepreneur-imgThe atmosphere was electric – charged with a burst of energy I soon came to realise must be common-place for students at this historic institution. Notably, there was little whinging, no challenge seemed difficult and no task menial in group discussions. Common fact as it may be, the lecturer reminded us of the 1% chance of start-ups succeeding and the even smaller chance of attaining VC funding. The class gleaned over his words as a challenge to be overcome, rather than a reason to back down.

Almost like a veteran’s ball, students exchanged war stories ranging from soaring close to the sun and having strategic discussions with the likes of Google, to stories of struggle and the pain of failure. The emotion is very real here, as these lucid tales of incredible inspiration are sandwiched with equally detailed sagas of administrative challenges – such as printing and photocopying in colour on a budget. Such is the aura of true entrepreneurial spirit!

In this world – introductions go beyond where one grew up and awkward confessions of obscure hobbies – instead, every introduction is a snap at an elevator pitch, a practise outing before the big game. If there’s one thing entrepreneurs are innately aware of – it’s that every conversation and every moment, is the opportunity to get feedback and test the viability of an idea.

introductions become passionate pitches and conversations become networking. Interestingly, everyone had a story that took the listener somewhere – and 99% of the time it was not a pursuit of dollar bills. Money was not motivating these entrepreneurs; finance was more of the means to an end. The end game almost always is making their dreams come true by solving a problem they set out to solve!

Everyone in that room talked about connecting with people, the more dialogues they had the more they learned. No one spoke about the long hours it takes to have these dialogues the impact it has sometimes on their morale – to them it was simply again an avenue of discovery – another opportunity to learn and think in an exciting new way! Each and every conversation was important to them, regardless the product or industry their conversation partner was engaged in. The conversations were true in every sense as they really listened and asked questions to learn, not just to respond.

It didn’t matter what your idea or product is, the atmosphere here at Stanford is one of encouragement and belief in pursuit of a dream. Everyone suggests ways to think through challenges, and builds a support network that empowers you to be positive in whatever you choose to do. This was a revelation to me, away from the stories of cut-throat entrepreneurship that swirl around Silicon Valley as we, as a cohort, came together to learn, not just about funding strategies, but about each other as well – from crunching numbers, to crunching mindsets.

 

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Change management

Change is constant. With innovations in technology, changes in markets and methodologies, the corporate landscape is constantly evolving. It only makes sense that business adapt to these changes or get left behind.

Indeed, the business that adapt the quickest often carve out a competitive edge for themselves, while the ones mired in the inertia of the old ways, languish behind.

As Prof. Rosabeth M. Kanter of Harvard Business School noted, successful companies have “a culture that just keeps moving all the time”. Change is often arduous and beset by uncertainties and fear. It’s human nature to relish stability. Especially the sort of stability that saw a business through years of profit and efficiency. Why rock the boat when there’s been nothing but smooth sailing?

Of course the reality is, the tides have turned. The same stability that was once an asset is now a liability. Herein lies a fundamental component of change management – convincing employees (from senior executives all the way down) that change is necessary.blog-change-img

When it comes down to it, businesses don’t change, people do. There are many different change management implementation frameworks but in a nutshell, the following needs to take place.

The first step is a reality check; a brutally honest look at what needs to change, as well as communicating this to all levels of the organization. Because change needs to occur at the lowest individual level, all the way up.

Then comes implementation. This involves communicating, very clearly and to all levels of the organization, the overarching vision of the change. This is to ensure that there is no disconnect between the expectations of the employees and the anticipated change. If employees do not agree or fully grasp the logic behind the change, then there will be real problems in implementing such a change.

It is imperative that the change is owned by everyone, from the CEO and senior executives, all the way down the rung of the corporate ladder. Change is not something to be delegated, like project management. It is a process that everyone needs to embrace for it to be successful.

For example, in 2004 when Shell implemented Downstream­One, it was abundantly clear that the change programme started and ended with its new group chairman.

Moreover, this example illustrates another necessary aspect of successful change management: the importance of good leadership, not to command that change just happens, but like all good leaders, to lead by example.

Embracing change will also put leaders in a unique position to empathize with employee concerns and provide the necessary support during the implementation process.

Of course there are other aspects that must be taken into consideration. Change management is not a one size fits all approach. A change management program must take into consideration the unique idiosyncrasies of a particular organization, adjusting the program to work with their particular strengths and weaknesses.

There must also be a clear road map to success, one that takes into account a realistic time frame and that also celebrates small wins on the road to change.blog-change-img1

In many ways, change management is similar to a person ditching unhelpful old habits and replacing them with new, healthier ones, obviously on a much larger and more complicated scale. However, it is prescient to note the analogy as organizational change management often encounters similar obstacles to success.

Time, communication and measured changes, as well as ownership of change from all levels, is crucial to the goal of true change.

 

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Staff blog: Diversity for Creativity

Amongst the numerous companies I have both worked for and worked with, I have always wondered what makes working in Appearition such a different experience. Numerous things come to mind, such as working with leading edge technology – augmented and virtual reality – or the size of the organization and how it contributes to nimble problem solving, but what stands out is the team itself – and the enjoyable exchanges that arise as we analyze challenges and develop solutions.

It is common knowledge that the team you work with plays a critical role in one’s personal level of job satisfaction. But what is it about this team that makes coming to work more interesting? Could it the communal participation of being part of a group and solving problems daily? At Appearition, it is the diversity which makes it enjoyable.

Diversity is not simply the varied ethnic background people hail from. It is also the spread in age groups, varied levels of of experience, and the amalgamation of multiple value systems and personal beliefs which make our team special. From the outside, a team of like-minded people appears cohesive – but underneath, if everyone is thinking alike then is anyone really thinking? Diversity brings forth a variation in thoughts offering a challenge to status quo.

At Appearition, we have team members ranging in age group from Millenials to Baby boomers. This blend of generations has given us the ability to develop new approaches problem solving whilst aligning to the bigger picture and vision we all share for our company.

Often having people on the team who have “been there and done that” means they can see envision some loop holes, even in what we sometimes believe to be our best laid plans. The younger generation – more savvy and tech-aware (sometimes!) combine a fresh and young “here’s the new tool which can help” attitude, contributing in their own unique way.

 

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Staff blog: Difference between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

By now, you would have either experienced Pokemon Go or collided with someone or the other walking around trying to find a pokemon on the streets. Everyone has described this as the first mainstream implementation of Augmented Reality, and frankly speaking it took me a long time to understand exactly what that meant. As with most mysteries – a quick search on google provided the following insight;

Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. (Wikipedia)

If you share my limited degree of technology awareness, this definition blog-arvr-img1would provide nothing but more confusion. However, experience assisted in crossing this knowledge barrier when my colleague provided a simple demonstration.  Opening an app on his phone and scanning a piece of paper through the camera, the video of a dancing child popped up on the screen. Wherever he moved the camera and any angle, the girl stayed where she was as if she was standing there in reality. I started to realise that this technology is a lot more prevalent that I had originally thought.

Spurred on my newfound understanding, I revisited my trusted knowledge aide – Google – to discover the secrets of Virtual Reality

Virtual reality or virtual realities (VR), also known as immersive multimedia or computer-simulated reality, is a computer technology that replicates an environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user’s physical presence and environment to allow for user interaction. (Wikipedia)

blog-arvr-img2

Given the larger context – this now made a lot more sense and Virtual Reality blew my mind, even more so that AR in fact. Once again, to fully experience the technology, I had put on the headset and watched a clip of sharks swimming around me as if I were underwater. This extraordinary experience was particularly significant as I suffer from Claustrophobia and never expected to experience an underwater dive like this. The first few moments were quite intimidating, but as I gathered my senses and got my breathing in control, I was left in awe. The other clip I would recommend was a recreation of Cirque du Soleil, an immersive experience in a live circus. That one, I enjoyed much more, because I felt as if I was standing among the performers and artists. It was even more real, given that the experience revolves around the user sitting on a chair, and not floating underwater

Both technologies have potential in the business world, for example, AR have been explored in the fashion world and furniture companies. AR can help people to see how a product would look for instance in their living room simply by using an app through their phone. And VR is being used in a variety of businesses as well, for instance Arctic Cat uses it to show their customers the new snow mobile model.

In my opinion, the biggest difference is that VR is a controlled environment, such as console gaming and experiencing things with your own eyes, whereas AR can be social and you can move around or even taking a walk with it.

I slowly started to see how the technologies also extend beyond the 319372292_725c2f0b53_bbusiness world, and into real life. As I look back on my traveling experiences back in Southeast Asia, most of the traveling involved taking a bus from town to town. One particular ride stood out in my memory, a particularly nervy bus ride from Luang Prabang to Louang Namtha in Laos. The bumpy roads of Laos take some getting used to and I felt most lucky that I don’t get car/bus nausea, being exposed to sailing from a young age. But the size of the bus and narrow roads across the hills and mountains made the ride challenging to sit properly and it went on and on for hours. I held on to the seat as my entire body tightened with every turn and bump. At one point we came to a stop, and I could barely see anything because it was night time and darkness surrounded the bus. I got up from my seat and came to the front and found out there was a tank truck that had fallen sideways on the side of the road. And at the same time there were other cars and buses tried to pass the traffic from the other side towards us. What made this whole situation difficult was the location; on the tight turn of a mountain.

When problems like these happen often in the roads of Southeast Asia, AR and VR could do a great deal of help to improve them. Have the exact measurements and calculating the size of the roads and buses, they can help to prevent accidents. Drivers could practice the turns and smoother rides. Infrastructure could be improved by testing new roads using the technology.

While this is just an idea of mine, I have observed in my travels that advanced technology has yet to become a mainstream in some areas, including in rural areas. But this is just an example for what kind of problems could be solved by AR and VR.  Such an advanced technology should be used to make the world a better place, more than just entertainment. Blunt as that sounds, there’s little to argue against the fact that the world could certainly be made a better place, sometimes!

 

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