How to encourage your new hires to be creative

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In today’s work environment, you need more from an employee than just strong technical skills. Sure, software engineers need to be familiar with the appropriate programming language, and data analysts need to know their way around a spreadsheet. But these things alone won’t make them effective. They need to know how to think outside the box.

But how do you cultivate creativity, and keep it growing among your new hires? After all, good ideas don’t just come out of thin air. Here are some practices that you might want to try.

1) Explain your thinking style

Not everyone will think the way you do–and when you work with people, you need to be clear about how everyone works. If you are a backward thinker, you begin at the end and work backward to the beginning. You define your goal clearly and you focus on that exact goal and move forward in well-defined steps.

If you are a forward thinker, on the other hand, you begin with a rough idea, and you move forward by reacting and correcting until you arrive with something concrete.

You’ll avoid frustration when you explain how you think. I once hired a talented young researcher. Every time she brought in her work, I responded by asking her to look at the problem another way. After her third presentation, she said to me, “I can’t work with you anymore. You don’t know what you want. I’m quitting.”

That was a wake-up call for me. From that point on, I make sure to explain my thinking style to everyone that I work with–and that meant going back and forth until we get there. When I do this, I create a platform for creative collaborations–by enabling others to work in a way that suits their thinking style, while making sure that they understand mine.

2) Make sure to challenge different creative muscles

In Lateral Thinking—a book about unleashing creativity–physician and psychologist Edward De Bono likened creativity to pouring hot wax into a block of wax. The first time you pour, you create a new hole–the second time you pour, your wax goes into the same hole, only deeper.

Sometimes it takes experimentation to elicit creativity, and that means pouring new holes into the wax. Don’t just ask your new hires to come up with three versions of a marketing plan. Ask for a strategic roadmap or ideas on making your website user-friendly. This gives your new hires a chance to exercise a different creative muscle, and they can learn what it takes for them to come up with a great idea.

3) Focus on what’s missing, not what’s wrong

When you watch yourself on video, you will most likely fixate on a particular flaw. You may obsess about how your smile seems crooked, how often you blink, how many “ahs” and “ers” you say in a minute. So what happens as a result of this kind of analysis? You pause, you clamp your jaws, you pop your eyes open, you have long, empty pauses. Focusing on flaws doesn’t work.

You have to look instead at what’s missing. If you speak with too many “ahs” and “ers” what’s missing is a connection between your speaking and your breathing, not that you’re stopping too much. You need to adopt the same kind of mind-set with your team’s creativity. Don’t focus on what they’re doing wrong. Instead, give them ideas on what they can do.

Whether you’re giving feedback or delivering a message, you have to approach it in a more–not less– perspective. As one of my clients explained, “When my boss asked us how we were going to cut costs, my colleagues presented their cost-cutting plans. I told him how I was going to sell more.” That client is one of his company’s top sales leaders.

4) Give feedback at a concept level

When you’re giving feedback to a new hire, you have to leave room for them to solve the problem. For example, suppose you walked into a room that had a fireplace at one end and two chairs against the back wall. When you say, “That’s ridiculous. Why don’t you move your chairs closer to the fire?” you’re jumping into solution mode.

Supposing instead you said, “I’d like you to consider how to optimize the experience of being in this room.” Now you’re challenging someone to think about what to do, and empowering them to come up with their own solutions. Your team might find the answers from the get-go, and you might need to tell them so. That’s okay, as long as you give them the space to be creators and problem solvers, not just doers.

5) Expect mistakes

Years ago, I was working with a leader from Toyota. He was talking about a discussion he’d had with a visitor from Ford, “I told him we have a system when employees notice a problem, they stop the line. We had 47 stops last month.” The Ford leader was impressed with the Andon process and adopted it right away. Then he came back a month later and proudly announced to my client, “We only had seven problems last month.”

My Toyota client explained that he’d missed the point. When you focus too much on avoiding mistakes, you’re actually blocking your creativity because you operate from the position of fear. You need to think of mistakes as a chance to fine-tune and improve the process. After all, creativity often comes from trial and error and you need to give your team the psychological space to do that.

Creativity doesn’t happen in a linear fashion. Often times, it requires trying different things before landing on something that works. Expect the same when it comes to your new hires. Be patient with the process, and you might just end up with something amazing.

[“source=medicalnewstoday]

Three Ways To Understand And Apply Social Media Insights To Your Business

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The internet has impacted the way most, if not all, industries have evolved. Keeping up with industry trends and available platforms is a job in and of itself. In particular, social media is shaping the way many companies engage with customers and drive sales.

In the education industry, the internet has revolutionized the way people learn and how they interact with their peers. Based on my experience working with social media influencers to engage students, I’d like to share three tips for entrepreneurs in any industry.

Learn how your target audience is using social media.

You can never stay hot for too long in the world of social media. One minute Snapchat is the app of the hour, the next it’s Instagram, and the cycle continues. Social media has secured credibility in recent years as a trusted source of information not only for news but also as a platform for consumers to engage with companies and exchange information.

My company’s target audience is students, and we have found that students today use social media in ways that are foreign to generations that did not grow up in the digital age. For example, “study with me” videos have become a popular internet sensation among youth. My company decided to capitalize on this opportunity by partnering with YouTube influencers to learn how students are using YouTube to study; we then applied that information to our platform to better help our users succeed academically.

Understanding how your target audience is using and benefiting from social media is critical to success. This applies to any business. Many companies are under the impression that all there is to social media is a simple press of a button to post content, but that’s not where the value lies. Building your presence is important, but understanding why you have that presence will help you properly utilize your channels and benefit in multiple ways.

To do so, connect with your target audience and customers. Create surveys, send personal emails or even make phone calls to understand how your customers are using social media and in what ways your business can have a valuable impact. Get a deeper understanding of your audience behavior and which channels you should focus on.

[“source=forbes]

Mobile apps may or may not be collecting your child’s data—but here’s why you should assume they are

This week two democratic senators are calling on federal regulators to investigate if children’s apps are tracking their data.

Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut sent a letter on Wednesday to the Federal Trade Commission, writing they are concerned that numerous apps are potentially violating the law.

Without explicit parental consent, it is illegal to collect data on children under the age of 13 according to the Children Online Privacy Protection Act, which went into effect in 2000.

This comes after last month when the New Mexico Attorney Generalsued the maker of app Fun Kid Racing, as well as the online ad businesses run by Google, Twitter and three other companies.

The suit accused the companies of violating the law, and that Google misled parents by allowing apps to remain in its Google Play store children’s section after it was notified by researchers that thousands of apps may be tracking young children.

“The problem is this – we don’t know where the onus lies,” New York Times reporter Edmund Lee told CNBC’s “On the Money” in an interview.

Lee says the law isn’t clear on whether it should be the platform such as Google or Apple to make sure the apps in their stores are complying with the law, whether it’s up to the game developer or if it should be up to the third party data firm tracking the data.

“So there’s a whole system in place that everyone keeps passing the buck and there’s no case law yet,” says Lee. “Even the legislation – it’s not entirely clear who is ultimately responsible.”

Fortnite

So what should a parent do if they are concerned their child is being tracked?

Lee says, “You should just assume it’s going to happen you should assume you’re going to be tracked.”

“Right now it’s the ‘Wild West’ there are very few protections, few sort of places of enforcement around it, and that’s why it’s hard as a parent and as a kid to navigate,” he added.

However, Lee notes most of these are harmless games, and the tracking data is used for advertising purposes, which is how these companies make money.

For parents worried about their child’s privacy – Lee says he tells his own daughter to keep her communication online only with people she knows.

“You’re not going to be able to look and know every single piece of data that’s being floated out there until there’s legislation and case law in place. But in the meantime make sure you know who your kid is talking to and it shouldn’t be strangers and it shouldn’t be someone they just met online.”

[“source=businessinsider”]

Supercharging your SEO with AI: Insights, automation and personalization

Recently, I had the pleasure of presenting at SMX London on Supercharging your SEO with AIand thought I would share some of the insights with Search Engine Land readers.

Google made global headlines with the demonstration of its new Duplex at this year’s I/O developers conference. This artificial intelligence (AI) system can “converse” in natural language with people to schedule an appointment at a hair salon or book a table at a restaurant, for example.

To pass the Turing Test, AI must behave in a manner indistinguishable from that of a human. To many, Google Duplex has proven that it can pass this test, but in truth, we are only seeing the beginnings of its future potential.


This particular use of AI made headlines because people are drawn to applications of AI that can mimic human interactions, whether in science fiction or in real life. While that response is driven by fascination, it is also host to an element of fear.

Can AI replace people?

As marketers, we typically encounter two perspectives on this. Either AI will take our jobs and render us obsolete or it will complement our skills and make us more effective.

According to a study by the Economist,  75 percent of executives say AI will be “actively implemented” in companies within the next three years, so this is more than a hypothetical discussion.

As hype turns to reality, we are realizing that the second perspective is the likely outcome. This would certainly be the most beneficial outcome, with PricewaterhouseCoopers predicting that AI will add $15.7 trillion to global GDP annually by 2030.

Moreover, AI is already all around us, embedded in products and services we use every day, like Netflix and Pandora.

Perhaps most pertinently to us as marketers, AI is deeply embedded in search, and it opens a raft of new opportunities for SEOs that embrace this technology early.

The role of AI in search

Artificial intelligence is making search more human. Although search does not yet “speak” to users in the same way the Google Duplex demo could, its objective is very similar.

Google’s RankBrain technology uses machine learning to understand the meaning of the content it crawls; it infers intent from ambiguous search queries; and it uses feedback data to improve the accuracy of its results.

In other words, it listens and it learns.

Though we may not always have visibility over these processes, we do see the outputs very clearly. Research by BrightEdge (my company) into a dataset of over 50 million keywords revealed that 84.4 percent of queries return universal search results. This occurs as Google uses AI to match the layout of search results pages to the user’s intent.

There are now 37 different search engine result page (SERP) categories, a number that will only increase over the coming months and years.

The potential for personalization has not yet been truly tapped, but Google’s Sundar Pichai recently made public its goal to be an “AI-first” company. As such, we should all expect the search landscape to change dramatically as AI takes center stage in the way it has already done in products like Google Photos and Google Lens.

As co-founder Sergey Brin put it:

“AI touches every single one of our main projects, ranging from search to photos to ads.”

The pace of development on this front is accelerating, as Google is all too aware that AI can simply deliver better, more personalized experiences for consumers. However, search marketers need to pay close attention to these technological advancements if they are to avail themselves of these opportunities for SEO.

How to supercharge SEO with AI

There are three key areas in which AI can improve SEO performance:

  • Insights.
  • Automation.
  • Personalization.

Insights

Artificial intelligence can process and interpret patterns in data at a scale people could simply never replicate. This makes it an essential complement to any search strategist, as AI can deliver the information we need to make informed decisions out of noisy, unstructured data.

Some common tasks where AI can aid search engine optimization (SEO) performance include:

  • Market trends analysis.
  • Site performance analysis.
  • Competitor insights.
  • Customer intent reports.
  • SERP performance.
  • SEO and pay-per-click spend management.

In each of these scenarios, AI can surface new insights that may otherwise have gone unnoticed. As search moves beyond the traditional SERP and becomes a multidisciplinary channel, this will be increasingly important. New developments like visual search are bringing to light the central role of AI in processing new types of media, too.

Pinterest uses deep learning to interpret the content and context of images, opening up new opportunities for retailers to capitalize on “discovery search.”


Google Lens plans to use augmented reality to blend the physical and virtual worlds, using objects as queries rather than typed keywords.

Of course, these developments will lead to the creation of invaluable data, with each interaction revealing something new about our audience. As marketers, we should employ AI to ensure that we capture, process and use this data correctly to shape our search strategies.

How can you use AI for SEO insights?

  • Understand underlying need in a customer journey.
  • Identify content opportunities.
  • Define opportunity space in the competitive context.
  • Map intent to content.
  • Use structured data and markup.
  • Invest in more long-tail content.
  • Ensure content can be crawled and surfaced easily by all user-agents.

Automation

SEO is a labor-intensive industry that requires a huge amount of attention over the long term. Where we can automate tasks to receive the same output we could produce ourselves, we should make this a top priority. The time saved through automation can be applied to the areas that require our skills, like strategy and creative content.

The chart below shows the average amount of time spent on the essential but at times repetitive task of keyword research based on the size of the site in question.

Here are some of the tasks that are ripe for automation in SEO:

  • Technical audits.
  • Keyword research.
  • Content optimization.
  • Content distribution.
  • Tag management.
  • Internal linking.

In these instances, computers do replace people, but we are in control of what they do, and it is a logical decision to hand over such tasks to artificial intelligence. In the process, we can free up valuable time to take on the more challenging aspects of SEO strategy.

Some tips to get started with AI for SEO automation:

  • Break down tasks into sub-tasks, then score their potential for automation from 0-10.
  • Use rule-based automation to handle simple but time-intensive jobs.
  • Find the right balance between human labor and automation.
  • Feed ML algorithms the right quality and quantity of data.
  • Focus on user experience and speed monitoring and alerts; engagement rates will only increase in importance.

Personalization

Personalization allows marketers to create relevant, useful experiences for each individual customer. Achieving this at scale requires technological assistance, with AI an integral part of this process.

Amazon has long been regarded as the market leader in personalization, as it takes user data to suggest new products based on their historical activity. This allows Amazon to surface products that do not typically receive much visibility, based on their relevance to each individual consumer.


Search marketers can take a number of lessons from this approach.

By mapping content to different states of intent, we can capitalize on these opportunities to cross-sell additional products.

This starts to move beyond traditional SEO and into the realm of vertical search optimization. We can see this trend in Google’s recent announcements, namely the integration of Assistant into Google Maps and the upgraded Google News app.


Content discovery is no longer limited to the search results page, so marketers must truly understand their consumers to ensure they can engage with them, anywhere and at any time.

Artificial intelligence is of vital importance at every stage of this journey. The field of predictive analytics, which makes predictions based on patterns in historical data, can help marketers to plan their content to meet consumer demand states.

How can you use AI for SEO personalization?

  • Create content by persona, customer journey stage and delivery mechanism.
  • Enhance user experience and conversion through personalization.
  • Use semantically specific pages to associate query and intent.
  • Use personalization and audience lists to nurture leads across search and social.
  • Use AI to help publish content at the right times on the right networks.

Conclusion

The artificial intelligence revolution is already upon us, and sophisticated marketers are taking advantage!

Most AI systems are invisible, but that does not lessen the significance of their inner workings. The search landscape is in constant flux, and consumers are creating vast amounts of data, all of which can be turned into insights.

Automation can help us make sense of these insights and free enough time for marketers to develop innovative, personalized strategies. There can be little doubt that the tech giants have gone AI-first. Marketers who follow suit can supercharge their SEO strategies by using AI in three core areas: insights, automation and personalization.

[“Source-searchengineland”]