Five High-Tech Dementia-Busters

 1st November 2018 by gihan

More than 400,000 Australians live with dementia, and it costs us $15 billion a year. But now new technology is making life easier for people with dementia, their carers, and family and friends.

Here are five high-tech dementia busters that help people deal with dementia in their lives.

1. Virtual reality films take viewers back to a familiar time in history.

Do you remember happy times from your childhood? What was the world was like when you were at primary school? High school? Raising a family?

Imagine being able to step into a time machine and going back into that world, and reliving what you saw, what you heard, and how you felt. Thanks to the incredible power of virtual reality, that time machine exists right now.

In the UK, the Wayback Project helps people with Alzheimer’s relive some of the happy memories from their past using virtual reality. In one of their VR apps, they transport people back to the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, which many older people remember as a happy memory. This is not like looking at black-and-white TV footage from that date. It’s like stepping right into it, as if you were there.

2. Listen to popular music from your youth.

What music do you remember from your childhood? What did your family sing at home? What kind of music did you first like as a teenager? What about on your first date? Or that you both liked in a relationship?

Music brings back happy memories, and Spark Memories is a special radio station that takes you back into the past to relive those memories. It’s an app on your phone that plays popular music from the past. You just give it your date of birth, and it automatically creates a playlist of popular songs from when you were younger.

3. Know when somebody is wandering off.

If you’re caring for somebody with dementia, one of the things you worry about the most is that they wander off, so you’re always worrying about where they are and if they are safe. What if you never had to worry about that again?

There are smartphone apps – such as Jiobit – that alert parents of young children if their kids are wandering away from them, and carers of dementia sufferers are using the same apps for their loved ones. It reduces stress, gives you more freedom, and gives everybody more peace of mind.

4. Voice-activated personal assistants answer simple questions.

Sometimes people suffering from dementia struggle to remember the most basic things, like what day it is or even where they live. Instead of being embarrassed by having to ask somebody, they can ask a digital personal assistant – like Siri on their iPhone or Google Home in their living room. It might sound simple, but it can make a big difference to the person and their carer.

5. Record your own voice to play gentle reminders.

Personal connections are really important for people suffering from dementia, and the amazing Alzheimer Master app combines high-tech features with a high-touch personal connection. If you’re caring for somebody with dementia, you can program the app to remind them to take their pills, lock the doors at night, call a friend during the day – all in YOUR voice, so you’re making a more personal connection.

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Are You Really Solving Customer Problems?

 30th October 2018 by gihan

I was recently in Melbourne, delivering the opening keynote presentation at the AHRI (Australian Human Resources Institute) National Convention. These are senior leaders and managers in the HR space in Australia, and one of the questions they ask is:

“How do I make sure that HR stays relevant in this fast changing world, where jobs are changing, careers are changing, and the nature of work is changing?”

My first answer is the answer I give everybody, in every industry, and in every role: Make sure that you’re solving problems – ideally, your end customer’s problems.

Being fit for the future is all about understanding what problems you solve for your customers, your clients, your team members, your employees, and your other stakeholders. And ultimately, it’s got to be about solving external problems, whoever “customer” means for your business, in your role, and in your organisation.

So, if you want to be fit for the future, solve their problems!

Even if you have a purely internal role, the best way you can future-proof your career and team is to focus on solving your customer’s problems.

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Education 2030 – What the World Needs Now

 25th October 2018 by gihan

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently released the first position paper from its “The Future of Education and Skills 2030” project. In a nutshell, the aim of this project is to identify the key skills for the future and show how the (school) education system can deliver them.

To start with, the OECD correctly identifies the biggest challenge schools face:

“Schools are facing increasing demands to prepare students for rapid economic, environmental and social changes, for jobs that have not yet been created, for technologies that have not yet been invented, and to solve social problems that have not yet been anticipated.”

The OECD working group developed a number of “design principles” for changing our broken education system. I won’t list them all here, but I’ll highlight four of them here:

  • Student agency: The curriculum should be designed around students to motivate them and recognise their prior knowledge, skills, attitudes and values.
  • Transferability: Higher priority should be given to knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that can be learned in one context and transferred to others.
  • Authenticity: Learners should be able to link their learning experiences to the real world and have a sense of purpose in their learning. This requires interdisciplinary and collaborative learning alongside mastery of discipline-based knowledge.
  • Inter-relation: Learners should be given opportunities to discover how a topic or concept can link and connect to other topics or concepts within and across disciplines, and with real life outside of school.

I’ve chosen these four because they share a common theme: They are about aligning education with real-world needs.

Far too much time is currently spent teaching things that won’t have any use later (“Miss, when will I ever use this again?”) or that are taught solely to pass an exam (“Will that be on the test?”). The biggest impact will come from changing the system so it links in-school learning to real-life application.

As the OECD report goes on to say:

“Students who are best prepared for the future are change agents. They can have a positive impact on their surroundings, influence the future, understand others’ intentions, actions and feelings, and anticipate the short and long-term consequences of what they do.”

Read the full report here.

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Jugaad Thinking – Do More With Less

 23rd October 2018 by gihan

From the time Scottish professor William Cullen designed a small refrigerating machine in 1755, artificial refrigeration has transformed the way we store, transport, and preserve food. It has enabled settlement of areas that aren’t served by natural transport lanes, facilitated the dramatic shift from rural areas to cities, and changed the daily lifestyle of millions of families.

The modern refrigerator has one function – moving heat from one place to another – but requires different interconnecting parts: a condenser, compressor, evaporator, and expansion valve. There is no secret to how it works, but not everybody has access to all these parts.

This was the problem facing Manshuk Lal Prajapati, a middle-aged Gujarati from a small town in India. Prajapati was earning a living selling tea from a roadside stall, but always had an entrepreneurial mindset, and yearned to build a business building and selling household appliances.

His big problem was a lack of resources. When he set out to build a refrigerator, he didn’t have the sophisticated components used in Western appliances, and anyway he knew he couldn’t include them and still build something affordable to ordinary Indian families.

But he turned that limitation into an asset, forcing himself to find a way to create a feasible commercial product using limited resources. He turned to his own experience in pottery (an interest passed down over generations), and that gave him the spark of an idea that eventually led to his first – and now most successful – product: a clay refrigerator.

Although it doesn’t use the same components as more sophisticated appliances, it performs the same basic function, and keeps vegetables fresh for four days and milk for two days. It’s only about the size of a large microwave oven, so it doesn’t take up much space in a crowded kitchen.

Most importantly, it’s affordable, and Prajapati’s company MittiCool has sold 9,000 units across India.

Here’s the Point

The Mitticool refrigerator is an example of what Indians call “Jugaad innovation”, from a Hindi word that loosely means doing something innovative with limited resources. We might call it a “hack”.

This kind of innovation is often seen as a temporary workaround or cobbled-together solution that isn’t perfect, but is “good enough” until we can fix it properly. Unfortunately, that often means it’s only seen in a negative way.

Sometimes less is more! A lack of resources forces you to focus on what really matters.

There’s a management movement called “lean” (popularised by the book “The Lean Startup”, by Eric Ries), and that’s a good way to think about resourcing your project. Skinny runners don’t have enough energy, and fast runners carry too much weight. The best runners are lean: They have the right balance between too little and too much.

It’s tempting to throw as many resources as possible into a new project, because that seems like the best way to gain momentum and ensure success. But that isn’t always the best approach.

Don’t under-resource the project to the extent that it’s impractical or demotivating. But don’t go too far in the other direction and pile on so many resources that people get complacent and lazy.

Even if you have the luxury of these additional resources, consider holding them back and working within tighter constraints. Find the right middle ground, where people have enough resources to get the job done, but not so many resources that they waste them in non-productive activities.

For example, in 2015, Stephan Aarstol, the founder and CEO of one of America’s fastest-growing companies, Tower Paddle Boards, challenged his entire company to switch to a five-hour workday. He didn’t reduce their pay; he simply asked them to achieve the same results in just over half the time. The results were outstanding, and what started as a temporary initiative (introduced over summer, so staff could enjoy the long summer days with their family) became standard in their workplace.

It might seem counterintuitive to impose restrictions and remove resources, but it works because people tend to use the resources available to them. When you have a big budget, you can spend it on feasibility studies, reports, consultants, and expensive tools. When you don’t, you’re forced to find more “jugaad” solutions.

Thinking Ahead

  • What projects are currently “top heavy” and could be trimmed to encourage jugaad innovation?
  • What project could you launch right now with a lean set of resources?
  • Which start-up companies in your industry are operating “lean and mean” – and what can you learn from them?

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Top Trends for 2019 – Artificial Intelligence

 18th October 2018 by gihan

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already around us, and will continue to grow and expand. If you don’t have AI as part of your strategic planning, it’s time to add it now!

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Ask The World

 16th October 2018 by gihan

In our social, mobile, and highly-connected world, the best people to solve your problems could turn up in the most unexpected places. Don’t just turn to the people you already know. There’s a whole world that’s willing to help. Reach out to them, and you tap into endless talent, skills, and expertise.


Here are five key differences between established and disruptive organisations when it comes to finding resources:

Let’s look at these from the bottom up:

  • Own vs Share: The old model was to own as many resources as possible (in fact, these are the things that appear on your balance sheet as “assets”). In the new model, you share things rather than owning them, because that keeps you nimble and flexible.
  • Suppliers vs Freelancers: Instead of dealing only with a few “preferred” suppliers, disruptive organisations often use freelancers (also known as the gig economy or sharing economy) for specific skills in narrow areas of expertise.
  • Specialists vs Crowd: Established organisations value specialists who have earned their stripes in traditional ways (such as education and reputation). Disruptive organisations know they can find the right expertise everywhere, and reach out far and wide for it.
  • Partners vs Community: When creating even stronger relationships, established organisations find partners they can work closely with. Disruptive organisations do value partnerships, but are also willing to sacrifice the closeness of the relationship to get the diversity of a wider community.
  • Local vs Global: When established businesses want to create new relationships, their go-to approach is to reach out to their inner circles. Disruptive organisations recognise that the best new relationships might be at the edges of their existing networks.

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Smart Places – A Competitive Advantage for Location Brands

 11th October 2018 by gihan

We tend to think that everything is moving online and digital, but that’s not always the case. It might be true that we don’t buy music in CD stores anymore, or that we hold a business meeting in an online conference room. But there are some things we still do in “real life” to interact with “location brands” – such as shopping centres, hospitals, restaurants, hotels, and public open spaces.

The leading location brands integrate technology into those physical locations so they become “smart places”. This technology, often falling under the IoT (“Internet of Things”) banner, tracks people moving through the location, and uses this information to improve their experience.

A recent research report from Altimeter reviewed some of these smart places, to see how well location brands were using technology to enhance their CX, or customer experience.

If you’re a consumer, you might find research mildly interesting. If you’re an organisation with a physical location, this is essential reading!

What is a smart place?

First, let’s be clear about what Altimeter means by a “smart place”:

“A physical space – public or private, indoors or outdoors – where connected, sensing technology is used to gather insights into the actions, intent, and behavior of people in it to support customer experience. Smart places can be ‘active’ when people opt-in; ‘passive’ when people’s actions are tracked and their behavior intuited in an unobtrusive way or without their knowledge; or a combination of the two.”

As you can see, this is quite a broad definition, and covers many physical locations, from commercial buildings (such as shopping centres) to entertainment precincts to public spaces.

Let’s narrow our focus now to retail spaces, although everything we cover here applies equally to other smart places.

Use Cases

Let’s look at seven areas – four for consumers and three for the businesses serving those consumers – where we can use smart place technology to enhance CX.


Smart places detect where you are, track your movements, and give you access to different areas of the location. For example, visitors to Disney Resorts wear a “MagicBand” that give them fast check-in, access to their hotel room, entrance into theme parks, and so on.


Smart place technology helps you find your way around. For example, you might use Google Maps for external navigation, but some companies also offer an enhanced “indoors” version that helps you find your way around a large space.

Personalised Content

Smart place technology can personalise your experience, providing content, offers and assistance based on your individual preferences. In the future, AI will become sophisticated enough to even predict your future behaviour, and tailor the experience based on your future preferences!


One of the most common uses of smart place technology is – and will continue to be – for payment. We already have payments that don’t need credit cards (by using wearables, for example), and that will soon extend to biometric identification. The leading location brands are already experimenting with checkout-free experiences.

Asset Tracking

Turning our attention now to the businesses that serve the customers in a smart place, one popular use of this technology is for tracking resources – such as retail stock, vehicles, or medication in hospitals. This is most commonly done now with physical tags on the assets, but advances in AI and computer vision will mean resources won’t need tagging.

Employee Enablement

An obvious extension is to track your most important asset: your people. By tracking their location, smart place technology can simplify access, personalise their experience, and assist with wayfinding. It can also monitor them at finer levels – for example, to monitor how often staff in hospitals wash their hands.


The six areas we’ve considered above apply to individuals, but smart place technology can also be used to collect and aggregate data to conduct useful analytics – for example, measuring foot traffic in stores, detecting potential problems (such as shoplifting), and optimising employee productivity (for example, by reducing lost time walking from one place to another).

It’s Not Too Late!

The Altimeter report identifies some challenges with adopting some of this smart place technology – for example, updating skills, managing privacy concerns, getting consent, and investing in expensive infrastructure.

But these challenges also form a natural barrier to everybody jumping on the band wagon. The market is still new and not very mature, so if you get on board now – even in a small way – it gives you a competitive advantage.

Read the full Altimeter report here

Help Customers Help Each Other

 9th October 2018 by gihan

In May 2006, a Malaysian IKEA fan who goes by the pseudonym Jules Yap started the Website, posting interesting examples of IKEA customers who assembled their furniture in creative and innovative ways. Before long, the site became the leading community for IKEA fans looking for interesting ideas to enhance their IKEA furniture experience.

From IKEA’s viewpoint, it’s a huge benefit to have a passionate blogger, working at no cost to IKEA, building a community of IKEA fans who share ideas and experiences, and along the way happen to buy more IKEA products. Most businesses would love to have that kind of fan community, and many pay their staff to build such a community – but rarely with that much success. IKEA should be thrilled by Jules’ site.

But they weren’t. Bizarrely, eight years after Jules launched the site, IKEA turned its lawyers on her, demanding she shut it down for trademark infringement. Strictly speaking, they might have been in the right, but it wasn’t harming IKEA in any way – in fact, just the opposite. Rather than embracing the efforts of a passionate fan, they threatened and intimidated her.

Jules and her fans didn’t want to go down without a fight, and they took to Twitter, e-mail, and any other form of feedback to ask IKEA to retract their action. And this story has a happy ending, because – to their credit – somebody at IKEA saw the light and backed down. Their apology reflected (in retrospect) the mindset they should have had right from the start:

“We want to clarify that we deeply regret the situation at hand with IKEAhackers. It has of course never been our ambition to stop their webpage. On the contrary, we very much appreciate the interest in our products and the fact that there are people around the world that love our products as much as we do. We are now evaluating the situation, with the intention to try to find a solution that is good for all involved.”

At the time of the legal dispute, Jules said, “I was a just crazy fan … In retrospect, a naive one too”. Fortunately for IKEA, they recognised the value of “crazy fans” on their side.

Your customers know more than you think.

You think you know everything about your product or service, because you live it, breathe it, and developed it with blood, sweat, and tears. All that might be true, but it doesn’t mean you know everything. As much as you are experts in building it, your customers are experts in using it.

In a nutshell: Customers know how to help other customers get stuff done!

Because you’re always looking at your product from an internal view, you create rules about how to solve a problem, or (if you’re being a bit more flexible) different options.

But customers view it with a fresh outlook and an external perspective. Sometimes they find answers you hadn’t considered, and you can add them to your support database.

The real gold comes when customers find solutions in innovative ways – which we call “hacks” – that break the rules of how you’re “supposed” to use your product or service. You didn’t imagine them, and sometimes you wouldn’t even allow or sanction them. But they still work!

Don’t discourage these hacks. Instead, encourage, endorse and embrace them – and find a way to bring these fans together to help each other.

Like ants at a picnic that lay a trail for other ants, they’ll share their ideas with other customers – and that’s good for you.

What can you do to help customers help each other?

What can you do to support customers who want to support each other? Ask these three questions first:

  1. Are you currently doing anything that restricts or discourages customers from sharing ideas with each other?
  2. Can you find customers who are already building a fan base for you? What can you do to support and encourage them?
  3. What can you do to build a space (often online) for customers to share ideas with each other?

If you would like my help, please get in touch. In my Think Sharper masterclass and executive mentoring, we examine six different touchpoints in the customer journey where you can involve them more as partners in your business.

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