Girl with purple sparkling nail polish scrolling through her cellphone on a desk

Generation Z is certainly shaping the change in education, not just in in regards to a greater dependence on technology but also in the way they embrace social learning environments, becoming hands-on and directly involved in the learning process. According to Forbes, they expect on-demand services that are available at any time, with low barriers to access, and are more career-focused earlier on in their college careers than their earlier counterparts. But before we get into the specifics, let’s take a few moments to define what Generation Z is. Generation Z, or Gen Z for short, is the generation that comes after Millennials. They were born between 1997 and 2012 and range in age from seven to 22. Check out this cool Pew Research chart that explains all the generations, starting with the Silent Generation from 1928 to 1945.

What’s unique for Generation Z is that they were born into a generation where technology has always been around for them. Indeed, they were never not exposed to technology, which has been a part of their lives from the very beginning. The iPhone launched in 2007, a time when the oldest Gen Zers were just 10 years old. By the time they hit their teens, these young Americans were primarily connecting with the web through mobile devices, WiFi and high-bandwidth cellular service. While Millennials saw the emergence of social media, constant connectivity and on-demand entertainment, these innovations evolved over time, which Millennials adapted to as they came of age. Those born after 1996 were ushered into this age as a matter of course.

Growing up in an “always on” technological environment has led to significant changes in youth behaviors, lifestyles and attitudes.

The Learning Process

There’s been a dramatic shift in the way in which Generation Z learns. Studies show that today’s students don’t have any interest in being passive learners. They don’t want to sit behind a desk, spew facts back at the teacher, memorize rote definitions for a test, and otherwise take a back seat to their educational journey. Rather, they want — demand, really — to be fully engaged in the learning process and become a unique part of it. In fact, these students thrive best when given the opportunity to have a fully immersive educational experience, with one study showing that 51 percent of students say they learn best by doing, whereas just 12 percent say they learn through listening. That majority also says they enjoy class discussions and interactive classroom environments rather than traditional teaching methods.

They have a preference towards engaging in a collaborative learning environment, to be sure, but it’s not limited to just in-person interactions. Gen Z is entirely comfortable learning alongside other students outside of the brick and mortar school building as they utilize digital tools such as Zoom, Skype and online forums to participate, connect and engage. This has never been truer than during the current pandemic, where everyone was thrust into a new online world of interactions.

But guess who was already there waiting to embrace the challenge and jump right in? That’s right, Gen Zers. They were well-positioned to thrive in a completely virtual environment because essentially they’ve been training for this day since they were born. Whereas Boomers and Gen Xers may have struggled with the new online reality, Gen Zers took it all in stride.

Because they are a digital generation, these students expect digital learning tools to be deeply integrated into their education. For them, technology is and always has been a fully integrated experience that pervades every aspect of their lives: why should education be any different? To that end, they wish to seamlessly connect their academic experiences to personal experiences via these same tools.

A Hyper-Connected World

According to Pew Research, just 14 percent of U.S. adults had access to the Internet in 1995, says Inc. By 2014, that number jumped to 87 percent. Generation Z came of age in the most accelerated and game-changing period of technological advancements in all of human history. But it goes beyond just the technology. It extends to a way of life, a constant connection to networks of people and information that almost acts of an extension of themselves.

Indeed, Generation Z are doers, contributors, and hackers of life and work. They gained a voice with mobile technology and on-demand connectivity that enabled them to streamline and systemize tasks and simplify complex problems because, well, there truly has always been “an app for that.”

From TikTok to YouTube, kids and teens today are self-motivators, driven by a passion to make a mark in this world. Going back to the title: where does Generation Z learn about technology? The answer is: everywhere. It’s a pervasive way of thinking that doesn’t elude them, is always in the background and is always on. From school to social media, technology forms the backbone of interaction.

Generation Z is now leading the change in how learning takes place, acting as a driving force in the innovation of new learning tools, unlimited access to resources, and teaching styles. In the end, they find themselves headed in the direction of a more learner-centric and technology-fueled environment where they can choose their own path and become the directors of their own futures.

Scientist holding up and looking futuristic digital device like a smartphone that is translucentThe Silver Lining

The coronavirus pandemic may still be plowing its way through the country, leading to business closures, shut downs and social distance rules, but it’s also been the harbinger of technological breakthroughs as people shift the way they function. From AI to remote work tools to workforce shifts, this pandemic is breaking through technology barriers at a break-neck speed. That old proverb has never been truer: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Translation: the driving force for most new inventions is need.   In a time when people were forced into a new normal in a matter of days or weeks, the demand for change brought about some pretty cool breakthroughs in technology. As businesses shuttered and sent their employees home, a new way of thinking was needed — FAST. Born from this pandemic came an innovation spurred on by tragedy. The technology race has always been there, but its progress has been somewhat slow, until now. Indeed, this accelerated change has restructured workplaces, redefined roles, and instituted rapid learning, all while organizations were being challenged — and still are — to embrace a new way of thinking. The rush to virtualize business operations continues as social distance directives have taken the top spot on the best practice list.

Coronavirus as an Accelerant

Who would have predicted that COVID-19 would be the catalyst for such business transformation just a few months ago? As companies are forced to adapt to the future of work at an accelerated pace, they’re increasingly embracing culture and purpose as they pivot team operations to enable remote working on a grand scale, says Forbes. Fueled by coronavirus, technologies are making breakthroughs at a rapid pace, in a variety of ways — not just in the virtual conference room.

• Online Meetings: As employees vacated their corporate campuses and set up shop at home, they turned to online meeting platforms such as Zoom, Slack, Skype and Google Hangouts to meet up, collaborate, and get work done. After all, the show must go on. 

• Virtual events: It’s not just business meetings that are taking place virtually, it’s events, too — coordinators of which have never faced such a big challenge before. But they’re bringing it all together and it’s working. For instance, Mobile World Congress held a one-day digital event, Google Cloud Next became Google Cloud Next ’20: Digital Connect, Facebook F8 is all-online, Starbucks is even holding its shareholder meeting completely online for the first time ever, and colleges the country over are holding virtual orientation sessions for incoming freshmen.

• Schools: Google Classroom and Zoom have been a godsend for education nationwide. With schools being forced to close their doors in March, that’s four months of learning that would have been wasted had these online platforms not been available. Teachers had to learn in a pinch how to adjust their curricula and hold virtual classrooms, while students had to adjust to a new way of learning and communicating.

• Healthcare: Networks of epidemiologists are tracking COVID-19 using low-cost gene-sequencing technologies, which are coincidentally driving promising vaccine candidates. Researchers are using machine learning to search through repositories of published scholarly articles about coronavirus. Informal networks of manufacturing firms and hobbyists are utilizing 3D printers to make thousands of face shields to protect front-line healthcare workers. Apple and Google — in an unprecedented move — partnered together to develop a contact tracing application that is embedded in the operating systems for smartphones, according to Newswise. On a related note, Apple’s latest iPhone update, iOS 13.5, will make it easier to wear a face mask and use Face ID to open your phone. 

• Network and mobile communications have enabled online medical consultations to prevent the need for in-office visits, giving first responders high-speed telecommunications to provide support where it’s needed most, and disseminating vital information around the world to enable local governments so they can make more informed decisions related to the health of constituents. Perhaps most pervasively has been the way these communications advancements have transformed social connectivity with family and friends in lieu of gathering together physically, through online videos, social media and FaceTime.

• Artificial intelligence, automation, virtual reality and data management technologies have all played an important role in anything from tracking the outbreak and planning out scenarios to rapidly building medical devices and supporting research in coming up with viable treatments. In fact, artificial intelligence and genetic applied science are making it faster, easier and more affordable to understand how the virus spreads, how it should be managed and how its effects can be contained. AI can even warn us of upcoming epidemics so we have enough time to prepare. As one example, BlueDot — a global artificial intelligence database company, — uses A.I.-powered algorithms, natural-language processing and machine learning to analyze information from a variety of sources and track more than 100 infectious diseases.

Perhaps the silver lining from the pandemic is the emerging technology that allows us all to stay in touch, make advancements, and ensure the world spins on. Organizations from all sectors are crafting new technical capabilities, harnessing digital technologies and evolving their business models at a pace that would have been unheard of just a few months ago.

High school football team in a huddle during a gameSuccess doesn’t come about overnight or all at once. Like a home, it needs a foundation, brick by brick, to form a stable structure that can support the weight of a business over time. The first building block to success, then, is building the right team. To draw another analogy, just like in sports, recruiting the top people to join your team is of paramount importance. You need a wide range of talents to make up a well-rounded team. You may be looking for attributes like: plays well with others, shares ideas openly in group settings, values transparency and aligns around a shared vision, individuals who bring you opportunities for growth, and down to earth teammates who celebrate victories together in an atmosphere of positivity.

Taking a Look at Yourself

Looking for these qualities and more when considering building your dream team is priority #1. However, before you even think about the types of people you want to work for you, the first step should be to look inward and ask yourself “am I the type of boss people want to work for?”. Do you treat people fairly? Do you give your team the tools they need to be empowered and get the job done from within or do you control every aspect of the project? Are you transparent in your expectations? Do you foster a culture that is supportive and positive, or one of competition and rivalry? Do you have your team’s best interests at heart? What do you think people say about you when you’re not around?

The foundation of exceptional leadership lies in putting the needs of others first, says the Jack Welch Management Institute. You have to fight for the resources your team needs to do its job effectively and efficiently, lobbying for the raises and bonuses that your employees deserve. We’re not saying this has to be a culture of “everybody gets a trophy.” Rather, what we mean is, those who truly deliver on stellar performance will get rewarded for their efforts. Transparency in the workplace ensures that each teammate knows where he or she stands.

Upgrade Your Team

True leaders relentless upgrade their team, utilizing every encounter as a unique opportunity to coach, evaluate and build up self-confidence, according to Inc. Just like in sports, the team with the best players wins. Their leaders must put the time and energy into what famed business exec Jack Welch calls “people development” — something that should be honed daily and integrated into all aspects of your interactions. You as the leader have to recognize and acknowledge your team’s hard work if you want to encourage peak performance and instill confidence in the very core of your team.

Live and Breathe the Vision

As the owner or manager, you know what the vision of your company is. You invented it, you grew it, you live for it. That’s not enough. You also have to make sure the people who work for you not only know that vision as well but live and breathe it every day. Not everyone will buy into this. It takes a special breed of person to truly embrace the goals you’ve set for yourself and help you realize them. Effective leaders, then, will cast the vision of the future and fuel that passion in the people who work for them. You should constantly be talking about that vision, reinforcing it with rewards in order to light a fire that will help them accomplish even the most difficult of assignments.

Follow Your Gut — Even if People Hate You for It

People in a position of power — whether that be the president, a coach or a parent — can’t be friends with everyone all of the time. They are in a position of power to make the tough calls that aren’t always popular but that serve the greater good. Leaders will bring the courage to make gut calls, regardless of what team members think. Jack Welch goes on to say in his book Winning that “tough calls spawn complaints and resistance.” Your job as a leader is to listen and explain yourself clearly but then start moving forward rather than dwelling.

Clear, sharp, definitive decision making is what you will be judged on as a leader. Because the choices you make will determine the overall success of your organization, it’s you who will ultimately have to answer for the success or failure of your company. Transparency, trust and clear vision: if you employ these things, the right team will stand behind you every time.

Young women smiling and shaking hand with man behind counterA colleague of mine recently shared an experience she had at her doctor’s office. When she walked up to the window to check in, the young receptionist motioned with her finger pointing to the iPad on the counter and said, “please check in here,” without taking her eyes off her cell phone. My colleague began asking her a couple of questions about the check-in process and the young gal remained fixated on her cell phone without once making eye contact during the verbal exchange.

Today’s generation is socially challenged with the constant distraction of electronic devices and social media dominating our everyday lives. Does the convenience and pervasiveness of technology excuse poor basic human behavior? Certainly not. So how can we be more thoughtful and courteous to those around us?

Critical Social Skills Component

Face-to-face communication is an integral piece of the social skills puzzle. It’s time to get back to basics with clear and precise communication — something that has been lost little by little as technology such as smart phones, texting and email have permeated today’s society. There’s a lot you can glean from looking someone in the eyes, and a lot that can be missed if you don’t. There’s a personal connection there that you just can’t get over the phone, via text or even FaceTime. It’s so personal, in fact, that many of today’s young people shy away from such an intimate display of human interaction.

Your clothing, hair accessories, posture and gestures can all convey a deep meaning, but it’s your eyes that send messages as well, and failure to maintain solid eye contact with an associate, client or boss can prevent you from building critical business relationships, says Inc. Eye contact cues are subtle, to be sure, but they can make all the difference when trying to read the other party’s emotions, from approval to disdain to any other emotion on the spectrum that can’t be determined from an email.

A business venture or collaboration, such as negotiating a merger or even asking your boss for a raise, can balance precariously on how you handle a face-to-face conversation. You wouldn’t ask for that raise with your face in your phone, and you certainly wouldn’t negotiate a big business deal or merger over email. That’s why the personal connection is crucial for conducting insightful discussions of mutual interest — something that was just par for the course before the telephone was even invented, points out ToughNickel. The art of conversation has largely been lost, dragging down our social skills in the process.

Tips for Meaningful Face-to-Face Conversations

There are many benefits that come with face-to-face human interaction, resulting in encounters and relationships that can’t be achieved remotely. From visual feedback and cultural differences to body language and eye contact, it becomes easy to understand the true value of what another is saying when you meet in person. Not only do face-to-face meetings build stronger, more meaningful business relationships, they allow for better social opportunities to bond with clients and coworkers. In addition, these meetings boost the ability to read body language and facial expressions as well as interpret nonverbal communication signals, says the Houston Chronicle. Recent studies have shown that face-to-face communication is optimal when it comes to persuasion, leadership, engagement, inspiration, decision-making, accountability and reaching a consensus.

If you have been finding that your face-to-face interaction skills are starting to erode, here are some ways you can make the most of your in-person meetings:

  • Pay attention to visual feedback.
  • Listen to what’s being said and ask questions if you don’t understand something.
  • If you are the one speaking, pay attention to body language that might indicate disinterest or confusion.
  • If you sense disinterest or confusion, respond to those visual cues by switching gears, or giving the other person the floor.

Just like any muscle, these skills take practice. From sales to customer service to boardroom meetings, face-to-face communication is vital in keeping the pulse of human interaction pumping. Let’s not lose sight of what’s truly important in business and in personal relationships as well: communication and connection. That’s what drives progress and success, something that can’t be achieved when hiding behind a phone.

a coach and high school athlete sitting in empty stadium and sharing a laughInvesting in Mentorship

Not everyone can — or should — jump into their career headlong without a plan of where they’re going. This is particularly true in today’s competitive workplace climate. Mentorships can bridge that gap between emerging into a new career and becoming a successful leader in that field. In fact, research shows that quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects within personal, academic, and professional situations, ultimately connecting them to personal growth and development, as well as social and economic opportunities, according to the National Mentoring Partnership.

Investing in the next generation of leaders depends exponentially on the guidance of a mentor. All the book smarts straight out of college can’t prepare graduates with the nitty gritty, on-your-feet-all-day, in-the-trenches work that makes up a CIO’s day. As a critical thinking, people-centric, quick learning, impeccably organized and determined professional, you know yourself just how many years it took you to get where you are now. Couldn’t you have used a mentor yourself? Someone to guide you, cut through the clutter, and offer insight that no college lecture hall can really provide?

The workforce is expanding in droves. More than one in three American workers today are Millennials, recently surpassing Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce, says the Pew Research Center. Many of them are getting jobs in leadership positions, or at least poised to inherit them in the near future, leaving a real need for practical experience that can only be gleaned by forming a bond with a seasoned professional.

Defining a Mentorship

In a nutshell, a mentor is a more experienced, usually older, professional in a given field who offers younger, less experienced employees career guidance, advice and assistance from a real world point of view. Taking part in a mentorship not only enhances your professional capabilities, you get access to a wealth of knowledge and experience, and — if you’re lucky — end up with a lifelong friend and potential future business partner, points out Forbes.

It doesn’t have to be the standard model either. A mentorship could involve a younger person guiding an older person who decided to make a career change late in life. Whatever the mentor-mentee relationship looks like, at its heart, it’s based on one person who’s “been there, done that” showing a fresh-faced up-and-comer what the real deal is.

As human beings, we’re constantly evolving and learning. Even the most experienced leader doesn’t know all there is to know about the business they’re in. A mentor can provide valuable insight to bring about perspective, positive change and awareness.

A Committed Partnership

Just remember: mentorship is nothing to take lightly. Don’t offer your services to someone who isn’t firmly committed, and don’t accept a mentorship from someone else if you’re not willing to put in the work. This is a true team effort requiring strong commitment from both parties, says Forbes. The lessons, connections, and opportunities that mentors provide offer exponential benefits — when both parties are receptive to the opportunity.

Taking this path to success involves the ability to recognize and embrace major accelerators in your career. The benefits to mentees are clear. But what about mentors? What’s in it for them? You can look at it from the perspective of leaving a legacy, passing down wisdom from one generation to the next. Mentors have the power to make a powerful impact not just within a company and the industry but for future leaders as well.

a dozen men and women in business suits all putting their hands in the middle of a circleWhat does it mean to be “winning”? Does it mean you’re successful every step of the way? Does it mean you make the most money over your competitors? Not really, at least not necessarily. Fostering workplace culture that is considered “winning” goes much further than your bottom line. It has more to do with developing and nurturing an environment that is conducive to forward-thinking, a successful mindset and a deep-down belief that you’re all in this together. If you can bring people who work for you together rather than segment them, you’re taking a solid first step.

Think about Google, JetBlue, Facebook, Apple, Disney…these are all companies that are well known for their coveted corporate cultures. Sure, they’re wildly successful, but there’s a really good reason, and that reason has everything to do with employees and customers that truly love those companies. Eighty-one percent of business leaders say a company lacking a high-performance culture is doomed to mediocrity, with fewer than 10 percent of businesses succeeding in building an empire, according to Entrepreneur.

Importance of Culture

So, why is culture so important? It will set the stage for everything you do from here on out. If you’re a startup, you may feel a bit intimidated and even terrified of this statement. But it’s true: from your hires to the way you run your daily operations, you have opportunity upon opportunity to set yourself apart from all the rest. How you treat your customers, for example, is a big chunk of that. Another big chunk? Your leadership. Leadership is about what you do rather than what you say, with a healthy company culture emerging as a direct result of a leader who understands how important company culture is to the sustained growth of the organization, points out Forbes. So, whether you run a startup out of your garage or you’re the CIO of a big technology company, get back to your roots and build a positive workplace culture right in. You can’t survive and thrive without it.

Tips to Fostering the Culture You Want

It doesn’t happen overnight, but there are ways you can integrate a positive workplace culture from the get-go. Here are some tips:

Learn from mistakes: Not just yours, but other organizations around you. Take those lessons, internalize them, learn from them, and know what it takes to cultivate success.

Align your culture with your core values: Who are you? What is your business all about? Whether philanthropic in nature or customer-focused, infuse your passion into the workplace to encourage creativity, collaboration, work hard/play hard mindset: whatever it is that drives you forward every day, foster that passion in everyone who works for you. Your brand will follow you everywhere. Make sure it aligns with your core values.

Insist on open communication: The ability to build honesty among your staff is built on communication. Talking with each other is key. Encourage your staff to come to you with concerns, and address those concerns quickly. Make sure everyone knows their opinions are valued.

Have some fun: From craft beer Fridays to company outings to team building exercises like rock climbing or wine tastings, there are many ways you can join your staff together in a common interest and let off steam at the same time. Connecting on a level that doesn’t involve work always brings people closer together.

Be a community of believers: If your employees don’t believe inherently in what you do or sell, they can’t fully back it. Place a big emphasis on internal communication and orientation, and you’ll see results. Sustaining a positive work atmosphere means you have to show your employees why the brand they’re promoting is so great.

Work together: Building a sense of community begins and ends with a solid team. Rather than segregating departments of units, promote unity through all levels of your company, from founders to management to executives.

Grow your culture: This isn’t a “set it and forget it” job. Fostering a company culture that will survive takes continual effort. Like a lawn without water, your culture will die a slow death if you neglect it. Give your organization the freedom it needs to thrive and evolve. Remember, you will see fluctuations as it grows. This is normal and expected.

Whether you’re the genius behind a cool startup, or you’re the new CIO of a long-established company in need of a change of vision, you have the power to establish a winning culture people want to be a part of.

four young diverse people smiling and all putting their hands in the middle to celebrateBuilding Foundational Relationships

Having a cohesive unit in the workplace ensures team camaraderie and, ultimately, success on any project you may take on. “It takes a village” isn’t just a saying that applies to raising children. It also applies in the workplace, on every level of management. As the CIO, it’s your job to build, encourage and foster that camaraderie so that it infiltrates every sector of your team. That’s how goals are met, marathons won, and deals made. It’s about more than the end game, though. It’s more important to have a cohesive team working in unison like a well-oiled machine through every stage in the process. When a team is disjointed, any bump in the road could derail the train. When acting in unison, a team can weather any storm.

According to LinkedIn, employees who work in an environment marked by friendship and laughter will be more creative and less stressed, which equals higher productivity and increased innovation. In addition to that, collaboration in pursuit of a common goal bridges gaps and makes people feel more connected to one another.

How can you go about building team camaraderie?

Address conflict head on: Most people think that if they can just avoid conflict and keep the peace with other members of the group, they can avoid those uncomfortable disagreements that can damage a team. However, just the opposite is true. Conflict that’s not resolved properly will fester over time, causing far more damage to the team than if it were discussed head on earlier.

Respect the differences of your team: Everyone brings something unique to the team dynamic. Not everyone will be good at leading a meeting, and not everyone will be good at strategizing. The important thing is that every team member brings his own strengths to the table. As the CIO, it’s important for you to recognize the value each person walks into that conference room with. When you value a team member for his strengths rather than weaknesses, this bolsters the strengths of everyone else in the room.

Let each team member own their portion of the project: Every project, group and team needs a leader, that’s a fact. However, when that leader tries to own every aspect of the goal and has trouble trusting others or delegating tasks, the rest of the team feels under-valued, under-appreciated, and under-utilized. Delegating properly means you are giving a piece of the project away to each team member, entrusting them to follow through and own that portion of the responsibility. Your team members will then feel like they’re integral to the outcome, rather than just a cog in the machine.

Involve the team in something other than work: Team building begins with people, and when you foster that basic desire to learn about one another and motivate one another, you can expect much better results when it comes time to actually work. Forget the competitions that pit employee against employee to achieve the highest sales for the month. One way to do that is to involve your team in some kind of office goal, such as a health or fitness plan. Give each member of the team a step tracker and reward the person with the most steps taken each month. A simple goal…a clear objective…a healthy way to encourage team work…often this is the ice breaker that allows you to bring your group together.

Break out of the norm: Teachers do it all the time when their kids need to get out of the classroom setting and into an adaptive and interactive learning experience: they take a field trip. Your team needs a break too. You don’t always have to hold stifled meetings in the board room. Take them out for coffee, treat them to lunch, or suggest a casual meeting outside on a nice day under a shady tree. Sometimes a change of scenery can go a long way toward re-charging everyone’s batteries, inspiring a new line of thinking, or sparking a creative idea.

Celebrate successes: Just like winning a race you’ve been working hard for with a few of your peers, sharing team successes on a project that benefits the company is just as important. Foster this sense of connection and commitment between peers after facing a common challenge, working together to achieve success, and coming out on top. Sharing those stories and recounting how everyone overcame obstacles to achieve the desired result is a huge boost to morale.

In the end, it’s all about bringing positivity to the team and fostering an environment of open collaboration, says the Harvard Business Review.  As CIO, you can achieve that by:

  • Maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends.
  • Supporting one another.
  • Avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes.
  • Inspiring each other’s work.
  • Emphasizing the meaningfulness of the team’s work.
  • Treating everyone with respect, gratitude, integrity and trust.

Remember: it doesn’t matter how smart, talented or driven you are, says Inc.com, your organization’s success ultimately rests with your ability to build, nurture and inspire a great team.

Coloful graphic of many lights, lines and abstracts that surround a digital head of a futuristic robot

We know that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hot topic right now, yet on the flip side there has been criticism around its hype, especially at HIMSS17 this year. However, we need to continue to invest into AI Research and Development so we can maximize the benefits, such as lower healthcare costs, improved provider efficiency, more accurate billing, and safer patient care.

Will Robots Replace Us?

It’s unlikely that robots and computers will totally take the place of doctors and nurses, but AI can’t be ignored in its efforts to revolutionize the healthcare industry. Not only does it predict outcomes and improve diagnostics, it changes the way healthcare providers think about how they provide care, says Forbes. The future possibilities are endless: industry analysts say that 30 percent of providers will use cognitive analytics with patient data by 2018.

Access to big data is essential. Think about how we grew up with the Dewey Decimal system. A trip to the library could take hours as we pored through the stacks trying to find what we wanted. Today, our kids are astonished that we didn’t have Google at our fingertips to learn anything we wanted to know. With the advent of AI quickly taking over the horizon, our kids’ kids will be the ones shocked that all their parents had to learn information was a simple computer and search engine. Just like that, the future takes hold even when we can’t comprehend the next step.

The Reach of AI

There are many ways artificial intelligence is predicted to impact the field of healthcare. Personalized medicine is one major benefit. AI is part of a far-reaching, continually growing, adaptive connected digital infrastructure. However, access is limited because there is just so much information out there. With the help of AI, it will become easier than ever to process, analyze and bring up research, publications, studies and more than can put accurate, timely information into the hands of the user. Healthcare providers now have the ability to use this information as a tool to compare, compile and analyze patient files in order to come up with an accurate diagnosis.

In addition to quick access, precision is a critical piece of the puzzle as well. Because AI has the ability to tap into huge databases that contain information on anything from symptoms and analysis results to family history and similar diagnoses of other patients around the world. The evolution of pathology and possible treatments has suddenly been made precise. While AI can’t prevent all errors — at least not yet anyway — it can drastically reduce them. This in turn will reduce operating room mix-ups, mis-diagnoses, and more.

That leads us to the next important component of artificial intelligence: prevention. With the focus being on preventive and predictive medicine, it’s possible with AI to avoid injury and disease altogether.

The value of virtual assistants has already been explored and used within other industries, such as SEM and retail. The goal there is to put more power in the hands of the consumer. Why not empower patients in the same way?

Understandably, advances in big data and AI pose ethical debates, especially within the healthcare sector (think personnel shortages, legal responsibilities, privacy issues, potential misuse of the system, etc.). However, there are so many more benefits that can revolutionize the way we practice medicine, treat patients, and indeed view our entire medical future.

Blue sign with white letters that says Self-Service

True Self-Service

It’s ironic that the more ways to contact a company these days, from social media and phone to email and web, the less people actually want to interact. Most consumers actually prefer relying on a company’s website to get the information they need. According to Forrester, 72% of online consumers would rather use a company’s web site to get answers to their questions rather than contact companies via telephone or email, and about half this number strongly prefers self-reliance. Knowing that more research supports the fact that people would rather help themselves than call a company for support means you have to deliver top-notch self-service in order to ensure success of your business.

What does this entail? Essentially, you have to put all your information where your consumers can easily view and access it. Sounds easy, right? Well, it’s a little more complicated than that.

Steps to Fostering Self-Reliance

First off, you have to gather all your information into one place. This could be anything from an FAQ page to a knowledge base to a support center offering interactive and multi-media resources. The one you choose will depend, of course, on your existing knowledge base, your own staffing resources, your budget and your web presence. That’s actually the easy part. The difficult part comes when you realize you have to make that information center user-friendly. That starts with a clear plan of attack.

Here are some tips to getting there.

  • Step into your customers’ shoes. Think about their pain points, what challenges they face, what they struggle with, and what they think about your product or service. Then, you can start to utilize that information to formulate a structure to your content and prioritize each piece.
  • Make it consistent. Consistency across content types is important because it gives your customers a clear way to navigate the knowledge base and find out what they need to know — fast. You risk losing potential clients if you make them search for information for precious minutes on end.
  • Include a search tool. Make it big and make it prominent, preferably on the home page of your knowledge base, so that your customers don’t have to waste time sifting through information.
  • Use tools like Google Analytics to gather data that illustrates what your customers want. This way, you can gain invaluable insight into the needs of consumers and build a collection of articles and other resources that meet those needs. With the right tools, it’s easy to track things like unique visitors, session length, number of visits, number of page views, etc. and use the results to your advantage.

It’s important to recognize that there is a time and place for interaction on the phone. Sometimes there are issues that consumers simply can’t resolve on their own. Perhaps they have a complicated question about a service, product or experience, or maybe they need to be reassured that an item will be shipped because they’re facing a crazy tight deadline. Whatever the case, increasing your self-service resources for your consumers doesn’t mean replacing telephone and other types of customer service. Entrepreneur points out that customers want to be able to quickly and easily connect with a human being to bring a fast resolution to their problem if need be. This is why you should always have a “guardian of the transaction” watching over the encounter in order to provide additional customer service to round out the experience.

Improved self-service, virtual agents, live chats, and more can all contribute to the overall satisfaction of your customers. However you achieve it, the bottom line is that your business experiences success, and self-service is one solid route to get there.

Smiling young woman in business suit with arms crossed leaning back against wallAgility…patience…poise…unwavering strength…these are all qualities displayed by true leaders in times of uncertainty. There are many things that can contribute to uncertainty, from increased marketplace demands to competitive factors. Leaders must display confidence to minimize the impact of uncertainty; indeed, how leaders respond to growing pressures directly speaks to their leadership preparedness, maturity and acumen, according to Forbes.

Mental and Physical Composure

This composure can be seen not just in what leaders say but how they carry themselves. From attitude to body language, leadership in its most basic form is all about making colleagues feel safe and secure and not just about helping them increase their performance and effectiveness. Employees are sick of running on empty, trying to get ahead just to survive the jungle that is the workplace. They want to know they have a place in that workplace with a leader who will ensure their job security in tumultuous times. No one can do their best job during the day when they’re constantly looking over their shoulders and fearing for their jobs.


Avoiding Crisis Mode

Too many CIOs and other leaders are thrown for a loop when difficult situations are presented to them. While they may have all the credentials and experience in the world, some simply can’t handle the pressure of maintaining composure during times of crisis and change. This leads to ineffective leadership because those individuals can’t adapt to the unexpected. A true leader can stand above the chaos, see it as a chance for opportunity, maintain composure, and overcome that adversity. They can see beyond the present, institute change, and see it through to the other side. Instead of panic, there is calm.

This doesn’t mean the leader is a push-over. This doesn’t mean he or she is lacking in temerity, steadfastness and grit. It means the leader pushes through the noise, sees it for what it is, and institutes a clear objective without backing down. There’s no doubt that uncertain times can test the mettle of even the strongest of companies. This is precisely when solid leaders must act in a decisive manner, setting an example that all can follow with confidence. 

Tips for the Confident Leader

1. Keep emotions at bay: Wearing your heart on your sleeve may be good in love and romance, but it has no place at work in positions of leadership. Good leaders don’t let their emotions get the best of them; they don’t yell, panic, stress out, or cast blame. They keep their feelings in check, push through and channel that passion into a positive outlet of energy: solving the problem at hand quickly and efficiently. Expending all that emotional energy wastes opportunity and only tires you out for the real task.

2. Don’t get defensive: It’s natural for people to take things personally in the work place when things don’t go their way, assuming the unfair reality of office politics is the culprit. But while office politics does exist, the true leader doesn’t take a defensive stance; rather he takes a proactive stance. It’s a simple reality that business decisions won’t always go your way. That’s part of living in a society. How you maintain composure and move on during those times of seeming unfairness will make all the difference. We all know people in our professional and personal lives who figuratively stomp their feet and say “that’s not fair!” every time they don’t get their way. Strong leaders don’t waste time on taking things personally.

3. Stay fearless. Showing vulnerability or uncertainty is catching — just like a cold. Rather than infect your staff with fear, take a fearless leader approach and project a sense of calm under pressure. The projection of confidence helps you to act rationally, objectively, and fearlessly. And — also like a cold — that fearless attitude is catching among your staff. Having the confidence to step up to challenges without wavering will put a positive spin on those challenges and allow you to work through them with a clear head.

4. Of course, your health and wellness goes without saying. Studies have shown that those with a regular exercise regimen carry a more confident persona. 

Maintaining confidence in your position of leadership is imperative in showing your colleagues and employees the right path.