Trends That Will Emerge During The Transition From B.C. To A.D.

People around the world know what the traditional terms B.C. and A.D. are. A.D. comes from the Latin phrase “anno domini,” meaning, “in the year of our Lord.” B.C. stands for “Before Christ.”

However, B.C. and A.D. can now take on different meanings for corporations: “before the coronavirus” (the virus that causes COVID-19) and “after drug discovery.”

What a change just a few weeks can make. Before the crisis, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was trading at an all-time high, and the global population was on the move. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, things are being disrupted in ways no one could have imagined.

As with all previous crises of the last 50 years, this will also pass. At some point, scientists will find a vaccine that will cure or slow down the spread of the virus. What I can do is to take a look at the crystal ball and predict some elements that I believe will come into force in corporate life.

1. Video communication software tools will become de facto tools of communication mechanisms.

In the span of one week, Microsoft Teams usage jumped by 12 million to 44 million users a day. Meanwhile, Slack added more paid customers in six weeks than it did in both Q3 and Q4. KeyBanc analyst Alex Kurtz told The Street that Zoom had a “35% y/y increase in the first two weeks of March vs. the first two weeks of March 2019 with outsized growth in the second week of March vs. the first (when WFH became more standardized).”

I believe companies will need to change their organizational culture and prepare themselves for Generation Z, which will use these new technologies seamlessly. They will need to upgrade their current technology infrastructure as well as policies such as “bring your own device” (BYOD).

They will also face a new wave of cybersecurity challenges as well as privacy issues. Robust cybersecurity systems will need to be put in place. Also, employees will need to be trained diligently to handle any challenges. Particularly with a video conference call, any disgruntled employee can leak a video and create major chaos.

2. New startups will change the way management of remote workers will be engaged.

A video-based time-tracking system by either an existing company or a new startup may emerge. There are a number of remote time-tracking systems. Tools like Time Doctor allow employers to see screenshots of employees working from home. As working from home becomes more pervasive, more tools will start capturing different aspects of time-tracking remote workers, including tracking video calls, email time, keystroke mapping, document writing time and so on.

Many of these companies have started seeing a significant uptick in usage. As the pandemic shifts the working patterns of companies around the world, they will respond by introducing new means to track the effectiveness of remote working.

Many larger corporations will have to set up processes and guidelines to encourage people to set up proper work-from-home locations. This will be in alignment with the BYOD movement of cellphone adoption that swept through corporate America over the last decade. Initially, almost every large corporation was stuck to just BlackBerry. Today, any employee can pretty much choose any type of phone; the company can deploy mobile data management tools such as AirWatch, and the employee is in the corporate network seamlessly.

3. The retail industry will go through a dramatic change.

Everything from shopping carts to checkouts will be changed courtesy of social distancing. Even though e-commerce will continue to eat into traditional retail, many big-box stores such as Walmart, Target and Costco will continue to thrive as they adapt to new market conditions.

I believe most bigger retailers will switch to automated checkouts. Amazon went a step ahead and announced it will start selling its checkout technology to third-party retailers. In early 2020, Walmart announced a new cashier-less store. Like this, almost every major retailer that survives following the pandemic will be left with no choice but to adapt their business model.

Other corporations can adapt to these pioneering attempts and fix their platforms by changing their customer-facing activities as well as their supply chain-related activities and introducing new technologies such as computer vision developed by startups like Robotic VISION Technologies, Saara Inc. and Inspekto. These technologies could save billions of dollars in the supply chain wastages of large enterprises.

Corporations will likely face union pressures as unemployment mounts following the crisis. Many workers will resist the adoption of new technologies for the fear of losing their jobs. It will be imperative for management to handle the change-management issues and nudge the organizations to use these newer technologies in a smooth way. With these new technologies, companies will eventually thrive in the new markets.

While I believe there will be multiple changes that will come from this pandemic, just remember that this crisis will pass.

“Who” beats all

The Importance Of Asking ‘Who’ Questions

A couple of years ago, I wrote a book called Nothing to Nasdaq. The main thesis was a framework Dr. Art Langer and I developed at Columbia University. Based on this framework, we had come up with a seven-character initialism of SNSNSFTP (strategy, negotiations, sales, networking, finance, technology and people). The initial thinking was if you put the right people at the center of all activities, a great product or company will emerge.

Dr. Langer and I have deliberated further on this concept and have evolved our original hypothesis. Answering the age-old 5Ws and 1H (who, what, where, when, why and how) will provide solutions to all planning. These 5Ws and 1H have been instrumental for critical thinkers, investigators and even journalists.

We can evaluate these 5Ws and 1H from a business planning perspective. Let’s say your customer or your CEO asks you to implement a CRM system. Let’s imagine the sequence of events. In most of the seminars we have taught, the immediate response from executives is usually, “How do I implement this?”

But we almost never think of “Why should we implement ?” as the starting point. When we nudge people with a few follow-up questions, participants become aware that one has to start with the question of why. Let’s say there is clarity in the purpose of why, then comes the question of “When should this be implemented?” If the answer from your customer or boss is in the next few hours, then you better rush to get to the next available CRM or a SaaS solution you can find, depending on the importance of the assignment. If it is worth a few million dollars, then it may be worthwhile to spend on great software. If the customer or CEO had answered 300 days from today, then you could have slowly planned your implementation in a far smoother way.

Once you have addressed “why” and “when” questions, you certainly need to find answers to what and where. Those are easy now that you know the flow. Then comes the “how” question, be it an on-premise solution or a cloud-based one.

But the more deeply you process this thesis, the more clear it becomes that the priority goes to who. In all aspects of the journey, from a question (be it by a customer or CEO) to the answer, it becomes all about who.

Whether you’re running a software company or a furniture company, we all tend to believe what or how dominates the decision-making process. But eventually, we always arrive at who made a choice or decision. As we continue to be suffocated with information overload, it becomes extremely critical for us to know who is making the call. Even in the democratic nature of the information that is available on the internet, it is becoming more and more important to understand the credibility of the origin of the news we consume.

Technology search algorithms like Google have made an industry out of deciding who is more authentic than others via its page rank algorithms. As of this writing, there are more than 1 billion websites, and that number continues to grow every minute. In this wild jungle of information, how do you find the right information? That is why Google’s page ranking goes by the authenticity of a website itself based on more than 200 factors like the age of the site, the keywords and so on.

If you look at a macro level, Google is trying to find who is the author even before it finds what or any other questions. Authenticity is decided in a split second and then the site rank is assigned for you to consume the data.

So, most of the modern-day decision-making is happening via the first step of Google. Whomever Google searches rank as high becomes the de facto origin of our content creation or consumption. Can you imagine if Google started providing unauthentic data? The whole world would be in total chaos.

So let’s take a moment to apply all of this to organization building? When we are presented with a challenge or a project, instead of immediately thinking about how we can get it done or look at what is needed to be done, what if we ask, who is the best person to solve this?

I would reccomend that business leaders of a company ask the following questions when they’re getting ready to start their next project or are in the midst of dealing with a challenge:

Who is the ideal person or team we can get to handle this project?

Who should be the leader?

Who should we learn from (an advisor or a consultant)?

Once these questions are clearly answered, then this group of “who” questions should help answer the “why” question. With clear and specific answers to “why” questions, the core purpose will emerge.

The majority of IT projects that fail to meet deadlines or go over budget happen exactly because of these issues. If organizations chose “who” questions way ahead of” what” and “how” questions, the costs of fixing such initiatives need not even arise.

This is where having a great recruiter in a team helps enormously. There is no company that has achieved greatness without having a small group of extraordinary recruiters. Getting the right who on your team is both a science and an art. That’s why you need great recruiting capabilities.

Whether it is human intelligence-based decision-making or Google-type artificial intelligence, remember the importance of always asking “who” questions.

Super Productivity Tools

All of us want to achieve peak performance in both our personal and professional lives. We want to have more time to enjoy pursuits that bring us joy. The Merriam-Webster dictionary has two definitions for the word “productivity:”

1. The quality or state of being productive.
2. The rate per unit or area per unit volume at which biomass consumable as food by other organisms is made by producers.

No one wants the measurement of biomass consumable as food as their ideal state of productivity. Let’s set aside the funnier version and focus on the first definition of productivity.
Being highly productive as an executive requires you to possess a set of qualities or a state of mind that help you produce more output. The good news is that you can put in the work to achieve those qualities and also that state of mind. Many of us were likely told as children that we needed to work hard to get ahead in life. In an industrial or even an agricultural era, that mindset was appropriate.

There was a time when farm laborers had to struggle and work hard to till the land and produce crops. It was no different during the industrial revolution. A factory worker had to work hard every hour to achieve the required outputs. However, in my opinion, this ingrained concept of hard work is irrelevant in the post-2000 knowledge era.

In today’s day and age, most executives are not tilling the land or working in a factory. In this era of high-tech gadgets and unlimited access to knowledge, an executive has to develop new qualities and an agile state of mind to harness resources.

Better Call Siri, Alexa, Google And Then Lastly Saul

Have you ever seen the television shows Breaking BadBetter Call Saul or Boston Legal?

As an executive, you have a bunch of lawyer friends, and you know that you can call one of them for your legal challenges or opportunities. It could be a merger and acquisition deal or a financing agreement with a bank or financial institution. Either way, you know who to call. These lawyers, naturally, are not a cheap or small investment, and no one would ever think their jobs were under attack.

But, there is a new kind of threat to these elite white-collar lawyers: artificial intelligence.

AI’s Role In The Law

A recent study by LawGeex pitted their artificial intelligence (AI) system against 20 human lawyers to test the system’s efficiency in reviewing contracts. LawGeex’s system and the lawyers were asked to review the risks in five nondisclosure agreements. The humans had four hours to study the contracts. The lawyers took an average of 92 minutes to complete their review of the five NDAs and arrived at an accuracy level of 85%. The AI system took a full 26 seconds to complete its review of all 5 NDAs and achieved an accuracy level of 94%.

In yet another bizarre turn of events, a court in New Hampshire ordered Amazon to turn over all of the recordings compiled by an Alexa device that police thought “witnessed” a double homicide. What if the alleged murderer used Google Maps to arrive at the victims’ home and Alexa listened to the actual event? Who will the attorneys question? Are we on the road to a society where Siri and Alexa are interrogated by other AI systems — systems that can compose thousands of questions in a second for Alexa or Siri to answer in a nanosecond?

What will happen when AI systems installed in two different cars report an accident automatically? If they don’t agree with each other in regard to who is at fault, would a jury summon both sides to the stand, and will the resulting legal battle be fought by technology?

Is Artificial Intelligence Really Disrupting Travel?

We have been hearing for months that AI will kill millions of jobs — that technology will take over all aspects of the travel industry and so on.

Let’s take this onslaught of information and clinically dissect it to get a clearer view of how the travel industry will be affected. We can broadly define the core aspects of the travel industry in three main categories: preparation, buying and the actual experience itself.

1. Preparation

Assume you want to go from New York to London on vacation. If you are bringing your family of four or five people, you will likely end up searching for hours on various search engines like Kayak or Expedia to get the right itinerary and number of stops, book the nearest airport, etc. This is a time-consuming and frustrating part of the vacation planning process.

Finding the right prices, times and quality is the primary challenge every vacation traveler faces online. This applies to everything, from flights to booking hotels.

This might come as a shock to people, as technology has proliferated across all aspects of the travel industry. But companies have put too much focus on technology and have forgotten that customer service is very important. Try to speak to a customer service representative at one of the many online travel agencies (OTAs). Wait times for these agencies can be brutally long, especially during emergencies.

AI will hopefully solve some of these issues. Specialized algorithms can seamlessly transition between humans and systems when an OTA is handling an irate customer. Google’s data shows that 36% of consumers are willing to pay more for these personalized experiences. However, a poor customer experience will not be fully saved by new technology — at least not immediately.

2. Buying

There are so many prices and restrictions when making a travel purchase, and customers feel helpless in most cases. We are seeing that because of these reasons, many customers are switching back to travel agents.

The Secret To Successful Startups

Nana korobi ya oki

This statement is particularly true for tech startups. Historically, some of the most successful startups show that you have to keep trying until you find the proverbial “product-market fit.” What does this mean? Marc Andreessen (co-founder of Netscape and Andreessen Horowitz) defines the term as follows: “Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.”

In order to find a good product-market fit, a startup has to fail multiple times.

Airbnb, one of the most successful companies in recent times, has faced countless setbacks. The founders ran out of a stack of credit cards and even tried selling John McCain and Barack Obama-themed cereal.

Along with the struggle of dealing with setbacks, startups go through a phase of shifting from idea to idea. Not many people might be aware of it, but the creators of YouTube envisioned the site to be a video dating service. Even famous e-commerce software behemoth Shopify started as a small online retailer that sold snowboards.

This idea of nana karobi ya oki doesn’t have to hold true only for startups. Two young men who quit Yahoo and were rejected by Facebook went on to build a product company, WhatsApp, which is used around the world. The irony is that Facebook later bought the company for a whopping $19 billion.

But perhaps one of the most prominent entrepreneurs who’s dealt with rejection is Jack Ma of Alibaba, who was famously rejected for a job at KFC. He had failed his university’s entrance exam twice and was rejected from dozens of other jobs as well. Considering his history and how he was eventually able to build one of the world’s largest companies, it’s nothing short of an amazing achievement.

Why Creating Memorable Experiences Is Good For Business

I’ve found that senior business executives, entrepreneurs and employees climbing the ladder all have a common goal, and it isn’t success, power or fame. On a very basic level, what drives everyone is a desire to create happy and memorable experiences, both for yourself and for the people around you. Take Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, for example. He has said publicly that he takes six weeks of vacation per year, often spending that time outdoors, where he says he does his best thinking. I agree with his approach; for the past 28 years, I have leaned on memory-enhancing experiences to improve my own executive performance.

Try a small experiment. Think about the past week, or even the past year, and try to list some of the best moments of your life in that time period. What made those experiences memorable? Did you know while the event was happening that it would be memorable? Or did you only realize it was a memorable event when you took the time to reflect?

If your mind was flooded with too many experiences, you are a mostly joyous person. You have the ability to create positive experiences not just for yourself, but for others as well. On the other hand, if your mind wasn’t flooded with memories, there’s hope: You can learn to create these experiences.

Giving Creates More Lasting Memories

Can you remember how you celebrated your birthday three years ago? Maybe you cut a nice cake, ate at a wonderful restaurant and received expensive gifts — that you probably can’t recall. For your next birthday, try something different. Go to an orphanage or an assisted living home and serve a meal. This may turn out to be your most memorable birthday. I recently relayed this concept to a CEO at a large retail company. He is now planning a company event to celebrate 100 orphaned kids’ birthdays, offering an incredibly memorable experience not just for the children, but also for his team.

Invest In Experiences, Not Things

A study done by a Cornell University professor found that people get more happiness from experiences than they do from material goods. The findings say that though physical objects outlive experiences, they don’t have a profound impact on your memory.

What If Wearable Technologies Can Track Our Emotions?

One of the questions most executives ask themselves in regard to their employees and their organizations is: “How do we achieve peak performance on a continuous basis?”

Attaining peak performance is almost always about understanding one’s physiology and gaining a better control of emotions, thus enabling smarter decision making. Every success, failure, or opportunity seized or missed is the result of a decision that someone made or failed to make. In neuroscience terms, all decisions are initially driven by feelings, after which they are justified by reason or logic. In effect, dismissing or suppressing emotions causes the brain to underperform.

What if this could be rectified through emotion engineering or wearable technology that can “feel” emotions? Decision making boils down to the emotions of the individual making a decision. Technology is at its most seductive when it offers to meet our vulnerabilities, and tech entrepreneurs the world over are racing to claim a new technical frontier: human emotions.

According to Gartner, “By 2022, 10% of personal devices will have emotion AI capabilities, either on-device or via cloud services, up from less than 1% in 2018.”

Is Emotion Engineering The Next Big Field Of Study?
Science and technology are still in the early stages of finding the right answers to that question, but as an initial take, this engineering will involve a deeper analysis of DOSE: dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins.

DOSE are mood-elevating neurotransmitters that influence our moods, sleep, behavior, reactions and decisions.

Can we stimulate a new happy feeling by introducing a burst of brain activity by inducing one of these chemicals, which will, in turn, help us make better decisions? Can DOSE help maintain equanimity in the face of all odds? And is there some sort of yet-to-be-created app that will somehow be able to monitor these neurotransmitters?

Banking is Dead….Long live Blockchain Banking

The global finance industry is massive. Global assets under management (AUM) is approximately $85 Trillions (–145.4-trillion-by-2025/s/e236a113-5115-4421-9c75-77191733f15f)

This massive industry is under attack from various angles. Yesterday I was at a brick and mortar bank. I like my client services manager (Let’s call him Mr.W).

Mr.W is a super cool guy and he is always smiling. But he couldn’t get me a simple transfer from one bank in US to another in India. It takes 5 business days!! Yes FIVE business days. And they call that service as some express or urgent service. And I have to go back to the bank again in 4 days!!

I asked him the alternative method. It happened to be the good old Wiring. The cost associated was “$50+”. Yes FIFTY dollars to send $465 dollars.

I was stunned and obviously frustrated. I have been a customer for years and this took me by surprise. Then I realized that tech will eat a lot of these businesses.

Blockchain WILL disrupt this industry for sure. Imagine a service which is nearly INSTANTANEOUS and almost FREE and can do it from your home or sitting in an airport or anywhere! It is already happening in various parts of the world. You can transfer money with WeChat, Whatsapp, even Facebook messenger. In US, there is a service called Zelle (with too many restrictions), still works.

You can send money to a cell phone or email!!! But US banks wont allow to send to another bank. And my dear banker printed me 5 pages of KYC to send $465 🙂 God bless the banker.

I recall this article which showed that out of Fortune500 in last 50 years, 84% of them are dead today.

In next 10 years, I am happy to predict just a few banks will remain in Fortune 500. Most financial institutions will have either embraced blockchain fully and tightly OR they will be gone.

Banking is Dead….Long live Blockchain Banking

Gratitude – 2017 ; Welcome – 2018

Dear 2017,

I have fond memories of you. This past year has been absolutely amazing. Wanted to thank all my family, friends, colleagues,  advisors, together with known acquaintances and unknown angels who have helped me in this wonderful year!

Very pleased with the last 365 days as it helped me accomplish a decent amount. Here is a small but significant list.

Big bucket list items:

  1. Teaching in Columbia University ( . This was one of the biggest moments of my life. Having been born in a family of teachers, we have always considered teaching as the most important profession. I am sure my parents (especially my father) would have been very happy to see me follow in his footsteps and teach. I am really thankful to the university and Dr. Langer for this opportunity.
  2. Becoming E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year (NJ) ( This was professionally very important as I have seen both successes and failures. I am really grateful to the E&Y team for this award.                 
  3. Finally, Ameri100 getting listed on Nasdaq was a dream come true. I had been dreaming this for too long. ( We rang the Nasdaq closing bell on November 2017, and this bell ringing has been a dizzying experience. I am very thankful for my brother Dev Nidhi, other colleagues and board members/investors and equally important advisors of Ameri100.                           
  4. Personally, I hit a high in 2017. Managed to fast for 40 Fridays in total (Absolutely not continuously – Every Friday for 40 weeks).  The trigger to this was from the all time classic book I read of Herman Hesse’s book Siddhartha. There he talks about 3 most important qualities. “I can Think – I can Wait – I can Fast”. I had never done fasting ever in my life by choice. Early Jan 2017 I started fasting and did it for the next 40 weeks! It is an experience one can not write, read and understand. Therefore, you must experience it yourself. This is almost like the Vipassana, which I had tried a couple of years back.
  5. In addition, one personal high was, I hit reading altogether 40 books this year, even though I had planned 52 books. There is still so much to read and so much more to learn.

Two small personal highs :

Got over the mini-bucket-list items Para Sailing and snorkeling.

What a way to say goodbye to 2017.

Welcome 2018

I am still toying with few new ideas (3 B2B and one B2C). If any of you is interested in being a part of a new startup, please send me an email.


Giri Devanur