SIG Speaks Blog

5 Smart (and Easy) Ways to Add Humanity to Business Practices

As we move further into arguably one of the worst hurricane seasons in history, our minds and hearts become even more focused on those who were affected by some of the most recent hurricanes. Each news outlet has been sharing the accounts of ordinary people performing heroic acts to save the lives of their neighbors and even strangers. In times of natural disasters, we often find our humanity and the need to reach out a hand to those in desperate need.

I wonder what happens when tragedy is not raining down? Where is the humanity? I would suggest that it is ever present if we choose to look for it. Humanity is shown in the small acts of kindness such as when a stranger goes out of their way to help someone with their luggage, or when a wallet is found and returned in complete condition.

Gandhi stated, “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

In business, leaders must be the humanity, providing servant leadership to our teams as they struggle through the daily work challenges. We must remember that our role as leaders is likened to that of a silent hero, focused on helping others in a time of need and without personal recognition. 

Here are five things you can do right now to add humanity into your work culture:

Mark Pollack, Vice President, SIG University and Chief Strategy Officer, SIG

Calm Yourself, the Storm Will Pass

mental-health

Have you ever tried having a productive day at work after being involved in a head on collision the previous day? It is pretty rough! The concussion sure made it hard to focus on what Sally was explaining at the executive meeting.  You did not make the best decisions that day and I’m pretty sure you ruined your chances of bringing that one strategic partnership to fruition when your slurred speech was mistaken for intoxication. Actually, I bet you didn’t go to work the next day and I bet your employer told you to take the time you needed to heal, see the right doctors and come back stronger. Physical health issues can affect anyone at any time. For that reason, many workers are given medical insurance, sick time and other benefits to ensure they can recuperate before returning to the work place.

Yet, less visible injuries occur to our mental health and they can be just as frequent and debilitating. However, rather than providing the necessary support to workers, many are not given benefits to take time off or get a mental health checkup. Rather than receiving well wishes of getting better, most people with mental health issues deal with them in quiet because of stigmas that exist. 

I decided to write my blog this week on this topic after being inundated with news reports in the recent days, weeks, months and unfortunately even years of crime and other tragic outcomes related to various forms of hate, anger and frustration.  As I question my bi-racial child’s future in a hate entrenched society, and reflect on the loss of a friend at the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando last year, I can’t help but think that there has got to be something that could have been done to prevent this. Is there something I can do? Is there something anyone can do other than teach our children how to show compassion, consideration and love for others?

Liz Mantovani, Senior Manager of Innovation, SIG

Happiness at Work: The Worst-Kept Secret Ingredient for a Unique Work Experience

Think of a great workplace. What sets it apart from the rest?

Nearly 70 percent of employees globally agree that happiness at work is the best ingredient for a unique work experience, according to a new JLL study on the human experience in corporate workplaces. In a survey of more than 7,000 employees in 12 countries, JLL found that the “human experience” means far more than work-life balance concerns, but encompasses how empowered, engaged and fulfilled employees feel in the workplace.

Savvy C-suite executives today see a direct correlation between a productive workplace and a healthy balance sheet. Despite advances in workplace technology and increasing levels of automation in corporate real estate management itself, the facilities and workplace are ultimately about the people they house. Organizations ignore this reality at their peril.

From a real estate perspective, companies need to think about whether their real estate offers the right locations, technology and design to inspire the best from their employees. In an era of rapid business change and stiff competition for talent, creating memorable, engaging workplace experiences is more important than ever for organizational success.

JLL’s new research, Workplace Powered by Human Experience, looks at how the workplace experience and a focus on people can help businesses thrive in the new world of work. The key takeaway? Three priorities drive the human experience in today’s workplace: engagement, empowerment and fulfillment.

Engagement comes first                              

Ed Nolan, Managing Director, Workplace Strategy, JLL

Disruptive Questions in an Exponential World

strategy

I recently finished two-and-a-half days at Singularity University’s Global Summit (not to be confused with our own SIG Global Summit!). It was an incredible, mind-blowing, education-packed few days. Singularity packs their event with high-energy speakers who speak passionately on their area of expertise. I heard presentations on virtual reality, augmented reality, healthcare, leadership, socially responsible business, entrepreneurship, the future of work and so much more. The presentations covered a wide variety of topics, but they all had one thing in common…they all made you think about the possibilities…they all challenged the status quo…and they all embraced the concept that disruptive technologies are changing our world exponentially.

No session covered this better than keynote David Roberts whose core message was that slight variations in key assumptions could have a HUGE impact on our future. In his impassioned, funny and moving presentation Roberts connected the dots on some of the most exponential technologies our world has seen by asking everyone to consider some “what ifs” in life. His enthusiastic presentation and challenging questions inspired me to dig further.

What if…your phone was smarter than you? In 2013, Gartner predicted that by 2017 smart phones would, in fact be smarter than humans. Are they? Artificial intelligence (AI) has certainly progressed to such a point that you might argue that they are. In an article and related research, Gartner presented four phases of cognizant computing:

Sarah Holliman, Chief Marketing Officer, SIG

Dropping the L in Machine Learning…is Machine Earning on the Horizon?

blockchain

At Singularity University’s Global Summit, keynote speaker David Roberts posed the question, “What if machines made more money than people?” Sounds crazy…but is it? With Blockchain, could that be the way of the future?

I confess that when he asked the question, I still didn’t feel comfortable enough with the concept of blockchain to have an informed opinion on the viability of it. So I did what 77% of people do when seeking information on the Web…I Googled it…and I kept Googling it until I found articles that dissected the concept well enough that it made sense. If you are equally confused by the term, hopefully this analysis will benefit you as well…because rest assured, you WILL need to understand it—especially if you work in sourcing, outsourcing or supply chain as the potential is unlimited.

Fundamentally, blockchain allows consumers to transact directly with one another without the need for an intermediary, like a bank. If you use Paypal and select “eCheck” as your payment method to reimburse a friend for say a concert ticket, it appears to go directly from you to them. In actuality it first has to clear your bank, which can take 3-5 business days, or up to 8 days if another country is involved. Blockchain removes the middleman by using digital currency (aka cryptocurrency) which can be spent with companies or people who are set up to accept it as a form of payment. The digital currency can be converted to cold, hard cash, but with thousands of companies now taking digital payments it is not really the norm.  

Sarah Holliman, Chief Marketing Officer, SIG

Don’t Cry for Argentina…Tango and Trade are Their Trump Cards

outsourcing-argentina

When most people think of Argentina, they probably think of the tango, wine, soccer fanatics or maybe the emotional play, Evita. What many may not know is that despite many setbacks and hardships, this country of proud and hardworking people has continued time and again to rise and become one of the leading exporters of products ranging from soybeans to software.

Until the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th century, Argentina was a sparsely populated country and most people lived either in small, walled towns that made pottery, grew potatoes and squash and used metal for their work, or belonged to hunter-gatherer communities. Despite the Spanish and British fighting for land and the breakup of the United Provinces into what is now Bolivia, Argentina and Uruguay, Argentina has continued to grow and develop its’ resources. The first railroad was introduced in the country in 1857 and by 1912 there were over 20,000 miles of railroad throughout Argentina, making it easier to export goods to other countries. Due to exports of wool, meat and grain, by 1900 Argentina was the richest country in Latin America and the seventh richest country in the world. At the same time, the population was booming due to a new wave of immigrants from Italy and Spain. Then Argentina, like the rest of the world, was deeply affected by the Great Depression and subsequently ruled by ineffective leaders and dictators throughout much of the next century causing Argentina to become largely indebted. After a severe recession in 2001-2002, the economy began to grow rapidly for several years. This growth occurred in part by making the peso equal to the US dollar, privatizing numerous state-run companies and using part of those proceeds to pay off debts.

Brittany Miller, Marketing Analyst, SIG

Procurement’s Secret to Driving Profits

marketing-and-profitability

What is the secret to a Fortune 500 brand’s success? Brands fail not because they lose market share, but because they lose competitive differentiation and profits. The conventional definition of a brand’s value in the provider-driven market used to be the price that the brand could command over a generic competitor. In today’s consumer-driven market, the power of the brand seems to have become separated from its origins: the ability to create and sustain a long-term flow of profit by making people want to buy the product or service, and be willing to pay a higher price for it.

This shift has caused sales and marketing teams to become fixated on driving sales without regard for profitability. We are no longer living in the provider-driven market of decades past, where the company held the power and the information, and could use that to sway the consumer toward purchasing. I can’t think of one industry today that is not impacted by the consumer-driven market that exists. Consumers now hold the power with more access to information, they are the ones driving the purchasing decision, and the providers are now at the mercy of the decisions they make.

Heather Young, Senior Marketing Manager, SIG

The Confection Connection Between Chocolate and Supply Chain: A Sweet or Sour Tale?

In the Mexican coastal town of Puerto Vallarta, where the weather is hot and the tequila flows like wine, a new trend is emerging from an old Mexican delicacy...chocolate. The town is host to a chocolate museum, chocolate tour and fancy tequila/chocolate-paired tasting. Last week I had the opportunity to attend to one of these tastings where I learned about the different types of tequila and how the chocolates amplify their flavors when properly paired.

This unique experience also came with a crash course on the history of Mexican cocoa, the main ingredient used to make chocolate. Cocoa was once only consumed by ancient Mexican royalty. According to my tequila sommelier and a report by the World Agroforestry Centre, the Olmecs – an ancient tribe in Mexico – were thought to be the first people to consume chocolate. These indigenous people crushed the beans, added water, spices and chilies and drank the delicious elixir.

Ironically, last week an article came across my desk about cocoa. What were the odds that in the same week that I learned about the origins and use of this delicious nut, I’d also circumstantially run across an article about its production? I found the correlation too good to be true until I read the article and discovered the unfortunate state of cocoa production. Sadly, this article did not come with tequila, but the bitter reality of a lack of ethics in the cocoa industry’s supply chain.

As supply chain practitioners know, it is critical to know where and how your products are being sourced, but the farther you are geographically from the beginning of the supply chain, the harder it is to control…and in countries where labor laws are lax, it becomes even more tragic. This gets tricky with products that can only be produced in very specific environments. Cocoa is one such product that can only be grown 10 degrees north or south of the equator with the majority of its production in West Africa, the Ivory Coast and Ghana.

Hailey Corr, Junior Editor and Marketing Associate, Outsource and SIG

What Does Augmented Reality Mean for the Sourcing Organization?

Augmented reality (AR), or mixed reality, is a technology every sourcing professional should understand. It may seem tangential, but forward-thinking executives will take heed as AR will become more and more prevalent in the sourcing industry. AR differs from virtual reality in that virtual reality is a total replacement of your current reality. Augmented reality can be thought of as a digital addition, or supplement, to your current reality. A perfect example is the Snapchat face filters - which overlay illustrations on digital images, specifically faces. My Snapchat buddies send me pictures of their faces with doggie ears attached and so on. Another example is the app Pokémon Go, in which participants found digital creatures in the everyday settings of their reality - places like the park, campus, restaurants and so on. Augmented reality is a technology that can provide packaged experiences that feel real. There are two major types of applications of AR in the market today, consumer and business/industrial.

You are probably familiar with Snapchat filters and Pokémon Go, but what about the augmented reality app that helps you decide where you might place new furniture in an existing room like Ikea offers? Or how about an AR app that allows you to point your device to the night sky and interact with the stars? Or an app that helps healthcare workers find the most appropriate place to insert an IV?

Mary Zampino, Senior Director of Global Sourcing Intelligence, SIG

A Case for Humanity in the Digital Age

In recent months, Warren Buffett signaled what many saw as the death knell for the future of retail by selling off his company’s position in Wal-Mart, which Berkshire Hathaway had held for ten years. Simultaneously, ten national restaurant chains with more than 1,000 locations in total have filed for bankruptcy protection since 2015, and others are reporting disappointing sales. In contrast to all of that, however, Amazon reports growing sales this year in their home delivery service for groceries, trumpeting the growing trend that many people are beginning to embrace of ordering anything and everything online.

Welcome to the Digital Age.

We now live in a time when a hefty 74% of customers rely on their social networks to guide their buying decisions, and 92% of customers feel that online information is more trustworthy than other sources. Digital technology is becoming omnipresent, and it’s doing nothing less than rewiring human society. The critical inflection point at which technological innovation and human experience converge is called Digital Singularity.

There is profound uncertainty in all this, but more importantly, there is profound, unparalleled opportunity. Up until recently, technology was simply a physical tool, like a phone or typewriter, that was used to supplement our lives. Today, however, our relationship with technology has become much more cohesive. Technology is becoming part of how we live, work and play.  In fact, it is becoming an extension of us.

Kevin Parikh,

Pages