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At the end of April, London-based brothers and emerging designers Tom and Will Butterfield launched 19 Chairs to raise funds for Age UK and Resourcing Racial Justice. Using sections of wood along with wood screws, they challenged themselves to design and build one chair a day for 19 days during lockdown.
With all of the chairs assembled they’re now moving on to Stage 2 of the project: delivering the chairs to artists and designers from the creative industry who have been asked to reinvent, reimagine, or redesign their chair with an older person in mind. Signed up to participate you’ll find designer Tom Dixon and illustrator Jean Jullien among others. With only four spaces left to fill, we can’t wait to see the results!
Their plan is to sell these revamped chairs with all profits raised being donated. Tom and Will first chose to give their support to the elderly that have been heavily affected by COVID-19, with Age UK offering companionship and support to their generation. And in light of the Black Lives Matter initiative, they decided to donate the other half of their profits to Resourcing Racial Justice. This group of POC individuals are innovators, change-makers, activists, artists, and social leaders who are dedicated to social change.
Stay up to date with the 19 Chairs project by visiting 19chairs.co.uk.
Instead of focusing entirely on company cultures and HR practices, we need to put our tech to better use.
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4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The marginalization, as well as inequitable and inhumane treatment of people of color, is a broken record in this country. It is baked into our nation’s systems, policies, and laws. I am inspired and encouraged by the unified uprising across the nation and around the world in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others that are leading to police reform and a commitment from companies large and small to open dialogue and have the uncomfortable conversations that could lead to a change in corporate culture.
As a Black tech founder, I believe my industry must play a role in this change as well. We also have the opportunity to go beyond simply updating company cultures and HR practices. For many communities of color, technology has been a tool of oppression — but technology can also be a solution that is used for good. It’s time to do that.
I believe we can change perspectives and help our fellow neighbors see that the tech innovations we use to automate trading on the market, build the next viral game, help track and contain COVID-19, can also be used to eradicate the historic and systemic disease of racism that lingers in our country.
Technology can serve as an accelerator for change. In most cases, civic and community leaders will debate the needs and challenges that have afflicted communities for years, sometimes decades, with little movement towards identifying sustainable solutions. The agility of technology can help communities realize solutions more expeditiously.
Here are some recent examples of tech-driven change:
Technology can help communities and leaders think differently. If that’s done collaboratively, technology can also improve the user experience to create solutions with communities — not for them. Technologists can help translate challenges into solutions, and use discovery, design thinking, automation, and other tools to improve life for marginalized communities. When all of this is built into their missions, companies can make a difference for their communities without sacrificing revenue. In fact, a greater commitment to corporate citizenship will drive talent retention and recruitment — and the more diverse a company’s talent pool is, the greater potential a company has for expanding its impact.
I’m a big believer in the power of technology. We can build applications that can scale to reach millions of people across the world. We architect self-healing systems. We’ve sent people to the moon — the moon! But we can’t figure out how to use technology to solve some of our country’s deeply-rooted challenges? It’s not a lack of intelligence or ability. It’s a lack of effort.
It’s time for tech to have its own uprising. We need to commit to breaking down barriers that keep our industry siloed from the community. In this way we will help grow the pipeline of tech talent and entrepreneurs, and do our most important work.
5 min read
People don’t like being told what to do. There’s even a word for it: reactance.
“Psychological reactance is a negative emotional state that we feel when we’re not in control of our behavior,” says Jonah Berger, author of The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind, and a marketing professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “We have a drive for freedom and autonomy. Anytime we feel like someone else is trying to persuade us, or shape our behavior or actions or attitudes, we essentially put up an anti-persuasion radar. You can almost think about it like an anti-missile defense system.”
This can be useful in many ways. It’s the reason that advertisements don’t empty our bank accounts, and why we don’t (usually) fall for scams.
But reactance can also be counterproductive. A CEO may need to make necessary changes at a company, but employees don’t like being told to do something new. Public health officials may want people to wear masks, even though some people consider it an infringement on their rights.
So, what then?
Here are four ways to shift people’s behavior without triggering their reactance.
“At its core, what drives reactance is people don’t feel like they’re in control,” Berger says. “Any way you can give that control back, and let people persuade themselves, means they’re going to be more likely to go along.”
For example, when a leader gives people a mandate, people often think about all the reasons they don’t like the mandate. But if a leader gives them two options — say, Option A or Option B — their minds do something different. “Rather than sitting there going, ‘Well, let me think about all the reasons I don’t like A,’ the person sits there going, ‘Well, which one do I like better? A or B?’ And because they’re thinking about which one they like better, they’re much more likely to make a choice.”
How do you get people to work harder and put in more hours? If you instruct them to do it, they may resent you. And if you give them two options — work more, or work less — they’re unlikely to make the choice you want. So now what?
Berger’s answer: Present the problem, and let them develop the solutions.
He recently spoke with a startup founder who did this effectively. The founder needed his team to put in more hours, but didn’t want to demand it. Instead, the founder held a meeting and said, “What kind of company do we want to be — a good company, or a great company?”
“A great company,” everyone said.
“Well, how can we be?” he asked.
People proposed solutions, one of which was to work harder. Later in the meeting, the founder came back to that idea and said, “That’s a great suggestion. Let’s do it.”
“It’s going to be much harder for people not to go along,” Berger says, “because they came up with the idea themselves.”
Want to change someone’s behavior? Instead of telling them what they’re doing wrong, Berger says, “point out a gap between their attitudes and their actions — or what they are doing and what they might recommend for someone else.”
This worked excellently a few years ago in Thailand. The government was running an unsuccessful anti-smoking campaign, and couldn’t figure out how to break through. It hired the advertising firm Ogilvy Thailand, which executed a brilliant idea: It sent children into the streets with cigarettes, and had them approach smokers and ask for a light. In response, the smokers started lecturing the children. “If you smoke, you die faster,” one adult tells a child. “Don’t you want to live and play?”
Once the adult’s lecture was done, the kid would hand over a card and walk away. The card said: “You worry about me, but why not about yourself?”
Hidden cameras filmed the exchanges, and the ad firm then packaged the footage into a commercial. It quickly led to a 40 percent increase in calls to an agency that helps people stop smoking.
People may be stubborn, but they don’t often like to be out of step with their peers. “Just pointing out what the norm is — saying, ‘Hey, just so you know, this is what people are doing’ — can often be a way to get around reactance,” Berger says.
For example, tax collectors in the United Kingdom started sending letters to people who aren’t paying their taxes. Rather than demand payment, the letters pointed out that most of their neighbors pay their taxes. As a result, payment rates went up. “You’re just giving them information that makes them reconsider their own actions,” Berger says.
Want to understand how to change behavior?
For more insight into how to change people’s minds, click to listen to the podcast episode “Why People Hate Being Told What To Do”. Or, listen in the player below.
U.S. Army researchers are developing drones that can change shape in mid-flight.
Experts from the Army’s Research Laboratory presented their work on a new tool to develop the small shape-shifting drones at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Aviation Forum and Exposition virtual event on June 16.
Army researchers and Texas A&M University published the findings of a two-year study in fluid-structure interaction. “Their research led to a tool, which will be able to rapidly optimize the structural configuration for Future Vertical Lift vehicles while properly accounting for the interaction between air and the structure,” explained the Army Research Laboratory, in a statement.
BAE SYSTEMS PLANS TO CHEMICALLY ‘GROW’ MILITARY DRONES
Within the next year, the tool will be used to develop drones that change shape during flight, according to the Army.
“Consider an [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance] mission where the vehicle needs to get quickly to station, or dash, and then attempt to stay on station for as long as possible, or loiter,” said Dr. Francis Phillips, an aerospace engineer at the Army Research Laboratory, in the statement. “During dash segments, short wings are desirable in order to go fast and be more maneuverable, but for loiter segments, long wings are desirable in order to enable low power, high endurance flight.”
Researchers, however, have to strike a careful balance between sufficient bending stiffness and softness that enables the vehicle to “morph” into a different shape.
“If the wing bends too much, then the theoretical benefits of the morphing could be negated and also could lead to control issues and instabilities,” said Phillips.
ARMY ROBOT CAN GET ITSELF UP AFTER IT FALLS DOWN
Fluid-structure interaction is a complex process that requires analysis of coupling between a fluid and a “structural solver” using software. However, this research is very intensive in terms of computational hours. “The computational cost for these analyses can be very high – in the range of about 10,000s core hours – for a single fluid and structural configuration,” researchers explained in the statement.
To streamline this process researchers devised a process that decouples the fluid and the structural solvers. Phillips said that this can reduce the “computational cost” by as much as 80 percent.
ARMY GENERAL SEES NEED FOR NEW FUTURE WARFARE ‘COMBINED ARMS MANEUVER’
Using this approach, additional analysis can also be performed without reanalyzing the fluid, which can generate more computational cost savings, according to Army researchers. This means that the Army could design new vehicles much more quickly than current techniques, according to Phillips.
Army researchers regularly partner with U.S. universities to drive innovation. In 2018, for example, robotics experts developed software to ensure that if military robots fall, they will be able to get themselves up again.
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Experts at the Army Research Laboratory and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built software to work out whether any given robot could get itself “back on its feet” after being overturned.
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When discussing gender equality, the wage gap between men and women nearly always becomes a part of the conversation. While most people know this gap exists, not as many realize the far-reaching and detrimental impacts of that inequality.
8 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The COVID-19 global crisis has forced thousands of companies to switch to a digital first working model — almost overnight. This dramatic rate of change, while painful, is by no means serendipitous. Most companies have had, over the past decade, provided most of their employees with the pre-requisite tools to work from home (like smartphones, laptops, cloud powered shared drives, collaboration apps and chat channels), but neither employees nor leaders in these companies found the will to make the switch to what is arguably a more efficient way of working — until now. Digital transformation change programs, which have historically held failure rates as high as 70%, are seeing a renaissance as success rates have crept up in a time where everything else seems to be falling apart.
It is not just global crises that make companies succumb to change. Any form of existentialist threat seems to be a great enabler for both leaders and employees to shift gears in a company. Apple in 1997 faced an overwhelming crisis — a drop in stock price to a 12-year low and a close brush with bankruptcy — which proved to be enough of a catalyst for its board to bring back Steve Jobs. Steve shifted the company’s focus from exclusively selling computers to selling music players and associated services (and eventually the iPhone). Marvel, on the other hand, did file for bankruptcy in 1996, which led to new ownership as well as a strategic reset away from comic books to a wider slate of entertainment properties. That’s what led to the now-legendary Iron Man film in 2008.
These companies could have changed direction prior to these crises hitting them — there was no lack of data and insight preventing them to do so — yet they remained in stasis until it was too late. While Apple and Marvel were lucky enough to survive their near-death experiences, others like Kodak, Nokia, Blockbuster were not.
RELATED: COVID-19 Will Fuel the Next Wave of Innovation
So why do companies need a crisis to change for the better? Are they not run by rational, highly qualified managers who are heavily incentivized towards detecting a shift in tides before it ever hits the ship? Are employees not continuously coached to embrace change and improve the company every day? One way of understanding this seemingly irrational behavior of companies is to compare it to the equally bizarre behavior of us humans, who too often wait for a crisis to hit before changing destructive habits.
The following are three common brakes against change for both companies and people:
In the 1950s, a research group called the Tavistock institute in London tried to understand people’s resistance to change. It had a breakthrough while observing nurses in wards. The nurses followed strict and repetitive medication and checkup procedures, even though that meant waking up patients from what would otherwise be much-needed (and doctor recommended) sleep. The doctors in this ward noticed the problem and gave the nurses new procedures to follow, but the nurses kept on following the old procedures—even though it was bad for the patients. Why? The Tavistock researchers came up with a hypothesis: The nurses were dealing with a very difficult situation, in which sick people could succumb to their illnesses on their watch, and so the nurses shielded themselves from this anxiety by clinging to rituals they were comfortable with. The doctors, meanwhile, hadn’t done any coaching or provided any support to help the nurses adopt the new procedures. The doctors had simply issued the new procedures… and then expected change to happen.
Fast forward to the modern-day workforce, and we see a lot of leaders behaving like those doctors. These leaders realize that a company needs to change in order to survive. However, in most cases, leaders simply dish out recommendations on how to ‘improve the situation’ to the nurses – expecting them to comply and make the ‘switch’. Older procedures (that helped contain anxiety) are aggressively berated while employees are asked to self-design brand new ones without much vision, sensitivity or coaching. This lack of support creates stress, and employees calm themselves by falling back on older processes and practices. That’s what looks like resistance to change.
Crisis changes all this. It creates a tidal wave of anxiety and urgency that’s far harsher than anything the organization faced before. Obsolete rituals are no longer any comfort. It becomes abundantly clear that new procedures and systems are needed. Suddenly the company, from its leaders to its employees, finds the courage, camaraderie, and momentum to change. If they are lucky and the timing is right, the company lives to fight another day.
Every year, in January, gyms see a sharp spike in memberships… only to see them dwindle in the later months. This phenomenon is both amusing as well as baffling. Why doesn’t the average adult invest a small amount of money and time every month to ensure that they have a long and healthy life? The answer to the question is simple: The consequences of not going to the gym for the average 30-year-old will only be felt 20 years down the road. This delayed reward of a healthier longer life in return for a painful session in the gym today pales in comparison to staying at home and binging on Tiger King.
The same holds true for companies. A challenger start up, a new business model, and a major technological breakthrough are all factors that have a measurable impact on the future of a company — sometimes coming in to full force only after a CEO is done with his or her stint in a company. However, bonuses, promotions and pats on the back are all linked to performance today. In theory, stock prices as an incentive should account for both the current performance and expected future performance of a company. However, in real life stock prices are quite volatile and can easily keep management teams focused on quarterly results, with a longer-term view taking a back seat.
A crisis wipes such a lopsided reward system clean. With no immediate bonuses and incentive programs to optimize against, thanks to a dwindling financial status and stock price, managers are forced to go back to the basics and think about the longer-term prospects of the company. Previously protected statuses of various departments become open for questioning. Budgets that have kept rolling along for years are picked apart and the vision and the mission of the company are brought under a microscope. The reward for overcoming the crisis by making fundamental changes in how the company operates and competes becomes overwhelmingly more lucrative thanks to the vacuum left behind by the previous reward system.
Companies, just like people, find their social status amongst their peers to be quite valuable. Press releases are published like clockwork, waxing lyrical about a company’s financial performance (no matter how incremental) as well as the intellectual prowess of the top leadership responsible for such average performance. Losing face, so to speak, is an uncomfortable prospect from a social value perspective and putting a company through a much-publicized change means owning up to the fact that something has not worked in the plan. The weight of years of carefully manicured public image is a sunk cost that is hard to ignore for most companies. By not owning up to the need to change, top leaders deflate any internal momentum set out by various change programs.
A crisis changes that. It dismantles the public image of a company very swiftly, taking away the burden of ‘saving face’ almost overnight. This holds especially true for the current COVID-19 crisis, where nearly every company is suffering and the shame of admitting that change is the need of the hour has gone away. Similar to seeing a news story about an unrecognizable, post-quarantine Kylie Jenner in sweats, companies have discovered social value and momentum in the knowledge that all of them are like Ms. Jenner in 2020.
The three drivers discussed are a strong lesson for entrepreneurs, leaders and boards everywhere. If you can actively manage organizational anxiety during times of change (instead of avoiding or suppressing it), reward longer term performance and not worry too much about the optics of your business, you can drive change before a crisis does it for you.