Applying Military Lessons to Business

July 27, 2018


Bob Kelly

The three years I spent in the Army had a profoundly positive impact on my life. I firmly believe serving in the military was one of my greatest honors and should be mandatory for every US citizen. During those three years, we were all trained on the usage of various weapons and survival on the battlefield. At that time, I thought that I would never use these skills after I left the service. Well, I was wrong. I found out later many of these lessons would be applicable in the civilian business world. The central theme of every lesson was the importance of "action." The performance of action is critical to both the battlefield and also in the business world. Here's what I mean:

Stealth and quickness... until you're engaged 

Army: Remain invisible to your enemy. Never reveal your position.

Business: Remain unseen until you have a business model that works and has paying customers. Staying in a stealth position and do not "shout from the highest tree." When competing against a larger company, avoid "pushing out your chest" before the time is right. Larger companies can bury smaller companies if you engage too soon and on their terms. On the other hand, smaller businesses have the strength of agility. Smaller companies can respond quickly to change and can make decisions quicker.

When in the fight, "bring it ALL"

Army: When you are engaged, the enemy will access your assets and location, as quickly as they can. By surprising them with everything and from multiple locations, you will disorient the enemy. You will appear more substantial than you might be and this is good. 

Business: When you are ready to bring your product or service to the marketplace, do it. Don't slowly bring it out (drip-by-drip). If you genuinely have a better idea, companies with larger budgets will steal your idea and incorporate your design and make it theirs. Instead, launch into the marketplace boldly but not arrogantly.

Quickly, shorten the distance with your objective

Army: If you are forced to engage up close (aka hand-to-hand), it's essential to fight the enemy on your terms. Doing this will give you focus and control, and prevent reacting to every situation.

Business: Identify and focus on achieving specific business objectives. Assign a focus (or responsibility) to each person on your team and have them "own it." Define who will focus on sales, customers support, accounting, etc.

Dominate your objective quickly 

Army: Once you've closed the distance with your enemy, dominate them.

Business: As a business owner, your objective might be to be the "number 1 product or service" in the world. Even if it's a lofty goal, Win the closest battles by starting small and then expanding your geography. 

Hold your ground and don't give it up 

Army: After you've fought to achieve your ground, maintain it! Don't give it up.

Business: Once you've achieved your business objective, or gained a specific customer, stay focused on maintaining that goal. I can guarantee you that your competition is plotting to take away what you've just achieved.

After Achieving Your Objective, Quickly Move Out 

Army: Once you've secured your new area, move on to the next objective. The enemy that you've just supplanted will now be planning to regain what they just lost. Your enemy now knows your size, your tactics, and what to expect. If you stay where you're at, you'll go from being the "hunter" to the "hunted." Bring that same fight somewhere else.

Business: So many times, we see companies become number 1 in their field, become complacent and die. Your competition will continuously be looking for ways to outperform you. It's at this time that the leaders need to lead the company to achieve the next objective.


Getting My Big Data Experience Noticed on LinkedIn

The social media service LinkedIn (LI) serves multiple purposes for many people. There are some who use it for searching for a new job, some for professional networking, some for staying current with technical trends, etc. I think it’s safe to say that most people are not passive about how they use this service. Simply put, they use LI as a business intelligence platform. On a daily basis, users take LI’s collected data and convert it into useful information

I am a member of a big data and analytics technical recruiting team. On any given workday we review hundreds of LI profiles. We’ve seen a lot of good ones and also we’ve seen a lot of bad ones. So the question is what do these noticeable profiles look like? Let’s take a closer look.

In 2017, the latest count from LI is that there are about 467 million user profiles. This is an impressive number but for many users, this is an intimidating number, especially if that person wants to stand out and be noticed. You might be saying to yourself that since you’ve completed your LI profile, you’re done. Right? …Wrong!Setting yourself apart from the ocean of competing profiles is not easy, nor will it automatically be done for you. If you’ve ever wondered why companies with new job opportunities might not be contacting you, the chances are there’s a problem with your LI profile. Here are just a few “do’s and don’ts” that might help you while putting your profile together.

Add a Professional Headshot Photo To Your Profile

The expression holds true “You only have one chance to make a first impression.” Also, it’s important to remember that LinkedIn profiles with professional looking headshots get 14 times more profile views and is 36 times more likely to receive a LinkedIn message. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on professional headshots. Just remember that this is the public’s first impression of you as a professional, so make your photo look professional.

Don’t Overlook The Skills Section

I have seen too many people that don’t take look this section seriously. This section is especially important when it comes to looking for a new job. I recommend that all LI users consider the following when completing this section:

  1. Think about the type of a professional are you? (Hadoop Admin., Developer, Architect, Manager, Analyst, Team Lead, etc.)

  2. What professional focus are you looking to convey? (IT Strategy, Business Intelligence, Data Science, Leadership, etc.)

  3. What specific skills and technology experience do you have that apply to your profession? (Java, Denodo, Data Integration, HortonworksHazelcast, Algorithms, Bayesian Statistics, etc.)

Now, list those specific skills and technologies in this section or, at a minimum, somewhere in your professional narrative.

Eliminate “Eye-Rollers”

Remove the nebulous adjectives and technologies that are common among almost all technologists. (e.g. Team Player, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, etc.) When you include these types of “eye-roller” skills, it shows that you’re struggling to put something in there. Think about many technologists do you know that don’t know how to use Microsoft Word? Kudos to you, Microsoft!

Knowledge is "Gud"

Nothing will disqualify your professional profile faster than having misspellings, and/or the poor use of grammar. I am not a college English major, but I can still clearly articulate my professional experience by using well-constructed sentences. If you need help in this area, there are many free applications (e.g. Grammarly) that can help.

It’s very important to know that most (if not all) hiring companies will use LI at some point during their search. When they find errors with spelling and/or grammar in a person’s profile, it is perceived as a negative. In many cases, they considered these errors careless work and it’s just a demonstration of the quality of work that one can expect from this person. Your LI profile (as well as your resume) needs to be as close to perfect as possible.

Matching Dates

More than ever before, companies look for discrepancies when they consider candidates. They will do this by comparing the content and employment dates of a candidate's LI profile with what is stated on their resume. While it may be a simple oversight by the candidate, it can also be viewed as misleading and possibly deceptive behavior. Either way, it will almost certainly raise a cautionary flag.

Some Final Thoughts:

  • Make sure your LI profile stands-out for the right reasons.

  • Update your LI profile and resume regularly.

  • Make sure that you list all of the relevant technologies related to your professional life.

Words Are Important

The fastest way to be discovered is to pay close attention to the words you use. Recruiters and hiring companies search for qualified people on LI. They do this by using “keyword” searches and Boolean logic. You might be the most qualified “Hadoop Developer” on the planet for a newly listed job, but if your LI profile doesn’t mention the word “Hadoop” or if you misspell the word of a critical skill that qualifies you for the job…you're virtually invisible.


Realizing The Potential Of Big Data And Analytics – Forbes

It’s not what you know. It’s what you do with what you know. That’s something companies worldwide will be learning—for better or worse—in the coming year when it comes to big data.

Gurus among us have proclaimed 2017 will be the year big data goes mainstream. If you’re anything like me, you may be wondering if that has already happened and if not, why? Even many teenagers I know use Google Analytics to monitor their daily “brand.” The truth is 2017 marks an even more meaningful shift when it comes to using data in business. For the first time, it will drive business operations, rather than simply reflecting performance. That’s a powerful proposition for those who use analytics effectively. On the flip side: It could be absolutely devastating for companies who are falling behind.

If you’re worried your business may have missed the big data boat, you’re in good company. According to the Harvard Business Review, a majority of today’s businesses are “nowhere close” to recognizing the value analytics can bring. The reasons are all-too-familiar: Lack of vision, lack of communication, lack of an actual plan. The good news: you can do something about it. Below are just a few things to keep in mind as you assemble—or re-assemble—your strategic big data plan.

Find A Champion

Like most big changes in any company, management plays a huge role in how quickly their companies will adopt—and adapt—to it. If you are planning to introduce or enhance your analytics platform, establish supporters and mentors in every sector of the company. After all, data is never central. From your front-line customer service team to your top senior executives, the decisions you make based on results and reporting will reach every single layer of your company—including YOU.

Whether gathering data on the front end or making big decisions in the C Suite, every single person in your organization must buy into the value analytics brings. If not, you run two major risks. First, you could end up with dirty data, which is worthless when it comes to making good, solid business decisions. Second, you could amass tons of amazing data insights that are never utilized by your executive teams. Consider creating a dedicated communication campaign surrounding analytics to ensure full-scale penetration and success.

Daniel Newman is CEO of Broadsuite Media Group, principal analyst at Futurum and author of Building Dragons.


Facebook shuts AI system after bots create own language

Days after Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that artificial intelligence (AI) was the biggest risk, Facebook has shut down one of its AI systems after chatbots started speaking in their own language defying the codes provided. According to a report in Tech Times on Sunday, the social media giant had to pull the plug on the AI system that its researchers were working on "because things got out of hand". "The AI did not start shutting down computers worldwide or something of the sort, but it stopped using English and started using a language that it created," the report noted. Initially the AI agents used English to converse with each other but they later created a new language that only AI systems could understand, thus, defying their purpose. This led Facebook researchers to shut down the AI systems and then force them to speak to each other only in English. In June, researchers from the Facebook AI Research Lab (FAIR) found that while they were busy trying to improve chatbots, the "dialogue agents" were creating their own language. Soon, the bots began to deviate from the scripted norms and started communicating in an entirely new language which they created without human input, media reports said. Using machine learning algorithms, the "dialogue agents" were left to converse freely in an attempt to strengthen their conversational skills. The researchers also found these bots to be "incredibly crafty negotiators". "After learning to negotiate, the bots relied on machine learning and advanced strategies in an attempt to improve the outcome of these negotiations," the report said. "Over time, the bots became quite skilled at it and even began feigning interest in one item in order to 'sacrifice' it at a later stage in the negotiation as a faux compromise," it added. Although this appears to be a huge leap for AI, several experts including Professor Stephen Hawking have raised fears that humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, could be superseded by AI. Others like Tesla's Elon Musk, philanthropist Bill Gates and ex-Apple founder Steve Wozniak have also expressed their concerns about where the AI technology was heading. Interestingly, this incident took place just days after a verbal spat between Facebook CEO and Musk who exchanged harsh words over a debate on the future of AI. "I've talked to Mark about this (AI). His understanding of the subject is limited," Musk tweeted last week. The tweet came after Zuckerberg, during a Facebook livestream earlier this month, castigated Musk for arguing that care and regulation was needed to safeguard the future if AI becomes mainstream. "I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios -- I just, I don't understand it. It's really negative and in some ways I actually think it is pretty irresponsible," Zuckerberg said. Musk has been speaking frequently on AI and has called its progress the "biggest risk we face as a civilisation". "AI is a rare case where we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive because if we're reactive in AI regulation it's too late," he said.