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With the help of Simmons Market Research, we had correlated different purchasing patterns with the different lifestyles. To date, VALS had been a sustained success. If suburban women between the ages of 25 and 45 driving minivans reliably and regularly chose Caffeine Free Diet Coke over Classic, whereas young males between 15 and 25 reliably went for the sugar and caffeine jolt, then the marketers at Coca-Cola would know how to spin the ads they put on MTV differently from the ads they placed on Lifetime. The theory and practice of market segmentation had been evolving for 20 years. In fact, it had been growing hand in hand with the U.S. economy as it made the transition from mass manufacturing for a mass market during the middle of the 20th century toward a more segmented market that could be described by our nine lifestyle types — nay, even, stereotypes.
On that day in May 1985, however, I realized that the VALS system was losing its predictive power. People were no longer behaving true to type. Women were shopping at Bloomingdale’s one day, Wal-Mart the next. The segment we called Achievers started behaving like Experientials. Some men were behaving like bankers by day, punkers by night. This was bad news for clients who were trying to use market segmentation to target the different stereotypes. But it was good news for the human spirit, because what this tendency amounted to was human freedom flexing her muscles. People were behaving less predictably. They were defying stereotypes.
The Unpredictable Economy
Because I had been trained as a philosopher, I immediately knew what was happening. American customers, without direct influence from the likes of Jean-Paul Sartre or Martin Heidegger, had nonetheless discovered existential freedom. They would no longer be predictable. And indeed, customers around the world have been unpredictable ever since. No general system of market segmentation or analysis has managed to capture their patterns of behavior in any reliable way.
This realization has implications that far transcend marketing, which, typically, commences once a company has identified a strategy and developed products or services for a defined customer base. For corporations, keeping up with customers who are less predictable than consumers of old requires a capacity for innovation. Where the old economy relied on mass production to meet universal needs, the new economy demands customized innovation to satisfy an endless range of wants and whims.
The old production economy was predictable because it operated in the realm of necessity; it produced goods and services people needed, and those were relatively stable. The new economy plays in the realm of freedom; it produces goods and services for a customer who is not bound by needs. The old economy called for strategies built by engineers who could calculate according to necessary laws. The new economy calls for strategies created by existentialists who understand freedom. Most important of all, the old economy operated at a regular pace, in the clockwork time of industrial production. The new economy lurches forward and backward, in some new kind of time that was anticipated, once again, by the existential philosophers.
We’re all in existential time these days. It’s not just that we’re facing a more unpredictable future; the pace and rhythm of events is also increasingly variable and unpredictable. Especially since September 11, 2001, the corporate planning horizon has widened to embrace fundamental uncertainty spanning life-or-death, boom-or-bust dimensions. This is not all bad for the human spirit — if a wider horizon reminds us of our freedom.
Just as existential philosophy emerged in Europe between the two world wars, when life got weird for individuals and the old verities no longer seemed to hold true, so existential strategy emerged during the final decades of the 20th century, as life was getting weird for organizations. Just as individuals reached for an existential philosophy that was adequate to a new sense of freedom, so corporations are now looking for the kinds of strategic tools that can accommodate real uncertainty. An existential economy, in short, demands existential strategy.
But what does that mean? For starters, existentialism is a philosophy that stresses the importance and robustness of individual choice. In a world where it sometimes seems as though there are too many choices, and too little authoritative guidance in making those choices, existentialism provides a viable approach to strategy — perhaps the only viable approach. In this article, I’d like to offer an elevator-ride introduction to the existentialist philosophy, then call out a series of specific ideas from the writings of the existentialists to show how they can help us understand our business realities and decisions on a practical day-to-day level.
In Silicon Valley, there’s a saying: “Who needs a futurist to tell us about the future? We’re building it!” This is pure existentialism. The point isn’t so much that the pace of change is increasing — Alvin Toffler’s argument in Future Shock (Amereon Ltd., 1970). Instead it’s calling into question who’s in charge — God, haphazard fate, or human invention? The existentialists have something to tell us about taking charge of our own future.
The term existentialism gains its basic meaning from its contrast with essentialism. The ancient philosophers, particularly Aristotle, understood change as biological growth. A favorite example was the acorn turning into an oak. It can’t do anything else. It is the essence of an acorn to become an oak. It cannot choose to become a maple or an elm. Its oak essence precedes its existence. First acorn, then oak.
Impose this model of growth and change on human beings and you get Plato’s theory of gold, silver, and bronze souls — souls slated, from birth, to fulfill a predetermined path. Part of the education system in Plato’s Republic involves a series of standardized national tests for separating the aristocratic guardians from the lowly worker bees. This was the first articulation of what we now know as a tracking system. You’re born bronze, silver, or gold. The tests will reveal your essence. And, as with the high-stakes exams that characterize the French system of education, once your essence is revealed, there’s very little likelihood that your existence will ever escape your class.
Such essentialism sounds downright un-American … and it is. If your essence precedes your existence, then all you can do is play out the pattern of your essence. The passage of time, to an essentialist, is like the unrolling of an Oriental rug whose every stitch, every line, every pattern was first obscured within the rolled-up rug, and then revealed as the past moved into the present.
The future, according to essentialist philosophy, is like a rug as yet unrolled: The pattern is in there; you just can’t see it yet. And as with most Oriental rugs, its pattern is probably repetitive. Prior to the focus on history and evolution by figures like Vico, Herder, Hegel, and Darwin, “the future” was seen through essentialist eyes. The very word future connoted a stretch of time that would contain more of the same, occasionally better, occasionally worse, as the eternal cycle of generation and corruption, rise and fall, repeated itself age after age.
In such tradition-bound societies, the elders know best because they know the past. Filial piety is a core value of Confucianism. Sons follow the occupations of their fathers. Tradition rules. The past rules the present. Like the pattern of the seasons or the constellations in the heavens, the basic order of the universe is not subject to biological evolution or historical change.
This sense of time and order remained sacrosanct until the works of Georg Hegel and Charles Darwin gained influence. These two writers, though very different from each other, together were the most significant sources of existential thought; only when their work was accepted was essentialism’s repetitive and cyclical image of time displaced by a linear, historical, evolutionary time that allowed for the emergence of something genuinely new under the sun.
Suddenly, humanity had a future — in the sense in which existentialists think of the future, as an open-ended, indeterminate field of untried possibilities. For existentialists, existence precedes essence. It’s not that no one or nothing has an essence. It’s just that essence, for free human beings, anyway, is achieved rather than prescribed. You become the results of the decisions you make. You don’t find yourself, as those suffering “identity crises” try to do. You make yourself by making decisions. You’re not just the result of the genes you inherited or the circumstances of your birth. Of course genes and family background make a difference, but what you choose to do with them is subject to existential freedom.
Consider the way that time is measured, and the way we normally experience it. Ever since the invention of the mechanical clock, people have conceived of time as passing in the kind of even blocks represented on Cartesian graph paper. For rocket scientists plotting a trajectory to the moon, this model of time might be the most appropriate. But as both Heidegger and Sartre noted, this kind of mathematized, regular tick, tick, tick of a mechanical clock contradicts the experience of a truly human temporality. Our minds experience time as expanding and contracting, quickening with excitement, slowing with boredom. There is a lived contrast between long durations and punctuating epiphanies. Things last a while, then they change, and there are significant choices to be made at the cusps and bifurcations.
Moments of Urgency
Such punctuations call for strategies developed prior to the moment of urgency. And as the world gets more strange, these moments will be more frequent. Scenario planning gives executives a way to rehearse different futures in the relative calm of a meeting room rather than in a “war room” set up for emergencies. Better to craft a strategy during the calm between the cusps. Once you’ve rehearsed different futures in the form of vivid scenarios, then you’re ready for the one that rolls out in fact. And even better: Once you’ve scoped out a range of alternative futures, you’re in a better position to nudge reality in a direction you’d prefer. (See “How Scenario Planning Explains Uncertainty,” at the end of this article.)
A future filled with new possibilities presents a backdrop for planning that is very different from a future that is a reshuffling of the same old same old. Reshufflings should follow laws that allow for prediction according to rules that cover every possibility. A future filled with genuinely new possibilities might not even be describable using categories and metrics that cover what has occurred before. How could a 19th-century scientist anticipate, much less predict, prime time, venture capital, gigabits-per-second, butterfly ballots, fuel cells, genetic engineering, cellular telephony, and so on?
Once you appreciate this fundamental shift in the nature of “futurity,” you are in a better position to appreciate the need for existential strategy. Once you abandon an essentialism within which the future is, in principle, predictable, and adopt an existentialism within which the future is, in principle, unpredictable, you’re bound to need a robust set of guidelines for making decisions that will be effective in any of a range of futures that might unfold.
As a philosophy, existentialism stresses that human beings have almost unlimited choice. The constraints we feel from authority, society, other people, morality, and God are powerful largely because we have internalized them — we carry the constraints around within us.
As a result, sometimes existentialists get a bad rap for preaching nihilism and meaninglessness — free fall instead of freedom. Everything is possible (they’re accused of preaching), and therefore human beings can ignore morality and duty. Thus, Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God. For Smerdyakov, the nihilist in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, the death of God meant that mere anarchy was loosed upon the earth. But Nietzsche himself distinguished between a nihilism of strength and a nihilism of weakness. For the weak, the death of God means that all is permitted. For the strong, the death of God does not mean we are doomed to despair and meaninglessness. Instead, we have the opportunity to create our own lives and our own conscious sense of responsibility. Nietzsche said the only God he could worship would be a God who could dance.
This turns out to be very close to the role of managers, particularly senior executives, in large complex organizations. They don’t take on the role of God, but they do choose to define morality and its consequences for their organizations. In their classic management text In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies (Harper & Row, 1982), Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman Jr. argued that the job of the manager is “meaning making.” This challenge to make meaning in an otherwise meaningless environment is itself made to order for the existential strategist.
How, then, does one “make meaning” for an entire organization — and ensure that the choices will turn out better than if that organization simply followed in old established pathways? The existential philosophers crafted some ideas that have fairly immediate relevance to strategic practice: finitude, being-toward-death, care, thrownness, and authenticity. (See “Five Principles of Existential Strategy,” below.) Let’s explore each and its application to existential strategy.
Five Principles of Existential Strategy
Finitude is the existential principle closest to the conventional notion of corporate strategy, making hard decisions because you can’t do everything.
Indeed, in this mortal life, you may be able to accomplish almost anything, but you cannot do everything. There isn’t time. If you choose to be a butcher, you generally can’t simultaneously be a baker and a candlestick maker. Understanding finitude helps the existential strategist focus on the trade-offs organizations face. You can go for lowest cost or highest quality, but rarely both at once. There are choices to be made. Not all good things go together. If you’re not saying no, you’re not doing strategy. If you’re not saying no, you’re not acting strategically.
The word decision derives from the Latin for “cut off.” IBM made a strategic decision to get out of the consumer business and concentrate on services to businesses. Hewlett-Packard Company cut Agilent Technologies Inc. adrift because measuring and testing technology was not its core competence. When corporate raiders make a hostile takeover and then break up a business and sell off its parts, their reasoning often has to do with an evaluation that shows the segments are worth more on their own than as parts of a confused whole in which executives prove unable to make tough decisions.
I saw the power of finitude when working with wealthy foundations, which, like government agencies, rarely feel the risk of failure. At first glance, the job of foundation managers looks easy: Just hand out a pot of money. At closer range, the challenge is harder: how to Excellerate the world without squandering resources or inducing dependencies that do more harm than good.
The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Flint, Mich., has as one of its objectives the improvement of the city of Flint — a clear goal that nonetheless leaves plenty of latitude for choices by the trustees. After spending millions in the 1980s on what was to be a destination resort called AutoWorld, they watched in horror as people somehow chose Disneyworld for their vacations instead.
In the early 1990s, the managers of the Mott Foundation engaged my colleagues and me to develop a set of scenarios showing different possible futures for Flint — a city that had been badly stung by Michael Moore’s movie Roger and Me. The upshot of the exercise was a commitment to make Flint a better place to raise children — a manageable goal that gave a new focus to the foundation’s finite grant making. Looking out for the kids was both consistent with the original deed of the gift by the Mott family and in keeping with current needs in Flint. The city had been a great place to raise a family back when rust-belt manufacturing produced a living wage. But the new economy had cut many of the old jobs, and now it would take a bold initiative to make the city a better place for kids once again.
If you think your life is not finite, if you think you’re immortal, then you may act as if you’ve got time for everything. If you follow the existentialists in dwelling on death, however, each day of your life will gain both preciousness and a sense of existential urgency.
The National Education Association (NEA), America’s largest labor union — thought by some to be immovable, immortal, and unchangeable — benefited from an imaginative kick in the pants from a scenario entitled “One Flight Up.” That scenario told a story in which the NEA’s building in Washington, D.C., had been sold to Sylvan Learning Systems, which leased back to the NEA a small suite of offices located “one flight up” from the main entrance. After absorbing this scenario, the president of the NEA was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “If we don’t change the way we do business, we’ll be out of business in 10 years.” This statement, his colleagues declared, would have been unthinkable a few years earlier, before he’d looked death in the face.
The union did change. Under its next president, Bob Chase, the NEA adopted “new unionism,” a strategy focused less on wages and terms of employment and more on helping its members meet the challenges they were facing in the classroom.
Asking folks to look death in the eye is not easy. Being-toward-bankruptcy is no fun. Xerox needed a vivid scenario painting a picture of a world where the copier would converge with the scanner and computer printer, and the copier business would go away. We painted such a scenario … but it wasn’t scary enough to motivate change, and their denial of death led to real bankruptcy.
BP, which once stood for British Petroleum, looked down the cellar stairs at a world “Beyond Petroleum,” the new meaning for its initials. Scenarios that mimic being-toward-death can function as a kind of anticipatory disaster relief. A near-death experience lived in imagination can draw forth the passion that exists underneath smug self-satisfaction; that kind of motivation is needed to take the actions necessary to avoid real death. It can make managers care — a relatively weak word. The German equivalent, Sorge, has more urgency to it. It means to really care, to supply a damn. It means something close to passion.
Heidegger focused on care as a feature that differentiates human beings from purely cognitive, Cartesian creatures. Sure, we think, we calculate, we cogitate. But we do so in a way that is different from how computers do it. My computer doesn’t supply a damn. It doesn’t care. And so much the better: It is unbiased; it is unswayed by desire; it can do the wholly rational, objective calculations I want from a computer. I, on the other hand, have biases. I have desires. And so much the better again: for my desiring, my caring, gives meaning to my life. A knife is good for cutting. A computer is good for calculating. Each has a function. What am I good for? If the meaning of my life can be reduced to the kind of function that defines the essence of a knife or a computer, then my life is reduced to that of a functionary. I become a tool in someone else’s drama, a mere means to their ends, not my own.
Often organizations, especially large, long-standing ones, need a greater sense of urgency. It’s not just a matter of giving a damn about reducing time to market for new products. Sometimes a corporation must reinvent itself. Sometimes a company must break free of its past. Once upon a time Motorola made car radios. When Robert Galvin wanted to manufacture semiconductors, some of his managers thought he was nuts. But Bob Galvin, son of Motorola founder Paul Galvin, cared enough to keep his father’s legacy alive even after the car radio business declined. Later they reinvented Motorola yet again as a manufacturer of cell phones and pagers. With Bob’s son Chris retiring as chairman and CEO, the company is set to reinvent itself once again. In a world that’s gone from slow and predictable to fast and perplexing, you have to be free to reinvent yourself … or you die.
Of course you can’t reinvent yourself as anything whatsoever. Companies have histories. IBM doesn’t sell dog food. Sara Lee isn’t set up to manufacture computers. Heidegger called this nondeterministic conditioning Geworfenheit, or thrownness. We each landed on the earth somewhere, not nowhere. We each inherit much of who we are from our parents, our culture, or the community in which we find ourselves. Even the entrepreneur finds the second year of her new company “thrown” in a certain direction by her first year. Right-angle turns are tough. Momentum has its merits. But even for the largest corporations, straight-line extrapolation from the past into the future is a poor guide for strategic planning.
Thrownness is not just a constraint. Upside possibilities beckon the existential strategist. Aspirational scenarios showing rewarding opportunities can complement descriptive scenarios painting risks. When executives at Motorola sought our help to update their China strategy, we realized they’d been coasting on momentum. A hard look at both downside and upside scenarios led them to boost their investment, claim greater market share, and solidify their leadership position. The sheer size of the opportunities that exist in China are enough to dwarf the imaginations of planners coasting on extrapolations from the past. It takes a dancing existentialist to see such vast possibilities.
Authenticity is a way of being true to yourself, but the concept is tricky because, for the existentialist, being true to yourself can’t be defined as being true to your essence. Nor can it be reduced to fulfilling a function. Authenticity demands fidelity to your past, but also openness to possibilities in the future — not just one possibility (that would be a necessity), but several possibilities. Authenticity is being true to both your thrownness and your freedom. It’s making choices among possibilities and taking responsibility for your decisions.
While consulting at Motorola, I also had an opportunity to work with the company’s New Enterprises group. Their mandate was to come up with new business ideas that were close enough to Motorola’s core competencies to be plausible yet that still fell outside existing lines of business. Threading this needle is what authenticity is all about. If you try too hard to be true to your essence — your core competence — then you deny your freedom. But if you pretend you’re free to do absolutely anything — if you forget your thrownness — then you’re in free fall. Motorola’s New Enterprises group had to thread this needle, so they took a hard look at how their competence in information technology could be applied to a new and different domain: the creation, storage, and conservation of electric energy.
Neither for companies nor for individuals is the future completely indeterminate. Neither companies nor individuals are utterly free. We carry our pasts like tails we cannot lose. And that’s a relief, because we don’t want to begin each day from scratch. The skills we have learned, the competencies we have achieved, supply direction and power to be used in the present as we carve the near edge of the future.
The gist of this article has moved mainly from the philosophy of existentialism toward its implications for corporate strategic planning. Here at the end, it’s worth reflecting on the resonance that resounds from the soundness of existential strategy in the corporate world and its implications for the people who then learn about existential time from the practice of scenario planning and existential strategy in organizations. The practice of existential strategy can make us more authentically human. Once existential philosophy has been demystified by its translation into the pragmatic world of corporate strategy, its validity gains added power in enabling each of us, as individuals, to live lives of deeper authenticity and freedom.
How Scenario Planning Explains Uncertainty
Scenario planning is not the only tool of the existential strategist, but it is the preeminently appropriate tool for dealing with existential freedom. Scenario planning first flourished in the context of large corporations such as Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies, businesses whose planning horizon was so long that predictions based on extrapolations from the past would almost certainly be outrun by a fast-changing reality.
Royal Dutch/Shell did well with scenario planning in the 1980s. When other oil companies were planning to increase prices for oil, on the basis of extrapolations from the price increases in 1973 and 1979, the planners at Shell developed a range of scenarios, narrative extrapolations from knowable potentialities, that included both price increases and scenarios for falling prices — a thought that was unthinkable to planners at the other oil majors. When oil prices crashed in 1986, Shell was the best prepared of the global oil companies, and its fortunes rose accordingly.
Since the 1980s, scenario planning has been embraced by many other companies, so many that, by the turn of the millennium, scenario planning ranked as the No. 1 planning tool among corporations polled by the Corporate Strategy Board. Of course, this is good news for scenario planners. But it is also good news for everyone else. Scenario planning opens up a range of possibilities, for good and ill, much broader and wider than traditional tools that strive for a single right answer. Scenario planning helps us to entertain worst-case scenarios, as responsible managers must. Just as Heidegger argued that a sense of our own mortality can sharpen our sense of the fragility of our assumptions, so the development of best- and worst-case scenarios can awaken us to a sense of the preciousness of life.
By encouraging thinking about a divergent range of possibilities rather than a consensus forecast, scenario planning can draw on both the motivation that comes from a fear of vividly depicted failure and the inspiration that comes from a skillfully drawn success. Upside scenarios can raise the sights of an organization mired in stagnation. Where essentialism condemns us to more of the same old thing, upside scenarios instill a sense of existential urgency about higher possibilities.
Upside scenarios can function like the “inner game of golf” or “inner skiing.” Once you have mentally rehearsed the right swing or the perfect turn, you are more likely to be able to hit that drive or manage that mogul. There’s a lot to be said for the idea of mind over matter. But before the mind can steer matter in the right direction, the appropriate image needs to be framed as vividly as possible, whether it’s a golf swing, a ski turn, or a new success strategy. Upside scenarios can do for companies what a Tiger Woods tape can do for golfers.
Reprint No. 03405
EMPOWERING persons with disability (PWDs) is everybody’s business. They need to be supported and, at all times, given equal importance and opportunities as what most others enjoy, whether at home, in the community, school or workplace.
Despite this, however, the sad reality is that many differently abled people are often stereotyped, experience discrimination, suffer from stigma and misunderstanding, get isolated, and, much worse, are violated or abused, not only by people not related to them or total strangers, but also by those with affinity or consanguinity to them.
Such concerns can have a deep and wide-reaching impact on their lives. These hold true for Liza Sales, a warehouse staff in a pharmaceutical company with orthopedic disability; Sareena Calonzo, a deaf fraud analyst; and Roilan Marlang, a marketing associate who has autism—all had difficulty finding employment due to their conditions.
“After college, I looked for a job in line with my coursework: computer design and programming. Every time I passed an exam and training, a lot of companies wouldn’t hire me because of their preconceived notion that I wasn’t fit for the job,” Sales recalled during the first leg of the recent two-day virtual conference dubbed “Working Beyond Barriers” organized by the Philippine Business & Disability Network (PBDN).
Sharing a similar ordeal with her, Marlang remembered that he almost gave up searching for jobs: “I applied to 90 companies in Metro Manila… until Project Inclusion Network (PIN) helped me with my employment.”
At work, Calonzo initially was not at ease on site, citing that “when I started working, at first I didn’t feel comfortable because there were gestures that I couldn’t understand. Sometimes it seems that they are looking down at me, but in reality I just want them to be aware of how to approach people like me.”
Given these common PWD experiences, John Nicolls, country site lead of PayPal Philippines, has called for immediate action to push diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace, considering the manifold threats they are facing today, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I think what we have to get in our head is there’s no truly right time, except for right now,” he appealed to the business community during the event’s panel discussion. “It’s right to do it now. We have to take the risks and reap the benefits. Prepare and plan as best as you can, but also look out for those who can help you on your journey.”
Closer look at PWDs
GLOBAL perspective looks at disability in four molds.
First is the Charity Model, where people often think that PWDs are objects of philanthropy or benevolence. In the Medical Model, on the other hand, people tend to lean on the impairment of the person and help them to “fix” him to function. The Social Model is where PWDs are able to live in an inclusive society. Lastly, the Rights-based Model espouses recognition of the laws and policies for the disabled.
Suffice it to say, but incapacitated individuals, like the three PWD panelists, abhor the first two models.
Disagreeing with the first model, for instance, Nicolls reiterated, “the private sector is not a charity. We can’t be a charity. That’s not how we operate. We expect the same level of performance from those with disabilities as those without disabilities. So we are willing to invest to make sure that that is a level playing field.”
Unless the glass ceiling is totally broken, especially in the workplace like in the above case of PayPal Philippines, such inclusivity fallacies will continue for PWDs.
“Business leaders are essential to change the perceptions about persons with disabilities when it comes to [employing them] because still too often misconceptions about what a person with disabilities can and cannot do at work are prevalent,” International Labor Organization Global Business and Disability Network Disability Inclusion Officer Jurgen Menze noted.
Enabling laws, platforms
TRUE to its love for democracy and Christian faith, the Philippines champions D&I through the implementation of various laws and policies to better serve the rights and interests of its citizens with disabilities and special needs. There is Republic Act (RA) 7277, the Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities, which details the incentives provided by the government to private establishments that hire PWDs.
This law was later amended to RA 9442 and RA 10754, which espouse their benefits and privileges, and the Batas Pambansa Bilang 344 or the Accessibility Law.
Responding to the request of the Special Committee on Persons with Disabilities, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Bienvenido E. Laguesma said in a recent newspaper report that his office had submitted comments on different House of Representatives bills aimed at changing RA 7277, specifically on the employment quota.
“In that letter, he said that he expressed support to increase from 1 percent to at least 2 percent all positions in all government agencies to be reserved for PWDs and deleting the word ‘encourage’ and putting the word ‘mandating’ private corporations with more than 100 employees to reserve at least 1 percent of all positions for PWDs. So we strongly support this measure,” DOLE’s Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns Director IV Atty. Karen Trayvilla noted.
“Hopefully that is passed,” Atty. Krizelle Ramos, chief of the Programs Management Division of the National Council on Disability Affairs, said, while adding the importance of Equal Opportunity for Employment (RA 10524) law, which endeavors to eliminate discrimination against and increase opportunities for PWDs.
Apart from these policies, there are also several government programs such as the PESO Employment Information System, Government Internship Program, Trabaho Negosyo Kabuhayan, DOLE Integrated Livelihood program, and DOLE’s Employees’ Compensation Commission’s Katulong at Gabay Sa Manggagawang May Kapansanan program.
While these measures are in place, there remain underlying concerns on work inclusivity and equal chances for PWDs. These could be due to their limited enforcement, and the lack monitoring and clarity, thus leading to persisting barriers in the attitudinal, physical, communication and institutional aspects.
“We have a collective responsibility. Upscaling inclusivity of the workplace for persons with disability is a goal toward the right direction,” Trayvilla pointed out.
BELIEVING that PWDs can be potential assets rather than liabilities, more and more businesses in the country strive for inclusivity in the workplace by giving opportunities to them. Case in point are PayPal Philippines, Manulife and Asurion Technology Philippines. Their journey, however, was not a smooth, easy ride since they had no idea where and how to begin with at first.
“We have a very strong track record globally in terms of diversity and inclusion. We wanted to make sure that PayPal Philippines also reflected that team strength,” Nicolls said. “But when we look at our D&I spectrum, really the big gap for us initially was very much the disability strand and so that’s where we have the biggest opportunity.”
As a headstart, they tapped the deaf community, being one of the largest disability groups yet very much underrepresented in career-driven industries like theirs. Often, they have little potential for career development as they usually are given short-term contracts.
“We wanted to prove that we could create a sustainable model to access deaf talents and prove that [they are] equal to their hearing counterparts,” he said. “So we make what we call ‘equity tweaks’, allowing us to level the playing field.”
Like PayPal Philippines, Asurion, likewise, had no inkling as to how they will work with the disability sector for the first time in 2017, bared Human Resource Manager Jen Lagasca, who has a child with special needs. Taking a cue from the success of Unilab’s Project Inclusion, they also did not fail in assimilating their deaf hires with their regular employees, which, hopefully, they will replicate now for persons with autism spectrum disorder.
“We have a lot of sensitivity disability training. And then we have to make follow through what they think about it, what are their realizations. In the long run, we have to trust the process that these people, our employees, will be practicing empathy and they will have their self-realization that there’s a beauty as well as difficulties, but the intangible benefit of having people work with you with different abilities entailed a different level of gratitude,” she explained.
“That’s the best thing that any culture will have because they say that they can actually belong and we gave that chance. And we actually are also helping. We are kinder now. Many of our workers, even the leaders, would be kinder and more patient because of them,” she added.
There are manifold ways for employers to break down barriers for PWDs. That’s actually a part of Manulife’s DNA as reflected in its “Sharing Our Humanity” core value. As part of its corporate culture, the firm established in April 2020 an Ability Employee Resource Group that works with HR and the facility’s team to attract and provide reasonable accommodation for PWD talents.
“So part of our journey was actually establishing long-term partnerships with local NGOs and institutions to help and guide us onboard PWDs and also to refer talent for hiring,” Manulife Philippines Service Delivery Head Pilar Baltazar said of their partnership with PIN, Saint Benilde’s School of Deaf and Applied Studies, and PBDN.
“Personally I also self-identify as an ability talent. I have one of the more silent disabilities—I am dyslexic,” she confessed. “So I make sure that I can function in a work environment by simplifying. But when I simplify, that actually delivers business value in terms of efficiency in how we operate and it also helps make things simpler to our customers if we’re thinking about the employee, the customer or the user.”
Despite the many success stories on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, there remain challenges to address to broaden the opportunities for the marginalized sectors in society like the PWDs.
“I don’t think our journey with the disability sector in the Philippines is over yet. I know there are still a lot of organizations out there that we hope to partner with…. We have just started our journey and I’m very excited because we are seeing so many more talent pool [from them],” Baltazar said.
Having that strong knowledge base to identify ways for meaningful inclusion in the design and the delivery of programs and services for PWDs, Trayvilla stressed that “everybody gains from disability inclusion” while imparting that “alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”
Image credits: PBDN
Patagonia Provisions and McDonald’s could not be more different as companies and brands. Yet in 2021 both have had an undeniable impact on business and culture, far beyond the products they sell.
When Provisions, the iconic outdoor apparel company’s food spin-off, launched Long Root Pale Ale beer, in 2016, it wasn’t trying to create the next Budweiser. The brew was merely the best way to devote more agricultural acreage to a perennial wheatgrass called Kernza, a regenerative crop that helps build soil health and sequester more carbon. The beer amplified Patagonia’s mission to fight the climate catastrophe and make it easier for others to join them.
COVID-19 led to greater food insecurity worldwide, and in response, more major corporations accelerated climate initiatives, particularly regenerative farming techniques, to fortify fragile food systems. In May 2020, Budweiser reported better-than-expected success in its initial efforts to reduce water usage as well as emissions in its rice production by using regenerative techniques, expanding its efforts to 2.7 million bushels. And in September 2020, the Nature Conservancy corralled Target, Cargill, and, yes, McDonald’s, to join a five-year program to Excellerate soil quality in Nebraska beef country. As Provisions director Birgit Cameron told Fast Company shortly after its Kernza initiative began, “If we can illustrate a path for the bigger companies to take, then we’ve won.”
Despite its global ubiquity, McDonald’s has rarely tapped the full cultural potential of its iconic status. Last year, though, the fast-food chain’s Famous Orders meal partnerships with such global music superstars as Travis Scott and BTS began changing that—creating a playbook for social media marketing, merchandise, and new music to push customers to the drive-through (where they can make TikToks of themselves ordering Famous Meals). “This has shown us this rabid fandom that exists if we can find the right ways to unlock it,” says Morgan Flatley, whom McDonald’s promoted to global CMO in August.
Whether it’s leading on the environment or pop culture, engaging B2B customers or responding meaningfully to current events, a brand’s ability to forge an emotional connection with consumers is critical in establishing a long-term relationship, enthusiastic loyalty, and advocacy. In our first-ever compendium of Brands That Matter, we recognize nearly 100 companies and nonprofits that supply people compelling reasons to care about them—and offer inspiration for others to buy in.
Back in the day, records management was all about wrangling reams of company paperwork into some kind of sensible filing system. Today, most of those physical files have been replaced by electronic records that practically take care of themselves.
And that can be a real problem, according to the Association for Intelligent Information Management (AIIM).
AIIM reports that technology is allowing businesses to collect data faster than they can manage it. The result is serious legal and operational risks.
For example, say your small business accepts credit cards. The way you collect and store that information affects everything from payment card industry (PCI) security to state sales tax to your federal tax return. Without a comprehensive record-keeping strategy, you can create massive administrative headaches down the road -- and even run afoul of the law.
This article walks you through the steps to create a records management system that drives efficiency and ensures compliance.
A business record is a document or other evidence of a commercial activity. Business records can be a data point such as a timecard swipe or a paper document filed in a locked cabinet.
When you think of records that way, it's easy to see how every new technology you introduce in your business creates new data. And every record presents a specific value and risk to your business.
Consider these different record types and the potential value and risk of the information they provide:
These are the questions a document management system needs to address.
The more technology you use, the more options you'll have for amassing, storing, and sharing data. An effective electronic record keeping system helps you ensure you're meeting legal requirements, protecting employee and customer data, and making the most of the data you collect to drive your company's success.
Consider these benefits:
A records management system ensures your staff has ready access to the records they need when they need them. That can enhance productivity and help you control expenses. It also reduces administrative wheel spinning searching for documents or duplicating data.
Electronic records management software such as DocSend and eFileCabinet can help you manage documents efficiently and move closer to a paperless environment.
According to IBM’s 2019 Cost of a Data Breach, the odds of a business suffering a data breach were nearly one in three in 2019. Small businesses are not exempt; the report showed that small businesses suffer higher costs relative to their size.
An effective digital record management system ensures security levels for all digital records to protect your business from those risks.
Approaching business records strategically also helps your company capitalize on the data you collect every day to drive organizational results.
For example, job applications and offers are key human resources (HR) records you can use to shape talent management strategy. Digital touchpoints such as content downloads can be used for customer journey mapping and targeted marketing.
Records management allows your business to respond promptly and effectively to lawsuits and complaints. For example, if you fire an employee who files a discrimination and retaliation complaint, the EEOC may require you to produce hiring and pay records covering the entire department.
Knowing the legal significance of your business records and how long to retain them protects your business.
Regulatory authorities such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) require businesses to store and secure company records for specific periods.
Payroll records must be retained for at least two to three years under federal laws, and accident records must be kept for at least five years. Businesses must know the minimum retention standards that apply to each record they create.
Following are the phases your business needs to consider when creating a records management system.
A record may be created manually, received, or generated automatically through a transaction. It could be collected by your customer relationship management (CRM) system, received through the mail, typed by an employee, or recorded, as with a Zoom meeting.
AIIM estimates that 60% of data coming into businesses is unstructured, leading to what the organization calls "information chaos." To combat this, a records management strategy must ensure all records created by company systems are classified according to their value and risks to the business.
Proper record classification allows for efficient filing, retrieval, archiving, and destruction of documents.
Records may be classified under multiple categories. For example, a nondisclosure agreement might be tagged as having a digital signature certificate, as a confidential record, and as a personnel document. Examples of record classifications include:
The next phase in a records management system involves maintaining active records to allow security and access based on your classification system. This includes physical and electronic document storage.
For example, training materials and employee handbooks are often uploaded into an online library of employee resources for easy reference anytime. Employee health records may be stored in a locked cabinet for occasional reference only by a HR manager.
Customer data may be created and maintained by sales staff in a CRM. Some documents such as tax returns might be stored in both online records and secure paper files.
The goals of your maintenance plan are to avoid duplication, enforce version control, and allow efficient access by the right people.
Once records reach the end of their lifecycle, they should either be archived permanently, disposed of, or destroyed.
To create a disposition plan, you will need to identify the retention period for all of your company's records and create a plan for pulling and disposing of them at the appropriate time.
Many businesses are lax about disposition because it is so easy today to amass and store data online. But obsolete data can overwhelm your records management system, interfere with version control, and impede operational efficiency.
If you're leery of destroying files, you can simply archive them instead. The important thing is to remove them from active use and to uphold security protocols throughout the document's lifecycle.
Chaos is costly in your personal life and your business life. With so much data being collected, created, and stored automatically today, creating efficient filing protocols is more important than ever.
With a solid records management plan, you can protect sensitive customer and employee data, access it efficiently, and use it to drive better decision-making.
Chatbots assist people daily with everything from ordering pizza to dealing with customer service issues. So, it’s no surprise that higher education institutions are embracing them to interact with their No. 1 customer: students.
Whether it's navigating the admissions process or scheduling classes, universities have embraced artificial intelligence to streamline student interactions and offer timely support.
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Rather than blindly searching the internet for information on colleges, students could be asking chatbots their questions. Boston-based startup AdmitHub has designed chatbot apps for Georgia State University, the University of Memphis, West Texas A&M and Arizona State University, EdSurge reports.
Students can ask questions about general subjects such as financial aid or issues more specific to the school they are inquiring about via text, Facebook Messenger and email.
At Georgia State, “Pounce” the chatbot has been helping students navigate the application process. In 2017, the university won a Technology Association of Georgia Excalibur Award for employing the virtual assistant that leaders believe increased the number of students who successfully enrolled.
“Our No. 1 goal was to deploy a solution that would nudge and walk students through complex processes such as filing a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) as well as the basics of the admitted student next steps checklist in a personalized way. The process and results far exceeded my expectations,” says Scott Burke, the assistant vice president for undergraduate admissions, in a news release about the award.
Once students are enrolled, AI-powered bots can assist students with navigating other processes. At the Technical University of Berlin in Germany, a chatbot named “Alex” helped students in test groups find and schedule classes more efficiently, Times Higher Education reports.
“Instead of searching through online timetables, students type normal questions to Alex, such as when classes are, who will be teaching them and what exams they have to take,” reads the Times Higher Education article. “The bot replies in natural-sounding sentences and can ask follow-up questions to get to the bottom of what a student really wants to know.”
Georgia Institute of Technology went a step further by introducing a virtual teaching assistant named Jill Watson — which is powered by IBM Watson — in an online course about artificial intelligence. Jill Watson was first used in a spring 2016 course to answer questions in a class chatroom, and students weren’t aware they were interacting with AI until the last day of class, Georgia Tech reports.
Ashok Goel, the professor of computer science and cognitive science behind Jill Watson, tells Georgia Tech that he was surprised at the chatbot’s effectiveness in boosting student engagement. Since the initial rollout, Georgia Tech reports that the virtual TAs have continued in the course, with some students even creating their own personalized chatbots.
“When we started, I had no idea that this would blossom into project with so many dimensions,” says Goel in the Georgia Tech story. “It’s been a bonanza of low-hanging fruit we’re just starting to pluck.”
FREMONT, Calif., Aug. 3, 2022 — Seagate Technology Holdings plc, a world leader in mass-data storage infrastructure solutions, announced two additions to its Nytro portfolio, the Nytro 5550 SSD and Nytro 5350 SSD. Engineered with Phison technology for high performance, efficiency, and increased storage density in data centers, the new products comprise the Seagate Nytro 5050 NVMe SSD series. Designed to offer more computing with less energy consumption, they provide a cost-effective solution that eliminates bottlenecks, improves quality of service (QoS), and delivers the highest levels of data integrity and security for business applications.
The Nytro 5350 PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSD doubles the read throughput of the latest SAS SSDs, achieving over ten times the bandwidth of SATA to significantly Excellerate QoS. Designed to supply data centers more computing power while reducing total cost of ownership (TCO), the drive removes data bottlenecks with blistering up to 7.4GB/s bandwidth and up to 195K IOPS random write speeds and up to 1.7M IOPS random read speeds to provide consistent response times. Perfectly tuned to increase density and boost capacity in ultra-dense environments, Nytro 5350 brings up to 15.36TB in a 15mm form factor and up to 7.68TB in a 7mm form factor with dual ports, supporting both U.2 and U.3 interfaces for active-active high availability. Designed to take on enterprise workloads, Nytro 5350 delivers 1 DWPD at 2.5M MTBF for enhanced endurance.
With best-in-class performance, the Nytro 5550 PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSD builds on Nytro 5350 specifications with a design for mixed workloads, and random write speeds up to 470K IOPS and random read speeds up to 1.7M IOPS. Designed with high durability to move enterprise data for the long haul, Nytro 5550 delivers 3 DWPD at 2.5M MTBF for endurance and reliability. Modeling the small form factor and supporting interfaces as the Nytro 5350, this drive brings up to 12.80TB in a 15mm form factor and up to 6.40TB in a 7mm form factor to boost capacity in ultra-dense environments.
To help ensure data integrity and help prevent data loss in the event of unexpected power failure, the Nytro 5050 series of drives include power loss data protection, SED TCG security, and a 5-year limited warranty. Compatible with Linux and Microsoft OS, the drives are also packed with end-to-end data protection and low-density parity-check codes for enterprise reliability and data protection from undetected, unintentional corruption. The Nytro 5050 series features NVMe Management Interface, SMBus Sideband Management, and Life Management for seamless drive monitoring and management without burdening the operating system.
Both available this month, the Seagate Nytro 5350 and Nytro 5550 NVMe SSDs are data center ready with a full set of enterprise features to keep your business strategic for the future.
Seagate crafts the datasphere, helping to maximize humanity’s potential by innovating world-class, precision-engineered data storage and management solutions with a focus on sustainable partnerships. A global technology leader for more than 40 years, the company has shipped over three billion terabytes of data capacity. Learn more about Seagate by visiting www.seagate.com or subscribing to our blog.