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Listen: DYDX Partner Templar Wales Talks to ChaiFM: Working From Home

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Many people have to suddenly adapt to working or studying from home. It’s a major shift in approach for some, that will require mastering the use of new tools and methods to make sure the work gets done.

What can you do to be more effective working from home? And what have you done to help your team work better together?

Smollan and DYDX win at the 2020 Bookmarks Awards

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The COVID-19 led to the collapse of eventing worldwide and South Africa was no exception. While most events have just been cancelled, IAB Bookmark Awards joined educational institutes, musicians and niche interest meetups by creating a whole new online experience in almost no time at all.

We proud to announce that, together with the team at Smollan, DYDX ‘took home’ two Bookmark Awards. The judging panels awarded a Silver Craft Award for Excellence in Research and a Gold Pixel for Emerging Digital Technology: The Internet of Things (IoT).

“We believe the best way to fight poverty and environmental issues is to build inclusive, profitable businesses; this changes the mindset from dependent to independent, from despondent to engaged,” says David Smollan, CEO of Smollan.

“The two Bookmarks showcase our commitment to being a business with a purpose that serves our clients and the communities we work in. It is also indicative of our commitment and the quality of work achieved as a team with DYDX,” adds Smollan.

Excellence in Research Bookmark

The Bookmark was awarded to DYDX for the development of the innovative, iterative research process that enabled the rapid discovery and testing of insights into the South African informal market.

“Despite the size of the informal market (35% of all retail sales) there is very little data available and most of the data and estimates are enormously contradictory. Therefore, we needed an innovative research plan that supported the company’s ideation and experimentation flexibly and quickly,” says Smollan.

Templar Wales, Partner at DYDX, says that a hackathon was hosted as part of the research process before the final ideation session. “After weeks of ideation and further research a prototype, ‘Gcwalisa’, was created,” says Wales.

“‘Gcwalisa’, meaning ‘Fill up’ in Zulu, is an IoT product dispenser that allows customers to buy everyday products in whatever amounts they can afford, using their own containers and thereby eliminating the need for single-use packaging,” Wales adds.

“The solution was a sustainable, scalable business with a positive social and environmental impact while gathering valuable, granular purchase data for the brands,” Wales concludes.

Excellence in Emerging Technologies Bookmark

Smollan and DYDX also received a Bookmark for ‘Gcwalisa’ in the Excellence in Emerging Technologies: The Internet of Things (IoT) category, in which atypical Internet devices (not phones or computers) are used to achieve marketing and communication goals.

Remote Working Hints & Tips

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As companies start implementing work from home policies, the key question that emerges is how to do this effectively. Teams that are used to face to face contact and meetings need to be taught new ways of working together to maintain effectiveness.

The good news is that work from home can often lead to an increase in productivity once these ways of working are mastered.

Through DYDX’s experience with working with companies across Europe and Africa on “future of work” and building team behaviours to support digitisation, there are a range of tips we can share.

The most important one is taking some time to set up new working agreements. This may seem arbitrary but changing how you work requires new agreements between people working together, to avoid unnecessary frustration and communication breakdowns. This is because a physical space provides a lot of social and spatial queues that we don’t have in virtual spaces or in remote working.

Nevo Hadas, Partner at DYDX, unpacks key areas that if not implemented successfully will lead to breakdowns.  The opportunity is for the team to discuss and agree, thereby improving teamwork while remote:

Availability

  1. Immediacy:  you are used to walking up to somebody to get an answer and now you sent them a message or an email and … nothing. Reaching an agreement regarding how long people will take to respond before you escalate and how to deal with urgent requests helps clear up a lot of frustration in the team.
  2. Shared Schedules:  just because you can’t see people being busy doesn’t mean they aren’t. Team members should be good at sharing calendars of when they are at meetings or working on a document/project and should not be disturbed or won’t respond. This helps everyone understand what availability is. This also means that you should check a member’s calendar before calling them, if it’s urgent, send them a message and wait for a response.
  3. Economise your time: You will have a lot more calls now that you are remote, but not everything needs to be one hour. Think about the meeting structures and agendas carefully and allocate shorter periods of time. You would be surprised what can be achieved in 15/20 minutes of focused conversation.
  4. Agree on working hours. While there is the legislated time of work but that does not convert as effectively into virtual work as you would think. Now that you don’t have to commute, don’t use that time instinctively for working or sleeping.  Develop a routine to use that time effectively, either exercising, reading or online study. While we may think that having calls/meetings for more hours is increasing productivity it’s actually not, there is a limit to how long you are effective in these mediums. Allocate time for deep-work (i.e. don’t disturb) versus meetings if possible.

Work from home

Video/Voice Call etiquette and format

Video or voice call etiquette is a real thing.  These elements always trip people up:

  1. Share the call location (i.e. dial-in number/links etc) on the meeting request
  2. Prepare the platform. If you don’t have the right software, download it before the meeting starts (see the tech section for more on that.)
  3. Have a good headset that is either plugged into your laptop or phone.
  4. Be in a quiet space.
  5. Mute when you aren’t speaking. Background noises can be very distracting.
  6. Have a clear agenda (just like a physical meeting).
  7. Use video if you have the bandwidth or at least for a couple of minutes to say hi, there is nothing wrong with doing voice only.
  8. Decide a meeting cut-off time i.e. if you haven’t joined the meeting in 10min, please don’t join late.
  9. Not all calls have to follow the same format. You can choose or create a variety of call formats that will increase productivity for the type of meeting. i.e. a decision-making forum could use individual voting (many online tools have this) and then a discussion.
  10. Checkin/checkout – what is done visually after a meeting by looking for discomfort in attendees needs to be done more consciously in virtual meetings. Take the time to ensure that everyone is on board by checking-in when closing a meeting.
  11. Distractions are a real challenge on calls and it is easy to lose people’s attention in key moments. Etiquette agreements can make this clear i.e. don’t respond to your emails while in the meeting.
  12. Having fun is still important. Create channels and spaces where people can share silly gifs or other jokes. Allow people to still enjoy communication but also agree on how to bring it back to the topic.

Sharing Information

How will you share information and progress, is there a common folder everyone can work in, is there a directory structure? While these are obvious to many people the need to have a common space that you can use increases with remote working.

Personal workspace

Take breaks throughout the day and recognise them as breaks, the fear is people will think you are slacking off but very few people actually work non-stop for 8 hours a day. Grab a coffee, take a walk, chat to a friend.

Different zones in the house may be useful, i.e. morning versus afternoon spaces, as long as they are quiet with low background noise or conference calls become a nightmare.

Technology

Choose tools that work for your teams i.e. don’t let IT dictate things that just don’t function for you. Experiment with different tools before deciding. Agree on the tools you will use and make sure everyone has them and knows how they work. If you have people who are new to remote working, dedicate some time to onboard them into how the new tools work. It only takes a few minutes but saves a lot of frustration.

Collaboration tools provide a new way of working together. Everything from slides to diagrams can now be done using these tools. You may find that you need more than one tool depending on what you are doing.

Here is our list of tools, though it may not be right for you:

  1. G-Suite (Google) – this is our basic workspace i.e. slides, docs, sheets (excel), storage, email all live here and allow us to collaborate on work done.
  2. Slack – this is our communication space. We have channels per project where teams discuss issues and share document links (the documents live in G-Suite)
  3. Asana – task management to ensure people are on track. Each person can update their own tasks which is a big plus and reduces unnecessary status calls and stand-ups.
  4. Lucid-chart – this is what we use for diagramming complex flows for designing working processes
  5. Pipefy – this is what we use for expense and invoice management and it is integrated with
  6. Xero – which we use for accounting.
  7. Zoom/Hangouts/Slack – is what we use for calls, but varying call quality may make us switch from time to time.

Experiment

Even if you are highly experienced in working remotely, the practice of experimenting with new ways of working can improve your effectiveness and overall experience. Experiments don’t need to be anything big (e.g. today we will try a quick check-in before starting or a check-out at finishing), but do introduce some novelty and re-engage your team, it provides an active learning mindset that can build a team’s cohesiveness.

The most important factor for remote teams to be effective is not the productivity tools they choose, nor is it how smart they are. The most important factor for success in distributed teams is a common set of behaviours – an agreed team culture. Backed-up by research, our own experiences with global clients, and common sense, along with the Dutch government, we created the Culture Canvas: Making culture actionable to help you shape your team’s culture.

You can find it and download the free eBook here.

DyDx Partner Templar Wales talks Human Centered Design – Business Day TV

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DyDx partner Templar Wales appeared on The Big Small Business Show on Business TV, where he unpacked some of the basics that go into HCD thinking, and how businesses could be looking to innovate with this approach.

The Big Small Business Show aims to give viewers practical and down-to-earth business advice. The programme is tailor-made for entrepreneurs, giving great insight and tips to those who want to grow their ventures, as well as those who want to take the step towards entrepreneurship.

Case study: Vodacom

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Background

Vodacom, a subsidiary of Vodafone, has been undergoing an agile transformation, accelerating not only the impact and innovation in its’ business but also on its agencies. As one of the largest advertisers on the African continent, the volume of work generated by it is immense. Co-ordination across multiple agency partners, internal approvers, and marketing specialists became a key factor in the smooth running of the system.

The challenge

Vodacom marketing needed to prepare its marketing suppliers to both increase the pace and volume of work while staying within the existing budgetary constraints. With over 300 people involved in the ecosystem between internal stakeholders and suppliers, this was no small task.

People, Process, Systems

For any new system to take hold, people need to buy into it. This means that before you can re-engineer the processes, you have to create a behavioural change within the teams that enables the new to replace the old. While many leaders speak about change, few are willing to change. Vodacom’s leadership team drove the change and championed the initiatives.

Creating Agile Processes 

Agile, was not developed with marketing in mind. The first phase of the project required understanding how we implement agile with the different agencies and Vodacom through a series of workshops and immersions. Using service design methodologies, we mapped out the existing process flows to identify points of friction and emotional distress both at the agencies and at Vodacom.

It quickly became apparent that there were challenges on both sides of the table and the teams came together to identify process solutions to improve their ability to work together. A hybrid KANBAN process was developed clearly identifying handover and quality requirements to simplify interactions.

Service Design

With this understanding, the processes were mapped and revisions made to ways of working. The volume of work however quickly outstripped any physical board and a digital platform was required to support this volume of work. Choosing between a series of vendors by prototyping the process. Pipefy was selected as a technology platform due to its functionality and ease of deployment.

Prototyping change

From working with one agency, we moved into all of the agencies. All we had learned by working with Ogilvy (the lead agency), was transferred into an onboarding program. This took all of the agency teams through an agile marketing immersion, service design to reimagine processes and systems customisation, enabling each agency to work in their preferred way to meet their objective but still provide a unified overview for Vodacom.

Systems development

The challenge with process development is that it often looks great on paper but doesn’t work as expected in the real world. Working closely with the Pipefy teams in Brazil and the agencies, the system development followed an agile methodology with weekly iterations being developed, tested by users and modified based on their feedback.

Support and change management

A support and change management process was put in place to make rapid changes as issues were discovered in the process and new ideas were developed. A steering committee of users was identified to give ongoing feedback on new changes to ensure that fixes did not create new challenges.

Outcomes

From inception to live, the project encompassed 6 months. While implementing new systems is never easy, the results have been impressive. The number of active jobs managed by the system rapidly grew to almost 100% of the total jobs delivered, over the first 3 months, and as the teams settled into the new ways of working, the increased visibility has benefited all the parties.

Learnings:

You cannot change systems without changing behaviours. Behaviour change is an adaptive problem (i.e. has no obvious solution) vs a technical problem (i.e. known solution) because each team and its leadership dynamics are different. Without allowing the users to feel a sense of mastery and control over the new systems, you won’t get adoption – so having an inclusive process is key.

Inclusion, however, does not mean death by committee and facilitating a strong plan of action with short term momentum (i.e. weekly reviews, decisions and changes based on decisions) drives the project to completion. The ability to prototype and test the process on the new system quickly was critical to the success of the project. Post-implementation support and change management ensure ongoing utilisation.

Third-Party Cookie Crumbles

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Earlier this month Google signalled that it has surrendered a key front in the secret and massively complicated nerd-war being waged by Apple and others in the name of user privacy and security. 

Google quietly announced via its developer platform that it will be phasing out the manner in which it collects, stores and sells consumer information gathered by its super-dominant Chrome browser. Unsurprisingly, given that this information is the lifeblood of its advertising business it is committing to an awfully long sunset period of two years with lots of income-statement covering caveats. 

According to Geoff Cohen, partner at DYDX and former CEO of 24.com, in theory, this is a win for consumers. “It can’t really be argued that removing weaponised data from the hands of increasingly intrusive, unequally regulated, marketing superpowers is at face value a bad thing,” says Cohen.

But like the introduction of GDPR in Europe the way this particular retreat plays out may have some significant collateral damage impacting marketers, media owners and oddly further consolidating power in the hands of established platforms.

Cohen explains the winners and losers of these changes:  

Winners 

 

  1. Consumers, kind of. Anything that protects consumers from needless exploitation is a good thing, but a large part of the functionality and frictionless when expect from our digital products is derived from the gathering of relevant data and behaviour.
  2. Facebook, Amazon and Google will be able to increase the amount they charge marketers to access their logged in, permissioned walled gardens in social, commerce and search. Other channels that have sizeable user data/registered consumers will have a marginally stronger hand, but not nearly as strong as the platforms.
  3. Adtech/Martech vendors clamouring to design, market and sell the latest technology suite and attendant three-letter acronym to increasingly swamped and confused marketers.
  4. Prospecting over remarketing. Without tracking and granular analytics, marketers will be forced to review their strategies, increasingly focusing on building top-funnel acquisition and brand building rather than aggressive remarketing and follow me everywhere ads.
  5. CRM and owned audiences. Registrations and utilizing every single available data stream will become, quite rightly, the norm. Direct communication, bypassing the platforms, will become the single largest potential for marketers in an anonymous world.

Losers

 

  1. Media owners who relied on user data to package and sell their readers in Google and Facebooks marketplace. Unless there is a concerted effort to form login, partnerships providing a scaled audience the media owners will again be forced to accept lower prices.
  2. Google, despite the long lead time it has given itself, the business is under significant regulatory pressure with competition complaints about market dominance being registered across the world. This is going to be a tricky time for them and could lead to some messy commercial outcomes.
  3. Digital analytics software is going to see a large drop in accuracy and granularity. For years business owners have relied on the insights provided by user data and behavioural tracking but in an anonymous world, these changes and we can expect to see a lot more “sample” data than the granularity we have come to expect.

Overall, these changes are overdue. The pendulum in digital marketing and user experience has swung all the way to creepy from contextually relevant and this is the impact of the broader market pushing back. Asking for a bit more respect and duty of care. “We should enjoy while it lasts before the pendulum swings back again as it inevitably will,” concludes Cohen. 

Why Nick Cave knows more about AI than futurists do

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Yuval Harrari, in his book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, speaks about an AI knowing us so well, that it knows how to write the perfect song for us to enhance or change our mood. While the science and technology sound intriguing and potentially possible, the very idea of it seems to miss the point of what music is about.

We love songs for the stories they convey, but the stories are often subtle and filled with social cues that go beyond melody and harmony. The story of the artist imbues a song with depth, a song about heartbreak can fill us with even more compassion as we hear the artist’s story writing the song versus just the lyrics. Think of “Dance Me to the End of Love” by Leonard Cohen; it’s a beautiful song made more beautiful by its story of his decades-long love affair with Marianne Ihlen.

Songs are also not solitary or personalised (other than maybe for the artist). It is about a shared experience of the human condition. Other fans provide us with a sense of belonging, sharing music we love with friends makes us feel more connected. Personally, I love it when my kids go to see the Pixies, which is my favorite band. It brings us closer together versus each having our own set of music that is personalised to the point that it has no common meaning.

Nobody says this better than Nick Cave in his response to the question by a fan. Could an AI have written “Smells like Teen Spirit”? Maybe… could it have had the same tragic delivery, frustration and ultimate suicide that give the song its meaning beyond the chords? No. We confuse the aesthetic with the outcome – but that’s not how humans work.

Read his letter below, it’s well worth it:

Nick Cave, answering a Slovenian fan’s question: ‘Considering human imagination the last piece of wilderness, do you think AI will ever be able to write a good song?’

Dear Peter,

In Yuval Noah Harari’s new book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, he writes that Artificial Intelligence, with its limitless potential and connectedness, will ultimately render many humans redundant in the workplace. This sounds entirely feasible. However, he goes on to say that AI will be able to write better songs than humans can. He says, and excuse my simplistic summation, that we listen to songs to make us feel certain things and that in the future AI will simply be able to map the individual mind and create songs tailored exclusively to our own particular mental algorithms, that can make us feel, with far more intensity and precision, whatever it is we want to feel. If we are feeling sad and want to feel happy we simply listen to our bespoke AI happy song and the job will be done.

But, I am not sure that this is all songs do. Of course, we go to songs to make us feel something — happy, sad, sexy, homesick, excited or whatever — but this is not all a song does. What a great song makes us feel is a sense of awe. There is a reason for this. A sense of awe is almost exclusively predicated on our limitations as human beings. It is entirely to do with our audacity as humans to reach beyond our potential.

It is perfectly conceivable that AI could produce a song as good as Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” for example, and that it ticked all the boxes required to make us feel what a song like that should make us feel — in this case, excited and rebellious, let’s say. It is also feasible that AI could produce a song that makes us feel these same feelings, but more intensely than any human songwriter could do.

But, I don’t feel that when we listen to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” it is only the song that we are listening to. It feels to me, that what we are actually listening to is a withdrawn and alienated young man’s journey out of the small American town of Aberdeen — a young man who by any measure was a walking bundle of dysfunction and human limitation — a young man who had the temerity to howl his particular pain into a microphone and in doing so, by way of the heavens, reach into the hearts of a generation.

We are also listening to Iggy Pop walk across his audience’s hands and smear himself in peanut butter whilst singing 1970. We are listening to Beethoven compose the Ninth Symphony while almost totally deaf. We are listening to Prince, that tiny cluster of purple atoms, singing in the pouring rain at the Super Bowl and blowing everyone’s minds. We are listening to Nina Simone stuff all her rage and disappointment into the most tender of love songs. We are listening to Paganini continue to play his Stradivarius as the strings snapped. We are listening to Jimi Hendrix kneel and set fire to his own instrument.

What we are actually listening to is human limitation and the audacity to transcend it. Artificial Intelligence, for all its unlimited potential, simply doesn’t have this capacity. How could it? And this is the essence of transcendence. If we have limitless potential then what is there to transcend? And therefore what is the purpose of the imagination at all. Music has the ability to touch the celestial sphere with the tips of its fingers and the awe and wonder we feel is in the desperate temerity of the reach, not just the outcome. Where is the transcendent splendour in unlimited potential? So to answer your question, Peter, AI would have the capacity to write a good song, but not a great one. It lacks the nerve.

Love, Nick

By Nevo Hadas – Nevo is the Founding Partner of DYDX

Smollan and DYDX transforming informal retail

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Retail innovation can increase revenue, reduce plastic and serve consumers’ unmet needs.

Leading international retail solutions company Smollan and DYDX, a global product and service design practice, partnered to deliver an innovative solution for the informal market that could both change how FMCG products are sold and reduce the use of single-use plastics.

The combined informal market represents 35% of all retail sales in SA. This market, however, is notoriously difficult for brands, as the unstructured distribution channels mean very little effective data can be gathered. Furthermore, due to low levels of affordability, brands have resorted to smaller packaged units to reach this market, mostly single-use plastics. This has created a gap between affordability for customers and brands’ responsibility to the environment.

The Gcwalisa dispensers, created by Smollan and DYDX, allow customers to purchase food and home care products in values from as little as R1. Spaza owners can provide the amount requested by customers quickly, thanks to onboard computers with IoT sensors measuring volume while dispensing.

Goods are dispensed into reusable containers, allowing brands to deliver bulk into the informal channel and for the shop-owners to distribute in micro sizes without single-use plastics. This takes significant costs out of the channel and creates new opportunities for consumers to purchase their preferred brands, even at very low volumes.

The dispensers are connected IoT devices, providing brands with detailed sales data from each shop, giving data granularity and insight that could revolutionise distribution, understanding of buying patterns and price points.

Using a structured design thinking and innovation process, the joint team, headed by Rudi Nienaber, Innovation Executive at Smollan, supported by DYDX, created a new way to sell products through the informal channels. “Innovation requires asking different questions and lots of on-the-ground research and prototyping.” said Nienaber, “Our starting point was to turn products into services which led to a series of new ideas, of which Gcwalisa was the best one.”

“We know that people have real affordability challenges, and price is often linked to distribution constraints of minimum-sized packaging. We wanted to change how pricing worked, allowing people to purchase FMCG products like they do airtime.

Another key factor is a positive social impact. By eradicating single-use plastic and packaging, we not only save brands and consumers money but also benefit the environment, which is critical. With major brands looking to reduce plastic usage but not impact sales this approach makes perfect sense,” says Mike Smollan, Chief Growth & Innovation Officer at Smollan.

Revealed at Smollan’s Inspire Evolve event, the project already has interest from a number of brands.  “Distribution into informal markets is not a “one size fits all” approach. While we can re-use the technology and approach, we are working with brands to understand both the unique dynamics of their market and the technical properties of their products to optimise the solution for them.” says Nevo Hadas, Managing Partner at DYDX.

 

DYDX speaks to SABC News about Smollan’s innovative new retail solution

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DYDX collaborated with retail solution company Smollan Group to create an innovative solution for the informal market.

The Gcwalisa dispenser provides a cost-effective solution for buying products, potentially changing how FMCG products are sold and helping to reduce the previous impact of the plastic packaging on the environment.

DYDX’s Templar Wales speaks to SA Today on SABC News about the dispenser, the process behind creating the solution, and how this has impacted on the community and the environment.