My first ever blog post in the new WordPress blog was Shift Happens. That was 10 years ago. Now in honor of it’s 10th anniversary, Karl Fish took a look back on his Blog The Fish Bowl.
The best video is still this one on YouTube and I’d love to find a decent update, but to date, it’s unmatched and I urge you to watch it.
10 years have gone by and still our children don’t learn for their lives, about compassion, tolerance and respect. They don’t learn to apply the rule of three to compare 200g of product X with 800g of product Y. They don’t know how to socially interact without a screen. They can chat for days but not structure their ideas. Crowdfunding, couch surfing, big data and hightech, but they are still asked to use “printed” information for their diplomas, WiFi is not available in many schools. And if you’re poor, the school neither enables you access to all that new high tech. Nobody’s left behind?
Yeah. But they know how to calculate mathematics that their parents left to calculators and for the past 10 years our smartphone app does.
So we don’t produce enough children in “the West”, so population shrinks and more people get older and fewer young will have to look after them. But instead of making our kids smarter, we limp behind the average school in Asia. And the U.S. industry recently published that they depend on their Asian employees for new developments…?
I had a student I made my assistant back in Erfurt. When I left, her fellow colleagues degraded her back to “student” (cooking coffee, assisting their work). She left aviation. A loss to our industry!
Her business uses Blog, Facebook, Social Networks.
Same for Celinne Da Costa, traveling the world “couch surfing”. Exotic. And I’m asked, how that can work. With smart tech, an online world and a device to write and share the written, with paid-for articles and speaking. And I know more people doing that! Are our kids ready for this?
We set-up CheckIn.com. Us in the middle of nowhere in Braunschweig, Germany. Our mapmagician from Berlin, our server admin in Frankfurt, the algorithmic genie from Texas. Will we ever set up an “office”? I doubt it. But still most (relatively old) managers stick to “workplace”. Even relatively young Marissa Meyer, taking her post at Yahoo ordered an end to ‘remote’ work as all staff are told to be in the office as part of a new era of collaboration. Old thinking. She’s a “role model”? I’ll teach my girls better. I promise!
Karl Fish closes his review pointedly: “In 2006 I was worried that we were preparing students for our past, not their future. In 2016, I still am.”
KPIs or “Key Performance Indicators” are considered a vital management tool to measure staff performance. But especially in aviation, we must be very much aware of the weakness of the KPI idea.
An old question on KPIs is “How do you calculate ‘service’?” If the company does good product, service is of low need. Their KPIs are low valued. So service is frequently outsourced by those wise guys (and gals). On the other hand, if you produce crap, “service” covers for it (or should) and is in great demand. Then it is easy to generate good KPIs. Large call volumen, strong problem solving, low loss of customers.
But in both cases, good service usually needs “reserves”, so if you keep your head count low, once something happens (and that’s rarely under controlled circumstances, prepared for or in the responsibility of the service team), you need “all hands on deck”. If you outsourced your service to save money, that’s when the bill backfires on you…
Another good example are flight attendants. They are not there to serve your every whim, they are not the “Saftschubsen” (juice pushies) they are often disrespectfully named. Once you had your very first inflight emergency, you hopefully start to understand their real value.
Why is it that I know senior airline managers who still try to argue that you need one or two flight attendants less on the flight for service reasons and they have to be reminded of the requirements by aircraft makers and governmental aviation bodies that that many flight attendants are certainly needed to evacuate aircraft.
So what’s those KPIs all about?
In my experience and not just mine as I see from discussions and comments, KPIs are being (ab)used by accountants (up to CFO or CEO) to “measure” stuff they do not in reality understand. KPIs are also used to discourage staff from working beyond the line of duty, to find “reason” by disqualifying them from benefits and bonuses.
There’s a good reading on KPIs in Marketing. Addressing the immeasurable impact of your competitors action. Or that you hardly ever launch a single marketing campaign, but you’re likely firing on all cylinders, ain’t you?
Very, very few companies understand that KPIs must be used without “threats”, not as a “measure”, but as a means to improve products, services. What’s the number of complaints? How have they de- or increased and not just that, but most important why. Don’t “blame”. The “blame game” is for shortsighted idiots to play. KPIs can be set together in a team for motivation. If they’re dictated (openly or implied) by your boss or worse, used against you, they won’t work.
There was some buzz on LinkedIn this week on Disruption Management. Bringing to mind how an airport I worked with disqualified their own historic KPIs as trash by implementing a check on the reasons for disruptions. Where before the airline was responsible for the brunt of all disruptions and delays, suddenly ATC, weather, ground handling or security became clear problems. But in the past it was so much easier to click “airline” and not research what was the real cause. So the real cause never got addressed. To low on the KPI scale. Whooops.
Don’t get me wrong. On any projects I worked on in the past years, I used KPIs and Milestones. My own that is. But if I would have made them my mantra, I’d have achieved nothing ever. As a fire-fighter, you don’t care about the water spent. You blow out the fire. And at least for me, my KPIs and Milestones are taken like all good plans. They hardly ever survive meeting reality. So I don’t take them for granted, I adjust them to reality and use them to measure the planned vs. the achieved performance to identify why I turned out better or worse. Not for blame. But to learn to better forecast… To learn for the next project to apply KPIs that are more realistic.
While Einstein said: “Not everything that can be counted counts. And not everything that counts can be counted.” Drucker said: “If it cannot be measured. It cannot be improved.”
Both are right, but if you make numbers the only thing that counts for you, you have no vision, will never make a dream come true. KPIs are a tool from a large tool box. It needs an master artist to sculpture something beautiful out of someone’s imagination. It’s so similar to what we do at CheckIn.com. We crunch numbers, but we cannot predict the future. Don’t believe in the numbers only. But use them to solidify (or disqualify) your intuition! But I would have bet against some new routes in the past ten years that turned out surprisingly stable business! It takes guts to sometimes run a controlled risk. If you don’t play, you cannot win. Then use your own previously assumed KPIs (also i.e. load factors, yields) to learn.
Last week, I had a discussion with one of the companies developing online (travel) booking technology, followed by an exchange with one of the techies at the TMC, the travel management companies. The latter you can still call corporate travel agency, just a new name for old (and useful) business. It triggered some memories. And questions.
Back in 1995/96, I was the GDS expert behind the development of the first corporate web-service allowing to book flights using the Amadeus GDS. Facing the “it’s impossible” from the GDSs. Using screen scraping where today’s players have the luxury of APIs. The pioneering days and I miss them. Back in those days, I had an example I use in my discussions to date talking about “change management”. The technology did not trigger much interest. The break-through was a function I fought for, which my boss and the head developer disqualified as “toy”: The seat map.
To be able to select and see“your” seat is to date one of the most used (usually the most used) optional functions travelers use when booking online. As in the example, the “default” often assigns you a seat in the rear of the cabin, while you may (as many business travelers) want to sit up front. But. To date, only very few airlines show the seat map in the process, it’s still mostly a “click here”. And none of those nice tools uses the traveler preference to pre-assign the seat intelligently following the interest of the traveler. My preference is aisle, up front. if possible the seat next to me not being used. If the flight shows full empty like the above example I travel with Yulia, I book A/C, with the kids I book A/C+D/F, so leaving the middle seat intentionally free. If the flight is full, I try the same, as far back as I can. Because if they need to sit in the middle, travelers prefer to do so up front… Logic rules in fact, but not one of the systems implemented such an auto-selection, so I keep using the seat map and keep being upset about the seat I should have swallowed from automatic assignment…
Now last weekend a post emerged about kids-free zones, just triggering the question, why those systems to date cannot manage prioritized seating. Exit rows and seats meant for baby bassinets or passengers needing extra assistance (for medical, not for financial reasons) are sold at premium charge, where they were blocked to gate assignment in the past (for good reason). Families struggle to be seated together when all the seats have been pre-reserved. Passengers arguing when they loose their early booked “nice” seats in the process, ending up on the least-preferred middle-seats. And none of the airline systems has a process in place to automatically reassign such seats in advance of the flight. So much that could be done to improve the process, but the systems, even the airlines’ own still are down to the pre-Internet management of seats on the GDS/CRS.
October 6th, easyJet promoted:
262 days. Triggering my comment “Sometimes I miss the good old days when we argued why flight bookings should be expanded from 330 to 360 days… And wondering why the “newcomers” did never invent a possibility to even “waitlist” beyond. Why not?” Because the brunt of bookings comes in short notice, it’s only a niche, flight plans change, it’s the way it is… Yeah, I know all those meak, user-ignorant reasons. And yeah, I keep asking the question. A “wait list” is no guarantee you get what you want. It’s an expression of interest, if you fly, I want to fly with you…
Another “logical question” is the user-centric implementation of the process. Discussing the issue of “virtual agents” and online support chat, one of the very early discussions I had with my friend Alex was the question to understand, when the virtual agent reached it’s limit and to redirect the discussion to a real agent… Alex is a former colleague I very much like; he was the master mind behind Virtuoz virtual agents (around 2002), speech recognition (2013), which Facebook acquired 2015 and today he’s one of the parents of Facebook M, the artificial intelligence development at Facebook.
Flight bookings are still the core of “online travel booking”, followed by hotels, travel expense, rental cars or rail. But to date, the complexity of air travel limits those tools mostly to be useful for simple bookings like A to B and back. Nevertheless, since my days (~15 years ago), the processes to request more complex flights are there. Fill out a form, the system runs a “best price” and that’s it. 15 years ago, a friend of mine being VP IT at one of the TMCs and I defined over some lunch meetings a process to split the process in such case, create the PNR with the request, the recommended flights and send it to a travel agent for a required review. Because in these cases, any experienced travel agent with their business intelligence can really “do” something, make the booking much better fitting to the need of the traveler. Today, the process exists, but split completely. All bookings go via messaging and are manually processed by a travel agent (I had that at SITA, being one of the global tech-leaders …), or book online. But that’s optimized to the existing corporate and travel agency processes, it is not user centric. 15 years after I moved on.
The only “major” changes are the integrated travel expense reporting we also started already back then and some minor improvements on the part of flexibility in the travel approval process. All else: Minor minor. Very small. In my view simply limping behind on industry developments, forced by increased differentiation, i.e. on airline’s ancillary revenues (ooops… buzz word…). Having a look at what we have today, speaking with the makers of these technologies, I’m sorry, but in my opinion, they stalled. The fun of the pioneering days is over, now changes are very, very little, incremental and it’s mostly fixating the existing processes.
With World Routes now behind us, since I wrote it, I had several discussions about my Routes pitch and why all companies should have a business plan and have their employees know it.
The first step developing a business plan is the Elevator Pitch. It is the very summary of what you are doing. Usually, it starts with an essay, then you boil it down. To three minutes (a quick introduction), then to three sentences. Or less. Including a friendly greeting for a good first impression! And it’s a good idea to think about a slogan there, Best for the slogan are three to five words, something that sounds catchy. Like we used “The Isochrones People” for CheckIn.com. “People” we used to emphasize that despite the focus on “data”, it’s made by and for people. Positive emotion.
But the elevator pitch is meant to make your audience curious. Curiosity is one of the most universal and positive emotions. Curiosity opens more doors than any other emotion!
That is why the focus shifts from the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to the Emotional (ESP) one. But you need both. And you need to boil them down to their core. Not one of your customers will keep more than two or three key points from any given presentation. So if you have your USP(s) and ESP(s), you can make sure your message stays consistent. If you have more than one product, solution, different “client types”, “target groups” or present to clients, investors or your own people, you will create variations. But when you write the different chapters of your business plan, when you develop a presentation, when you communicate, you review them that you always stick to your consistent message(s).
And this is, why I changed my presentations for start-up business development replacing the USP with the
EUSP – The Emotional Unique Selling Proposition
Because it is not about the USP only. Or the ESP. It’s about both.
These days, in a job interview, I heard a senior and very “seasoned” manager (engineering background) again telling me about the technical benefits of their wonderful tool – in my opinion totally loosing the potential client (that was me). Yeah, I’m “tech-sawy”. But people buy not products and fancy technical gadgets, but they buy for their personal benefit (or that of the company).
Improvements to the processes such have to result in “personal” improvements. For the same reason I believe, A-CDM has adoption problems, as ops people believe they shall be replaced by those tools, they are expensive and the focus is on the technical benefits, neither on the cost savings nor the improvements for the people in the process. I’ve not seen a single “elevator pitch” or a “business plan” in use there either.
When you work on start-up companies and their business ideas, you quickly learn the value of a business plan. And to start with the elevator pitch(es). Not for the investors and banks and such, but for yourself. Bring your thoughts into a structure. Communicate consistently And I can only recommend the very same to anyone in business.
That is the elevator pitch. It just opens the door. But it keeps your message consistent.
And to wrap up, there are some examples, what an EUSP is not:
Not an Answer. Curiosity is the emotion that opens doors!
Not a Mission Statement. That’s a separate thing you should have in the business plan, focused on you, not really on your customer.
No Hot Air. We’re the biggest, best, most advanced, sexiest, bla, bla, blubber.
No Sales Pitch. Yeah. That’s tough. But you tell what makes you different. Not about price. Or focusing to close a sale.
You’re not selling a car or insurance on the door! With the EUSP you introduce yourself. All the ‘ugly’ selling comes once you created interest (curiosity!). And Trust.
Sure, there are “obvious” reasons, but when it boils down, you need to prioritize where your money comes from. So while World Routes is an important event, I believe in the reasoning behind the split into multiple Routes events.
World Routes for the global players, regional routes for the regional players. Whereas at Routes Europe earlier this year, the “regional focus” is blurred already, attracting “foreign” long-haul airlines. As CheckIn.com currently focuses on Europe, Routes Europe is a must go for us. So we will be in Ireland next April. As an airline client requested Russia before North America, we won’t be ready for Routes Americas in Vegas in February.
If we get North America up in time, it may make sense to look at World Routes 2017. May make sense.
Likely still not, as the focus of the event is the networking between airlines and airports. As close as we are related to the aviation network development industry, we are secondary, we are supplier. World Routes is simply too busy, too packed, to give us a lot of opportunity to promote our services. That’s much more focused and such reasonable at the smaller (and targeted) events.
Right after Routes Americas, there’s the second (annually first) European event which we now have as a “must go” on the agenda: Connect°
Which motivated the question, why or how that event differs from Routes Europe and why I believe this is even more valuable…? The answer is rather easy. Where Routes attracts all those big shots, it is already becoming a “major player event”. Many small airports and airlines expressed towards us that they feel uncomfortable at Routes, even on the Routes Europe. Too big. Too big-focused.
Connect° and Karin Butot focus the event to the small and mid-sized players. So if you look for big traffic and big routes, go to Belfast. But if you focus on small airports, regional airlines and more local business, you’re very likely better off at Connect°.
So if you want to meet us…
22.-24. Feb 2017: Connect°, Ajaccio, Corsica, France
23.-25. Apr 2017: Routes Europe, Belfast, Ireland
Or call us to make an appointment elsewhere.
P.S.: Have you registered for CheckIn.com access? Registered users enjoy free access to basic airport data for more than 570 airports in Europe, including an isochrones map and the population in it! Free as in “no charge” and “free to use” (as is).
There are online tests for both on the web, which simply identify how your brain works. Not in black&white, there’s gray scale. But dominantly. Generally (according to Myers-Briggs) there are four indicators in the end. Indicators, not “rules”. You are either introverted or extroverted, intuitive or sensing, feeling or thinking, perceptive or judging. I found this understanding very helpful to identify my strength as such and understand that being different, is not a weakness but a different strength.
Many of you know, Yulia is an introvert, where I’m an extrovert. Where it is very easy for me to stand in front of a crowd or meet strangers, this is a real challenge for Yulia. Which is also, why I help her promoting CheckIn.com. That difference in personality is rather easy to grasp. the other differences are more difficult in the beginning.
Intuitive or sensing in a nut shell is about how you gather information. You need to touch them (with your senses) or can you imagine them? Thinking and feeling are about decision making, being straight-thinking or more intuitive following their “gut feeling”.
Judging and perceptive is not about ruling, but they influence your expression. Where judging types like more that things are clear and settled, perceptive types constantly challenge them.
But then we move on from Myers-Briggs to Keirsey and we step into a different world. In fact, we leave theory behind and come to the practical application. Because the Keirsey Temperament Sorter’s results are observable. Again, there is no black & white, but in many facets certain behavior is dominant. Such as the easily observable extro- vs. introversion.
Before you continue, you might want to do the official test, though that requires (free) registration on Keirsey’s website to get the results. And only the mini-result is free, giving you a general indication (like me, being an idealist “NF”). If you don’t need it for business, I found this a good online source to do the Myers-Briggs test (try to avoid neutral answers), which tells me (again) I’m a “Campaigner”, an ENFP-a. But the strongest, dominating type in me being the extrovert. How surprising ツ And doesn’t that fit with my passion in “Marketing” and challenging the frontiers?
What triggered this blog article is a quote by Steven Covey seen on LinkedIn (as so often, not properly referenced to him), which quickly reminded me also of that Peanuts “Great Pumpkin” cartoon by Schulz. Intuitively and being an extrovert, I jumped to it, but at second thought quickly identified it as simply a good example on how extroverts and introverts react to the same extrovert statement. And also, how judging types “believe” strongly in what for them is “settled”, the perceptive types do question the Great Pumpkin. Or Life, the Universe and Everything.
An introvert listens by nature. So Yeats was an extrovert and just expressed the typical extroverts view…
Food for Thought
And do me the favor and click on the (new) heart ♥ below the article if you liked it. It’s not linked anywhere but local for me to know the topics that my readers prefer ツ
A post on ASM VP Nigel Mayes on RoutesOnline triggered this FoodForThought. His thoughts about a how to give the perfect routes presentation … Focusing on data. Which is a perfect example of what you see at Routes and what will not make the difference.
In any given sales training I attended, in many of the keynotes or presentations I gave on the topic, I focus on three facts I can boil down to one:
The Elevator Pitch
Successful Selling is Emotional
What’s your message?
Or in one: What is your USP? The USP is the Unique Selling Proposition. It’s what makes your product different, why someone should choose to buy from you and not your competition. But more important, the new concept of the ESP: The EmotionalSelling Proposition!
In my presentations, I never focus on the numbers. Say what? But with CheckIn.com you’re crunching numbers big time!!! So what?
I’ve never sold the numbers. Not selling software, nor selling airline tickets, nor selling airports, nowhere. Simply: Nowhere.
Selling is emotional. 10% of the sale is facts. Some say 15% (1/7th). I believe less.
Facts are facts, they either sell on their own, or they don’t. Not much influence on the facts.
When I sold competitive software, the data crunching was important. But not to come with facts, but how to load them emotionally? Because where I sold was, where I could establish the emotional link. Trust. Faith. Sure you got to have your numbers. You got to issue an RFP, very often under legal rules, making sure the procurement team is unbiased and takes what is best for the company. Often under stupid rules like “cheap = best”. You get what you pay for, right? But then, there’s the “finale”. If you’re in the final round, emotions jumps into the game. Suddenly the soft factors get more important. Three finalists competing. All qualified. Who fit’s my need the best???
The job of the sales manager. Be the face of the company.
There are three phases:
Phase 1: Establish the contact
Phase 2: Know your [Numbers / Tools / Services]
Phase 3: Close the sale.
Phase 1 and 3 are all about emotions. They are about Sales Management. Phase 2 is where the number crunching work is. That’s for your engineers to support your sales manager!
An attractive sales lady or gentlemen without experience, right from university sells mostly to men. Emotional. Good for the initial contact and the closing. In between, you don’t need sales, you need the engineers, the number crunchers. Phase 2 is not “sales”. But I also learned that you better call the graduate not a sales manager but either a junior sales manager or a customer manager. Face to the client. They can learn the process. They should be the face to the client (at all times). They should not be exchanged, or your client looses a big part of his/her emotional bonding to your company. But they must work in tandem with the company’s experts! And they have to learn enough of your product before you remove the “junior”.
Many companies make the mistake. Engineers trying to sell. They go for numbers, technical gadgets, hardly ever they understand the emotions that make the customer buy into them. Do I need to be able to know deicing management or shall I better understand the principles behind it and leave the fine-print to the engineers? Talking to deicing experts with 20 years experience, I caught them with emotion. With emotionally loaded facts. Want to buy? Here’s the dream, the overall picture that I know we can make a reality. Let’s call in the engineers, they can explain you in all detail how the individual puzzle piece works. Want to make the sales manager an engineer? Bad idea. Want to make an engineer a sales manager? Bad idea. Engineers are usually number crunchers. Only very few understand the emotional concepts in selling. Recently, in marketing groups there’s a hype about the step from USP to ESP from the unique to the emotional selling proposition.
The first-ever post on this blog was Shift Happens. As valid as it ever was! Today, most jobs and products are new. Experience helps to adapt and understand the USP. But being good in Sales & Marketing is not about expertise in the product. It’s about expert in emotional selling proposition!
A friend recently asked me for help on a new start-up. I had a look at their website. I did not understand what they’re doing. I got what business they were in. But what’s their USP? It’s been done by engineers… You got to be one to understand.
So let’s look back at my first three points. Lots of words on the website. But what’s it all about? I didn’t know. So we come down to my first point: The elevator pitch. Can you catch a potential client’s or investor’s interest in the first 30 seconds to two or three minutes you have with him in the elevator? Or on a conference floor? Three sentences. Why should he talk to you? What’s your product, what makes it different? What’s the value? “Return of Investment” is an issue. Emotion is also one! Apple sells more on emotion than anything else! So we’re back on 2.: The emotional side. And come down to the third issue: What’s your message? In three lines or 30 seconds? If you can’t boil your USP down to the elevator pitch, how do you think your prospected clients will ever understand it? If you can do it in 30 seconds, you have 19 minutes to talk about it and bring the emotion home. Okay, realistically you have two to three minutes at a Routes scheduled meeting to bring home the pitch. Rarely at once, beyond 30 seconds the risk to be disrupted increases expotentially
If you focus your sales pitch on “Know your numbers”, you miss out the 90% emotional side of selling.
My advise for airports intending to sell successfully at Routes: What’s your message? Most important thing we did at Erfurt Airport was the image video
No voice. Just music. Emotion! Renaming Erfurt to Erfurt-Weimar? Emotional. Weimar transporting “history” and emotion. Everyone heard about Weimar in history class. What’s “Erfurt”?
The final point I focused on in my presentations and consulting with airports: Focus on incoming! Everybody knows, you know “your local market”. But in aviation, you have two markets. Show you know what attracts people to you. Incoming. No, I never understand how Thuringia Tourism at ITB 2010 could promote Hungarian historic composer Franz Liszt, when they just had a great number of gold medals from the Olympic winter games. The politicos in Erfurt never understood the need to focus on incoming, nor the need to promote emotionally.
Though I should have been warned: On my second day there in March 2009, Thuringia Tourism GM Bärbel Grönegres was in Abu Dhabi and promoted medical tourism there to fly to Frankfurt and get the train or a bus to Thuringia. Instead of the existing flight service via Munich. The state development agency LEG had delegations fly from and to Berlin, with train connection from and to Erfurt. We made a 99€ special available to LEG, which they never made use of. How do you want to sell the flights, if the politicians paying for them don’t use them? Result: Instead of replacing Erfurt-Munich (three hours drive, very good train connection) with the recommended Erfurt-Amsterdam, they simply decided to not extend my contract and terminate scheduled services.
So make sure you have your own PTBs behind you (the powers-that-be). State development, tourism, industry, politicians. And not just because they have to, but because they believe in your sales pitch. It’s a team effort. And a team is not a group of people who must work together, but it’s a group of people who trust each other. Emotion.
Emotions are key to successful selling. If you hire a sales manager, find someone emotional. Someone creative. And don’t make them an engineer, you likely have enough of those already, right?
Reading this, it reminded me of my own experience, as well as something my dad told me decades ago: “Keep in mind that the people doing the productive work pay for all those supportive jobs.”. Including the bakers, the medical, schools, trainers, … Not talking about all those “managers” that nowadays make a living by explaining how to do things differently.
Growing up with American military, there was a saying that you can’t have more chiefs than Indians. In fact, it’s a clear pyramid with given salary schemes where the general earns more than the private, but in a reasonable amount. At the same time, there were only about four generals and flag officers for each 10,000 uniformed personnel*. Today it’s seven. And they soon have more “admirals” than ships…
Looking at current structures in the industry, we have too many Chiefs and too little Indians. In fact, I know companies (i.e. consulting) having 10 Chiefs on a single Indian or less. Mostly secretaries, IT support and cleaning staff, often enough outsourced. And we pay the Indians badly and feed the Chiefs. Some figures in Germany make me afraid. In the last years, the numbers of people living of social security despite having a job increased year over year. Yes, they have work. But not enough to live from, they need state support to survive!
The number of retirees needing a side job to survive grew the past years from 15 to 35 percent. That means that one out of three can’t survive of the retirement plan they paid into most of their life?
German Wirtschaftswoche (“Commercial Week”) magazine reported 2015 that top managers make 54 times the salary of an average employee. This is the average. At Volkswagen they made 170 times the salary of their workers, Adidas 100 times. In the U.S., they make in average 273 times the salary of their workers the German Zeit (“time) magazine reported. 30 years ago, top managers made approx. five times that of the average employee. This is about paid managers. It’s a different issue on the owners of the company, but even those usually made about the same income as their top managers and invested the revenue into the company, their employees and reserves. When there was a “crisis”, they had reserves to dig into. Where today the managers fire their workers (same time often increasing their own “salaries”).
At the same time these highly paid managers reduced their personal risk in case of failure by insurances and contractual clauses. But imply that their mega-salaries are because of all the responsibility they have for the company and its employee and their well-being. Whereas the net income of their workers have in reality dropped many years as a result of inflation, tax and social security increases, etc. And not to forget by making “Leiharbeit”, subcontracting labor. That way, the history of working for a company throughout your lifetime became a myth, companies, no, not faceless companies, but company managers are no longer loyal to their workers. And not paying subcontracted labor a surplus for the job risk but paying them mostly even less than their own.
My friend Erica was hired for a temporary job with one of the large global players. While they denied her any surplus for the risk of a temporary contract she was asked to not do any side jobs. Similar for me when SITA acquired delair. The same time that they both denied us any job security. Are they crazy? Companies recently start paying minimum wages, adding contract clauses that the workers are not allowed (!) to have a second job. Forcing them to live of state aid, despite a full-time job, often in combination with unpaid overtime. That is reality. Now Erica is happy to leave the bureaucrats, I was quite happy to part ways with SITA (with +400 peers). I prefer smaller companies with less hierarchy but also support and fair pay for the Indians. Recently there’s studies and case studies proving better payment proved to be far better on the motivation of the work force with substantially higher return on the “investment”.
Another issue on salaries is “variables”. I truly believe a fair base salary and a fair results scheme are motivating. Unfortunately – and I hear that from a lot of friends – the “targets” set are unrealistic. Such you can rarely rely on them. The manager’s goal not being motivation, but cost savings, is also counter productive. Aside, it’s simple greed and also just aside, that’s a mortal sin.
Recently, some discussions came up on my social networks about the development of Artificial Intelligence. I decided to add my thoughts to it on the blog.
One of the reasons is my dear former colleague Alex developed artificial avatars, able to assist web-users. Following the sale to Nuance (they are also behind Apple’s Siri), he started a voice recognition development at WIT.AI, that meanwhile was acquired by Facebook. Alex now works on Facebook M, their approach to artificial development. Hey Alex, this is also to you. I’d appreciate your comments on this.
So. As fascinated as I am by his career path in the past 15 years, I’m also a bit concerned.
In my 2008 ASRA presentation, I compared the visualization of the world wide web nodes (by Opte.org) with the visualization of the neural nodes in the human brain. Ever since, I do believe that if the WWW is not yet “sentient”, it will soon happen. What scientists and SciFi-writers call “wake-up”. It’s not a question if, but when. And how we go about it.
Because I think different from Transcendence, where we could stop it, or Asimov ruling it, such “control” is wishful thinking. We have no “three rules of robotic” and even Asimov had to add a fourth, the “zero rule” (see link above). For Transcendence; we will neither be able to deprive ourselves off all energy (and the advantages of the web). Mass psychologically will assure we won’t find a way, as there will always be others who think and act against that attempt. Until we act, it will be too late. As an intelligence “the size of the planet” will by then counter anything our small minds may come up with, even before we attempt anything.
We only have the chance to befriend the new sentient being, like we did in Heinlein’s Future History. But we also have the chance to mess up ourselves; small like in 2001, A Space Odyssey or big like in Terminator or The Matrix. Transcendence at that was only a different version of the Borg‘s Assimilation. And as in I am Legend, the true question is, if such “assimilation” or a “transcendental human upgrade” is bad. Or an evolutionary step. I believe, given the chance, many humans may volunteer. I just hope that there is no single mind “ruling” all others like in the movie. As I believe our individualism is as much a burden as it is a great strength. Though I also like that quote:
I also believe in both “systems” there got to be individualism to evolve: “You learn from your opponents”. I heard it often, there’s no single source, it’s “mature wisdom”. As “competition” is a good, if not the reason to evolve. (War is not, it’s destructive by nature!)
Another question is “religious”. Will an A.I. have a soul? I believe so. I think that the soul is the core of any sentient being. I also believe that beyond the body, the core of ourselves remain. Not in an (overcrowded) paradise or hell, but as somehow conscious sentience. Maybe even as a “personality”. Will we then remain individuals? I don’t know. Maybe we get reborn, forgetting our past? Many believe that. The soul still “learning”. What’s truth? We will know. Once we died. But if we all become “part of god” and god being the summary of sentience in space and time, maybe our input helps god evolve, become bigger. If then a global sentient A.I. comes into the game, why should it not play it’s part in evolution?
And stopping the A.I.? In 2001, humans gave conflicting orders to the local A.I. (HAL 9000), which interpreted them the best it could. Under the constraints of it’s programming. But if we have a global A.I. based on linked “neurons” in form of personal computers, mobile phones and other computing powers, we will realistically not stand a chance to “stop” it.
Does my computer already “adapt” for me? Or my phone? When I play games on the computer, I sometimes believe so. Sometimes, I use bad search phrases but still find what I seek. Coincidence? Programming? Or “someone nice out there helping me”? And yes, if the web wakes up, it likely will be somewhere at Google… And then spread out.
What will we make it? A Terminator? Or a Minerva as in the Future History? We extinct ourselves in the West with low birth rates. Will the “mecha” be our future children? Will we coexist like in the Future History? I don’t know. I’m concerned, keep finding myself thinking about it.
But I’m not afraid either. Not for me, nor for my children.