In today’s economy, businesses have two main audiences their leadership teams need to connect with: internal customers (employees) and external customers (the people who buy their goods and services).

Often times, companies use facts and figures to connect with these audiences. These pieces of communication only appeal to the logical brain. Rather, what businesses need to start doing is telling better stories. Heartfelt stories — inspiring stories — that connect with people, because storytelling is the new business currency.

By focusing on only sharing data and strategies, organizations are missing out on rooting their stories in their audience’s (employee’s & client’s) experience. As speaker Melanie Spring points out, “storytelling is humans, talking to humans, about human things”.

If the organization sets out first to understand what their audience wants and their obstacles to getting it, they can share compelling stories that activate potential customers. It all has to be rooted in the audience experience.

It’s what T. S. Eliot called the objective correlative. If the storytelling doesn’t hit home and represents audience emotions, then it falls flat. Emotion only works if the recipient feels it in their bones. It has to be real and it must be specific to them.

Storytelling helps you show the world that your business is not like everyone else’s. Storytelling will change how you view the world.

The benefits of storytelling in business are numerous:

Core Values emerge- When founders of companies or organizations tie stories to the history and legacy of the organization, the core value of the company will show themselves. For example if the entrepreneur who started the business shares the early struggles of being a start-up, and how he pulled through the difficult times, with all new employees in a transparent, monomyth story style, this will hit home with anyone who has ever struggled in life.

By the founder sharing his core value of Persistence in the Face of Imposing Odds with his employees, and explaining what this means for them now that they work there, this will give them something to believe in and consequently they will believe in the company and their motivation to work will increase.

That leader is giving that new employee a greater sense of purpose and meaning by making them part of the company’s wider story.

A key in the sales process- If a customer doesn’t buy from you because “it just doesn’t feel right” means you are attacking the critical thinking, not the heart of your audience. People buy for themselves, not for you. Yelp reviews which are essentially stories and not just facts and features. Glassdoor. Remember that humans typically make emotional not rational decisions so being able to evoke emotions through storytelling is a powerful tool. Leaders need to transfer their vision into a captivating story and clearly communicate it using a sincere marketing strategy

Emotionally connect people and create loyalty- You want people to want to be a part of what you do, to share in the core values of the company. You want to attract those who believe what you believe. The power of storytelling accomplishes this connection between the company and the employee. The best stories evoke emotional reactions – people genuinely relate and connect with these stories and they believe in the company and what it stands for. When people listen to a story, they feel what the protagonist of the story is feeling so a good way of using a story to connect with an audience is to tell a story about a mistake you/the company made, a failure or maybe life wasn’t going well for you or the company in the past.

People will relate to this as we have all experienced mistakes and failures. The more the audience relates to you or understands what went into creating the brand, the more likely they will like you and your company.

It makes good business sense and profits- Storytelling creates early adopters and raving fans. According to best-selling author Simon Sinek, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. People want to buy from companies that they believe care i.e. empathetic companies.Look no further than the Global Empathy Index, where the businesses near the top of the list were amongst the most profitable and fastest-growing businesses in the world.They use storytelling to show their company’s empathetic nature, and the value is in the numbers. The top ten companies also generated 50% more income and increased in value more than twice than the companies in the bottom ten.

To prove that point, researchers Walker and Glenn showed the value of storytelling by auctioning off insignificant objects on eBay with heartfelt and purpose-written short stories. The items, which were purchased for around $1.25 each, sold for nearly $8,000 cumulatively. This shows how a smart storytelling approach can increase the perceived value of something and generate ROI.

Recently, I was fortunate to see a speech from futurist Peter Diamandis. He spoke about what the future world of work would be like, and specifically talked about the workforce within manufacturing. It’s about to be transformed.

Old constraints such as specialization in manufacturing skill set and tooling are going away, new technologies are being added rapidly, and the type of employee needed in manufacturing is going to drastically change, according to Diamandis.

New technological capabilities will enable manufacturers to customize everything while turning consumers into inventors. And as price points decline while accessibility increases, manufacturing juggernauts and early-stage startups alike have infinite possibilities ahead.

Three Major Shifts

3-D printing farms, smart factories, and autonomous co-bots will turn concepts into commodities overnight. There are about to be three major paradigm shifts:

1. Mass customization: Fixed costs will begin to reach variable costs in the production sphere, meaning companies will no longer fabricate millions of the same product or part. Customer data-driven design will allow for cost-effective, tailor-made commodities and one-off production items.

2. Democratized Invention: Incubator studios and fabrication equipment labs are jumping onto the scene. Flaunting AI-aided robots and swarm 3-D printers that work overnight, these urban workshops basically serve as new testing grounds — the physical hands for digital designs.

Whether in-house or entirely outsourced, design-to-production technologies allow anyone to invent. This will eliminate operational costs, fabrication equipment, prototyping, tooling, and far-flung production plants.

3. Smart and Autonomous Factories: Industrial IoT (IIoT) and smart factories are ushering in a new era of autonomous production, severely reducing recalls and freeing corporations to expand product lines.

Let’s examine each further.

Mass Customization

Technological convergence will soon allow startups and corporations alike to personalize products at an unparalleled scale.

Artificial intelligence (AI) will go from merely automating production to custom configuring products to meet individual demands.

The greatest game-changer of customized manufacturing at-scale is 3-D printing. Previously a niche and prohibitively priced tool, 3-D printing is hitting its exponential growth phase, says Deamandis. By 2021, IDC analysts expect 3-D printing global spending to be nearly $20 billion.

With newly accessible design software, companies can customize products such as personalized dentistry products, adapted airplane and auto parts, or microscale fabrication products such as sensors, drug delivery technologies, and lab-on-a-chip applications

MX3D, a Dutch company, is using its six-axis robotic arms to 3-D print the Arc Bicycle, a futuristic bike with steel lattice frame. Potentially the greatest breakthrough in its manufacturing process is MX3D’s multiple-axis printing capability, which enables printing from any direction in mid-air.

While conventional 3-D printing requires some form of support for objects as they’re printed, multi-axis printing technologies almost entirely eliminate this dependency, opening up incredible new structural possibilities.

Smart products and electronics no longer have to be manually embedded with circuitry. Using a wide array of conductive inks, manufacturers can print circuitry directly into their products all at one time with conductive inks. With high thermal stability and at only a few microns thick, evolving conductive inks have the potential to revolutionize hardware production.

Cost-effective 3-D printing takes manufacturers directly from design to production, eliminating lengthy design processes, multi-stage prototyping, tooling costs, and mass production, where design becomes adaptable and production is expedited.

Democratized Invention

With Democratized platforms, everyone can be an inventor via newly accessible CAD-like design software and easy-to-use interfaces.

New hardware studios and accelerators are springing up daily, eager to collaborate with digital startups and designers by providing the physical building space and manufacturing capacity for now unencumbered entrepreneurs. This allows any manufacturer wanting to build any product to become completely dematerialized.

Companies like Playground Global want to take care of material constraints like engineering, fabrication, supply chain management, and distribution.

Large companies like 3D Systems and Stratasys are also embracing distributed manufacturing. With its Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator, Stratasys supplies 3-D printers that work simultaneously and are centrally controlled through a cloud-based architecture.

With some three billion new minds joining the web as internet connectivity blankets the earth, now we can ask: what will today’s new inventors build? Crowdfunding sources like Kickstarter look to give entrepreneurs a leg up through initial finance.

As distributed manufacturing converges with the plunging costs of automated fabrication, we are about to see an explosion of innovative design.

Smart and Autonomous Factories

For established corporations with high production quotas, industrial IoT, AI, collaborative bots, and new technologies like Li-Fi, are the next frontier.

Manufacturers are now using the Internet of Things, whereby device connectivity allows smart products to communicate seamlessly and automate cumbersome tasks.

With new sensors, ML tools, and inspection drones coming onto the market, not only can manufacturing equipment correct for errors instantaneously, but production will conform to changing demands in real-time. Smart factories will manufacture smart products through machine-to-machine (M2M) communication with data transfer between smart bots, with the goal of adapting to workflows in real-time.

Aiming to eliminate the risk of recalls — one of the most costly and dreaded catastrophes for big manufacturers — AI is coming to the rescue. Landing.ai now produces machine-vision tools that can find microscopic defects in circuit boards and products hidden from our visual range. With precise on-site quality analysis, errors are communicated immediately, and IIoT-connected machinery can halt any output before it ever becomes a liability.

But what about defective machinery? As predictive analytics are engineered to near perfection, machine learning techniques can detect abnormalities and risky indicators long before they cause issues.

Yet as cloud-connected, collaborative machines begin managing themselves, what’s to stop fully automated factories operating in the dark or without heat? Potentially nothing.

Voodoo Manufacturing is massively disrupting 24/7/365 production with Project Skywalker. Geared with nine mounted 3-D printers and a huge robotic arm, Voodoo’s 3-D printing farms incessantly print parts, and a Universal Robots UR10 arm unloads products as instructed. In the near future, Voodoo estimates that a single-arm will be capable of tending to approximately 100 printers.

Diamandis sees a staggering convergence of 3-D printers, collaborative 3-D printing farms, co-robots, robots that manage 3-D printers, 3-D printers that build robots… and this is just the beginning.

Smart sensors now convert data, communicate with fabrication machines, and turn off devices when performance or safety is at stake. IIoT allows us to analyze production quotas, do predictive maintenance, and input designs remotely.

Although many fear the job market losses caused by purely automated and smart manufacturing, democratized tools and dematerialized companies will allow anyone a shot at invention.

This means an upsurge of self-employed, creative minds building needed products; on-demand personalized commodities built at record speed; and an economic boom of unprecedented dimensions.

We’ve seen a skyrocketing software industry bringing millions of jobs and brilliant services to our economy. As physical constraints to fabrication disappear and design platforms abound, we are on the verge of a second boom.

From the days of Ebenezer Scrooge to Bill Lumbergh in “Office Space,” employers are typically portrayed in fiction as having the upper hand in the employer-employee relationship. For most employees, they feel that fiction is their sad reality.

For decades, employers have felt that employees should be happy to have a job. Employees have felt indebted to employers, almost beholden to them. But in 2018, employees are revolting and turning the tables on employers at a level that has been unheard of in the hiring landscape.

To some extent, employees are giving employers a taste of their own medicine, so they tell themselves. During and after the Great Recession, when unemployment reached 10 percent, many firms ignored job applicants. Candidates were frustrated because they felt employers were ghosting on them, even though those employers did not have jobs to offer due to terrible economic conditions.

Ghosting, where someone doesn’t communicate either at the outset or during a conversation, is a way to avoid providing an honest, but unpleasant, message such as, “I am resigning my job” or “I have accepted another job.” The thought is: “if I ignore you, you will get the hint and go away.”

During the recession and long afterward, when a company interviewed job seekers, they had many qualified candidates to choose from. Unfortunately, many employers did not communicate with the candidates that were not chosen. This left a bitter taste in the mouths of hungry job seekers. They felt disrespected.

Now the tables have turned and employees are now “ghosting” employers at an alarming rate.

Ghosting comes in many forms, which we have been tracking at our recruiting firm. Consider:

No show on the first day of a new job — This area is where we have seen the greatest increase in candidate ghosting in 2018. Between January and June, we had an astounding 26 people not show up for their first day of a direct-hire job. These were all employed professionals, who had been on interviews with our clients and who had received — and accepted — written job offers. In over 25 years in the recruiting industry, we have never seen this type of candidate behavior. Ever. For a candidate to not show up for a temporary or contract assignment happens occasionally. For such a large number of candidates to not show up for a direct-hire job is unheard of.
No Show for a first interview — in a one-week period in July 2018, we had 13 first interviews scheduled with our clients for direct hire jobs. Nine candidates ghosted us and our clients and did not show up for the interview.
Quitting a job without giving notice — while this is nothing new, we have seen an increase. What is new is that the Labor Department reported that in May 2018, 2.4 percent of all those employed quit jobs, typically to take another, the largest share in 17 years.

In a recent USA Today article on employee ghosting, many businesses report that 20 percent to 50 percent of job applicants and workers are pulling no-shows in some form. For example, new hires don’t show up on the first day of work. That behavior — or ignoring calls after accepting a job offer — is happening about 30 percent of the time with servers, bartenders, and other workers hired this year by Hollywood Casino in Baton Rouge according to the article.

Why can employees get away with such unprofessional behavior? It’s a candidate market and they have more job options, and the data proves it out. In May, with unemployment then near an 18-year low of 3.8 percent, there were more job openings than unemployed people for just the second month in the past two decades, according to the Labor Department.

In business, time is money. Ghosting by employees or job seekers correlates to wasted recruiting time and costs and potentially lost production or sales, as hard-to-fill jobs stay open longer than anticipated.

To combat this new employee ghosting behavior, employers are trying to mitigate wasted time. Since they can no longer count on the verbal or written commitment of a job offer acceptance, some employers are now doing mass group interviews for entry-level jobs, knowing that a large majority of people in the interview process will opt-out or stop communicating.

Other employers are working harder during interviews to sell candidates on the benefits of working for their company, including having potential co-workers meet with job candidates and share why the company is a great place to work.

Lastly, other employers are shortening the time before a new hire starts, including immediate employment or as soon as possible, instead of having them start in a few weeks. The company’s goal is to seek employees who match their sense of urgency. If they don’t start a new employee quickly, that employee could still have the mindset of being a free agent.

Todd Palmer is the founder and president of Troy-based Diversified Industrial Staffing and Diversified PEOple LLC and a regular contributor to DBusiness.

As good leaders and managers within our businesses, we make hundreds of decisions each day. Those decisions typically revolve around strategy, execution, cash, and people.

We read articles and books on how to grow our companies or teams, we attend seminars on strategy and execution, and we faithfully listen to the latest podcasts on people management. We are committed to knowing more so that we can do our jobs better.

Whether we are willing to admit it or not, oftentimes we make the wrong decisions, yet we consider ourselves to be smart leaders. Why is it that smart leaders make dumb decisions? It’s because they rely on Cognitive Bias.

What’s a cognitive bias, and how does it work? A cognitive bias is a systematic error in thinking that affects how decisions and judgments are made. It is usually a result of our brains trying to simplify information processing or, simply put, the brain’s rule of thumb that helps us quickly make decisions.

Things like social pressures, individual motivations, emotions, and limits on one’s ability to process information can all contribute to biases. Memory and attention span can also have a major impact on cognitive bias.

There are several types of cognitive bias. Here is a small sample:

Confirmation Bias: People like what they like. Confirmation bias is when a person listens only to information that confirms what they already believe, instead of being open to another viewpoint.

Self-Serving Bias: A self-serving bias is the tendency to blame others when bad things happen and give yourself credit when positive things happen. When you get a raise, it’s because you’re a stellar employee, but when you don’t get the raise, it’s because your boss is a jerk.

Availability Heuristic: People often ignore research or access to information that is readily available to them. For instance, one might argue about the effects of driving without a seat belt by saying he or she knew someone who survived two car accidents because they did not buckle up.

Choice-supportive Bias: When someone makes a choice, they often defend it, even if it is ultimately a flawed or the wrong choice. For instance, you may believe your dog is the best in the world, although it has a history of biting people.

While it is very normal to rely on your biases for your decisions, psychologist Daniel Kahneman has shown that reliance on cognitive bias decision making often results in poor decisions being made. Our intuitions lead us astray, or deliberate reasoning is absent from the decision-making process when we are stressed or tired.

To get away from relying too heavily on our biases, we need to broaden our scope of decision-making thoughts. Here are some ideas to shake up your cognitive bias thinking:

Think about the future and make three estimates: To improve your accuracy, work up at least three estimates — low, medium, and high — instead of just stating a range. People give wider ranges when they think about their low and high estimates separately, and coming up with three numbers prompts you to do that. Your low and high guesses should be unlikely, but still within the realm of possibility. With this approach, you’re less likely to get blindsided by events at either extreme — and you can plan for them. Chances are, your middle estimate will bring you closer to reality than a two-number range would.

Seek advice: Outline objectives on your own before seeking advice so that you don’t get “anchored” by what others say. And don’t anchor your advisers by leading with what you already believe (“I think our new CEO needs to have experience with acquisitions — what do you think?”). If you are making a decision jointly with others, have people list their goals independently and then combine the lists.

Use joint evaluation: In separate evaluation mode, people pay attention to what they can easily evaluate — for example, previous employment history — and ignore what they can’t. They make a decision without considering all the relevant facts. A proven way to snap into joint evaluation mode is to consider what you’ll be missing if you make a certain choice.

Vanishing Options Test: In their book, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, authors Chip and Dan Heath suggest you assume you can’t choose any of the options you’re weighing and ask, “What else could I do?” This question will trigger an exploration of alternatives. When people imagine that they cannot have an option, they are forced to move their mental spotlight elsewhere — really move it — often for the first time in a long while. If more than one idea looked promising, you might split the difference.

If you want to have different results within your company, you must continue to learn beyond our biases. Different information and thinking can create better results.

In business and in life, failure is going to occur.  It’s inevitable and it’s necessary.  It is where the greatest amount of growth, learning and personal development occurs.  Each of us will handle failing in business differently, based upon how we view failure.
Do you take on the Webster’s Dictionary definition of failure–
A) Failing to perform a duty or expected action
B) A lack of success
Or do you take on a more positive definition of failure, such as the one subscribed to by former Prime Minister of England during World War II Winston Churchill, who believed that “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm”?
In order to execute the Churchill definition, the business owner or manager must become a business leader. They must increase his or her sense of awareness around the idea of failure and what it means to them.
Here is a definition of failure that flips failure completely around, from Dr. Danny Friedland-
“I give it my all and I learn. If I invested in the experience, and I learned from it, can I ever truly fail?  Failures are nothing more than feedback along my path to success. “
Can you think of a more inspiring definition of failure??
The solution is to not use failing as a barrier to success.  Instead, use failure as a catalyst for success.  What successful entrepreneurs & business leaders do is, they do not see failure as a win or lose scenario.
Instead, they create a positive framework around it:
  • Recognize the pattern- i.e. what is not working
  • Set an intention (not an expectation) of what they would like to see different
  • Create a strategy to break the pattern
  • Then they Take action
  • Get feedback on how they did.  This can come from employees, clients, Wall Street, etc.

This helps them to continue to stay along the path of success, as Churchill would say, without a loss of enthusiasm.

 One of the most famous fail-forward into success stories is that of Harland Sanders, better known to lovers of fried chicken, as Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Colonel Sanders, after the age of 65, had to reinvent his definition of success.
At the time, he had one restaurant in North Corbin Kentucky, which was located on a prime road, bringing him plenty of traffic from hungry travelers.
However, due to the construction of Interstate 75, he sold the restaurant because of the reduction in customers and revenue.  His customers no longer drove past his location.
So Harland Sanders took the one asset he had, his mother’s chicken recipe, and set out across the country to try to sell the recipe.
He went from one diner to the next, cooking the recipe for restaurant owners, making just enough to continue his sales journey.  He lived off of his meager savings and $105 per month from Social Security.
The Colonel was so determined, that he slept in the back of his car, and found great pleasure in teaching potential customers how to make his recipe using his unique techniques.  However, he was struggling to make his first sale.  He was failing.  Harland Sanders needed to re-frame failure.
  • He recognized the pattern of what was not working.  He realized that frying the chicken didn’t differentiate him enough in the eyes of restaurant owners, so he began pressure cooking the chicken, which allowed the food to be processed quicker, with a unique flavor.
  • Set an intention (not an expectation) of what they would like to see different.  He focused on creating a sustainable business income stream, that was not dependent on one location.  He sought to receive .04 cents from every chicken sold, creating recurring revenue.
  • Create a strategy to break the pattern & then take action- he took to the road and demonstrated the process, cooking the chicken himself
  • Get feedback on how they did.   He, and his recipe, where rejected 1,009 times.  Talk about a lot of feedback!!!!
 And as it usually happens in life, one chance is all he needed.
1952 was the year when the “Kentucky Fried Chicken” recipe was franchised for the first time in Salt Lake City, Utah.
10 years later the Colonel experienced significant success and the company soon grew to over 600 franchised outlets.   At 73, he sold KFC to investors for $2 million (which is more than 15 million today).   He became a salaried brand spokesman. Today, KFC is the world’s fourth-largest restaurant chain with over 20,000 locations across the globe.  And, Colonel Sanders is still its logo.
He failed forward 1,009 times into success, to build a global brand.
Being a business leader is not an “everyone gets a trophy world”. It’s not easy and it doesn’t always make you happy. Some days you win, some days you lose.  However, if approached correctly, it can be hugely satisfying.