Category Archives: Know How

What’s a Store For?

The first e-commerce transaction—a music CD, pizza, or weed, depending on who you ask—took place around thirty years ago. That means that first truly native ecommerce generation is now in charge of their own foot traffic and armed with at least one device that spares them the trouble of leaving the house. This, paired with the broader shift in consumer behavior across all generations, means brick and mortars need to find new ways to compete with digital to inspire visits and sales. Stores are evolving and, along the way, challenging the very notion of what a store is for.

Up against digital

A big part of brick and mortar’s evolution is digital integration. Today, retailers are working to enhance and personalize customer experience by connecting to consumers in-store through their mobile devices—building apps, targeting ads, and using beacons. You can find many examples of digital integration today, though online retailer Rebecca Minkoff’s flagship store in New York offers one of the more comprehensive ones; its interactive wall and dressing rooms have been credited with tripling expected clothing sales. Timberland also just launched its first connected store while Nordstrom’s commitment to digital integration has been credited with 50% growth in revenue over 5 years. (They just hired a former Amazon exec to serve as CTO.) Target, too, is getting into the mix, launching an LA25 initiative where it’s testing 50 of its top enhancements in 25 Los Angeles stores.

The IRL advantage

But digital integration is not the only strategy; retailers can also draw on the in-real-life [IRL] advantages of the physical space. Immediacy comes in here, with more retailers enabling online ordering and pick up in store or curbside. It’s competitive because fewer exclusively online retailers can offer this instant gratification, but is not necessarily a long-term strategy given that online fulfillment will continue to evolve and speed up.

More effective is the opportunity to build community. Oftentimes, this comes in the form of caffeine; Barnes and Noble was an early innovator here, adding a Starbucks to a New Jersey store back in 1993. Since then, many retailers have adopted or tested in-store cafes, including Urban Outfitters, Target, Restoration Hardware, and Kohl’s. Along the same lines, Target, Whole Foods, and Nordstrom, among others, are offering cocktails in some stores. When trying to attract customers and increase dwell time, there’s an advantage in offering something that can’t be instantly downloaded, like coffee, booze, and yes, maybe even tattoos. (See Whole Foods.)

Meanwhile, another concept that keeps popping up is—ahem—the pop up shop. The pop up shop’s currency is urgency; if customers don’t come now they risk missing out forever. Bloomingdales is hosting a pop up inspired by the musical Hamilton while Macy’s is bringing in pop ups as part of the reinvention of its Brooklyn store. The pop up also presents a low-risk testing ground for online retailers, one compelling example being Warby Parker’s touring store that was housed in a school bus.

But…is it a store?

As brick and mortar adapts, becoming deeper integrated with digital, acting a fulfillment center and expanding to offer drinks and other services, the classic definition of “store” begins to fragment. Already, the “store” has lost its longstanding position as the finale of the customer purchase funnel; in no small part because that purchase funnel itself is an antiquated concept. Savvy retailers and brands in general now think of the consumer experience as an ongoing loop, with consumers moving from digital to physical and back until, eventually, there may be no clear delineation between the two. This emphasis on the overall experience changes the expectations of stores. It also opens opportunities for more types of brands to invest in physical locations.

For example, last year, there was an more than an hour wait at the Museum of Feelings in downtown New York City. The museum invited visitors to walk through a sensory presentation of each feeling: Optimism, Joy, Invigorated, Exhilarated and Calm, while its exterior changed color to reflect the social mood of New York. You might argue that this wasn’t actually a store, but then it wasn’t actually a museum either; The Museum of Feelings was a branded retail experience for Glade, generating buzz for an otherwise not-so-buzzed-about brand.

More recently, Samsung launched Samsung 837, a “first-its-kind cultural destination, digital playground and marketing center of excellence.” Samsung 837 serves as a showcase for innovation, offering what may be the first virtual reality experience for many visitors and providing Instagram-friendly experiences like the walk-through Social Media Gallery. But what’s unique about Samsung’s space is that there is nothing sold there. It’s an experience—an opportunity for Samsung to tell its story and give visitors a way to get excited about the brand they’ll buy in the future.

In cases like these, brick and mortars serve as a marketing vehicle—an opportunity for brands to curate their own presence for customers, just as social provided the format to operate as a media company. It’s a trend that makes Amazon’s decision to open its own brick and mortars seem strategic. But is the return there?

It always comes back to data

The ability to more accurately track consumer activity gives brick and mortars a host of insights. Not only can the more connected store know what was purchased, they can also see what products compelled the most research, price comparisons, or inspired trips to the fitting room. They can engage with in-store customers via social media as well as encourage and measure posts from their store and, increasingly, tap into emotional analytics. Further, more sophisticated attribution measurement is making it possible to determine what investments drove traffic to the store, even without purchase.

Though it would be inaccurate to suggest that traffic and sales aren’t still the key performance indicators for most stores, this broader set of data, if put to use, can help a retailer optimize beyond the limits of its four walls—especially critical at a time when stores are closing so rapidly that CNN wrote “Store Closings are the Hottest Trend in Retail.”

Where to go from here

Digital has an odd way of creating challenges and then presenting solutions for those challenges it creates. It offers a range of ways of to add genuine value, from brand awareness to interaction, coupled with pop-up flexibility. If retailers are savvier about embracing this value, they’ll stand a better chance of attracting customers. If not, they’re not only missing out on opportunities in the near term, they’re limiting their future prospects for growth—after all, isn’t it a waste to see a store as a fulfilment outlet?

Vendors must collaborate to solve Infosec insecurities

IT security has become one of the most complex elements of a modern IT environment, requiring layers of protection, along with advanced analytics to block attacks, halt intruders and secure data. None the less, the current layers of security fail at times, often due to a single vendor approach to creating those layers of security.

Naturally, vendors are not all to blame, except for the fact that a lack of collaboration and technology transfer among those security vendors effectively creates silos of protection, regardless of the number of layers installed. For example, a single vendor solution that incorporates firewall, AV, IDP, Malware detection, and other elements into a singular platform using multiple detection layers may allow attacks to slip by simply because the threat has been designed to bypass the protection offered by that single vendor solution.

Simply put, the threats of today are larger than any one vendor, meaning that the isolation of security technology must become a thing of the past. In other words, it may “take a village” to raise security standards to combat the threats of today and tomorrow.

However, the winds of change are blowing and many security vendors are coming to the realization that sharing security practices and the associated technology can benefit all, except for the cybercriminals. Case in point is DB Networks, a vendor whose products I have reviewed in the past. DB Networks is now turning their competitors into partners by licensing the company’s Layer 7 Database Sensor, so that other security vendors can include advanced machine learning into their own security products.

By allowing what were once competitors to incorporate DB Network’s proprietary security technologies, DB Networks has helped to create a collaborative security environment, where multi-vendor security products can work in unison, yet still provide specific layers of protection.  This differs vastly from the licensing schemes used by AV vendors in the past, simply because those AV vendors were not offering full integration into another vendor’s security product, but were acting as an independent layer as part of the overall security process.

The Layer 7 Database Sensor differs greatly in both concept and execution. From the outset, the DB Networks Layer 7 Database Sensor was designed to be integrated into partners’ security products, which then allowed the partner to provide their end customers with full-spectrum visibility across all attack surfaces. For the most part, the product integration brings with it the ability to discover databases and connected applications, while also identifying traffic to/from restricted segments, which allows the product to pinpoint compromised credentials.

What’s more, the Layer 7 Database Sensor brings with it the ability to immediately identify database attacks using machine learning and behavioral analysis. Ultimately, the integration of the capabilities offered allows security vendors to create more robust security products, which are able to use multiple layers of threat identification to leverage numerous technologies in the fight to block even the most advanced attacks.


Explore AI at Gigaom Change in Austin this September

The idea of artificial intelligence is an old one. But now, not only has it become a reality for businesses today, but a necessity as well.

Up until now, the AI products that we use on a daily basis tend to be very verticalized. They may be an expert system that can do one very narrow thing quite well, or a machine learning application which has one specific domain.

But now, things have changed. Now, broader AI systems which can ingest a wide range of data and provide intelligence on it are popping up.

When IBM Watson is presented the Jeopardy answer of “A long, tiresome speech delivered by a frothy pie topping” and knows the proper question is “What is meringue-harangue?”, well, things just got rather interesting. But the story isn’t only Watson. A world of diverse AI technologies has emerged, each more exciting than the last.

When discussing AI, there is always a temptation to speculate on just how advanced it can get. And yes, at Gigaom Change, we probably won’t be able to resist a moment or two of discussion about it. But the real intention of the AI portion of our event is on what you can do today with AI in your organization to give you a competitive edge.

These are exciting times in technology, but they are also exciting times in business. Come to Austin in September and join us as we explore the immediate AI opportunities available to companies today. The leading AI companies and thought leaders will be there, eager to explore the possibilities of using these technologies in business today.

Right now, you can register to attend at our Early Adopter pricing of $1150. The full price of an event tickets is $4000, so this is a substantial savings. The event is expected to sell out, so I urge you to sign up today.

I hope to see you in September.

Byron Reese
Publisher, Gigaom

Build an IT help desk

An IT help desk is often the first line of support for many organizations. However, some businesses can’t justify the cost of implementing and managing a dedicated help desk to serve the demands of their end users due to a lack of available IT resources or budgetary constraints. This creates a unique challenge: end users need access to support for productivity, yet a fully staffed help desk is out of the question.

Solving the conundrum involves finding a balance between supporting users and reining in costs, without either spiraling out of control. Still, businesses lacking an IT support mechanism will encounter productivity-sapping problems, which may not have any easy solutions, forcing them to employ their very best creative problem-solving skills.

Building a help desk

Most businesses start by relying on vendors to provide help when problems strike, but vendors tend to be limited when offering free support for their own products and may require the purchase of a support plan. While the initial cost may not seem daunting, the complex, hybrid networks in use today require more than a single vendor and product support plan to keep end users productive.

Creating a help desk for internal and external staffers should not be an insurmountable challenge. There are myriad options available, ranging from cloud-based contracted services and value-added reseller (VAR) provided solutions to internally deployed hardware and software. Regardless of the path chosen, every help desk solution should contain three critical elements:

  • Staff: Someone has to man the help desk and be ready to answer phone calls, emails, or other end user requests for service and additional help.
  • Platform: A tracking system should be set up to support the creation of troubleshooting tickets and document interactions between help desk staffers and users requesting support.
  • Remediation: A mechanism should be in place to assist help desk staffers in remediating the reported problem(s).

Normally, these three requirements are met by deploying a help desk system, which is a combination of hardware and software tools supporting the overall mission. Many hardware vendors include elements to ease the adoption of help desk techniques.

In many cases, those additional capabilities can reduce the overall support costs and speed resolution times. For example, some hardware vendors offer remote boot, remote control, and other features that make it easier for a technician to connect to a problem system and resolve any issues. Some vendors also offer software clients and hardware capabilities to simply and smoothly integrate their products into a help desk platform.

Affordable alternatives and solutions

You may also choose to go the open source route to create an internal help desk. There are several free options available that provide a decent starting point. For businesses seeking more information, Capterra offers insight into some popular free tools, such as UserVoice, Freshdesk, and osTicket.

Nonetheless, there is a lot more to deploying a successful IT help desk than just selecting support software. You’ll need to take into account the situations where help requests may arise and how critical it is to solve those problems before productivity is impacted, much of which can be accomplished by adopting some industry standard best practices, including:

  • Implement a web-based knowledge base tool.
  • Use the help desk software system to increase communications with agents and customers.
  • Make a customer self-help portal accessible 24 hours every day.
  • Install service request automation processes in your help desk software.
  • Utilize real-time help desk reports, dashboards, metrics, and analytics.
  • Institute an asset management system and integrate it with the help desk software system.
  • Apply a change management system.
  • Perform customer satisfaction surveys on a regular basis.

Following these steps can lead to a successful help desk system, and soon, you’ll be able to leverage the technology and services, receive all the benefits, and keep your business running.

Return on investment

One of the most important issues surrounding a help desk is affordability. Many businesses tend to focus on the cost of the hardware, software, and staff needed for an effective help desk to determine operational costs, yet those same companies fail to realize the value offered by a help desk, which can be simply measured by increased productivity. The quicker problems are solved, the quicker staffers return to productivity.

It’s also a good idea to keep tabs on help desk operations in the form of reports. By evaluating the number of problems, the time to resolution, and the return to productivity, company operators can discover how much a help desk contributes to overall productivity, thereby justifying the expenses involved.

Unifying help desk and system management solutions can revolutionize your business’s service desk options and inventory control, and when your business starts to grow, you’ll be glad you didn’t overlook the importance of having a stable IT help desk.

There’s only 10 types of people in the world: those who ‘get’ digital, and…

Over the past few days and weeks, a recurring mantra has appeared in conversations I have had, or overheard, with clients. “Well, nobody really knows what digital is, do they?” goes the question.

At first this seems like a fair point — after all, isn’t it yet another term trotted out by a marketing-led technology industry, another bandwagon defined by some analyst firm, to be got with and differentiated against.

Indeed, last time such a point was raised about a ‘megatrend’, the topic was cloud. In that case, the question was on the money: as intervening history has shown, the term was poorly defined, easily abused by gung-ho marketers and in general, made explanations more complicated rather than simpler.

So such scepticism is as understandable as it is, in the case of digital, misplaced. Over the past 3-4 years since the term started being thrown about once again, what has become clear is that ‘digital’ is a business-led, not an IT-led initiative.

At its heart is a simple principle: that technologically enabled data flows are now everywhere, connecting everything that can be connected. There are no boundaries to reach, nor to innovation, nor to privacy.

This is fundamentally different to old-world use of technology, where data was over there, to be managed by an IT department and protected with firewalls. It is notable that Google has removed the latter, with its Beyond Corp initiative.

Which brings to the point. It’s an old joke in the title, I know, but it seemed appropriate to roll it out. ‘Digital’ is a state of mind that needs to exist at board level. Either an organisation acts like data is everywhere, or like it is over there. It’s the difference between being a digital native, or, well, not being so.

Businesses know this, and in many cases are restructuring to take the shift into account. The term being bandied around is ‘digital transformation’, or that horrible word, digitalisation.

But let’s be clear. This is not some journey to be started upon never to be completed, nor an initiative to be piloted to see what works.

If you want an example of a major company that ‘gets it’, look no further than GE. Since I started speaking to the company a few years ago, it has gone from an organisation that recognised the need to change, through an organisation embracing change, to an organisation being that change.

The journey started, and ended, at the very top. I met with Harel Kodesh CTO of GE Digital at the end of last year, and we had a good conversation as one would hope. More interesting than what was discussed, was the way in which it was discussed however.

Right now however the organisation is already making its bets as a digital organisation, for example with its digital twins or Predix platform initiatives. It is an organisation without any doubt in its mind about strategy or direction. It is all-in on digital.

Of course such efforts might fail, business was ever thus. Someone else might steal GE’s lunch, or the company might make bad decisions. But nobody can doubt the organisation’s clarity over that single question: what is digital?

I doubt anyone inside the organisation still cares, as they are too busy.

The fact is, if you have to ask the question, you probably have a way to go. In the digital world, we need to think like children, break away from our legacy understanding of where technology sits, and accept the fact that it has changed from without to within.

Understand this, simple yet profound truth, and you can return to the field and set a strategy accordingly. Fail to do so and be doomed to pondering the question, long after those who have answered it are already gone.

Beyond triathlons: Using a GPS smartwatch for everyday fitness

Skin tight wetsuit, no spare tire. Powerful lungs to last all day. A confident figure strides out of the water toward an impatiently-waiting hyper light bike. A glance at the wrist; heart rate is fabulous. He’s all business, and he’s ahead of pace. Oh, the glory…

In this admittedly weird triathlete fantasy scene, there’s a good chance the hero’s side piece is a Garmin fēnix 3. Triathletes say it has all the right stuff for their demanding regimens.

But what if you’re not a hardcore athlete? What if you’re like me?

I don’t do competitive endurance races. When I think of swimming more than a kilometer without stopping, I think of drowning. I’m just an active guy who likes to be outside and stay reasonably fit.

So in my capacity as a Regular Active Guy, let me save you some time with a swift rundown of the ways a fēnix 3 might fit into an everyday healthy lifestyle. There are dozens of features, but these are what I consider the main things most people will do with the watch:

Track and analyze your activity.
Track basic bio data (steps, sleep patterns, heart rate, and estimated calorie burn) in addition to runs, bikes or swims. The accumulated data syncs to your computer or phone where you can analyze it.

Go exploring (without getting lost).
Super-accurate GPS (plus compass, altimeter and barometer) assists you on runs, climbs, rides, trails or hikes. Plan your routes with free Basecamp software (buy maps or upload your own tracks). Navigate and record your progress. Reverse your path to be guided back the way you came.

Get to know your running form.
With the fēnix 3 HR you can track a number of informative ‘running dynamics’ without a heart rate band, all the tracking is done at your wrist. See heart rate, steps per minute (cadence), ground contact time and left/right balance, stride length, and vertical oscillation (how high you bounce off the ground).

Do guided workouts and training.
Create custom workouts or download pre-programmed ones. Follow along through the steps as they appear on the watch. Set training targets based on distance, time and speed. Get real-time progress feedback.

Customize and expand.
Add different watch faces (essentially display themes) and data fields. Download widgets and apps. For example, there’s a golf rangefinder app, a speedometer, gym timer, atlas, etc. These add-ons make this a ‘smart’ watch in a way that will seem familiar in the era of customizable devices.

Leave it on (and still look good).
The term ‘Multisport GPS Smartwatch’ may evoke visions of a chunky watch with an antennae, but stylish good looks were clearly a priority here. It certainly doesn’t look like a fitness bracelet, and I think you could wear it confidently to work or on a date. Take a look and decide for yourself.


Garmin sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Garmin’s positions or strategies.

The next opportunity for wearable technologies: aesthetics

Many of us have seen both the hype around wearables as well as the growing number of critiques of the hype. But one thing is clear: what we see in the market now is just the beginning, a warm up band for the main act to follow.

In my previous post I discussed the problem of sustainable use of tracking devices and how consumers abandon them within months typically. But is the battle for the wrist and smartwatches really the future of wearable technology? Why the wrist and why do products designed for the wrist and marketed for their aesthetics such as the Fitbit Alta fail to impress from a design perspective?

Furthermore, could user experience be wrapped up with aesthetics and could this be an important factor even for medical devices? Of course it is. We need only go back nearly a decade to find examples of how aesthetics were used to rethink wearable technology. It might be time to re-visit the past to see the future.

Nearly a decade ago, diabetes blogger Amy Tenderich posted a blog bemoaning the fact that diabetics needed their own Steve Jobs to re-design the insulin pump. The device worn by many diabetics to manage insulin levels was viewed as a clunky medical device devoid of any aesthetic considerations. Functionality trumped aesthetics. But sick people, or those struggling with chronic diseases and/or aging, do care about aesthetics, especially if they have the device on the body.

A design firm in San Francisco discovered the blog post and within a short time re-designed an insulin pump that could make diabetics feel better about wearing the device. We hear a lot about patient engagement these days and in this context, aesthetics mean a lot.

Devices are not solely about data and the data are not the only dimensions of disease or wellness. These can become aspects of identities.  To illustrate the case, a similar design effort was sponsored by the UK Design Council over a decade ago to rethink the hearing aid and create “hear ware”.

At the time, ‘Hearing Aids’ were viewed as stigmatized and associated with the aging body. Introducing an aesthetic component helped designers to re-imagine hearing devices well beyond the hearing aid, to address hearing challenges we all face, such as being in a noisy restaurant or when exposed to noise pollution. The competition featured in the Victoria and Albert Museum featured devices resembling jewelry with a wider range of functions.

Now enter Amanda Parkes, a New York-based technologist/designer with a PhD from MIT’s Media Lab. Notice as well, the location: New York, the heart of high fashion in the US. Famous for her invocation, “Let Silicon Valley have the wrist, I’ll take the body”, Amanda is deep into re-imagining wearables from both a fashion perspective and materials design. From smart fibers to fiber batteries and bio-materials, she is rethinking the whole concept of the wearable from an aesthetic angle and materials. Wearables, meet Bauhaus design principles.

When we look at what is going on in the labs these days, with sensors in the form of tattoos that can detect ever more powerful biometric indications, we need to begin thinking about the body as an interface. Many of these sensors will be invisible. They may be connected to your mobile money application as well.

When the novelty of wearing a shrunken iPhone on the wrist wears off, there is much more work to be done from an innovation standpoint. Parkes makes the case for diversity, as many in the tech sector do these days, but for rethinking form, function and appearance.

Perhaps in no other sector will diversity in design from an age, gender, ethnicity, you name it subjectivity; aesthetics follows broader cultural norms and trends. And this matters in healthcare too. I’m betting the next generation of market leaders in this sector will grasp this, and in doing so will find themselves pushing on an open door. Aesthetics matters for the afflicted as much for the well, if not more so.


Interested in learning about the evolution of wearables health technology? Check out this infographic produced by the Washington Post.

Evernote backing out of Work Chat, but committed to ‘Deep Work’

Evernote Work Chat

Casey Newman interviews Chris O’Neill, Evernote’s newish CEO — he’s been there a year now — in a far-ranging interview, and with regard to Evernote’s push into the work chat marketplace with Evernote Work Chat, it looks like the product is going to be retired as soon as replacement partnerships can be developed.

Casey Newman: So let’s talk about business. Evernote invested significantly in a feature called Work Chat, which allows for collaboration around individual notes. But it doesn’t seem like the company has gotten much of a foothold. How will you tackle the business market? Should we expect the company will orient itself more toward collaboration uses?

Chris O’Neill: No. It’s important to not try to be all things to all people. You have Slack, you have Hipchat. That’s a well-served market. Let’s just politely say, collaboration and chat is well served. So I don’t see it as, we need to try to do everything. If we do well with frictionless capture of ideas, and world-class search and retrieval, I think we can partner with a lot of other players. Collaboration is a fact, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we have to carry all the water. I’d just as soon do some integrations and partnerships to fill out that part of it.

Good timing, especially since the Internet monsters are all paying close attention to Slack’s rise, and tools like Facebook At Work are in beta.

Still, I was intrigued by the discussion around ‘collaboration overload’ and the role of ‘note taking’ in the article:

Chris O’Neill: Our place is as relevant today as it was when Stepan [Pachikov] started the company 10 years ago. Our market’s growing. The globalization of the economy has led to more knowledge workers — that’s good for us. Smartphone penetration continues to grow, albeit at a lower rate. That’s good for us, too. And the other thing, which may sound counterintuitive, is that it isn’t just information overload — it’s collaboration overload. It’s good that we’re working across borders and functions, and silos are coming down. The bad part is that it’s crowding out to time to actually think, and do what some people call “deep work” — the ability to focus on a task for more than 15, 20 minutes at a time. Deep work is the killer app of the knowledge economy, and Evernote is the killer app for deep work. It allows you to capture your ideas and cultivate them.

Casey Newman: That rings true for me. We need one great place to capture the knowledge in our lives, and then I think there’s a lot of opportunity in helping people easily manipulate that and turn it into other things. Whether it’s turning numbers into charts, or turning text into HTML. There needs to be a central repository. And it’s not email, or Dropbox, or Slack.

Chris O’Neill: It’s interesting — Forrester or IDC, they don’t have a category for “note-taking.” But we intuitively know, you have groups like students and knowledge workers that basically take notes for a living. So we think the market is real, and we think it’s big. And we think there’s an opportunity, to your point, to connect it to action.

I’ve been writing a lot recently about content-based work management, so I have to say I agree that ‘note taking’ is a less understood and less examined technology area, one that is at the core of ‘deep work’.

Cross-posted on

‘In Loco Parentis Management’ — Five Steps to Effectively Managing Millennial Employees

This article is the third in a series of six. It is excerpted from Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage the Millennials by Bruce Tulgan

1) Care About Your Millennials

When I say, “care about your employees,” I’m not saying you need to love your employees as if they really are your own children or let them come live in your basement. But you may need to usher them through these early stages of their working life and into the next. Help them make the transition.

Don’t be alarmed. You don’t need to relate to this person’s deep inside thoughts, feelings and spirit, or even inner motives. In my view, you shouldn’t even try unless you are a trained therapist or pastor. Just care enough to help this person succeed at work, at least whenever this person is working for you. One Millennial recently told me, “I need to work for people who know who I am and what I’m doing, and who seem to care. I’ve had bosses who didn’t even know my name. But right now I’m working for this woman who is very busy, but she really connects with me, eye-to-eye kind of, asks me questions and really listens. She’s taught me a lot already.”

2) Don’t Pretend

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying you should actually pretend to be a parent to your employees at work. In fact, you shouldn’t pretend anything. Millennials have giant BS detectors, especially around authority figures. You have to be authentic to succeed with them. So focus on the authentic common interest between you two, which is the work at hand, and on playing very well the real role you have in their working lives: that of a manager.

You are running a workplace. The relationships at work are transactional relationships. I promise you, none of your employees would be showing up to work every day if you were not paying them. So treat each person and the relationship with respect. But don’t hesitate to take charge and tell them what to do. You are paying them to work very well, very fast, all day long. Make that fact explicit, keep a spotlight on it, and never try to camouflage it.

3) Give Them Boundaries

The Millennials you manage want freedom to maneuver at work. They want some latitude when it comes to their schedule, where they do their work, whom they work with, what they do, and how they do it. The problem is that every task, responsibility, and project has parameters that constrain every employee’s freedom.

But as much as they love freedom, Millennials also gravitate to structure and boundaries. For one thing, they don’t want to waste their time. Don’t forget, since they were kids, Millennials have been hyperscheduled by overbearing adults. One Millennial describes it this way: “The last thing I’m looking for is somebody telling me, ‘Yeah, do it how you think it should be done,’ but then it turns out she already knows exactly how she wants it done. I don’t want to beat my head against the wall trying to figure something out if you’ve already got it figured out. I definitely am interested in putting my personal stamp on things, but if that’s not going to happen, tell me up front.”

If you want to give Millennials more freedom at work, the biggest favor you can do for them is establish clear boundaries and give them a structure within which they can function with some autonomy.

4) Help Them Keep Score

Think about a video game that a Millennial might practice and practice, beating one high score after another, set by himself. He wins every time, and nobody has a reason to feel bad. That’s the kind of competition Millennials are looking for: they want to compete against themselves in a safe environment where they can try over and over again to improve on their own performance benchmarks. When it comes to competitiveness at work, this is what one Millennial had to say: “I’ll do whatever they want me to do. Just tell me someone is keeping track of all this stuff I’m doing. Tell me I’m getting credit for it, that I’ve been racking up points here like mad. Tell me someone is keeping score.”

When Millennials know you are keeping track of their day-to-day performance, their measuring instinct is sparked and their competitive spirit ignited. Keeping close track of their work tells them that they are important and their work is important. The process motivates them to perform because they want to get credit, score points, earn more of whatever there is to earn.

5) Negotiate Special Rewards in Very Small Increments

Today we live in a world in which relationships are governed by an increasingly short-term and transactional logic. Millennials have never known it any other way. Segmented as a market from birth and armed with credit cards, they have been taught to think of themselves as customers in virtually every sphere. Even in their roles as students, most Millennials think of themselves as buying and consuming the learning services sold by schools.

By the time Millennials arrive at the workplace, short-term transactional thinking is second nature to them. They are still thinking like customers. Plug into Millennials’ transactional mind-set. Stop paying them and start buying their results, one by one. The more you trade results for rewards, the more reliable their performance will be. The smaller the increments you buy in, the more effective it will be. The critical element when it comes to rewarding Millennials is letting them know that rewards are tied to concrete actions within their own direct control.

About the Author

Bruce Tulgan is an adviser to business leaders all over the world and a sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader. He is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm, as well as RainmakerThinking.Training, an online training company. Bruce is the best-selling author of numerous books including Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (Revised & Updated, 2016), Bridging the Soft Skills Gap (2015), The 27 Challenges Managers Face (2014), and It’s Okay to be the Boss (2007). He has written for the New York Times, the Harvard Business Review, HR Magazine, Training Magazine, and the Huffington Post. Bruce can be reached by e-mail at; you can follow him on Twitter @BruceTulgan, or visit his website.

Can New Mobile Service Providers Save Us From Complexity? Tello Goes For It

The battle for our mobile attention has put convenience and user experience on a pedestal and, as a result, a ton friction has been removed from our day-to-day activities: shopping, ordering food, banking, traveling… But it often seems that, to gain access to these conveniences, we have no choice but to wade through complex waters, aka mobile service providers. With two-year commitments, opaque plans and fee-tangled bills, many of the carriers that enable today’s celebrated mobile innovations are not, themselves, widely celebrated.

This is why consumers might want to pay closer attention to MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators). MVNOs give you access to the major US mobile carrier networks (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc.), but with their own pricing and packaging. For customers, that can translate to lower rates, more flexible contracts and better customer service. Representing a smaller segment of mobile subscribers (just one in ten US subscribers a few years back) and competing against powerhouse brands, MVNOs are the underdog in the mobile service space. This is why when a new provider enters the fray they need to work hard to stand out.

This is the challenge for the newly announced Tello. Tello runs on Sprint’s network in the US, but has been operating out of the UK for two years already. (The parent company, KeepCalling, has been around since 2002.) At the core of Tello’s US offering is a pledge for “No Fees, Whatsoever,” as in no activation fee, no overage fee, no processing fee or early termination. Tello plans can be fully customized, so you’re not paying for something you don’t use (fitting for those who don’t use their phones to, you know, make calls), and can be upgraded or downgraded easily if you find, for example, you’re hitting your data limit. Technically data is unlimited as speed is throttled down to 64kbps once you hit your limit.

Things that are also good to know, if you’re thinking about switching providers, is that you can choose to buy a phone from Tello, but there’s also the option to bring your own. As mentioned before, Tello is a contract-free service, but for those who prefer to avoid plans altogether, Tello has a Pay As You Go option that gives you the chance to buy let’s say $5 and use it for national and international calls or texts.

Of course, Tello isn’t the first provider to tackle the pain points of mobile service. Ting, for example, offers a plan that allows you to pay based on usage and carriers like T-Mobile often cover the cost of termination to facilitate switching. But scratching out every fee and keeping costs low—Tello has a customizable plan that starts at $5 monthly, or (if you want data) $9/mo for 100 minutes of talk, 200 texts and 200 MB 4G LTE—gives the company a fair chance to stand out.

Still, one of the bigger questions that comes to mind is, if MVNOs are presenting such competitive offerings, why aren’t a larger share of mobile providers using them? Is it a testimony to long term brand effects of TV advertising? Are consumers still tethered to brick and mortar, taking comfort in having a place to go if something goes awry? (Tello, for example, is exclusively online.) While these factors may have a big impact today, they may lose their foothold as new generation of cell phone users and cord cutters come to market. Tello may be ahead of it’s time—though given early adopters always seem to be ready for the next opportunity to assert their early adopter-ness, that may be an advantage unto itself.