The Safety of Self-Driving Cars

Perhaps one of the biggest concerns about the migration over to self-driving cars is the safety factor. Many questions are being raised about the issue of ethics. While a computer can make lightning-fast decisions based on data and logic, the recurring fear is that, as a machine, it cannot possibly make the same type of life-affecting moral decision that a human can. For this reason, many studies are being done to determine whether it really is safer to have an AI system behind the wheel.

Research published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration division of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT NHTSA) found that the majority of all car crashes between 2005 and 2007 were the result of driver error, as opposed to a malfunction. Driver distraction and/or impairment caused 94% of the crashes. In order to be deemed safe, therefore, an automated system would just have to have better numbers than humans.

Testing has been a bit of a contentious issue since real-world scenarios are hard to employ without putting people in danger. There are test runs being done by companies such as Google, who are showing huge strides with their focus being on driver assistance, rather than car manufacturing. What began as a self-driving car project, their offshoot company, Waymo, has partnered with several major car developers to enhance their own cars for automation. 

If data analysts focus on the issue of driver error due to impairment and/or distraction, there will undoubtedly be fewer instances of alcohol- or drug-impaired driving when the human is removed from the equation. Within the next few years, safety testing will advance to real-world situations in order to help with the machine learning process. Tesla’s latest model has received high marks for safety tests. In order to earn its five-start rating, the Model 3 not only had to show good overall performance in crash protection but also display superior and robust crash avoidance technology.

That being said, all computing systems are vulnerable to hacks, and cyber protection will have to be at unprecedented levels in order to prevent malicious external cyberattacks from occurring. 

Insurance Technology Trends

There are several trends that are making a huge impact on the auto insurance industry. Some of these include maximizing efficiency, attracting fresh talent to the industry, and making people’s data more secure. 

AI

Artificial Intelligence has the ability to completely transform the insurance industry in areas from productivity and customer service, to security. New functions that focus on fraud protection help not only the insurance providers but also the customers who follow the rules. Robo-advisors are on the horizon which will save both clients and underwriters unnecessary wait times. The development of 24/7 chatbots has already been well-received for common user questions.  While humans are still working in tandem with machines, it is no secret that companies need to embrace this technology in order to survive in their industry. One example of AI already at work is CARPE DATA, which gathers real-time data and uses it for predictive scoring for every stage of an insurance lifecycle, including claims. Shift Technology is a company that focuses on fraud detection specifically for the insurance industry. 

Blockchain

Blockchain maintains the same advantage as the World Wide Web, in that there is no main point of control. Blockchain technology acts like a virtual ledger that records all transactions in a secure, unchangeable way. It takes the place of having a third verification party for each transaction, thereby saving the insurance company money which in turn, gets passed down to customers. Using this technology, insurers can quickly verify credentials, historical data, and contracts. It is also nearly impossible to duplicate, because of it’s multi-level verification transparency. It is a perfect fit for apps like Teambrella, who apply the democratic notion of insurance and filing claims. They support the concept of teamwork being part of every decision. Users cover each other and vote on payouts and premiums, as opposed to being presented with a limited number of options to choose from. Blockchain technology is used to securely handle all payments put all minds at ease. Lemonade makes full use of AI and blockchain technology to call themselves the home, rental, and pet health insurance provider for the 21st Century. The philanthropic arm of the firm also donates a portion of profits to various causes.

 

Machine Learning Transforming Insurance

The insurance industry is by far heavily dependent upon statistics and analytics. It thrives on data. By examining a variety of data and looking for patterns, they are able to predict probabilities. This helps insurance providers create personalized risk profiles, which are used to drive an individual’s premiums and payout amounts, among many other factors. Machine learning has taken away some of the tedium involved in data gathering and investigating insurance fraud, in addition to helping the insured get the help they need. 

Common sense dictates that the best protection against danger is prevention. Vision Zero is the goal of a worldwide zero-tolerance policy for traffic deaths and injuries. Many companies are on the path towards accomplishing it thru AI. Zendrive is a mobile app that monitors customers’ driving behavior. Through the use of sensors, it can help detect potential collisions, track phone use while driving and help the driver avoid drifting, among other features. It can also use this data to reward good drivers with auto insurance discounts. 

Despite all precautions, sometimes accidents do happen. When a claim is filed, it typically passes through checkpoints as it moves through the processing system. When it’s all human-controlled it can be a lengthy process. The advent of machine learning has automated the process for many standard claims, which frees up the system to concentrate on the ones that need more time for investigation.

Healthcare underwriting is another area that has benefitted greatly by a data-driven approach because of the cost of diseases, accidents, disabilities, and death. Daisy Intelligence uses artificial intelligence to suggest prices based on individual risk profiles.

One roadblock in any human-to-computer interaction is the difficulty in parsing human handwriting into usable data. Captricity uses an algorithm called READ that is able to read and extract data from both handwritten or typed forms with 99.9% accuracy. Lemonade is a carrier that uses AI to process all of their claims quickly and efficiently, providing customers with faster payouts. 

In addition to saving money for both the clients and the insurance carriers, AI-propelled chatbots can provide 24/7 customer care service to the majority of questions people need to be answered in a hurry. When it comes time to choose an insurance plan, customers can use AI resources to narrow down their choices to match the best plan for themselves and their families.  Not only does this free up phone lines during business hours, but it also goes a long way towards relieving people’s anxiety about claims, billing, and payouts. 

Updating Your Business’s Best Practices

When people discuss the best practices of a business, they are usually describing the policies, ideas, and ethics that represent the most sensible course of action in any given business situation. The best practices of a company are usually decided upon by a company’s management team and they are created to fix problems in the most prudent way possible. In addition, best practices are in place to encourage positive employee morale and to help people succeed.

Deciding on which best practices you intend to follow as a business should be something you as a management team agree upon during the earliest stages of company creation. It is tied in very closely with a company’s culture and how freely the employees feel they can come to their leaders with issues or for guidance. Employee engagement is one of the most important practices, as it makes them feel like they are a part of the company. Holding all-hands meetings to announce when changes occur and then giving employees the opportunity to ask any follow-up questions is a great motivator. Highlighting good performance by giving shout outs and honoring employees of the month are other ways of recognizing the efforts of your team members.

 In addition to hosting meetings, a good rule of thumb is to get employee feedback every few months on how they feel best practices are being used. As a leader, it is your job to be open to critique and suggestions without taking any of it personally, so ask the right questions that will really encourage people to give constructive answers. Most importantly, let them see that you take suggestions seriously by incorporating effective changes in the workplace and showing consistent enforcement.

If a major update is going to take place, it’s important to make sure that everyone is involved when it is announced. The last thing you want is for some people to not be alerted to an announcement and find it out through other channels. All people should be notified at the same time. Introduce change slowly and with plenty of time for training. All change will come with a learning curve. 

9 Reasons Why Low Employee Engagement Will Bleed Your Company Dry

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Employee engagement is the quality of the dynamic between an employee and the employer. The engagement is considered high when the employees are enthusiastic about their work, and aid in the expansion of the goals. Disengagement occurs when one employee or more are negatively impacted and decide to do and act on their own accord without caring for the common goal.

As a leader, you must be prepared for these situations. You should plan for prevention, as well as for consequences. If you do not think this is important enough, read nine reasons why low engagement will bleed your company dry.

1. Profitability: When one slows down, it all slows down.

Think merchandise. Think selling. Think time limits and quotas. A disengaged employee, in the field of sales, for example, will cause a loss of 22% as far as incoming earnings, according to a 2013 Gallup Poll. Disengagement slows down the dynamics of the selling process by disregarding marketing cues, ignoring potential customers, and stalling the very important opportunities that surface during negotiation.

This translates into financial loss and poor customer service. In turn, this can also transform into poor word-to-mouth reputation once unhappy customers start to speak to one another.

2. Productivity

In any field, from manufacturing to news reporting, disengagement means slowing down the important communication processes that most take place when employees work in cyclical work environments. Think what would happen if one step out of a series of 13, 100, prevents the rest of the cycle to be completed. It means loss of profits due to low production, or slow production.

Aside from production of goods, the productivity of a disengaged employee does not amount to the common goal of an organization. It is either poor quality, incomplete, or lackluster. Having a plan of action that rewards those who are engaged in productivity may be the solution that all leaders need.

3. Safety incidents 

We blame text messaging for many car accidents out there. But lack of attention is not limited to driving or crossing the street. A disengaged employee is likely to make assumptions about everything, from what is expected of employees, to how things are done. Contrastingly, an engaged employee is on alert at all times, partly, because alertness is one of the qualities that pays most attention to details. Not being in tandem with the purpose of working is what causes all safety to go awry, and what ends up costing the company time, replacements, medical care, absences, and much more.

4. Absenteeism

Disengaged employees only care about themselves, and about how the work environment benefits them. They also tend to think more about what they can get away with, rather than what they can do better. A disengaged employee may also be unmotivated to even go to work. It is all a part of the same thing. Leaders must pay attention to lack of motivation, as this is actually a very easy fix situation that can be arranged with a points or incentive system.

5. Quality issues

There cannot be good quality in production or manufacturing if there is no attention to detail. In order to achieve this attention, one must be focused and motivated to make something well done. Disengaged employees are not going to spend the extra time paying attention to detail; therefore, the quality of the final production may or may not be what leaders expect.

6. Shrinkage

Disengaged employees are likely to want to disengage others. This is a terrible influence that, in gullible and weaker employees, may turn into the “rotten apple” syndrome, where one person affects all the other ones negatively. When more than one employee is disenchanted with the work environment, they will inevitably leave it, or switch to another place. This means a shrinkage in your work force, sometimes losing employees who are actually good.

7. Property loss

We are all familiar with the prototype employee who loves to “supply” their home offices, or kitchen cabinets, with products from the work place. Engaged employees are very unlikely to engaged in unethical practices such as this one. Disengaged employees could really care less. Pay close attention because property loss equals money loss.

8. Unethical behavior

When disengagement comes from pure lack of work ethics, there is no motivation that will ever fix that. Pay close attention to behaviors that touch upon fraternization, excess familiarities, potential harassment, lateness or absenteeism. The results from this include loss, low productivity, potential law suits, low motivation, and overall disengagement from employees who are affected by those behaviors.

9. Unnecessary stress

A stressful work environment, caused by disengaged employees, will bleed a company dry. First, the culture and atmosphere of the work environment will be negatively impacted and will likely result in less enthusiastic production. Second, employees will be divided and grouped, breaking the overall balance of the workplace. Finally, it may cause added absences and could lead to people quitting, also causing loses to the organization.

Conclusion: Pay close attention to the cues of disengaged employees. Put a pan in place, whether it is to prevent disengagement or encourage motivation through incentives. Ultimately, it is the organization that pays the price. It is better to be safe than sorry.

How To Build A Strong Company Culture

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Best Practices: Email Marketing

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Email has become one of the main methods of communication in the business world. Whether you are communicating within your office or sending an email across the world, it has become a form of communication that brings us together.

Email is also an integral component of any marketing campaign, yet many marketers struggle when it comes to optimizing their brand’s potential through this channel. When composing an email — be it an e-newsletter, promotion, transactional email or announcement — there are a few best practices to follow.


Email Best Practices:

Subject Line

  • Keep it under 50 characters
  • Including incentives in the subject line can increase your open rates by 50% !!!
  • 35% of email recipients open email based on the subject line

Call to Action

  • Only use a single call to action per email
  • Don’t hide it inside an image, because your audience may miss it.
  • Call to action should be as big bold and obvious as possible
  • 55% of recipients will forward emails with promotions and coupons

Visuals

  • Include images when appropriate
  • Make sure they are sized properly
  • When images are too big, they can significantly slow down the load time, causing people to potentially delete the message before even reading it
  • Place your logo in the top left corner
  • Less text brings the reader to your call-to-action sooner

Content

  • Only deliver relevant information to consumers
  • Segment your email lists by interest

Mobile Optimization

  • Make sure your emails are always optimized for mobile devices
  • 70 million US consumers check email on mobile devices and this rate is constantly increasing

Email Regularly

  • Always email from the same address
  • Don’t overdo it
  • 47% of recipients opt-out because of receiving too many emails
  • Give subscribers the option to receive mobile optimized email

After considering all the factors listed here, always remember to test your emails thoroughly on all devices to make sure it is compatible. It is also a good idea to run a few tests on different emails that relay the same message, to see what your customers are best responding to.

Technology in the Workplace: How to Keep Your Company Up-To-Date

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No matter what field you are working in, technology is an important aspect of a business. If your company is not up-to-date with the latest technology, things will not be done as efficiently and your competitors are bound to get ahead of you. Technology is a part of your office environment, from your air conditioners to the software you use to stay productive. Staying aware of technology is essential to maintaining a strong presence in the business world of today. Here are a few ways to stay in the know:

1) Determine your company’s needs

The first step to embarking on this process is to figure out what it is you need. You will have to gauge this by assessing the type of technology you work with, the existing knowledge you have and your style of learning. You’ll need to gain a grasp of the fundamental aspects of technology and then move on to gaining an understanding of the devices you use. Make sure you take note of which types of technology will fit your company’s needs in order to narrow down the amount of knowledge you are taking in. You won’t be able to keep up with every piece of technology that hits the market, and that’s okay. Just focus on the pieces you need.

2) Read up on technology

There are a number of helpful technology and trade magazines, newsletters, and blogs. Essentially all major newspapers have some means of covering technology issues. There, you can learn tips for all of the latest technology, see product reviews, and read Q&A columns. Feel free to look at top tech blogs and websites. Some great websites for technology information are Techcrunch and The Verge.

3) Ask techie friends and coworkers

If you’ve got a friend who loves technology, there’s nothing wrong with reaching out to that friend for help. If you’re scrolling through the technology section of a popular online publication, why not run this by your friend? You can ask your friend to have coffee or lunch with you every now and then so that you can catch up on the latest technology.

4) Talk to other entrepreneurs

If you are leading a business of any kind, you are bound to find yourself at events that will involve networking. While you’re networking, bring up the topic of technology. This way, you will be able to gain information about what technology entrepreneurs in your industry are using at their companies.

5) Figure out which technology resources work the best for you

There are numerous resources out there, and it can get overwhelming if you’re looking in books, magazines, newspapers, and blogs, in addition to talking to people. Figure out which resources apply most to your company’s needs and stick with those. When you’re networking with people, try and figure out whose company operates in a similar way to yours so that you can get the optimal technology advice.

6) Be realistic

It is great to stay up-to-date, but also understand that in many cases “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is the best mantra. If your use of outdated technology is allowing you to fall behind in comparison to other companies, then it is time to upgrade. It is important to be aware of the technological advances that are occurring your field, but it’s also beneficial to determine which new pieces of technology you truly need. Try out technology that you think will truly contribute to the cohesiveness and efficiency of your company. If you’re not sure it’s working, poll your company anonymously and ask them. If it isn’t driving results or helping your company in any way, then drop it.

Technology is a large part of every business. In order to run a business smoothly, it is important to stay privy to the ways in which technology is shaping your industry and the world.

5 Issues with “Best Practices”

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Everyone knows about “best practices” when it comes to the business world. Everyone knows about them because they have been, more or less, unchanged for years even as the way we do business is changing almost monthly. While there is certainly a lot of truth and knowledge to be gained from these practices, they’re not as useful as everyone claims them to be. Below are 5 major issues with the practice of following best practices.

  • They rarely ever work: The sad truth is that even though best practices are seen as the best, they never work as much as we’d like them to. This isn’t to say that they never work, just that they’re most effective when dealing with specific issues, people, and systems. Make sure you’re not applying these best practices blindly across the board or you’ll find that they might not fit the problem you’re dealing with and very well may not work.
  • It’s for followers, not leaders: One of the major issues with best practices is that it isn’t for leaders and people who become them. Best practices are handed down from previous leaders and generations and cut down on creativity and ingenuity. If you’re having an issue that needs solving, look to use the newly created technologies and knowledge that are available to you instead drawing from a playbook that may have been written when the internet was still in its infancy. Also know that different generations require different approaches for maximum efficiency and millennials are more complicated than most.
  • They cut down on innovation: If you had a book that gave you answers to all of your problems, why on earth would you spend the time, resources, and energy looking for new solutions when you have pre-existing ones? One of the issues with best practices is that people use them without even bothering to improve on them or try new, better solutions that may come from their own team.
  • Change is internal and cultural: Many best practices are applied in companies that they were not created in. For change to be effective, it needs to come from within the company and probably has to change the company culture a bit. People can get resentful if they feel the heavy and foreign hand of another company.
  • They don’t come with a manual: Just because you have found some practices that would definitely help your company doesn’t mean you’ve won. Many best practices don’t actually come with advice in regards to how to implement them effectively and efficiently. You might be aiming for the right target but you end up taking the wrong path, you very well may cause more harm than good.

While these are 5 issues with best practices, that’s not to say that they’re bad. There is definitely knowledge to be gleaned from the experiences and solutions afforded by best practices and the people who came up with them. Just remember to take them all with a grain of salt and make sure you try to fit them to your company and situation instead of the other way around.

If you’d like to read and learn more, you can do so here.

How To Build A Strong Company Culture

The key to a successful business is happy employees. The key to happy employees is a strong company culture. 

When people are happy to come in to work every day, it makes them want to do better. Enjoying your office space and work surrounding is so important. By keeping employees happy and comfortable in the office, they will perform better.

Now that you know why its so important, here are some ways that you can improve your company culture:

Creative work space — Non traditional office spaces evoke creative work out of employees. Sure, having a desk and personal space to get your work done is important, but collaborative spaces have also proven to boost company culture.

Create a common space where employees can go to work when they need a change of pace. Everyone works differently, perhaps some employees would do better with a standing up desk option, while others might prefer to work on a couch with a lap top. You are doing your company a dis service to limit these kind of options. 

Flexible work hours — As I mentioned before, everyone is different. Not every employee will come in and do their best work from 9-5. Some people are feeling energized and ready to work really early in the morning and might like to come into the office around 7AM, while others cannot be productive in any capacity before noon. Grant the flexibility to your employees and watch the work quality sky rocket.

Foster an environment where people want to be — If employees enjoy the space that they work in, they will perform better. Company culture doesn’t come out of nowhere. It is up to the employees to participate. Hold weekly contests for some friendly office competition, start some clubs in the office that people can attend after work hours. For example, a yoga club led by someone in the office who is particularly fond of yoga. Wednesdays at 6 you all meet in the lounge and engage in a relaxing session before going home for the day. Not only are you potentially learning a new skill, you’re spending time with people from your office in a non work related way, allowing you room to get know your coworkers.

Social activities out side of office — Incentivize employees to meet goals with group outings as the reward. Happy hours are a great and easy thing to plan to celebrate the hard work of your employees that also goes along well with my last mentioned point. When people like the people that they work with, they are more inclined to come in and do their best. When they really enjoy to be where the work, they will go the extra mile. They will stay late to get some extra work done because their friends are staying late as well.