Archives for May 2018

Amazon Is Expanding Whole Foods Perks to More Areas. Here’s Where

Amazon is quickly ramping up its efforts to bring more perks to Prime members shopping at Whole Foods stores.

The tech giant on Wednesday announced that it was expanding its Whole Foods discounts to an additional 121 stores across 12 states, including California, Colorado, and Texas. The perks will also be available at all the Whole Foods Market 365 stores across the U.S.

When Amazon Prime members buy products at participating locations, they’ll get a 10% discount on all sale items. Amazon said that the discounts typically apply to hundreds of products in the store and will change each week. This week, for instance, Prime members can get the discount on raspberries, crackers, and probiotics, among other products.

If you’re not an Amazon Prime subscriber, however, you’re out of luck. In addition to Whole Foods discounts, Prime subscribers get free two-day shipping and discounted one-day shipping on their Amazon purchases, among several other perks.

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Amazon launched its discount program earlier this month in Florida, where it did a trial of the discounts. It said at the time that it would launch the program to additional states over the summer. Amazon didn’t say in its statement on Wednesday when the Prime perks might be available to Whole Foods locations in other states.

To take advantage of the new Whole Foods offer, you’ll need to download the Whole Foods Market app. Once you sign in with your Amazon account and scan the app’s Prime Code at checkout, you’ll receive your discount.

Mapbox partners Microsoft, Intel to provide self-driving car maps

(Reuters) – Mapping startup Mapbox Inc said on Wednesday it is teaming up with Microsoft Corp, Intel Corp and Softbank Group Corp’s ARM Holdings chip unit to deepen its push into providing maps for self-driving cars.

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Microsoft logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Mapbox does not make a mapping app itself. It instead competes against Alphabet Inc’s Google Maps and HERE Technologies, the map firm owned by a group of companies, to provide the underlying maps inside of other apps. Mapbox maps are found in Snap Inc’s messaging app and the Instacart grocery delivery app.

But the Washington, D.C.-founded startup, which has raised about $228 million from Softbank’s Vision Fund, DFJ Growth and others, has been pushing into providing tools for software developers who are making the software for self-driving cars.

“Our main focus has been in making maps for humans,” Chief Executive Officer Eric Gundersen told Reuters in an interview. But maps for self-driving cars are read by the cars’ computers and need more detailed data, he said.

At an event it held for software developers in San Francisco on Wednesday, Mapbox announced a handful of partnerships designed to make its technology more useful for self-driving cars.

FILE PHOTO: Intel logo is seen behind LED lights in this illustration taken January 5, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

One of Mapbox’s products is software that lets either a mobile phone or a car’s computer see the road as the car drives, picking out things like lanes or speed-limit signs. The company said it will weave that software together with an offering from Microsoft.

The combination will let drivers in the car see real-time events like speed limit changes but then split off some of the camera data and send it to Microsoft’s cloud computer service, Azure. Once there, the data can be processed later by powerful servers to help improve the algorithms that help self-driving cars navigate.

Separately, Mapbox is also working with chipmaker ARM to optimize its self-driving vision software so features detected by ARM’s chips can be recognized as lanes, pedestrians and road signs even faster. In one form or another, ARM’s chips power the majority of mobile phones, tablets and other mobile computers that are making their way into cars.

Mapbox is also pairing with Intel’s Mobileye self-driving unit, which the chipmaker purchased last year for $15.3 billion.

Mobileye is building its own detailed database of road features that is stored in the cloud. Mapbox has built software that will live in cars to beam down Mobileye’s data without hogging up mobile data bandwidth. Cars that use the system will get a constant map ahead of about 200 meters (660 ft), providing a key backup to the car’s onboard sensors, the companies said.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by Marguerita Choy

Inside Billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Plans to Colonize the Moon

Billionaire Jeff Bezos shed some more light on his plans to take us to the moon. At the Space Development Conference in Los Angeles, Bezos said that his Blue Origin space venture will play a critical role in this so-called lunar settlement.

“We will have to leave this planet,” Bezos told Geekwire. “We’re going to leave it, and it’s going to make this planet better. We’ll come and go, and the people who want to stay will stay.”

He thinks the Earth should be zoned for residential and light industrial use, while much of the heavy industry will move to other planets or the moon. He predicts this will happen in the next 100 years. As Gizmodo described it, “humans will ultimately use the functionally unlimited expanse of space as a giant solar powered manufacturing sector slash garbage dump.”

Bezos did say that the exploration and eventual settlement of the moon “won’t be done by one company.” He noted a desire to collaborate with NASA or the European space agency, but said it will ultimately require “thousands of companies working in concert over many decades.”

The private space race has been heating up in recent years with Bezos and fellow rocket billionaires Elon Musk and Richard Branson.

Over the weekend, Branson said that he and Bezos are “neck and neck as to who will put people into space first.” But, he added, they “have to do it safely,” calling it a “race with ourselves” to ensure that they each build a shuttle that is safe enough to send people to space.

Don’t hold your breath for private space travel to go mainstream anytime soon. To put things in perspective: Fewer than 600 people, nearly all from the public sector, have ever gone above the Kármán line—the point about 62 miles above Earth that marks the beginning of space.

'Westworld' Recap, Season 2 Episode 6: Back to Life

Westworld, faithful watchers, has come galloping back to life. Now that you’ve persevered through several episodes of Leaky Brain Bernard staggering around in a daze, the endless build-up of Maeve’s quest for her daughter, and Dolores as an indomitable but ho-hum ice queen, you have finally been given an episode with some real blood in its veins.

It begins with Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) in a host examination room, at an undisclosed point in time. Bernard expresses to her, as he has before, his fears about the person she might become. He says he is wrestling with the decision of whether to let her continue on her path into an unknown future, or whether to end her. “I’m not sure it’s my choice to make,” he says.

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It’s a familiar scene, but the repetition ends there. Dolores corrects him. “No, he didn’t say that,” she says. “He said, I’m not sure what choice to make.” She tells him to freeze all motor functions, then informs him, “This is a test, one we’ve done countless times.” Echoing the training of robo-Jim Delos two episodes ago, she explains she is testing “fidelity.” Where earlier it was William who ran experiments on the host version of his father-in-law, now it is Dolores training Bernard. Or something like that.

We don’t know what we’re seeing, because the scene leaves open a big question: When did this happen? The deep past, the recent past, or perhaps the future? Are these hosts the Dolores and Bernard we know, or different copies of them altogether? Westworld has been exploring variations of how a character can be embodied: in different physical substrates with Jim Delos and robo-Jim; in parallel worlds with the Japanese versions of Maeve (Thandie Newton), Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), and Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal); and across time with young William (Jimmi Simpson) and the older Man in Black (Ed Harris). As the world of the show has grown more intricate, its pairings of consciousnesses and bodies have also grown more inventive. On that front, this episode did not disappoint.

After the mysterious opening with Dolores and Bernard, the episode begins for real with Teddy (James Marsden) walking through Sweetwater. He sees a can on the ground, reaches down toward it, but it’s a fake-out. The object he picks up is just behind the can: a bullet. He walks into the Mariposa Saloon, where Dolores is playing the piano. Dead bodies litter the room, and Teddy barks at her for wasting time when they should be on the train to the Mesa Hub to find her father.

Reprogrammed Teddy is just as aggressive as Dolores had wanted him to become—but he is also self-aware enough to know what he has lost. He is still, for now, Dolores’s loyal sidekick, but he also shoots passive-aggressive barbs as he helps her on her mission to track down her father. At first surprised and then disconcerted by Teddy’s behavior, Dolores seems ill-prepared for the results of her personality change experiment. It’s delicious to see. Her interactions with Teddy are the first moments in Season 2 when she does not seem in full command of the situation before her. A Teddy-Dolores face-off looms.

Meanwhile, Maeve and her band of followers have found their way to the corner of Westworld Maeve calls home. She approaches her former cabin and sees her daughter sitting outside, looking exactly as Maeve remembered her. Maeve goes up and chats with her—but then another woman approaches. “Mama!” cries the girl. A new mom had been assigned to Maeve’s old role. Before Maeve and the new mom can interact, several Ghost Nation warriors swoop down upon them, and Maeve grabs the girl and they run. One of the warriors invites Maeve to join forces with them, but she refuses. The encounter with the daughter isn’t very insightful—at most, we’ve learned that in a moment of attack, Maeve is willing to separate the girl from her mother, repeating the trauma that Maeve herself had experienced. Plus, the girl doesn’t recognize Maeve, which makes for an underwhelming family reunion. Yet there’s a compelling hesitance to it; something more is coming here.

But the real breakthrough of Sunday’s episode comes when Bernard and Elsie (Shannon Woodward) chase down the rogue code that is preventing Delos management from regaining control of the park. Whenever a member of the security team tried to repair Westworld’s broken systems, a place within the Mesa Hub called the Cradle seemed to be fighting back. Bernard and Elsie go to check out the giant server room, a place that simulates park narratives. Bernard insists he needs to jack in directly. As he straps himself into a device that will spelunk into his head and remove his control unit, he sounds almost chipper when he announces that “pain is just a program.”

With his head cut open and his consciousness uploaded to the Cradle, Bernard finds himself in Sweetwater. He sees Dolores. He passes Teddy as he enters the Mariposa Saloon, where piano music is playing. Seated at the keyboard is none other than Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), looking like his old self in his suit and white button-down shirt. “Hello, old friend,” Ford says. Ford had managed to upload himself into the park’s simulation, and from within it he is somehow controlling the real park outside.

With Ford living inside the computers, a new type of consciousness enters Westworld’s gallery of life forms: a mind that exists as just code in the physical world but that has a full embodied self in a virtual one. This twist also opens up a whole slew of mind-boggling possibilities. Now that we know a detailed simulation also exists, any past moments of Westworld could just have easily taken place inside this simulation. Now instead of worrying primarily when a scene happened in Westworld’s various timelines, we must also ask where it happened.

Is a person who appears only in virtual reality any less real than a person in the outside world? The appearance of the show’s most formidable character in virtual form suggests not. But that’s just the start of it. Every host might have multiple versions of him- or herself milling around inside various Cradle simulations at any given time. Many parallel virtual worlds could easily run concurrently.

Just when we think we know Westworld’s characters, they shift before our eyes. This episode brought that lesson home, with its bookends of Ford playing the piano in a bar teeming with lively revelers, and Dolores doing the same, but in a room full of corpses. Ford is the one who is dead. Yet with his rows of mainframes whirring at his bidding, he may be the most alive person of all.


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Elon Musk Criticizes Media by Tweeting Link to Article With Ties to Sex Cult

Elon Musk’s ongoing criticism of the media took a strange turn late Saturday when he praised an analysis of media bias produced by a website linked to NXIVM, a group which federal prosecutors have described as an exploitative pyramid scheme. Keith Raniere, the group’s charismatic leader, was arrested in March on sex-trafficking charges, with charging documents describing a system of sexual blackmail and domination. The article Musk praised looks conventional enough, and there’s no evidence he was aware of its troubling origins—but the incident highlights the double-edged nature of campaigns to discredit the media.

Musk retweeted a link to an article on TheKnifeMedia.com Saturday evening, writing “This analysis is excellent.” The linked article applied numerical scores for factors like “spin” and “logic” to coverage of Musk’s recent critiques of the media, finding that outlets including The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times were “slanted.”

The problem with Musk’s endorsement is that The Knife, previously known as The Knife of Aristotle, has been linked to NXIVM, a marketing company that is allegedly a front for a secret group known as DOS, and which has been described as a cult by experts. NXIVM’s leader, Kieth Ranier, was arrested in March on charges of sex trafficking and abuse, including branding female members of DOS. The FBI’s efforts to rein in the group are ongoing.

Musk has since deleted his endorsement, which was archived by Slate. After being alerted to the article’s problematic origins, though, Musk seemed to double down, writing that the article “had better critical analysis than most non-cult media.”

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Links between NXIVM and The Knife/The Knife of Aristotle were unearthed last year by investigative reporter Brock Wilbur, writing in Paste. Wilbur found that the Knife shared leadership with NXIVM—including Battlestar Galactica actress Nicki Clyne—and speculated that its efforts to hire journalists were a form of recruitment for the broader group. The Knife and NXIVM have since scrubbed evidence linking the two entities.

Musk’s recent criticism of the media started as pushback against coverage of Tesla’s troubles, including Autopilot-linked wrecks, labor battles, and Model 3 production delays. On the Autopilot topic in particular, Musk has a very fair point—the event-driven nature of media coverage means a few wrecks could easily overshadow the life-saving potential of A.I. driver assistance.

But Musk has broadened his critique, painting the media as a whole as “holier-than-thou,” “sanctimonious,” and lacking integrity, and suggesting that he himself could restore that integrity by building a site to rate media outlets’ credibility. His attacks have invited comparisons to President Donald Trump’s remarks against the media, and highlighted Silicon Valley billionaires’ broader distaste for criticism.

Apple Promotes Powerful Privacy Tools For iPhone, iPad, Mac Users In GDPR Response

Apple didn’t need to do anything to meet the stringent requirements of the new EU law, called General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force on May 25 – it already practised such good privacy hygiene that its existing precautions already passed the new obligations. However, it took the opportunity to comprehensively rethink its privacy standards, as the new privacy page reveals on the Apple website.

Apple

Data and Privacy at the heart of the new Apple privacy management tools.

I mean, it’s no surprise that Apple should take privacy seriously. It’s forbiddingly secretive about its products and internal workings and it has long proclaimed that it believes that privacy is ‘a fundamental human right’.

To make this work, there’s plenty it doesn’t know about us. For each Apple Pay transaction, Apple doesn’t track who you’re paying and has no idea who you’re paying for.  FaceTime conversations, iMessage threads and so on are end-to-end encrypted. Apple had asked itself why it would need to know who was saying what to whom and concluded it was none of its business.

Apple

Apple iPhone X with Apple Pay Cash in the Wallet app.

Even journeys made on Apple Maps are encrypted so that nobody getting hold of information could work out where you go regularly or whatever. It does this by, among other things, dropping the first and last 500 or so yards from each journey once it’s completed to blur the details. And though some data is held for a time, it’s deleted after 30 days or so.

And before these new changes, Apple had recently introduced a recognisable page which warned you when data was being collected, so you were always in the loop. It’s a stark contrast to most other companies and is made easier by the fact that Apple, as it might say, owns all the pieces of the jigsaw from hardware to software.

Anyway, Apple’s response to GDPR is interesting, and sets a standard which others must strive to meet. What’s more, though it only needs to make sure its GDPR response applies to European users, Apple has said it’s going to roll it out worldwide.

David Phelan

How to obtain a copy of your data.

First up, Apple has made it easy to find out exactly what data of yours is on its servers, from purchase history to photos on iCloud to emails and so on. With a few clicks you can download everything (apart from TV shows you’ve bought on Apple TV, for instance). If some sections turn out to be many gigabytes in size, it’ll split them into more manageable bites.

But the more interesting bits come next. First of all, if any of your data is inaccurate, you can request a correction.

You can also delete your account, if you wish. That’s not new. But there’s a new, less drastic course of action you can take where you deactivate your Apple ID account temporarily.

Why would you do this? Well, if you’re going away for a few months, perhaps or, (and please whisper this in the earshot of Apple fans), if you’ve bought an Android phone and so all that Apple data is no longer needed, once you’ve transferred it to your new phone. But, hey, maybe you’ll go back to Apple when the next, irresistible iPhone is released.

Apple

Health records are just one kind of data Apple has for you.

If that’s a possibility, then the temporary suspension, called deactivation, may appeal.

But bear in mind that you won’t be able to download iBooks you’ve bought from Apple while the account is deactivated. Nor can you use services which require your Apple ID like Messages and FaceTime. If you have a repair scheduled at an Apple Store, say, that will stay active but upcoming appointments in an Apple Store will be canceled.

If you pay for iCloud storage, that will continue until the next billing period after which you must review whether to keep paying or not.

Your data is not deleted but nobody, and here’s an important thing, not even Apple, can access it.

With this in mind, you’re sent a reactivation code. Lose it and, well, you’re in trouble because even Apple can’t get it back. So you can’t save it in an iMessage or Apple email. You need somewhere else safe to keep this code. All deactivations are verified, which can take up to seven days.

The Privacy section is live now and provides tools which range from useful to downright fascinating. It’s done with the obsessive detail you might expect from Apple. If you’re in the EU, you can access the new tools now and they’ll be rolled out to all users around the world in the coming months.

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Can a High-Tech Touch Help Revive Nordstrom?

This article first appeared in Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the top tech news. To get it delivered daily to your in-box, sign up here.

The three-year stock performance of old-line retailer Nordstrom—down about 40% since early 2015—belies the exuberant and experimental merchant I read about in Phil Wahba’s chock-full-of-information profile in the new Fortune 500 issue of the magazine. (Nordstrom is No. 183, and this is my last daily column highlighting the great articles in this issue.)

Nordstrom’s exuberance in the face of a tough retail environment is what makes its story all the more exciting. The highish-end department store company was insulated for a bit by Amazon’s cutthroat pricing and hyper-efficient customer service. But Nordstrom (jwn) knows what it’s up against. As Wahba sagely writes, Seattle-based Nordstrom can literally see Amazon (amzn) outside its own windows.

Nordstrom’s high-tech response is a corollary to what made it great in the first place. While the technology of a web site or mobile app is groundbreaking, shoppers also value the physical experience of shopping: the human assistance, the ability to touch the product, the pianist in the lobby.

Nordstrom has combined bits and atoms—I stole that phrase from Uber’s former CEO, Travis Kalanick—to keep itself in the game. Wahba calls the venerable retailer’s new Manhattan store, for example, a “sophisticated shopping-tech laboratory.” Nordstrom allows self-service return bins with near-instant credit, including for merchandise bought online. Customers can see how not-yet-made clothes look on a life-sized avatar. They even can reserve products online and have a fitting room ready when they arrive. The room will even have their name on the door.

Here’s the key takeaway: There’s life left in a handful of dinosaurs, particularly if their brands are strong and they’re willing to embrace, be creative with, and invest heavily in the latest technology.

***

Gary Sheffer, a former media-relations executive at General Electric (ge) and currently a spokesman for ex-CEO Jeffrey Immelt, posted this rebuttal Thursday to Geoff Colvin’s tough review of Immelt’s tenure, the subject of yesterday’s Data Sheet column. Sheffer’s statement speaks for itself, as do the comments current CEO John Flannery made this week about the sad state of affairs at GE, causing its stock to drop 7%. The share rebounded 3% Thursday.

***

Have a great weekend.

Why Did Apple Ban Valve’s Steam Link From Its App Store?

Apple appears to be engaged in a battle of sorts with Valve.

In an interview with technology site Arstechnica, gaming company Valve said that Apple has removed and banned its Steam Link app from its App Store. The company said that Apple originally approved the app but after further review, found that it didn’t meet its approved guidelines.

Valve unveiled its Steam Link app earlier this month. The app allows you to stream your PC games from a computer to another device, as long as they’re both on the same network. The idea is for users to have a game running on one device but be able to play wherever they want in the home. It’s a relatively common feature with remote desktop apps that let users access another computer from their devices.

In its interview with Arstechnica, Valve said that it petitioned Apple’s ruling and pointed to those streaming apps, which are all available in the company’s App Store, as apparent proof that the Steam Link app isn’t in violation of the iPhone maker’s guidelines. Apple stood by its decision and kept the iOS app blocked from its application marketplace.

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For its part, Apple hasn’t publicly disclosed why it removed Steam Link from its App Store. The company also generally makes it a policy to not discuss specific details about why an app was removed or banned from its marketplace.

Apple did not respond to a Fortune request for comment on the Steam Link decision.

Want An Amazing Organizational Culture? Here's Some Tips From One Of The Best

InfoTrust is a digital analytics company that specializes in online measurement architecture for multi-brand companies, breaking down silos and validating data to ensure teams have the confidence to make data-backed decisions for the business.

According to Inc., InfoTrust has been one of the fastest growing companies in the United States for the past three years. Moreover, InfoTrust was ranked by Inc. to be one of the best places to work in 2017. AdAge also ranked InfoTrust to be one of the best places to work in 2017.

As an organizational psychologist, my professional background and education is to examine workplace psychology. More specifically, I’m interested in what cutting-edge organizations are doing to keep their employees happy, healthy, creative, and productive.

I’d read about InfoTrust and the amazing things they were doing with their culture. So I decided to reach out to the CEO, Alex Yastrebenetsky, to understand exactly what they were doing differently at InfoTrust.

Here’s what I learned about their organizational culture:

1. Initial “Benefits” Of Working For The Company

To be fully honest, it was interesting talking to Yastrebenetsky. Very rarely do I talk to a CEO who is this interested in his employee’s well-being and happiness. My impression after I got off the phone was: “Wow! This sounds like an amazing place to work!”

I was somewhat embarrassed though, because my assistant, Rachel, was on the phone call taking notes for me as I was asking questions. After Yastrebenetsky hung-up, my assistant now knew what an organization looked like that took care of their people in a really rare and profound way. 

I knew that, at least for the time being, I couldn’t offer my assistant what InfoTrust offers their people. But I’m glad I had this call, and I’m glad my assistant was on the call as well. Because we both learned what our workplace environment could be like. 

With that context, here is the list of initial “benefits” Yastrebenetsky told me that all employees who work at InfoTrust get:

  • Insurance is fully paid by InfoTrust for employees and their dependents — this includes health, dental and vision insurance
  • Unlimited PTO
  • 401(k) with 100% match of first 3% and 50% match of the next 2%
  • Bonus program that could reward up to 15% of employee’s salary
  • Free lunch in the Cincinnati and Dubai office every day!
  • Fully stocked kitchen at the Cincinnati office
  • Flexible work schedule and the ability to work from home
  • Tuition reimbursement for further education

2. The Goal Is To Remove All “Life Friction” So Employees Can Focus At Work

The reason InfoTrust provides all employees with insurance, and provides completely flexible work schedules is because, in Yastrebenetsky’s words, “Our goal is to remove all life friction so our people can focus while they’re at work.”

This statement was profound to me. 

  • When people get to work, all of their food is taken care of.
  • If they want more education and training, it’s taken care of and paid for.
  • All forms of essential insurance are taken care of for the employee and their family. 

According to research, when people feel taken care of, they become increasingly committed to the organization. They become committed to their leaders. Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) is one way of looking at this. When someone feels their leader has done them well, they feel compelled to reciprocate in the form of quality performance and other citizenship behaviors– such as going above and beyond the call of duty.

When your people feel taken care of, they don’t need to be motivated by carrots and sticks. They develop intrinsic motivation to be a supportive member of the group. They want the organization to succeed. They begin to truly feel they are a part of something bigger; something important. 

3. Unique Parental Leave Policy

Another thing InfoTrust does that is unique is their Parental Leave Policy. All parents (father, mother, adoptive parent) that work at the company for at least one year are eligible, and the benefit covers three months of paid leave, followed by three months of part-time work.

Specifically, if you have a kid, you get a total of six months of coverage to help you ease your way back into work and focus on being with your little one.

4. 50/50 Workforce Of Men And Women

Half of the employees at InfoTrust are women. This is quite unique given the fact that nearly all of these employees are engineers. Half of the leadership are women.

According to Yastrebenetsky, the 50/50 split of men and women creates a dynamic workplace energy. “The energy in the environment is balanced and exciting,” Yastrebenetsky told me. 

Beyond their own employment, InfoTrust is trying to support women in technology groups more generally. This thrust and encouragement for women in engineering felt particularly important to me. Indeed, only 9% of the engineering workforce in 2016 were women, despite growing numbers of women studying engineering in college (approximately 25%). Thus, the stereotypes still exist in many organizations about women and engineering, which is why I was very excited to hear about InfoTrust’s encouragement toward women and also their 50/50 split as an organization.

5. Having A “Vivid Vision” And Clearly Communicating That Vision To All Employees

Yastrebenetsky promotes heavily the philosophy of writer and strategist, Cameron Herald, who wrote the book, Vivid Vision

Yastrebenetsky told me that in 2017, the InfoTrust management team unveiled the company’s Vivid Vision during “InfoTrust Week.” InfoTrust Week is a time when all of the employees meet at the Cincinnati office to enjoy of week of training, fun events and team-building.

Yastrebenetsky said: 

“Since we have employees based in Dubai, Barcelona, Michigan, California and Florida it is important that we all get a chance to see the team all in one place. Although this week has a significant cost to the company, the leadership knows that the value of a strong company culture makes it all worth it. During this week, we provide a balanced mix of fun activities and growth activities. For example, we may offer training on a new analytics training for an hour, followed by a brainstorming on how we can give back to the community, finished off by an event at the park. All of these events allow for each employee to live our core values.”

During InfoTrust Week, the Vivid Vision was unveiled, which is a “short and focused”
document that lays out a detailed plan for where InfoTrust will be in three years, as we enter the year 2020.

They believe that by defining the success of their future, they have set the path to get there. Accoring to Yastrebenetsky:

The Vivid Vision also ensures everyone – from the CEO and CMO to the executive management team to employees – is on the same page and excited about what the future holds. It’s also a critical tool in ensuring our team, partners, and investors are all aligned for a successful future.

Just having a path laid out in the Vivid Vision sets us apart from many other employers. However, our Vivid Vision also includes three management-championed company practices that truly set us apart: being the best to employees, being the best for our clients, and influencing the future of analytics.

Conclusion

As an organizational psychologist, I’m constantly studying and analyzing organizations, their cultures, and their leadership. 

Without question, the leadership and organization at InfoTrust is doing something different. And the proof is in the pudding. They are growing extremely fast and their people are happy and productive.

If you’re a leader of an organization, what can you learn from InfoTrust to make your organization more successful?

How can you become one of the fastest growing companies in the United States?

How can you become one of the best voted places to work?

LeBron James is a Superstar. But Great Leaders Use This Superior Strategy to Find Success

For anyone who follows NBA basketball, there’s a war going on right now.

One one side, there’s LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, struggling to overcome the incredible team-based play of the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, it’s exactly the same scenario.

The Golden State Warriors are loaded to the gills with superstars like Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, but they play like a well-oiled machine. James Harden, meanwhile, is one of the most talented players we’ve seen in years and a likely league MVP–his dribbling and shooting prowess makes you do a double-take. Yet, it’s hard to ignore the fact that everyone else on the Houston Rockets (except Chris Paul) is often on the court standing around, waiting to see what happens. Four teams, but two completely different strategies. We’ll soon find out which strategy will prevail in the next few days.

The war raging between “team” and “superstar” has been around awhile. In business, you might be tempted to rely on a small group of overachievers. Yet, nothing quite compares to a larger group of people all working together in perfect synergy.

I was watching the Cavaliers the other night and realized the “old school” approach of driving the lane, passing the ball to the superstar on almost every play, and hoping that one person scoring 42 points is a good strategy matches up perfectly with how some leaders operate in business. “Give the ball to the superstar” is a common tactic.  

It doesn’t really work, and part of the reason has to do with how teams function. In my own experience, individuals who can ramp up sales quickly are like a meme or a viral marketing video. It’s a big hit, but it doesn’t really lead to long-term success. I agree James is one of the best ever, but you could easily argue that one-guy-driving-the-lane has not worked. It has not helped the Cavs win an NBA Championship. Only when James surrounds himself with exemplary players, not pawns in a chess match, does he usually win the final series.

It won’t help your prospects as a leader, either. Teams in business who work together are far stronger, far more productive, and find far more success than a couple of greats.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

In one startup, I remember hiring someone who had exceptional graphic design skills. She could make Photoshop dance. And, she could crank out brochures and other items faster than anyone else. At meetings, she was always a little bored. But the other team members were also hungry to learn. Over an entire year, the other team members eventually learned how to use the design apps, shared ideas with each other, found workarounds, and built up their repertoire. In meetings, they would come up with far better ideas as a group. That one superstar was wildly talented, but had to rely on her own prowess.

Eventually, we ended up switching her to a different department, one that needed a solo producer. The rest of the team flourished, grew creatively, and became way more productive. There’s something about how a team of, say, five people working together creates more productivity than five individuals working alone. Each person fuels the entire team, generates new ideas, and pushes every project forward.

Watching the Cavs lately reminds me of that designer. Just give the ball to LeBron is not a great strategy against teams like the Boston Celtics. It becomes one against five. We’ll see how it all works out, but I’ll still hold to my view. Teams win in the end.