Blockchain Simplified

Croixstone‘s CXO Patti Weber recently participated in Skookum‘s largest Tech Talks to date. Josh Miller, Senior Software Engineer at Skookum, provided insight into blockchain technology and the uses beyond Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. The original blockchain was described in a 2008 bitcoin paper by Satashi Nakamoto, just 2 months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. What makes blockchain so attractive is that it provides a level of trust that is interwoven in business transactions. People can now make transactions without middlemen which translates to greater control of funds and lower fees.

So, what is a blockchain? A blockchain is a digital encrypted ledger in which transactions are recorded chronologically and publicly. Like the name indicates, a blockchain is a chain of blocks containing information. Each block contains data, the hash (i.e., digital fingerprint that uniquely identifies the block and all the contents), and the hash of the previous block. When a block is created, a copy of the block is distributed on a peer-to-peer (P2P) network. Each member of the P2P network gets a copy of the block, and a consensus is obtained to ensure that the chain has not been tampered with.
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The way the blocks are chained together using hashes, along with a “proof of work” mechanism and distribution through a P2P network, makes blockchains secure and trustworthy. The term immutability – its resistance to tampering or other changes – is often used when describing blockchain.
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Blockchains eliminate the need for middlemen (e.g., banks) making it more efficient than legacy systems. They exist within communities, and participants that operate within an industry can all operate on the same chain, and therefore, have a copy of the distributed ledger.
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Applications of Blockchain
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As a result of the tamper-proof and hack-proof nature of blockchain, it is one of the most promising technologies with far-reaching applications. Here are just a few of the industries that are/will be impacted..
For a more detailed explanation of blockchain, see CNET’s recent article titled Blockchain explained: It builds trust when you need it most.
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For more information about industries impacted, check out: Banking Is Only The Beginning: 36 Big Industries Blockchain Could Transform

#MakeYourMark in 2018

Happy New Year!  The Croixstone team is ready with some creative ways to start the year off on the right foot.  It’s time to #MakeYourMark in 2018.

  • One great way to start the year is by enjoying the great outdoors on New Year’s Day.  North Carolina State Parks will be hosting First Day Hikes throughout the state to start the year off right.  To read more about First Day Hikes in North Carolina, check out a story in the Shelby Star here and see a full list of hikes sponsored by North Carolina State Parks here.
  • Looking to make 2018 your healthiest year yet?  Start the year off with a free Healthy Lunch & Fitness Goal-Setting Session hosted by NoDa Personal Training.  To learn more and to register, click here.
  • Ready to take your career to the next level?  Check out 10 things to do in the new year to skyrocket your career in 2018 here.

Croixstone is On the Move!

We are thrilled to formally announce the relocation of Croixstone Consulting from our start-up loft in South End to Industrious Charlotte in Uptown. When Croixstone initially opened its doors, we intentionally selected the loft space in South End for many reasons, including its robust history as a center of innovation and entrepreneurialism. South End is home to the nation’s first gold rush, attracting men and women to the Queen City, and in 1926, a pioneer snack company born from an innovative idea of pairing creamy peanut butter with crackers made South End its home. In the early 1990s, the corporate headquarters for Lance Crackers was converted into mixed-use space which kick-started the revitalization of the South End area. Innovation, entrepreneurialism and revitalization mirror the values our maverick consultants deliver to our clients.

Our selection of Industrious in the Bank of America Plaza building as Croixstone’s next home is also intentional. The dictionary definition of industrious captures the spirit of our firm. We are a tribe of industrious, forward-thinking individuals tackling industry challenges and propelling companies forward. Our consultants understand the importance of questioning the status quo and diligently culling through the issues to solve complex problems and advance critical outcomes.

In February 2017, Forbes wrote an article about the Industrious formula for productive coworking spaces. The parallels between our beliefs at Croixstone in a balance of serious business + fun and Industrious’ formula for productive coworking were too coincidental. Our move to Industrious allows us to continue to expand and grow, while surrounding ourselves with other companies, ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, working just as hard. The move also allows us to extend an invitation to our consultants to drop in and work in a vibrant, professional community as the need arises. Click here to read more press about Industrious.

Freelancing in America
Did you know that 36% of the U.S. workforce are freelance workers?  This equates to 57.3 million workers earning an estimated $1.4 trillion annually. By 2027, the majority of the U.S. workforce will freelance, according to findings in the “Freelancing in America Study: 2017” released in mid-October. The study conducted by Upwork and Freelancers Union defined freelancers as “individuals who have engaged in supplemental, temporary, project- or contract-based work.”
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To learn more about freelancing in America, check out the following:
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  • Click here for a complete guide from entrepreneur.com to the highest-paying jobs, companies, freelance jobs and more.
  • Prepare for the future as a freelancer by following these 3 tips here.
  • Want to quit your job to go freelance?  Here is a list of 10 skills that are in hot demand now.
  • Are we all fated to become “solopreneurs”?  Read here about the four key criteria needed to stay competitive and successful as freelancers.

Re-Envisioning the Future with Generative Design
Could the current manufacturing, distribution, assembly and maintenance processes become obsolete in the not too distant future?  Today, we take a look at generative design as an innovative approach to thinking outside the box when it comes to design and its implications to manufacturing.
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At Croixstone we are inspired by mavericks…those unconventional thinkers who can see past conformity and who can accomplish what others say can’t be done.  Generative design has the ability to generate unconventional design options that go beyond our imagination alone and can be used to create everything from running shoes, earbuds and airplane partitions, to a revolutionary approach to designing the office space and buildings of the future.
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So what is generative design? According to Autodesk, a leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software, “Generative design is a technology that mimics nature’s evolutionary approach to design. It starts with your design goals and then explores all of the possible permutations of a solution to find the best option. Using cloud computing, generative design software quickly cycles through thousands—or even millions—of design choices, testing configurations and learning from each iteration what works and what doesn’t. The process lets designers generate brand new options, beyond what a human alone could create, to arrive at the most effective design.”  To better understand what generative design is all about, click here for a short video.
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  • Learn how generative design and additive manufacturing (i.e., 3-D printing) is changing the manufacturing world here.
  • Check out how generative design could radically transform the look of our world here.
  • Delve into a new world of highly efficient products made by generative design here.
  • Take a sneak peak into the first large-scale generative designed office here.

Gaining a Competitive Advantage Through Predictive Analytics
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to predict the future? According to a recent Harvard Business Review webinar, companies, governments, law enforcement agencies, hospitals, and universities are using the power of big data, new technologies, and analytics to predict whether we’re going to “click, buy, lie, or die.”
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So, what is the difference between forecasting and predictive analytics? Forecasting provides an estimate to anticipate trends for a large group over time, while predictive analytics goes much further and is focused on predicting the behavior of a single individual. For example, forecasting might provide an estimate of the total sales for a particular product line next quarter, while predictive analytics tells which customer will likely buy the product. Major industries such as Banking and Finance, Retail, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Oil and Gas Utilities, Government, E-commerce and Travel and Hospitality embrace predictive analytics to boost sales, improve operations, reduce risks, and gain a competitive advantage.
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  • What is Predictive Analytics? Learn the about the process, applications, software and more here.
  • Read how to convert analytics into action here.

Keeping Up With Digital Transformation

Digital transformation has by now made its way to nearly all industries, and therefore, it comes up in Croixstone’s conversations almost daily. Why is digital transformation so important? Quite simply, if organizations don’t modernize and become fully digitalized then they will be left behind and the threat of disruption becomes very real. With companies investing millions to digitalize their businesses, they are hoping for outcomes that will increase revenue, reduce cost, create more products and services, improve customer satisfaction, enhance differentiation, and ultimately mitigate the risk of digital disruption.

Regardless of your area of expertise, digital transformation will impact everyone. Companies are looking for change drivers to help them weed through the digital transformation myths, create a culture that makes data-based decisions, and sift through an avalanche of digital initiatives to reshape their organizations.

Read about a new practical guide to a successful digital transformation here.

Learn some insights into helping your C-suite understand digital transformation here.

See how three companies are thriving with digital transformation here.


What’s Happening in the Financial Services Sector?

Those of us who live in the Queen City know that Charlotte is the third-largest banking center behind New York City and San Francisco.  According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, the Charlotte region is home to 16 banking institutions with $2.27 trillion in total assets.  So, what’s happening in the USA’s financial services sector overall?

Learn about the future of Financial Services here.

How are tech trends and FinTech affecting the Financial Services industry?  Learn how here.

Are technology firms the next Financial Services providers?  Let’s see what Forbes thinks here.

Finally, learn about the third way of innovation (AI and machine learning) in Financial Services here.


The Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017

These are the top 10 strategic trends Gartner sees breaking out of the emerging space to have a potentially substantial impact over consumers and industries during the next five years.

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Advanced Machine Learning
  • Intelligent Apps like VPAs (virtual personal assistants) and VCAs (virtual customer assistants)
  • Intelligent Things like drones, autonomous vehicles, and smart appliances
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality
  • Digital Twins
  • Blockchain and Distributed Ledgers
  • Conversational Systems
  • Mesh App and Service Architecture (MASA)
  • Digital Technology Platforms
  • Adaptive Security Architecture

Learn more about each of these top 10 strategy trends via Forbes here.