Make the Downturn Work For You

“The best companies do more than survive a downturn.  They position themselves to thrive during the subsequent upturn, guided again by a number of broad objectives.”
– Harvard Business Review (Febuary 2009)

Do you know where the opportunity lies for your company (and/or your career) during this time of great uncertainty?  In this blog post, we focus on the opportunities that await those determined to make the downturn work for them.

13 Massive Companies That Started During a Recession

“…if history proves to be any sort of reliable predictor, recessions have actually served as the launchpad for some of the world’s most incredible businesses.” – The Startup (Medium)
  Learn more here.

Turn Massive Challenges into Meaningful Change + Opportunities.

Accenture has done a remarkable job of effectively packaging insights from the firm’s experts in a simple and straightforward way to help organizations turn massive complexity into meaningful change.
Learn more here.


LinkedIn Live Launched

LinkedIn recently launched its first live video tool, giving people and organizations the ability to broadcast real-time video to select groups or to the LinkedIn world at large.

Launching in beta first in the U.S., LinkedIn Live (as the product is called) will be invite-only. In coming weeks, LinkedIn will also post a contact form for others who want to get in on the action.  Learn more here.


A Virtual View of the Skills Gap Dilemma

According to the just-released 2018 Employer Needs Survey, 50 percent of North Carolina businesses report hiring difficulties and 60 percent of NC STEM-related and manufacturing companies experience the same. A recent Deloitte study estimates 2.4 million positions may go unfilled over the next decade.

Immersive technologies, such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) or mixed reality (MR) [collectively called XR], are being used to address the skills gap behind those numbers. Charlotte-based Lowe’s finds VR particularly useful for simulating the numerous home environments a sales or service representative may encounter. Global shipping giant DHL Supply Chain reports an average 15 percent or greater improvement in productivity in its warehouses utilizing AR glasses, while also reducing onboarding and training time by 50 percent.

What does this mean for employee training? Read more on:  A Virtual View of the Skills Gap Dilemma.

About Our Guest Writer

Lorraine Russell is President/CEO of Room to Focus.  The firm provides the tools and content to help companies increase training retention, attract digital natives, and reduce time spent onboarding and facilitating routine training.  

Professional Development Opportunity!

Our friends at Wily—a design agency based at Camp North End in Charlotte—are running a Design Sprint Bootcamp on September 11-12Jake Knapp—creator of Design Sprints and author of NYT bestseller “Sprint“—will lead Day 1 of the two day training. Jake perfected Design Sprints while at GV/Google Ventures helping companies like AirBnB, Slack, Nest, Flatiron Health, and 23andMe solve big challenges. Jeff Grant will be leading Day 2 to cover prototyping and testing. Jeff innovates the retail security experience as head of product and innovation at InVue, has created satellite hardware for NASA, and was former co-founder and director of IDEO’s toy business line where he helped invent new products. Jake and Jeff will walk you step-by-step through the training and will be spilling all of their design and prototyping secrets.

Details are at wilysprints.com and a nice Harvard Business Review article about sprints can be found here.


Blockchain in Action

Because Croixstone agrees with experts that blockchain has the potential to “change the world” (think of it as the “Internet of Value or of Money”), we believe in the value of repeatedly spotlighting this technology. The Enterprisers Project (a community of CIOs who discuss the future of business and IT) recently shared 5 real world examples across 5 industries where blockchain projects are showing tangible progress.  Learn more here.


Biotechnology And Its Applications

Another core technology altering nearly every dimension of our lives as outlined in a recent MIT Sloan Management Review article is biotechnology. Biotechnology is really the combination of technology, chemistry, and life sciences.  At first glance, many business leaders may believe that biotechnology only impacts the health care field. The rapid advances in biotechnology, however, show enormous promise and have the potential to “both expand existing industry boundaries and create entirely new industries,” according to Dr. Albert H. Segars, author of the article and PNC Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and Faculty Director of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Biotechnology Applications

  • Industrial Processing – applications in product development, pollution control, bio-recycling, and hazardous waste.
  • Biometrics/Bio-identification – expanding the use of biomarkers as a gateway to information access and commerce.
  • Bioinformatics – analysis of large sets of data used in the Human Genome Project, Disney’s theme park design, and more.
  • Medical – advancements in the field of genomics, production of vaccines, antibiotics, gene therapy, and personalization of implantable devices.
  • Food & Agriculture – significant gains in the production of plants, improved quality of livestock, pest-resistance crops, nutrient supplementation, and manufactured power fibers.
  • Energy – alternative energy sources, production of biofuels from algae and other plant and waste sources.

Click here to read the entire MIT Sloan Management Review article.


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

Seed20 OnStage!

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” Today, we focus on an upcoming event dedicated to those in the Charlotte community that are “doing for others” each and every day…SEED20 OnStage!

SEED20 is the annual program of Social Venture Partners Charlotte (a nonprofit organization) to identify, highlight and connect the community to the region’s most promising social entrepreneurs tackling pressing challenges.

Croixstone’s Mark Weber is serving as the Lead Partner for this year’s powerful program, best known for its high-energy SEED20 OnStage event where ten members of the SEED20 class compete to win cash awards by making three-minute “pitches” to a panel of judges and a community audience.

This year’s event takes place at the Bechtler Museum and Knight Theater in front of an audience of 1,000 guests on April 16, 2018.  We invite you to view the SEED20 video and website to learn more.

Tickets for the event are now on sale.  To purchase tickets, Click Here


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.

Agile For Business

Back in 2001, seventeen people at The Lodge at Snowbird met to talk, ski, and relax, and what emerged was the Agile ‘Software Development’ Manifesto.  Those seventeen individuals may not have predicted that the agile methodology would now go well beyond IT and impact all areas of business.

As agile becomes more and more popular, business teams across a broad range of industries and functions are continuing to adopt an agile approach as a wide-ranging global business strategy.  And, big businesses aren’t the only places where agile is flourishing.  Small businesses and startups are also benefiting from embracing agile strategies and mindsets.

  • Learn about the secret history of agile innovation here.
  • Read how to make agile work for the C-suite here.
  • When it comes to scaling agile, learn how the devil is in the details here.
  • Finally, read about changes required to make your organization truly agile here.