The Business component of #BAT2018 Business-Art-Technology

B&M feb 2018 JAX

BUSINESS  – The #Business component of #BAT2018 -Business-Art-Technology for 2018

I launched the year with a column talking about going to #BAT in 2018 and I’ve received a whole lot of feedback and acknowledgement that I’ve touched on something important. The speed of change and the need for human adaptation leaves many of us trying to figure it all out.

The most oft asked question has been for me to give examples of organizations that do a good job integrating business, art and technology to stand out above the crowd in this disconnected communications environment. Most appropriately – my best examples come from Maine & Boston.  Coincidentally, they are both making a difference in human health.

My very first #BAT2018 award goes to The Jackson Laboratory headquartered in Bar Harbor Maine. Founded in 1929 they are an independent, nonprofit biomedical research organization who dares to assert their vision imagining “a world free of devastating disease.”

I have no insider’s view here. I am aware of them because of my work with biomed and medtech research organizations. Mostly, however, I continue to learn about them because of their internet and social media activity. This organization has integrated business art and technology with a very human approach to everything they do. I have never really “met” anyone from that organization and yet I feel like I know the CEO and their social media strategist very well. In reality – that discovery of @jacksonlab on twitter – led to a series of real time exchanges and my warm inclusion as a friend of their social media community. Community by its very nature must have dialogue between members. Community is not a brand pitching every single moment with outbound broadcasts. Jackson Labs acknowledges and responds to online comments and makes it fun to be involved with what they do and what they offer.

One very popular item with me was their 2018 calendar. It’s a salute to a dozen famous artists thru a wickedly wonderful re-interpretation of their work. Roy Lichtenstein, Peter Max and Idelle Weber highlight the lab’s commitment to women in science as well as the joy of discovery while science and lab mice remain center stage.

b&m20180125_095548_W ©KeithSpiroPhoto

Does this poster style look familiar?  The most popular mouse in the house delivered in a clever Andy Warhol style.

A business is successful because of its people. When it comes to Jackson Labs, I’ve seen some team photos online and I’ve looked at their job postings.  The employees clearly reflect the wide diversity you should expect of an impactful organization. I’ve said it before. You either are or are not diverse. There is no maybe and no hiding behind geography, availability or other excuses.

Business attitude is also readily revealed in job postings. Collaborative and Interdisciplinary, Jackson Laboratory ideal candidates pay attention to coveted values of: Integrity, People, One Team, Excellence, Innovation and Stewardship. Job descriptions acknowledge that every position contributes to JAX’s mission of discovering precise genomic solutions and empowering the global biomedical community in a shared quest to improve human health.

WOW! Whether its research or media and communications, cross disciplined creativity is encouraged and their benefits package reinforces the expectations and opportunities at every step.

JAX is one of those best practice examples of integration of Art & Technology, Social media and Community, Outreach and Diversity in everything they do. In a world full of noise, they are Creative & their mission is  compelling.

 Follow them online on Facebook and Twitter

You can support their work!  Click Here! They will gladly accept donations. You can make a tribute gift, have your business  step up and partner with them. You can even help fund a scientist!


Next installment, we’ll take a look at the other end of the rail line down by Boston.

b&m20180122_151358_KSPwC ©KeithSpiroPhotoAnother organization devoted to integrative approaches to health. Technology, depicted here, looks like something out of a Peter Max poster and they too are amazing.


The Creatives

The Creatives

bakerArtist KSPwC_DSC5353_©KeithSpiroPhoto

The baker of USA has a website, a craft and a portfolio

When I look back on five years of connecting urban & rural Business, Art & Technology in a monthly column called The Boston & Maine Connection,  I clearly see both the power of tight communities and the vibrancy of large cities.  As my connections have expanded globally so too has my sense of how to utilize technology for the good of community.  Rapid technological changes have impacted both our sense of what makes up a community as well as how we approach communication and commerce.  Today, certain aspects of small town living apply across the web. People in small towns have always known that your personal history follows you forever. The locals never forget who you were and what you did and now – neither does Facebook nor Google.

The opportunity for global cooperation and competition has never been greater. As the Gregorian calendar turned the page to 2018, I took note that Gujarat India had already celebrated Diwali and it’s new year and Brisbane Australia & Dublin Ireland leapt  into 2018 fifteen and five hours respectively ahead of the USA. Whether you think of the world as competitive or your opportunity as collaborative, know that Australia is ranked as #1 for what I see as the most pivotal of all groups – the Creatives. The rising Creative Class is an area for intense but oftentimes overlooked opportunities.

The Creative Class includes the digital native who is comfortable around technology as a skillset as well as others who have learned to merge art and creative skills into the technology marketplace. Quite frankly, not many tech people can grasp the intangibles and boundary-free thinking that true Creatives have and in today’s fast paced world, Creatives are more important than ever.

Richard Florida wrote a book in 2002 positing the rise of this socio-economic class in a post-urbanized age. The battle for world class cities vs. the rest of the population will continue to play out on the ground as well as in the cloud. You may have heard of the “gig economy.” Well, it will be the Creatives who become the glue binding together our humanity and the machine world.

Here’s a quote from Steven Jobs in his introduction of the iPad2 in 2011:

“Technology alone is not enough—

it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”

Business cries out for new markets and new customers and laments the difficulty of being heard in a digital world full of noise. With our “swipe left or swipe right” attention spans – it will be the visual and the creative that catches and holds our attention.

As brands seek to dominate and capture new clients and as technology moves people into a sales funnel and as artificial intelligence tends to predict your choices, the opportunity to succeed may very well come down to the human element of – that which catches your attention, – wins!

Australian writer and brand strategist Jess Thoms defined Creative Tech as the combination of Technology with Art and Design to create better experiences, products and brands. She goes on to say  “Working in creative tech doesn’t mean you need to learn how to code, or suddenly become a robotics engineer. It’s about the application of your creative skills and ideas to a technical platform so it performs better. Technology is made for humans, after all. So who better than storytellers, artists, poets, and psychologists to make this technology more personable?”

Perhaps the name Mark Cuban is more familiar?  Jess quotes him as saying liberal arts degrees are the future. And indeed, I agree.  I have long been an advocate of liberal arts education in a science driven world. Our humanity depends on it!

If you are a Creative, you need to find your way onto tech teams – those AI and robotics people need you to insure the inevitable future will function better.  Humanities shape language, psychology colors empathy, and trust comes from repetition, consistently, of the best experiences.  Starving artists are a thing of the past. The future belongs to those who can bring understanding to the rest of us and you will be paid handsomely for doing so.  #BAT2018

creatives CRYER header cut for blogs SM

My Three Words: 2018 Going to BAT

Going to BAT in 2018  – My Three Words – Business Art Technology #BAT2018 #my3words

Continuing a long standing tradition started by Waterville Maine native Chris Brogan, I have been starting out each year with three words to guide my success in the year ahead rather than a series of New Year resolutions that are too easily broken. There is genius behind Chris’ process in having three words always there to focus attention and minimize distraction.

Last year my words were Focused, Filtered and Fluid and they each played a strong role in keeping me on my plan and not getting overly distracted by all the incoming noise of today’s internet experience.

photo by Keith Spiro poet for hire NYCFor 2018 my words to navigate by are Business, Art and Technology and in a unique twist, I will be mindful that all three are intricately interwoven in any successful endeavor in our tumultuous cultural and political climate.  They fit well with my personal goals of learning, sharing and enjoying the use of my creative skills and my art daily for family, friends and business.  Previously, my three words could stand alone and reflect totally different considerations but with the news streamed across our devices, 2018 is the year where the best way for an individual to be seen, be heard or be found will be to employ and deploy the best of skills, design and technology in everything we do.  I truly believe that we each can accomplish nearly anything we set our mind to more easily than ever.  While strategy and community building is the methodology, it will be the business mindset along with technology and a creative arts touch that will permit great achievements.

Whether you are acting as an individual on a mission, or on behalf of a marketing agency, a small business or a big brand, you need to recognize the significant change in human information gathering and activation.  We have less power to sell but more power to influence with best results occurring when someone self-activates for your cause because they have accumulated enough information and desire to take action on your behalf. Word of mouth sharing by friends and other trusted influencers is what drives the bus these days. Marketers spend a lot of time and a lot of your money to measure and track influence but the reality is much simpler than the experts want you to believe.

How you make others feel combined with being part of a community will determine your true ability to get things done.  You don’t need 10,000 “followers” you only need a small core group who have been touched by and affected by you to take action to a dramatically powerful result.  “Me too”  is a real emotional trigger for more than just today’s firestorm. In calmer times, the inclusive nature of a group will be just as powerful for a wide range of changes that can be brought to the forefront.

By moving beyond the disjointed nature of communications today and focusing on nurturing a community of like-minded souls, you can turn most any cause into a movement and be seen, heard and found. For me, 2018 represents my concerted effort to insure that my business acumen and my human story blend well every day.

Business – including the business of life, is getting things done in an organized and team driven manner. You don’t have to do it alone. There are others who share your thinking and will help if only you reach out and ask.

Art –  We humans are influenced by our emotions. We take action because we are happy, angry, sad, excited or a whole lot of other nuanced emotional feelings. The arts are a sometimes overlooked but fantastic way to draw attention and engage support. Long before the internet, humans depended on creative and artistic skills to communicate to a broader audience. People of letters and visual artists galvanized us into action through visual and oral storytelling. Stories move us.  Art is an integral part of what makes a society whole and art is powerful in creating dialogue and change. The winning organization is one that captures our imagination and moves us to action.  Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes not. But, always – it is the artist who crafts a vision in ways that first cause us to stop and take note.  Hire an artist and be amazed at what can be accomplished by rising above all the noise.

Technology – is no longer an option, it is an integral part of most every set of actions. Rather than be lulled into the passive “swipe right/swipe left” mentality of the followers, take action and use technology to gather your community, inform them and move them to coordinated action. We don’t have to go it alone. We don’t have to be the product being sold. As social media matures into social business, we too can use the tools and compete with the Goliath of big funders with the deft creative skills of a David. Time to use our voices and our creative talents and make a difference.

BAT2018perfect JaxMiceWarholTweetHere’s my first pick for an organization going to #BAT2018- The Jackson Labs make a huge difference in global health – and I have both intersected with & followed their work for years. They are a best practice example of integration of Art & Technology, Social media and Community, Outreach and Diversity in everything they do. Check out the client calendar they offer. Creative – compelling. Follow them.       Support their work!

Now its your turn – Pick any three words share them with me if you like (I’ll publish them online ) – but be sure to spend a few minutes daily insuring that your beacon and path is clear and make it a great year.

Conversational Web, AI & a Trillion Dollar Bubble

The conversational Web, AI and a trillion-dollar bubble.

At MoNage, we explored the future of the conversational web and the convergence of computing, cryptocurrency, AI, Communications, messaging and their underlying ecosystems.  I spoke about trillion dollar opportunities and my concerns that tomorrow’s conversational web may well be compromised by today’s failure to fully encompass diverse tech teams.

#MoNage Keith Spiro Barbara Clarke photo

Joining me on stage was Barbara Clarke, an economist and co-founder of The Impact Seat. Together we read Letters to MoNage – a real time compilation of comments coming out of the multi day presentations and together we represented a clear visual cue of diversity in front of a mostly male audience.

I challenged developers, corporate leaders and brand advisors to deeply consider the work of Eli Pariser who grew up in Maine and delivered an impressive TED talk called The Filter Bubble.

In a book of the same name, he outlined a growing concern for the web isolating us rather than bringing us together. He spoke of the filter bubble as intellectual isolation. That the personalization of Google search and personalized Facebook, Twitter and other “community” feeds, end up “showing us what they think we want to see and not what we need to see.”

He spoke about algorithmic editors needing to have human ethics embedded and not just using a relevance index to feed us what we like but also to include exposure to what challenges us or what will even make us uncomfortable. There is a need to seek differences and not just settle for reinforcement of your favorite point of view.  Most importantly he stressed a need to see future online interactions built transparent enough so we can see the rules of what gets through and what does not get through to our personalized feed. If not, then we risk making these bubbles of isolation even more pronounced than they are today.

So that is why I challenge the developer community to test for what I call trillion-dollar missing links. Because, in every process they create, they need to examine, more closely, potential points of failure in:

  • Efficiencies –which might really stand for creating exclusions
  • Personalization – which David Meerman Scott calls the “Enemy of Serendipity”
  • Experiential – if a wide human range of expectations and cultural nuances are ignored
  • Hidden Bias – goes well beyond the word – diversity – (a word which causes some eyes to glaze over) Hidden Bias is easily found in areas of age, ethnic and gender exclusion or absence (from the building process).

actually that 1 T monage twitter captureHere are just two simple and visible examples of concern:

  1. Latinx. Nielsen- a company that prides itself on reaching inside consumers and homes -points to the projected Latinx buying power of nearly $1.5 Trillion. Annually. With 86% of that community saying the woman is the primary shopper, here are clear gender and ethnic differences to consider.  Do you understand their cultural norms?  They are not on Linked In. They have begun to create their own social media/social business platforms. Do you understand why? I hope teams look into it. This disconnected bubble is worth $1.5 Trillion a year.
  2. Baby Boomers. Let me speak as a member of a different Trillion Dollar bubble. Baby Boomers.  Each year, for the next thirty years, we are looking at the potential transfer of wealth of nearly $1 Trillion dollars. One Trillion Dollars a year.  Look closely at our experiential web & AI interactions.  There’s a backlash happening. Note the mentions of Facebook Timeouts and a more shrill shouting rather than dialog taking place nearly everywhere.  We are all quite capable of breaking relationships with our banks and the airlines we use. The old fashioned hooks that held us to a business relationship are gone. I want to have an enjoyable user experience. I will find it – if not with your business – than somewhere else.

How many of us have had enough of struggling to insure accuracy of what we write in text messages on our smaller handheld devices? There’s something about autocomplete that leaves me wanting. Predictive completion is not my friend. Chatbots that don’t understand my nuances annoy me enough to find another vendor.  I find this transactional drag on communications totally unacceptable. And so, the word trust begins to grow as a decision point for my spend. If I don’t trust you or your system, I will not be your customer. Ever. My future personal chatbot will duly note that and may block you no differently than today’s email spam. Advertisers take note.

So, here’s a very simplified approach to fixing problems that exist and to pre-emptively prevent future gaffs. Just look around you. Look at your project team, look at the consultants that you hired and the people running surveys for you. If you look around and everyone looks like you and the individuals delivering the message and answers you’ve asked for looks just like you, You. Have. A. Problem.  You don’t need any more bubble based positive reinforcement, you need to be concerned about the people who are not in the room with you.

Don’t let an unpleasant user experience result in the customer or human intermediary shutting down on one another.

Diverse teams deliver better results.

Diverse leadership insures more points of view are heard and acted upon.

Diversity should be obvious.

Your project/business/appeal either is or is not.

There is no maybe.

Keith Spiro Boston & Maine Connection news column photo

This post is an expansion on the article originally appearing in The Cryer.


Hey, What you guys doing?


Hey, what you guys doing? It’s a complex question asked in a simple way.

While it came from the mouth of a two-and-a-half-year-old as he toddled over to see what his big brother and big sister were doing, the significance of the question sheds light on a basic human need.

“What are you guys doing?” expresses the very human need to know. Whether it’s curiosity, fear of missing out, desire for inclusion, belonging to an established group or as an ice breaker into a new group, the question opens the door to joining in and building something together. Repeat the act more than once and you have the start of a community, the most successful of which take all of the previously mentioned elements into consideration.

From a business point of view, how do you take this basic human need and combine it elegantly with the myriad of social media tools out there to make a powerhouse team of cheerleaders and ambassadors for your business?  The answer is that you need to hire a community manager whose role it is to encourage a growing audience that self-selects by choosing to engage with your business. Use the full power of the internet and real time interaction to nurture and grow the active space with a leader and guide who knows the needs of the audience and matches the goals of the company to fulfill those needs.

A key new element that can dramatically improve engagement is video with its power of hooking into the visual cues we humans have evolved to depend upon for our survival. Are you friend or foe? Is your message truth or fiction? We humans intuitively determine this in a flash of cognition taking into consideration body language and other visual clues in the interactions between two people. For my own professional dealings with far flung client locations, I often choose to meet in online video conferences where I can fully engage in that human face to face connection. I find it far superior to and much more satisfying than text messages and emojis. Those keyboard characters are cutesy but imprecise and can be manipulated. The eyes rarely lie.

As we engage broader audiences geographically and work with more widely dispersed teams, we run the risk of disrupting that all important personal connection. A globe traveling CEO I work with talked about the speed with which she could establish powerful connections in person over the long slow process of clarification needed in text messaging and emails.  In the end, trust never really gets established until you have the chance to meet face to face. And what I have been proposing is using the video tools available to build that trust and rapport faster and in real time.

Android and iPhone offer many ways to start at low or no cost. Here are some video conferencing tools you might want to check out: WebEx, Fuze, GotoMeeting,  Blue Jeans, Skype, Zoom, Face time, We Chat and What’s App.

Old fashioned TV style of “one, speaking to many” can be achieved by Periscope, live streaming and Facebook live. They are easily launched but not nearly as satisfying for interactive experiences but all of them feed the human craving for acceptance, certainty and comfort while removing the fear of the lurking, unseen stranger. I’ve been developing ways to create content, messaging and brand advertising opportunities on low budgets. Go video and experience the difference for yourself and your business and give me a shout if you want support on easily integrating video into your business communications tool bag.


Dr. Chatbot or AI meets the Botniks

I recently read an article about the National Health Service in England beginning a collaboration with a digital media company to build a Chatbot that can interface with patients.

One of the biggest issues in the British Healthcare System is how long a patient waits to see a doctor and in parallel with that wait, how much of their time doctors spend diagnosing and dealing with relatively simple repetitive issues and basic information transfer.

With artificial intelligence and a chat bot that can take care of doing the routine and mundane tasks of a first-line general practitioner, the physician is freed up to concentrate on the more challenging medical issues her patients face.  Welcome Dr. Chatbot.

a version of a Dr. Chatbot circa 2012

a version of a Dr./Chatbot circa 2012.

Here are a few of issues this quasi medical newcomer must address:

  1. Human like – Studies have shown a higher utilization rate of the tools when there is a more human-centric response. Terminals at a human’s height are most effective. Think of the banking industry deployment of digital assistants in branch.
  2. User Experience – combining big data synthesis and human comfort to hone in quickly on the real problem underlying how the patient presents.
  3. Compliance – it is a well known fact that clinical trials have a high, 50% or higher, fail rate because of failure to “follow as directed.”  This leads to the need for human interaction and a true human intervener to ask the questions listen to your concerns and yes, touch your hand to improve compliance.

The Hawthorne effect is a well documented phenomenon of improved results because the subject knows they are being watched. There is a new startup company called Hawthorne Effect looking to do just that. They are providing  human interveners with the hopes of providing better and more accurate results in clinical trials.

The premise is a sound one in that trusted human professionals go out to patients who are in need of real time real personal interaction  and focused follow up. The patient  may need a reason to see the trial through completion or to “take as directed” the actions or medications to improve efficacy as well as accuracy.

The potential for widespread health breakthroughs with the Dr. Chatbot concept comes from the underlying technologies of machine learning and artificial intelligence.  Newer studies are showing that there are predictors of disease that show up statistically before any one human doctor is likely to reach the diagnosis. The ability to provide an alert to a physician and do the high end mathematical permutations that lead to better and earlier interventions holds tremendous potential. But it will be the user/patient experience that determines compliance. I hope the tech people creating these machine driven interfaces pay particular attention to the human experience (or user experience -as the new discipline is called). Jeff Pulver has called for a move away from the term Chatbot to the more hip, creative and human like Botnik.

Indeed, we need to think of them as Jeff does, ““Botniks are creative, artistic, & rebellious just like the Beatniks” The time is right. There is a shift in thinking from what might work to how elegantly we can begin to deploy the tools. We have entered an era of intense focus on AI, machine learning and robotics and the best winners in this emerging category will be those that enhance the human experience.

Full disclosure: I am a cheerleader for and investor in Hawthorne Effect. I am betting that the human creative can direct the machine and not the other way around.

Busting Stereotypes – Bankers & Bikers

B&M monthly column by Keith Spiro

Also known as Being seen, Being heard and Being found – for all the right reasons.

Bankers & bikers bring certain images to mind. Some are not flattering and others are not exciting. What do you think of when you see that leather jacket with colors on the back?

Bikers, or more correctly ‘motorcycle enthusiasts’ come from many walks of life. What members of United Bikers of Maine share is the love of the open road, all drivers educated in safe road etiquette, and the protection of motorcyclists rights. Educate not legislate is one of their themes. They aren’t looking for a lot of attention but they would like to increase their membership among the younger riders who are not affiliated but could benefit from the experience of seasoned riders who care beyond just themselves.

UBM is a motorcyclist rights organization celebrating many years of providing camaraderie, education and events across the State of Maine; a group with whom you can go out and ride while raising funds for community non-profit organizations.  This past month a few folks from UBM’s Sagadahoc County chapter got together and in less than an afternoon raised nearly $1,000 for Maine Children’s Cancer Program. They’ve done similar things for local food banks. They help kids and families and the less abled.  They are not alone. There are chapters across the State of Maine – one for each County. This is home and they aim to make things better for their neighbors as well as their fellow riders.

Down the other end of the rail line, down Boston way, Eastern Bank just celebrated its 200th anniversary with a big kickoff party. Keith Spiro Photo Eastern Bank Join us for GoodThey are the oldest and largest mutual bank in the country. Banking and the movement of money has seen tremendous change. There’s a whole new generation of wage earners that may have never stepped into a bank except perhaps online. Eastern, like UBM would like to draw from that younger more diverse universe of potential customers who could benefit from associating with a group of seasoned bankers who care beyond just themselves.  You see, mutual banks are owned by their depositors.  They don’t have Wall Street shareholders looking over their shoulders for big ROI. They can call their own shots and this bank has been doing that for years through the Eastern Foundation. They take actions that other types of financial institutions might not want to or be encouraged to take.

When the CEO of Eastern bank walked into that kickoff event wearing way cool shades and a leather jacket, he gave off the air of someone you pay attention to and don’t mess around with.  From those two stereotypes of bankers and bikers, he announced “Join us for Good” a program already reflected in their actions as a bank operating within the communities they serve. At a time when community stakes have never been higher, this bank, like those bikers, simply let the world know the actions they were taking and then followed through. Check out just how many groups Eastern Foundation helps with funding. In 2016 they gave $7 million across 1600 non-profits. On average, they donate 10% of net profit annually to community non-profit organizations. Look at the demographics. CEO Bob Rivers noted both in his report. Smart move.  If you want to appeal to younger people, you need to show with actions and not words, where your heart is.  Time, attention and focused actions speak louder than words.

So, about busting those stereotypes! You and your organization can do the following:

Understand how others perceive your organization (rightly or wrongly)

Know that people develop those attitudes based on unchallenged perceptions

Take action that yields visible results – a motivated team can do wonders in short periods of time

Learn what your community cares about and if you are community centric, do those good deeds and make a bit of noise about it. It’s OK. As the motorcycle community says, “loud pipes do indeed save lives (on the road).  There are lots of distractions, alternate facts and shiny objects out there that can put you at risk. Take action and invite others to pay attention for all the right reasons.