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Joe Wikert
I'm Chief Operating Officer at OSV (www.osv.com)
Interests: Hockey, baseball, football, science and technology
Recent Activity
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Now that I've read a few books and have taken a trio of AI courses I wanted to share that Machine Learning for Absolute Beginners is a must-read for anyone interested in AI and/or machine learning. The reason why this is such a valuable resource has to do with what... Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2022 at Grokking AI
This article might appear to be rather lengthy but it's worth reading every single word. The author, Gary Marcus, provides a short history and comparison of deep learning, symbolic AI and a hybrid approach. Spoiler alert: One size doesn't fit all, so he recommends the hybrid model. A few paragraphs... Continue reading
Posted Mar 15, 2022 at Grokking AI
As you read through this list of Fast Company's 10 most innovative AI companies be sure to stop and think about how this technology is finding its way into pretty much every aspect of life. For example, look at how LivePerson is now part of the Dunkin' Donuts experience. Then... Continue reading
Posted Mar 8, 2022 at Grokking AI
Here are three quick links to AI stories that got my attention this week: The possibilities for AI transforming document processing are seemingly endless. As you read this article give thought to how these models could save time, reduce expense and expose more meaningful information from the reams of paper... Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2022 at Grokking AI
Have you heard about the low-code/no-code movements? They aim to bring software engineering to the masses, so (theoretically) anyone could use drag-and-drop tools to automate tasks or create new applications. That's a noble objective and I'm convinced it will eventually become a reality. After all, that was part of the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2022 at Grokking AI
Here are three quick links to AI stories that got my attention this week: First up, how amazing would it be to convert 2D images into 3D? This article on Wired talks about how AI is making this a reality. My alma mater, Purdue University, is behind this next one...... Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2022 at Grokking AI
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Rule of the Robots, by Martin Ford, was one of the first AI books I read. It provides a nice overview of the state of AI as well as where the technology is heading. I recommend it as a first read for anyone, regardless of your technology or business background.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2022 at Grokking AI
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There are a large (and growing) number of AI courses available online so it was hard to pick just one to focus on initially. I ended up choosing Udemy's Artificial Intelligence for Business and I'm glad I did. Why? The instructors do an amazing job presenting even the most complex... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2022 at Grokking AI
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AI 2041 is a book that started me down the artificial intelligence pathway. Written by Kai-Fu Lee and Chen Quifan, it features ten scenarios that could potentially become reality between now and the year 2041. Although some of these scenarios seem more than far-fetched I have to admit I'm intrigued... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2022 at Grokking AI
This site documents my journey into the world of artificial intelligence. I'm a technology enthusiast and I started my career as a software engineer. As a lifelong learner I believe it's important to always expand your horizons and AI is the area that's really captured my attention. As an AI... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2022 at Grokking AI
Here's an interesting tidbit from Martin Ford's terrific book, Rule of the Robots: How Artificial Intelligence will Transform Everything: Every Tesla is equipped with eight cameras that operate continuously, capturing images from the road and the environment around the car. Computers onboard the cars are able to evaluate these images, determine which ones are likely of interest to the company and then automatically upload these in a compressed format to Tesla’s network. Over 400,000 of these camera-equipped cars are driving on roads throughout the world, and that number is increasing rapidly. In other words, Tesla has access to a truly massive trove of real-world photographic data. The author goes on to say, "Tesla’s ability to incorporate massive amounts of real-world data is a potentially disruptive advantage." Tesla is certainly an innovative vehicle and it's fascinating to think about the many ways it could lead to other marketplace disruptions. Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2022 at Joe Wikert's DisruptorFest
Lifelong learning is something I've focused on throughout my career and I believe it's sometimes helped me stand out in a crowd. I've read plenty of articles about lifelong learning but this one in HBR is undoubtedly the best I've seen. Ever. If you're pressed for time and can only read a portion of it be sure to check out the "Ask propelling questions" segment; the questions the authors suggest are priceless and will undoubtedly lead to extremely valuable discussions. Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2021 at Joe Wikert's DisruptorFest
I'm fascinated when a recently disrupted segment suddenly faces its own disruption. It wasn't that long ago when a number of freelance gig platforms hit the scene (think eLance, which is now Upwork), connecting jobs with workers. Those earlier disruptors didn't offer the most financially attractive solution for freelancers though so Braintrust Network solves that problem by allowing workers to keep 100% of their earnings. Very cool. I wonder who will eventually disrupt Braintrust (and how). Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2021 at Joe Wikert's DisruptorFest
I've been experimenting with a popular video-based training platform as I continue my journey as a lifelong learner. The platform is excellent and offers a variety of resources; in fact, there are so many options to choose from it's sometimes hard deciding where to go next. And that's the problem. The platform doesn't really know me. It's designed as a one-to-many approach where the content is extremely broad and it's up to the user to figure out where to invest their time. There's nothing wrong with that approach but it doesn't take advantage of today's technology capabilities. If we could combine three distinct technologies I think we could take a huge leap forward in learning systems. I'm talking about (1) voice UI's (think Alexa), (2) modern text-to-speech services and, (3) artificial intelligence (AI) where the platform learns about me and therefore delivers a custom, one-to-one, solution. Voice UI's are all around us but they're still in the new, experimental stages. Early TV is sometimes referred to as "radio in front of a camera" and before too long we'll describe today's voice UI's in a similar fashion. One way voice UI's will move forward is by having access to enormous libraries of richly tagged content. I say "richly tagged" because the content will need to be granularized so that it can be searched and reconstituted in an infinite number of ways depending on each user's needs. Also, we shouldn't rely exclusively on Amazon and their capabilities, hence the need for one of the more modern text-to-speech solutions which are often indistinguishable from an actual person. The third leg of the stool is the AI to power the conversation, learn about me personally, understand how to answer and where to take me next. It all adds up to a user experience that feels like I'm receiving one-on-one training from an expert on the topic. Over time the system learns about me and my strengths and weaknesses, just like any good teacher. It also builds successful learning paths based on different user skill and learning preferences thereby making the system even more useful for future users. I'm curious if something like this already exists, even if it's on a small scale or in the early stages. The pieces of the puzzle are already available so it's just a question of pulling them together, managing the IP rights/income streams and offering it at a compelling price. Continue reading
Posted Jul 20, 2021 at Joe Wikert's DisruptorFest
Countless organizations are emerging from the pandemic and looking to resume something close to a normal, in-person office environment as possible. The reality of course is that almost everything has changed these since early 2020 and the new normal is still being defined. One of the biggest casualties I've seen in the past year-plus is the hit to corporate culture. Some organizations were already largely virtual so they didn't pay a price but the rest of the world operated face-to-face and limped along with endless Zoom meetings. If we've learned anything in the past year it's that technology simply cannot solve every problem. Serendipity is a terrific example; there's something special about that unexpected hallway conversation which sometimes leads to a new idea or solution. If anyone has found an amazing virtual serendipity platform please let me know. As the great office return continues it's tempting to think that old floor plans should be completely discarded and layouts should be reimagined with the pandemic in mind. I'm very supportive of creating hotel space for hybrid employees but I'm not convinced anyone can accurately predict the percentage of onsite employees we'll see 12 or 24 months from now. Every month is an opportunity to learn something new so it's wise to avoid prematurely declaring a long-term solution. Another part of this that bothers me has to do with how employees are encouraged to return. I'll admit I don't have a solution for this but it's something we all need to think about. I'm referring specifically to the fact that employers need to create an environment employees crave and are looking forward to re-entering. (Yes, I said an environment employees actually crave.) This isn't about free food or ping-pong tables; it's about the broader organizational culture and how employees feel when they walk in the door. I have no doubt some organizations figured this out long ago but I'm also certain they're in the minority. This isn't the solution to the problem I just mentioned but I do think FOMO will eventually create a gravitational pull for the return of some fence-sitting employees. Again, that's not the solution but it will be a factor in the return process. I say this because it's one thing when everyone is out of the office and nobody's missing out but it's a totally different situation when some are in while others choose to remain remote. There will definitely be more times where remote employees aren't fully in the loop or simply miss out on too many of those in-person serendipity moments. I believe this will require many months though, or possibly more than a year, to surface. Lastly, flexibility is key for both employers and employees. As I mentioned earlier, there's still way too much we need to learn about the new normal and it's critical for everyone to remain open-minded and make all the required course corrections along the way. Continue reading
Posted Jun 22, 2021 at Joe Wikert's DisruptorFest
I typically determine the value of a business or self-help book by the number of times I stopped to highlight portions of it along the reading journey. After recently finishing Think Again, by Adam Grant, I can say it's easily the most highlighted and thought-provoking book I've read in quite some time. In fact, there are too many highlights to squeeze into this article so I recommend you buy a copy of your own. In the meantime, here are just a few of the best excerpts I'm still thinking about... The curse of knowledge is that it closes our mind to what we don't know. The single most important driver of a forecasters' success was how often they updated their beliefs. The best forecasters went through more rethinking cycles. As a general rule, it's those with greater power who need to do more of the rethinking, both because they're more likely to privilege their own perspectives and because their perspectives are more likely to go unquestioned. When we try to convince people to think again, our first instinct is usually to start talking. Yet the most effective way to help others open their minds is often to listen. Resisting the impulse to simplify is a step toward becoming more argument literate. When someone knowledgeable admits uncertainty, it surprises people, and they end up paying more attention to the substance of the argument. Rethinking is more likely to happen in a learning culture, where growth is the core value and rethinking cycles are routine. A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die. In the face of any number of unknown and evolving threats, humility, doubt, and curiosity are vital to discovery. Bold, persistent experimentation might be our best tool for rethinking. Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2021 at Joe Wikert's DisruptorFest
I'm a borderline obsessive note-taker and I've wrestled for years with bringing notes on paper into the digital world. The hack I've used for the past few years is to simply take a picture of my written note pages and then move them into Evernote. That works, for the most part, but I also end up with a stack of notebooks to toss at the end of the year...if only I could bring myself to actually toss them. OK, I'm a borderline hoarder too. I've also never gotten comfortable using a stylus on a tablet. For whatever reason I insist on writing on paper with a pen. A few months ago I was ready to take another shot at stylus-on-tablet and splurge on the reMarkable 2. In fact, I was days away from clicking "buy" when a colleague sent me an email from one of his friends who had an awful customer service experience with the device. That saved me $400 but left me with my old solution...until I discovered the Rocketbook. Rocketbook is an erasable notebook with pages designed to upload directly to Evernote and pretty much every other digital note platform. They have a number of notebook formats and I opted for the Fusion. It's super thin and simply requires the use of erasable pens. There are probably other pen options out there but I went with the friXion clicker. In fact, I bought a bunch of them in different colors at Walmart. I've been using my Fusion for several weeks now and I love it. The first page shows all my tasks for the week and notes associated with them. At the end of the week I use the Rocketbook app to take a picture and have them automatically loaded into Evernote. I then wipe the page clean with a damp cloth and I'm ready for the week ahead. The notebook is filled with other pages for drawings, notes and pretty much any other use you can think of. Adding up the notebook and the pens I'm all in for about $45, or about 10% of the reMarkable investment. Not only is the Rocketbook Fusion a great solution for my needs, it's also a regular reminder that pretty much anything can be reinvented and disrupted, even pen on paper. Continue reading
Posted Feb 11, 2021 at Joe Wikert's DisruptorFest
Curiosity is an important attribute for any successful businessperson. It's something I always try to measure during an interview, for example. That's because I've found the more curious someone is, the more likely they are to embrace change and want to learn new things. I'm frequently amazed at how rarely we ask each other "why?" over the course of a day. Some people worry the question will be interpreted as them challenging their colleague. Others feel they just need to do what's asked and not question the logic behind the request. In reality, "why?" is where learning often starts. I've often wondered how many times something I thought was a simple request turned into a major homework assignment for someone else. The higher you are on the org chart, the greater the likelihood your requests become the new top priority. Again, there have been countless times when what I regarded as a low-priority, 5-minute task suddenly caused a team to drop what they're doing and spend half the day answering. Ugh. I try to be specific by saying things like, "this is low priority" or, my favorite, which is, "if this takes you more than 5 minutes it's not worth doing." Despite those guidelines I've still experienced plenty of situations where my request derailed other higher-priority activities. One of the things I've started doing is regularly encouraging the team to ask me "why?". More importantly, I now say, regardless of my request, if it's going to take longer than 5 minutes to complete please be sure to ask me why I need it. This not only helps provide context for colleagues but it also leads to better open communication. Better yet, sometimes when answering the "why?" I'm forced to think further about my request and realize either (a) it's not what I really need or, better yet, (b) my colleague has a better way of helping me answer the problem I'm trying to solve, and that's priceless. So do yourself a favor and encourage more of a "why?" culture throughout your organization. I promise you'll appreciate the results. Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2020 at Joe Wikert's DisruptorFest
How many times have you found an interesting article on the web but you have no time to read it? This happens to me every day and despite the variety of save-for-later reading tools out there they all tend to fade into the background and I forget to go back and read what I've saved for later. When I saw this article on Springwise I immediately took a closer look at the solution it described. The article talks about how a "web browser extension transforms saved articles into podcasts." It turns out this extension is like many others; it simply does a text-to-speech conversion and creates an MP3 file. IOW, there's no connection to a podcast stream. So although the conversion produces impressive human-sounding results (click here to listen to my previous article), it falls short of the promise of transforming anything into a podcast stream. This seems like a potentially enormous opportunity and gap for someone to fill. Imagine a one-click solution that truly gathers all your saved articles into a stream for your favorite podcast platform. What if that system eventually became so popular that audio ads could be injected dynamically, creating an income source? OK, yes, there would be a number of IP rights issues to potentially overcome but I could also see a model where that revenue stream is shared with the IP owner, alleviating that legal issue. Another interesting feature would be where I could follow others and listen to the articles they curated in their feed; as we've seen with other platforms, those with the biggest following also earn some sort of affiliate income. There are loads of possibilities here and it's all about transforming the written word into audio for broader consumption. If something like this already exists please let me know. I'd use it every single day and I'm sure there are millions of others out there who would do the same. It's also one of those rare problems where I'd gladly pay a reasonable price to solve. Continue reading
Posted Aug 28, 2020 at Joe Wikert's DisruptorFest
Amazon's recent Watch Party announcement sheds light on what the future holds for digital content consumption. It's primitive, yes, but a step in the right direction. To summarize, Watch Party lets two people watch a movie together even though they're not in the same location. The first version limits interactions to texts and emojis but you can bet a future version will support video on both ends so you can make faces and feel closer together. With Alexa (and Prime) Amazon has built an incredible platform for on-demand content which can be simultaneously enjoyed by multiple people regardless of location. Podcasts are a great example. There have been a number of times when I wanted to listen to one with my wife when I was probably driving home but she wasn't in the car with me. Today I'm forced to stop and wait till we're together. In the future imagine using nothing but voice commands to tell the podcast to pause, see if my wife wants to join me, then play it for both of us to enjoy remotely. Now a channel is open for us to listen, pause, comment to each other, etc., as if we're both listening in my car. Take it a step further and think about longer-form learning. What if two or three people want to take a course together, listening and/or watching, over an Alexa-powered Zoom-like communication platform where, again, pausing, commenting, etc., is all enabled via audio commands. Thanks to a powerful search on the back side of this you're always able to pause and ask for a deeper dive on any topic that comes up. I realize a great deal of the learning process takes place in solitude. That means textbooks don't necessarily go away but voice UI and synchronized platforms like Watch Party will undoubtedly lead to new options for learning as well as entertainment. Continue reading
Posted Jun 30, 2020 at Joe Wikert's DisruptorFest
The next time you do a web search take an extra moment to see how the paid results compare to the top organic results. Sometimes the top link is the same for both. This article, from the authors of The Power of Experiments, drives it home with this excerpt: “Evidently, users who Googled ‘eBay’ (or another eBay-related search term), who had been clicking on the ad because they saw no reason to scroll down to the organic link just below it, were now instead clicking on the first organic search result. For these searchers, eBay essentially swapped in free organic clicks for each advertising click lost,” explain Luca and Bazerman. “In other words, much of the money eBay was shelling out to Google each year was a waste.” After the results of these experiments were published, 11 percent of large companies that were buying search ads in the same way as eBay discontinued that advertising. It reminds me of that classic quote: "Half my marketing spend is wasted...I just don't know which half." More importantly, it illustrates the need to continuously monitor and analyze data, all the while maintaining a strong culture of curious experimentation. I wonder how much of Google's income is derived from advertisers who never bother asking if their high organic ranking might perform just was well as the results they're paying for... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2020 at Joe Wikert's DisruptorFest
This pandemic is having an immediate effect on almost every job and it's likely to have a longer-lasting impact in the years ahead. There's plenty of speculation around this topic but this article from Lynda Gratton in MIT Sloan Management Review is one of the most insightful ones I've read. The author refers to a survey response she got from one CEO who said their mantra is "React, respond, rebuild." It reminds me of the agile approach to software development and one of the keys to both is flexibility. She outlines three types of job categories and provides valuable prescriptive advice for each. The most challenging one is the last one, which she describes as being "non-routine and highly collaborative, with an innovation aspect" and her example is a product developer. A huge hole for this role is the serendipity that's disappeared thanks to all the work which now takes place remotely. Those chance encounters almost never happen these days but that sounds like a business opportunity for a bright, creative technologist who can come up with a way to fill the void... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2020 at Joe Wikert's DisruptorFest
When the Spotify-Joe Rogan news hit last week I wondered again about Amazon's role in podcasting. Sure, you can ask your Alexa device to play the latest edition of just about any podcast but is Amazon only looking to act as a pass-through agent, serving up streams from Apple? If the latest rumors are any indication, the answer is no. It appears Amazon doesn't want to simply enter the podcast market...they want to totally disrupt it. The local content angle may seem somewhat narrow at first but think about the possibilities. Amazon certainly has the resources to curate the best of the best as well as fund development of new local content while newspapers, local TV, et al, are declining. And if I'm going to Amazon for my local podcast content I'm also shifting all my non-local podcast subscriptions to their one app/service as well. All of this, btw, will be accessible through the countless Alexa devices in all our homes (and ears, as my Bluetooth earbuds are also Alexa-enabled). The most interesting element of this Amazon podcasting story is the advertising angle. Most of the ads I hear in podcasts today are still very mainstream, trying to cast as wide a net as possible. That's why 99% of those ads don't resonate with me. Amazon, however, is loaded with data about my preferences, buying habits and more. They're uniquely positioned to serve up programmatic advertising for an audience of one: you. That doesn't exist in the podcast world today but it definitely will tomorrow. Advertising engagement and conversions would both be exceptionally high in this environment. And if you like what you hear, buying/subscribing/opting-in to whatever the ad is promoting will be as easy as saying, "Alexa, sign me up for..." This model makes privacy advocates cringe, of course, but it's also likely to create an entirely new ecosystem of streaming content driving significantly more revenue for plenty of parties, not just Amazon. Continue reading
Posted May 27, 2020 at Joe Wikert's DisruptorFest
A former colleague of mine recently mentioned that her current employer, MITSloan Management Review (MMR), was offering a free 60-day pass to their entire site. I've read a number of articles since then and wanted to pass that link along to you as well. More importantly, I also discovered that the MMR has assembled a collection of very timely articles about disruption that they're also offering as a free downloadable PDF (courtesy of Deloitte). If you click here you'll be asked to give your name and email address to Deloitte but I think you'll find the content well worth that personal info. Continue reading
Posted May 21, 2020 at Joe Wikert's DisruptorFest
When I first met Henrik Werdelin he was a founding partner of Prehype, a "collective of entrepreneurial people who help each other build new ventures." My employer at that time had an agreement with Prehype to help us ideate and develop a new strategy for the organization's future. I always came away from those meetings with Henrik feeling both inspired and challenged; he forced us to look at our business in a completely new way. When I learned that Henrik recently published a book called The Acorn Method: How Companies Get Growing Again, I immediately bought the e-version and started reading. I encourage you to buy a copy as well -- you won't be disappointed. This quote from one of the first few pages provides the main concept behind the book: I believe mature companies are like tall trees; they grow until gravity constrains them. They may shoot up rapidly, generating tiers of new branches and reaching great heights, but eventually, new growth can no longer successfully compete for resources with older branches higher up the tree. The Acorn Method is a very quick read and, if you're like me, you'll end up with plenty of highlighted pages and notes to follow-up on. Highly recommended. Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2020 at Joe Wikert's DisruptorFest