Artificial Intelligence = Real Results
The future of automation and artificial intelligence in commerce is now. But what does that really mean for you and your business? How can you leverage this technology in a meaningful way.
Recently, our CEO Stacy Jones sat down with an expert on all things artificial intelligence to discuss how businesses are using it already and where the future of this technology is headed! In this blog, Hollywood Branded examines how you can market your brand using artificial intelligence from the expertise of J Scott Christianson.
A Little More About Guest
J. Scott Christianson is an Assistant Teaching Professor of Management at Missouri's Trulaske College of Business, where his interests are focused on the impact of technology on society and human wellbeing.
Previously, Scott was a business owner with decades of experience in emerging technologies, including video conferencing, Push management, and IT, where Scott's continued to work on hundreds of projects and remains actively involved in information technology initiatives and startups.
Interview Transcript Highlights
Question: Can we chat a little about technology and AI, and how it's here to make our life better even when there's bumps along the way?
Answer: That sounds great. AI is affecting us in a lot of ways, we may not really even understand. From all those recommendations for what to watch on Netflix, while we're sheltered in place during this COVID epidemic to what we're buying on Amazon, to all sorts of new emerging technologies that may affect our future in manufacturing and supply chain in all sorts of areas of business.
Certainly that also applies to marketing and certainly marketing platforms like Facebook, which are highly effective, not only because they have a lot of good data, but they know how to chew on that data. When we say AI, what we're really usually talking about this thing called Machine learning, where a machine can recognize the pattern. So they know that, if Scott's online at 11 o'clock at night, maybe he's had a glass of wine and he's right to buy something. Maybe we can show some ads for some fancy new watches and maybe he'll be taken in by that.
But one of the things that I've been thinking about in coming up for this podcast is, what would it be like if I was back running my business, when something like this was to happen? I'm actually transferred into a relatively safe job, certainly universities and colleges have a lot of disruption now, but being a business owner, I think has prepared me for being ready for disruption. So, I'm able to go along with the flow, but in a relatively stable position there.
I'm thinking about when I was starting my business, if I had just launched my business, when this COVID pandemic started, what tools would I use to try and survive? And so I looked around and I found a couple that are kind of interesting that use AI and that small businesses might be able to use to improve their business. Now, one of the things that I had to do when I was first starting was to make cold calls and I'm sure you've had to do that as well.
If you can suffer some rejection, if you can suffer that anticipation of rejection. So sometimes it'd be nice to know a little bit more about the personality of the person you're trying to call. And so there's an interesting site, it's called Crystal Knows like crystal, like the gem and then knows like you know something. What this website does or what this company does is they actually go to your LinkedIn profile or a person's LinkedIn profile and they try to analyze what does this person like, based on what other people that are similar to them are like, so it uses this machine learning algorithm.
So you can find out a little bit about who you're going to call before you actually make that phone call. So certainly can connect on LinkedIn. Now I did this on you, I kind of stalked you a little bit and it says here, Stacy Jones is persuasive and charismatic, often able to communicate a bold vision to others. She's adventurous and visionary. Now what's kind of interesting too, is that they try to come up with some things that you can say to Stacy. What comes naturally to Stacy, whilst she gets bored fairly easily. She likes to make decisions quickly with gut instinct and sticks to the big picture vision of what's going on.
Now once again this machine learning algorithm, it's interesting because it gets better and better. The more it goes long. So if we were using this for sales calls, I would also provide it some feedback, this is correct or not. Now it says here, if I was trying to make a pitch to you, that I might want to tell a story. So I might not want to give you all the technical specs about some new video camera, something like that. You're not going to be energized by that. But if I tell you Stacy, this is going to make your story somewhat much more real and things like that, you might be much more interested.
Question: You spend your core time now, your days in and out with college students, and helping them understand what the future looks like and where... Specifically here, artificial intelligence plays a role and technology plays a role. What type of guidance are you giving them on the types of training and the knowledge that they need to be getting under their belt, to make them more marketable to the future, for the future businesses where people are listening in on our podcast today, how should people be actually approaching this now?
Answer: There's a couple things in there, one I do think you have to really be aware of what's going on. One of the things that I do in my classes now, is I suggest they subscribe to some sort of daily newspaper. Like there's the Daily Skimm or the Morning Brew, a number of these things [inaudible] at least summarize. If you've read any of those newsletters, it's the same business news that you and I are getting in the Wall Street Journal, but it's told in kind of a sarcastic, [inaudible] sarcastic is the best word, but a way that is accessible to students.
Bite size information. What's the headline, what's the first paragraph. You have to know what your environment is, in order to be able to react and succeed in that environment. Even though things are kind of scary and changing right now, you got to understand what's going on. So that's one, I always tell my students. I also tell my students... And that's not necessarily just for AI or anything like that, but that they're going to see the changes that are happening. But the other thing I tell my students is, you need to be the intersection of two different areas. Be the accountant that also really understands how to do visualization or be the IT guy that understands about... Is certified in global... Has a global supply chain certificate.
Looking at those places where there's an overlap has always worked very well for me. For example, as you mentioned, I'm the teaching professor right now. I'm not the greatest professor in the world. I'm not the worst either. Now, I'm a technology guy, am I the greatest technology guy? No, but I'm not the worst. But there's very few technology guys that also like to teach. And so being at that intersection makes me a more valuable commodity. And, that was the same way in my business. We specialize in video conferencing technology, and in the '90s, when I started that there was companies that did audio visual work. And there were also companies that did networking work, but there were very few that were at that intersection. That was where video conferencing was. And so it worked very well for us because we had a nice niche.
But yeah, so you have to be able to adapt with the time, you have to know what's going on and trying to be that intersection. And I realized that doesn't relate specifically to machine learning or AI, but I think that helps you with any field that's changing. It also allows you to kind of hedge your bet a little bit. If you have your feet in two different kinds of fields, if something goes south on one, you have a little bit of a hedge on the other.
Question: Facebook and Instagram, they have an AI structure built in for all of their advertising, right?
Answer: There's a lot of training tools in all of these areas, Google and Facebook and Instagram, all those places have their particular tools and they have their pluses and minuses. And you can really figure out how to optimize the district distribution of your content. If you're going to go through the trouble of actually making a YouTube video or making a ad or try to put a website together, you want to maximize that return on investment. Just a little tweak with understanding these tools, understanding how to communicate a little bit better. Understanding what's trending now, is also really important.
Question: What else do you teach your students that you think our listeners might be interested in?
Answer: One of the things that we teach a lot is project management and it was really fun this past semester when we moved that all online. I do mean that not facetiously, because we were just about to talk about agile project management and how we can track things to our workflows. My students, I was very proud of them. They've stepped up to the plate and they decided that they would like to do the simulation that we normally do with Legos in person, or they build a city out of Legos for me. And they decided they want to do that in Minecraft. So they first had to teach me how to use Minecraft. And then I taught them Trello and a technique called Scrum to track the user stories of the different buildings and the different infrastructure that was needed in the city.
I played the role of the mayor, so it was my city they were building. We use Zoom and in combination with Minecraft Education Edition and they actually built this pretty fantastic city and very cooperatively. I was really impressed with it. We actually did a little video tour for our Dean. There's a lot of things that were fun about that class, but we also learned a lot. We use Trello, which is an online tool that probably some people have heard of. It allows you to track your workflow.
Especially if you're small business owner and you're easily distracted, especially in these distracting times, it helps you kind of limit the work in progress. So you can prioritize, this is the thing I need to do. This is what I'm working on today. Okay, now I've got it done. Now I'm going to go pick the next thing. So it's kind of a workflow process. Project management is the other big topic that I teach. In all of these courses that I teach, we get to explore emerging technologies like AI, like Smart Grid systems for our energy systems. We cover just a whole host of things.
Question: When you touch on Scrum, I know some of the people listening are like, I totally know what that is. And there's other people that are like, what's that, can you share a little bit more insight on that?
Answer: Scrum is a one a framework that we can use to get work done in a way that's very... I guess I could say very quick, as far as the time from when we start work to when we have at least something that's working, that we can present to our customer. The idea is to get something completed, that our customer can use, or they can evaluate, maybe not getting everything completed. If you think about the way software projects used to be done in the past, you would write all these specifications, you'd then go analyze what that was going to mean. Then you'd go and program it and then you test it out and then you'd finally get it to your customer, that was called waterfall.
Let's think about, if you were just even doing a website. If you were a website producer and you're using that method for your customer, by the time you get down to the end there, where you present to your customer three months later, maybe the customer had some assumptions that you didn't understand. Sometimes customers don't know what they want until they see it or even know what they don't want until they see it. So, now you'd have to go back and redo major parts of that. Also, the market may have changed.
Think about if you were designing a website for house rentals here in Columbia, Missouri, and you'd been contracted back in February and you came back in June, well, the world has changed as far as house rentals go. So we might need to have adapted and changed the length of contract, the way the cleaning's done, all sorts of other stuff. So this idea of Scrum, is that what we're going to do is maybe don't get the entire website completed, but we take the high priority items for the customer. And we work on those and maybe a two week sprint, we call it and then we present that to the customer and they can say, "Oh my gosh, you're totally on the right page with this part. Oh, wait I assumed everything was going to be red. Don't you know I like red?"
We thought that was a valid assumption, but apparently not. So now we can go back and fix that right away. And so then we go back for another two weeks and we pick the next highest priority items, as well as fixing anything from the last time. We go through, we do it again, we present it to the customer.
We actually find that this will take less total time. There'll be less rework and you can start providing value earlier. Let's say, after that first two weeks of work, I said, "Oh my gosh, Stacy, that's great. I know we've got this quick tweaks to make, but would you please go ahead and release this website because I can start getting some customers now." Same, sort of thing with marketing campaigns, let's design something, let's test it now, this is good enough to test.
Let's do some A/B testing or multi-variant testing while we're getting the rest of this ready. So there's just a lot of value to using Scrum and to using various agile techniques. Once again, it's not too hard, and if you are interested in any of these things, there are professional organizations in North America there's the Project Management Institute and I'm sure they have local chapters. They have a local chapter here in Columbia, that do training that have experts that you can network with and learn about this.
Check Out The Podcast!
Scott has A LOT of great information from his experience in artificial intelligence, check out the podcast below to learn more about how to drive your business with AI technology!
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