Archive | June 2015

Four Words to Seem More Polite

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In a touching Medium post a few days ago, the writer and programmer Paul Ford shared what he thinks is the secret to his politeness. In conversations with new acquaintances, Ford asks plenty of questions and lets the other person do the talking. He tries not to ask what they do for a living, but if it comes to that, he responds to their job description—whatever it is—with, “Wow. That sounds hard.”

“Nearly everyone in the world believes their job to be difficult,” he writes. He describes how this process once worked with a woman whose work is not something most people would consider taxing:

I once went to a party and met a very beautiful woman whose job was to help celebrities wear Harry Winston jewelry. I could tell that she was disappointed to be introduced to this rumpled giant in an off-brand shirt, but when I told her that her job sounded difficult to me she brightened and spoke for 30 straight minutes about sapphires and Jessica Simpson.
What Ford describes is known, in research circles, as empathy. It sounds simple, but it’s actually counterintuitive: If we humans are locked in a nasty, brutish, and short struggle for resources, why would we stop to give a hoot about each other?
But we do. Empathy is considered by many psychologists to be essential to cooperation, problem-solving, and to human functioning in general. Researchers have described it as “social glue, binding people together and creating harmonious relationships.” Empathetic people are more likely to forgive others for small errors, like running late. Asking narcissists to imagine themselves in others’ shoes can help shrink their big heads.

How to Make the Narcissist in Your Life a Little Nicer

Empathy helps people behave more generously, but some are worried that our society, with its Personal Brands and Snapchats, is losing this crucial characteristic. Recent research has suggested that college students have become less empathetic since the 70s, so much so that scientists are saying they should read great works of literature in order to better see situations from different points-of-view. Get out of the dorm and into the Gulag Archipelago, kids!

There are multiple ideas of what it means to be polite. The oldest, coined by the British philosopher Lord Shaftesbury in the early 1700s, holds that “‘politeness’ may be defined a dext’rous management of our words and actions, whereby we make other people have better opinion of us and themselves.” That is, we behave politely so as to boost our own social standing among our peers.

But I prefer the definition offered by Brendan Fraser’s Cold-War-era Prepper character in the 1999 feature film Blast from the Past: “Manners are a way of showing other people we care about them.”

Signaling that you understand how hard someone else’s situation is certainly makes you better at cocktail parties. But empathy—or “politeness,” or “manners”—isn’t just there at the start of interpersonal relationships; it also holds them together.

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Quote of the Day

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”

– Warren Buffett

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How to Believe in Yourself

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By Leo Babauta

There was a long time when the lack of belief in myself was a major factor in my life.

I didn’t pursue an ideal career, or start my own business, because I didn’t think I could. I didn’t stick to habits because I didn’t really believe I had the discipline. I was shy with girls, I had a hard time making new friends, I didn’t assert myself in the workplace. I didn’t push past my comfort zone.

All because I didn’t really believe I could.

While I’m not free of self-doubt these days, I can honestly say I believe in myself like never before. That doesn’t mean I think I’ll never fail or quit: I will. Probably often.

And that’s OK.

The trick is that I learned it’s completely fine to try and fail, to put yourself out there and not be perfect, to say hello to someone and have them not instantly love you, to create something and have people judge you.

Failure, not being perfect, mistakes, not having people agree with me, not being completely accepted: these are not negative things. They’re positive.

How is failure positive? It’s the only way we truly learn. For example: you can read a book on math, but until you try it and fail, you’ll never see where your lack of understanding is. The best way to learn something is to study it a bit, then try it, take practice tests, make mistakes, then learn some more.

How are mistakes positive? They’re little pieces of feedback necessary to grow and learn.

How is being rejected positive? It means I’m growing beyond the absolutely socially acceptable realm. The best people in history were not socially acceptable: truth-tellers like Socrates, Jesus, Gandhi, Proudhon and Bakunin, Martin Luther King Jr., animal rights philosopher Peter Singer, unschooling pioneer John Holt, women’s rights activists, abolitionists, and many more.

These things we’re afraid of — they’re actually desirable. We need to learn to see them that way, and embrace them, letting go of the fear.

When we can get better at this — which takes a lot of practice — we can start to remove the things that hold us back.

So practice:

  • Push past your discomfort, growing your discomfort method.
  • Put yourself out there, and be OK with not knowing if people will accept you.
  • Stick to a habit, not listening to the negative self-talk that normally holds you back.
  • Stick to it some more, and learn to trust yourself.
  • Go into situations not knowing, and learn to be OK with that.
  • Learn through repeated attempts that it’s OK to fail, that you can be OK in failure.
  • Learn through repeated experiments that you are stronger than you think, that you are more capable and more tolerant of discomfort than you think.

And in this practice, you will find yourself. And realize that you were great all along.

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Two years ago, I asked a college-bound 18-year-old what kind of job she’d like to have after earning her degree. “I don’t know,” she told me, adding, “I don’t think it’s been invented yet.”

Turns out, she was probably right. Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects health care and construction jobs to grow as baby boomers age in greater numbers and the economic rebound gives people the confidence to build new homes, the jobs of the future aren’t so easily defined.

According to a recent study by online job matching service TheLadders, the fastest growing jobs are in user experience design, iOS and Android development, and business intelligence—some of which didn’t exist before 2007.

The study, which gathered key word search data from among its 6 million members, also found that middle management jobs are being phased out. Among the top 10% of growing jobs, less than 2% of titles contain the word “manager” or “director,” which points to a trend that you can still be a professional in a high-paying position, but the end game isn’t a gold plaque with a management title tacked to your name.

Mark Newman, CEO of digital interviewing service HireVue, says the company is witnessing similar trends as it helps place people with companies such as Hilton, GE, Chipotle, and others. “Overall, HireVue is seeing that jobs of the future are design and data scientist jobs,” he says.


As it turns out, the path to these in-demand positions is as new as the jobs themselves. Though plenty of design jobs are filled by those with graphic design skills, Newman points out, “HireVue has seen that those with backgrounds in psychology and anthropology are also very successful, as they have skill sets that serve them very well in the field, including attention to detail, user empathy and visual design skills.

Kate Swann, the chief operating officer at Blue State Digital, a digital and technology agency that spearheaded digital efforts on the Obama campaigns in 2008 and 2012, is one who took an arts degree into an entirely different career. Swann says her masters in performance studies helped her look for the larger patterns in how cultures work.

It’s a good skill for her current position and one that’s allowed her to see a shift in how design agencies think about what makes a good candidate. “Looking for people who have made unexpected moves in their career or education is a good way to identify risk takers and lateral thinkers,” she explains. “Companies such as Frog Design [where she also worked] and Blue State Digital understand that the best candidates aren’t always the ones who move predictably from point A to point B.”

Amanda Augustine, job expert at TheLadders, says that sometimes it helps to take a first job in something that appears to be unrelated. “If you enjoy branding and marketing and love connecting with people, then a role talent acquisition might be an interesting avenue to explore,” she says noting the current trend where recruiters must also become marketers. “They not only have to be able to read people, but they need to build, manage, and advertise their organization’s employer brand to promote their corporate culture and entice the right type of candidates to want to join their team,” Augustine explains.

And while Apple and others are famous for starting out of a garage, your garage band might hold the key to employment in another industry. Steven Aliment, director of Engine Management at Boeing Commercial Airplanes was a musician for years before joining his employer.

“A band is like a small creative shop where you need to be both creative and commercially appealing under pressure,” he explains, and teamwork is essential. “Listening, understanding each other, trying, failing, until you get it right,” says Aliment. Not to mention learning how to engage an audience is like marketing to customers. “For me, showmanship in that context was a spring board to industrial showmanship in sales and marketing,” he contends.


Some companies such as Facebook have even started recruiting high school students for their internship programs to stay ahead of the competition, notes Augustine. “We’ve found that more and more “entry-level” positions now require anywhere from one to three or even five years of experience,” she says, making the internship the new entry-level position.

Augustine advises trying to get an internship in social media if it involves helping build and manage social media campaigns for the organization because it’s often behind a business’s marketing, recruiting, and customer service strategies.

“Having hands-on corporate experience learning the thought process behind a company’s social media strategy will be valuable down the line,” she says.

Such internships can also be used to learn “soft skills” such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, and professionalism.

Patty Pogemiller, director of talent acquisition and mobility, Deloitte Services LP has seen an increase in demand for leadership and soft skills. “We look for people who have a demonstrated track record of leadership roles, an ability to think analytically, as well as outstanding communication skills,” she says, “We’re always looking for people who can collaborate and work effectively on diverse teams.”


According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps and other programs, volunteering for an organization can increase the chance of getting a paid job offer by as much as 27%.

Sarah Kunst, partner at Fortis Partners private equity firm, says millennials in particular are looking for something more fulfilling than a fast track to middle management. “They have seen the devastating effects of business run for greed and not greater good and they are inclined not to repeat those mistakes.”

But times have changed and so have paths to working with purpose. “While giving back used to mean a few years with Peace Corps or working at a struggling nonprofit, college grads now often have both crippling student loans and entrepreneurial curiosity,” Kunst observes.

To earn a living wage while being socially conscious, Kunst advises looking into organizations like Venture for America, a nonprofit that places grads in full-time startup jobs in cities like Detroit and New Orleans, or Hampton Creek, a food-tech startup that is reducing the carbon footprint needed to make protein.


It’s also perfectly acceptable to come in with an unusual resume, says John Budd, Yolo Candy cofounder and CMO. “We hired someone who started her career as a circus barker at an amusement park, then became a circus ringmaster,” he says. Not only did she have the soft skill of the right attitude, but she also has experience working in customer service, sales, event planning, and public relations/social media. “In this day and age, all companies need these disciplines and they just may find it all in the candidate who walked in smelling like cotton candy,” says Budd.

Working for a startup could accelerate the spark to start your own company. According to World Bank data, 30% of the global population may be working for themselves, even in strong economies.

That’s where Budd says it’s important to do cross-functional training in a variety of jobs. “No matter what the job, roll-up your sleeves and learn everything you can about these different functions. You’ll never know when that knowledge will give you the edge to succeed in your business or in your next job interview,” he says.


Donna Svei, executive search consultant believes the real key is to hone the skill of reinvention if they want to be a success. “Companies aren’t explicitly shopping for that skill, but if they’re part of inventing jobs that didn’t exist five years ago, they’re hiring people who know how to reinvent themselves,” she says.

There was no such thing as a social media expert five to ten years ago, Svei observes, “Now there are thousands of them and, interestingly, very few of them were communications professionals in their last career.” Svei believes the current crop of social media experts are people who saw the opportunity and reinvented themselves.

Finally, says Budd, no matter how new the type of job, one thing hasn’t changed: “Just please remember to show up on time and dress appropriately for the interview.”

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That Was Easy: Life Hacks You’ll Be Glad You Heard About

We all know that college is tough, especially with the stress of life on top of hard classes. You deserve to have some things in your life simplified, so here are some life hacks that will help you through your college career.

On hold no more: Have you ever been faced with the daunting task of calling a company where you were put on hold… and stayed on hold forever? Well, wait no more! There is an app called the FastCustomer app, that will call the company for you and wait on hold. Once an actual person picks up, the app will call you and let you know.

Stuffy nose: Stuffy noses really suck, especially when you want to try and get some shut eye and feel like your mouth is going to dry out while your nose causes those awful congested headaches. To get rid of your stuffy nose, take a hot shower. The steam will help clear that baby right up. Salt water also helps, so if you live by the beach, get in the water! And if you like spicy food, that’s a for sure way to get those sinuses cleared up.

Public bathroom shyness: Especially in the beginning, it can be pretty nerve-wracking to take care of business in the dorm bathrooms. If you feel like you’re going to take a while, try and go really early in the morning — that’s when you are the least likely to run into people. If someone does happen to come in, simply lift your feet up so they can’t see your shoes, and wait until they leave. They’ll have no idea who’s in there!

Clogged drain: Is your drain clogged? While Drain-o is awesome, it can be pretty pricey, and is never in the house when you need it. To unclog a drain, all you need is 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of white vinegar. Clog be gone.

No more dishes: If you’re too lazy to do dishes, use a tortilla as a plate. No dishes? Yes please. The fact that you can actually eat your “plate” is a pretty awesome concept. And tortillas go with a lot of stuff.

Free trials online: Want to get a free trial for something but don’t want to use your credit card — because you know you’ll forget to cancel before the actual paying kicks in or simply don’t have one? Use a Visa gift card! Well I know what I’m doing tonight: hello Hulu.

Oversleeping: Do you oversleep because you are either so passed out to the point where you don’t hear your alarm or you keep hitting snooze? Put your phone in a glass. This will amplify the sound of your alarm and will make it much more difficult to simply reach over and slide the snooze button. And if you manage to somehow sleep through that, I’m sure one of your roommates will graciously throw something at you.

Smelly room: If your room smells bad, attach a dryer sheet to a fan/AC unit and turn it on. It will be smelling fresh in no time. Also have Febreeze handy, or candles that are strong enough to work instantly.

Water balloon fight: Don’t you hate it when you want to have a water balloon fight, and instead of exploding on the person, the stupid balloon just bounces off? To prevent this, blow the balloon up with some air before filling it. This will ensure that it will pop on your target.

Beach hack: Going to the beach and don’t want your valuables to get stolen? Clean out an old lotion bottle and stick your phone, keys, and money in it. Because who would steal lotion? (Well actually…) This will allow you to enjoy your time at the beach without having to have someone stationed at the lookout.

Key identification: Have a bunch of keys on your key ring and can never keep them straight? Paint the backs with nail polish. The colors will help you differentiate the keys, and if you have to return the keys to a landlord or school housing later, you can use nail polish remover to get it looking back to its boring self.

Pancakes 101: Want to make someone breakfast that actually looks presentable? Put pancake mix in a cleaned out ketchup bottle for no mess and perfectly formed pancakes. This is also a great way to save the batter for another day.

No more burnt fingers: Want to light a candle but hate burning your fingers? Light a stick of spaghetti and light the wick with it. Who knew?

Coffee hack: Put coffee in an ice tray, so when you want to make iced coffee it won’t get watered down. Works with tea as well! This is way faster than making the drink and then waiting impatiently while it “cools” in the fridge, since you know you are going to get so impatient that you’ll end up drinking it at that gross luke-warm temperature.

Borrowing: If you are letting a friend borrow something from you, take a picture of them holding it, so you won’t forget who has it! We have so much to think about all the time that it is very easy to forget who has what. This would also be a great way to kindly remind them they have something, by sending the picture to them.

Moving tip: If you’re moving, put heavy things like books into suitcases instead of boxes. This will make it easier to transport, since you can roll the suitcase, and you won’t have to worry about the box ripping and spilling your content everywhere.

Presentation hack: Are you nervous about giving your presentation in class? Find a friend in your class that will ask you a question at the end, one which you will already know the answer to. Make it detailed so you’ll look extra smart, and it will take up time so not many other people will be able to ask you one.

Wi-Fi password: You can get the Wi-Fi password to most establishments if you check the comments on Foursquare. No more guessing for you (because you know you are horrible at that anyway).

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Quote of the Day

“Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act.”

– Albert Einstein

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What grabs your attention more: a list full of ingredients like acacia gum, oligiosaccharide, and glutemate or a story about one company’s mission to bring the tangy sweetness of a blueberry and the warming power of a bowl of oatmeal to kitchen tables around the world?

While both speak to Kashi’s company mission of making healthy food available to everyone, the second choice seems far more compelling.

Click to enlarge

This makes sense, especially considering recent findings of a Nielsen study that show consumers want a more personal connection in the way they gather information.

Are we surprised, though?

Numerous studies over the years have proven that our brains are far more engaged by storytelling than the cold, hard facts.

When reading straight data, only the language parts of our brains work to decode the meaning. But when we read a story, not only do the language parts of our brains light up, but any other part of the brain that we would use if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading about becomes activated as well.

What this means is that it’s far easier for us to remember stories than the cold hard facts because our brains make little distinction between an experience we are reading about and one that is actually happening.

In addition to this, our brains are insanely greedy for stories. We spend about a third of our lives daydreaming—our minds are constantly looking for distractions—and the only time we stop flitting from daydream to daydream is when we have a good story in front of us.

Top brands like LinkedIn, Coca Cola, Etsy—the list goes on—harness this science to their advantage through content marketing that focuses on the story.

While Americans consume more than 100,000 digital words every day according to this infographic from content marketing platform OneSpot, 92% of these consumers want to internalize those words in the form of a story.

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The Future of Cities The Internet of Everything will Change How We Live

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By John Chambers and Wim Elfrink

As much as the Internet has already changed the world, it is the Web’s next phase that will bring the biggest opportunities, revolutionizing the way we live, work, play, and learn.

That next phase, which some call the Internet of Things and which we call the Internet of Everything, is the intelligent connection of people, processes, data, and things. Although it once seemed like a far-off idea, it is becoming a reality for businesses, governments, and academic institutions worldwide. Today, half the world’s population has access to the Internet; by 2020, two-thirds will be connected. Likewise, some 13.5 billion devices are connected to the Internet today; by 2020, we expect that number to climb to 50 billion. The things that are—and will be—connected aren’t just traditional devices, such as computers, tablets, and phones, but also parking spaces and alarm clocks, railroad tracks, street lights, garbage cans, and components of jet engines.

All of these connections are already generating massive amounts of digital data—and it doubles every two years. New tools will collect and share that data (some 15,000 applications are developed each week!) and, with analytics, that can be turned into information, intelligence, and even wisdom, enabling everyone to make better decisions, be more productive, and have more enriching experiences.

And the value that it will bring will be epic. In fact, the Internet of Everything has the potential to create $19 trillion in value over the next decade. For the global private sector, this equates to a 21 percent potential aggregate increase in corporate profits—or $14.4 trillion. The global public sector will benefit as well, using the Internet of Everything as a vehicle for the digitization of cities and countries. This will improve efficiency and cut costs, resulting in as much as $4.6 trillion of total value. Beyond that, it will help (and already is helping) address some of the world’s most vexing challenges: aging and growing populations rapidly moving to urban centers; growing demand for increasingly limited natural resources; and massive rebalancing in economic growth between briskly growing emerging market countries and slowing developed countries.


More than half of the world’s population now lives in or near a major urban area, and the move toward ever-greater urbanization shows no signs of slowing. According to the United Nations, the global population is expected to grow from seven billion today to 9.3 billion by 2050, and the world’s cities will have to accommodate about 70 percent more residents.

The traditional ways of dealing with the influx—simply adding more physical infrastructure—won’t work, given limited resources and space. New ways of incorporating technology will be required to provide urban services, whether it’s roads, water, electricity, gas, work spaces, schools, or healthcare. In the future, there will be less emphasis on physical connections and more on access to virtual connections.

Cities also face budgetary challenges, battling rising costs and shrinking resources. The world’s cities account for 70 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions, and according to UN-HABITAT, energy-related costs are one of the biggest municipal budget items. Technology could provide a simple fix just by updating aging street lighting systems. That would also improve citizen safety and create a more favorable environment for business investments.

There are similar issues in many of the world’s water systems, with aging pipes in desperate need of replacing. For instance, the United States’ water infrastructure is near the end of its lifecycle with approximately 240,000 water main breaks each year. The cost of fixing this crumbling infrastructure could exceed $1 trillion over the next 25 years, assuming that all pipes are replaced. By placing networked sensors in water mains and underground pipe systems as they are repaired and replaced, cities could more effectively monitor and better anticipate future leaks and other potential problems as the infrastructure is upgraded.

More people also means more waste. The amount of municipal solid waste generated around the world is expected to reach 2.2 billion tons by 2025—up from 1.3 billion in 2012. Globally, solid waste management costs will rise to about $375.5 billion by 2025, according to predictions by the World Bank. Once again, the Internet of Everything offers ways to better manage and reduce these costs. For example, sensors in residential and commercial garbage containers could alert a city waste management system when they are full. Each morning, the drivers would receive their optimized route to empty the full containers. Compared to today’s fixed-route system, the new system could save millions of dollars by increasing efficiencies and worker productivity.
The intelligent and efficient stewardship of growing cities must take top priority. And there, we are convinced that the Internet of Everything will bring one of the most significant technology transitions since the birth of the Internet. Connections between things and people, supported by networked processes, will enable everyone to turn data into actionable information that can be used to do things that weren’t possible before, or to do them better. We can more quickly discover patterns and trends; we can predict and prepare for anything from bus or assembly line breakdowns to natural disasters and quick surges in product demand.


Perhaps surprisingly, the public sector has been the most effective and innovative early adopter when it comes to making use of the Internet of Everything, especially in major metropolitan areas. New and innovative solutions are already transforming green fields and rundown urban centers into what we call Smart + Connected Communities, or Smart Cities. According to IHS Technology, the total number of Smart Cities will quadruple from 21 to 88 between 2013 and 2025. At Cisco, we are engaged with more than 100 cities in different stages of Smart City development.

By definition, Smart Cities are those that integrate information communications technology across three or more functional areas. More simply put, a Smart City is one that combines traditional infrastructure (roads, buildings, and so on) with technology to enrich the lives of its citizens. Creative platforms and killer apps have helped reduce traffic, parking congestion, pollution, energy consumption, and crime. They have also generated revenue and reduced costs for city residents and visitors.

For instance, one-third of the world’s streetlights use technology from the 1960s. Cities that update aging systems with networked motion-detection lights save administrative and management time as well as electricity and costs—as much as 70–80 percent, according to an independent, global trial of LED technology. By using such energy-saving technologies, cities can drastically lower their municipal expenditures on electricity. Cisco estimates that smart street lighting initiatives can also reduce area crime by seven percent because of better visibility and more content citizenry. Further, connected light poles can serve as wireless networking access points, enabling citizens and city managers to take advantage of pervasive connectivity. And networked sensors incorporated into utility lines could help reduce costs for both consumers and providers, with meters being “read” remotely, and much more accurately. Cities such as Nice, France are already implementing smart lighting, which monitors lamp intensity and traffic sensors to reduce car theft, assaults, and even home burglary. These lighting initiatives are also expected to reduce the city’s energy bill by more than $8 million.

Smart Cities are also saving energy indoors. Buildings outfitted with intelligent sensors and networked management systems can collect and analyze energy-use data. Such technologies have the potential to reduce energy consumption and cut costs by $100 billion globally over the next decade.

Thanks to higher traffic, cities generate more than 67 percent of greenhouse gases released into our atmosphere. Experts predict that this figure will rise to 74 percent by 2030. In the United States alone, traffic congestion costs $121 billion a year in wasted time and fuel. Incredibly, drivers looking for a parking space cause 30 percent of urban congestion, not to mention pollution. To overcome this problem, the city of San Carlos, California has embedded networked sensors into parking spaces that relay to drivers real-time information about—and directions to—available spots. This program has helped reduce congestion, pollution, and fuel consumption. Moreover, parking fees can be dynamically adjusted for peak times, which generates more revenue for cities.

Cities can also integrate sensors that collect and share real-time data about public transportation systems to improve traffic flow and better monitor the use of buses and trains, giving them the ability to adjust route times and frequency of stops based on changing needs. This alone will cut costs and bring new efficiencies. Mobile apps that aggregate the information, meanwhile, can help citizens track delays or check pick-up times for a more seamless commute. Barcelona, Spain has already changed the typical experience of waiting for a bus by deploying smart bus stops, where citizens can use touchscreen monitors to view up-to-date bus schedules, maps, locations for borrowing city-owned bikes, and local businesses and entertainment.

Innovative municipal leaders understand the Internet of Everything’s incredible promise. In fact, these days, the most innovative cities have their own chief information officers or even chief digital officers.


There are a number of iconic examples of cities that have put the Internet of Everything into use. They range from the ancient—Barcelona, Spain—to the new—Songdo, South Korea.

Barcelona, which, with a population of about 1.6 million people, is Spain’s second largest city, has embraced the Internet of Everything and is reaping the rewards—approximately $3.6 billion in value over the next decade. About $1 billion of this will come from productivity improvements. Other gains are from reductions in operational, resource, and environmental costs. Still more comes via revenues from new businesses focused on innovation.

City leaders have incorporated connected technology into the mayor’s office and the city council, not to mention the water management, waste management, parking, and public-transportation systems. These technologies have contributed significantly to Barcelona’s profitability (it is one of the few cities in Europe that is running a budget surplus) and have improved the quality of life of its citizens. For example, the city has deployed free Wi-Fi and created a rich assortment of citizen and government apps. Barcelona is also using the Internet of Everything to improve the city’s water-management system (generating $58 million in savings annually), install smart street lighting ($47 million), and embed sensors in parking spaces to let drivers know where open spaces exist ($67 million).

It’s no wonder, then, that in early March, the European Union named Barcelona Europe’s most innovative city. The same month, Fortune also recognized the city’s mayor, Xavier Trias, as one of the world’s 50 “Greatest Leaders.” The publication wrote, “Barcelona has its Mediterranean port, its Gaudí treasures, and since 2011, a mayor who is busy transforming the cultural gem of Spain’s Catalonia region into the smartest ‘smart city’ on the planet. Partnerships with companies like Cisco and Microsoft are fueling development, a new tech-campus hub is in the works, and he’s connecting citizens to government services through mobile technology.”

On the other side of the globe, Songdo, South Korea, is the world’s first truly green field city developed from the ground up with sustainability metrics—economic, social, and environmental—in mind. Through the city’s network, citizens can access a host of urban services—healthcare, government, transportation, utilities, safety and security, healthcare, and education—from the convenience of their living rooms or within a 12-minute walk. Real-time traffic information helps them plan their commutes. Remote healthcare services and information reduce expenses and travel time. Remotely automated building security improves safety and lowers costs.

Through a unique public–private partnership, the city is evolving as a living lab for urban management and service delivery. It can serve as a model for other communities built from the ground up. The aim is not only to develop urban services that enhance citizens’ daily lives and reduce the city’s resource footprint, but also to deliver economic value to the city by attracting new citizens and companies. These initiatives have the potential to create true economic value over the next 15 years, including as many as 300,000 jobs and $26.4 billion in gross regional domestic product (GRDP) growth. What’s more, Booz Allen & Company has estimated that the city will be able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 4.5 million tons.


How can the world make Barcelona and Songdo the norm rather than the exception?

First, it is important to establish a process for prioritizing potential Internet of Everything initiatives based on the problems that need to be addressed. Articulating the real benefits of such programs and then gathering metrics on those initiatives once they are launched can generate support for the programs internally and with the public. City leaders should also consider starting with replicable initiatives that have worked well in other similar jurisdictions, such as smart parking and other transportation-based projects. Transportation officials often have the requisite budgets and authority to launch scalable pilot projects, and metrics of success are relatively easy to develop and communicate to stakeholders.

Second, the world must rethink IT investments. This means moving away from purchasing isolated services and instead focusing on end-to-end solutions that are integrated across disparate or siloed systems. By adapting to a technology infrastructure that is application-friendly and can be automated, as well as putting in place an expansive network that can handle a multitude of devices and sensors, cities and countries can reduce costs by billions of dollars. Integrating connected technology across systems, including water and waste management, municipal processes, smart buildings, energy systems, and so on, will allow for the biggest impact.

Third, governments should start looking at IT as a value creator rather than a cost center. Indeed, IT enables governments to carry out their overall strategies and will allow cities to thrive over the long term. In many instances, measurable returns on IT investment can be realized within a few years or less. With new connections, governments and their agencies can improve employee productivity, attracts talent and jobs, generate new revenue (without raising taxes), and also create quantifiable benefits for citizens. The Internet of Everything offers $4.6 trillion in value in the public sector alone. That number speaks for itself.

Fourth, the world can’t be afraid of embracing technology in new ways. This means rethinking the contract with citizens and the services IT firms and governments provide them. As the Internet of Everything evolves, the technology industry must also continuously improve security and privacy measures throughout the end-to-end value chain. We believe that industry self-regulation adhering to the highest international standards can be effective in protecting privacy and security. Such security regimes can be strengthened by innovative tools that provide users with the choice to opt in or out of programs and that help users understand how their data are collected and used.
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Fifth, Smart Cities require cooperation between public and private partners. Such collaboration helps defray costs, solve pressing problems, and increase benefits for government, citizens, and industries. We have found that Smart Cities require five things: innovative and bold city leadership championing clear programs and outcomes across departments; hyper collaborative partnerships between the public and private sectors; information communications technology master plans and workshops to define and develop holistic and specific projects; and adherence to deadlines—perhaps one of the most important priorities. When the risks and rewards from projects are shared among partners, such as government leaders, private citizens, investors and technology companies, issues are more likely to be resolved and projects are more likely to be completed, because all parties have a stake in their investments. These partnerships are key to managing and financing projects that require advanced infrastructure and technology architecture.

Finally, start piloting now. City leaders have already shown that Internet of Everything solutions can solve difficult problems and improve the lives of citizens. And these leaders are enthusiastic about its potential to do even more. In Cisco surveys, they cited the importance of using pilots to obtain stakeholder sponsorship, prove the business case, and get the technology right. Pilots should be scalable and have clear metrics of success. Perseverance in the face of technical and political challenges can be the difference between success and failure.

This year signals a major inflection point for the Internet of Everything, which will have a much bigger impact on the world and its cities than the Internet did in its first 20 years. The Internet of Everything is already revolutionizing the way our cities operate, creating a more dynamic global economy and also bringing new, richer experiences to citizens. Soon, we will live in a world where everything—and everyone—can be connected to everything else. Streets will be safer, homes will be smarter, citizens will be healthier and better educated. The Internet of Everything will change how we work—more information, better decisions, more agile supply chains, more responsive manufacturing, and increased economic value. The foundation of the city of the future will be the Internet of Everything, and those embracing this technology are leading the way.

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Quote of the Day

“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.”

– Jonathan Safran Foer

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Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain

THIS month, many Americans will take time off from work to go on vacation, catch up on household projects and simply be with family and friends. And many of us will feel guilty for doing so. We will worry about all of the emails piling up at work, and in many cases continue to compulsively check email during our precious time off.

But beware the false break. Make sure you have a real one. The summer vacation is more than a quaint tradition. Along with family time, mealtime and weekends, it is an important way that we can make the most of our beautiful brains.

Every day we’re assaulted with facts, pseudofacts, news feeds and jibber-jabber, coming from all directions. According to a 2011 study, on a typical day, we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information, five times as much as we did in 1986. As the world’s 21,274 television stations produce some 85,000 hours of original programming every day (by 2003 figures), we watch an average of five hours of television per day. For every hour of YouTube video you watch, there are 5,999 hours of new video just posted!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s a reason: The processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited. This is a result of how the brain’s attentional system evolved. Our brains have two dominant modes of attention: the task-positive network and the task-negative network (they’re called networks because they comprise distributed networks of neurons, like electrical circuits within the brain). The task-positive network is active when you’re actively engaged in a task, focused on it, and undistracted; neuroscientists have taken to calling it the central executive. The task-negative network is active when your mind is wandering; this is the daydreaming mode. These two attentional networks operate like a seesaw in the brain: when one is active the other is not.

This two-part attentional system is one of the crowning achievements of the human brain, and the focus it enables allowed us to harness fire, build the pyramids, discover penicillin and decode the entire human genome. Those projects required some plain old-fashioned stick-to-itiveness.

But the insight that led to them probably came from the daydreaming mode. This brain state, marked by the flow of connections among disparate ideas and thoughts, is responsible for our moments of greatest creativity and insight, when we’re able to solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable. You might be going for a walk or grocery shopping or doing something that doesn’t require sustained attention and suddenly — boom — the answer to a problem that had been vexing you suddenly appears. This is the mind-wandering mode, making connections among things that we didn’t previously see as connected.

A third component of the attentional system, the attentional filter, helps to orient our attention, to tell us what to pay attention to and what we can safely ignore. This undoubtedly evolved to alert us to predators and other dangerous situations. The constant flow of information from Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram, text messages and the like engages that system, and we find ourselves not sustaining attention on any one thing for very long — the curse of the information age.

My collaborator Vinod Menon, a professor of neuroscience at Stanford, and I showed that the switch between daydreaming and attention is controlled in a part of the brain called the insula, an important structure about an inch or so beneath the surface of the top of your skull. Switching between two external objects involves the temporal-parietal junction. If the relationship between the central executive system and the mind-wandering system is like a seesaw, then the insula — the attentional switch — is like an adult holding one side down so that the other stays up in the air. The efficacy of this switch varies from person to person, in some functioning smoothly, in others rather rusty. But switch it does, and if it is called upon to switch too often, we feel tired and a bit dizzy, as though we were seesawing too rapidly.

Every status update you read on Facebook, every tweet or text message you get from a friend, is competing for resources in your brain with important things like whether to put your savings in stocks or bonds, where you left your passport or how best to reconcile with a close friend you just had an argument with.

If you want to be more productive and creative, and to have more energy, the science dictates that you should partition your day into project periods. Your social networking should be done during a designated time, not as constant interruptions to your day.

Email, too, should be done at designated times. An email that you know is sitting there, unread, may sap attentional resources as your brain keeps thinking about it, distracting you from what you’re doing. What might be in it? Who’s it from? Is it good news or bad news? It’s better to leave your email program off than to hear that constant ping and know that you’re ignoring messages.

Increasing creativity will happen naturally as we tame the multitasking and immerse ourselves in a single task for sustained periods of, say, 30 to 50 minutes. Several studies have shown that a walk in nature or listening to music can trigger the mind-wandering mode. This acts as a neural reset button, and provides much needed perspective on what you’re doing.

Daydreaming leads to creativity, and creative activities teach us agency, the ability to change the world, to mold it to our liking, to have a positive effect on our environment. Music, for example, turns out to be an effective method for improving attention, building up self-confidence, social skills and a sense of engagement.

This radical idea — that problem solving might take some time and doesn’t always have to be accomplished immediately — could have profound effects on decision making and even on our economy. Consider this: By some estimates, preventable medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. You want your diagnostician to give the right answer, not always the quickest one. Zoning out is not always bad. You don’t want your airline pilot or air traffic controller to do it while they’re on the job, but you do want them to have opportunities to reset — this is why air traffic control and other high-attention jobs typically require frequent breaks. Several studies have shown that people who work overtime reach a point of diminishing returns.

Taking breaks is biologically restorative. Naps are even better. In several studies, a nap of even 10 minutes improved cognitive function and vigor, and decreased sleepiness and fatigue. If we can train ourselves to take regular vacations — true vacations without work — and to set aside time for naps and contemplation, we will be in a more powerful position to start solving some of the world’s big problems. And to be happier and well rested while we’re doing it.

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