Forget Banning Phones and Laptops at Meetings. Here's What We Should Ban Instead

Imagine you just walked into a meeting with your banker.

The main goal: To figure out how to pay for a new house.

You’re a little nervous, and you know this meeting will determine your future. You sit down and listen intently to what the banker is saying as he or she covers all of the financial details. Obviously, you are clued in to the discussion, but at one point the banker mentions something a bit odd. It’s a minor point about capital gains tax, and the year the rule changed. So, you scratch your head and pull out your phone.

A quick Google search reveals that he’s wrong about that specific tax law.

You argue the point, and resolve the issue.

The wonders of technology, right?

Sadly, a new school of thought has emerged, likely propagated by people who did not grow up with phones or tend to stick with a desktop computer during work hours.

A few years ago, an expert on this topic suggested to me that no one would ever bring a phone to a meeting with a banker. You need to stay focused and intent.

I’ve pondered that discussion a few times over the years.

Initially, I agreed and it made sense. In fact, I’ve repeated the story several times. I’ve also repeated the word “phubbing” (e.g., to phone snub) and explained how it’s a bad, terrible, no good thing. A more technical phrase is “continuous partial attention” which is one of the scariest concepts of our age. It means people are always in a state of partial attention because they are either on a phone or thinking about being on a phone.

Here’s my problem with all of this.

I don’t think phones and laptops should be banned from meetings.

I think boring topics should be banned from meetings.

I once heard a phrase, attributed to the musician David Crowder, that you should do something so cool that you don’t need to look at your phone. The same concept should apply to meetings. As someone who frequently mentors college students, I know that the minute a meeting becomes boring and routine, people tend to pull out phones or mindlessly surf on a laptop–suddenly, Fortnite is more interesting. Who can blame them? It’s not the laptop’s fault. It’s the meeting topic and the meeting presenter.

My view is that gadgets can help us verify information, they can help us add to the conversation, to look up interesting facts. Distraction is a bad thing, but there are other ways to solve that problem instead of banning our devices altogether.

In my example of the mortgage meeting, of course you would never mindlessly surf Instagram during the chat. Should you ban phones? Not at all, because they can serve a purpose, especially if you stop someone in mid-sentence and ask politely if you can check on some details. In my meetings with college students, I rarely see people surfing or looking at cat videos because we tend to keep meetings short and lively. And, every meeting is a “working” meeting. Laptops help at meetings, they don’t hinder. No one ever focuses on a laptop or phone during a meeting that is lively and engaging.

If someone does start phubbing, it reveals a much deeper problem. If the meeting is important and the discussion is good, and someone still phone surfs, it’s a sign that maybe there’s a problem with engagement on a project. Sometimes, it’s a sign of depression or some other difficulty in life. Or, it’s a sign of an unruly employee revealing many other issues for you to worry about other than using a gadget instead of paying attention.

My view is simple: Let the devices stay, but figure out how to make them part of the meeting and not a distraction. Don’t use rules and dictums. Make the meeting incredibly worthwhile, engaging, and valuable. Gadgets won’t distract people for long.

Planning a Leadership Forum, Internal Conference or Strategy Summit? Use This Principle to Make Your Meeting Memorable

By this point in my career, I’ve attended a lot of “major” meetings. I’m not talking about those everyday encounters, where three or four (or 15) people gather to get work done; I’m referring to those big, expensive events where 50 or 125 or even 250 people convene to kick off the annual strategy or launch a major initiative or build a new organization.

Here’s what many of these meetings have in common: They’re designed to meet the objectives of a small group of organizers (usually senior leaders or other key stakeholders), not create a meaningful and useful experience for participants. 

How do I know? The evidence is clear:

  • The meeting starts very early (sometimes commencing at 7 a.m.) and continues until late at night so that every leader gets to share his/her stuff.
  • The agenda consists of hour after hour of deadly PowerPoint presentations.
  • Meeting participants have few opportunities to get their fundamental questions answered or understand what all this stuff means to them.
  • Sometimes, people walk away with clear action items–but usually it’s not clear what they should do as a result of attending.

The result? A big investment is made, but an opportunity is missed to change participants’ minds, get their buy-in and encourage them to take action.

That’s why you need to use this essential principle–from the science of adult learning–to take a different approach to designing your meeting. The principle is called “readiness.”

To explain, I’ve invited two learning experts, Harold D. Stolovitch and Erica J. Keeps, to stop by and visit this column. Authors of Telling Ain’t Training, the experts explain that when you want to persuade adults or teach them to do something, you can’t treat them like children: sit them down in a seat, make them listen and expect what they hear to stick.

If this is true, why are a lot of meetings organized the way they are? I can’t answer that, but what I can do is show you how to use the adult learning principle of readiness, which Stolovitch and Keeps explain this way: “Adults come to a learning situation with their own priorities and attitudes. They are ready to learn when they decide to open their minds to it.”

And a key way to open adults’ minds is to show your participants that you’re going to help them:

  • Solve a problem or avoid one
  • Provide an opportunity
  • Create personal or professional growth

“It must be clear,” write the experts, “that it is for them, not for you or the organization. You can’t fill a learner with skills, knowledge or new values and attitudes if his or her mind is blocked.”

The upshot? When you put together a conference or meeting, always focus your content and structure your experience on meeting participants’ needs. Make the session respond to participants’ essential question: “What’s in it for me?”

Here are three ways to do so:

  1. Analyze your (participant) audience. Think about what participants need and what they expect.
  2. Design your meeting to achieve this objective: Make the meeting a satisfying and meaningful event for all participants
  3. Emphasize the experience instead of data/information. I’m sure you’ve been in a planning session where the conversation goes like this: “We need to make sure we have a session about the strategy.” “Yes, and the CFO definitely needs to share last quarter’s results.” “Oh, and don’t forget about a roundup of regional activity.” “We should talk about our cool new advertising campaign.” “What about . . .? What you’re creating is a hash (a collection of disparate information), not an engaging experience. Information should not drive the bus; it has to sit in the passenger seats.

What’s the key takeway? To get the most out of your next big meeting, focus it on participants’ needs–and make sure they understand how the session will benefit them.

Want to Keep Your Best Employees? Offer Them This 1 Thing (It's Not Money)

  • Relationship — a personal connection: Over the past 25 years of working with small business owners, I can tell you this is often one of the most overlooked and undervalued staffing issues. Take the time to get to know them and their lives. Share about yours. 

    I know that many business owners (myself included) hold ourselves back for fear of drama or awkward moments, but in general, we err too often on isolating ourselves from our teams.

    So take a team member out to lunch, organize a social event, ask them how their son is doing in school, and truly be open to connecting in an authentic way.
     

  • Great work environment: Creating a positive work environment goes a long way to employee satisfaction. They are spending 8+ hours a day there, so make a point to create an environment that brings out the very best in them.

    Keep it drama free and encourage a company culture of growth and respect.
     

  • Flexibility of schedule: Flexibility costs you nothing, but can really mean a lot to your employees. Do you have the ability to let them schedule their work around family commitments?

    Giving your staff the ability to pick up children from school or control their own calender goes a long way to letting them feel valued in the company and in control of their own lives. 
     

  • Work remotely (all or part-time): Working remotely is not only a perk, but it will also save you money in the long run by reducing your office space requirements.

    Consider an all-remote team or at the very least, the flexibility to work from home if they have a sick child or the weather is bad. If this isn’t an option for you, consider setting up on-site daycare for employees with small children.

    You could also contract with a local babysitting service and reward your core team with x days of sitting for when they need it most.
     

  • Vacation time: Let your team earn more vacation time based on performance. Whether it be by rewarding a team that came through on a big project with a four-day weekend, or giving team members in their third year with your company a third paid week off each year, vacation time is a sweet perk that many small business owners can use to retain top talent.

    And if you have good systems and controls in place, filling in the gaps while an employee takes time off should be painless.  If you are struggling to handle when Janet leaves to be with her family, let that be a wake up call that you and Janet need to talk about training an understudy and systematizing key parts of her role.
     

  • Unpaid time away: If you are unable to offer then copious amounts of paid vacation, consider giving them unpaid time away. Perhaps they want to take a trip overseas….or spend time with a loved one. There are many ways you can structure this, but can be a great perk for some top employees.
     

  • Greater autonomy and responsibility: This is a huge motivator for your team — letting them earn the freedom to self-manage and do things their way. After all, it’s likely one of the strongest drives that compelled you to start your own business to begin with, so why shouldn’t it be as compelling to your team?

    On the same note, as they grow with your company give them greater responsibility. It shows trust and is a powerful intoxicant for top producers.
     

  • Share information: By sharing “insider” information with team members, you are showing them that you trust and value them.
     

  • Ask and value their input — honor their voice: Want to lose a key team member quickly? Stop asking for their input. Asking your team for input on how to solve a difficult problem is a great way to show them how valuable they are to the team. But be sincere and really listen.
     

  • Cool work: Is the work your team does inherently challenging and absorbing? Do you have the ability to hand off cool projects to your key players?
     

  • Feeling of growth: Growing together professionally will help an employee solidify their place on the team. Sit down with them each quarter and help them plan out their highest value tasks and encourage your managers to do the same.
     

  • Salary: This focus item was intentionally left for last because the majority of the time, it’s never about money. As long as you are paying your people market rate. While you will never win with money, you need to at least be in the right neighborhood. If you aren’t paying in market range, you’ll risk higher turnover with the costs associated with it.

  • 6 Mistakes New Leaders Make and How to Avoid Them

    By Mattson Newell (@MattsonNewell), Client Partner for Partners in Leadership, and an expert and author on breakthrough communications, global human resources, and talent development

    Taking on a leadership role within your company for the first time can be both exciting and challenging, offering a valuable opportunity to develop managerial and organizational skills as well as take on more accountability for driving business results.

    Unfortunately, it can be easy to fall into patterns of poor leadership that diminish employee engagement and create unnecessary hurdles to achieving topline results.

    While we often hear that taking risks and learning from failure is essential to growth and success, optimal leadership development happens when we learn from others. As a new leader, you need to level up quickly, so take note of these six critical mistakes that first-time leaders often make — and the strategies you need to sidestep them.

    1. Creating a Habit of Over-Complicating

    From organizing projects and teams to facilitating communication across departments and spearheading meeting after meeting, leaders are often pulled in many directions. In response to these daily demands, many new leaders feel inclined to over-complicate internal processes, models for communication, and even the roadmaps for achieving organizational results. However, this approach can create unnecessary holding patterns in your pipeline, discourage employee engagement, and decrease productivity in the workplace.

    Instead, leaders should proactively weed out all inefficient protocols and cultivate a purposeful, clear focus around topline priorities. As the late Steve Jobs said, “simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean, to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

    By carefully streamlining his approach, Jobs successfully scaled one of the most successful business ventures in history — proving that simple, straightforward processes can help leaders generate outstanding long-term results.

    2. Falling Into the ‘Commander’ Mindset

    Many new leaders are ambitious and may be prone to perfectionism. Unfortunately, perfectionism may cause some leaders to adopt a ‘commander’-like mindset in which they micromanage, telling direct reports exactly what to do and when to do it. This habit can create a toxic culture in which one of two outcomes is likely to occur: either teams lack accountability, waiting to be guided step-by-step through their workdays, or they become annoyed at the lack of trust they receive from management and thus disengage from their work.

    To avoid these two detrimental outcomes, shift to a leadership style focused on collaborative movement toward shared goals. One of the fatal mistakes new leaders make is failing to ask questions and encourage open dialogue. By inviting new, diverse perspectives from everyone on the team, you naturally generate more effective solutions and accelerate results.

    3. Ineffectual Communication Skills

    First-time leaders often err on the side of infrequent communication with direct reports — usually in the hopes of avoiding micromanaging and the ‘commander’ mindset! However, a lack of communication (or miscommunication) can kill progress toward benchmark results and create silos in which individual employees or teams operate without considering topline organizational results.

    Effective communication is frequent and accessible, involving open dialogue between parties. For leaders, this means fostering an environment of egalitarianism in which direct reports feel comfortable approaching and offering feedback to leaders — not just receiving critique. This supportive culture of communication positions all employees for success.

    4. Inconsistency Around Expectations

    A recent Partners In Leadership Workplace Accountability Study revealed that some 85% of employees are not clear about what their organizations are trying to achieve. Leaders fall into a trap of shifting their focus from one day to the next — in September, you may make a big sales push, only to emphasize the importance of customer satisfaction in October. It’s not that all of these objectives aren’t relevant, because they certainly are. However, a lack of long-term consistency around expectations in the workplace creates confusion and slows employee productivity.

    Consistency, on the other hand, builds trust, as employees learn what is expected of them and can easily identify the objectives toward which they are working. Leaders can establish consistent expectations by remaining focused on results, outlining the top three to five organizational priorities that all employees should work toward every day.

    Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, has always led with a long-term vision of his business. From the company’s humble beginnings as an online bookstore run out of a garage, he opted to invest in early technologies and expand slowly. By defining and homing in on long-term results from the get-go, Bezos has built a business empire with a valuation of over $1 trillion.

    5. Failing to Lead with Purpose

    Employee engagement is at a historic low: according to the latest Gallup reports, a staggering 87% of employees are disengaged at work. Though the reasons for employee disengagement may be multifold, a lack of purpose-driven leadership is often to blame. This is a major problem, considering collaborative movement toward organizational results requires high levels of employee engagement.

    Employees will work hard for money, harder for a great leader, but hardest for a cause they believe in. To boost engagement, identify, clarify, and champion your company’s purpose so that every employee is on board. This is especially true of millennials, who now make up the largest sector of the U.S. labor force. Identifying a clear purpose gives employees a why behind the what, which in turn leads to higher engagement.

    6. Prioritizing Process Over People

    Leaders often invest the largest portion of their time in logistics: planning and conducting meetings, streamlining processes, optimizing systems, and communicating with other corporate leaders. These are crucial elements of effective leadership — however, without the framework of a thriving, people-centric culture, these efforts fall flat. If you approach leadership with the mindset that business processes are more important that the people you hire, the teams you build, and the employees you promote, you’ll wind up with an unproductive, toxic workplace culture.

    Instead, invest resources in making the smartest hires possible, consider how existing talent can be leveraged to assemble high-impact teams, and encourage high retention rates by offering valuable benefits and opportunities for professional growth. By treating your people as your strongest asset, you can foster a culture of collaboration, engagement, and trust that leads to better results.

    Netflix CEO Reed Hastings always chooses people over processes. According to Business Insider, “Netflix has become famous in Silicon Valley for its unique company culture, which does not tolerate either failing employees or brilliant jerks.” Hastings only hires and promotes employees who embody his company’s core cultural values of dedication and kindness. As a result, Hastings has created a people-first business that regularly surpasses its quarterly and annual goals.

    Leading a Thriving Culture

    By sidestepping these common mistakes, leaders new and old can cultivate a thriving company culture that supports high rates of employee engagement and achieves organizational results efficiently and effectively. A leadership strategy rooted in collaborative problem-solving, open communication and clear expectations can propel your organization to new heights.

    Continue building your leadership skills by mastering how to inspire employees while holding others accountable for results. You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll learn to create movement in your company (and your career!)

    Riding e-commerce wave, Wirecard sees core profits growing sixfold by 2025

    MUNICH/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Wirecard, the fintech company that last month joined Germany’s DAX blue-chip index, said on Tuesday it expects core profits to grow sixfold by the middle of the next decade thanks to a boom in e-commerce and digital payments.

    FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of Wirecard AG, an independent provider of outsourcing and white label solutions for electronic payment transactions is seen in Aschheim near Munich, Germany September 6, 2018. REUTERS/Michael Dalder/File Photo

    The company, founded in 1999, is the leading German player in a payments sector that is rapidly expanding as established banks struggle to shake off the legacy of the global financial crash a decade ago.

    Earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) are forecast to exceed 3.3 billion euros ($3.79 billion), according to a Vision 2025 strategy due to be presented at an investor day in London.

    That view is conservative, CEO Markus Braun told Reuters. “All the figures that we are giving represent the bottom end of the range – I want to stress that,” Braun said in an interview ahead of the event.

    The long-term outlook compares with EBITDA guidance for this year of between 530 and 560 million euros, which Wirecard confirmed along with its existing forecasts for 2020.

    Shares rose 5 percent in Frankfurt to 173 euros, making Wirecard the biggest gainer on the DAX.

    Knut Woller, analyst at Baader Helvea, said the long-term outlook confirmed his view that an acceleration of internally generated profit growth in the first half of this year “was not a ‘one-hit wonder’”.

    Woller has a ‘buy’ rating on the stock with a price target of 198 euros.

    FILE PHOTO: An employee of Wirecard AG, an independent provider of outsourcing and white label solutions for electronic payment transactions, presents the contactless payment system “boon” at the company’s headquarters in Aschheim near Munich, Germany September 6, 2018. REUTERS/Michael Dalder/File Photo

    ‘VOICE’ COMMERCE

    The company recently ousted Commerzbank from the blue-chip index thanks to a rise of 87 percent in its shares this year. More broadly, the digital payments sector led by Paypal is in vogue with investors.

    It has not always been such smooth progress for Wirecard, which for years struggled to shake off a sleazy image as a payments provider for online porn and gambling sites, and more recently came under attack from speculative short sellers that are under investigation by state prosecutors.

    To maintain its momentum, the company said it would focus on an accelerated convergence of online, mobile and point-of-sale payments through new technologies that can enable so-called ‘omnichannel’ commerce combining online, mobile and bricks-and-mortar businesses.

    Braun said he saw particular opportunities in value-added services, such as making it possible for merchants to offer loans or insurance to customers when they make purchases via their smartphones or in stores.

    Data-driven analysis of consumers’ purchasing habits should also make it possible to make more targeted sales offers, increasing turnover both for merchants and Wirecard, he said.

    Braun, whose 7 percent stake in the company is worth $1.7 billion, also said he saw ‘voice’ commerce using digital assistants such as Amazon.com’s Alexa as a promising new growth channel.

    In 2025, Wirecard expects transaction volumes to increase to more than 710 billion euros, while revenues are expected to reach at least 10 billion euros.

    By comparison, the company forecasts transaction volumes of at least 215 billion euros in 2020, revenues of more than 3 billion euros and an EBITDA margin of 30 to 35 percent.

    Editing by Maria Sheahan and Keith Weir

    Tokyo exchange says some 40 brokerages affected by connection glitch

    TOKYO (Reuters) – The Tokyo Stock Exchange said on Tuesday about 40 brokerages were affected by a glitch in one of the channels connecting them to its stock trading system but it had yet to figure out how many transactions were impacted.

    FILE PHOTO: Visitors look at the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) bourse in Tokyo, Japan, February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

    Japan’s largest bourse said regular trade will resume on Wednesday and it was not considering compensating affected brokerages since they were able to execute trades by switching to working channels.

    FILE PHOTO: Market prices are reflected in a glass window at the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in Tokyo, Japan, February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

    At a press briefing, Ryusuke Yokoyama, chief information officer at Japan Exchange Group (JPX) , which operates the exchange, said the glitch was caused after a broker sent an extraordinarily large amount of data through the channel around 7:32 a.m. on Tuesday. JPX did not identify the broker.

    Among affected brokers were SMBC Nikko Securities and Nomura Securities, which separately said they had temporarily stopped taking some orders due to the glitch.

    In February 2012, TSE suffered a major glitch in cash-share trading that prevented morning trade in some 240 shares and instruments.

    Reporting by Yoshiyuki Osada and Takahiko Wada; Writing by Taiga Uranaka; Editing by William Mallard and Vyas Mohan

    Why Student Loan Repayment Is Not the Benefit You Should Offer in 2019

    Americans are drowning in student loan debt. The average person (as of 2016) graduates with $37,172 in debt. That’s a tremendous burden and businesses are doing the right thing in helping their employees pay down this debt.

    That’s the general consensus, but it’s not actually the best use of your benefit dollars. Here’s why.

    Student loans are voluntary

    Yes, rich kids can get through school without student loans, Yay. But, I’m not talking about that. You choose where you go to school. Or, at least, you choose where you apply. There are good choices and bad choices. A choice to go into massive debt for a degree which doesn’t have a high return on investment is a bad choice. If you’ve chosen massive debt for a degree that does have a high ROI, well, that’s a choice you’ve made.

    By giving new employees money for paying down debt, you reward the bad choices and encourage current students to take more loans.

    You can actually pay student loans with your paycheck

    Giving people a fair paycheck means they can use it to pay down student loans if they so desire. So, your paycheck is smaller if you don’t have student loans. That is illogical and, also, a bad deal for employees.

    When future raises are calculated, they are usually done on a percentage basis. Bonuses are the same. It’s better for the employee to have a higher salary than it is to have a lower salary plus a loan repayment fund. 

    Student loan repayment benefits have a disparate impact.

    While plenty of people carry student loan debt for many, many years, this is a benefit that targets the young over the not so young. 

    Tax benefits aren’t that great

    The IRS just issued a Private Letter Ruling that says that yes, you can give 401k dollars in exchange for paying down student debt. So, instead of “matching” 401k contributions, you “mirror” them. Jane makes a student loan payment using post-tax dollars (i.e. regular money) and the company puts money into her 401k with pre-tax dollars. That sounds great.

    And it is great. But that’s where the benefits end. If the company simply contributes towards your student loan payment, that’s considered income. Which means you pay taxes on it. But, it’s not included in your salary for increases and bonuses. In an email to me, Adam Carroll explained, “employees that receive student loan repayment assistance must treat that as income. Which also means that they’re paying taxes on the help… 2 steps forward, 1 step back it seems!”

    What should you do instead?

    Pay everyone a fair salary. Let them make student loan payments if they want. Have a 401k program that is “opt-out” instead of “opt-in.” That way, everyone, young and old, borrower and saver, gets a fair paycheck and a fair set of benefits. 

    Google welcomes UK court block on claim over data collection

    (Reuters) – Google welcomed a decision on Monday by London’s High Court to block an attempt to bring legal action over claims it had collected sensitive data from 4 million iPhone users in England and Wales.

    FILE PHOTO: A woman holds her smart phone which displays the Google home page, in this picture illustration taken February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/Illustration/Files

    “The privacy and security of our users is extremely important to us. This claim is without merit, and we’re pleased the Court has dismissed it,” a Google spokesperson said in answer to a request for comment.

    Google is a unit of Alphabet (GOOGL.O), the U.S. tech company.

    Reporting by Douglas Busvine

    Cyber Saturday—China’s Chip Hack, Amazon and Apple’s Denials, Google’s Trust Reversal

    Rope-a-dope. The U.S. Justice Department charged seven Russian military intelligence officers with a number of hacking-related crimes on Thursday. The Russian spies allegedly ran a disinformation campaign—including wire fraud, identity theft, and money laundering—that targeted hundreds of athletes and anti-doping officials in retaliation for the exposure of a Russian state-sponsored doping program. “All of this was done to undermine those organizations’ efforts to ensure the integrity of the Olympic and other games,” said Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division John Demers at a news conference.

    A piece of the puzzle. Jigsaw, an Alphabet unit that builds security, privacy, and anti-censorship tools, has released a new app called Intra. The app is designed to block DNS manipulation attacks, a censorship tactic that certain nation-states, like Venezuela and Turkey, have used to intercept and block or redirect website visits by their populations. Jigsaw said the tool will be embedded by default into the next version of Google’s mobile operating system, Android Pie.

    No fly zone. Google CEO Sundar Pichai paid a quiet visit to the Pentagon following the tech giant’s decision not to renew a contract supplying AI tech to a military program, The Washington Post reports. Pichai supposedly sought to smooth over tensions after his company backed out of the defense deal, which involved analyzing video captured by drones. Thousands of employees had objected to the program, dubbed Project Maven.

    Please re-enter password. California has signed into a law a bill that will require manufacturers of Internet-connected devices to create unique passwords for each device made or sold in the state. In other words, manufacturers of said devices can no longer use generic, pre-programmed passwords like “admin” or “password” to secure their products. If they do, customers have the right to sue for damages.

    From masterpiece to master pieces.

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    Cloud misconfiguration: The security threat too often overlooked

    A survey of 300 IT professionals by Fugue, a cloud infrastructure security provider, reveals that most enterprises are vulnerable to security events caused by cloud misconfiguration, including data breaches and system downtime events.

    From the report:

    • Nine in ten have real concerns about security risks due to misconfiguration, and less than a third continuously monitor for them.
    • Teams report a frequency of 50 or more misconfigurations each day, yet half of the teams only review alerts and remediate issues on a daily—or longer—timeframe, leading to dangerously long infrastructure vulnerability periods.

    Of course, this report (like any vendor-sponsored report) is self-serving. But the message reflects something that I’m seeing a lot today in the real world—and it’s scaring the hell out of me.

    Misconfiguration means that the public cloud server instances, such as storage and compute, are configured in such a way that they are vulnerable to breaches. For example, the National Security Agency recently had an embarrassing moment when someone was able to access secure documents from its Amazon S3 instance with just a browser. It was a classic example of misconfiguration, defeating the default configurations that are secure be default.

    While this seems like a “duh, dummy” moment, the reality is that public cloud configuration is complex, takes specialized training, and if not done right means any security systems you layer on top of your cloud can’t stop hackers running away with your data.

    So, what are you to do? Do these three things, in this order:

    1. Understand that configurations are part of security. It’s often not considered.   Indeed, I’ve had to explain the importance of these 20 times to clients in the last six months, which means that they have not been practicing holistic security.
    2. Use a third-party security tool that can look at configurations constantly. That way, you are not dependent on what native cloud native is telling it; instead, it provides a constant independent check and alerts you when things are misconfigured.
    3. Engage outside security testers to ensure that everything is configured correctly. I’ve often found that these audits do find things that a client missed.

    The complexities of cloud computing, and the chance of human error, will bite you in the butt. So don’t skimp on security planning before deployment nor on security validation after deployment.

    Shares in Chinese tech firms tumble, Lenovo plunges over 20 percent

    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Shares of Chinese hardware companies fell sharply on Friday, led by computer maker Lenovo Group Ltd which lost more than a fifth of its value.

    The Lenovo logo is seen in this illustration photo January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration

    It was not immediately clear what was the cause, but the declines follow a Bloomberg Businessweek report that U.S. tech companies’ systems had been infiltrated by malicious chips inserted by Chinese intelligence agents.

    Bloomberg Businessweek cited unidentified sources from intelligence agencies and business that Chinese spies had placed computer chips inside equipment used by about 30 companies and multiple U.S. government agencies, which would give Beijing secret access to internal networks.

    Apple Inc and Amazon, cited in the report as companies that had been subject to the hardware attack, both denied the report.

    Lenovo dropped as much as 23 percent on Friday morning, while Hong Kong-listed shares of Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE Corp lost more than 14 percent.

    AAC Technologies, a key acoustics component supplier for Apple, fell more than 5 percent.

    Reporting by Sijia Jiang and Donny Kwok; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Edwina Gibbs

    Want to Work on A.I.? Study Philosophy or Communications, Execs Say

    Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—companies everywhere appear to be fighting for workers in the STEM fields to get a head start in building artificial intelligence capability.

    But as companies continue to push into uncharted, albeit promising, territories around A.I., they’re also looking for hires in so-called softer fields to help A.I. mature ethically and free of the unwanted biases that come with their human makers.

    In other words, it’s not just about STEM skills. Speaking at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif. on Tuesday, Fortune 500 and Global 500 executives said they also seek psychologists, philosophers, and interpreters.

    Executives from IBM, Guardian Life Insurance, and RBC said soft skills are very much in demand as they confront the unintended consequences of nascent technology.

    “We decided to build a whole division around responsible A.I.,” said Anna Sekaran, program lead for AI at IBM.”The types of skills we’re bringing in are psychologists, philosophers, that type of profile, that can solve really complex philosophical problems and think about what’s the best way to address that.”

    Consider autonomous cars, for example. What if a self-driving vehicle is confronted with a choice between striking a pedestrian and avoiding her, only to crash and harm the passenger? Workers with skills in the humanities, Sekaran said, may be better equipped to answer those tough ethical questions.

    Guardian Life Insurance CEO Deanna Mulligan, meanwhile, said she is grappling with a different problem: How to take the complicated, technical world of A.I. and make it understandable to the layman. Her company is searching for interpreters to make the language around A.I. more accessible to the rest of the organization.

    “We have a number of Ph.D scientists, and they are wonderful,” she said. “But they may not understand the problems a call center representative might have on the floor. And who is that person who can be a go between? Those people are going to be very valuable going forward. But I don’t know how to train someone for that. We still have to figure that out.”

    For more coverage of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, click here. And subscribe to the Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter on the world’s most powerful women.

    This is Definitely Where Amazon's HQ2 Will Be, Says a Renowned Expert (Oh, the Locals Will Hate This)

    Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

    It’s become a little tired, hasn’t it?

    Now, Bert Sperling, a renowned expert whom the New York Times once said “picks the best places,” has declared that he knows where Jeff Bezos will place his latest monument to commerce. 

    Well, when I say he knows, Sperling’s words are “we can now confidently say.” We being his Best Places website.

    If he’s right, there’ll be protests in the streets. And in the hills and valleys.

    For Sperling confidently says that the location will be a particular part of Loudoun County, Virginia.

    Should you have never ventured there, it’s 35 miles west of Washington D.C. It’ll be shortly served by the new Silver Line of the Washington Metro.

    Oh, but come on, Bezos isn’t going to toss a vast corporate city in the middle of some fields, is he?

    Sperling confidently says that “the new Amazon HQ2 will be [in] the unincorporated community of Oatlands, Virginia.”

    The renowned expert says — confidently — that this decision isn’t about business. Amazon can stick its headquarters anywhere it likes.

    Instead, it needs to be somewhere politically friendly and “near, but not in a mega city.”

    Sperling confidently asserts: 

    Amazon does not want their HQ2 to dominate a region. Consider this. Those 50,000 new employees Amazon has said will be working at HQ2 will bring an additional 120,000 to 140,000 residents to the area in the form of family members, civil workers, and support businesses such as retail, healthcare, and services.

    Sperling explains that a new Amazon HQ will mean an additional 200,000 residents. That’s like dumping Salt Lake City somewhere else. 

    You wouldn’t want to do that to a big city, would you? Sperling offers: 

    With the major influx of population and infrastructure, Amazon will need to avoid the downtown core and essentially create their own city on the outskirts of a major metropolitan area. There is no need to compete for expensive and crowded downtown space. Amazon can create their own bold vision starting with a blank canvas.

    I do hope this bold vision looks a little better than all of Amazon’s ugly physical products.

    Actually, talking of those ugly things, Sperling paints a picture of HQ2 as Bezos’s own technological Truman Show: 

    With a clean slate, architects and planners can create new communities and neighborhoods which incorporate smart homes and streets which are friendly to alternative transportation. With new homes comes the opportunity to use them as test beds for new Amazon products and services such as drones and autonomous vehicles, cashier-free stores, and in-home package delivery.​

    How long before it’s called Amazonville?

    How long before someone markets the location as Virginia Is For Drones?

    Please spare a thought for the happy residents of rural Loudoun County, near the Maryland border. The biggest city around there is Leesburg, with 53,000 people. 

    How will they feel about 200,000 hipsters coming to town? It’ll be like a Zombie Invasion.

    Naturally, I contacted Amazon for swift confirmation of this confident news. All I’ve received so far is an Amazon email encouraging me to buy another book.

    ‘We’re Not Just Waiting for the Future.’ Verizon Launches 5G With Limited, In-Home Only Service

    The drive towards faster next generation wireless networks took a step forward on Monday, as Verizon opened commercial service for a consumer 5G home Internet service in parts of four cities. But the wireless industry still has a long way to go, with nationwide coverage and services for mobile devices and major business uses still a few years away.

    Verizon kicked off its new $70 per month high-speed 5G home Internet service by signing up customers in Sacramento, Houston, Los Angeles, and Indianapolis. Customers who already subscribe to Verizon wireless for phones pay only $50 for the service. With promised speeds of 300 megabits per second, and the chance of reaching 1 gigabit per second in some areas, the 5G wireless service is meant to compete with the very fastest wired home Internet offerings from cable and telecom companies. At 1 Gbps, a customer could download a high-definition movie in under a minute.

    But to get the service out to customers at this time, Verizon had to use gear that doesn’t meet the newest industry-standards for 5G. Some competitors are waiting for compatible equipment, and Verizon is already promising that it may replace customers’ non-standard routers in the future if necessary. The service also isn’t mobile, as the first 5G compatible smartphones won’t hit the market until next year and Verizon is just at the start of upgrading its wireless networks around the country.

    “We’re not just waiting for the future, we’re building it,” Ronan Dunne, Verizon’s head of wireless, explained to Fortune about the decision to move ahead with non-standard gear. By instigating earlier trials, Verizon helped inform and speed up deliberations of the groups that made the standards, he said. “5G is such a big thing, we really should get together and accelerate the momentum to bring 5G to market… Today, globally, the industry is ahead of where it would otherwise have been.”

    The wireless industry could use some added momentum. Revenue growth has stalled in recent years, amid a saturation of smartphones and aggressive price-cutting over new data unlimited plans. Verizon and rivals AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint hope that 5G will offer not just the same old services at higher speeds, but also open up new business opportunities, like the play for home Internet connections. Verizon’s (vz) stock price has risen less than 5% this year and AT&T’s (t) shares have lost 10% while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has gained 9%. T-Mobile (tmus), which is trying to merge with Sprint (s) in part to accelerate its 5G efforts, is up 10% and Sprint has gained 11%.

    Apple and Samsung and most other major brands have yet to announce when they will offer 5G-compatible phones. Lenovo’s Motorola unit released a new 4G phone in August called the Moto Z3 that will be able to upgrade to 5G with an add-on pack coming next year.

    Like AT&T, Verizon is also planning to build a host of smaller cloud computing centers across its network. In combination with 5G, the more geographically dispersed group of data centers will be able to take over some of the computing functions currently included in smartphones. That will allow a new breed of much cheaper phones that rely on the data centers for the calculating power needed to run apps and games.

    “The device cost might be one-tenth of what would otherwise be the case,” Dunne said.

    Stitch Fix Shares Slide 20% Amid Growing Concerns About Amazon Competition

    Stitch Fix stock lost a fifth of its value after the company reported quarterly earnings that beat analyst estimates but revenue that fell slightly short of projections. The results weren’t strong enough to ease investor concerns about the company’s ability to take on Amazon.

    Stitch Fix, a subscription-based personal shopping service, initially saw its stock tick up on the earnings beat before plunging 20% to $35.02 a share, its lowest price in more than a month.

    The company reported revenue of $318.3 million in its fiscal fourth quarter ended July 28, an increase of 23% from the same quarter a year ago. Analysts had been expecting revenue of $318.6 million. Stitch Fix also said active clients rose 25% to 2.7 million, which was below a forecast of 2.81 million clients from StreetAccount.

    While the revenue was slightly below expectations, Stitch Fix indicated revenue in the current quarter could be below analyst forecasts. Stitch Fix sees revenue in its fiscal first quarter coming in between $354 million and $360 million. Analysts had been expecting revenue at the top end of that range, at $359 million.

    The selloff reflects what appears to be less of a sense of disappointment over Stitch Fix’s most recent quarter and more of a growing sense of caution about the startup’s ability to compete against Amazon. Last month, Amazon began testing Scout, a personalized shopping recommendation service that is currently focused on home design. Scout could easily expand into fashion, which would offer Stitch Fix a formidable competitor.

    Stitch Fix was one of a handful of tech startups that went public late last year, paving the way for a strong year in 2018 for tech IPOs. Stitch Fix’s stock rallied as high as $51.19 a share in September, representing a 240% gain over its offering price, before the news about Amazon Scout caused the stock to tumble.

    In a statement, Stitch Fix CEO Katrina Lake described the quarter as “another strong quarter for us” and announced the company is expanding into the U.K. market. “We believe our ability to create a uniquely personalized shopping experience is something that will resonate with consumers and brands outside of the U.S.,” Lake said.