Speed Read Your Way To Being More Productive

Business How To’s

11 June 2018

Speed Read Your Way To Being More Productive

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

Have you seen the WhatsApp forward that’s been doing the rounds lately? It asks you to gauge your reading speed, ergo your comprehension levels, through a short video where the rate of text on screen gets progressively faster until you’re literally at the edge of your seat trying to keep up (gasp). Most people seem to manage about 500-550 words a minute. The others? They are Speed Readers.

Entertaining forwards apart, the numbers tell a different story. Technical information reading averages at 50-75 words a minute. Let’s find out what makes speed readers do what they do; seemingly effortlessly.

What is speed reading?

Speed reading is the art of assimilating more words and phrases in a shorter time, sometimes even at once. This mind tool has long been touted as a comprehension method used by experts. Let’s break it down a bit, shall we?

We all read visually, taking in words as we see them, moving from left to right, one line at a time. As we improve our reading, we can take in more words, even jumping ahead and making connections to previous words and drawing meaning from what we just read. Speed reading does the same, but at a different level altogether.

-With speed reading, you can read entire phrases at once, unless it’s a new word.

-You can widen your vision to take in more words in a single glance.

-Lastly, you learn to read horizontally as well as vertically. Speed readers can take in not just more words in a single line, but also read and understand different sets of words on two or three different lines. All in a single glance.

You too can learn this previously-mastered-by-a-few skill to enhance productivity in your daily life. Those tedious reports, lengthy case studies and technical white papers that you need to read to stay abreast with your industry; you can skim through them in less time than usual and still retain a good grasp of what you read. Imagine the number of minutes, potentially hours, you can save.

Here’s the science (read: hacks) to make it happen:

#1 Avoid back-skipping

Back-skipping, or regressive eye movement, is a natural eye reading movement. We read in a linear fashion, but the meaning does not always follow that pattern. So unconsciously the eye makes rapid backward movements to re-register a word or to cue memory in this quest for comprehension.

Making a conscious attempt to read the sentence right the first time, giving the words on the page/ screen your complete attention is one way to reduce (if not completely avoid) back-skipping.

#2 Improve the count of the number of words that your mind registers

Begin with determining your current reading speed. For this, take a standard book and figure out how much you read in one minute. That is quite simply your WPM (word per minute) rate.

To improve this speed you need to enlist the help of trackers and pacers. Pick up a book and using a capped pen begin underling each word, while keeping your eyes above the tip of the pen. Read each line in one second; do not worry about comprehension right now. Focus on finishing the line in one second. Try and increase your speed with each subsequent page. Do this for 2 minutes. Now increase your speed to finishing a line in ½ second. Do this for 3 minutes. Practice, practice, practice.

Next, try and improve your peripheral vision. If you stare at the centre of the screen you can still see the sides, right? If you train this peripheral vision to focus more clearly, you can increase your reading speed.

For this, once again pick up a capped pen and underline the words as you read a line in a second. Start from the first words of the sentence and end on the last. Do this for 2 minutes. Next, start at the second word and end two words in. Do this for 2 minutes. Now, start with the third word and end 3 words in. Are you starting to get what is happening here?

With enough practice, you should be able to skip words and still be able to get the meaning of what you just read.

#3 Reduce the duration and number of fixations per word

We’ve already spoken about back-skipping, but there’s another cool term for how we read. It’s called the saccadic movement, a jump. Were you aware that we do not read in a smooth straight line? Close one eyelid and place a finger on it, and slowly scan from left to right. Felt the ‘jumpy’ movement? That is how we receive the world and that is how we read as well.

These jumps end at a fixation, a temporary screenshot of sorts, which captures whatever is in your focus area. Normally a fixation lasts about ¼ to ½ seconds. The above mentioned tracker method should help you improve this speed as well.

#4 Helpful apps: Spreeder and Outread

If all this looks like a lot of hard work to you, check out these two cool apps. The apps will help you get the basics, and maybe more, of speed reading. Download them and watch your speed increase.

Spreeder: This is a Chrome extension which uses the Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) technique to help you overpower the information overload. The app flashes words from your document onto the screen. All you need to do is add the document to the Spreeder cloud library and it does the rest for you.

Outread: Outread uses a variation of meta guiding to give you a crash course in reading. Just like Spreeder, you simply upload the document that you need to read and leave the rest to Outread.

Speed reading has a lot of supporters. However, the question that plagues us today is whether reading fast actually benefits us in any way. Our recommendation is to limit this technique for news stories or your email, ideally not something that requires complete comprehension.

Are you willing to try your hand at speed reading? Share your experience. We’d love to know.

Small Data: Your Guide to Achieving Big Success

Business How To’s

11 June 2019

Small Data: Your Guide to Achieving Big Success

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

From being a buzzword to becoming synonymous with sound business decisions, big data has come a long way.

However, investing in big data can be a huge challenge for startups and small businesses, considering its strong appetite for resources. Add integration costs to it, and you have a foolproof formula for drilling a hole through your budgetary allocations. Then there are the additional challenges of complying with almost-draconian regulatory challenges.

All said, data quality remains the biggest challenge of big data. Despite the availability of analytical tools, sifting through vast chunks of data to extract relevant and accurate pieces of information remains a demanding task, hence big data’s appetite for resources.

Small data to the rescue

Enter small data. Small data refers to data that is understandable by humans. Unlike big data, small data comprises of data sets that are easily accessible, limited in volume, informative and, more importantly, can be interpreted without using complex analytical tools. It typically deals with information that addresses a specific query or issue, delivering promptly actionable insights that can aid critical decisions. Meeting schedules, individual health records, weekly reports, and weather forecasts are some examples of small data.

What’s in it for startups?

For startups, efficiency and productivity are the most valuable aspects;optimal utilization of resources is crucial.As such, spending time and resources on integrating high-end analytics can be farfetching for a small business when it all boils down to identifying prospective customer needs – not sentiments, not trends, but needs.

Small data helps you do just that; it enables you to identify the areas of opportunity without you having to invest time and other resources in complex data collection tasks.

Let’s take a look at how you can leverage small data to up your startup’s ante.

  1. It’s all around

Social channels are replete with small data that can readily be collected to inform marketing and buyer decisions. All you have to do is analyze the collected data to extract actionable pieces of information.

For instance, if you’re planning to start a marketing campaign for a product launch, you can simply collect data metrics from your social media campaign regarding how users interact with products. Then you just analyze it to gain meaningful insights to target your campaign to the right audience, with the right messaging.

  1. It’s quick and cost-effective

You don’t need a team of highly skilled data analystsor complex business intelligence systems to handle small data. Data mining can be done with spreadsheets, saving both, time and costs. Moreover, small data can be collected from open source data collection tools, such as ODK Collect.

  1. It’s all about the end user

Small data is all about the end user, helping you focus on their needs without going into the murkier details of customer behavior across channels,so you can concentrate on creating customized user experiences through targeted campaigns.

Lego’s remarkable turnaround

Lego is a brand that needs no introduction. However, over the years, Lego faced quite a blow, thanks to the emergence of immersive digital games. Expert big data studies seemed to suggest that the future generations would eventually lose interest in Lego, owing to their lack of time and patience. This led the brand to move away from its core product, shifting their focus to theme parks, apparels, video games, TV programs, and books.

Nevertheless, Lego’s remarkable turnaround was made possible by small data when in early 2004, the brand’s marketing team paid a visit to the home of an 11-year old Lego fan in Germany. The boy, a passionate skateboarder, proudly held a pair of worn-out sneakers as his trophy.

It took no time for the team to realize that children are motivated to be popular among their peers by attaining mastery over their chosen skill, be it video games or skateboarding. It was this chance observation, and not the expensive big data studies, that fueled Lego’s turnaround. They refocused on their core product, this time making it more detailed and complex, to deliver a challenging yet immersive experience for its users.

As a result, Lego’s sales rose by 11 percent in 2014 to exceed $2 billion and trump Mattel as the world’s largest toy maker!

Conclusion

Big data, despite all its uses and benefits, misses the most important aspect of data harnessing: the opportunity lies in the details. And details are seldom overlooked with small data at your behest. Small data is all about your target audience, giving you actionable insights that you can take advantage of to accomplish incredible results. Add to it the immense cost and resource benefits you can enjoy, leveraging small data effectively can open a lot of avenues for your business to grow and prosper.

Strategies for winning the World Cup of marketing

Business How To’s

03 June 2019

Strategies for winning the World Cup of marketing

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

Cricket is big business in India and with the World Cup here once again, everybody is set to follow the excitement. Teams are gearing up to play their best, fans can’t wait to see their favourite players in action and big brands are getting ready to ride this wave with their marketing strategies. Who will be the winner this time around?

Let’s take a look at some of the strategies that can be used to up the marketing game in the playing field during one of the world’s biggest tournaments.

#1 Emotion

Brands can do a wonderful job igniting passion in fans for their favourite team. This is an excellent opportunity to write a song full of positives and build hope that they will bring the world cup home again. Using inspiring music and smart activation on social media, it is possible to turn the brand song into an anthem and thus kindle enthusiasm.

#2 User-generated content and participation

Does your brand come in multiple flavours or varieties? You can invite consumers to participate in a competition to decide which one is the world champion among them. This is consumer participation at its best. You can create social media buzz, get consumers involved in the brand beyond just consumption and generate massive PR too. An added bonus, you can get consumer feedback through this activity on what really works and what doesn’t.

#3 Cross-media campaigns

As a sponsor, instead of following a typical signage approach, a brand can deploy a multi-media campaign getting fans involved in the excitement of the game. Invite fans to share information about the players and the best story can then be splashed across social media platforms. Conduct quizzes via text messages and the right answers with the name can be displayed on digital screens at the venue in real time, to be seen by thousands.

#4 Social media-led campaigns

Build excitement on social media by asking fans to predict winners and the best players. Track the game in real time across all digital channels and change stats as the game progresses. Fans can participate in a worldwide real-time voting system to try and predict the winning team and the Man of the Match.

#5 Celebrity

Using a cricket celebrity always works. However, instead of promoting your brand or product outright, make the promotion about the sportsperson. Is there a story around the sportsperson that you can use? This will generate more eyeballs among fans. And remember, the cricket celebrity need not be a current player, but can be someone who has long retired but still evokes nostalgia among fans.

#6 Grassroot initiatives

Take the game to the fans. Develop a marketing strategy that focuses on areas that the players of the teams originally come from. Make the people part of the strategy and inspire them to participate in creating the message that goes out to their team player. This will do wonders for brand equity and the recall value of your brand.

#7 Guerrilla tactics

If you are not an official World Cup sponsor it does not mean that you cannot get noticed. Try some ‘ambush marketing’ to cut through all the promotional noise around the world cup. Reach the fans where they are: catch them in bars and pubs where the games are being telecast; have flash mobs converging at the venue of the matches. This will create a buzz and get people talking about your brand.

#8 Sports-led campaigns

Does your brand have any sports connect? The World Cup is a splendid opportunity to reinforce those credentials and make its voice heard on a global platform. Start small, at local cricket grounds, and then take the game to the big players. Try and get your brand to the actual players where people watching them can see it clearly. Share the clips from these moments on social media and talk about your brand helping improve the teams’ performances.

Conclusion

The World Cup is a splendid opportunity for brands to get seen and talked about on a global platform. Whether you choose to be a sponsor or not, these strategies can help you do just that.

Are you aware of these top trends affecting HR today?

Business How To’s

27 May 2019

Are you aware of these top trends affecting HR today?

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

In a world that’s focused more on disruption, innovation and ideas, it is sometimes natural to ignore the ideas and trends that are affecting HR departments. After all, it is the folks in the HR department who hire the people who go on to come up with all those disruptive ideas, right?

Let’s take a moment to find out what are the top trends, in no particular order, in HR today.

#1 It’s a job seeker’s market
Hiring is on the rise and certain skill sets in all industries are hot right now. But there are challenges too. Every industry has some problematic jobs, those that are constantly in need of the right employees – in hospitals it’s good doctors, software engineers in IT, and line engineers in utility services.

With no immediate solution to this shortage of talent, it becomes all the more critical for employers to retain their talent by focusing on workforce development. This works two ways – existing employees do not go looking for a change, and potential employees look at the company as a way to better their careers.

#2 Paid time off is precious
It is important to offer paid time off to employees, especially parental leave and sick leave. Many companies globally, including Adobe, Netflix and Nestle, and closer home, Infosys and TCS have made news with their much-needed paid paternal leave policies.

While many companies have these leaves in place, not many employees take them simply because they are not aware of them. Transparency and clear communication with regards to leaves is critical in making more employees aware of their rights.

#3 Wellness and self-funded healthcare plans
Many employers are going out of their way to offer economical health benefits to their employees without compromising on quality. Some of these include wellness programs, onsite health centers and even self-funded health plans. When an employer focuses on employee wellness, it not only makes them feel cared for but also happier. By bringing healthcare into the organisation, employers are helping reduce the cost of healthcare that employees would need to receive.

#4 Goodbye annual raise; hello variable yearly bonus
One trend that is sweeping HR is the drop in yearly fixed salary raise and an increase in variable bonuses. Employees too seem to prefer a yearly bonus – they feel that gives them ‘greater control’ as it is often a reflection of their performance. The shift away from annual raises is also representative of a more holistic approach that companies have taken towards compensation and benefits. Companies that offer a strong healthcare program or have an amazing workplace culture can afford to pay slightly lower salaries. Eventually it is all about what employees want.

#5 The end of annual reviews
Many employees seem to be opting for regular feedback rather than an annual one. This is in part because of app-enabled technology and millennials too. Most next generation employees believe that an annual review system is cumbersome and doesn’t really have a benefit, neither for the employee nor the employer. With everything in their lives immediate and tech-enabled, an annual review is dying a fast death indeed.

It is interesting to note that companies like GE are swapping their ancient, analog systems for supple, mobile-enabled programs. But there’s a challenge – any performance review should continue to remain objective and minimize bias, which means collecting more data and not less.

#6 Managing multiple generations is more important than ever
Let’s accept that millennials are now the majority in any organisation, but that does not mean sidestepping Gen X and Baby Boomers. If anything, employers need to ask themselves how they can make all generations work together while moving forward.

The good news is that the needs of the millennials and Gen X are not too different. Both need instant access to information, so it might make sense to move beyond emails and start using mobile apps and other newer messaging tools. Interestingly, the Baby Boomers generation too is quite open to adopting these new pieces of tech.

Millennials might tend to be more idealistic, but they and Baby Boomers want the same things – an opportunity to work hard and to make the world better. Keep communication lines open and tell all employees that learning is a two-way street.

#7 Gamification of HR
Most HR policies sound great but implementing many of them is quite cumbersome, to tell the truth. HR tech accessibility is the biggest grouse, with some of it for employers only, leaving employee, the real beneficiaries, out of the loop.

More and more HR teams are starting to release the benefits of implementing technology that will help everyone within the organisation.

Accessible apps and gamification of HR is gaining momentum. Apps that can be accessed via computers at work and even the mobile phone are becoming increasingly popular. Corporate learning is one such aspect that has benefited greatly. Quizzes, social media contests and friendly competition can encourage daily interactions too.

Conclusion
Innovation and disruption seems to be a natural expectation of marketing, sales, production, design and other traditional creative departments. However, as people evolve and gravitate towards these newer ways of working, it is imperative that the HR departments play catch up and find innovative and disruptive ways to engage and retain the talent in their organisations.