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Why IBM, a 100+ year old tech company might be the next leader in design

(BUSINESS NEWS) Prioritizing design isn’t new for IBM. Back in the 1950’s, founder and then-president Thomas J. Watson declared, “good design is good business,” and the company took to snatching up big-name designers and top talents.

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Designing their future

Despite its 105 year history, information technology company IBM is anything but old-fashioned. In fact, these days the company culture is as innovative and collaborative as the freshest startups. This is especially the case at IBM Design, a branch of the company based out of Austin that develops design solutions and operates almost autonomously from headquarters.

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IBM continues strong after over a century because of a focus on design. About four years ago, the company implemented a $100 million initiative to triple its existing design staff and train its entire staff in design.

“Good design is good business”

Prioritizing design isn’t new for IBM. Back in the 1950’s, founder and then-president Thomas J. Watson declared, “good design is good business,” and the company took to snatching up big-name designers and top talents.

But these days, “the challenges are just too great for one designer,” says general manager of design Phil Gilbert. Instead of hiring design stars, IBM is upping its design game by hiring lots of new graduates and pro designers.

In fact, two-thirds of the 1,300 new design employees at IBM are recent graduates.

Improving the user experience

While business and engineering skills are crucial at IBM, the company likes to center around designers because as Gilbert notes, they have an “intuitive sense” of the user’s needs. In a recent assignment, an airline asked IBM to improve passenger check-in kiosks. While engineers focused on the software features of the kiosk, designers interviewed the gate attendants and discovered that women attendants’ uniforms were so constricting that they couldn’t comfortably reach the plug to charge the kiosk.

In other words, while it’s always easy to add new features to a product, a designer is trained to discover how the customer is actually interacting with the product. “Design is everyone’s job. Not everyone is a designer, but everybody has to have the user as their north star,” Gilbert wrote on IBM’s company blog.

Besides hiring designers, the company has also brought in design researchers who combine design skills with sociology to understand how products are functioning (or failing) in the real world. The information they provide has been crucial for improving the user experience.

Sharing of intentions

“It’s not just radical collaboration but radical transparency. It’s a sharing of intentions, motivations, and information,” says Gilbert.

By the end of this year, over 100,000 IBM employees will have received design training. Besides bringing a user-centric viewpoint to product development, this focus on design also encourages a more collaborative culture.

#IBMDesign

Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Business News

Court green lights demoting an employee for physical disabilities

(BUSINESS NEWS) Court rules the Americans with Disability Act doesn’t fully cover employees – but is the law actually open to some interpretation?

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disabilities wheelchair

Wrongful termination is a hot topic these days, especially in relation to employees with disabilities. It’s commonly thought that if you have a disability, you’re safe and that no one can fire you for simply being disabled. But did you know that’s actually a myth?

When ex-Sheriffs Deputy Brigid Ford injured herself on the job, she was faced with the hard truth about the law surrounding disabilities.

Ford, who worked 12 years as a Sheriff’s Deputy, was injured when a car ran a red light and ran into her patrol car, smashing her hand. This resulted in constant pain and an inability to use her right hand. She spent the next few months working in alternative, lighter-duty areas of the department. But even after a year, she was unable to return to her initial post.

Because of this, the Sheriff’s department offered her 3 options:

1. She could move to a civilian job, with a cut in pay. This would include any associated accommodations she may need.

2. She could resign.

3. If she didn’t choose either of the above, they claimed she could be terminated.

Ford ended up choosing a demotion, and then elected to sue the department for violating the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). At the end of these proceedings, the court found that the demotion was reasonable.

But is this really the standard application for the law?

Although there are many myths associated with the ADA, the law clearly states that in order to provide reasonable accommodation for an employee, you must go through an “interactive process”, which means there must be some back and forth to accommodate the employee.

In Ford’s case, she was unable to continue her initial job as she was not provided with all the accommodations she requested and therefore, only had enough accommodations to continue with a civilian job.

What’s strange about this situation is that she was provided with a few in-depth provisions that would meet her needs, such as training for her supervisors, extra breaks when needed, so she could deal with her pain, and a more ergonomic work station. However, when she requested a voice-activated software for her computer, which would limit her need to use her right hand, she was denied.

The court stated that if there had been a lateral position available, with no decrease in pay, and Ford was qualified for the job, the ADA would have protected Ford a bit better, favoring this option over demotion.

Nevertheless, with the rise of documented disabilities in America, the lines the ADA draws for employees and employers-alike continue to seem blurred. Just like many other laws, the act seems to be open to some interpretation, but at the end of the day, when something like this is brought to the court system, American citizens are truly at the mercy of our court’s Judges and how they translate the laws.

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Business News

Amazon creates new tool for doctors, but does it actually help patients?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Amazon offers tool for doctors to add recorded conversations to your medical file, are they overstepping their bounds as an online seller?

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On December 2, 2019, Amazon announced the release of its new service for Amazon Transcribe, a medical speech support service. This machine learning service will be able to take out the “middleman” and transcribe medical jargon from physicians in real time to patient charts, claims Amazon.

The release of Amazon Transcribe Medical adds to the company’s muscle bulking stage with its other investments as it prepares to get further into the medical arena. Recently released services like Alexa’s medication management (which allows people to request prescription refills & medication reminders through Alexa) and Amazon Care (Amazon’s own healthcare service for employees) are a few points adding to Amazon’s overall medical category weight. And let’s not forget how Amazon is also testing out the use of Alexa within a hospital context too.

However with further developments with technology into the medical field, it also brings more questions about how harmful this type of technology can be or how helpful it is overall.

Privacy
All throughout the world there are more and more issues of security as newer and advanced technologies are peaking. It is almost as if people aren’t thinking enough of how information can be used negatively, did Amazon think about that? For example, say some extremists dislike a women getting an abortion through legal means and then leek her private information to the world or take their own actions to “solve” it.

What Happens Afterward
We all know that companies like Facebook or Google stores and records our information from every click and video watched, but what will happen once Amazon starts this with medical information? How will Amazon plan on acting with this stored information that physicians will be creating on our behalf? Amazon has yet to say how they plan on deleting this transcribed information afterwards or how they will use this information in the future.

More People Cared For
Who am I to say what will not be beneficial for any doctor that might spend hours trying to fill out all of their charts accurately after their excruciating shift? Maybe this is the type of change that is needed to turn the more time consuming tasks that require the most accuracy for consistent patient care. Thus, leading to doctors being able to manage more people coming through the door, and an overall healthier world.

Medical Breakthroughs
If given consent, maybe having this data transcribed within one place can create better medical breakthroughs for the future. It could allow for easier transfer of data and for easier mapping of different patterns of symptoms that would take long to diagnose. Maybe this could be the 1st step into revolutionizing the procedures of the healthcare industry with more advancements to come for the betterment of the world. Who knows?

It is not hard to see the good intentions that Amazon has and how they are trying to make the world easier to live in. It is honorable, and what this writer is asking more business do. But as the famous quote says “ the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

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Business News

TrueDialog left millions of your texts unsecured, when will they learn?

(BUSINESS NEWS) TrueDialog has left millions of text messages unsecured, these include university finance, job alerts, business marketing, and account data

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truedialog security

Another day, another data breach. Tens of millions of people were potentially exposed because messages and personal information stored in a database of Austin-based company, TrueDialog, were left unprotected. According to researchers the database was left on the internet without a password and none of the data was encrypted.

Noam Rotem and Ran Locar, a research team at vpnMentor, discovered the breach on Nov. 19, 2019.

“This was a huge discovery, with a massive amount of private data exposed, including tens of millions of SMS text messages,” the research team said on the vpnMentor website. “Aside from private text messages, our team discovered millions of account usernames and passwords, PII data of TrueDialog users and their customers, and much more.”

TrueDialog says it is the leading SMS provider for mass text messaging, SMS marketing and personalized two-way SMS texting, according to its website. The company has been in business 10 years and provides its clients, mostly businesses and higher education organizations, with the ability to send bulk emails to clients and students.

Among the information left unprotected were messages about university finance applications, job alerts, marketing messages from businesses with discount codes, usernames and passwords, TechCrunch reported after examining a portion of the data.

The database was taken offline after TrueDialog was contacted regarding the exposure. Chief Executive John Wright didn’t return TechCrunch’s requests for comment. He did not acknowledge the security lapse to TechCrunch. The researchers at vpnMentor offered assistance to help with the security breach, but TrueDialog officials did not respond.

TrueDialog works with over 990 cell phone operators and reaches more than 5 billion subscribers around the world.

Along with its clients and their customers being left exposed, TrueDialog was also left exposed. Rotem and Locar said the breach has potentially exposed tens of millions of people in multiple ways.

Among the information the pair found were phone numbers (recipients and users), email addresses, message content, full names, and TrueDialog account information.

“It’s rare for one database to contain such a huge volume of information that’s also incredibly varied,” they said.

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