Tag Archives: evolve

Announcing Imagine Cup Junior – AI for Good Challenge | | Microsoft EDU

As technology continues to evolve, we are faced with an incredible opportunity to leverage the power of new solutions and human expertise to unlock some of the biggest challenges we face in society. It’s why Microsoft invests in AI for Good initiatives, which support and empower those working to address humanitarian, environmental and cultural challenges by creating a more sustainable and accessible world.

What’s more, we believe the future is in the hands of students around the world who are increasingly driven by a sense of purpose and who want to have a positive impact on the world and their communities. That’s why I am incredibly excited to share that we are bringing Imagine Cup Junior to secondary students worldwide, providing an opportunity for students to take part in a global challenge while learning about the power of Artificial Intelligence and its responsible use to change the world.

Introduction to Imagine Cup Junior 2020 from Anthony Salcito, Vice President, Microsoft Education

Video for Announcing Imagine Cup Junior – AI for Good Challenge

Imagine Cup Junior is an extension of the hugely popular Imagine Cup – a global competition that empowers the next generation of computer science students to team up and use their creativity, passion and knowledge of technology to create applications that shape how we live, work and play. The introduction of the Imagine Cup Junior challenge will now enable younger students, starting at age 13 up to 18, to learn about technology and come up with ideas for improving the world around them, while building 21st century skills like communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.

This year’s challenge is focused on Artificial Intelligence and introducing students to Microsoft’s AI for Good initiatives so they can think of solutions to issues that matter to them. This includes AI for Humanitarian Action, AI for Earth, AI for Cultural Heritage and AI for Accessibility.

The challenge is designed to be approachable for all students and educators, and it does not require any existing knowledge of technology or cloud concepts. We’ve created a host of materials, including templates and AI resource guides, that will help make it easy for educators and students to participate. The beauty of Imagine Cup Junior is that students can be entirely new to the concept of AI and build the competence to continue learning about technology and its impact throughout their school years. And for those students eager to learn more, we’ve created an extra opportunity to get hands on with Azure and the Wick Editor to bring their concepts to life.

To get started, educators need to register at www.imaginecup.com/junior which will provide access to the Imagine Cup Junior resource kit including educator guides, student guides, templates and slides for the following modules:

  • Module 1         Fundamentals of AI
  • Module 2         Machine Learning
  • Module 3         AI Applications in Real Life
  • Module 4         Deep Learning and Neural Networks
  • Module 5         AI for Good

Included in the resource kit is a “Build your project in a day” kit, with videos from members of Microsoft’s Education, Artificial Intelligence and Cloud teams. This can be used in class to inspire students and coach them on how to get started, and perhaps even spark excitement to one day work in the field of AI. Students can participate in teams of between three to six people.

Registration opens today to allow educators time over the holidays to get creative with incorporating the challenge into class curriculum. Submissions for team projects will be open from February 3, 2020 and close April 17, 2020. To ensure the privacy of students, all submissions must be made by educators/instructors on behalf of their students. While we can’t wait to see ALL the amazing ideas of students around the world, Microsoft will be proud to recognize the top three ideas from each region – America’s, Asia, and EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). They will win a Windows 10 device and receive an Imagine Cup Junior trophy.

Challenge rules and regulations can be found here.

It is never too early to get started, and we hope by cultivating student creativity and passion for technology it will spark interest in and support the development of careers at the cutting edge of technology.

Register today at www.imaginecup.com/junior and empower students to truly change the world.

Open only to schools/instructor led clubs for students 13+. Game ends 4/17/20. For Official Rules, see here.

Explore tools for Future Ready SkillsExplore tools for Future Ready Skills

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Customize Excel and track notes in Outlook—here’s what’s new to Microsoft 365 in November

In today’s workplace, change is the new normal. To keep up, we all need to evolve and improve. Last month at the Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida, we announced a ton of Microsoft 365 innovations designed to put artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technologies to work for you. And we’ll continue to innovate across the Microsoft 365 experience, so our customers always have the best tools to navigate an increasingly distributed and fast-paced world. But to succeed at work today, organizations need more than great tools. They need to foster a culture of learning where their people can continue to develop essential skills. We want to help, so this month we introduced The Art of Teamwork toolkit, an interactive curriculum that uses the five attributes of the world’s most successful teams to help your team create and foster healthy team dynamics. We hope you’ll use it—and future educational support coming your way in 2020—to help your organization continue to succeed.

Let’s take a look at what else is new in November.

New features for personal productivity and collaboration

App updates to give you more choice and help you stay in the flow of work across devices and apps.

Keep track of Sticky Notes in Outlook on the web—Sticky Notes allows you to capture ideas, notes, and important info across the apps you already use. Now you can conveniently view, edit, and create notes directly in Outlook for the web, making it easier than ever to keep track of your notes as you go through email. Sticky Notes in Outlook for the web will begin rolling out next month to all users.

Animated image of Sticky Notes being used in Outlook on the web.

Switch to a darker OneNote canvas with Dark Mode—From complex travel schedules to killer meal plans, OneNote is like a second brain to help you track it all. So it should look the way you want. We’re excited to announce that a Dark Mode option is now rolling out for OneNote 2016. Using Dark Mode helps make both the product and your notes more legible, and can improve readability in low light environments, provide better contrast, and reduce eye strain. Dark Mode is available for all Office 365 subscribers and non-volume licensing Office 2019 customers.

Also, in response to feedback over the past year, we’re pleased to announce that we’re continuing mainstream support for OneNote 2016 beyond October 2020—so you can continue using the version of OneNote that works best for you.

Animated image of Dark Mode being used in OneNote.

Collaborate without disrupting a shared workbook with Sheet View—Earlier this month, we announced Sheet View in Excel, a new way of letting users create customized views without disrupting others, so collaboration is seamless. Sheet View allows users to sort and filter the data they need, and then select an option to make those changes visible just to themselves or to everyone working in the document. Once selecting to make changes just for yourself, that filter and sort will not affect other collaborators’ view of the workbook. All your cell level edits propagate through the file regardless of your view, so you can make all your edits right in your personal Sheet View. Sheet View is rolling out to all users using Excel on the web over the next few weeks.

Animated image of Sheet View being selected by an Excel user.

Upload files to Forms questions for added context—Sometimes you’d like respondents to a form to upload or attach files to provide important information or context when answering questions. Now Microsoft Forms enables you to allow users to include file uploads. With this new feature, you can easily create a resume collection form, a claim form, or a photography competition form. To get started, click the drop-down menu to add advanced question types and select File upload. Once you successfully add a file upload question, a folder will be automatically created in your OneDrive or SharePoint.

Animated image of a file being uploaded in Microsoft Forms.

The new Productivity Score, simplified licensing, and the latest Windows 10 release

New capabilities to help you transform workplace productivity, tap into the power of the cloud, and simplify licensing.

Transform how work gets done with insights from Microsoft Productivity Score—At Ignite, we announced Productivity Score to help deliver visibility into how your organization works. Productivity Score identifies where you can enable improved employee and technology experiences—so people can reach their goals, and actions to update skills and systems, so everyone can do their best work.

For example, Productivity Score can recommend user training around how to better collaborate as well as provide IT with documentation to configure external sharing and fine-tune policies, remove problem agents, or upgrade hardware to reduce friction. Join the private preview by filling out the form and see your score in the first week of December 2019.

Screenshot of Productivity Score in the Microsoft 365 admin center.

Leverage advanced security offerings with the U.S. Government Community Clouds—Earlier this month, we announced the general availability of Microsoft Cloud App Security and Azure Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) for U.S. Government GCC High customers. The release of these services delivers advanced security functionality for customers while enabling them to meet increased compliance and security standards. Eligible customers will need a GCC High account or an Azure Government account to purchase Microsoft Cloud App Security and/or Azure ATP licenses. To start a trial for either service within EMS E5, please work with your account team.

Simplified licensing for Windows 10 co-management—We’re bringing System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) and Microsoft Intune together in a new, unified product called Microsoft Endpoint Manager that delivers a seamless, end-to-end management solution without the complexity of a migration or disruption. We’re also excited to announce that the simplified licensing makes Microsoft Intune user licenses available to ConfigMgr customers to co-manage their existing Windows 10 PCs. The change in licensing terms are expected to go into effect in early December 2019.

Announcing Microsoft Endpoint Manager

Learn how we’re integrating Microsoft Intune, Configuration Manager, and more into a single solution called Microsoft Endpoint Manager.

Watch the video

Get the latest version of Windows 10—Windows 10 version 1909 is now available—offering new capabilities and enhancements, intelligent security, simplified updates, flexible management, and enhanced productivity. Highlights include the new Windows Search experience in Explorer, the new cloud clipboard with history viewing, support for third-party digital assistants, processor enhancements, additional customization for kiosk mode, and more. Version 1909 is rolling out now for consumers and IT admins.

As always, everything we create for Microsoft 365 is designed to help you and your organization achieve more by being more productive. Over the last 12 months, we worked hard to build an increasingly seamless experience that uses AI and automation to help you collaborate across platforms, streamline your workflow, harness organizational knowledge, and stay ahead of ever-evolving security threats.

We look forward to bringing you so much more innovation and educational tools in the year to come. Equipped with incredible tech and the right educational support, there’s no end to what you can achieve.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

VMware’s Bitnami acquisition grows its development portfolio

The rise of containers and the cloud has changed the face of the IT market, and VMware must evolve with it. The vendor has moved out of its traditional data center niche and — with its purchase of software packager Bitnami — has made a push into the development community, a change that presents new challenges and potential. 

Historically, VMware delivered a suite of system infrastructure management tools. With the advent of cloud and digital disruption, IT departments’ focus expanded from monitoring systems to developing applications. VMware has extended its management suite to accommodate this shift, and its acquisition of Bitnami adds new tools that ease application development.

Building applications presents difficulties for many organizations. Developers spend much of their time on application plumbing, writing software that performs mundane tasks — such as storage allocation — and linking one API to another.

Bitnami sought to simplify that work. The company created prepackaged components called installers that automate the development process. Rather than write the code themselves, developers can now download Bitnami system images and plug them into their programs. As VMware delves further into hybrid cloud market territory, Bitnami brings simplified app development to the table.

Torsten Volk, managing research director at Enterprise Management AssociatesTorsten Volk

“Bitnami’s solutions were ahead of their time,” said Torsten Volk, managing research director at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), a computer consultant based out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. “They enable developers to bulletproof application development infrastructure in a self-service manner.”

The value Bitnami adds to VMware

Released under the Apache License, Bitnami’s modules contain commonly coupled software applications instead of just bare-bones images. For example, a Bitnami WordPress stack might contain WordPress, a database management system (e.g., MySQL) and a web server (e.g., Apache).

Bitnami takes care of several mundane programming chores. Its keeps all components up-to-date — so if it finds a security problem, it patches that problem — and updates those components’ associated libraries. Bitnami makes its modules available through its Application Catalogue, which functions like an app store.

The company designed its products to run on a wide variety of systems. Bitnami supports Apple OS X, Microsoft Windows and Linux OSes. Its VM features work with VMware ESX and ESXi, VirtualBox and QEMU. Bitnami stacks also are compatible with software infrastructures such as WAMP, MAMP, LAMP, Node.js, Tomcat and Ruby. It supports cloud tools from AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform and Oracle Cloud. The installers, too, feature a wide variety of platforms, including Abante Cart, Magento, MediaWiki, PrestaShop, Redmine and WordPress. 

Bitnami seeks to help companies build applications once and run them on many different configurations.

“For enterprise IT, we intend to solve for challenges related to taking a core set of application packages and making them available consistently across teams and clouds,” said Milin Desai, general manager of cloud services at VMware.

Development teams share project work among individuals, work with code from private or public repositories and deploy applications on private, hybrid and public clouds. As such, Bitnami’s flexibility made it appealing to developers — and VMware.

How Bitnami and VMware fit together

[VMware] did not pay a premium for the products, which were not generating a lot of revenue. Instead, they wanted the executives, who are all rock stars in the development community.
Torsten VolkManaging Research Director, EMA

VMware wants to extend its reach from legacy, back-end data centers and appeal to more front-end and cloud developers.

“In the last few years, VMware has gone all in on trying to build out a portfolio of management solutions for application developers,” Volk said. VMware embraced Kubernetes and has acquired container startups such as Heptio to prove it.

Bitnami adds another piece to this puzzle, one that provides a curated marketplace for VMware customers who hope to emphasize rapid application development.

“Bitnami’s application packaging capabilities will help our customers to simplify the consumption of applications in hybrid cloud environments, from on-premises to VMware Cloud on AWS to VMware Cloud Provider Program partner clouds, once the deal closes,” Desai said.

Facing new challenges in a new market

However, the purchase moves VMware out of its traditional virtualized enterprise data center sweet spot. VMware has little name recognition among developers, so the company must build its brand.

“Buying companies like Bitnami and Heptio is an attempt by VMware to gain instant credibility among developers,” Volk said. “They did not pay a premium for the products, which were not generating a lot of revenue. Instead, they wanted the executives, who are all rock stars in the development community.”  

Supporting a new breed of customer poses its challenges. Although VMware’s Bitnami acquisition adds to its application development suite — an area of increasing importance — it also places new hurdles in front of the vendor. Merging the culture of a startup with that of an established supplier isn’t always a smooth process. In addition, VMware has bought several startups recently, so consolidating its variety of entities in a cohesive manner presents a major undertaking.

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CIO position: Evolve conference shows many ways to manage IT

The annual Evolve Technology Conference, which ran last month in Las Vegas, put the spotlight on the CIO position and drove home one point in particular on the top-level technology management job: There’s more than one way to do it.

Trace3, an IT solutions provider based in Irvine, Calif., hosts the Evolve leadership and technology event, which attracts numerous CIOs and IT managers who discuss emerging technology and business trends. The conference program, which this year included keynotes from retired NFL quarterback and five-time league MVP Peyton Manning and entrepreneur and author Peter Hinssen, culminates with the Outlier Award. The award recognizes a technology manager who “consistently delivers dynamic innovation and outstanding leadership,” according to Trace3.

I had the opportunity to speak with the eight finalists for the Outlier Award at the Evolve conference. I was one of seven judges pulled together from the ranks of CIOs and tech writers to evaluate the candidates and cast our votes. The two-day process revealed a variety of takes on IT management philosophy among those holding a CIO position or similar tech role.

Harnessing emerging technologies

Some of the finalists take a deep dive in technology. Darren Haas, senior vice president of software engineering at GE Digital and the Outlier Award winner, is the technologist’s technologist. Haas co-founded Siri and is one of the personal assistant application’s original developers, harnessing in recent years such technologies as Apache Mesos, an open source cluster manager. After Apple’s Siri acquisition in 2010, Haas helped devise Apple’s proprietary cloud services platform. Haas now is pursuing a similar task at GE Digital, where he supports a number of initiatives, including an edge-to-cloud IoT deployment.

Outlier finalist Ravi Nekkalapu also deals with cutting-edge technology in his role as CIO and head of IT at Drive Shack, a company that’s building virtual reality golfing complexes. He didn’t have much of a choice: The virtual reality- and augmented reality-driven golfing systems Drive Shack envisioned didn’t exist when he took the job in 2016. Nekkalapu had to evaluate technology and vendors and essentially build everything from scratch to equip Drive Shack’s 60,000 square-foot facility in Orlando, Fla. The prospect of fielding new technology attracted Nekkalapu to the Drive Shack assignment, but perhaps not the sport of golf. He acknowledged he had little interest in golf prior to joining Drive Shack from a previous IT management role at Wyndham Worldwide.

Building the foundation for innovation

Innovation is well and good, but the technology foundation must be rock solid. Philip Irby, Outlier finalist and CIO at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas said he takes an architecture-first view of IT, in which stability is the core objective and security is “part of our DNA.” In his IT management philosophy, innovative systems can be built on a reliable and secure platform. To wit, the hotel resort and casino has launched a new online component to its rewards program that delivers offers directly to customers’ mobile devices.

Stability as the foundation of innovation is also a key theme for Michael McGibbney, senior vice president of delivery and operations at SAP SuccessFactors and an Outlier finalist. For a SaaS company such as SAP SuccessFactors, which provides cloud-based human capital management software, the ability to handle peak usage periods is critical for customer satisfaction and retention. McGibbney’s IT team created a “Service Delivery & Operations” organization to focus on peak-season performance.

For Paul Chapman, who holds the CIO position at Box and an Outlier finalist, his role might be seen as creating the cultural conditions in which innovation can occur. He emphasizes people, rather than technology, as the key to maintaining the accelerating pace of transformation. At Box, which has a heavily millennial workforce, Chapman’s to-do list includes working to create a new-look workplace that’s collaborative and employs such features as voice-enabled conference rooms.

Aligning with the business mission

Some CIOs may see their roles as driving new technology adoption or taking a more pragmatic line on innovation. Others, meanwhile, put a premium on the CIO position as business partner.

The Outlier finalists demonstrate there’s no common path to a CIO position or an IT management role.

For Michelle McKenna-Doyle, her role as senior vice president and CIO at the National Football League ranges from working with team owners to upgrade stadium infrastructure and the fan’s digital experience to expanding the league’s business partnerships. As for the latter, the Outlier finalist sparked an initiative to land multimillion-dollar corporate partnerships with technology giants such as Microsoft; the NFL had previously cultivated ties with established consumer brands. The CIO also created a career path for technical personnel within the NFL. Today positions such as chief architect carry the same weight as senior vice president.

At Western Digital Corp., Terry Dembitz, vice president of IT and Outlier finalist, helped build out the Office of the CIO to include an IT Business Partner Program, which serves as the business advocate within the IT organization. IT staffers within the IT Business Partner Program work with the business side on technology roadmaps and individual projects. One especially large project was getting Western Digital and two acquired companies — Hitachi Global Storage Technologies and SanDisk — on one ERP system. Instead of selecting one of three companies’ ERP systems to standardize on, Western Digital opted for a fourth approach: Adopt a cloud-based ERP system. Dembitz’s thinking was to “turn integration into transformation” and position the company for the future.

The “businessperson-first” philosophy informs Bryan Kissinger’s outlook as vice president and CISO at Banner Health. A few months after joining Banner Health in 2017, the Outlier finalist gained support from the health system’s clinical leadership to deploy a single sign-on system that aims to save each clinician several hours a week in multiple, manual logins. Banner Health uses Imprivata’s single sign-on technology, which integrates with its Cerner electronic health records system. In another IT initiative, Kissinger said Banner Health is looking to invest in technology startups that can advance the health system’s patient care mission.

The CIO position: Horses for courses

The differences in technology management approaches stem to some degree from the workplace milieu. A greenfield operation, for instance, is going to call for a tech-heavy approach, at least during the early going. A manager’s educational and professional experiences also play an important role in shaping a CIO’s IT management philosophy. CIO and technology managers participating in the Trace3 event come from a range of backgrounds, including finance, business administration, IT and military.

Indeed, the Outlier finalists demonstrate there’s no common path to a CIO position or an IT management role.

Intelligent Communications takes the next step with calling in Teams

In September, we introduced a new vision for intelligent communications including plans to evolve Microsoft Teams into the primary client for calling and meetings in Office 365. As part of this, we are bringing comprehensive calling and meetings capabilities into Microsoft Teams, along with data and insights from the Microsoft Graph, and a strong roadmap of innovation to empower teams to achieve more.

  Easily view your calling historyToday we are releasing new calling capabilities in Teams, providing full featured dialing capabilities, complete with call history, hold/resume, speed dial, transfer, forwarding, caller ID masking, extension dialing, multi-call handling, simultaneous ringing, voicemail, and text telephone (TTY) support. You can expect this to roll out over the next few hours and should come soon to your tenant.

To add calling in Teams for your users, the first thing you need is Phone System (formerly Cloud PBX), which is included with Office 365 E5 and available as an add-on to other Office 365 plans. From there, you can subscribe to a Calling Plan (formerly known as PSTN Calling) for any number of users in your organization.

Together, a Calling Plan and Phone System in Office 365 create a phone system for your organization, giving each user a primary phone number and letting them make and receive phone calls to and from outside of your organization. This solution also allows your organization to shift away from expensive telephony hardware and simplifying by centralizing the management of your phone system.

With the addition of calling, Teams is an even more robust hub for teamwork — the single place for your content, contacts and communications including chat, meetings and calling in a modern, collaboration experience.

Getting started with calling in Teams
To get started with calling in Teams, please review our quick start guide. You can learn more about geographic availability of Calling Plans here.  We also invite you to join us live December 18, at 9 AM PDT on Teams On Air to hear guest Marc Pottier, Principal Program Manager discuss and demo calling plans in Microsoft Teams in more detail.

Work in the .future | Gimlet Creative

In the final episode of this season of .future, we hear how our jobs continue to evolve in the modern workplace. Many of us still spend 40 plus hours in a physical office, but the internet and new digital communication tools  are changing how we collaborate and communicate.

This story brings you voices that explore work philosophies of the past, job practices of the present, and the digital office spaces of the future.

Show Notes:

You can check out Ram Devineni’s filmography at his IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3128813/

This episode features:

Ram Devineni — Documentarian

Anton Andrews — Director of Office Envisioning, Microsoft

Ben Waber — CEO of Humanyze

Janice Marturano—Founder of the Institute for Mindful Leadership

Transcript: 

COLD OPEN

RAM DEVINENI: Hi my name is Devineni, Ram Devineni and I am the James Bond of I.T. professionals.

[SINGING JAMES BOND THEME]

But now I’m a documentary filmmaker

CRISTINA QUINN: That’s quite a career leap to make.

RAM DEVINENI: Thank you. It is!

MUSIC IN

CRISTINA QUINN: Ram had been working in IT for Citibank for a decade. It wasn’t a bad job, but it wasn’t very creative. He was responsible for managing storage and backing up data. It’s a respectable job, but he wanted more.  

RAM DEVINENI: I got bit by the documentary filmmaking bug. I wanted to be in the arts, be a documentary filmmaker. But I had one single problem, and that was a full time job.

CRISTINA QUINN: So he decided to do both. He bought a really nice camera, scheduled some vacation and jumped on a flight to Mumbai. Why Mumbai? Because that’s where a group of people were about to attempt to make India’s largest human tower and Ram wanted to film it.

RAM DEVINENI: Just imagine 300 people stacked on top of each other shoulder to shoulder about five or six stories high. And it’s this massive beautiful artistic creation of just human beings.

CRISTINA QUINN: It’s also terrifying. You stand on someone’s shoulders, who’s standing on someone else’s shoulders, who’s standing on someone else. When it goes wrong, people fall from two or three stories up — onto a crowd below.

But Ram wasn’t scared — he was transfixed. He wanted to keep shooting, and learn more about human towers. He wanted to follow the story to its roots, in Spain.   

But that problem of his day job cropped up again.

RAM DEVINENI: From there, my vacation time ran out that year, and I wanted to continue filming.

CRISTINA QUINN: So Ram decided to take advantage of something that a lot of us already do at work — but in a very extreme way.  

THEME

SHOW SET

CRISTINA QUINN: I’m Cristina Quinn and this is dot-future, a branded podcast from Microsoft and Gimlet Creative, about making the future happen.

Because the future doesn’t just HAPPEN. It’s the result of a series of choices that we’re making right now. You can wait for the future to come to you … or you can engage with it, and get ahead of the curve.  

Today we’re talking about the future of a place where many of us spend most of our waking hours…work.

Welcome to dot-future.

THEME OUT

BACK TO RAM DEVINENI

CRISTINA QUINN: So back to Ram’s plan. Or really—an “arrangement.” Ram asked his managers at Citibank if he could work remotely, from home. And they said yes, assuming by remote he meant – at his midtown Manhattan apartment.

BEGIN CAPER SCORING

But Ram began living a double life as an EXTREME telecommuter. During the bank’s working hours, he’d be online– with no one back home the wiser– that he was jumping around the globe and making films.

He went to Spain, to shoot the human tower. He traveled to Ukraine and began filming the Maidan revolution. And he went back to India, to Delhi, to do a story about a serial killer. All the while, leveraging the time difference.

RAM DEVINENI: I was working literally the whole night for Citibank and then during the day when my job was done I would be jumping in the car and heading to jail to talk to two cannibals serial killers.

CRISTINA QUINN: Ram covered his tracks by always delivering his assignments. He never missed a conference call. And occasionally he would play ambient noise of New York City in the background of calls, to make it sound like he was still at his apartment.

And it paid off. Ram’s work was featured on the BBC and Al-Jazeera. He even won a Sundance Grand Jury Prize for one of his films.

CAPER SCORING OUT

CRISTINA QUINN: Did you ever feel like maybe you know I should tell my boss that I’m going to live in India for the next six months?

RAM DEVINENI: I mean technically you know the agreement was I had to work out of my home. Now the concept of home, and I’m quoting unquoting here—is very flexible. I mean home could be a home is where you make it.

EPISODE SET

Ram is a VERY extreme example of something that’s happening all over. Because of the cloud, automation, and artificial intelligence … we’re going through a redefinition of our relationship to work.

A redefinition of where work is, what productivity looks like, how we handle information, and even why we work.

ANTON ANDREWS

ANTON ANDREWS: Productivity is a deeply emotional thing and most of our lives we spend at least eight hours a day at work most of us and yet you know it it’s happening in this world that is changing around us in very dramatic ways.

CRISTINA QUINN: This is Anton Andrews, he’s the director of “Office Envisioning” at Microsoft.  And the dramatic changes he’s referring to are both what our workplace looks like — and how we do our work.

Anton leads a team that explores how new technologies make work easier.  And he’s tasked with leading the conversation around the ethics of some of those technologies.

His team has built an entire office at Microsoft, where they can show off new technologies. They’ve reenvisioned everything — from what you should expect from a dry erase board, to what you might expect from the floor.

SOUND – OFFICE AMBIENCE

ANTON ANDREWS: So, come on in. So when we look at the concrete floor that we’re standing on right now, we see a communication tool and we think that the work place should be designed in the same way that we design our other communication tools, which are the ones we carry in our pockets.

CRISTINA QUINN: So, are you talking about even making the floor an interface? Please say “Yes.”

ANTON ANDREW: The floor is an interface. And the idea is not so much that the floor is somehow just the active floor. But the idea is that we can plan and design the floor.

CRISTINA QUINN: Anton’s saying that where you position people and objects makes a huge difference in how work happens and how productive people are. For example, in Anton’s “office of the future,” there’s this dome in the corner that looks like a wooden igloo skeleton. It’s a prototype of a conference room.

ANTON ANDREW: This is made of acoustic felt. The idea is that again we look at the future of meetings. And we wanted to test a couple of things. One was, we know that your current meeting rooms are rectangular. There’s a big table in the middle that dominates the room.

CRISTINA QUINN: But this room is circular. There’s no clear “head of the table” — the thought being that the shape of the room will break down hierarchies, and remove obstacles from anyone with good ideas at the table. It’s a physical environment that’s supposed to foster creativity.

And the room removes digital obstacles, too. As soon as we walk in, we press a button and we’re greeted by a digital assistant named Cortana.

CORTANA: Hello, would you like to join your scheduled meeting?

ANTON ANDREWS: Yes please, join the meeting.

CORTANA: Would you like me to participate?

ANTON ANDREWS: Yes.

CRISTINA QUINN: Anton demos how Cortana can work in a teleconference meeting: The screens placed around the edges of the room connect us with a remote office through a video call.

Anton ticks through the features of the room. Using artificial intelligence, Cortana can transcribe everything that’s said in the meeting. She can recommend documents that you mention in passing– and attach them to the transcript.  And, she can gently remind you the names of the people you’re teleconferencing with.

But more importantly, what Cortana is doing is helping manage a transition that we’re going through at work — all of us.

MUSIC IN

Anton says we’re transitioning from a time when information was scarce — to a time when information is abundant.  WAY too abundant.  

MUSIC POST

When information was scarce, we might have had to figure out who had a report we needed, and then wait for them to mail or fax it to us.  Or maybe we wouldn’t even know that the report existed, and we’d wind up duplicating someone else’s efforts. But, in the future, Cortana might be able to show us documents just based on a couple of clues from our conversations. And she might know about reports we don’t even know about, that are relevant to what we’re working on.

It’s a super helpful idea — but also, maybe a little…unsettling? Cortana recording what we were saying, showing us information, it got me wondering … what about privacy?

MUSIC OUT

Anton has an answer for that — he says this prototype has safeguards built in.

ANTON ANDREWS: We think about this is something that you decide whether you want to turn it on or not. In the first place. So I very explicitly invited Cortana into the meeting

Bringing up the question of privacy is one of the reasons for this prototype. This demo, this digital assistant, this entire office — have been built to raise this very question, and others.  Questions about how to ease the flow of information between colleagues, and lower the barriers to collaboration.

Obviously the answer is better communication, which is what this prototype is designed for. But the entire workspace itself also keeps in mind the need for people to occasionally work privately, for maximum productivity.

ANTON ANDREWS: Putting the control at the fingertips of the actual participants using it is something that’s very important to us. There are two needs: There’s a need for privacy and there’s the need to do your work in a better way.

CRISTINA QUINN:  Anton points out that we already make an implicit bargain when we walk through the doors of the office — work, is for doing work.

But he acknowledges the need to do some of that work privately, in order to be more productive. So, his team is thinking about how to make the workplace more than just a place where we store our bodies while we make widgets for the boss. They’re trying to make it a place where the main job is sharing information.

ANTON ANDREWS: Why go to work? What is the work place for? We think the workplace is still critically important just not for the reasons that it used to be and those reasons.

CRISTINA QUINN: And what were those reasons?

ANTON ANDREWS: Traditionally you know the workplace was about controlling your employees it was the Panopticon.

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CRISTINA QUINN: Ok so…the Panopticon. The Panopticon is an idea developed by 18th and 19th century social philosopher Jeremy Bentham—where individuals, whether employees or inmates, are constantly being monitored by a watchman.

So imagine a circular building and all the workers or inmates are placed against the walls, perhaps in cubicles…But in the middle of that building is the watcher, looking at your every move, or the move of the person next to you, and the person next to them. And you don’t really know if you’re personally being watched at any given moment. It’s management by paranoia.

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Bentham claimed it was a “new mode of obtaining power” — by manipulating people’s minds.

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ANTON ANDREWS: The way we think about productivity today which is this very old school mechanistic efficiency driven view of productivity where people are just cogs in a machine and all of your software and hardware and work environments and so on are really about milking maximum efficiency out of the system. And that is not a sustainable path forwards obviously but it’s also no longer a strategy that works. If companies want to survive in today’s environment.

CRISTINA QUINN: Obviously, most of us don’t work in an actual Panopticon but Anton brings it up because it represents a management style that technology is quickly rendering obsolete.

Anton believes that in the future–what’s going to make you successful in the workplace won’t be because your boss is watching you and making sure you meet that quota. Success will come from problem solving, collaboration, being comfortable with the unknown…

ANTON ANDREWS: The larger construct is actually a shift from certainty and knowledge stability to uncertainty and instability, essentially. If you think about middle managers hoarding information the reason they did it was because that information was valuable. Knowledge was valuable. Knowledge was power, and holding onto it made sense because it didn’t change much. At least it didn’t change much in weeks and months. You know maybe it changed in years. Now it’s changing in minutes.

CRISTINA QUINN: Anton describes this changing world — and thus the future — with an acronym, borrowed from the military: VUCA.

V, for volatile

U, for uncertain

C, for complex

And A, for ambiguous

ANTON ANDREWS: This is increasingly true for all kinds of productivity networks, is increasingly true for businesses. It’s true for startups. It’s true for NGOs. It’s true for governments that the environment that you’re operating within is increasingly volatile and unpredictable.

CRISTINA QUINN: VUCA challenges the straightforward, top-down world of the Panopticon — and it requires an entirely different approach in the workplace.

ANTON ANDREWS: The strongest organization today, and going into the future, will be the one that is most able to adapt to a rapidly changing set of circumstances in the world around it and is the one that’s able to make best use of all that live data and live information coming.

BEN WABER

BEN WABER: We need people to be creative. We need us to execute these extremely complex projects that are just unprecedented in human history.

CRISTINA QUINN: Ben Waber is the CEO of Humanyze. Humanyze helps companies figure out how well their teams are collaborating to make them more productive. They do that by collecting data about social interactions. And one of the tools they use is a smart ID badge.

BEN WABER: Essentially what we use is really a next generation company ID badge. Think of a regular ID badge, it typically has RFID in it. We’ve added additional sensors to those ID  badges specifically microphones to look at how people talk about what they say Bluetooth to look at location. Also, an accelerometer look at motion, posture, those sort of things. And by combining those we can look at who talks to who understand the network within a company we can look at things like how much do you dominate a conversation? Do you talk 90 percent of the time or 10 percent of the time or change your tone of voice related to stress and even mirroring in our posture to look at how engaged we are in a specific conversation.

CRISTINA QUINN: Ben acknowledges that this might sound creepy — but the information that the smart IDs generate is analyzed at a team level, not the individual.

BEN WABER: Importantly with with all this data we don’t give individual data to companies everything is aggregated at least a team level and with their badges that’s also done on an opt-in basis.

CRISTINA QUINN: The service that Humanyze offers helps companies figure out what’s working and what’s not working. Once they figure it out, they can implement better practices — like collaboration — more widely.

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CRISTINA QUINN: Because collaboration is really the bedrock of productivity. After all, humans have been collaborating since before we even had language.

BEN WABER: We evolved for millions of years to interact in a face to face environment. That’s obviously even when you know our ancestors who were some variety of apes had this kind of interactions. And what that means is that humans have become extremely responsive to small changes in facial expression, small changes in the way we speak.

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CRISTINA QUINN: But getting data about interactions is really DIFFICULT. We’ve been pretty much operating on serendipity.

BEN WABER: If I bump the hallway or if I see you, I’m like, “Oh, I forgot I got to get back to about that thing.” Those are the sorts of things where if I’m working remotely, they’re lost. It’s not to say that you should never work from home or never you know work from a coffee shop. I mean the data is pretty clear that yeah if you are working from home one day a week it doesn’t have much of an impact. But as you start to get three four days a week it has a pretty significant impact on your team, not just you, it’s on your team.

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CRISTINA QUINN: Ben’s goal is to collect data about these serendipitous interactions, so that workplaces can foster more of them. According to Anton, it’s an example of artificial intelligence helping us have MORE human experiences.

ANTON ANDREWS

ANTON ANDREWS: Human beings will need tools for thinking and they will need to be augmented by AI on the one hand and by the human network on the other hand. And this will allow you to do better work, create better content, create better innovation, use data in smarter ways, and work towards more effective outcomes rather than simply work more efficiently.

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CRISTINA QUINN: The technologies that Anton and Ben are building, are for the workplace of the future. But —There is something you can be doing right now to help navigate the abundance of information that you encounter everyday at work. Just… let it go..

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JANICE MARTURANO

JANICE MARTURANO:  I think that technology has actually outpaced our understanding of how to skillfully use it.

CRISTINA QUINN: Janice Marturano is a mindfulness expert. She founded the Institute for Mindful Leadership. But she didn’t set out to become a guru. She was a classic 21st century juggler. She had a fancy job — a VP at General Mills.

JANICE MARTURANO: This was really tiring way to live. I was a professional woman at a very high level, had children, and had many blessings in my life from that perspective. And I was exhausted almost all the time. And I also had a sense that even when people were telling me that I was doing a great job at something, I always felt like that really wasn’t my best work.

CRISTINA QUINN: But Janice was burning the candle at both ends. On top of her job, and her family, she was taking care of her ailing parents. She just couldn’t stop being tired. And she was worried it was making her a bad boss.

So she decided to make a change. She took a workshop, and got hooked on this idea of training the mind to be present — not worrying about what has passed, but really focusing on what’s in front of her RIGHT NOW.

She got so into mindfulness that she made helping people become better leaders, and managing the transition to this chaotic new future, her job.

Janice says, to be a good boss, what you actually need to get good at– is creating space for your employees to get away from technology…

JANICE MARTURANO: We know from neuroscience that innovation requires spaciousness of the mind and yet when we’re so full of the To-Do list of the day in the calendar that’s back-to-back meetings. There is no space so how do we begin to learn to cultivate spaciousness even in the chaos.

CRISTINA QUINN: And another thing good bosses do is foster kindness.

JANICE MARTURANO: Compassion means deep understanding. It’s not sympathy or empathy but deep understanding.

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CRISTINA QUINN: At first glance, Janice’s mindful workplace might seem like the opposite of Anton and Ben’s workplaces.  There’s less focus on machines, and more focus on people.

But they both represent a big shift in the way we’re working:

They’re dumping the old Panopticon style of top-down management.

They’re opening up silos, and finding new ways to define productivity — beyond making a few more units per hour.

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Whether it’s artificial intelligence in a conference room, or a smart ID badge, new technologies will help us communicate more, and collaborate better — ultimately making our work more meaningful.

Because, in the increasingly volatile world of the future, our ability to make meaning at work will be job number one.

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CREDITS

THEME

Dot-future is a co-production of Microsoft Story Labs and Gimlet Creative.

This episode was produced by Garrett Crowe and Katelyn Bogucki with help from Victoria Barner and Francs Harlow. Creative direction from Nazanin Rafsanjani. Production assistance from Thom Cote and Ben Kuebrich.

We were edited by Rachel Ward and mixed by Andrew Dunn. Schmidt. Our theme song was composed by The Album Leaf. Additional music from Whaltho, Marmoset and Bobby Lord. Technical Direction by Zac

This is the final .future episode of the season. Make sure you stay subscribed to the show so you can be the first to hear any announcements and new episodes. Thank you all for listening, for sharing your feedback and leaving those iTunes reviews. We’ve loved sharing these amazing stories with you so stay in touch. You can check out the latest from Microsoft at microsoft.com/stories. I’m on Twitter @cristinatquinn and Gimlet Creative is @gimletcreative.

I’m Cristina Quinn. Thanks so much for listening!

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