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How culture builds risk

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In 1987, a London Underground ticket seller was alerted to a burning tissue on one of the escalators. They duly put it out, but didn’t report the incident. If they did, the slowly-building inferno under the station might have been discovered in time. Instead, several hours later 31 people were dead and over a 100 injured in the King’s Cross Fire, a notorious blaze that consumed one of the train service’s biggest and deepest stations.

The ticket seller wasn’t lazy or ignorant. Instead, by this stage the bureaucracy of the Underground had created a culture of Chinese firewalls. Everyone knew their place. Health and Safety was not the business of the ticket office. Subsequent investigations found that this problem occurred consistently across the Underground’s bureaucracy, even at the highest levels. A fire quite literally burned under the floors, but the company’s culture made people blind to seeing it.

Why culture matters

Culture is a collection of habits. People who share a culture have similar ways of doing things. For example, driving on the left side of the road is a culture. People who don’t do that seem weird and can even be a danger. Company cultures are no different: they represent the collective habits of the employees, reinforced by the vision of leadership. This is why, when leadership and reality are not aligned, staff become disenchanted.

What does this have to do with risk? According to Deloitte, an organisation’s culture determines how it manages risk when under stress. For some companies, their risk culture can be a liability. For others, it can provide both stability and a competitive advantage.

Risk is a goldilocks force: you don’t want too much or too little, the latter meaning less reward. But many companies don’t look at risk as a strategic ingredient – they simply avoid it as much as possible. It becomes a sideshow, one that shouldn’t include the employees.

Yet risk is all about intelligence, and who better to be the eyes and ears of the company than its people? They interact with customers, suppliers, processes and inventory every day. They can feed insight into risk measurements, which risk managers then present to the leadership.

It stands to reason that a good risk awareness culture is incredibly valuable to a business. Deloitte lists the following as crucial to risk culture:

●             Commonality of purpose, values and ethics,

●             Universal adoption and application of risk,

●             Learning from risk, and

●             Timely, transparent and honest communications

Giving staff the right tools

How can that be accomplished? The answer lies in the tools that employees use. Risk should have a functional value to the employees. This can be done using data culture and risk integration platforms. By deploying a cloud-based risk capturing system, you can reach across the silos that employees and departments use to secure themselves. It can also be scaled conveniently to adapt as the company does. This helps create a proactive-risk culture.

You can already see the tangible impact of cloud platforms by their sheer dominance: few major companies still do without a service such as Salesforce or its peers. These technologies are transformational, so it stands to reason you should tap them to transform risk culture. This is what we’re doing with Riskonnect.

Such a platform extends the flow of data to beyond the business silos, enabling risk professionals, managers and the exco to have a single truth and up-to-date view of the company’s risk profile. It also encourages employees to wield data for their own insights and creates a sense of risk as a strategic tool, not a curse.

An errant match caused the biggest fire in the London Underground’s history. But the real shock was how silos created a risk-averse culture that cost lives. Since then the London Underground has improved remarkably: today its main risks are not fire, but effective modernisation. London’s transport risk culture now tackles new problems such as commuter stagnation and pollution from vehicles. That is a big step up from ignoring the embers of an underground inferno.

Don’t wait for a fire to show you the strategic potential of risk. Invest a little today and start growing that culture that will ensure the business’ future.

* Riaan Bekker, Riskonnect Solutions Manager, thrive

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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