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Trust the data, and other lessons from the Bok win

There is much that mere mortals can learn from South Africa’s Rugby World Cup triumph, writes KATIE CHODOSH, content consultant at TopLine Comms and TopLine Film

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The Springboks’ almighty triumph at the 2019 Rugby World Cup has given everyone in South Africa a massive boost. The Boks’ world cup campaign wasn’t just successful – it was record-breaking and awe-inspiring, both on and off the pitch. 

Despite most of us having to go back to work on Monday, the excitement of becoming world champions has continued, giving us all time to reflect on the tournament. So, what can us mere mortals sitting at our desks Monday to Friday learn from coach Rassie Erasmus and the Bokke?

Trust the data

Throughout the tournament, the Springboks relied heavily on box kicking, set piece and defence, which was much maligned for being boring to watch. Ahead of the final, when asked what he made of the suggestions that the Boks were playing “boring” rugby at the tournament, Erasmus said that the team had “followed a certain route and played according to the stats, and the way the game is being refereed currently and what gives you good results in the short term and on the scoreboard”.

Yes, it might have been boring to watch, but we all know how it ended. The point here is that the team stuck to their guns and, crucially, used the data at hand. If you’ve got data to help make decisions, use it; it’ll help you defend your position and explain your reasoning.

Don’t dwell on your mistakes

You probably don’t need reminding that the Springboks started the tournament by losing to New Zealand 23-13 in their World Cup Pool B opener. But they didn’t let it get them down for too long. “That first defeat was a great lesson for us,” Erasmus said. “The whole week was terrible, the entire build-up, and that taught us a lot about how we should handle the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.”

Even world champions make mistakes. If you make mistakes at work (which, we all do) don’t ignore them – instead, debrief as a team after something’s gone wrong. Analyse it, figure it out and use the lessons learnt.

Get some perspective

Erasmus has said that, after the loss to the All Blacks, the team started talking about pressure. “In South Africa, pressure is not having a job. Pressure is one of your close relatives murdered. Because South Africa has a lot of problems, we started talking about how rugby shouldn’t be something that puts pressure on you. It should be something that creates hope…It is not our responsibility as players to create that hope, it is our privilege. The moment you see it that way, it becomes one hell of a privilege. That was the way we approached this whole World Cup campaign.” Sjoe. Gives you chills, doesn’t it?

We spend most of our time at work, so when it’s tough, it can feel like the most important thing in the world. Take a moment to put it into perspective – it’ll help you move on from it and see the lessons you’ve learnt.

Spread the load across your team

For the last four games in the tournament, Erasmus split the reserve bench – the so-called ’bomb squad’ – between six forwards and two backs, rather than the conventional five and three. In layman’s terms, the team spread the physical load across more people. This became evident in the scrums, and the amount of energy the team still had at the end of the 80-minute game.

While you might not be getting into too many scrums at work (one would hope) the point of spreading the heavy load across the team still stands. If you’re pitching for new business or generating ideas for a client, get everyone involved and spread the workload – even if only two will be doing the pitching or dealing with the client. It’ll lighten the load across the team and make everyone feel a part of it.

Remember the end-goal

According to The Guardian, as a young coach Erasmus noted: “It has been scientifically proven that at the end of a game more oxygen is being used to keep tired bodies moving than their brains thinking clearly. I believe that it is at this critical stage that a game is won and lost.”

This partly explains the logic behind the bomb squad lineup, but it also shows that Erasmus thinks about the end of the game right from the beginning. It can be easy to get caught up in the smaller tasks you need to do to reach your end goal, but you need to keep your overall objective in sight. At TopLine Comms, for PR campaigns, we always start with objectives (usually generating awareness or increasing leads), rather than pieces of coverage we need to get. It keeps us on track to hit those bigger goals.

Know your purpose

Erasmus has made clear all tournament his love for the game. He truly believes that rugby has the power to unite a nation – and he’s right. Ultimately, it’s much easier to do your job when you understand what you’re doing and why it makes a difference. It’s essential to have a purpose – if you don’t feel you have a purpose at work, try and figure it out. Speak to your superiors and try to map out the chain effect of what you do in your job. Once you truly believe that what you do is worthwhile, you’ll have much more interest in pursuing it.

Katie Chodosh is a Content Consultant at digital PR and SEO agency TopLine Comms and video production agency TopLine Film, based in Cape Town.

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ME and Africa Consumer tech spending to hit $149bn

Reaching $130bn this year, consumer spending on technology in the Middle East and Africa is expected to grow just 4% a year.

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Consumer spending on technology in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) is forecast to total $130.8 billion this year, a year-on-year increase of 4.1%. According to the latest Worldwide Semiannual Connected Consumer Spending Guide from International Data Corporation (IDC), consumer purchases of traditional and emerging technologies will remain strong over the 2019–2023 forecast period, increasing at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.5% to reach $149.4 billion in 2023.

86.3% of all consumer technology spending in 2019 will be on traditional technologies such as mobile phones, personal computing devices, and mobile telecom services. Mobile telecom services (voice and data) will account for 68.7% of this amount, followed by mobile phones which will account for 26.6%. Spending growth for traditional technologies will be relatively slow, with a CAGR of 2.4% for the 2019–2023 forecast period.

“Faster connectivity, combined with declining data service costs from telecom service providers and the need for end users to use telecom services for an increasing number of devices, will ensure that consumer spending on traditional technologies will continue to grow,” says Fouad Charakla, IDC’s senior research manager for client devices in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa.

Emerging technologies, including AR/VR headsets, drones, on-demand services, robotic systems, smart home devices, and wearables, will deliver strong growth with a five-year CAGR of 10.2%. This growth will see emerging technologies account for 17.1% of overall consumer spending in 2023, up from 13.7% in 2019. Smart home devices and on-demand services will account for around 93% of consumer spending on emerging technologies by the end of the forecast period.

“The low penetration of smart home devices in the region, combined with growing efforts from market players to educate home users on the benefits and usage of these devices, will serve as an engine of growth for consumer spending on emerging technologies,” says Charakla. “A large portion of end users are already looking to invest in devices that will improve their productivity and quality of life, two key demands that smart home devices can be positioned to fulfil.”

On-demand services represent a new addition to IDC’s Worldwide Semiannual Connected Consumer Spending Guide. “On-demand services enable access to networks, marketplaces, content, and other resources in the form of subscription-based services and includes platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify, among others,” says Charakla. “As connected consumers juggle multiple services across their devices, it is essential for technology providers to understand how the adoption of these various technologies and services will impact their customers’ experiences in the future.”

Communication and entertainment will be the two largest use case categories for consumer technology, representing more than 79% of all spending throughout the forecast. More than 70% of all communication spending will go toward traditional voice and messaging services in 2019. Entertainment spending will be dominated by watching or downloading TV, videos and movies, as well as listening to music and downloading and playing online games. The use cases that will see the fastest spending growth over the forecast period are augmented reality games (49.5% CAGR).

The Worldwide Semiannual Connected Consumer Spending Guide quantifies consumer spending for 22 technologies in ten categories across nine geographic regions. The guide also provides spending details for 23 consumer use cases. Unlike any other research in the industry, the Connected Consumer Spending Guide was designed to help business and IT decision makers to better understand the scope and direction of consumer investments in technology over the next five years.

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Could robots replace human tennis players?

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While steeped in tradition, tennis has embraced technology on multiple fronts: coaching, umpiring and fan experiences. Since the early 2000s, the Sony-owned Hawk-Eye system has been assisting tennis umpires in making close calls. At Wimbledon, IBM’s Watson AI analyses fan and player reactions in real-time video footage from matches to create highlight reels just minutes after the end of a match.

Meanwhile, at the ATP Finals in London, similar data analysis is being carried out by digital services and consulting firm Infosys.

GlobalData’s Verdict deputy editor Rob Scammell hears the future of tennis discussed at a recent panel discussion about the use of data analytics and technology in the game.

Scammel writes: “Infosys has been partnered with ATP for five years, providing features such as its cloud-based platform, which leverages artificial intelligence to analyse millions of data points to gain insights into the game.

“Players and coaches can also make use of the Infosys’ Players and Coaches Portal, allowing them to “slice and dice” matches on an iPad with 1,000 data analytics combinations. This is data crunching is vital according to Craig O’Shannessy, strategy analyst for the ATP World Tour and a coach for 20 years – including for the likes of Novak Djokovic. 

O’Shannessy says: “Video and data analytics is crucial for giving players an edge. It’s about finding out of 100 points, the 10 or 15 that matter the most, and explaining that these are the patterns of play that you want to repeat in these upcoming games to win those matches.”

However, although Chris Brauer, director of innovation at the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, asked whether the “inevitable conclusion” of technological innovations in tennis was removing humans from the game entirely. ATP chair umpire and manager Ali Nili suggested that while there could one day be robot players adjudicated by robot umpires, it would be an entirely different sport.

Nili told GlobalData: “At ATP, we’re most proud of our athletes. It’s our athletes which make the tennis exciting. It’s how fast they are, how strong they are being. As humanbeings, we compare them to us and we’re fascinated by the things that they’re able to do. They’re the number one attraction for anyone who comes in, watches tennis, and everything else is secondary, you know, all the data and everything else, because we try to make our athletes more appealing.”

Could robots replace human tennis players?

Raghavan Subramanian, associate vice president and head of Infosys Tennis Platform, says it’s a “very philosophical question” and that we can look to the precedent set by other ‘man vs machine’ face-offs.

“In chess, we had [Garry] Kasparov play against the computer. So I think the natural first transition will not be two robots playing against each other, but one robot, possibly playing against the best player today. That’s the first possible bridge before two robots play.”

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