Entrepreneur Mag: A deep dive into the ups and downs of building a tech startup in uncertain times

Entrepreneur Mag: A deep dive into the ups and downs of building a tech startup in uncertain times

Swae: A roller coaster ride

A deep dive into the ups and downs of building a tech start-up in uncertain times.

10 min read, 7 April 2022

Entrepreneur Middle East April 2022 issue is here featuring Swae CEO & Founder @soushiant‘s story of building Swae duding uncertain times [read ‘global pandemic] as well as enforced work, from home, team building and a host of other issues. Nobody ever said it would be easy, but every cloud has a silver lining and the Swae team is more dedicated than ever to help make the workplace more inclusive and help decisions beceom more democratic. 

The issue is headlined by @Mhdgroupoman‘s @mohsinhani and also features @Amazon‘s Paul Misener, @FarEye‘s @kushalnahata, and the winners of@MastercardMEA‘s #WomenSMELeaders Awards 2022. 

You can read the magazine here, read the virtual magazine below or keep scolling for the full text:

Back in 2019, I shared with Entrepreneur Middle East my company Swae’s founding story, and our big vision of the need to upgrade the decision-making process for organizations and government  institutions, so that they become more compatible to the needs of the future, as well as the direction the world was headed in. 

In it we shared a common trend we saw across many types of organizations – that most people feel they lack voice and cant influence the major decisions made inside the organizations they belong to. This is often the consequence of closed cultures, outdated structures, or an over reliance on a top-down decision-making process. As a consequence, many are disengaged and the impact on the organizations is very visible – 3x higher disengagement rates, 3x higher absenteeism rates, and 34% lower productivity rates per employee on average.  Thankfully, though slowly, this trend is leading many decision makers to come to terms with their structural or cultural shortcomings and begin reconsidering how they include others in decision-making processes or shift culture to be more inclusive.

“Today’s most consequential institutions (governments, corporations, city councils) make their most important decisions through hierarchical processes. They interpret stakeholders’ preferences through periodic surveys or consultations, and leverage representatives to filter information up and down the hierarchy, precluding regular, meaningful, and unfiltered participation of most stakeholders into the process. But, our ever-advancing communication technologies are challenging this outdated proces, enabling direct and instantaneous communication, allowing for efficient access to distributed intelligence, and even helping create the first ever distributed organizations.” 

Over this period, Swae began carving out its niche and penetrating the market. The platform amassed close to 40,000 users from clients all over the globe, including some of the world’s top organizations such as the United Nations, the governments of Mexico and Chile, blue chip corporations such as Bosch, Etihad Airways, LifeLabs, and EMC Insurance. After winning the New Shape Prize, and securing a $750K CAD non-dilutive grant, 20 months later we were able to successfully fundraise an additional $750K CAD seed round – a 50% increase from the initial $500K offer – led by the former head of Engineering at Netflix and other notable investors, and, we even had time to produce a swanky new explainer video showing how Swae works to condense the technological concept and narrative down into something digestible and fun for all audiences.

But since publishing the article in 2019, no one really could predict there would be a global pandemic that would turn every assumption all of us had on its head. From the unique lens of Swae, the pandemic was a positive forcing function – the challenges that organizations face only accelerated and came to the forefront. There was no more hiding them between the natural cracks an organization faces during growth. They became prominent issues to solve for today. 

THANKFULLY (THOUGH SLOWLY), THIS TREND IS CAUSING MANY LEADERS TO COME TO TERMS WITH THEIR STRUCTURAL OR CULTURAL SHORTCOMINGS, AND BEGIN RECONSIDERING HOW THEY INCLUDE OTHERS IN DECISION-MAKING PROCESSES, SHIFTING COMPANY CULTURES TO BE MORE INCLUSIVE.

 

Thanks to Covid 19 and the ensuing the market volatilities and revamped nature of work, the need for such a wake up, to create an environment of psychological safety and inclusion, to create a system that helps organizations listen at scale, to hear as many voices as possible (instead of the loudest or most powerful few at the top), to source creative solutions to new problems and enable good ideas with meaningful action, is more important today than ever before.

“In today’s era, there really is no excuse for organizations and leaders not to leverage the available but untapped collective intelligence that resides within them. We have the technology to do this efficiently, research shows that crowdsourcing reveals high enough quality of solutions to problems to be worthwhile, and modern culture has progressed enough so people expect this level of transparency and inclusion in the decision making process, especially decisions that have a big impact on their lives. Leaders and organizations that fail to listen and update their processes to meet the world where it is and where it’s headed will be left behind. No one wants a part of the outdated reality they have to offer.” says Soushiant Zanganehpour, founder and CEO of Swae

 But the Covid-19 pandemic did not discriminate between organizational types. Swae nearly went under. 

Covid-19 & its Impact on all Organizations 

As it generally goes, building a tech startup or any startup for that matter is indeed a roller coaster ride. Building a tech startup during a global pandemic brought a level of challenge I had never faced in my life before.  At the outset of Covid-19, Swae was thrown into a number of crises, and had to overcome many headwinds to adapt itself to the new reality.  We’ve had a lot of learnings since our 2019 launch. The challenges that hit when 2020 came all centered around planning and maneuvering through massive uncertainty – uncertainty about what our clients were going through and if they had the available budgets to invest in our solution; uncertainty about where funding would come from and how to fundraise without in-person roadshow and meetings; uncertainty about the impact of the pandemic on recruiting global talent and team formation; and uncertainty about how to grow a team and instill the right culture while being entirely remote! 

“Since 2019, the landscape and market we’ve entered has changed in ways that I couldn’t have predicted. Covid-19 came and hit everyone like a wrecking ball; the workplace instantly became remote, and decision-making, team collaboration, and innovation (the things that Swae does) are now far more complex and fragmented than we ever imagined before. The toll the pandemic has had on people on all levels means what we do for employees (and leaders) is so much more profound.  This shift certainly forced us to re-evaluate and reinvent how we support organizations, and we’re far stronger for it.

Initially we resisted the changes thrown unto us but learned quickly not to fight them. We reminded ourselves that we aren’t the only company that was massively affected during these highly unstable times, and it ended up being an opportunity for us to get really clear on what we’re doing and how to overcome big hurdles as a team. Embracing the uncertainty helped us find solutions and come a long way. 

Top 5 Challenges Faced and Lessons Learned

 From all the ups and downs we went through resulting from Covid-19, to some early learning moments predating Covid, here are the top 5 challenges we endured since launching Swae, how we overcame them, and what we learned about about hiring, team formation, strategy, as well as ways to enhance the technology.

Losing Anchor client at the outset of the Pandemic

At the outset of Covid 19, we lost our first and largest paying customer, Etihad Airlines. When the wrecking ball of Covid came crashing in, the impact on global airlines was swift, immediate, and painful. Etihad saw an 80% reduction in sales and canceled all major enterprise contracts to reduce their bleed, including ours. 

Our entire pipeline of enterprise deals also went up into thin air as well. Covid-19 indefinitely delayed the start of many projected client projects and or made the business case challenging to argue for. 

Mitigation & Lessons Learned

To respond, we quickly turned on a dime to minimize our burn rate and preserve cash flow. To replenish our lost projected cash flows, we began applying for grants and thinking of new markets for our product. We eventually leveraged government support and grants to help us recover 40% of the lost revenue to manage through this period of uncertainty.  

Knowing we weren’t the only ones facing difficult times, we understood that many organizations and local governments were struggling to adapt to virtual, all-digital, decision-making during this prolonged period of uncertainty. We came together and began brainstorming more immediate and shorter use cases of Swae. From listening to clients, we learned that people could use Swae to manage remote annual general meetings and even use it to crowdsource content and agendas for virtual meetings and events. We felt there was a way to adapt our core product to be more nimble to launch and easier to configure, to help others while allowing us to earn short term revenue.  Two months after losing Etihad, in May 2020, we launched three complementary products to enable teams to make collective decisions over the internet quickly, conveniently, and safely. These include: 1) Swae for digital annual general meetings, 2) Swae for digital policy making and governance 3) Swae for remote team decision-making.

Losing Anchor funders at the beginning of the pandemic 

In January 2020, we launched a $500K seed round and quickly closed the first $150K. As shared above, in February 2020, we also closed our first 6-figure annual commercial contract with Etihad Airways, after a year long pilot of our platform inside their organization. The year was off to a great start, so we thought. With enough investment closed and expected revenues from our first $ARR contract (as well as a pipeline of $500K-$1M worth of enterprise deals), we decided to pause our fundraise and instead focus on going to market with our product. Anyone who has built an early stage startup knows that fundraising is a very intense and distracting process, and we thought the time would be better spent closing new deals. Hindsight is 2020 (no pun intended)… When you have momentum, never stop! That was our biggest mistake. After we paused our round, in March, everything changed. Etihad canceled the contract and our entire pipeline of enterprise deals also disappeared, thanks to Covid. Now, with no anchor deal, and no pipeline of deals, how easy do you think it was to raise funds?  When we tried to revive the fundraise two committed anchor investors immediately retracted their commitments to invest due to the impact of Covid on their portfolios, general cash availability, and the grim future that presented itself. 

Their cancelled commitments combined with the comical series of other debacles SIGNIFICANTLY changed our cash flow projections and reality.  One day, we were projecting more money than we needed, the other day we could barely fund ourselves.  It was a vicious circle that would not cease. Without any new confirmed investment or revenues, we were projecting an end date of Swae for December 31, 2020. 

Mitigations

With a clear end date in site, we knew we had to prolong our burn rate as long as possible. So we came together as a team and decided to restructure and opt to reduce our salaries as a last ditch attempt to save the company. Each of us came to the table with an open mind and depending on our individual situations, each offered to give up some portion of their salary they derived from Swae.  The minimum amount reduced was 30% and most offered to give up 100% of their salaries.  Instead of salary, the team would earn what they had sacrificed in equity with a sizeable risk premium and bonus. That seemed fair. 

 I took the first heavy paycut, then all other part-time contractors voluntarily contributed their entire salaries to Swae in exchange for equity. Finally, the leadership at our outsourced tech team bravely offered to contribute some engineers to our cause without pay for a long enough period to help us with ongoing client implementations and progress against our roadmap. This experience was a transformational and cathartic moment for us as a team. During a global pandemic, amidst all the uncertainties surrounding our individual lives, the team came together and collectively decided to do whatever we all could to keep the mission and dream of Swae alive. That experience brought everyone together in ways that superficial team building exercises simply don’t. When faced with crisis, the team stepped up. Until this day that moment acts as an an enormous source of mutual trust and kinship – like a binding agent between all of us. It’s cemented part of our culture that we simply don’t give up when we face adversity, and instead we come together to look for solutions. That crisis gave us a resounding amount of  confidence to face the future, whatever it presents. 

The internal restructuring allowed us to extend our runway by an additional 9 months, allowing us to get to the other end of 2020 and successfully enter 2021. During these turbulent months, a silver lining emerged. Investors stopped seeing Covid-19 as a massive interruption and began seeing the long term implications of it on the future of work and society. Instantly, many began to see Swae as a potential source of solutions for the new complexities of working remotely during a pandemic. The explosion and irreversible long term impacts of Remote Working, the accelerated adoption of digital tools, and new challenges associated with collaboration, maintaining engagement, and decision-making increased the projected market size and opportunity for remote collaboration tools from $18b to $60b (almost a 4x increase) from 2021-2024. This new framing of the needs of the future workplace began changing Swae’s market perception and only increased interest in Swae. 

After a few short months, we were able to land our lead investor, Mr. William Eisenman, the former CTO and Head of Engineering of Netflix, and were able to finish raising our seed round and it was oversubscribed. 

Parting ways with two different CTOs and still building a great product

We went through two (yes, two!) CTOs but still built the platform without that leadership position filled. Here’s the backstory: when Swae initially launched, I bootstrapped the company from my savings and we didn’t have a CTO. We used the limited resources we had and our intimate knowledge of the problem to outsource the build out of a prototype (the team that did it is the team we still work with to this day). At that time, our needs were basic. 

After winning the New Shape Prize, getting a $750K non-dilutive injection of cash and some validation, we were ready to expand the team.  We began recruiting for a CTO, searching for a strong technical lead, full stack developer, and AI programmer with expertise in Natural Language Processing to assume the responsibility of shaping our product, prototyping new features, building beautiful, consistent, scalable and intuitive software, and leading our AI development. 

We received over 400+ applicants, and successfully hired a former Amazon Alexa Natural Language Generation Team Member, a Full Stack Developer + Architect (Natural Language Processing and Generation specialist), as our new CTO. 

Unfortunately, after working with this individual for a short 7 week period, things did not work out as we had imagined.  He was brilliant but the interpersonal fit was quite off.  Our working styles and expectations about how to manage Swae became more incompatible over his short tenure. 

Fast forward 6 months after his departure, we were able to find a more suitable CTO with the right balance of interpersonal, leadership and technical skills to be a better fit for what we needed. She helped improve the product and launched the newest version of Swae. Though she was with Swae for nearly 2 years, in May 2021, she also parted ways due largely to strong differences in opinion about the responsibilities and trade-offs of being a co-founder, the overall product experience, and the company’s direction. 

Mitigations: 

When we were recruiting for either CTO, we identified some red flags and the potential for some of the behaviors we saw later in the working relationship to arise, but we decided as a team to be practical – that we would try to manage these concerns as they came up. Truth was that we thought we really needed a CTO with the skill set they had to accomplish the technological goals we had in mind with the product, and we thought there skill set was a priority than fit. This was a costly mistake – something we will not repeat when our gut is telling us not to go ahead. 

Though exhausting and expensive, we learned very valuable lessons in both cases about how to pick the people we want to work with. Moving forward, we only make hiring decisions if the gut feels right, and won’t compromise that intuitive feeling on being “sensible”. We will never make the same compromises we did previously because they are unsustainable.

Initially we panicked about the fact that we couldn’t build a tech platform without a strong technical lead. The experience of going through two CTOs and having to launch a product without them proved we were wrong. We realized instead that we could distribute the tasks of the CTO into the existing roles we had amongst our team. Distribution of responsibility, combined with strong spring defining, demo, and quality assurance processes meant we were able to develop new features and iterate the product consistently and affordably without needing to rely on a figure head. 

With hindsight we also realized we were too early to need the skill set and seniority of a CTO, and instead could make similar progress with a strong senior developer instead. Adding the layer of CTO would only be relevant after a few more years of traction and progress of the product. 

Without a CTO, the engineering process and team did not fall by the way side. The team stepped up on both ends (in Vancouver, and India), to ensure things remain on track, features are released under the expected conditions, and the platform relaunch timelines are met. To make up for the gap, we have instituted new processes and meetings that include more critical roles (like weekly demos by the engineering team, priority setting meetings that include design, product and engineering together, etc.)

Not having a CTO also allowed us to save a significant amount in monthly recurring salaries and expenses, to help prolong our burn rate. 

At the moment, we don’t have a CTO. We decided that our ‘departments’ would be headless as we realized that we didn’t need a multi-layered C-level or VP-level role in every department of our startup. When everybody has a voice and everyone is equally accountable, this becomes the bottom-up way (or “Swae way”)  to drive all the important aspects from marketing, sales, product development, and customer success and improvement. We’re doing some radical things and practicing what we preach. 

“Ultimately, what we decided is that everyone has autonomy but everyone owns unique directives. Often things come back to me because the ultimate vision of any organization has to be driven by the core person(s) and I’ve been thinking about Swae and what it can be in this world for a much longer time than anyone else on the team. This has worked really well thus far and makes us much more responsive so we truly are practicing what we preach,” says Zanganehpour. 

Lacking Essentials for Strategy and Go-to-Market: 

As is typical in a startup’s initial launch phase, often there’s a lack of clarity in some key areas around marketing and sales. We had a bit of a rough start when we realized that we didn’t have some key strategic details fully fleshed out. Since Swae had so many use cases and was an organization and use case agnostic tool, we didn’t have a rigid and well defined understanding of who our ideal customer and archetype was. This lead us down the path of being everything to everyone initially, which is a perfect recipe for failure. 

Mitigations:

Realizing this was a flawed approach, we invested time in gathering information and conducting research to create archetypes (or personas) of who we serve – this was critical to success. Once the archetypes were in place we began learning what objections people had to saying yes or no, and redesigned our pitch to address those upfront before we face long sales cycles that go nowhere real fast. Not having that sound structure led us to realize it was necessary to deeply understand the people that we need to connect with, and understand how to work through the objections. We’re making these powerful changes for our sales and marketing output to help us make a larger impact overall. 

  1. Fundraising and Hiring Remotely: Fundraising without face to face meetings was much more challenging than anticipated, as was building a team totally remotely. When face to face interactions became undoable, we had to get to the core of creating important systems and building structures to support this effort. As most know, video conferencing is laborious and taxing as well.  Anything else here?

    “Even with these challenges, we were able to fundraise $750K CAD seed funding round – a 50% increase from the initial $500K offer from some notable investors and we’ve got the financial runway to build a MVP of our platform and really move forward in a more progressive manner. And we’ve been able to grow a solid team that is now in place as of 2022, even though we had retracted twice since 2019 given market challenges and global uncertainties due to the pandemic,” says Zanganehpour. 

The Future of Swae and the Creation of More Inclusive Bottom-Up Organizational Models

2022 Milestones for Swae 

With these great lessons behind us and more important insights to face head on, over the next year we expect: 

  • To grow revenues to $1M+ ARR
  • To double our team from 8 to 16 people 
  • To grow the platform user base from 40K to 100K+ users 
  • To add significant features to the core platform including Chats, Polls, and Brainstorms
  • To add to proprietary features to our existing AI algorithms, including bias detection and evidence suggestion features 
  • To add important integrations such as MS teams, Slack, and other collaboration platforms.
  • To launch a second product based on the core feature set tailored more to use cases in Web3, DAOs and participatory governance in Crypto projects
  • To partner with some smart cities to launch citizen engagement, bottom-up and participatory policy making initiatives 
  • And many more…

At the core, Swae’s mission stayed the same; to give everyone an equal voice in raising solutions and shaping decisions, allowing organizations (even government systems) to uncover and benefit from the untapped collective intelligence from within, through a robust and innovative idea management and bottom-up decision-making platform. 

The sheer pace of adaptation to change that’s required of organizations today thanks to Covid-19 has set the scene for Swae. Our three biggest use cases include collaboration during remote work, increasing collaboration without unwanted noise, and building more inclusive cultures supporting growth and DEI initiatives. All of these points are extremely important in today’s organizational realities, no matter the company size.

The ROI of Swae so far 

Over the past 12 months, the results from implementing Swae for various clients speak for themselves and this has made us more proud than anything else during such harsh times. Some of our clients include the United Nations, LifeLabs, Etihad Airways, and more.

Having compiled results from over 40,000 unique users and several large organizational pilots from around the world that demonstrates we’re delivering on our promises – even though we’re just getting started. Some of the great things that have come back to us: 

  • $5M+ USD – the value of innovation ideas that have been sourced through Swae (so far).
  • $1M USD – average value of innovation pipeline developed over 12 months
  • 200K+unique collaboration exchanges have happened between Swae’s users.
  • 94% of users polled say Swae increased their engagement, motivation and happiness by helping them have a meaningful voice in decisions.
  • 90% of users polled claim Swae surfaced ideas that would not have otherwise surfaced using other available collaboration tools. 
  • 84% of users polled say Swae made idea sharing and collaboration easier & more accessible to their whole community
  • 3-months is the payback period – either resulting from cost savings ideas generated from the platform, revenue generating ideas sourced from the platform for investment and development, or efficiencies resulting from replacing more manual idea management and decision-making tools.
  • 70% increase in engagement (compared to other experiments and efforts to date)

While Swae is all about helping organizations shed more light on their challenges and providing a reliable platform where they can source ideas from the people within to create more inclusive cultures and a more equal playing ground, we do have a more grandiose vision that is the next evolution of our technology.

“Swae is ultimately designed to inspire ideas and stimulate debate around new, more effective forms of global cooperation at the highest levels in the biggest governments whether it be in cities, states or countries. We must realize that our system is no longer fit for our new age and we need new actors, new operating assumptions, and new norms to help reframe our priorities and uphold humanity-first, and nations second.

We need new processes and improved participation methods in order to create new solutions that prioritize and give political weight to ideas that advance humanity, preserve and benefit all in our species, above a narrow set of national self-interests. This can happen using the foundation we’ve built for Swae and will be our next big evolution of the technology we’ve built,” says Zanganehpour.

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Swae is helping organizations across the world to solve today’s problems and generate tomorrow’s strategy. Our clients are finding that their greatest resource is their people, and Swae is proven to help get the best from the untapped potential within their workforce. We’d love the chance to show you how Swae can ‘pay off’ for you…

Ready to learn how Swae can help your organization?

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The Results Are In [Why Investing in Swae Pays Off]

The Results Are In [Why Investing in Swae Pays Off]

The Results Are In [Here’s Why Investing in Swae Pays Off]

Swae Boosts Inclusivity, Idea Meritocracy, Enhances Decision-Making Processes, and Supports Collaboration Without Boundaries

FOFO business leaders not listening

Results from over 30,000 unique users and several large organizational pilots from around the world demonstrate clearly that Swae delivers on its promises – even though we’re just getting started.

These before and after results come from case study after case study that confirms Swae consistently helps organizations uncover hidden innovation, boost engagement, improve inclusivity and collaboration despite physical borders, and enhance decision-making options.

Swae boosts inclusivity, idea meritocracy, enhances idecision making processes and supports collaboration without boundaries.

“I created Swae out of lived experience. As a former director in charge of strategy and investment decisions, I saw missed opportunities resulting from closed, top-down decision-making processes first hand.

When I included employees from all ranks into the idea development, refinement and prioritization process – creating a safe yet competitive environment for the best ideas to shine through – the results spoke for themselves.

Swae was born just a few years ago, to help others experience those same benefits that I did.”


Soushiant Zanganehpour Founder & CEO

The stats below have been gathered directly from the mouths of our clients:

Digital Disruption

COVID & Remote Working

Need for Inclusivity

Idea Meritocracy

Swae

$5M

the value of innovation ideas that have been sourced through Swae (so far)

$1M

the value of cost-savings ideas that have been generated.

200,000+

unique collaboration exchanges have happened between Swae’s users.

1000+

number of organizational challenges and solutions that have been created and solved by Swae’s users.

90%

of users polled claim Swae surfaced ideas that would not have otherwise surfaced using other available collaboration tools.

84%

of users polled claim Swae made collaboration easier, and sharing ideas more accessible to their whole community.

92%

of users polled claim Swae helped increase voice and convey ideas better than other collaboration platforms available to them.

94%

of users polled claim that having a voice in decisions through Swae helped directly increase engagement, motivation and/or happiness.

3 Months

the payback period saved from other manual idea management and decision-making tools

Swae is helping organizations across the world to solve today’s problems and generate tomorrow’s strategy. Our clients are finding that their greatest resource is their people, and Swae is proven to help get the best from the untapped potential within their workforce. We’d love the chance to show you how Swae can ‘pay off’ for you…

Ready to learn how Swae can help your organization?

More to explore...
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Glossary

Glossary

THE LEXICON OF OUR INDUSTRY

Glossary

Lets create a truly inclusive and representative glossary of terms that define our industry.

See something missing? Something not quite right? At Swae, we’re learning and evolving just like you, so please get in touch and let us know.

20 minute read Last updated May 2022

FOFO business leaders not listening

A

Accountability — refers to ways individuals and communities hold themselves to their goals and actions, while acknowledging the values and groups to which they are responsible.

Affinity Groups — are a collection of individuals with similar interests or goals. Affinity Groups promote inclusion, diversity, and other efforts that benefit employees from underrepresented groups.

Ally — is a term for people who advocate for individuals from underrepresented or marginalized groups in a society.

Anonymity — comes from a Greek word meaning “without a name.” If you have Anonymity, you have namelessness, and people will not know who you are. Swae allows people to enable ‘Anonymity’ when submitting Proposals or Comments to give a layer of comfort to those who wish to say difficult things and eliminate FOSO. 

Anonymous means that a person’s name or identity has not been revealed or given or has been withheld. This is often useful to allow people to express ‘risky, unconventional or problematic’ issues without fear of repercussion.

Artificial intelligence (AI) – leverages computers to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind. Swae uses AI to help automate improvements to the quality of a user’s initial proposal or idea.  (Including tone, sentiment, emotion, bias and suggesting evidence) to increase the possibility of achieving real world impact.

Asynchronous (async) – Asynchronous work is when work doesn’t happen at the same time for everyone- this can be during different times of the day, and from different locations. It can help improve flexibility, especially with remote working, and increase productivity.

B

BAME – “Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic” is an acronym used mostly in the United Kingdom to identify Black and Asian people.

BERT — (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) developed by Google is a deep learning, transformer-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) that helps computers understand the meaning of ambiguous language in text by using surrounding text to establish context. (ie how one word relates to all the other words in a sentence).

Bias — Bias means to have a prejudice against groups that are not similar to you or to have show preference for people that are similar to you.

BIPOC – Black, Indigenous, and People of Color

Block – file with information on transactions completed during a given time period. Blocks are the constituent parts of a blockchain

Blockchain — a sequence of blocks, or units of digital information, stored consecutively in a public database. Its a system of recording information in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to change, hack, or cheat the system. A blockchain is essentially a digital ledger of data points that is duplicated and distributed across the entire network on ‘the blockchain’. The basis for cryptocurrencies eg. Bitcoin, Ethereum, Solana, Avalanche

Bottom-up – approach is a way of making corporate decisions that starts from the bottom of the hierarchy, rather than at the top. In practice, this means that the CEO or leadership won’t be the one making all the decisions (that’s a top-down approach).

Black Lives Matter — Black Lives Matter is a movement that addresses systemic racism and violence against African Americans and other groups with ties to Black culture.

C

CD&I — Acronym for Culture, Diversity and Inclusion.

Collaboration – is the process of two or more people or organizations working together to complete a task or achieve shared goals.

Collective intelligence — is the process by which a large group of individuals gather and share their knowledge, data and skills for the purpose of collaboratively creating solutions.

Corporate governance – is the system of rules, practices, and processes by which an organization is directed and controlled. It involves balancing the interests of the many stakeholders, such as leadership, employees, customers, suppliers, investors, the government, and the wider community.

Crowdsourcing — is the collection of information, opinions, or work from a group of people, usually sourced via the Internet. Crowdsourcing work allows companies to tap into people’s different skills and ideas from different perspectives.

Crypto – cryptocurrency, a digital currency that is secured by cryptography, which makes it nearly impossible to counterfeit or double-spend

 

D

Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) – is an organization designed to be autonomous and decentralized- they aren’t governed by one person, organization or entity. This places decision-making power into the hands of a crowdsourced and democratic process.

Decentralization—the transfer of authority, responsibility, control and decision-making from a centralized entity (individual, organization, or government) to a distributed network.

Deep learning— Deep learning is a type of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) that imitates the way humans gain certain types of knowledge, to learn from experience and understand the world. Its a subset of Machine learning (which uses algorithms to parse data, learn from that data, and make informed decisions based on what it has learned), whereas Deep learning structures algorithms in layers to create an “artificial neural network” that can learn and make intelligent decisions on its own.

Democracy — is a system of government in which power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or through freely elected representatives. In the corporate world this means that power is vested in people and teams using a flat hierarchy. The word democracy comes from the Greek words “demos”, meaning people, and “kratos” meaning power; so democracy can be thought of as “power of the people”.

DEFI – decentralized finance, removes the control banks and institutions have on money, financial products and services

D&I — stands for “diversity and inclusion” and is often a catch-all for diversity initiatives. Diversity is the what (the characteristics of the people you work with such as gender, ethnicity, age, disability and education). Inclusion is the how (the behaviors and social norms that ensure people feel welcome).”

Some companies also use the words “equity” (Slack) and “equality” (Salesforce) in their diversity titles. Equity and equality are usually alternatives to “inclusion”.

DEI — stands for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Also known as; 

  • D&I (Diversity & Inclusion)
  • DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion)
  • DEIA (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility)
  • DIB (Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging)

Digital transformation (Dx) — Digitizing both internal and external processes to keep running as smoothly as possible.

Disability — is a term used to describe people who have a mental or physical impairment which has a long-term effect on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities. Disablism — means promoting the unequal or differential treatment of people with actual or presumed disabilities; either consciously or unconsciously.

Discrimination — is a term used to describe the unequal treatment of individuals or groups based on race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, national origin, age, physical or mental abilities, and other categories that may result in differences.

Diversity — the characteristics and individual differences between people, groups or teams based on such things as:

  • abilities
  • age
  • disability
  • learning styles
  • life experiences
  • neurodiversity
  • race/ethnicity
  • class
  • gender
  • sexual orientation
  • country of origin
  • cultural, political or religious affiliation
  • any other difference

E

Emotional Tax — refers to the effects of being on guard to protect against bias at work because of gender, race, and/or ethnicity. Emotional Tax has effects on a person’s health, well-being, and the ability to be successful at work.

Emotion analysis — is the process of identifying and analyzing the underlying emotions expressed in textual data. Swae analyses 27 emotions, based on the types of feelings expressed in the text such as fear, anger, happiness, sadness, love, inspiring, or neutral, to help define corrective actions and improve the intended outcome for the writer.

Empowerment –The state of being empowered to do something: the power, right, or authority to do something.

Employee disengagement – A disengaged employee is someone who usually doesn’t enjoy their work, and as a result, does the bare minimum, doesn’t put in extra effort, and is highly unlikely to be a company evangelist. Those who are actively disengaged can cause problems at their companies and spread further disengagement or de-motivate others.

Employee Engagement (Ex) is the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work. Employee engagement helps drive the organisation forward and add value to your business. 

Employee Engagement — is also the organisation reaching out to their employees to engage them with certain activities to help include them and motivate them

Equality — (in the context of diversity) is typically defined as treating everyone the same and giving everyone access to the same opportunities. It is sometimes used as an alternative to “inclusion”. 

Equity — (in the context of diversity) refers to proportional representation (by race, class, gender, etc.) in employment opportunities.

ERG — Employee Resource Group. ERGs are employee identity or experience-based groups that are meant to build the feeling of community in the workplace. 

Ethnic Diversity  — refers to the presence of different ethnic backgrounds or identities.

Ethnic Minorities — ethnic groups that arn’t the dominant ethnicity

Ethnicity — or Ethnic Group, is a way to divide people into smaller social groups based on characteristics like:

  • cultural heritage
  • values
  • behavioural patterns
  • language
  • political and economic interests
  • ancestral geographical base

Exclusion — means leaving someone out based on their differences. These differences can be related to race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, class, or other social groups.

F

Flat Hierarchy / Flat Organization (also known as horizontal organization or flat hierarchy) has an organizational structure with few or no levels of middle management

Future of Work is a projection of how work, workers and the workplace will evolve in the years ahead. The COVID pandemic is completely reshaping the way we do our jobs and communicate with our colleagues. Businesses are trying to better understand how the emergence of technology and globalization will impact the way their employees work, how it will reshape Human Capital Management, and what impact the changes will have on how companies operate. 

Fear of Finding Out (FOFO) the selective avoidance of negative information- or simply, the fear of seeking the truth. It can stop a company (or person) from uncovering the hidden challenges that could derail their future success. It’s an apprehension – or sometimes even inability – to hear the truth about the problems that persist in their organization and the associated negative impacts they might have on their company’s organizational health and performance, in order to avoid conflicts or disrupt their status quo.

Fear of Speaking Out (FOSO) — the fear of an employee (or subordinate) revealing negative or unpleasant information for fear of repercussions or upsetting their superiors. 

G

Gas – the fee required to conduct a transaction or execute a contract on the Ethereum blockchain

Gender — is a term used to describe socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that society considers “appropriate” for men and women. It is separate from ‘sex’, which is the biological classification of male or female based on physiological and biological features.

GPT-3 (Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3) is a language model that was created by OpenAI. The 175-billion parameter deep learning model is capable of producing human-like text and was trained on large text datasets with hundreds of billions of words. Its an autoregressive language model that uses deep learning to produce human-like text.

Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when a group of individuals reaches a consensus without critical reasoning or evaluation of the consequences or alternatives. Groupthink is based on a common desire not to upset the balance of a group of people.

H

Hierarchy — describes a system that organizes or ranks things, often according to power or importance. A hierarchy is an organizational structure in which items are ranked according to levels of importance. 

Hidden Bias — hidden bias, or implicit bias, refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect a person’s understanding, actions, or decisions unconsciously as it relates to people from different groups. Also known as Unconscious Bias.

HIPPO – the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion – or the “highest paid person in the office.” is used to describe the tendency for lower-paid or junior employees to defer to, or be overruled by higher-paid, more senior leaders when a decision has to be made. These decisions are characterised by ‘gut instinct’ rather than being merit based, data driven decisions. 

Holacracy – is a system of corporate governance whereby members of a team or business form distinct, autonomous, yet symbiotic, teams to accomplish tasks and company goals.

Humanocracy — is defined as the design of an organization to maximize human contribution. Seven human-centric principles lie at the heart of humanocracy and differentiate it from bureaucracy:

  • Ownership
  • Meritocracy
  • Markets
  • Community
  • Openness
  • Experimentation
  • Paradox.

I

Idea meritocracy — is an environment in which the best ideas win, regardless of where or whom they came from. The ‘best’ idea is determined by a number of things, including the quantity and quality of the data, popularity, feasibility, and not by positional power. 

Immutable – data cannot be changed or modified by anyone after its creation, the core defining feature of blockchain

Inclusive leadership — means that leaders commit to ensuring all team members are treated equitably, feel a sense of belonging and value, and have the resources and support they need to achieve their full potential. An inclusive mindset includes respect for others, open-mindedness, curiosity, cultural competence, kindness, lack of ego, and empathy. Most inclusive leaders articulate authentic commitment to diversity, challenge the status quo, and make diversity and inclusion a personal priority.

Innovation — can refer to something new, such as an invention, or the practice of developing and introducing new things. An innovation is often a new product, but it can also be a new way of doing something or even a new way of thinking.

Implicit Bias — or hidden bias, refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect a person’s understanding, actions, or decisions unconsciously as it relates to people from different groups. Also known as Unconcious Bias.

Imposter Syndrome — is common in members of underrepresented groups. Imposter Syndrome is present when high-achieving individuals are in constant fear of being exposed as a fraud and are unable to internalize their accomplishments.

Inclusion — refers to the process of bringing people that are traditionally excluded into decision making processes, activities, or positions of power. Inclusion is sometimes called Inclusiveness or Inclusivity and allows individuals or groups to feel safe, respected, motivated, and engaged. Inclusion values differences as a source of strength, innovation, and performance; as well as creating belonging. 

Inclusive Language — refers to the use of non-specific words to avoid assumptions around sexual orientation, gender identity, race, age, ethnicity etc.

Institutional Racism — means that institutional practices and policies create different outcomes for different racial groups. These policies may not specifically target any racial group, but their effect creates advantages for white people and oppression or disadvantages for people of color. Often used interchangeably with Structural Racism.

Innerpreneurs – persons who create a business that focuses mainly on their own inner goals

Intrapreneurship is the act of behaving like an entrepreneur while working within an organization. It’s creating a new business, venture, ideas and transformations within an organization. One of the most well-known examples of intrapreneurship is the “Skunk Works” group at Lockheed Martin. 

J

JEDI – Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

Justice – Presence of systems and supports (e.g. policies, practices, norms) that achieve and sustain fair treatment, equitable opportunities, and outcomes for people of all races. 

K

KPI stands for key performance indicator, a quantifiable measure of performance over time for a specific objective. KPIs provide targets for teams to shoot for, milestones to gauge progress, and insights that help people across the organization make better decisions.

L

LexRank — is LexRank is a stochastic graph-based method for computing relative importance of textual units (scoring of sentences) using Natural Language Processing. The main idea is that sentences “recommend” other similar sentences, therefore, if one sentence is similar to others around it, then it will likely be of greater importance and gets ranked highly (allowing it to have the significance to be placed in a summary).

LGBT — Abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender a group that is often marginalised. LGBT is an acronym with multiple variations such as:

  • LGBTQ — Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (or questioning).
  • LGBTQIA — Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or questioning), intersex, and asexual (or allies).
  • LGBTA — Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and asexual/aromantic/agender.
  • LGBTIQQ — Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, and Questioning.
  • LGBTQ2+ — Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or sometimes questioning), and two-spirited. The “+”  signifies a number of other identities and is used to keep the abbreviation brief when written out.  Some write out the full abbreviation which is LGBTTTQQIAA.

M

Mansplain — when are men explain something to a person in a condescending or patronizing manner, typically a woman.

Marginalization — to exclude, ignore, or relegate a group of people to an unimportant or powerless position in society.

Meritocracy — traditionally means a social system or organization in which people reach positions of power based on their abilities rather than their money, family connections, etc. With context to Swae; meritocracy means ideas and decisions are made based on the quality of the idea, regardless of the seniority of the person who put forward the idea. Ray Dalio describes this as “An idea meritocracy is an environment in which the best ideas win, regardless of where or whom they came from.”

Metaverse – a digital universe with all the aspects of the real world—real-time interactions and economies.

Metrics — are measures of quantitative assessment commonly used for comparing, and tracking performance or production. Swae uses metrics to track the progress and performance of Missions and Proposals to help determine their meritocracy.

Micro-inequity Apparently small events which are often ephemeral and hard-to-prove, events which are covert, often unintentional, frequently unrecognized by the perpetrator, which occur wherever people are perceived to be different- Mary Rowe, MIT.

Minority — racially, ethnically, or culturally distinct groups that are usually subordinate to more dominant groups. These groups are called Minority Groups. However, a minority in one setting is not always a minority in another. 

Mint – the creation of a new NFT token, turning a digital file into a crypto collectible or digital asset

Multicultural — means pertaining to more than one culture.

Multiethnic — describes a person who comes from more than one ethnicity.

N

Natural language processing (NLP)   a component of artificial intelligence (AI), is the ability of a computer program to understand human language as it is spoken and written, enabling computers to understand everyday language as humans do. Natural language processing takes real-world text (or voice), processes it, and make sense of it in a way a computer can understand, including the contextual nuances of the language, with the aim of accurately extracting information and insights. Previously, large quantities of unstructured, text-heavy data could not be effectively analysed by computers and sophisticated automated improvements were not possible.

Neurodiversity diversity in how people’s brains are wired and work, and that neurological differences should be valued in the same way we value any other human variation.

NFT – non fungible token, a unique digital object that confers ownership of a virtual good, like a digital artwork or online collectible

O

Organizational change management  is the systematic approach and application of knowledge, tools and resources to deal with change. It involves defining and adopting corporate strategies, structures, procedures and technologies to handle changes in external conditions and the business environment.

Organizational effectiveness — is a concept that measures how thoroughly and efficiently a company achieves its business goals. … Its moving parts function smoothly to produce the results the business set out to achieve, with minimal wasted resources or time.

Ostrich Effect — describes peculiar human behavior where individuals avoid information, they believe may be unpleasant (also known as ‘head in the sand’.

Oppression — refers to systemic and institutional abuse of power by a dominant or privileged group at the expense of targeted, less privileged groups.

Outgroup Bias — is when people view people from outside their “group” as less similar and have negative bias against them.

P

Permissionless – a system where no entity can regulate who can use it and how – often used to describe blockchains

Platinum Rule — is an inclusionary take on the “Golden Rule” (instructing us to treat others how they want to be treated). The Platinum Rules urges people to ignore personal biases and treat others by how they feel they deserve to be treated).

Pronouns — (in the context of diversity) are consciously chosen phrases that people use to represent their gender identity. There can be certain pronouns to avoid like “he” or “she”, during hiring or in the workplace. 

Q

R

Race — is a social term that is used to divide people into distinct groups based on characteristics like:

  • physical appearance (mainly skin color)
  • cultural affliction
  • cultural history
  • ethnic classification
  • social, economic, and political needs

Racism — is the oppression of people of color based on a socially constructed racial hierarchy that gives privilege to white people.

Racial and Ethnic Identity — Racial and Ethnic Identity refers to a person’s experience of being a member of an ethnic and racial group. Racial and Ethnic Identity is based on what a person chooses to describe themselves as based on the following:

  • biological heritage
  • physical appearance
  • cultural affiliation
  • early socialization
  • personal experience

Racial Justice — means to reinforce policies, practices, actions, and attitudes that produce equal treatment and opportunities for all groups of people.

Remote work – is the practice of employees doing their jobs from a location other than a central office operated by the employer. Such locations could include an employee’s home, a co-working or other shared space, a private office, or any other place outside of the traditional corporate office building or campus.

RHINO – Really Here In Name Only. The RHINO is just there to collect a paycheck without contributing much to the team. They might not be actively impeding your decision-making, but they are not helping much either.

S

Safe Space — means a place people can be comfortable expressing themselves without fear as it relates to their cultural background, biological sex, religion, race, gender identity or expression, age, physical or mental ability.

Sentiment analysis (or opinion mining) Identifying the mood or subjective opinions within large amounts of text. Using natural language processing, text analysis, computational linguistics, and biometrics to systematically identify, extract, quantify, and study affective states and subjective information. Sentiment Analysis is the process of determining whether a piece of writing is positive, negative or neutral.

Smart Contract – a piece of code that self-executes once certain conditions are met, like a vending machine but online

Social collaboration refers to processes that help multiple people or groups interact and share information to achieve common goals. (usually referred to now as Crowdsourcing)

Stablecoin – a cryptocurrency with extremely low volatility, that has its market value pegged to some external reference such as the USD

Staking – putting your tokens in to serve as a validator to the blockchain and receive a reward

Structural Racism sometimes called Institutional Racism, refers to institutional practices or policies that create different outcomes for various racial groups. The effects of Structural Racism usually create advantages for white people and oppression or disadvantages for minorities.

T

Token (Crypto) – a representation of an asset, can be held, traded, or staked to earn interest

Token / Tokenism – the practice of doing something (such as hiring a person who belongs to a minority group) only to prevent criticism and give the appearance that people are being treated fairly, diversely or equally 

Tokenization (AI) when text is broken down into smaller units to work with more easily

Transfer learning (TL) is a subset of machine learning (ML) that focuses on storing knowledge gained while solving one problem and applying it to a different but related problem.

Transformer GPT-3 is basically an AI transformer model. Transformer models are sequence-to-sequence deep learning models that can produce a sequence of text given an input sequence. These models are designed for text generation tasks such as question-answering, text summarization, and machine translation.

U

Unconscious Bias — also known as Implicit Bias, refers to attitudes or stereotypes about certain groups which are often based on mistaken or inaccurate information.

Underrepresented Group — refers to a subset of a population with a smaller percentage than the general population. For example, women, people of color, or indigenous people.

V

Values Fit —  also Culture Fit, identifies the connection of shared goals rather than viewpoints or background.

W

Wallet – a place to store crypto assets.

Cold Wallet – stores digital assets off-line, making them secure from bad actors but more difficult to use

Hot Wallet – is online and easily accessible but also more susceptible to hackers

Wellness / corporate wellness — is the collective mental state of the people within an organisation. It can also involve the physical, health, lifestyle and working practices in a workplace. Research shows that corporate wellness programs can reduce absenteeism, improve productivity and grow positive morale.

Whale – individuals, institutions or exchanges that hold significant amounts of tokens of a particular cryptocurrency

Wisdom of the crowd is the idea that large groups of people are collectively smarter than individual experts when it comes to problem-solving, decision-making, innovating, and predicting.

WOLF – Working On the Latest Fire the team or employee who jumps from one problem to the next. They thrive on the adrenaline rush of putting out fires. The WOLF is great at responding to emergencies, however this can also disrupt your team’s focus and effectiveness.

Workforce Diversity —  means having a group of employees with similarities and differences like age, cultural background, physical abilities and disabilities, race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation.

Work-Life Effectiveness — is a talent management strategy that focuses on doing the best work with the best talent regardless of the diverse aspects of individuals.

Workplace Inclusion — is an intentional effort to create an atmosphere of belonging where all parties can contribute and thrive regardless of their age, gender, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

X

Xenophobia — is prejudice or a dislike for people from other countries.

 

Z

ZEBRA – Zero Evidence But Really Arrogant– ZEBRAs think they know it all but rely on their instinct rather than any actual evidence. To stave off the ZEBRAs in your midst, make sure that you’ve got data to back up your decisions.

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Swae Case Study: How LifeLabs Used Swae to Solve a Costly Industry-Wide Talent Retention and Attraction Challenge in Less Than 30 Days

Swae Case Study: How LifeLabs Used Swae to Solve a Costly Industry-Wide Talent Retention and Attraction Challenge in Less Than 30 Days

How LifeLabs responded to COVID-19, which compounded healthcare recruitment and retention challenges. 

In November 2020, Swae announced our partnership and pilot with LifeLabs to help crowdsource COVID-19 business and operation solutions directly from employees.

While remaining in full operation during COVID-19, LifeLabs had to continuously adapt to the ever-changing landscape with the health and safety of their customers and employees at top of mind. The team reacted swiftly by streamlining operational procedures, modifying their business model and services, and updating policies to remain agile and consistent. 

With great and persistent change comes the challenge of keeping everyone aligned. To support employees, the LifeLabs leadership team wanted to ensure they were hearing internal feedback quickly, addressing complex challenges collaboratively, and keeping an ear open for insightful ideas for improving the organization, all at the same pace of the changes required.

Swae was engaged to help them achieve these goals with a pilot program, formally launched in January 2021. The program was intended to help the LifeLabs team focus on the ‘Future of Work’ and understand how they could adapt processes at their labs and collection centers in a post-pandemic world.

The Swae pilot was initially sponsored by the company’s Lab Operations division. When it began, 28 leaders were invited to join a session to brainstorm, suggest, and collaboratively prioritize the most pressing problems and areas of concern while identifying potential solutions.

THE CHALLENGE 

The top priority that surfaced through their efforts with Swae was the issue of attracting and retaining highly skilled Medical Laboratory Technicians and Technologists. This industry-wide challenge came from increased competition for these roles stemming from the global pandemic and existing long-term trends of increased scarcity for these roles that had been impacting the industry.

The concern of attracting and retaining trained Medical Laboratory Technicians and Technologists is not unique to LifeLabs. This is a challenge affecting the entire healthcare industry. 

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the medical industry has an aging workforce that is retiring earlier than expected. Referencing a Statistics Canada study, they found that as baby boomers move towards retirement, the supply of medical staff has not kept pace with the retirement rate.

The study found that the average retirement age for Canadians employed in health and social services between 1976 and 1980 was almost 65 years, but 10 to 15 years later the average dropped to approximately 62 years. This 3-year reduction and deficit significantly impacts the availability of Medical Laboratory Technicians and Technologists and other specialized medical staff to fill critical roles. 

A recent study on the Fastest Growing Industries and Professions in Healthcare by the Skilled Immigrant Infocentre also identified that Medical Laboratory Technicians and Technologists are among  the highest in-demand professions across the country. In British Columbia alone, they estimate 1,520 new job openings by 2025. While there is significant demand for these professionals, the supply of Medical Laboratory Technicians and Technologists has not kept pace. 

When Medical Laboratory Technicians and Technologists first join LifeLabs, they receive an investment in training and development within the first eight weeks of their employment. For LifeLabs to consistently compete and continuously improve as an organization, it was imperative that they continue to retain their in-demand and highly-trained employees.

Given the uncertainties in the market, this challenge proved very difficult to solve with simple solutions. 

THE SWAE OPPORTUNITY 

When in doubt, innovate! This became LifeLabs’ motto as they addressed each organizational challenge head on. 

By using Swae’s platform, the discovery and brainstorming process uncovered several brilliant ideas from participants to effectively address the various problems they faced.

The group’s biggest area of focus was around talent retention and attraction. The idea that gained the most engagement and traction included offering a retention bonus and student loan subsidy or reimbursement to help newly-trained Technician students pay back a portion of their student loans if they remain employed at LifeLabs for a period of up to two years.

This idea can be a major incentive at any point of a person’s career, but is a definite advantage during times of great uncertainty. In addition, they thought this idea could help LifeLabs improve the incentives for retaining talent while also attracting new applicants.

Over the 30-day pilot, this specific idea gained over 50% engagement from the entire cohort, had an average vote of 82% from 14 managers, and allowed colleagues to collectively raise potential risks and easily discuss all facets of this potential solution in a constructive manner. 

This idea graduated into an official management review by the Vice President of Operations and Human Resources leaders. Together, leadership from across the organization conducted a light feasibility study to stress-test the idea and they now have plans to turn it into official company-wide policy. 

IMPACT OF THE UNCOVERED SOLUTION

Once implemented, the idea could help retain up to 10 Medical Laboratory Technicians and Technologists per year, helping solve a particularly challenging industry-wide retention issue. This in turn could help LifeLabs repurpose scarce resources and re-investment in other areas to continue growing their business.

This potential solution could be a major win for the organization and will be closely monitored throughout the implementation of the policy to fully understand the overall impact more accurately and attribute any positive outcomes back to the Swae pilot. 

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Swae Celebrates the 2-Year Anniversary of Winning the Global Challenges Foundation’s New Shape Prize

Swae Celebrates the 2-Year Anniversary of Winning the Global Challenges Foundation’s New Shape Prize

Part 1 of 2: Quick Recap on the purpose of the Prize, How We Won, and What We’ve Done Since

Swae-Celebrates-the-2-Year-Anniversary-of-Winning-the-Global-Challenges-Foundation’s-New-Shape-Prize

Two years ago almost to this day, The Global Challenges Foundation in Sweden generously awarded Swae as one of three winners of the New Shape Prize (a $600K USD grant amongst 14,000 global applicants) for having a unique and innovative solution to fundamentally improve global governance, decision-making, and our democratic institutions to be more compatible with 21st-century technology, culture and socio-political developments. Our team was incredibly honored and grateful to be given this recognition and it served as an important developmental milestone for us.

Below we share details about the award, our winning pitch, and a summary of how we leveraged the resources to build a working prototype and begin piloting it in real organizational and political environments.

Goals of the New Shape Prize

The New Shape Prize (originally a $5M grant) was generously financed by the Foundation’s benefactor, Mr. Laszlo Szombatfalvy, and designed to inspire ideas and stimulate debate around new, more effective forms of global cooperation at the highest levels about how the world community manages global catastrophic risks, ranging from climate change effects to weapons of mass destruction.

The short 1min explainer video below better describes the New Shape Prize (for those that are unfamiliar with it):

 

The Problem Swae Identified

Today’s international institutions are poorly suited to building experimental or creative win-win solutions to the problems we face as a globe or a collective species. Consequently, there are dangerous emerging under-managed macro risks stemming from the limitations of our governance structures. Our system is no longer fit for our new age and we need new actors, new operating assumptions, and new norms to help reframe our priorities and uphold humanity-first, and nations second. We need new processes and improved participation methods in order to create new solutions that prioritize and give political weight to ideas that advance humanity, preserve and benefiting all in our species, above a narrow set of national self-interests.

Swae’s Winning Submission

The submission on behalf of Swae proposed the introduction of a technology platform to decentralize global governance to participatory and deliberative models. Using an AI-based collaboration platform (which we were in the early stages of prototyping), we intended to fuel much greater citizen collaboration and ideation around policies and budget suggestions, as the entry point for decentralized and meaningful citizen participation in governance. By using technology and AI for the good, Swae intended to create alternative forms of sovereignty, across the local, national and international spheres, to challenge or complement the authority and sovereignty of nation-states to make decisions about our collective well-being.

Here’s our in-depth proposal “Reinventing Global Governance and Democracy through AI-supported Bottom-up Deliberation”: Download the PDF or View Online.

How we used the award?

Two years really seems to fly by when you’re building a company and trying to democratize democracy! The win was an incredibly important milestone in our journey so far and helped really kick off the growth of Swae through the financial and reputational outcomes of this award.

Immediately upon the win, our startups financial pressures were (temporarily) alleviated, and the news of the award provided validation of and interest in our concept. Because of this, it attracted new interest from angel investors, new potential clients, and a host of enthusiasts (researchers, philosophy and political theorists, documentary film makers, activists, other technology providers, etc.) who had worked on similar ideas or were absolutely thrilled to see a group recommending a non-incremental change to our democratic processes and the management of global affairs. The award, and this relative validation, created pilot opportunities for us to scope out. We were able to grow our user base and much, much more (see more below).

Here’s a shortlist of some of the things that we were able to achieve with this award.

  • We got the financial runway to build a MVP of our platform and really move forward in a more progressive manner
  • We were able to recruit important members of our core team (CTO and Co-Founder, strong advisors, Marketing Lead, etc.)
  • We launched 5 pilot programs and signed our first commercial annual contract
  • We were able to grow our user base from 0 to over 15,000+
  • Since being able to initially grow the team, we retracted twice given market uncertainties and now we face the latest issues caused by the COVID-19 crisis

Below is our winning pitch and below that we the slide deck that won us the prize.

Click here to see our presentation deck

In part two of this series, we’ll provide a more in-depth look at what we’ve accomplished, learned and struggled with since the win — stay tuned!

And, once again, our sincere thank you goes out to the Global Challenges Foundation for this award!

Our Response to Covid-19: Announcing Swae Public

Our Response to Covid-19: Announcing Swae Public

Helping Teams, Organizations, and Governments Adapt to Digital Decision-Making

TLDR: Swae is launching a publicly accessible version of Swae to empower Teams, Organizations, and Governments to rapidly adapt to digital and remote decision-making during and after the coronavirus crisis

If there was ever a time for Swae, it’s now.

The Covid-19 Crisis is a watershed moment for reorganizing society to embrace a remote and digital-first reality. While most institutions have been unprepared to work and make decisions remotely, adapting decision-making process to embrace this remote reality is vital to the world’s progress at government and organizational levels. Almost every decision is one we’ve never faced before, and the need for inclusion, transparency, competition for the best solutions, and quality data and arguments has never been more important.

To help teams, companies, and governments adapt accordingly, over the next 4 weeks Swae will be launching a public open version of the platform that allows any organization or local government that is finding the ability to make collective decisions during this time quite difficult, to sign up and launch their own Swae environments.

Swae’s platform works a lot like Slack, which most teams and companies are already comfortable with, and enables them to make collective decisions over the internet quickly, conveniently, and safely.

Use cases include 1) digital annual general meetings, 2) remote team decision-making, and, 3) digital policy making and governance, and many more.

Background

As the situation with Coronavirus (Covid-19) unfolds daily, we incrementally accept that this pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon and will have very long term consequences. While experts ponder the full extent of the implications, one thing is for certain: Covid-19 has created a watershed moment for remote work and digital alternatives to physical meetings.

From team coordination, alignment, consensus building, strategic formation, governance and policy-making, our physical decision-making processes need to adapt to a world where much more must happen online. Remote work, remote collaboration, and remote and digital decision-making is here to stay and we must adapt our teams, companies, and governments accordingly.

Earlier in March 2020, British Columbia’s Premier, The Honorable John Horgan, discussed how badly they needed digital alternatives to a physical parliament convening, so that the policy makers could exchange a healthy debate about possible legislation the government was considering to enact into law. I imagine this is the case all around the world, where every government needs to ratify certain decisions into legislation and requires the benefits of healthy deliberation to identify and address any inherent biases or unintended consequences to make the best possible programs, policies, and solutions under the circumstances.

There are many actions that require digital alternatives that can work just as well as an in-person reality which includes;

  1. team alignment, collaboration, brainstorming, and decision-making,
  2. citizen inclusion in the policy design process,
  3. stakeholder inclusion in data gathering and solution formation for executive policy and strategy decisions, 
  4. digitizing annual general meetings.

Now more than ever, people need the right tools, platforms, and safe environments to make high quality collective decisions about a lot of things that remain uncertain.

Now more than ever, people need the right tools, platforms, and safe environments to make high quality collective decisions about a lot of things that remain uncertain. We are having to make decisions around topics that we’ve never had to face previously. Decisions such as possible changes to mortgage laws, employment insurance, rental vacations, policies at work around compensation, benefits and entitlements for small businesses, public policy about self-isolation, the border, etc.

The need for inclusion, transparency, a competition for the best solutions that includes high quality data, input, and arguments/perspectives has never been more important to ease the tensions and move forward with legitimacy.

The need for inclusion, transparency, a competition for the best solutions that includes high quality data, input, and arguments/perspectives has never been more important to ease the tensions and move forward with legitimacy.

 

Swae for the Public

 

Until now, Swae has been serving enterprise clients and government entities with its business-to-business platform. Swae has, for example, handled organizations such as Etihad Airways, Bosch, Doctors without Borders, amongst others with over 25,000 employees and over 15,000 active users. While we’ve experienced great results since launching our MVP product 16 months ago, the platform required a lot of customization and further integrations to make it work well for each organization.

Given the times we face and the need for remote inclusion, over the next 4 weeks Swae will launch a platform open to the public, that will allow any organization or local government to sign up and launch their own Swae environment (that is similar to using a Slack environment) to help teams, companies, and governments adapt accordingly.

Leveraging all our learnings and feature improvements to date, users will initially walk through a light configuration and integration process, and then begin inviting other users into Swae to begin ideating, and creating competing solutions to various challenges and inviting competing proposals from stakeholders to make high-quality and legitimate collective decisions over the internet.

With a few clicks and an easy onboarding process, remote teams, NGOs, small businesses, companies, and governments will be able to make inclusive, transparent, AI-supported, and merit-based decisions collectively during this crisis.

Use Cases & Pricing

Use cases for this public version of Swae can include:

Digital Policy Making — convening governments remotely to deliberate over legislation,

Digital Annual General Meetings (AGMs) — to digitally host your upcoming annual general meeting

Remote Team Decision-Making — teams can crowdsource a variety of solutions to a common challenge for survival strategy or compensation policies during any crisis.

Swae will offer flexible or, in some cases, free pricing in order to make sure that cost is no barrier to helping people use the most robust digital and remote platform for decision-making during this time.

Next week we’ll release more details of the features and a timeline on how we’ll be opening up Swae to the public to help all types of organizations, local governments, and communities leverage our technology to make the collective ideation and decision-making process much more technologically savvy, remote, safe, and convenient.

This is the moment that we all can come together to hear all of the relevant solutions and alternatives that matter, and use a fact and merit-based process for deciding the important decisions that we need to make. Our response matters. Please stay tuned as we release more.

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