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Cool Cousin and the Future of Travel

Cool Cousin and the Future of Travel

“People want a say in how their city is appreciated”: Cool Cousin and the Future of Travel

TripAdvisor used to brand itself as the “World’s most trusted travel site”. Yep, that actually happened. To put this claim in proportion, that’s a bit like Cambridge Analytica describing itself as the “World’s most trusted consulting firm”. Or me describing myself as the “World’s most trusted semi-detached house”. It’s just not true.TripAdvisor has consistently been at the centre of scandal: from the Cornish hotel that bribed guests to write good reviews, to the non-existent restaurant—‘The Shed at Dulwich’—that, thanks to a Vice journalist, ended up at the top of TripAdvisor’s rankings for restaurants in London. Eventually, TripAdvisor executives stopped finding their trademark delightfully ironic so in 2013, after a string of lawsuits, they changed their tagline to a more modest boast—the “World’s largest travel site”.

Fundamentally, the problem with TripAdvisor is that it gives too much power to the anonymous traveller. Anyone can post reviews (or be paid to post reviews) and, in that process, harm an entire city’s tourist industry. At Boxspring News, we look into problems like this one—problems of corruption, misinformation and mismanagement. And then we keep an eye out for the people who want to bring about change. So, we spoke to Cool Cousin, a new traveltech venture, who offer something new. On their app, users can connect with locals (“Cousins”) who show off their favourite places to eat, drink, dance, and whatever-verb-is-used-for-walking-slowly-through-a-gallery. All of these Cousins have a profile that tells the user how old they are, what they do, and then shows their map—their unique guide to their city. If you have questions, you can simply message the Cousin and they’ll get back to you within 24 hours.

Callum Hale-Thomson, Cool Cousins’s Head of Business Development explained to me why their app keeps travellers happy. “We live in a world of information overload. We’re constantly being bombarded by websites like TripAdvisor, Yelp,” Callum said. “All we want is to be guided, and to be given something that’s super relevant to us and has not been driven by corporate interests.” In other words, we want the advice of someone who can unlock a city for us. We want a local’s perspective: “You want to be guided by your Cousin because you trust them, on an emotional and personal level, and you’d like to think they’re not going to rip you off.” “It’s why all of our descriptions aren’t just recommendations of a place, it explains why the local goes there, and what they do there.”

But Cool Cousin isn’t just for the benefit of travellers. They also want to help out locals. “We’re seeing huge amounts of over-tourism in cities. Look at Barcelona: there are marches saying, “Refugees welcome. Tourists go home.” La Rambla – it’s full of tourist traps. Whereas, we might tell you that 15 minutes away, there’s a fantastic tapas bar and that’s been run by the same family for 100 years. You can go there, it’ll be cheaper, and you’ll be supporting the local economy. And our cousins will tell you how to behave there, what to order, and how to be respectful.”

  And locals have responded enthusiastically. “Locals are so willing to be those cultural ambassadors, not for any financial gain. I was shocked when I discovered that our cousins love to reply to messages. People want a say in how their city is appreciated. What we’re trying to do is give those locals a voice and let them say, “Look, this is my city and how I live my life and this is how you can be part of that life.””

Author: Alex Hill

Continual Learning is an Ecosystem

Continual Learning is an Ecosystem

Continual Learning is an Ecosystem

 

By now we all understand the nature of work is changing. AI and automation are heralding a new dawn in the way we work. We are heading towards a reality where the ability to be adaptive, ask the right questions and to apply critical thinking will be just as important as the sum of the knowledge we hold in our brains

Although we say things like ‘learning is a lifelong pursuit”, the way we structure workplace learning is reactive.  As jobs are constantly changing, we need to adapt, reskill and upskill all the time. Applied learning throughout our careers is becoming essential. And, as we apply human plus machine, where we focus more on what it is to be human at work, personalised learning journeys become essential

Yet learning is not an individual responsibility and it does not happen in a vacuum. Companies are understanding more and more their investment in training has to translate into directed learning. It makes sense to recruit people who have the right aptitudes towards adaptation, communication and learning and then skill them towards companies’ changing needs. We hear a lot from companies who say ‘Our people make us who we are’, yet much of recruitment is still centred on skills before people and then spending resources to make those people ‘our people’. This may have made sense in an environment of slow or static change, but as the nature of work evolves, this recruitment strategy will become less effective.

Training can no longer be an added layer, brought in to fix a broken system.  Learning, upskilling, reskilling and empowering employees has to be part of an extended ecosystem. It needs to be embedded into and informed by the entire organisation. When we talk about personalised learning journeys we don’t mean people in a vacuum, we mean the individual AND the organisation. Personalised does not mean separate from, it means specific to the needs, learning preferences, skills, gaps, competencies of the individual in relation to the learning outcomes and objectives that have been identified by the organisation.

This is an approach that we at Boxspring take towards developing our workplace content and the environment in which it lives. As capabilities grow and we leave behind legacy systems, we will see the relationship between content, individual, purpose, objectives and skill development grow closer together.

This approach extends beyond the immediate employee-employer relationship. Imagine a world where you can apply this to your recruitment strategy. A true people focus can attract the right people for your business and allow them to develop the attributes your business needs before they start day one. We love what Workbay are doing as an example of creating connected ecosystems in recruitment.

It is an exciting time.  Change brings disruption but disruption allows us the opportunity to focus on getting the fundamentals right as we apply the inevitable new processes to our businesses.

Author: Alasdair Munn

Shaping Our Future, Responsibly

Shaping Our Future, Responsibly

Shaping our Future, Responsibly

I read with interest an article in the New York Times titled The Hidden Automation Agenda of the Davos Elite This topic is certainly getting a lot of media attention. For the past two years, Boxspring has been focusing on the future of work, specifically the real need to reskill a workforce in the wake of automation, AI and the changing work landscape.

Perhaps it is because we have been looking at this for a while that I find this article a little alarmist. 

It is the case that, as we enter the fourth industrial revolution and automation and intelligent systems start to replace existing jobs and we find ourselves with a skills shortage for the new roles, we are going to have an uncomfortable time of both job losses and skills shortages. Businesses will struggle to adapt and there will be real hardships for people who find themselves without work or the means to adapt, reskill and refocus. To simply reduce this to an opinion that this is a hidden agenda, thought up by greedy elite capitalists is a little reductive and not entirely helpful. As this Forbes article points out  ‘Over the past six decades, the average lifespan of an S&P 500 company has plunged from 58 years to 18 years.’ For businesses today, staying put and not adapting is simply not an option. Companies have to adapt, and they have to disrupt or newcomers will enter and do the adapting and disruption for them. The path towards automation and adaptive processes is set. Work, as we know it, will transform and be redefined. Businesses will seek out new ways of gaining efficiencies and advantages from technology.

So, the focus should not be spent on blaming business for the hardship, but rather, how do we minimise or mitigate the hardship? How do we make sure we are prepared for this transformation? What is the most effective way to ensure reskilling, refocus and an engaged, fit for purpose workforce? How do we create systems, processes and content that not only address these issues today, but continues to address them in 5, 10, 15 years time? These are big questions, ones we have been working on over the last few years. We don’t have all the answers but we do know that the actions we take today are the ones that are shaping our future. It is beholden to us all, collectively, to work towards a preferred future, one which is equitable, sustainable, fair and just. Now is the time for positive and meaningful action, not sensationalism and despair.