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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a drone! Three ways drones are the new superheroes

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a drone! Three ways drones are the new superheroes

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a drone! Three ways drones are the new superheroes

By Sydney Radclyffe for Box News

Most of us have by now felt the unique annoyance caused by a drone, whether buzzing overhead in the park or getting in the way of our holiday flight plans

In the past year, drone ‘no-fly zones’ came into effect around all UK airports, and general public opinion of the technology seems to swing from distrust to ridicule. 

With all the bad press, it’s easy to forget the great many benefits drones have to offer – after all, we humans did create them to help us. 

Here are a few examples of the positive humanitarian and environmental efforts that drones are bringing to the world. 

Disaster response and relief aid

When disaster strikes—especially in hard-to-reach areas—it can be challenging to get a clear picture of the destruction and how best to carry out relief operations. Satellite imagery has been vital in understanding the aftermath of devastating natural disasters for more than 20 years. While indispensable, the technology’s weak points include high costs, data sharing restrictions, vulnerability to bad weather, and delay in relaying images. 

Drones, or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), cut straight through these issues. They capture higher quality images faster and cheaper, fly below the cloud cover, and possibly most importantly, ordinary members of the public can own and operate them. 

This means individuals in communities hit by disaster, who are first to the scene and impacted on an immediate, personal level, can actually launch UAVs, assess a situation and pinpoint areas of need independently, without waiting for outside intervention. 

This grassroots approach is crucial for the resilience of communities in crisis. Groups like SkyEye and CartONG recognise this factor and have been training locals in the Philippines and Haiti to use UAVs in disaster response. 

 After Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013, these groups launched an unprecedented number of aid UAVs. Awareness and development of the tech’s potential for disaster relief has since grown enormously, leading the UN to publish official guidelines on UAVs for humanitarian aid. 

Putting an end to poaching

All species of rhino are now threatened or endangered, and roughly three are killed every day for their horns. Illegal rhino poaching, concentrated in South Africa, has been hard to curb due to the difficulty of tracking poachers in the wild. Here, UAVs present a much-needed solution, as they’re able to operate quickly in remote areas and spot targets at night, which is when poachers usually strike.

A group at the University of Maryland created a sophisticated profile of poaching behaviour by studying the movements of animals, hunters and rangers. Guessing the whereabouts of a human poacher at any given time is impossible; the key is knowing where the animals are and the conditions leading up to an attack. 

First, algorithms predict the rhinos’ location on a particular night. Then UAVs with infrared cameras are launched to head off poachers as they approach. Since the deployment of anti-poaching UAVs in certain areas of South Africa in 2017, the practice of rhino poaching has almost disappeared. Pretty impressive stuff. 

Bridging the gap

Though often used in large-scale operations, drones sometimes have to work small, too. A joint project from Zurich’s Institute for Dynamic Systems & Control and Gramazio Kohler Research successfully programmed quadcopters to build rope bridges strong enough to support a person’s weight. 

The team believes the technology would be useful for search and rescue operations and could one day save lives.

The quadcopters’ fiddly task involves tying a complicated series of knots to form a walkway between two points – the researchers sensibly used scaffolding, but you could easily picture an escape route across a ravine. 

At the moment, these drones have been lab-tested but would need cameras and more complex code to help someone in a real-world scenario. The bridge, able to span up to 7.4m, is the product of three years’ hard work and represents a huge leap forward in robotic aerial building techniques. 

Here at Box we’re really excited about the positive humanitarian and environmental impact drones could have. Our future will see multiple opportunities to use burgeoning technologies for good, and we applaud every early adopter, inventor, visionary and chancer that comes up with an ingenious solution to the problems we all face.

Assuming positive intent: a smart approach to flexible working

Assuming positive intent: a smart approach to flexible working

Assuming positive intent: a smart approach to flexible working

By Carrie Kleiner for Box News

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: the way we work is changing. 

As Generation Z starts flooding the workplace with their nomadic, culture-focused approach, we’re poised to say goodbye to set career paths and organisational loyalty. Instead, expect to see the new workforce jumping from role to role, chasing great culture, autonomy and financial security. And, if you want to stay in the game, you’d better start playing.

Why you need to care about the changing workplace

Here at Box Media, we’re pretty obsessed with the future of work. Not least because we spend some of our time hanging out in our experimental playground working with behavioural scientists exploring AI and robotics, and how they’re going to affect the way we work. 

We believe that the future will be a blend of human and machine, which will allow us to ‘be more human’. Moving away from menial, repetitive tasks, and focusing on using our knowledge creatively, we’re able to hone all-important soft skills into superpowers. 

Almost all industries are looking at ways to save money. Many are looking at ways to save the planet, too. Thinking about how to have a more flexible workplace not only suits the roaming tendencies of Generation Z, but it also gives us an opportunity to:

  • reduce our footprints in expensive city-centre locations
  • reduce our carbon footprints as a whole 
  • encourage a better work-life balance by letting people work locally

Sure, this comes with some challenges, but there’s a lot of scope to see things differently. We can improve our quality of life, reduce costs and increase productivity if we do things right.

Moving towards an outcome-led approach, and waving goodbye to presenteeism

‘Doing it right’ can be easier said than done, though. 

Presenteeism has long felt like an essential part of working life for almost every industry. 

Of course, there will always be some industries, jobs and roles that require you to be physically present. For example, I’m not quite sure how you’d serve lunch in a cafe, or care for people in a hospital without some onsite staff. However, even in industries where all you need is a computer and an internet connection, there’s still sometimes a tendency to need to ‘see’ your staff to know they’re working.

Firstly, if a member of staff is slacking off when they’re working from home, they’re probably finding ways to slack off when they’re working in the office, too. This is a management issue that can be dealt with if you’re: 

  • ready to have tough conversations
  • willing to set goals, targets, clear deadlines and objectives
  • able to put some trust in your people to do what is expected of them, even if you can’t ‘see’ what they’re up to

Assuming positive intent – even though your parents told you not to

One way to get the best out of a team, even when you can’t see them, is an approach called ‘assumed positive intent’. 

Put simply:

“Assuming positive intent means always starting from the idea that a person meant well or was doing their best, no matter what they say or do.”

We are brought up to mistrust people’s kind behaviour. We teach kids to assume that people have their own selfish motivations for their seemingly selfless behaviour towards us, and this mistrust causes misguidance. 

At work, that misguidance often manifests itself as a tendency not to offer yourself selflessly to others in case your actions are, themselves, misconstrued. This cycle then means you tend not to trust the people around you as a result. 

To break the cycle, you need to assume that your team are doing what you’ve asked of them. If you combine this with clearly defined outcome-based activities, you won’t need to keep checking in – if they’re not working like you assume they should be, it’ll become apparent very quickly. If this happens, you’ll need to tackle it head-on – but if you continue to anticipate positive intent, you’ll be able to have this conversation in a constructive and open, rather than accusatory way. 

Embracing flexibility to stay ahead of the game

Lots of horizon-scanning experts see flexible working as defining the future of work. Looking for the best candidate, without geographical restrictions, will help open up the ‘workplace’ more than ever before. Embracing a blended workforce of full-time, part-time, job share and remote workers will encourage true diversity, and make our workforce happier and more productive!

Some practical steps to get you started

  • don’t expect to change the world overnight – make small, incremental changes over time
  • make a plan – without it, your changes will fall through the cracks
  • involve your people – to realise long-lasting change you have to bring your team on the journey with you, help them feel part of the changes, and assume positive intent
  • lead from the front – if you don’t lead the changes and show your team how it should be, don’t expect them to make the changes on their own.
Five must-watch Christmas movies if you’re sick of hyper-romantic narratives

Five must-watch Christmas movies if you’re sick of hyper-romantic narratives

Five must-watch Christmas movies if you’re sick of hyper-romantic narratives

By Sydney Radclyffe for BoxNews.io

The past few years have seen a rash of hyper-romantic Christmas movies, with titles like A Christmas Prince and Merry Kissmas dominating the yuletide scene. 

If you’re sick of the sappiness, it can be hard to know where to turn – after all, most of us end up watching the same stalwart specials year after year. Of course, the holidays are a time to unwind with family and enjoy festive traditions, but who says our viewing options can’t be just a little inspiring? 

This year, we’ve put together a list of five Christmas movies which resist tired romance narratives, or which couldn’t have been made without instrumental women working behind the scenes.

1. Last Christmas (2019) directed by Paul Feig, co-written by and starring Emma Thompson, lead role Emilia Clarke

Last Christmas – Emilia Clarke – Photo Credit: Universal / YouTube

The trailer for ‘Last Christmas’ suggests a holiday romance like any other. But, the story actually only uses ‘boy-meets-girl-under-the-mistletoe’ as a jumping-off point. Before you know it, you’re drawn into the messiness of real-life and all its un-Christmassy complications.

Without giving away too much, ‘Last Christmas’ manages to navigate issues like physical and mental health, second-generation family dynamics, and life as a woman in the city. The movie does all this with sensitivity and just the right amount of festive cheer.

Co-writer and ‘Love Actually’ legend Emma Thompson features as the mother of main character Kate (played by Clarke). Emma’s performance embodies the same wit, strength, and sensitivity that colours the whole film.

2. Let It Snow (2019) directed by Luke Snellin, starring Isabela Merced, Shameik Moore, Kiernan Shipka and Joan Cusack

Let It Snow – Jacob Batalon, Jon Champagne, Mitchell Hope, Jamie Champagne – Photo Credit: Netflix / Steve Wilkie

This year, Netflix pushes the boat out with an expansive, modern, truly funny tale for the younger generation, from the all-female writing team of Laura Solon, Victoria Strouse and Kay Cannon.

Set in a small town on Christmas Eve, ‘Let It Snow’ brings together three plotlines and an ensemble cast of young actors, weaving between a snowstorm, a last-minute party, and an abundance of family drama (Christmas, eh?).

While romance pops up as often as you’d expect in a teen-centric comedy, this largely steers clear of convention. Like many young people today, the characters deal with the pressures of familial obligation on personal relationships and burgeoning questions of sexual identity.

A whimsical thread of Christmas magic is woven throughout by the Tinfoil Lady, played by screen treasure Joan Cusack.

3. Carol (2015) directed by Todd Haynes, written by Phyllis Nagy, starring Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett

Carol – Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett – Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company

Although not a Christmas movie in the strictest sense of the word, ‘Carol’ is set during the festive period. The richness of detail put into the period costumes and settings, and its themes of courageous love in the face of adversity have boosted its status as a queer Christmas classic since the picture’s release in 2015.

Young Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) is working at a Manhattan department store during December when she meets Carol Aird, a glamorous woman in the midst of a difficult divorce. As their friendship progresses into more, both women must forget what they know about attraction, family and obligation, and re-learn how to love through one another.

The screenplay, written by Phyllis Nagy, is based on the 1952 novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, and development on ‘Carol’ started in 1997. All in all, the movie represents a triumph of many women’s hard work, strength of vision and, most simply, love.

4. Mrs Santa Claus (1996) directed by Terry Hughes, starring Angela Lansbury

Mrs Santa Claus – Charles Durning, Angela Lansbury, Michael Jeter – Photo Credit: 1996 Hallmark Entertainment

We’ve seen a few gender-swapping Christmas movies over the years, including Disney’s newly-released ‘Noelle’. But, as with most things touched by Angela Lansbury, ‘Mrs Santa Claus’ is undoubtedly the original and best. 

Released in 1996 as a TV movie, it has since become a staunch favourite of both young and old. Set in the year 1910, Lansbury plays an under-appreciated Mrs Claus who takes matters into her own hands when Santa gets stuck in his ways. She commandeers the sleigh and is forced to make an emergency landing in New York City, where she joins a diverse and vibrant community of locals and immigrants. Mrs Claus’ new friends draw her into issues like child labour and women’s suffrage, all while she tries to return to the North Pole to save Christmas.

5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947) directed by George Seaton, starring Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara, John Payne

Movies like ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ are the most persuasive evidence that, in some cases, there’s just no beating a classic.

Released in 1947, it offered one of the first on-screen portrayals of Santa Claus. This image became fixed in our cultural memory, shaping how we picture the jolly man in red to this day.

The story centres around a little girl, Susan (Natalie Wood in her first role), being raised by a busy, professional single mother, Doris (Maureen O’Hara). When Doris accidentally gets the real Kris Kringle to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a crisis of morals and beliefs is unleashed on the stuffy, conformist, money-hungry world of postwar Manhattan. In the midst of this, a little girl must learn for herself the difference between right and wrong, and the true meaning of Christmas.

In the words of Kringle, “Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind.”

Innovative collision: Where diversity, agility and power skills thrive

Innovative collision: Where diversity, agility and power skills thrive

Innovative collision: Where diversity, agility and power skills thrive

By Alasdair Munn for Box News

Recently the Box Media team headed over to Dublin to spend time with Accenture Research at Accenture Dock. 

Mark Purdy, Managing Director at Accenture Research, said something that resonated with us, and perfectly articulates how we think at Box Labs: 

“If the trends that create the future are already at work, why should the future surprise us?”

And yet, we often misread trends or even get ‘future predictions’ spectacularly wrong. 

Why might this be? 

According to Mark, it’s because we tend to look at trends in isolation, and we don’t focus on ‘collision’.

When worlds collide, there’s magic in the air

‘Collision’ is a brilliant way to describe trend analysis. Innovation requires disruption. Behaviour change can only happen if we are willing to shake up the way we work, think and structure our processes. We must be ready to open up silos and change the way we work.

Collision goes way beyond analysis …

We often hear the term ‘agility’ when someone’s talking about beating a path to innovation and behaviour change. And, they’re not wrong, agility is an important attribute. But, we need to reposition ‘soft skills’ as ‘power skills’ too. These skills are often overlooked but are critically important. 

Soft skills to power skills

Regardless of the origins of the term soft skills, the term ‘soft’ has led to an image of fluffy, secondary, or ‘nice to have’ 

In a world that’s becoming increasingly automated and augmented, the very skills that differentiate us from software and hardware are the skills that make us human. 

If these are what differentiates us, and where we bring our best value, there is nothing soft about them. Make no bones about it – these are power skills.

 For the future of work, these skills are of equal importance to our technical and STEAM skills. As machines are augmenting our work, doing repetitive tasks and providing organised data sets, our power skills will help us to deal with ‘collision’.

Embracing true diversity for a preferred future

Diversity is not about targets. Although this is a way of correcting a historically produced inequality, the focus of diversity should be that the future success of a business depends upon it.

At Box Media, we see diversity as essential if we are to innovate, open up our silos and create meaningful, impactful and behaviour-changing systems, process and content. 

If we surround ourselves with people with the same ideas, backgrounds and life experiences, we run the risk of cementing our silos, not opening them up. 

If we don’t push previously excluded people to the front, how will they gain the exposure and experience they need to allow them to bring their best selves to shaping a better future?

As a business, we need to ensure we are relevant, robust and fit for future purpose

Working with the folks at Accenture Labs, Accenture Dock and Accenture Research has shown this to be true. They embrace diversity. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is a real competitive advantage, and it is a deep part of their working culture. 

Separate tables of AI scientists, Design thinkers, Neuroscientist, sociologists, accountants, management consultants may push people towards ‘best in field’ thinking, but it is only when you have a table that brings everyone together, diverse skills, ages, genders, cultures that you reach collision.

We are committed to collision, collaboration, and cultural change

At Box Media, we are a multicultural and multidisciplinary team. We are entrepreneurs, filmmakers, behavioural scientists, editorial experts, industrial product designers, artists, communication experts, technologists and strategists. 

Everything we have done has been leading us to this point. Our purpose, experience and expertise have collided with advances in technology, changes in human behaviour and an increased consciousness around responsible business. 

We are on the cusp of a new renaissance, and we have a chance to shape a future that works for the majority. 

At Box Media, we wake up every day ready to collide with like-minded people to drive innovation and purposefully help shape the future. 

Tara Smith: Beauty begins at the roots

Tara Smith: Beauty begins at the roots

Tara Smith: Beauty begins at the roots

By Sydney Radclyffe for Box News

The beauty industry isn’t typically associated with ethical values, either social or environmental, but Tara Smith is guiding this particular market towards meaningful change.

The Hollywood institution-turned-entrepreneur’s eco-friendly, vegan line, Tara Smith Haircare, has redefined expectations of ethical beauty. Tara’s brand proves that consumers can be kinder to themselves and the planet while enjoying a high-quality product.

Box Media spoke with the 3rd-generation hairdresser to learn about her journey and the values which shaped it.

How things got started

The seed for her company was planted early in Tara’s life. Spending time in her grandmother’s salon as a child, she noticed how regular use of traditional, chemical-laden products aggravated the skin. Tara soon realised that this was happening to all our bodies on some level.

Decades later, this troubling knowledge would push her to start her own line of vegan hair products. Tara’s desire to drive change manifested in a company culture that doesn’t prioritise financial success or visibility. Instead, she genuinely champions industry and consumer responsibility for the health of individuals and the planet.

Foundations in Hollywood

For almost 20 years, Tara worked as lead and personal hairstylist on over 35 major film titles. During this time Tara formed connections with some of Hollywood’s most prominent creative names.

Although she started her career journey in a very different place, working in the film industry provided the foundation for Tara Smith Haircare. Tara’s wealth of experience helped to demonstrate the gap in the market for healthy, eco-friendly hair products delivering a world-class standard of quality. Based on the high demand she saw from this small group of professionals, Tara knew that the public would undoubtedly take an interest too.

Helping to start the ethical self-care revolution

Winning the 2006 Celebrity Hairdresser of the Year award gave Tara the momentum to finally launch her brand. At the time, the vegan movement was in its infancy and not quite yet a buzzword, let alone a widely-available option for everything from dairy to cleaning products.

In Tara’s words, “What you put on your body is just as important as what you put in your mouth.”

This quality formed the backbone of her business’ ethos, and in many ways presaged the ethical self-care movement. While many, at first, were sceptical of the appeal of vegan haircare, ethical products have since flooded the mainstream.

Others have, of course, realised the value of ‘vegan’ and ‘ethical’ as labels. But Tara has never approached this as a trend. For her, caring for oneself and the environment is vital to a healthy, happy existence.

Tara Smith Haircare is cruelty- and animal product-free and non-toxic. It won’t harm the ecosystem through the water supply, unlike the majority of beauty and cleaning products. Whether or not others share her commitment, Tara laid the groundwork for other vegan companies to grow. Tara was at the beginning of the movement to make ethical products more accessible and affordable for the average consumer, not a privileged few.

A lifelong commitment to doing good things with good people

The positive impact of Tara’s company is almost impossible to calculate, yet she never intended to become an innovator. Throughout her career, she’s stuck to the principle of “doing it from the heart”, whatever “it” might be. 

Tara’s radical, non-discriminating care for people and the planet has grown in tandem with her resources, and she believes in taking the opportunity to “pay it forward” whenever possible. 

Having worked in the past with actress and activist Patricia Arquette, Tara joined the board of GiveLove, an NGO headed by Arquette which is working to improve global sanitation. 

Above all, Tara is proof that you don’t have to choose between ethics and success in business. In fact, by uniting the two, you can make more of an impact than you ever thought possible. 

From this angle, the positive impact of Tara’s company is likely impossible to calculate, yet none of her work was thought up just to make waves, and she never intended to become an innovator; throughout her career she has stuck fast to the principle of “doing it from the heart”, whatever “it” may be. Her radical, non-discriminating care for people and the planet alike has only grown larger in tandem with her resources, and she is a firm believer in taking the opportunity to “pay it forward” whenever possible. Having worked in the past with actress and activist Patricia Arquette, she joined the board of GiveLove, an NGO headed by Arquette which is working to improve global sanitation.

Above all, Tara is proof that you don’t have to choose between ethics and success in businessin fact, by uniting the two, you might make more of an impact than you ever thought possible. 

Visit www.tarasmith.com and get to know Tara Smith Haircare.