Attend Nelnet Spark on 8/21 - Featuring Jessica Schumacher

Diversification and innovation are at the core of who we are and what we do. Nelnet Spark is a monthly event where innovators from across the organization share and discuss new trends, concepts, and developments in all of Nelnet’s business lines. The event allows a diverse group of innovators the opportunity to share key insights, incubate new ideas, and ultimately use technology to fulfill Nelnet’s mission to create opportunities where we live, learn, and work.

At each event, a selected Nelnet leader gives a short presentation about innovation taking place in his or her business area. This could be an update about a project his or her team is currently working on, takeaway learnings from an external event, etc. The presentation will be followed by 15 minutes of Q&A and then networking and idea sharing.

August’s Nelnet Spark event will be held in Lincoln, and feature Jessica Schumacher, who will present on Nelnet’s successful and distinctive internship programs.

Nelnet Spark August Event

Wednesday, August 21

8:30 to 9:30 a.m. (Central)

Nelnet Haymarket Tesla Room

If you are not based in Lincoln but will be on-site for business travel, you are welcome and encouraged to attend. The event will also be livestreamed at this link, and a recording of the event will be available on the Portal afterward.

For more information about Nelnet Spark or to apply to be a featured speaker, email Nelnet.Communications@Nelnet.net.



Brian Ardinger
Innovation Reads - Week of August 19, 2019

This week’s articles and insights to take a look at…

  • We Need a New Science of Progress - The Atlantic

  • Speed Matters: Why Working Quickly is More Important Than It Seems - the jsomers.net blog

  • Don’t Put a Digital Expert in Charge of Your Digital Transformation - HBR

  • How To Build A Model Portfolio - Forbes

  • The Science Behind Eureka Moments - Elemental+

  • How Established Companies Can Foster A Culture Of Innovation - Forbes

  • Business Leaders Gird for ‘Organizational Explosions’ - MIT

  • Innovation: Too Much Talk and Not Enough Thinking - The Irish Times

  • IoT Applications in Agriculture - Data Driven Investor

  • Leading Change in a Company That’s Historically Bad At It - HBR

  • Corporate to College Learning - Corporations Take a Proactive Stance in Shaping Tomorrows Leaders - Ameritas

+1 Bonus

  • MakerPad - Whatever tool you want to build, you can do it without code


Brian Ardinger
Innovation Reads - Week of August 12, 2019

This week’s top stories and insights in the world of innovation…

  • Space as a Business Model - Strategyzer

  • Why Innovation Labs Fail, and How to Ensure Yours Doesn’t - HBR

  • The 4 Scenarios of Startup Timing - Gabor Cselle

  • The Mirage of Cloud Gaming (And How to Reach the Oasis) - Redef

  • Gestural Packaging - J. Walter Thompson Intelligence

  • The Hidden Bias in Iterative Product Development - UX Collective

  • How Blockchain Will Change Construction - HBR

  • The 50 best workplaces for innovators - Fast Company

  • What Companies Should Know When Shopping for AI - WSJ

  • The Unbelievable Scale of Fortnite's $30 Million World Cup - Wired 



Brian Ardinger
Innovation Reads - Week of July 28, 2019

A few articles to kick off the week.

  • AI 101: Understanding Customer Churn Management - Towards Data Science

  • Top AI Trends of 2019 - Artificial Intelligence Network

  • China Internet Report Reveals How Tech Firms Have Gone from Copycats to Trailblazers - SCMP

  • Urban, Innovative, Sustainable - VW Looks at Micromobility - VW

  • The Most Overlooked Skill In Corporate Innovation - Forbes

  • NPS is a Waste of Time. Use These Metrics Instead - Jeff Gothelf

  • Leading Women In STEM Share Five Keys To Unlocking Innovation - Forbes

  • Why Did We Wait So Long for the Bicycle? - The Roots of Progress

  • How the American Work Day Changed in 15 Years - Flowing Data

  • Yes, You Actually Should Be Using Emojis at Work - WSJ


Bonus +1

  • Tribe of Mentors: Most Impactful Purchases of $100 or Less - Tim Ferris

Brian Ardinger
Innovation Reads - Week of July 22, 2019

This week’s innovation nuggets to chew on.

  • How Leading AI Companies Strategically Use Data - Predict

  • Product innovation is not enough to beat a competitor’s network effects - Lightspeed

  • Your Professional Decline Is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think - The Atlantic

  • The Future Of Work Will Be Told In Pictures - David Nour

  • 5 Questions to Consider When Pricing Smart Products - HBR

  • Business Model Innovation - AVC

  • Maps Reveal Where the Creative Class Is Growing - CityLab

  • Facebook is Going to Start Testing a Bunch of Experimental Apps Under a Different Name - CNBC

  • Walmart Uses Virtual Reality to Test New Store Managers - USA Today

  • Amazon Is Watching - OneZero



Brian Ardinger
Innovation Reads - Week of July 15, 2019

A few curated articles and insights for this week.

  • Great Design Vs Good Design: What’s The Difference? Here’s The Truth - Truth About Design

  • How Asking Works: A Crash Course in Customer Discovery Questions - Grasshopper Herder

  • Alibaba Experiments with Behavior Modification - TechNode

  • Fusing Data and Design to Supercharge Innovation—in Products and Processes - McKinsey

  • ‘True Gen’: Generation Z and Its Implications for Companies - McKinsey

  • Four Essential Techniques to Understand Your Customer - The Founder Coach

  • You Can Make Millions Counting Cars in Parking Lots from Space - Quartz

  • These Are The World's Best Sonic Brands - Forbes

  • Understanding Startup Valuation -  Data Driven Investor

  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution: The Rise Of The Autonomous Economy - Altcoin Magazine

Bonus +1

  • Top 30 Innovation Audio Podcasts & Radio You Must Subscribe and Listen to in 2019 - Feedspot

Brian Ardinger
Innovation Reads - Week of July 8, 2019

Your weekly dose of innovation reads. Enjoy!

  • How Beacon Technology is Being Used in Retail - NYT

  • Big Data & Smart Cities: How can we prepare for them? - DataSeries

  • Amazon’s Biggest Acquisitions [Infographic] - CB Insights

  • What Startup Employees Can Teach the Rest of Us About Work - HBR

  • How to Keep Employees Connected to Customers - HBR

  • College Towns Are The Next Big Thing For Startups - Forbes

  • Steps to Autonomy - Benedict Evans

  • The Drumbeat of Digital: How Winning Teams Play - McKinsey

  • Understanding Products Through Storytelling - Sequoia

  • How Cultural Norms Affect Innovation - Innovation Management


Brian Ardinger
Innovation Reads - Week of July 1, 2019

Enjoy the Holiday week with a few reading options by the pool, lake, or fireworks!

  • 20 Sublime Retreats You Need to Visit For Creative Inspiration - Dwell

  • At Work, Expertise Is Falling Out of Favor - The Atlantic

  • The Ambitious Plan Behind Facebook’s Cryptocurrency, Libra - Wired

  • 100 Radical Innovation Breakthroughs for the Future [PDF] - European Commission

  • Why You Need Innovation Capital — And How to Get It - HBR

  • Why Startups Are Hard — The Math Of Venture Capital Returns Tells The Story - Andrew Chen

  • How Startups Negotiate with Giants and Win - Joe Procopio

  • The State of Tech: From Seed Investment to IPO - RSM

  • Joining the Libra Association - Union Square Ventures

  • People Hate Flying, and It Could Lead to the Demise of the Airline Industry - Fast Company

  • 8 Ways to Grab Attention (and Hold onto It) - CXL

Bonus +1

  • 20 Sublime Retreats You Need to Visit For Creative Inspiration - Dwell

Brian Ardinger
Innovation Reads - Week of June 24, 2019

A few curated innovation articles to explore this week…

  • 50 Retail Innovation Stats That Prove The Power Of Customer Experience - Forbes

  • Why Qualitative Market Research Belongs in Your Startup Toolkit — and How to Wield it Effectively - First Round

  • The Science of Memory: Top 10 Proven Techniques to Remember More and Learn Faster - Zapier

  • How Amazon Became Agile - Forbes

  • How Corporations Can Better Work With Startups - HBR

  • Top 5 Insights After I Spent 100 Days Learning About Artificial Intelligence - Jamie Beach

  • Disruption Starts with Unhappy Customers, Not Technology - HBR

  • In the Future, Will We Acquire Skills, Not Degrees? - Big Think

  • Markets Are 10X Bigger Than Ever - Elad Blog

  • When Employees Are Using Software That IT Hasn’t Approved - HBR

Bonus +1

  • Perfect Playlists for Your Design Sprint or Design Thinking Workshop - Voltage Control

Brian Ardinger
Innovation Reads - Week of June 17, 2019

A sample of some of the best reads about talent, technology, and the future of innovation. Enjoy!

  • A Study of More Than 250 Platforms Reveals Why Most Fail - HBR

  • 50 Ways to Fight Bias - Lean In

  • Investing in ‘magnet’ teams is the key to enterprise innovation - TNW

  • Here’s How Much Airbnb Is Lowering Hotel Prices and Occupancy - CityLab

  • Jeff Bezos: Big Things Start Small - Farnam Street

  • Because of AI, the value of a computer science degree will “diminish over time,” says investor Mark Cuban - Vox

  • The Dynamics of Network Effects - a16z

  • Five Mistakes Intrapreneurs Make When Trying To Change Their Companies - Tendayi Viki

  • Top 5 Insights After I Spent 100 Days Learning About Artificial Intelligence - Jamie Beach

  • Amazon’s Plan to Move In toYour Next Apartment Before You Do - WSJ

Bonus

  • A woman is recording her commuter train delays by knitting them on a scarf - CNN

  • Nelnet is sponsoring The IO Innovation Summit coming to Lincoln - Talent, Technology, & The Future of Innovation -  October 20-22

Brian Ardinger
Innovation Reads - Week of June 10, 2019

Check out this week’s curated list of innovation reads. I have a few more “must-reads” in bold this week.

  • A Technology Blueprint for Personalization at Scale - McKinsey

  • Avoiding Disruption Requires Rapid Decision Making - HBR

  • Disrupting Finance [Podcast] - HBR

  • Lilium's Electric Jet Taxi Completes Its First Flight - TechSpot

  • Continuous Product Discovery is for Everyone [Case Study] - Teresa Torres

  • Work As Hard As You Can - Naval

  • The 7 Industries Amazon Could Disrupt Next - CB Insights

  • What Boards Need to Know About AI - HBR

  • Young People’s Love of Cities Isn’t a Passing Fad - CityLab

  • The End of Mobile - Benedict Evans


    Bonus +1

  • How Doritos Were Born at Disneyland - OC Weekly

Brian Ardinger
Innovation Reads - Week of June 3, 2019

A wrap-up from some good reads in the world of innovation, technology, and talent.

  • Gates Law: How Progress Compounds and Why It Matters - Farnam Street

  • Three Reasons To Open A B2B Pop-Up Store - PSFK

  • How to Come Up With Startup Business Ideas in the Digital Era - Entrepreneur

  • Fusing data and design to supercharge innovation—in products and processes - McKinsey

  • How to Attract Startups and Tech Companies to a City Without Relying on Tax Breaks - HBR

  • 3 trends that will reshape how consumers interact with video games - GeekWire

  • Fortnite Is the Future, but Probably Not for the Reasons You Think - RedDef

  • The Making of Amazon Prime, the Internet’s Most Successful and Devastating Membership Program - Vox

  • But We Have a Relationship -Fintech Junkie

  • Steve Case: Collaboration Will Be Key to New Era of Entrepreneurship - Babson

Bonus +2

  • The IO Innovation Summit 2019 - Talent, Technology, & The Future of Innovation - Join us! - October 20-22 

  • Neon is the Ultimate Symbol of the 20th Century - The Atlantic

Brian Ardinger
How Answering the Question "Are You A Robot?" Led to an H1 Innovation [Case Study]

Innovation can take many forms. At Nelnet we’re looking for examples of “Innovation Everywhere” - examples where problems are solved and value is created by curious, restless people who ask questions, learn, experiment, and take action.

Firstmark’s Andrew Rasmussen approached the Innovation Studio with an innovation effort that saved time and resources on a continuous basis. Here’s his case study.


Every month, Firstmark Services sends several boxes of documents to one of our lender-clients. Each box contains packets of documents pertaining to a subset of borrowers; these documents included promissory notes, histories, and most pertinent to the topic at hand, certificates from the Department of Defense’s SCRA portal showing the non-military status of the borrower. Creating these packets for several hundred borrowers, at one per note, is a long process, made even longer by the fact that to get the certificates, the processor had to pass an “Are You a Robot?” test for each certificate. After a while, these tests took several minutes each to get through. 

            Needless to say, nobody much cared for these “document pulls”, but they had to get done within 5 business days of receipt of the monthly request from the lender.  I was assigned this task several times and quickly grew frustrated with the “Are You a Robot?” tests. I started to look into ways we could avoid this step. I discovered an option on the Department of Defense’s website that would allow us to pull all of the certificates as a single batch. I brought this to the attention of my supervisor and team lead, and we worked together, along with the Operational Analyst team in Firstmark to develop a process to pull the certificates as a single batch.

            No process improvement is implemented without hiccups, and pretty quickly we ran into an issue: While we needed to arrange the documents in an order requested by the lender, the analytics team could not preserve this order in the certificate batch document, which we received as a single pdf. This would mean a time consuming process shuffling the certificates to match them to their packets; obviously this is not an ideal solution. I used my knowledge of Microsoft Excel and Visual Basic to create a macro-enabled spreadsheet that was capable of reordering the pages of this .pdf to match the order our processing team pulled the rest of the documents. My first method worked well, but according to my supervisor, it was not simple to use at all. Based on her feedback, I revised my process to be dramatically simpler to use, and we trained another associate on what to do.

            Mission accomplished, right? Not quite. As is typical in a complex design problem, we needed to continue to iterate on the solution. When my associate used the process the next month, all of the certificates were dramatically and wildly out of order. We didn’t see any rhyme or reason for it, and I could not replicate the issue on my system. Eventually, the source of the error was uncovered and resolved; our PDF programs were numbering files differently.

All told, this change took a task that took two or three processors 40 hours a month to do to a process that takes a single processor approximately 20 hours to do.

            All told, this change took a task that took two or three processors 40 hours a month to do to a process that takes a single processor approximately 20 hours to do; I was surprised at the results, but it appears that there were non-linear increases in efficiency from needing to pull documents from one less source. 

Brian Ardinger
Innovation Reads - Week of May 27, 2019

A few innovation links to check out this week. Also, don’t forget to check out this month’s special Spark event on May 29th at Hudl and on livestream.

  • What Happens in a Venture Pitch? The a16z Pitch Room with Sandbox VR [Video] - a16z

  • Women in Venture Report 2019 - Female Funders & Highline Beta

  • Walmart Intelligent Retail Lab Stores are AI Powered Stores of the Future - Utopia Press

  • How Netflix’s Customer Obsession Created a Customer Obsession - Spero Ventures

  • Predicting the Graphic Design Trends of 2019 - Hayley Salyer

  • How Uber Changed Silicon Valley - Financial Times

  • The Empty Promise of Data Moats - Andreessen Horowitz

  • Before Ever Applying to an Accelerator, Here’s What You Need to Know - GAN

  • Empathy 2.0 series: How biometrics can augment the way you understand customers - Board of Innovation

Brian Ardinger
Innovation Reads - Week of May 20, 2019

This week’s reads include articles covering artificial intelligence to the new world of wearable technology. Enjoy!

Bonus +2

  • My Berkshire Hathaway Reflections - Shane Parrish

  • 24 Lessons From Warren Buffett’s Annual Letters To Shareholders -
    CBInsights

If you've read or written something great, let us know at Brian.Ardinger@nelnet.net

Brian Ardinger
Elle Luna to Be Featured Speaker at Spark on May 29th

Attend Nelnet Spark 5/29 Featuring Elle Luna

Diversification and innovation are at the core of who we are and what we do. Nelnet Spark is a monthly event where innovators from inside and outside the organization share and discuss new trends, concepts, and developments. The event allows a diverse group of innovators the opportunity to share key insights, incubate new ideas, and ultimately use technology to fulfill Nelnet’s mission to create opportunities where we live, learn, and work.

At each event, a selected leader gives a short presentation about an innovative topic or idea. The presentation will be followed by 15 minutes of Q&A and then networking and idea sharing.

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May’s Nelnet Spark event will feature Elle Luna, a designer, painter, and author of the book The Crossroads Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion. She facilitates a global art movement, #The100DayProject, and has previously worked as a designer at IDEO and with teams on apps and websites, including Medium, Mailbox, and Uber. Elle will speak about her concept of “Should vs. Must” and the ways in which each person can find their passion.

Nelnet Spark May Event

Wednesday, May 29

8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

Hudl - 6th Floor

The event will be livestreamed, and a recording will be available on the Portal. For more information about Nelnet Spark or to apply to be a featured speaker, email Nelnet.Communications@Nelnet.net.

Brian Ardinger
Innovation Reads - Week of May 13, 2019

This week’s highlights from the world of innovation

  • Avoiding Disruption Requires Rapid Decision Making - HBR

  • 4 Myths About Empowering Change - DigitalTonto

  • How Lego Went From Negative Cash Flow to Largest Toy Company by Revenue - Inc.

  • A World Without Cash: The Future of Money - Coinmonks

  • The Dawn of the Reliance Economy - OneZero

  • Would You Let Your Boss Put a Chip in Your Body? - Future Human

  • Cities Will Blend Together Into Giant Urban Regions - Michael Batty

  • 2018 Venture Capital Trends Summary - RSM

  • Your Company Needs a Strategy for Voice Technology - HBR

  • Avoiding Stupidity is Easier than Seeking Brilliance - Farnam Street

If you've read or written something great, let me know at brian.ardinger@nelnet.net

Brian Ardinger
Innovation Reads - Week of May 6, 2019

A few interesting articles to fuel your innovation muscles this week.

  • Corporate Growth in the Age of Startups - Highline Beta

  • 22 Lessons From Jeff Bezos’ Annual Letters To Shareholders - CB Insights

  • How to Staff a New Corporate Venture Capital Effort - Touchdown Ventures

  • How Superhuman Built an Engine to Find Product/Market Fit - FirstRound

  • How Coworking Spaces Affect Employees’ Professional Identities - HBR

  • The Airtable Power User's Guide - Airtable

  • The Minimum Viable Product Explained - freeCodeCamp

  • 11 Angel Investing Lessons - Venture Hacks

  • Practical Ways to Turn Visitors Into Customers - GoSquared Blog

  • Accelerating Dynamics of Collective Attention - Nature

Bonus +2

  • How to Hold Walking Meetings (and Why) - The Startup

  • "Cheat Sheet on Life" Based on Reddit Data - Reddit

Brian Ardinger
Agile Camp is Coming to Town

Agile Camp is a three-day internal conference with sessions related to Agile, Frameworks, Behaviors, and Team Dynamics. The camp will run Aug. 20 – 22 in Madison, Sept. 10 – 12 in Lincoln, and Sept. 24 – 26 in Highlands Ranch.

The camp is not just for IT or associates on Agile teams. Being in an Agile environment does not mean working in a specific product delivery framework.

So what does it mean?

  • Delivering value iteratively to shorten the feedback loop and pivot as necessary

  • Being open to experimentation and learning from your experiences

  • Being creative in how we look and approach our work in a highly collaborative environment

Being in an Agile environment all starts with the mindset that you bring to your day. 

Agile Camp creates an environment where you can learn from your peers, share experiences, and get ideas that you can start integrating into your daily activities and share with your co-workers.

Since this is an event internal to Nelnet, there is no cost to participate. There is also no requirement to attend all sessions. We have a synopsis for all the sessions, so you can choose which ones resonate with you.

More information is coming soon and will be shared regularly leading up to and during camp, so stay tuned and keep checking the Nelnet Portal! If you have any questions, please reach out to z-AgileCamp@Nelnet.net. For Confluence users, you can also follow our blog at Agile Camp Blog.

To sign up to be a presenter, click here.

Brian Ardinger
Innovation Reads - Week of April 29, 2019

Here’s your weekly dose of insights, trends, and things to make you think. Enjoy!

  • The Trillion-Dollar Innovation Future - Exponential View

  • Nepotism is rife, innovation is rare and diversity is a sham - Sifted

  • Landlord 2.0: Tech’s New Rentier Capitalism - OneZero

  • The Secrets to Designing a Curiosity-Driven Career - FirstRound

  • "Future proof" Employees by Deepening Their Skills - SmartBrief

  • Amazon’s 2018 Letter to Shareholders - Amazon

  • Canalys: 200 million smart speakers will be sold before year-end - VentureBeat

  • Why You Can’t Get Serious About Productivity Unless You Optimize How Your People Use Your Space - Both Sides of the Table

  • Will Education Be Pointless 30 Years from Now? -  Part One - The Understanding Project

  • How Companies Can Help Midlevel Managers Navigate Agile Transformations - McKinsey

Bonus Fun +2

  • Mr. Rogers Had a Simple Set of Rules for Talking to Children - The Atlantic

  • The Wallpaper of the Future is Here - Fast Company

Brian Ardinger