Lynk Webinar Transcript
Aman Bharti (Lynk): Hi, everyone. Thank you for joining us today for the Lynk Live webinar. My name is Aman and I’m a Product Manager here at Lynk. We’ve created this opportunity to showcase the influencers, thought leaders, and innovators that makeup Lynk’s community of experts. It’s a great pleasure today to have Javaid Iqbal, CEO of TransformX with us to talk more about the theme of growth and how technology is enabling it. Without further ado, let me hand it over to you. Thanks for joining us today Javaid.
Javaid Iqbal (Speaker): Absolutely. Thanks for bringing me back to do this, Aman. The first time around, we learned how cloud and various technologies are starting to take over the growth potential of the businesses of the future. As we went through the exercise, we started getting questions around what the jobs of the future are going to look like, how AI and blockchain and other leading technologies are going to change the landscape of the way things are done in the future and the skills that are needed by the individuals and organizations to survive, grow and thrive. What we’ve got for you guys this time around is a topic of your choosing: How to Embed Digital DNA as a Lever for Growth. The idea here is simple – there are certain types of skills that are needed to grow in the careers of the future. As we again and again see, a lot of the older-age thinking and a lot of the older-age skill sets that were needed to run the first, second, and the third industrial revolutions, are starting to fade away. Upcoming are the new ones that we need to not only learn but also relearn to not only survive but also thrive in the future. Today we’re going to talk about embedding such thinking and those skills that as part of the DNA of an organization. The agenda for today is quite detailed as the idea is to provide a holistic perspective on this topic. We’re going to start by discussing the post-industrial society we’re living in and how each of these areas is beginning to make a difference in our lives, the lives of the customers of today and how the digital natives are taking that baton forward. Then, we’re going to get into the skills needed to survive in the future and how digital maturity and digital DNA needs to be embedded into an organization for growth and success. We’re going to wrap it up by suggesting ways to rethink success. An exciting 45 minutes to an hour we’ll spend together. Then we’ll have time in the end for Q&A.
I’ll start with a little story. In 2012, (during my Salesforce days), I was in the San Francisco Executive Briefing Center talking to a colleague of mine and he said something very interesting that has stuck with me since then. He said, “Yesterday, I was sitting in the basement of my home getting ready for the week ahead and my six-year-old daughter came and sat next to me for about a good 30 seconds. Finally, she broke her silence and said, ‘Dad, why isn’t this TV turning on? He said to her, ‘Honey, you have to turn the TV on for it to turn on.’ She said, “No, it should know I’m here. It should turn on by itself.” I could neither concentrate on the meeting for the rest of the day nor sleep that whole night. I kept thinking about how a very simple thought like from someone this young completely changes the landscape of where things are going to go in the future, not only from the way we look at businesses but the way we look at our lives and the way we live our lives. What is it that we’re going to need to be successful in the future? In her future? And what does she expect from us?
I concluded that to succeed in her world, organizations of today and tomorrow will have to start thinking, engaging and executing differently across the board with all the key stakeholders, customers, employees, vendors, or partners. But if you start to embed this thinking and this engagement into the execution of your products and services, that is where one can even start to attempt to answer the very simple and naïve question of this six-year-old girl. And as the global business landscape continues to evolve, businesses and the technology of today are fast becoming moving goalposts. These moving goalposts, in terms of the way they evolve, are impossible to catch up to. Look at all the technologies that come through. Look at all the security features that come through. One gets ready for them, and then it moves on to the next one and the next one and then to the next one, mandating a change in business model and thinking again and again and again. It’s exhausting. Gone are the days of “snooze and cruise,” where one just sat there and said, “You know what? We have the right methodology, the right product, the right approach, and we can just sit and do this for the next five to ten to fifteen years.” Sadly, that is starting to not happen, especially in the developed world, where the adoption of new technologies is happening at a monumental rate and the infrastructure of technology (mobile / cloud, etc.) encourages and enhances that whole opportunity to things forward. Things in the developing world are a little different because even though the adoption of technology is probably happening at a faster rate, the infrastructure is not (or doesn’t exist in many places). All this is in its infancy; however, things will leapfrog soon, and one will be able to see a lot more coming out of the developing world.
The World Economic Forum has been a key influencer as it talks about the post-industrial society we live in, and how the impact of science and technology on the social and economic systems is disrupting all industries. Now, if you’re thinking about growing more and more in one industry, you need to realize that these existing industries are no longer going to be the industries of the future. Industries are on the verge of converging (as we will discuss later in the presentation) and it is in these intersections and convergence points where the magic will start to happen. The World Economic Forum, for those of you who haven’t heard this concept yet, is calling this the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Like I talked about earlier, the first three industrial revolutions were more industry-focused, this one is more where the amalgamation of science, technology, social, economic values and systems are bringing to bear a new era of living and computing.
Now, similar to that, if you look at how things have evolved from an organizational perspective, in the last 15 years, 52% of Fortune 500 companies have gone extinct. What that means is that they’ve either been acquired, or they’ve just gone away. But why is that? That’s half of the Fortune 500 and it’s a major chunk. It’s just that these organizations couldn’t interpret the pace with which disruption was coming their way and hence failed to act accordingly. However, the ones who adapted look no longer like the companies they used to be. Their present business models are completely different, their operating models are different, they’re selling something else, and growing in a very different way. Which interestingly is no longer an acceptable norm, it’s the required norm. But why and how? Well, a lot of it is about embedding that type of futuristic thinking that requires one to always stay on the edge and learn, unlearn, and relearn, continuously evolving in the process, as we said earlier. Companies like the Kodak’s, Nokia’s, and the Blockbusters of the world are victims of the business models that evolved out of what they saw or controlled. Nokia was ahead of its time, Motorola was ahead of its time in terms of the mobile landscape, but two incredible new mobile players – Apple, Samsung, and subsequent smaller ones as well, have completely taken over how the world evolves around the mobile landscape and continues to revolve around our life’s landscape. Similarly, if you think about it and go back to the example of the six-year-old girl, she and the likes of her are starting to develop unprecedented power where they can influence brands and ways they operate, innovate and execute. The connected stratosphere of social and mobile technologies and arenas are starting to give them the ability to not only influence, but also demand a product or a service in the way they want, at the time they want, and at the place they want. This kind of power shift has never been seen before. Again, we need to go back to how digital thinking and new model thinking is evolving, how a digital DNA needs to be embedded into the organization. Without that, it’s going to continue to be harder to survive.
The organizations that are taking true advantage of this are the digital natives. They’re emerging to adapt to these consumer needs, as well as learning more and more about them. If you look at the global examples, whether it’s Instagram or Airbnb, Waymo, Venmo, and so many others as well, they’ve changed the landscape of so many industries, whether it’s hospitality, social, news, publishing, automobiles, or even movement of money. On the regional level, more into the Middle East and Asia side of things, you’ve got examples of so many Chinese companies, so many Indian companies that are leading disruption. Middle Eastern ride-hailing companies like Careem are giving a run for the money to Uber in so many markets. Leading markets for them are Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates. So many of these markets are where the population is high, and their contribution is way more than in the better infrastructure-developed world. Not only just the Careem’s of the world but India’s Paytm and similar ones are paving the way in terms of the way life is led.
WeChat is another excellent example of how they’ve been able to embed every life function within a chat mechanism. If you’re in a communication window with your friends, family, co-workers, or your network, you can do so much from within the WeChat window, whether it’s ordering food, handling money, or even getting your next Uber ride and things like that. What these natives are starting to do is completely change the conversation from where businesses are being led. That’s where a lot of the opportunities are starting to come through. A lot of this is fueled by the advancements in disruptive technologies. We talked a little about Big Data & Analytics during our cloud computing webinar, the advent of data and the way it’s starting to provide a glimpse into the unknown, so to speak. It starts to give trends of behaviors and patterns that have never been seen before because there was no connected mechanism in the yesteryear that could bring it all together and continue to evolve and analyze this magnitude, velocity, and veracity of data for targeted and precision answer to move your business forward.
Similarly, the Internet of Things/Connected Devices, as much as they have evolved by 2019, we are still at the infancy of them. Most of the computing or connectivity is coming from phone-to-phone, software-to-software, machine-to-machine. From this perspective, we’re starting to see in the last couple of years some advent of sensors, whether they’re smart-homes where one can control the temperatures and various logistical things around that and so forth. But we still haven’t seen enough. Every aspect around us has not been sensor-enabled, machine enabled yet to give us the kind of data that we would need for the future. To combat that, you will need the right skills of the future as well to even understand what this kind of data in a connected stratosphere means. Talking about Artificial Intelligence, algorithms are starting to control, change, and influence how things are done around us. The advent of the machine and the human side of things that are combining to make things happen is completely big as well. Similarly, goes for blockchain, the true potential of a democratized system, that it promises to be is out there for people to see. Cloud, as we discussed is becoming the backbone for both an engine of computing and the need for the next generation. Then, security is very paramount to make sure that everything stays kosher as well. We spent a little more time on this slide, but the reason I wanted to talk about this is that each of these technological advancements and topic areas is having serious impacts for the future and understanding what each of these brings to the table and what about each of these areas needs to be learned and understood to be able to move forward is critical for individuals and organizations today.
In AI’s realm, and how machines and humans are starting to combat and converse together. If you look at it on the left side (of the slide), the more humanistic traits such as morals, compassion, imagination, common sense and such are being mapped into the more machine-centric pieces of recognizing imagines, the discovery of knowledge, pattern recognition, speech recognition, machine learning, natural language processing, deep learning, etc. Going forward, we need to develop an understanding of how to take more humanistic traits and combine them with machine traits to form a combined stratosphere that will be able to take businesses of the future to the next level. Imagine the level of skill or the type of skill that’s needed to understand both sides and speak that intersected language and be able to work with the machines to move that forward.
In the case of Minute Maid (the orange juice division of Coca-Cola that directly competes with Tropicana and other leading juice brands) has done something very insightful and mind-blowing! They have created what they call a “black book algorithm” that computes one quintillion (again, one quintillion) data points in determining the best-fit fruit supply chain for the next 18 to 24 months. The algorithm helps them identify the right farms from where they could get the rightest (or the rightmost) fruit to make their orange juice supply chain perform at beyond optimum levels. Every orange that shows up at the Minute Maid machine is being completely looked at from all these angles and it gives you the most perfect aspect of sweetness, freshness, and whatever those parameters are to make that happen. The data points are around every aspect of the weather, soil, supply chain, etc. One could ask, what does Coca-Cola or Minute Maid have to do with artificial intelligence? Well, I’ll let you ponder over this one point: The entire future of this division of Coca-Cola hinges on this one mathematical formula. That’s how positive and powerful artificial intelligence, machine learning, algorithms, deep learning, and data mapping have started to become.
Similarly, something close to millions of people’s hearts (even mine) – Netflix recommendations. Netflix now has a percentage match on their recommendations. I recently was trying to watch a program and it showed up as a 98% match. Think about how Netflix is not only starting to take you in the direction of their choosing, but they are doing so by learning specific user preferences. They’re also creating specific programs and content to match these user preferences to get more stickiness, connectivity, and adoption of their platform. The reason why Netflix can do it successfully is that they understand the DNA of the customer and possess the requisite skillset from not only a leadership perspective but down to those who can make it happen.
Similarly, in the automation realm, Amazon certainly is the leader of the pack. But Alibaba is starting to come through with the Chinese style of AI. And as the quote here suggests, “We want to reach two billion consumers and help 10 million businesses around the world.” Jack Ma is, known to make big, bold, moon-shot statements. He tends to achieve some of his goals from their perspective as well.
The Caterpillar example here talks about the Internet of Things (IoT) and how connected devices are taking the conversation forward. If I own a Caterpillar truck in mainland China and am behind in my tractor payments, Caterpillar now can automatically shut the tractor off through open Wi-Fi until the payment is made. Similarly, so many useful business examples of how connected devices are making things more automated and seamless. That is the level of precision Caterpillar and other leading brands are looking at. It’s not just about the payment, but Caterpillar and the likes now can know when these tractors need to be serviced, need to be looked for issues and so forth. The intelligence and automation that are starting to come through in this connected IoT stratospheres are really big.
Blockchain, (distributed ledger technology), the newest buzz, is without any question, on the rise. Tech giants and startups from around the world are working to create decentralized platforms where multiple stakeholders (including consumers, manufacturers, fulfillment centers, etc.) can come together, transact and share value (via tokens), meanwhile keeping the information (transaction records) being shared, transparent, and immutable. This is where we discuss the convergence of industries. In the case of Uber (or Careem, Lyft, Ola, and so many else out there) just imagine the number of industries that converge to make one ride happen. You’ve got your maps, telco’s, government, banks, transportation, software, hardware, and others coming for one purpose. Imagine the skill set that is needed from each of these sides to be able to map and execute that one transaction from a futuristic perspective. This is affecting the value chains because every industry is continuously being disrupted, whether it’s travel, health care, high tech, and so forth. So, what are the skills that are needed to survive this change? Now that we’ve talked about what is happening, let’s talk about how we look at the skills and what’s needed to take this forward.
We came across this very interesting quote. It’s a bit of an alarming quote, but I’ll read it out:
“There’s never been a worse time to be a worker with only ‘ordinary’ skills and abilities to offer, because computers, robots, and other digital technologies are acquiring these skills and abilities at an extraordinary rate.”
Quite frankly, they are even better than us as well. Unfortunately, we are starting to come to a time where humans have to start to up their game and think about what this whole thing means and how they want to move this needle forward.
Similarly, building your digital DNA or embedding digital maturity into your organization is becoming essential but what does that mean and what needs to be done to accomplish it? Well, for starters, the traits of the next generation of employees need to be better understood. If you take a look at both left and right of these two fine individuals, the slide suggests that you’ve got to be a lifetime learner, be empowered with data, be digitally competent, and be able to use all the communication types and mechanisms available to you. However, that’s only part of the equation. You also need to be customer-focused and be able to connect with them both physically, as well as remotely. Empathy is just starting to become a big value trait that’s being looked at as a great lever as well for success. In my opinion, these are the ideal traits of the next generation of employees; a combination of two things: They are ‘upped’ in their Digital Maturity (with all these eight traits) and they are equipped with the right technologies.
A LinkedIn study talks about five soft skills that companies will need most in 2019 and beyond creativity, persuasion, collaboration, time management and adaptability. Very simple humanistic traits, yet creativity now is at a very different level because everybody has access to a large audience which can be accessed even more if you’re willing to pay a little bit. If you think of an idea, you create a video, and can just post it on your social feeds and then pay these social media platforms to even enhance these feeds and get it out there for the rest of the world to see. Creativity is starting to take on a whole new meaning from that perspective. As for hard skills, we’ve talked about cloud computing, AI (all the disciplines around it), Analytics, we’ve gone into that especially with big data at the helm. Then, managing the right people and designing the right user experiences of a product or a service that you’re bringing to bear cannot be overlooked and should be embedded in the planning process of acquiring and retaining skills of the future.
The ratio of Human to Machine working hours. I found this to be very interesting as it showcases that the tilt is more human than machine right now, but by the year 2022, machines are starting to take on a bigger chunk of this pie. Reasoning and Decision Making – at the moment, it sits more on the humanistic side, but we see a 9% jump in the next couple of years. ‘Coordinating, developing, managing, and advising’ gets a 10% jump: ‘communication’, around the same as well. ‘Administering’, you’re seeing more and more automation coming in there. We’ll see a bigger jump in there as well. ‘Identifying and evaluating job-related information’, that’s 15%. It’s almost 20% for ‘looking and receiving job related information’. ‘Information and data processing’ follow a similar trend as well. The bulk of these 10% and above – 10%, 20%, 30% increases are on the machine side as they start to take over a lot of the tasks. We’re starting to rely more and more on their calculation and analysis rather than our humanistic instincts.
Interesting skills data on this slide. The demand for such skills is increasing and certain ones are just skyrocketing while others are coming down. In 2018, analytical thinking and innovation were a skill that was needed the most and will be until 2022. This is a very interesting slide in terms of where things are at today, where things are going to go up tomorrow, and then where things are going to go down tomorrow. If you look at the declining ones, memory, verbal, auditory, and spatial abilities are increasingly being outsourced to some sort of a computing platform. The management of financial material resources, automation and these programs that have been written based on best practices are starting to guide us better, help us and make better decisions. Reading, writing, math, and active listening, interestingly, the aspects of writing even are starting to be done by artificial intelligence. They can pick up the patterns of the way you write and have a machine’s point of view on things that typically were done by humans.
Some of the ones that are trending, again, emotional intelligence has always been a big one. Active learning and learning strategies, critical thinking and analysis from a humanistic perspective still stay relevant. It goes on to show that machines are still not there. It will take them a while to get to where they need to be. The ones showcased in the slide below are the changing roles across industries. Some of the stable ones: data analysts, scientists, compliance officers, and so forth. The new ones that are coming up, again, a lot of big data, AI, information processing, robotics, and others. But more important to see is which ones are going down in terms of importance. On the last one (Redundant Roles), my legal friends always ask me how AI affects them? My answer to them, typically, is not a very popular one especially when I talk about LegalMation (IBM Watson based legal tool that analyzes, computes and creates in 3 minutes, documents that would take a paralegal a month to create) and some of the other platforms. I highly encourage people to go check out LegalMation.com. Walmart and a few others are big users. Similarly, for Financial Analysts, Accountants, and Auditors and so many of these roles will change or not exist including door-to-door sales workers and so forth. If you’ve got certain skillsets in these historic domains, I’d encourage people to start thinking about what some of the new skill needs are globally and start thinking about how one can evolve and stay relevant. This is another view of the reskilling needed and the percentage of people that fall into that category. It is estimated that more than half of all employee workforce globally will require significant reskilling and upskilling in the coming years.
So, what does re-thinking success in the digital age mean?
How does one achieve the growth that’s required using some of the skills we have discussed? What does an organization do to achieve the level of maturity needed to accommodate these skills? That’s one question many executives and board members ask me often. My answer is simple (in steps):
- New way of human thinking
– You’re going to start embedding some of what machines are telling you into it. Just don’t be a naysayer. Make sure that you listen to a lot of this ‘stuff’ that’s almost thrown at you (and try to make as much sense out of it as possible). Listen to the forward thinkers, the millennials around you. Get some of these people on your boards, get your super-users to educate you, talk to your kids, your grandkids and learn as much as you can. Many in the next generation are using productivity tools that inspiration can be taken from and embed some of this thinking within your professional lives. This will lead to a win-win not only for you but for the customers you are servicing (especially the younger lot that’s coming on board soon).
- Re-imagine what success means
– This process of reimaginating success is a continuous loop as it requires a consistent review of how things are being strategized and executed. Success over success is harder to get, but if the right parameters are rethought again and again, if the right learning-on-learning continues to happen, and if the execution is done right, I see no reason why it can’t be achieved again and again.
- Foster a culture of innovation
– One of the big things that Careem (Dubai based ride-hailing outfit that was acquired by Uber for $3.1B in early 2019) boasts about its culture is the very flat organizational hierarchical design. Many similar examples exist in Europe and the U.S. as well (especially in the tech sector) where the organizations are now becoming flatter. It’s also the first time in the history of business, the CEOs are putting themselves out there. They, their leadership teams and even the boards are the ones opening the conversation, and engaging with their customers, vendors, and employees. During my Salesforce years, I recall Mark Benioff, the CEO asking employees openly in companywide broadcasted sessions to collaboratively assist the leadership team in coming up with a company vision. That’s a powerful narrative as it encourages good ideas from all corners of the organization. This culture of openness and transparency leads to a culture of innovation that leads to collective and continued success. And a culture like this, plus the constant upping of skills is a homerun.
- Adopt new business models
– Similarly, new business models are adopted. This is one of my favorite slides. If you look at how traditional collaborations, innovations, and digital thinking happens, a lot of it is in silos. On the Traditional side (of the slide) what you see as the Web or social presence is mostly about Customer Engagement and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Everything else underneath is not connected, is not well-thought, is not looked at as a complete part of the company (in the not so digitally savvy outfits). In many organizations, especially banks (in both emerging and developed markets) where retail, digital, brokerage, corporate and other divisions have their customers, no true cross-selling across the board is done using standardized customer tools. Something to think about as you look at the cultural DNA, the traditional ways, collaborations, and innovation start to take place. If you look at how it’s done on the right and the new way of doing things and new business models, every aspect of every division of the company is in sync with each other. The dark blues and the light blues are flowing back and forth. It’s integrated both outwards and inwards rather than being disconnected.
- Invest in digital learning
– I talk to a lot of C-suite and Boards during consulting gigs and they often point to their heads of IT, Digital or the IT committee on the Board to manage anything around technology. I challenge these leaders every time and say, “All of you combined are the chief disruption officers, especially the CEO. You guys need to learn this and lead this together.” The divide between technology and business is no longer a divide. It’s the same thing. The business is technology, and technology is business.
We at TransformX have developed specialized workshops and courses that act as innovation bursts for C-suites. We’ve done it for boards, we’ve done it for the second layer of the organization, the mid-layer, and even the lower layers as well. Embedding inside the organization this DNA that leads to the maturity of digital thinking is what’s going to allow your organizations – and, quite frankly, you – to leap forward. Keep learning, whether it’s online, offline, whether you have to buy a subscription or sit in a class, just continue that. Don’t think of these as chores as these skills are now the keys to survival. Many companies have robust internal enablement programs. If your company does not have one, feel free to reach out and we will gladly assist. LinkedIn Lynda, Coursera, Udemy and so many platforms are out there to help with it. But a lot of these executives and the board members tell me is, “We don’t know where to start?” Organizations like ours and many others are here to help on that side too.
Now, one of the things we ask organizations before they embark on this program and start embedding this DNA within their organizations is to first assess the digital maturity of not only their organization but their employees as well. There are a lot of programs out there, I’ve seen them from Gartner, PwC, and others that assess digital maturity from an organizational lens. Most are just a simple survey that assesses how an organization is doing versus the other and so forth. In the end, a score is generated which provides a baseline. Where the TransformX model is different is that we look at Digital Maturity as a combination of business domains and individual employee digital competencies. Customer centricity, strategy and vision, people and culture, process and governance, technology and capabilities are the business domains that need to be somewhat connected with the types of digital competencies for individuals to get a complete picture of how Digitally Ready the organization is. These competencies could be anywhere from data and information literacy, from content – not only just distribution but the creation of it as well, communication and collaboration, learning and development, security and privacy, and so forth. It’s the intersection of each of these competencies and domains where the real magic happens. I’d encourage every organization to start, as a first step, to get their digital maturity and digital acumen assessed. Get a score from not only every individual but for every division, the whole organization. Then, have it mapped with industry best practices or your regional best practices and things like that. Once the maturity is assessed, we create a Transformation Roadmap for Success. The roadmap starts off as a Digital Novice (a baseline in the TransformX methodology), which many organizations are at (especially in the developing world) we recommend the first step to build the foundation. If the organization is used to manual/paper-based processes and work, strict hierarchical structures, siloed departments, traditional thinking, opening the mind and developing an understanding of what is the beginning point needed to succeed.
Once that art has been mastered and the steps in that roadmap process have been achieved, we graduate organizations to what we called Digital Mastery. It is once the Mastery has been achieved, we encourage them to explore the more innovative and futuristic ways to take them to Digital Nirvana (the end state of digital maturity). Digital Nirvana is a completely futuristic mindset; it’s driven by technology and innovative models. You’ve got your key technological aspects, whether it’s big data, cloud computing, blockchain, cybersecurity, AI, and so forth as well. And without achieving systematic Digital Mastery, going after Digital Nirvana typically is a recipe for disaster. Creating successful roadmaps of transformation from novice to master to nirvana, or any other avenue of choosing is a great starting point. If the organizations are not there yet, I would highly encourage you to seek assistance from the ones that can help you build them and then partner with the right folks to make the execution happen and provide digital initiatives oversight. Speaking of these partnerships, what has worked for us is a model where we form alliances with a trifecta of academic, innovation, and technology partners. This trifecta helps us stay ahead of the curve in terms of research and execution especially when we are dealing with the more complex transformations. Having the right academic approach, the right innovation approach, the right technology approach to your next-generation business challenges and opportunities is going to be monumental. Academia is actively researching the future of businesses across all industries. One should get plugged in with them. Get the professors to give talks, send more and more people for training classes, more degrees, and so forth. Also, partner with incubation centers. I’m seeing more and more incubation centers mushroom up. I, myself, have been part of many within the Chicago or the San Francisco landscape and a few in the Middle East and the Asian countries, too. I’d encourage you to find a local one for you – one or two that are continuously bringing new ideas and new aspects and avenues of learning to your organization.
In the end, I’d leave you with this one thought: “In the digital age, only the paranoids survive”. The more I see this one simple quote, the more it makes me paranoid. I’ll go back to the original conversation of the “snooze and cruise” versus being hyperactive around this. Unfortunately, your consumers of the next generation, starting with that six-year-old girl, are starting to imagine that you and your organization are in a paranoid state to innovate for her and the likes of her to move things forward. Whether you’re in the developed world or the developing world, equally alike, this paranoia will ultimately get you to the promised land. I’ll read this quote by Britannica’s president, “By the time we stopped publishing the print set, the sales represented only about 1% of our business. We’re as profitable now as we’ve ever been through our digital services.”.This is a fine example of how an organization understood where things were going, started making plans on ending their publishing approach, and slowly moved onto the digital side of things because they understood this is where people will be consuming such information. To fuel this level of thinking and to come up with these new models an embedded Digital DNA within your organization is going to be paramount for your future. And for that, you have to start with an Assessment. We encourage you to reach out to us and to reach out to Lynk. We’re available for consults, presentations, advisory, etc. Check out our contents on many of the social sites, on our website and feel free to reach out should you have any questions or suggestions about any further topics you wish to hear about. We’re taking a lot of clues from the question feeds on this webinar. The idea is to continuously improve and bring better experiences to all of you. Thank you for your time. As always, this was a lot of fun and we look forward to the next one in our innovation series around technology. Take care of yourself. Back to you, Aman.
Aman Bharti (Lynk): Great. Thank you so much for that beautiful presentation and those valuable insights, Javaid. We have had several questions come in from our audience today. Let’s try our best to get through as many of them as possible. I’ll filter through some of them and we’ll try to send answers for the rest to people via email. The first one that came up is about digital natives. The question asks: Could you define what you think that is? Would you say that definition is somehow tied to a specific demographic region or age group? Would you say there’s homogeneity even in Generation Z, even though it’s across the developing and the developed world?
Javaid Iqbal (Speaker): Well, when I referenced digital natives in the slides, it wasn’t meant as an individual or a person, it was more around how some of these recent organizations are born digital or they’re built completely on the bed of technology. But the question is also very valid as the premise is tied with a lot of the new generation thinking, which is a hallmark of the millennials and Generation Z. While there is a tie in there as well, I think the idea behind the native comment is completely stemming from newness in thinking. I think we’ve well established, not only in this webinar but across the board as well, that to survive and thrive in the next-generation economies, whether you’re from the developing world or developed world, people and organizations need to have relative openness to new ideas, new business models, as well as the ability to unlearn and relearn and look at new ideas that come through every day. Any of those, based on the data that you’ve acquired, can become your next business model or the next growth opportunity as well.
Aman Bharti (Lynk): That leads in nicely to another one of the questions that we received: Would you suggest that someone entering the workforce now should focus more on the soft skills you described or more on the hard skills? If so, when would one set of skills give way to the other during one’s career progression?
Javaid Iqbal (Speaker): I think we’ve established that the evolution of careers is at a very different pace from what they used to be. The careers of our parents’ generation were more around longevity and loyalty. You showed up and 25, 30 years later, you got the gold watch and you got a nice retirement party as a gift. The pattern has certainly changed largely because of the freshness of thinking, the evolution of things, the way mergers and acquisitions and IPOs are starting to happen and the general pace of innovation using technology. I think two to three years is now becoming a very accepted norm, even from a recruiter perspective when they look at things, they don’t mind smaller stints at companies. Platforms are where I see things heading in the future. The future will comprise of a skill, a tool, and a platform. Let’s stick to the examples of the Uber’s, the Careem’s, and the Ola’s of the world. The tool is the car, the skillset is the ability to drive the car and the platform is Uber/Careem. These platforms are connecting the skills and the tools to the stakeholders whether they are the consumers of this innovation or the enablers. As things start to head more in the direction of platforms (others like Fiverr, Upwork, etc.), all these gig economies that are starting to take shape around the world and even creeping into corporate structures, the need for traditional university education is starting to diminish. Google, Apple, Ernst & Young, and many others have already removed a university degree from being a requirement for entry. This fuels into the concept of these platforms where your competition is based on many other factors and not just your education. Also, the way companies are going to be built in the future will be individualistic with a tie into a platform that opens it up to any skill, any project, any tool that is needed for success and growth.
Aman Bharti (Lynk): Then, would you say that the ability to adopt new technology is a skill that people should develop, or should even the most complex technology be developed in a way that makes it as easy as possible for people to adopt it?
Javaid Iqbal (Speaker): Well, technology is starting to be the basic table stakes for everything. If you think about every gadget that you possess, it runs on electricity. The underlying foundation of technology will be as prevalent or needed as an electrical circuit. If you take that as foundational thinking and move forward from there, the way organizations will continue to build technology platforms as enablers of business, the complexity will increase as the very complex, very integrated, AI-enabled, blockchain, big data, IoT-enabled platforms will continue to be prevalent. But as consumers of technology, does one need to understand all of that? Especially if it’s available to you as a subscription? Probably not but enough understanding of how technology is playing a part in every industry and the growth of every industry and the innovation of every industry is needed.
And what data is needed to be understood? If I’m entering the workforce right now, do I need to focus more, on your earlier question, on the softer skills or harder skills? I think, one, it depends on what your career trajectory is or where you want to go. If you’re more on the technological side, then definitely you need both. I also believe that a lot of automation is going to be done on more technology-driven tasks. Still, the humanistic thinking, things that need emotional intelligence and so forth, you’ll need the humanistic touch. The right level of humanistic touch is going to start becoming more and more expensive as well. With the result, the softer skills or the definition of softer skills, the way they’re being defined right now, will become extremely important and should continue to evolve as a result.
The business of learning the machine from a humanistic perspective and the machine learning the human from a machine perspective is going to be a parallel road together. In some cases, it’s going to be more of one and less of the other and the other way around. It’s going to be decided by the type of role, the type of work you’re in where one aspect will be heavier than the other and that’s necessarily the way things are going to go. If I’m entering the workplace, I’ll keep in touch with the humanistic side, the softer skills, they’re always good to have but I should also develop an understanding of dealing with the machines/robots. The ideal combination of expertise, depending on what percentage, or the level you need to go up and down with will be determined by the level of work. But the ideal combination will be having both and you’ll be good to go.
Aman Bharti (Lynk): It’s almost like saying I don’t need to understand how telecommunications will work to be able to use something that uses 5G. I just need to be able to understand the application that is using it.
Javaid Iqbal (Speaker): Absolutely. If you’re a non-technologist, you don’t need to understand what this entire game is. You need to understand enough to have an idea of the platforms that you are using (more than likely a phone that is 5G enabled soon), and what can you do from a business perspective? What can you build on it? What are the social aspects, the communication aspects, the business aspects that 5G enables, you can easily do a lot more with it as well? Now, if you choose to be someone that wants to build technologies around that, build the 5G stratosphere, or be part of 6G/7G for the future, then obviously you need to dig deeper. Have the right level of skills not only from a mathematics perspective, but also from a technology and programming perspective because artificial intelligence and data, a lot of it is about logic, math, programming, and so forth.
Aman Bharti (Lynk): The next question takes a step back from the more technical side of things and goes into the morality of it. The question is: What about the dark side of understanding user preferences? Collecting all this data of individuals has some moral ramifications, doesn’t it?
Javaid Iqbal (Speaker): It does and that’s the scary part. You know, every time I give the Netflix example, it puts me in this phase where I begin to think that at some point in my life, I used to have control over my choices. Right now, someone else is learning my choices, slapping on algorithmic thinking, adding on other people’s choices, and making my choices for me, which is very scary. Regulations need to come through in terms of how the moral compass of these companies that are building these sorts of technologies needs to be defined. Not only just policies but legalities of it as well. More and more in the future, as every business function runs through the strata of technology, it becomes a policy question, which becomes a moral question, which becomes an influencer question. The dark side is extremely dark. Anyone who has an interest in this should read the book The Four, which talks about the hidden DNA of Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon, and what they’re learning about you. They, according to the book can start playing God in ways that you don’t even know exist. A fascinating book. An unbelievable eye-opener as it talks about the hidden DNA which is exploring this dark side. We could almost hope that humanity prevails in something like this and the technologies and the biases that get built into these algorithms systematically do not just eliminate groups of people from doing certain tasks that they were able to do when the free will was available. It’s a battle of free will now going forward.
Aman Bharti (Lynk): Interesting. Also, the ability to have a regulation that is enforceable around the world is something that would then come into play. Look at the example of GDPR and things like Article 13.
Javaid Iqbal (Speaker): Absolutely. You have to also understand that GDPR, the Cloud Act, Article 13, so many others also have their own biases built within them. If I’m GDPR, I’ve very European-centric, so I’m looking at more things on that side. Cloud Act is looking at things from more of the Americas’ perspective. What we’re necessarily not talking about right now is the relative Chinese aspect of things as well that come to bear, too. Those need to be also looked at and they’re scary, too.
Aman Bharti (Lynk): Very interesting. I understand that we’re running a little bit over, so let me just ask the last question and then we’ll call it a day. You talked a lot about AI and how that affects different kinds of skillsets. The question is: What are the hard limits of AI? What are the kinds of human activities that it will not be able to replicate?
Javaid Iqbal (Speaker): That’s a tough one. I think we started to answer this in the last question as well. I don’t know if there are any hard limits. I think as any function, any human function, any business function, a lot of it that is enabled by the brain or the physicality of things done by robots, it’s scary, to say the least, where the lengths and breadths are going to take us. Think human imagination, which is big in itself, and add a steroid of machines on top of it. It could just go in directions that we don’t even know exist yet. The next generation of everything will start to become scary with this, because how AI will start to amplify the human ability into thinking bigger, into doing bigger, into executing bigger, into running things that are more physiologically harder, physically harder, and so forth. There’s a scary side to that.
Now, the positive side is amazing. It could mean the end of poverty. It could mean the end of hunger, human suffering, and potentially death as well. It’s interesting, I just sat through a presentation around that, where human genomes can easily be altered, DNA can be altered. AI and machine learning and all of these play a monumental part. If you’ve started to cheat death, if you’ve started to bring the ability of humans to do much more, not much is left. I guess it’s up for grabs where things are going to end up. There are multiple schools of thought on it; some are very positive; some are not so positive. All leaders of technology and non-technology around the world are taking their views on it. My view is if you stay positive and look at the positive side, there is a lot that it can do from a humanistic perspective and also the commercial perspective that will take humans into things that they’ve never seen before.
That’s why it’s important to understand these skills. To even shield yourself from this, you need a better understanding of it and machines are going to continue to trick you. They’re going to continue to act like humans (as best as they can). If machine reaches out that is, let’s say, emulating your mom and in the end, it’s not your mom and they make you do things that you shouldn’t have. That’s a scary thought. But to bring it back to a positive side, they might bring you the next billion-dollar opportunity as well. I think we’ll end that on a positive note, not on the negative one.
Aman Bharti (Lynk): Yes, and leaving everybody thinking about morality, which is always difficult. Well Javaid, thank you so much for being with us today and for answering all these questions. I do understand we didn’t get through as many questions as we would have liked to, but we will try to get back to everybody either over email or in the next webinar to address those questions. With that, if you are interested in joining Lynk, please send us an email. If you would like to have more time with Javaid, either in a one-on-one or in another Lynk Live webinar, do let us know. On behalf of Javaid and the team here at Lynk, thank you all for tuning in. We wish you a great day. Thanks again for joining us, Javaid.
Javaid Iqbal (Speaker): Thanks for having me. Have a good day!
About the speakers
Javaid Iqbal is the co-founder & CEO of TransformX. He has previously served as a Customer Success & Engagement Leader at Salesforce and held various leadership positions at multiple consultancies including EY and PwC where he spearheaded large scale complex business transformation efforts for global Fortune 100 clients and Federal & State and Local governments across North America, Europe & Asia.
Aman Bharti is a Product Executive at Lynk Global, with a strong product and business development cross-functional experience of startups and large global outfits across the Americas and Asia.
About Dialogues In Digital
The rampant pace of technology and its impact on the environment often makes it near-impossible to take a breath and realize the countless upheavals affecting organizations, industries, and societies in real-time. Events and breakthroughs with widespread repercussions can go unaccounted for and their potential lost forever. TransformX’s Dialogues In Digital Series is one attempt to assemble business leaders from a wide cross-section of industries and geographies to share their insights on such disruptive developments and highlight the role that key stakeholders in the leadership ranks can play in their sphere to become a crucial cog of their industries and ecosystems. Catch these conversations on our YouTube channel and follow us on our social feeds for the latest and greatest in the world of digital innovation.