Beyond the Impact of AI, Blockchain, IoT
Taking a break from the race to the future
Soon, Formula 1 racing will no longer take place on wheels but in the air, a few meters above a futuristically illuminated track with the twists and turns of your average roller coaster. Including loopings. And perhaps partially in Virtual Reality.
“We have to look at reality with different eyes, in order to attain the maximum value that new technologies harbor.” — Paul Bessems, Blockchain consultant & author
During your next pit stop, you could of course just wonder how to make your car even faster. Or see how you can turn your current car into a more future-proof and possibly even completely different type of vehicle. Or decide whether or not you could let an algorithm control the vehicle.
Or, think about why you should actually want to be the first in a race, in the first place. But to think about that, you have to pause, first.
Future: Fast Forward | Research
For the blog series Future: Fast Forward [Dutch] I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview a few visionaries and pioneers in the field of innovation and data in the Dutch business community, on behalf of Motion10.
The research question was: What will be the impact of important, current technological trends on the raison d’être of organizations and on marketing; on leadership, collaboration, required skills and recruitment, and finally the social responsibility of organizations?
Summary of research results
First I want to give you the summary of the results from the research in a very short Twitter format. The research was partly based on desk and trend research and partly on interviews.
Here’s what will change for and in organizations over the next ten years, according to people like the CEO of Microsoft NL, Ernst-Jan Stigter, Blockchain consultant and author Paul Bessems, Motion10’s own Head of People Development Mounia Houari, and Trend watcher Vincent Everts:
In the future, successful organizations add value for the customer, not so much for shareholders. They do so in loose-yet-close relationships and in close cooperation and consultation with the customers themselves; an ‘organization’ will be a more liquid phenomenon with more open boundaries.
The sense of unity in these organizations will be shaped by personal, visionary leadership and human relationships and culture. Hierarchical control needs to go out the window.
Social responsibility and ethics are no longer frivolous perks: they are exactly at the core of the company because they give immediate interpretation to the purpose of an organization. And purpose is what everything revolves around.
Ok, so it’s three tweets.
Surprise: Ethics and social responsibility
If you start your research on behalf of an ICT consultancy company, and you’re departing from the idea that trends like Machine Learning, IoT, digital Platform-thinking, Blockchain and Quantum computation will have a strong impact on life and work in organizations, you expect certain outcomes.
What you don’t really expect is to find that social responsibility and ethics are mentioned by almost all eighteen interviewed visionaries as crucial to success in the future.
“In my opinion, this is the most important change we’re seeing: from Profit, we’re moving toward Purpose; from ‘Me’, we’re moving toward ‘Us, together’. In my opinion, we are mainly transforming from ‘I’ toward ‘We’ “. — Mounia Houari, blogger, Human Development Manager at Motion10
However, social and ethical questions becoming more and more important is far from the greatest shocker.
Three surprisingly crucial themes
What you wouldn’t expect at all is that three more or less philosophical themes surface as the main themes that really make all the difference, and will do so in the future. Self-actualization, Self-driving (Autonomy with a twist) and Self-insight will to a large extent determine your relative success and added value as a human being and for the organization you are part of.
These three clearly linked themes together form a model that can help you to continuously improve your own success and effectiveness. Not to mention your happiness. The ‘Purpose Alignment Pyramid’ can work as a conversation starter and as a mental model for organizations and individuals.
Let’s start at the top of the pyramid.
Self-actualization means increasing your own potential, and realizing more and more of that potential. Isabel Moll-Kranenburg, responsible for the Cloud & Enterprise portfolio at Microsoft, described it as follows, during our interview: “[…] To get the maximum potential out. Out of you as a person, and you as an organization. That means you have to think about things like: What do I want to achieve?”
Individuals and companies that pursue this in all sincerity, for themselves, their colleagues and their customers, will soon define the new standard.
Why does this come up as a crucial factor for future success in such techy research? Because technology is increasingly going to enable us to achieve our potential. And because, in the competitive landscape of the future, the last positive experience a customer has had with your competitor, becomes the norm for her expectation for the next interaction with you. For ‘customer’, you can also read ‘manager’ and for ‘competitor’; ‘coworker’, et cetera.
It’s no coincidence that Microsoft’s mission, for example, is to “Empower everyone […] to achieve more”. We at Motion10 have our own “Circle of growth” that sums up our mission statement. But if you think about it, a Google or a Netflix or any other successful company is also aiming to enable employees and customers to achieve their goals more easily.
And because, little by little, every company is becoming an IT company, we will all continue to help customers achieve their personal goals with the help of data and innovative technology.
Mascha Driessen, Head of Search Marketing Western Europe at Microsoft, puts it this way: “Technology allows us to make the right choices on the basis of so much information, to make quick choices, and to make impactful choices.”
But how do you actually work towards that kind of Self-actualization for yourself, your colleagues and customers?
As more and more technology becomes ‘self-driving’, we can also become more and more ‘self-driving’ ourselves. It’s like autonomy, but with a twist.
“Managers have to let go of the steering wheel. If you believe that the future is ‘self-driving’, then people must find out what they want to do for themselves. “ — Vincent Everts, Trend watcher
In that sentence, you can easily substitute ‘managers’ for ‘members of the board’, ‘people’, or simply ‘We’. The point about the theme of self-direction or Self-driving is that technology and other people can and will take a lot of things off your hands.
Think of self-driving cars; (autonomous vacuuming ro-)bots or your colleague or that external partner who may be much better at that little hellish, tedious bit of your job, and have more fun with it than you do. The second point is that you should allow this, or even applaud it.
If you no longer need to do the activities with which you simply do not make the difference, this frees the path for self-control. You become more Self-driving; much like the cars, only with more intrinsic drive. The more control you have over the deployment and application of your energy, available resources, knowledge and skills, the more of your goals you achieve.
The pinnacle of this would be to focus — like a kind of neo-Zen Buddhist samurai — as sharply as possible on those activities that you are good at, and that contribute to the goals you want to achieve for yourself and for the world.
Find your Purpose
Focus, rather than a continuous flow of multitasking and distractions. So: Don’t answer yet another email, implement that new tool or attend the weekly team meeting. Don’t just keep scrolling down your Facebook or Instagram feed. Do read that book or follow that training.
In the playing field between you, your colleagues, your sweetheart and family, external partners and customers, you will find that place where you can add the most value, and that fits your chosen path.
Note: That sweet spot is constantly on the move. And so should your path be. Even your highest goals and ambitions are probably fluid things. But how do you get to your clearest vision for that higher goal? And how do you know when to adjust it?
Understanding yourself in relation to the world is the basis for everything else. That is why the theme of Self-insight forms the basis of the pyramid. And it says something about where the top of the pyramid falls, exactly. Only once you as an individual — or as an organization — know what characterizes and distinguishes you from others, can you make a difference.
Only once you have a strong sense of what it is that makes your heart beat faster, can you choose a goal that you can work toward for a longer period of time. Only when you know where your strengths and pitfalls are, do you have any chance to achieve your goals.
Together and cyclic
The model becomes near-complete if we take into consideration that no individual and no organization exists in a vacuum. And that ‘to improve yourself ‘ or ‘success’ are not one-off projects. Your maximum growth is achieved together with others and in a continuous process.
Humans are quintessentially social beings. And if you disagree with that notion, then you will at least have to admit that organizations are primarily social entities, and economic traffic is a social phenomenon. This means that the development and actualization of our potential must always take place in interaction with others. “You can only reach your maximum potential within a network”, that’s how Isabel Moll describes it.
The most beautiful version of yourself — or, if we must: the most profitable version — you can only become by adding value to others. And, every next step you take in your journey of development as an individual or as an organization can force you to reevaluate yourself and your goals. Progress is never ‘finished’; It is a continuous and cyclical process.
This is why the above Purpose pyramid culminates in the following, nearly complete model:
There are still a lot of questions to this model, mind you; about the how, and what, for example. But that will follow, later. This model is applicable to the deployment of a data platform. Or for shaping a new proposition. The funny thing is that I now apply this model on a daily basis in my personal development and in my work.
However, I would love to hear how usable and clear it appears to you now, at face value.
Bringing together your “why” and your “value add”
Now more than ever, it is extremely important to know where you can add value for other people. And where that comes together with that which also fits your inner “why” and your preliminary development path. And this applies to every individual and every organization.
“What we have to do now in companies — but also as individuals — is to look in the mirror. […] I want people to have a conversation with themselves. Every day. To say: ‘I think I am capable of more.’ I think that would be the truth for every single one of us.” — Mounia Houari
Figuring out where that intersection of passion and added value lies, is another thing you would be wise to use others’ input for. As an organization, but in fact just as well as an individual person, you could use the well-known Value Proposition Canvas or a similar model for this exercise.
However, it is at least equally important and very, very sensible to consult with yourself.
White space and contemplation
The last part of the model is perhaps the most crucial part: white space and contemplation — the little droplet shape in the middle symbolizes these. White space — what you experience when you meditate, or perhaps just when you’re playing your favorite sport or spend time on a hobby — gives you space to get the best out of yourself. It is the breeding ground for any kind of creativity. Rest.
Contemplation — purposeful reflection — builds on it, and helps you to maintain the focus, to determine your goals, to divide them into sub-goals and to continuously evaluate those goals and your progress.
Take a pit stop, breathe, and contemplate
However, it is impossible to consult with yourself, in the middle of this rat race to the future, without simply standing still and seriously making time for yourself. For rest, meditation if necessary, but specifically for contemplation. And that is the last thing we seem to have time for in our modern society.
Day-dreaming, mindfulness and sports are good ways to help us not to think. But it is imperative that we take the time to actively think, in a structured and efficient manner. About our self and our place in the world. What impact do you want to have and why?
How will you, your people and your customers become more happy and successful in the future? Only after you decide to take out some real time for yourself. By seeking out the white space. Firstly to unwind and relax, to take a calm, relaxing breath; and then to think about who you actually are and what you really want to achieve. And with whom, and for whom.
I greatly value and thank you for your attention. That’s why I try to bring value. I mainly write about conscious and balanced use of technology at Life Beyond. I’d love it if you would let me know how you valued this article.
If you'd like to get deeper into the impact of digital technology of our lives, check out my book Life Beyond the Touch Screen.