Will digital transformation affect leadership?

Published: 04-12-2018

Does digital transformation affect the way leadership is completed? Report Websummit 2017 Lisbon

Last week I visited the 4-day Web summit in Lisbon. One of the biggest tech conferences in the world where 60,000 people gather. Whether you are a consultant, developer, marketeer or senior manager, the web summit has a relevant program to offer for each visitor.

There are some great themes on the agenda in Lisbon, including:

·     Globalisation, can it work for the many, rather than the few?

·     How to prevent a Cyber War?

·     Will Artificial intelligence save us or destroy us?

·     Will technology actually make us healthier?

Yet there are many lighter topics to choose from, such as:

·     Where we're going we won't need roads; Flying cars are coming

·     A robot in every room

·     The future of the TV screen 

In the preparation to the event, I made my choice to focus on:

  • Robotics
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Leadership

Technological trends in the 21st century

1. Flexible work

2. Start of new workers (robots, expats)

3. Digital processes

The value of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The rise of AI and robotics ensure that six out of ten jobs will change of context within 5-10 years. Artificial Intelligence is decreasing repetitive analytical work of humans. Computers are able to make calculations faster and are better in the management of large data sets. The algorithms on these computers are also better to recognise patterns in big data than people can. As AI transitions from being our daily helper to something much more powerful, it does not mean that these computers will operate completely autonomously. Data specialists will perform the management and monitoring of the automation. Still it will impact every facet of our commercial lives and private services.

What is the impact of this shift on positions in middle management?

For the managers who will concern this, affinity with data and the implementation of new teams and processes is a key driver to be successful. The prediction is that Artificial Intelligence will affect all occupational groups and sectors. It will be about 15 years before AI can and will operate entirely autonomous.

Robots and their functionalities

Robots are going to take over our routine work. It is expected that the impact is 80% of the working groups in all sectors. Robots come in all forms: man robots, animal robots, car robot, robot arms, satellite robots, military robots. They can talk, learn, assist, predict, monitor, regulate traffic, do household activities, go on research in hazardous areas, scuba dive and travel to planets and explore them. The great advantage of robots is that they can provide 24-hour production. This offers great opportunities for the scalability of companies.

The rise of robots requires a lot of the ability to change and learn new skills to employees and managers. The good news is that these technological advances will also create new jobs. But there will be competition for new roles. The leadership requires much more shaping of transformation in the workplace and beyond.

Managing flexible teams in the Age of the Customer

The digital transformation is going to boost flexible work and virtual teams. In a virtual team members share a common purpose, but are separated by time and distance. They are linked by communication technologies. Globalisation ensures that more international- and high-performance teams are called, which work together remotely. This requires a different way of driving to the daily routine and potential of the teams.

A new way of managing is necessary with the demand on smart performance and outcome. How people do it will not matter anymore, as long as they deliver good outcome. Internal business targets are of secondary importance in the Age of the Customer. The Age of the Customer is the concept that (potential) customers have more power than ever before, All by the invention of internet and social media. Customers care less about reasons why your business is not performing consistently. They want immediate value, good service and will go elsewhere if you can’t provide it.

Leadership in this climate asks for the skill of building high performance teams and creating an open culture. The winning attitude is: Fail fast, Learn fast. The Lean Startup method and Design thinking suits very well for this approach. These methods allow you to quickly learn from your mistakes and iterative build on concepts and fast time to market with your product and service.

Managing the outcome is very essential to have the prior focus on your customer. Agile, adaptive and circular behavior is the core of this leadership. Claiming power makes place for bundling of strengths and sharing success in teams & organisations ('one organisation').

Ego vs. Emo

Since the advent of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn a new way of communication is born. All our thoughts, expressions and emotions can be converted in data. It has a revolutionary impact on how people interact with each other and what we expect from the contact with others and with companies.

The era of data and feedback is just starting, but has a lot of potential. The vast majority of businesses have a digital presence, they have websites, social media, and may even have e-commerce capability. All companies, B2B & B2C, play with different concepts in order to remain competitive and relevant. The technology will outsmart us by intelligence and will become bigger in number. In 2035, there are more smart devices than people. There are even predictions that devices will integrate in humans and that smart robots will give us insight about our own behavior. As these developments come to maturity (estimated is < 15-period of 20 years) we can only distinguish us in relation to the technology based on our emotional intelligence and skills. Soft skills distinguish the man of the most advanced human robot or computer. The following questions are, for the time being, too complex for a robot to figure out:

  • How can we achieve growth through innovation and at the same time managing the transition responsibilities and new tasks of people?
  • How can we engage customers successfully with our business innovation?

The rise of artificial intelligence is one of the greatest stories of our time. We are certain that the power of technology is strong and inevitable will take us on a new journey. Unfortunately, there are no ethics and governance tools to manage the core risks related to AI.

This brings us a necessary need for new leadership with a focus on strong emotional intelligence.

It was a great pleasure to write this article. And I continue to absorb more news on: leadership, digital transformation and the role of change management in this area.