What is Work and What is Human in the Superhuman Future?
Following Bentley’s session is the session on Superhuman by Martin Wezowski, Chief Designer & Futurist and Chief Innovation Officer at SAP’s Innovation Center Network. Wezowski opened his session with the simple question of “What is the future?”
Why should we care about the future? Because everyone of us will be living the rest of our lives in the future. Therefore, it is important that we use our imagination to envision the future. Wezowski then pointed out that there are two things we need to understand about the future – one, the future is growing exponentially faster and faster, and two, the future is converging in very unexpected ways; ways we could not have predicted before.
Wezowski then demonstrated how imagination converges in exponential thinking with ‘Barbie’ – a cloud-computing AI connected to WIFI, applying Natural Language Processing to engage in a conversation. Imagine Barbie being applied into a bigger environment and a more complex application – applying GPS location, facial recognition, tracing payment transaction – this would allow Barbie to be able to locate a lost child or identify a thief.
Imagining a trip to the moon, imagination being applied endlessly in NASA would give way for future opportunities that would allow us to live our lives in space, to be able to generate fuel in space, and possibilities of future businesses in space. To make this possible, we would have to ask ourselves what kind of connectivity is required for us to be able to achieve this vision.
Another example is in Health Care – Wezowski pointed out how long it takes to generate one doctor. Is it possible to help a doctor leverage her practice by allowing her to be able to compare every condition there is to every possible practice in order to make the decisions to allow her patients to live a healthier life? Although this may sound difficult, but with AI, we are able to achieve this. And to allow Artificial Intelligence to be able to do its job, we would need immense connectivity and data collection – smart watches, smart phones, smart sensors in your teeth and contact lenses.
With the demand for more connectivity, Wezowski pointed out how more business opportunities also arise. One example is Under Armor, a sportwear company. Under Armor is connecting 200 million people on their digital platform – an attempt to create connectivity around our well-being. Mapping out the heatmap of consumers interaction, we can see that Under Armor has managed to generate 10 billion interactions between their consumers and are able to access their behavioral information and activities. Imagine having your insurance data connected to how you sit in your Tesla, how you use your phone, your shoes – all of these data, connected into one platform would allow you to live a much healthier life.
Looking at the bigger picture, from a personal level such as what you where to an infrastructure level, such as connected road lanes for electric car, with the right vision and imagination we would be able to achieve much more with smart connectivity.
Urbanization is also a major topic of discussion when talking about the future. It is predicted that by 2025, 70% of us will be living in cities. But if we have transportation that are going to be self-driving within 10 to 20 years, what would be the need for us to live in the cities? Perhaps, de-urbanization would be the future trend.
Wezowski pointed out how “Virtual Reality” has also been applied to simulate Mars Environment for NASA to allow them to imagine what they could do on Mars. With higher fidelity and granularity, could allow us to envision the future much more differently than we have predicted in the past.
In the future, we might be able to control technology with our minds, we could connect our brains and feelings with technology, and this would allow us to live our future lives in a much different way. We could perhaps be able to understand one another better, we could perhaps be able to learn new abilities by smoking. We could perhaps connect with each other better through establishing a connection via our minds, and when we can achieve that, we would be able to achieve a state of hyper-connectivity – a state of superminds.
Continuing his speech, Wezowski began to provoke us to think about how we would like to envision the future to be. Although this may sound like Science Fiction, he pointed out that many Science Fictions has already become Science Facts. And as history has proven itself, Science Fact can be achieved from Science Fiction through our efforts and science. This concept might be hard to understand for the human brains as we are not able to compute exponentially. In fact, the human brain tends think linearly, while the real world is progressing exponentially, and this makes it difficult for us to maneuver ourselves in the real world.
In order to exercise our brain to be able to think exponentially, Wezowski encourages us to stay curious – adopting the ignorance of the unknown, experimenting, and moving forward. This particular way of thinking has become a new value among new generations of workers not knowing what is coming – the values of questioning everything, to experiment, and then learn. Wezowski pointed out that these values are the transformative values that describe innovation, where he quoted various references to support his viewpoints:
“Empathy and creativity will save our jobs in the future.” – Issy Beech, Vice.com
“The future of human work is imagination, creativity and strategy.” – Joseph Pistrui, Harvard Business Review
“Imagination is the tool to survive.” – Martin Wezowski
The World Economic Forum has also identified the top ten skills in 2020 for the future of work:
1. Complex Problem-Solving
2. Critical Thinking
4. People Management
5. Coordinating with Others
6. Emotional Intelligence
7. Judgement and Decision-Making
8. Service Orientation
9. Negotiation Skills
10. Cognitive Flexibility
Wezowski particularly placed an emphasis on Emotional Intelligence – this is about how do we understand all of these ecosystems, how do we investigate and experiment within these ecosystem, how do we feel, what relationships do we build with our market and customers? Another important skill Wezowski pointed out is Cognitive Flexibility – the ability to always change – if our businesses could adapt flexibly, we would be in a very profitable business. This is because we would be able to make more money if we can understand who we are dealing with.
“Empathy is good business.” – Martin Wezowski
The way we do business is also changing. Before, we used to come up with strategies and plans we thought would work, and kept them to ourselves because we believe it is competitive. Say, if you are a manager, and your goal is to be able to predict the outcome, then by definition, you are not doing anything new. The incentives we used to have is beginning to change. Perhaps, it is no longer about predicting the outcome, but rather, it is about building good relationship with the people in your ecosystem, and empower them to experiment and recommend you to everyone.
If this is the future, Wezowski recommended some methods we could apply to turn our imagination into reality. McKinsey touches on three horizons of innovation, where Wezowski translated into his own version to be applied:
1. Now Horizon, the 1st horizon is the horizon we love most because we know exactly what it is. This is the horizon of continuous progress and continuous innovation.
2. Adjacent Innovation Horizon, thinking about what next – what would we do if we could project and forecast our abilities from today? Who would we co-innovate with? Who in our ecosystem could help us?
3. Transformative Innovation Horizon, the 3rd horizon is very different because you are not able to make any forecast; this is where you experiment, take risk, and imagine where you want to be in year 10. Exercising your imagination to envision the future that does not yet exist. The 3rd horizon is where we trust our vision, our leadership, our resources, and each other to build something completely new.
How do curate innovation in a company or in society? We could come up with plans and strategies, coming up with very direct KPIs and making sure we are doing things right. Doing things right and effectively is important – but how do we know if we are doing things right? Sometimes, we could be following our KPIs exactly, but still fail – this is because we could forget to explore or experiment. Exploring and experimenting is much cheaper and much easier to do – this is where we could fail and learn many times on a much smaller scale.
“Never forget to explore and do the right thing.” – Martin Wezowski
Wezowski then gave a very intriguing quote, leading into the last chapter of his session, “If you are talented, you will always hit the target and win for the company. But if you are a genius, you would be hitting the target no one can see, and this is ‘imagination’.” We would then have to start questioning what does it mean to be human and superhuman when discussing the future of work.
Wezowski stated his vision as “to improve people’s quality of life”, where he explained how this vision could never change, because no matter how far we progress into the future, we could always keep improving people’s lives.
There are four dimensions of the future of work:
1. Businesses will be self-running, focus on the people to identify what they do when they have time, when businesses are safe, running in the right direction, controlled, you will see people discussing and delivering high value human exchange; this is the future of businesses, where routine tasks and long manual cognitive loads are left to the machines.
2. Businesses will be self-organizing, we do businesses with so many people as our business network grows, it is extremely difficult to go through every single contact point manually by ourselves, therefore, technology can be leveraged to allow us to organize these relationships in a much more efficient way – blockchain in this case is the technology that could help us.
3. We will be superhumans, imagining ourselves having a conversation with something from the future that could analyzes how our morning activities and coffee could affect our biometrics; this is an example of a software for the future, where machines can allow us to be superhumans from extrapolating data and analyzing our biometrics, paving way for us to live our lives in the best ways possible.
4. We will work only to find new relationships on the market, thinking about designing the relationships you really want to have; our companies should be able to quantify and qualify relationships, and try to answer the question of why we are relevant to their ecosystems.
Ending his session, Wezowski leave the crowd with a quote – “Have your vision and describe your passion, this becomes your purpose. You need to articulate it so well so that people understand it. Engage them in a formal discussion. Make them think, exercise your emotional intelligence, be empathic with logic.” The opposite of stability is not instability, the opposite of stability is evolution, and change. Make a strategic point of view, understand the future, and take your position. Whatever happen, take the future in your hands and invent it the way you like. Explore, experiment, and move forward in the way you want.
Source: Thailand Management Day 2018