Monday, December 05, 2016

Innovating to Stay Ahead of the Digital Curve

We're living in a time of exponential change. There’s no question that technology advances in today’s world are continuously transforming business and society and creating phenomenal new opportunities for growth. But how do you balance the speed of technology change with your vision for the future of your business? How do you equip your people to use technology to drive new levels of innovation and stay on top? Addressing these questions was the focus of the recent Accenture Global CIO and Innovation Forum in New York. Our theme was, “Staying Ahead of the Digital Curve.”We see an accelerating, exponential technology curve that represents truly unprecedented disruption, creating powerful opportunities and challenges. Our speakers shared how they believe we turn this digital disruption from disadvantage to competitive advantage.
The Forum gathered nearly 200 CIOs, CTOs, CDOs, CMOs and other leaders from 15 countries around the world representing a broad spectrum of industries including communications, technology, financial services, health, energy, consumer goods and retail, to hear from thought leaders and luminaries such leading research scientists, technologists, influential writers and best-selling authors. Ideas and inspiration overflowed, stretching our minds and imagination. Lots of provocative ideas and debate ensued, and I want to share some of the salient threads and thoughts that surfaced.
Salim Ismail, best-selling author of Exponential Organizationsand founding executive director, Singularity University, declared that exponential organizations are 10x faster, better and cheaper than their peersbecause of the use of new organizational techniques that leverage accelerating technologies, and also shared his formula for how large companies can move at exponential speed.
Delving into living in the machine age, and what it means for the enterprise and for employment, Andy McAfee, co-founder of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and co-author of the bestseller The Second Machine Age observed, “These changes will create a new class of leaders: evidence-driven, outward-looking, platform operators…. with geeky leadership” and also shared that new leaders have a sharp focus on letting the data guide them.
Diving into a discussion on the interaction between man and machine and artificial intelligence in particular, world-renowned robot scientist and robotics pioneer, Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, who leads the team that created the most advanced humanoid to-date, made the case for “Why use humanoids?” As robots become more lifelike, with higher performance, Dr. Ishiguro is focusing on what is human identity and can it be transferred to machines.
We had a lively panel discussion on “Artificial Intelligence: Good or Bad,” facilitated by David Kirkpatrick – Founder, Host and CEO of Techonomy. Martin Ford, futurist and best-selling author of Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless FutureDr. Ishiguro and I debated potent questions like, “How can man/machine partnerships be created so one augments the other?” and “how should education begin to prepare people for these changes?”
Venture capitalists Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871,and Romain Lavault, General Partnerof Partech Ventures talked about how important innovation is happening outside Silicon Valley. Howard made the point that increasingly, the role of the CIO is becoming even more important than the CMOgiven that in the digital age, everything is driven by data and by speed, and being able to deploy and use data effectively is critical. As businesses go forward, the whole world will be transformed by two words: transparency and efficacy.
Marc Carrell-Billiard, Global Managing Director, Accenture Labs, shed light on Accenture’s Open Innovation approach, where we act as a bridge between entrepreneurs and our Global 2000 clients. He introduced the seven tech start-ups that executives at the Accenture Global CIO and Innovation Forum would have the opportunity to meet and “invest” in with faux bitcoin. 
Captain ‘Sully’ Sullenberger inspired the Forum participants with his account of the 208 seconds in which he saved numerous lives by successfully landing an airliner on the Hudson River in 2009. It was a lesson in focused leadershipdrawing on a lifetime of experience to respond to an unprecedented and potentially disastrous event.
Julie Sweet,Group Chief Executive for North America at Accenture, shared key insights on driving value through digital from Accenture’s own transformation journey: (1) leadership and culture, (2) organization and talent, (3) investment in new capabilities such as learning and education, (4) digitizing the enterprise, and (5) innovating on the ground, investing in innovation and innovating with our clients.
CIO panel, “How Technology Leaders Stay Ahead of the Digital Curve”, led by our Accenture CIO, Andrew Wilson, brought to the fore a range of issues and opportunities for today’s CIOs, from balancing priorities within the organization, IT strategy, governance, and talent to strategies that the CIOs have implemented successfully within their organizations and how they’re shifting from managing legacy systems of record into the new digital era.
In a terrific discussion, “IT Automation: Maximizing the Opportunity,” John Shacklady led a panel highlighting thatIT automation is not just about the selection of tools—it’s about your automation strategy, and change management around automation in both capabilities and culture. Dr. Bhaskar Ghosh highlighted how Accenture is transforming its own business with AI-powered tools such as MyWizard.
General Michael Hayden talked about cyber threats and how governments and the private sector must collaborate in dealing with them. Larry Summers, former Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, talked about the world economy and the disruption in world politics, and how it is connected to the digital technology revolution.
Both sides of the blockchain debate were engaged in our panel, “The Blockchain Revolution: Re-inventing Business?” Richard Lumb led the panel in examining how blockchain will enable the freer flow of value, information and wealth around the world along with issues of identity management, cross-industry interoperability and more that need to be addressed. The panel also emphasized the relevance of blockchain outside Financial Services, across other industries.
I had an inspiring interview with Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, a national movement seeking to close the gender gap in computer science and technology. Reshma shared that today, women make up 24% of the jobs in computing, and despite all of the focus on STEM, that number is projected to decrease to 22% by 2025. The gender gap in technology is staggering and it’s getting worse, not better. But there is a clear path to reverse this trend. We all need to get engaged and show girls the connection between computer science and how you can change the world, show girls female role models, and get them passionate about technology.
In our closing talk, “Automation and Algorithms in the Digital Age,” Jonathan Zittrain, George Bemis Professor of International Law and Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University, focused on the impact of algorithms and how they can effect change in society and individual behavior.
It was an incredibly thought-provoking two days where we truly experienced a melding of the minds and a challenging of our conventional wisdom, and we left the Forum with a wealth of fresh ideas and strategies. In the closing, I talked again about our Accenture Innovation Architecture - and how we have transformed our organization to be Innovation-Led. Here are some of my closing thoughts on innovating to stay ahead of the digital curve.
  • First, it’s critical that we are innovation-led in our own organizations and recognize it as a core part of the business architecture if we want to thrive in this exponential era. At Accenture, we have effectively created an innovation architecture that combines our capabilities across the company to develop and deliver disruptive innovations for clients—and to scale them faster.
  • Second, we need to be responsibility-minded as we consider the impact on people – consumers, workers, citizens – issues such as trust and privacy, diversity and ethics, jobs and employment –these have an impact on our profession like never before. I think there’s an obligation for us to continue the conversation on these issues and ideas and be responsibility-minded.
  • And third, we need to be talent-focused as we change the DNA of our organizations and have the talent necessary for success in this new era. None of us are going to succeed individually in driving all of this change. It’s about getting the right talent, different talent, and getting our talent prepared in different ways. 
Innovation-led. Responsibility-minded. Talent-focused. Key priorities that we can all take to our businesses as we leave the Forum. Thanks to all of the speakers and participants in our 2016 CIO and Innovation Forum!

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