A true predicator of digital innovation and levers which companies must use to transform technology into an economic and financial strength, for the tenth edition of USI, Eddie Obeng gives a talk full of humor. For him, too many decision makers invest in new technologies while continuing to think and act in 20th century fashion.
“It can take a long time to transform a company” concedes Eddie Obeng at the beginning of his presentation, before moving on to explain what the keys are for small and large business around the world to accelerate and succeed in their digital transition. In a highly interactive demonstration akin to a lively one-man show, this “business educator” attempts to simplify the reasons why so many companies fail in digital innovation, and to provide accessible takeaways for them to thrive in the digital era.
Enough of the 20th century mindset
Expressed and refined many times already, the concept that Eddie Obeng seeks to transmit to the audience, “without frightening” them, is that of a nascent new world, which demands a complete change of mind set and business model from that of the Old World. “We now live in a digital world. I want to turn you into centaurs, into super humans. In the face of challenges such as workers being replaced by robots or artificial intelligence, we don’t need to only use the technology in one way. We can be very creative”, jubilates the creator of Pentacle, “The Virtual Business School” 25 years ago. “We are the heroes in this futuristic adventure and we must not be sidestepped. We must begin by clarifying the game going on under our eyes”, he continues.
First of all, in our world where digital technology is already ubiquitous, people – especially leaders – still haven’t changed how they develop their marketing strategy or manage a team. “You think you’re smart, but the world changes. Computers learn and analyze faster than you today. It’s important to be aware it, and that isn’t always the case”, the expert kindly warns. According to him, many leaders think too much about their strategies and human relations in terms of efficiency. Cut costs, optimize processes, etc., as many mindsets which go counter to true change: leaders invest massively in new technologies without really understanding what to use them for. “Some people hold meetings to discuss innovation but they’re still living in the 20th century. They think they’re being modern but they aren’t leveraging the potential of the technologies around them” in Eddie Obeng’s opinion. He reminds us that in a world where technology does everything better and faster, it is those who are in movement, who learn and create, who are equipped for the future.
Enough with fear: co-create
Thus “technology is there to improve employee efficiency, not to replace them. Because if you replace employees by machines, there would be no more breakthroughs, no edge to make a difference. It’s by making centaurs out of your employees that you progress, innovate. Many companies buy smartphones, tablets and drones, but they don’t change their behavior. Without such change, the technologies you’ll buy will quickly become obsolete” claims the “business educator”. The key for him: get to know human needs first, then provide technology. “First there’s the caterpillar, which eats and crawls, then the butterfly. A butterfly is not a caterpillar with wings. Butterflies fly, they’re beautiful. It’s completely different. That is transformation. You take what you have, you build your resources, talent, and then you can fly in this world”, he notes.
The need for change is so great that Eddie Obeng estimates that we need to “reprogram humans”. But to make this transition in a company, the idea in his eyes is to embark all the teams in one innovation swoop. When talking of digital transformation, it is important not to fan the understandable fears of your collaborators.
And the futurist business educator concludes: “To achieve digital transformation, many believe they can just hire someone very intelligent to carry it out, and then fire them once it’s done. Whereas you should find the technologies to enhance the people who work for you, who will continue to create with you”… in a resolutely digital context, which doesn’t mean it has to be dehumanized!
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