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Tech future demands ‘leadering’

One of the world’s leading futurists argues for a new kind of leadership, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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It is somewhat reassuring to learn that Nancy Giordano has 43,000 unopened emails on her computer. As a global “brand futurist”, she is in demand to lead transformation strategies at major corporations, and present her framework for visionary leadership at conferences and events. She is also a mother of three and a part-time lecturer at Singularity University in Silicon Valley.

If someone operating at the cutting edge of technology has such a cluttered inbox, the rest of us can be forgiven for not keeping up. However, she reassures us, she is on top of the important correspondence. Speaking at VeeamOn, a conference hosted by data backup and management company Veeam in Miami, Florida, she makes the case for “audacious leadering” as the key to being on top of the rapid technological change that the coming years will bring.

Nancy Giordano

The main challenge, she says, is that we have three lenses into the future: through our work lives, our personal lives and as members of society. In each of these, the questions arise: What problem are we trying to solve; what is our role; how can we compete?

“This leads us to a permanent state of ambiguity,” she says. “So many things are happening at once in the world of business and technology, we’re not sure if we’re making the right decisions  anymore. How do we now when is the right time to act? How do we operate in a time of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity?”

The reality for business, she says, is that we live in an F-I-O world”. That stands for “Figure-It-Out”.

“Nobody knows how to do it: you’ve got to figure it out. Part of it is an agile mindset. It’s not about spending a ton of money on research and development and hope to get it right, but starting with the most basic components and make sure you get them right.

“The iPhone didn’t start the way it is now; they caught up. So in human resources, for instance, it can be getting the hiring or onboarding process right, and build from there. On an individual level, it is teaching people that they have agency, that they are able to create something and it can start small.”

Giordano appears, at first, to be a strange fit for a Veeam event focused on cloud storage. But her message resonates powerfully.

Anthony Spiteri, a global technologist working in the product strategy group at Veeam, tells us in an interview that the trend in information technology (IT) is to make it more efficient and have tools to make the jobs of IT practitioners easier but functional, and to do more with less.

“Have a look at how software has evolved in the  last five to ten years: it’s, all about simplifying systems,” he says. “Ten years ago you had a lot more bells and whistles, and a lot more people needed to know how to make it work. Today it is all in a black box, and people expect to plug it in and work. Younger people want more of that black box plug-and-play experience.”

How does one combine the black box idea with an F-I-O world? Giordano says that one way large businesses are addressing the challenge is with “the idea of uncommon partnerships”.

“You have disparate companies coming together, like Pizza Hut and Toyota co-developing the e-Palette self-driving delivery vans,” she says. “Competitors on the retail stage become collaborators on the high tech stage. Executives are asking, with whom can we collaborate?”

The answer can appear unthinkable at first. In Houston 11 years ago, for example, petroleum engineers and cardiologists got together on the basis that they were both looking for better ways to pump fluid. The fact that one as dealing with oil and the other with blood did not prevent them from seeing the massive potential of cross-disciplinary collaboration.

The result was Pumps & Pipes, an association of medical, energy, aerospace, academic and community professionals and leaders. It has moved far beyond oil and blood, and now emphasises inclusivity across nations and disciplines, with the guiding principle to problem-solving being “exploring your neighbour’s toolkit”.

Says Giordano: “This is where value of diverse thinking comes into the picture. California was the first state to require women on corporate boards, not because it is politically correct, but because corporations with women on the board are on average 15% more profitable. It’s about having different backgrounds, different thinking, different education.

“This will be most crucial in artificial intelligence. Right now it is dominated by a homogenous group of people. The biggest thing to watch out for in AI is bias, how it was trained and what we ask it to do. Not because they are bad, but because they have a different perspective.

“It’s part of the development of our AQ, our adaptability quotient. The great news is you can continuously develop it. Curiosity, agile thinking, diverse teams, collaboration, are all part of it. You have to ask, What does the future need and expect of you? What are you in a unique position to contribute to the future?”

For executives, says Giordano, the answer lies in what she calls “leadering”. The difference between this and leadership is that the new concept is about being passionate.

“If we focus less on how to make humans more effective than how to make machines more effective it will be to our detriment. But this isn’t really about machines at all – it is about community. The single most important social technology is the importance of being human.”

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Cape Town not so calm – if you’re a driver

Cape Town drivers lose on average 162 hours a year to traffic jams, so will need some tech and a few tips to stay calm

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Cape Town drivers lose, on average, 162 hours a year stuck in traffic jams, and the city is ranked 95th out of around 200 cities, across 38 countries surveyed globally, in terms of congestion issues.

That’s according to the latest INRIX 2018 Global Traffic Scorecard, which is an annual analysis of mobility and congestion trends. The study provides a data-rich evaluation of information collected during peak (slowest) travel times, and inter peak (fastest point between morning and afternoon commutes) travel times. Together they provide a holistic account of congestion throughout the day, delivering in-depth insights for vehicle drivers and policy-makers to make better decisions regarding urban travel and traffic health.

Of the further five South African cities surveyed:

  • Pretoria drivers lose, on average, 143 hours a year stuck in traffic jams, ranking as the 64thmost congested city
  • Johannesburg drivers lose an average of 119 hours annually, ranking 61st
  • Durban drivers lose 72 hours, ranking 141st
  • Port Elizabeth drivers lose 71 hours, ranking 75th
  • And Bloemfontein drivers lose 62 hours, ranking 165th

If these hours sound horrific, spare a thought for the poor drivers in Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá who lose, on average, a whopping 272 hours a year stuck in traffic jams!

On average, drivers’ commutes increase by roughly 30% during peak versus inter-peak hours. And the reality is that congestion issues aren’t going away anytime soon. Not here in SA, or anywhere else in the world. So what can we, as drivers, do to make the situation easier to cope with on our daily commute?

Change of mindset

Stressing about the unavoidable, the inevitable, and all the things that are out of our control – like congestion caused by accidents, faulty street lights, or bad weather – is a waste of energy. We should try finding ways of using that time in our cars more productively, to create a less tense, more positive experience. Learning to change our perspective about this challenging time, and associating it with something enjoyable, can drastically alter our reaction to and engagement with it. Rather than expending all our energy on futile anger and frustration, we can channel our focus on things that relax or energise us instead.

Just one more chapter

Being stuck in traffic usually aggravates us because it feels like a huge waste of valuable time. But like a wise man once said, time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. Listening to a podcast or audiobook can not only be entertaining, but also educational, which is a brilliant use of your time. Ifyou think of your car as a ‘learning lab’, a mobile university of sorts, and your time spent inside as away to exercise your brain and grow intellectually, you may even find yourself wishing for bad traffic so you have an excuse to carry on listening to your podcast or audiobook.

Tame your inner Hulk

Pulling up a playlist of your favourite, feel-good songs can do wonders to combat stress levels. Downbeat music has been proven to have a mellowing effect on drivers. Making a quick switch to downbeat music shows measurable physiological improvements, with drivers calming down much sooner, and making fewer driving mistakes. So the next time you feel your inner Hulk emerging, crank up the volume on your favourite tunes.

The power of ‘caromatherapy’

There are numerous studies on aromas and their impact on human emotion, behaviour, and performance. Researchers have found that peppermint can enhance mental and athletic performance and cognitive functioning, while cinnamon may improve tasks related to attentional processes and visual-motor response speed. A study from Kyoto University in Japan revealed that participants reported significantly lower hostility and depression scores, and felt more relaxed after awalk through a pine forest. It makes sense then, to incorporate some ‘caromatherapy’ into our lives. There are plenty of off-the-shelf car diffusers available, or you could add a few drops of essential oil to DIY felt air fresheners. Citrus scents like orange or lemon can provide a boost of energy, while rosemary can relieve stress and anxiety. Take care not to hang anything that might obstruct your field of vision though, and always make sure to test out essential oils at home first, in case a scent makes you dizzy or overly relaxed, which could affect driving focus.

Contemplate your navel

The mind is a powerful thing, and simply willing yourself to relax might be the most effective method of all. While we don’t recommend meditating while driving due to safety reasons, breathing exercises can help you stay focused and feeling calm. One useful practice is the one-to-one technique – breathing in and out for the same count with the same intensity. Deep, measured breaths facilitate full oxygen exchange, helping to slow down the rate of your heartbeat and stabilise blood pressure, as opposed to shallow breathing, which doesn’t send enough air to the lowest part of your lungs, causing you to feel anxious and short of breath. Just always keep your eyes on the road, and take care to ensure you’re not so busy counting breaths that your concentration is compromised.

Not all those who wander are lost

Some of our best ideas come in those moments where we’re alone with our own thoughts, able to really reflect on the ideas we have without having something immediate that needs our attention. Allow your mind to wander, and do a little brainstorming. Alternatively, use the time to simply day dream. Remember, downtime is not dead time. It is both necessary, and important for your mental health. Use this time as an opportunity to take care of yourself.

In-built vehicle tech

“As we spend more and more time commuting, cars are being designed to accommodate longer periods behind the wheel,” says Kuda Takura, smart mobility specialist at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa. “Ford uses human-centric design to deliver vehicles that are inviting, accommodating, and intuitive. For example, our SYNCT infotainment system offers nifty, hands-free functions, like allowing drivers to listen to their texts, change music or climate settings, and make phone calls easily with voice control. Our range of driver-assist technologies, like Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection and Semi-Auto Active Park Assist, are also designed to take some of the stress off city driving. If our lifestyle means that we might be spending more time in our cars than we do on holiday, then we should make sure we make the most of that time.”

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Vodacom exits Africa biz services

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Vodacom Group has sold Vodacom Business Africa’s operations in Nigeria, Zambia and Cote d’Ivoire to Andile Ngcaba’s Synergy Communications. The two entities are in the process of concluding the acquisitions, which are subject to the approval of the regulatory authorities within these markets.

Vodacom says the transaction supports the Group’s enterprise strategy in Africa, which has been refocused to grow and strengthen its core business. It will no longer directly service global enterprise customers in these three markets but will rather continue to operate as a pan African telecommunications networks provider through local relationships, like the one with Synergy Communications. 

This acquisition represents a significant milestone in Synergy Communication’s quest to be a leading provider of cloud and digitally based services in key markets across sub-Saharan Africa and provides key additional assets in its build out of a regional footprint. Synergy Communications currently has operations in Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique.

Andile Ngcaba, Chairman of Synergy Communications said: “This is an exciting landmark transaction for Synergy Communications, providing us with additional momentum in the delivery of our strategy as a pan-African enterprise digital Services Provider. Synergy Communications will partner with major global cloud providers and deliver platform-based services to both multi-nationals and local enterprises.”

Shameel Joosub, CEO of Vodacom Group, said: “Vodacom has a clear vision for strengthening our position as a leading pan-African business and will work with local service providers like Synergy Communications to grow in these markets. Crucially, Vodacom is not exiting any of the territories related to this transaction and remains focused on continuing to deliver exceptional service to our global and multinational clients in these markets through long-term commercial agreements. 

“To support the sustainable growth of pan African digital economies and building connected societies, Vodacom will, via local service providers, continue to service clients in each market. We seek to leverage the collective strengths of Vodacom and Synergy Communications to meet the changing requirements of clients across each of these markets.”

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