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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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Tech promotes connections across groups in emerging markets

Digital technology users say they more regularly interact with people from diverse backgrounds

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Smartphone users – especially those who use social media – say they are more regularly exposed to people who have different backgrounds. They are also more connected with friends they don’t see in person, a Pew Research Center survey of adults in 11 emerging economies finds.

South Africa, included in the study, has among the most consistent levels of connection across age groups and education levels and in terms of cross-cultural connections. This suggests both that smartphones have had a greater democratisation impact in South Africa, but also that the country is more geared to diversity than most others. Of 11 countries surveyed, it has the second-lowest spread between those using smartphones and those not using them in terms of exposure to other religious groups.

Across every country surveyed, those who use smartphones are more likely than those who use less sophisticated phones or no phones at all to regularly interact with people from different religious groups. In most countries, people with smartphones also tend to be more likely to interact regularly with people from different political parties, income levels and racial or ethnic backgrounds. 

The Center’s new report is the third in a series exploring digital connectivity among populations in emerging economies based on nationally representative surveys of adults in Colombia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, the Philippines, Tunisia, South Africa, Venezuela and Vietnam. Earlier reports examined attitudes toward misinformation and mobile technology’s social impact

The survey finds that smartphone and social media use are intertwined: A median of 91% of smartphone users in these countries also use social media or messaging apps, while a median of 81% of social media users say they own or share a smartphone. And, as with smartphone users, social media and messaging app users stand apart from non-users in how often they interact with people who are different from them. For example, 52% of Mexican social media users say they regularly interact with people of a different income level, compared with 28% of non-users. 

These results do not show with certainty that smartphones or social media are the cause of people feeling like they have more diverse networks. For example, those who have resources to buy and maintain a smartphone are likely to differ in many key ways from those who don’t, and it could be that some combination of those differences drives this phenomenon. Still, statistical modelling indicates that smartphone and social media use are independent predictors of greater social network diversity when other factors such as age, education and sex are held constant. 

Other key findings in the report include: 

  • Mobile phones and social media are broadening people’s social networks. More than half in most countries say they see in person only about half or fewer of the people they call or text. Mobile phones are also allowing many to stay in touch with people who live far away: A median of 93% of mobile phone users across the 11 countries surveyed say their phones have mostly helped them keep in touch with those who are far-flung. When it comes to social media, large shares report relationships with “friends” online who are distinct from those they see in person. A median of 46% of Facebook users across the 11 countries report seeing few or none of their Facebook friends in person regularly, compared with a median of 31% of Facebook users who often see most or all of their Facebook friends in person. 
  • Social activities and information seeking on subjects like health and education top the list of mobile activities. The survey asked mobile phone users about 10 different activities they might do on their mobile phones – activities that are social, information-seeking or commercial in nature. Among the most commonly reported activities are casual, social activities. For example, a median of 82% of mobile phone users in the 11 countries surveyed say they used their phone over the past year to send text messages and a median of 69% of users say they took pictures or videos. Many mobile phone users are also using their phones to find new information. For example, a median of 61% of mobile phone users say they used their phones over the past year to look up information about health and medicine for themselves or their families. This is more than the proportion that reports using their phones to get news and information about politics (median of 47%) or to look up information about government services (37%). Additionally, around half or more of mobile phone users in nearly all countries report having used their phones over the past 12 months to learn something important for work or school. 
  • Digital divides emerge in the new mobile-social environment. People with smartphones and social media – as well as younger people, those with higher levels of education, and men – are in some ways reaping more benefits than others, potentially contributing to digital divides. 
    • People with smartphones are much more likely to engage in activities on their phones than people with less sophisticated devices – even if the activity itself is quite simple. For example, people with smartphones are more likely than those with feature or basic phones to send text messages in each of the 11 countries surveyed, even though the activity is technically feasible from all mobile phones. Those who have smartphones are also much more likely to look up information for their households, including about health and government services. 
    •  There are also major differences in mobile usage by age and education level in how their devices are – or are not – broadening their horizons. Younger people are more likely to use their phones for nearly all activities asked about, whether those activities are social, information-seeking or commercial. Phone users with higher levels of education are also more likely to do most activities on their phones and to interact with those who are different from them regularly than those with lower levels of education. 
    •  Gender, too, plays a role in what people do with their devices and how they are exposed to different people and information. Men are more likely than women to say they encounter people who are different from them, whether in terms of race, politics, religion or income. And men tend to be more likely to look up information about government services and to obtain political news and information. 

These findings are drawn from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 28,122 adults in 11 countries from Sept. 7 to Dec. 7, 2018. In addition to the survey, the Center conducted focus groups with participants in Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines and Tunisia in March 2018, and their comments are included throughout the report. 

Read the full report at https://www.pewinternet.org/2019/08/22/in-emerging-economies-smartphone-and-social-media-users-have-broader-social-networks.

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Nokia to be first with Android 10

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Nokia is likely to be the first smartphone brand to roll out Android 10, after its manufacturer, HMD Global, announced that the Android 10 software upgrade would start in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Previously named Android Q, it was given the number after Google announced it was ditching sweet and dessert names due to confusion in different languages. Android 10 is due for release at the end of the year.

Juho Sarvikas, chief product officer of HMD Global said: “With a proven track record in delivering software updates fast, Nokia smartphones were the first whole portfolio to benefit from a 2-letter upgrade from Android Nougat to Android Oreo and then Android Pie. We were the fastest manufacturer to upgrade from Android Oreo to Android Pie across the range. 

“With today’s roll out plan we look set to do it even faster for Android Pie to Android 10 upgrades. We are the only manufacturer 100% committed to having the latest Android across the entire portfolio.”

HMD Global has given a guarantee that Nokia smartphone owners benefit from two years of OS upgrades and 3 years of security updates.

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