When I was a kid, I wanted to be a U.N. interpreter. Of course, I also wanted to be a singer-songwriter, a veterinarian, a famous writer, and a movie star, but U.N. interpreter was definitely among the things I wanted to be. Fast forward a bunch of years, and while I’m sure young me would be confused by what current me does for a living (“digital transform-what-tion?”), I’m pleased that I made it to the United Nations with a message of how technology and innovation can empower humanity on a global scale.
I was honored to be part of the #ActivateImpactSummit at the United Nations on Friday, with IMPERIA and 1M1B (1 Million for 1 Billion), talking about global empowerment with tech and innovation with an inspiring group of #YoungEntrepreneurs. So excited about what these young leaders are doing in the world.
My involvement in this event is thanks to my dear friend Jennifer Iannolo, who led a discussion on Innovation and Women in Technology at the United Nations and she featured myself and the also amazing Jeanette Bronée (another amazing and favorite person), as well TeLisa D. who was fantastic to meet. In case that didn’t sink in: my pal Jennifer organized a discussion at the U. freakin’ N. (!!!!) on innovation, and she populated it entirely with women. AND! she launched a new program at the close of the discussion. It was truly a day for the history books.
And I couldn’t love this thought more, of course: “In this ever-changing world, the one constant is that we need human-centered leaders.” — Manav Subodh of 1M1B (1 Million for 1 Billion) in his opening remarks at United Nations #ActivateImpactSummit today
It was an incredible honor to be included in yesterday’s United Nations hashtag#ActivateImpactSummit. The day’s highlight was hearing from so many young people innovating to solve problems in their communities and around the world, but I’m pleased to share a 13-second excerpt of my own comments on innovation and humanity:
Thank you for fulfilling one of my childhood dreams, Jennifer. So glad I got to share that with you brilliant women.
Here are those insights in brief; if you’d like to hear more of this, of course, I elaborate on all of these points within my keynote presentations and my books.
The tech-driven future will be neither dystopia nor utopia. It will be what we make it.
We tend to tell a story about technology that pits the worst case scenario against the best case scenario — and conveniently leaves our actions and responsibilities out of the equation. But the truth is we are very much responsible for shaping the future of technology.
Is it possible that tech can even help us be better humans? As I repeatedly asserted in Tech Humanist, with the emergence of automation, artificial intelligence, and other capacity-expanding tech, we will have the opportunity to create the best futures for the most people.
Humans crave meaning.
We just do. We seek meaning, we’re compelled by meaning; when you offer meaning to us, we can’t resist it. To bridge the gap between what makes tech better for business and better for humans, business needs to create more meaningful human experiences at scale.
Moreover, the shape meaning takes in business is purpose, and the amazing thing about purpose is that when you can be clear about what you are trying to do at scale, it helps both humans and machines function more effectively. Humans thrive on a sense of meaning, common goals, and a sense of fulfilling something bigger. Machines thrive on succinct instructions. A clearly articulated sense of strategic purpose helps achieve both of these.
Robots aren’t “coming.” They’re here.
Everyone talks about robots coming like they’re some far-off future as if millions of homes don’t already have Roomba and Alexa.
What tech does well vs. what humans do well will continuously evolve.
What does tech do well, for now? Productivity: speed up laborious tasks, improve reliability of variable tasks, automate repetitive tasks, archive, index. Certain types of predictive insights: track data, expose patterns. Security: impose rules and limits, regulate access.
What doesn’t tech do as well? Tech isn’t so hot at: Managing people. Making judgment calls. Fostering relationships. Discerning contextual nuance. (Yet.)
Also, humans can’t leave meaning up to machines. That’s value humans add to the equation.
Machines are what we encode of ourselves.
And since that’s true, why not encode our best selves? Our most enlightened selves?
Data-rich experiences tend to be better experiences. Just remember that analytics are people.
Everyone loves the oft-quoted statistics about data: every 2 days we create as much information as we did from the beginning of time until 2003, and over 90% of all the data in the world was created in the past 2 years.
And there are huge opportunities to use this data to make amazing, delightful, fulfilling, enriching human experiences possible.
But what’s important in all of this is remembering that most of this data comes from humans, and represents human identity, preferences, motivations, desires, and so on. Most business data is about people. Analytics, in other words, are people. And while relevance is a form of respect, discretion is, too. So we need to treat human data with respect and protect it excessively, even as we use it to inform the design of more meaningful experiences.
If you don’t align human experiences with meaning, you risk building absurdity at scale.
There’s a story I tell (and it’s in the book) about a big retailer encoding a behavior change that, at some point, could put a cultural norm in jeopardy. And the upshot is: experience at scale changes culture. Because experience at scale is culture.
“Online” and “offline” are blurrier than you may think.
This is basically the whole premise of my previous book Pixels and Place, but the short version of this insight is: just about everywhere the physical world and the digital world converge, the connective layer is the data captured through human experience.
And to create more meaningful human experiences, we need to design more integrated human experiences.
Everything is in flux. Embrace change.
70-80% of CEOs say the next three years are more critical than the past 50 years. The coming years, for example, are likely to see massive shifts in the scope and types of jobs humans do. Some companies will gain tremendous efficiencies from the use of automation; I propose that companies reinvest some of those gains into humanity in various ways: better customer experiences, job training, basic income experiments, etc. And that where possible, companies look to repurpose human skills and qualities toward higher value roles.
Diversity in tech is a strategic asset. Scratch that: it’s an absolute imperative.
We need women — and diversity of all kinds — in tech, leadership, and entrepreneurship for myriad reasons: because algorithms contain our biases, because it makes the space better for everyone, because we need diverse representations of the problems tech can solve, and on and on.
It’s a fantastic list. Truly. Check it out. Read every entry. Some will just wow you. (Like Rashmy Chatterjee — first woman in the Indian Navy, speaks 5 languages, and is now Global Sales Leader for IBM Security? SO amazing.)
Also big thanks for describing me as a “renaissance woman on fire” which OBVIOUSLY I’m making my new job title. :)
Cheers to these inspiring women, and to those who take the time to acknowledge them!
One, because, one of the most fundamental aspects of developing insights is the ability to study and recognize patterns.
Two, because art is a wonderful source of creative inspiration.
And three, because the depiction of women in art has something to say about centuries of power imbalance and inequality, and recognizing patterns in macro systems like culture and society is vital in having a true understanding of our context and the world we inhabit and create.
The video itself morphs between close-ups of 90 women’s images in paintings, while the link below indexes the paintings and provides additional information and context about the painter and the year it was painted.
Speaking of which, Pew Research did a study in 2008 asking about leadership traits in men and women. They first asked what characteristics make a good leader. The responses included honesty, compassion, creativity and intelligence. Then, among those characteristics, they asked whether that trait was more true of men or women.
For most of them, women rated better than men. Women outflanked men for “compassionate” 80 percent to 5 percent. The highest-ranked leadership characteristic, “honest,” was credited to women 50 percent of the time versus 20 percent for men. The only top-rated leadership characteristic in which men scored better than women was “decisive.”