Key Takeaways from ParadigmShift 2016

Thrive on Complexity: Leadership in the Age of Accelerated Change

ParadigmShift 2016 brought together a group of executives and technology and business luminaries to address the topic of leadership in the age of accelerated change.

There were many new ideas, insights, and frameworks shared in Miami. Here are four key takeaways.

1) Technology is Driving Change

with Exponential Impact

Founder of Fast Company, Polly LaBarre kicked off ParadigmShift 2016 with the question, “Are you capable of changing as fast as the world is changing?” The answer to that, of course, should be a resounding “yes” provided organizations and leaders harness the incredible power of technology to drive change and strive to continually learn.

Bestselling author and global advisor to CEOs, Ram Charan, emphasized that “radical change in society has always been driven by technology” and "the only leaders who will succeed in creating fundamental paradigm shifts are those that understand the cognitive height of the opportunity and utilize the power of algorithms, software languages, and sensors.” He reminded us all that “Technology is key to the business itself, not just a support function.”

The new technologies of today and tomorrow - platforms, AR/VR, robots, AI - will create seismic shifts for industries and humanity. Leaders must address how they will fund this change and what kinds of talent and capabilities they will need to achieve a complete digital transformation. Talent should be seen as a key to competitive advantage.

2) Focus on the Customer is Critical to Success

Technology has not only transformed enterprises, it has also transformed customers. The customers of today want products and services to be frictionless, fast and customized to their needs.

Increasing demands of the modern customer, paired with the rate of technological innovation, are core elements of complexity for the enterprise. Understanding the customer and remaining focused on their needs amongst global, industry and organizational noise is a must. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the stories of digital transformation.

Trevor Mather of AutoTrader and Mike Bracken of the COOP both shared their stories of successful, large-scale, transformations and noted that “the value of having data on what the customer really wants was immeasurable” and “the best digital businesses are user-focused… a relentless focus on user need is required.”

Ram Charan added that the entire management team should fully understand their customer’s end-to-end customer experience, not just a few experts.

3) Technology Is About People

Transformation and innovation through technology are always top priorities for any leader and while many pay lip service to this idea, it’s crucial that we focus on the importance of the human element of change. This point was emphasized by Mike Bracken, who related how the UK Government’s digital transformation was “not about technology - it’s about re-setting the way people think.” and Trevor Mather, CEO of AutoTrader, who summed it up by saying “people are everything.”

The vital role of talent in the era of digital transformation was echoed in Giles Alexander’s introduction to the power of platforms, where he noted that while the technology might be available, “if you and your team aren’t evolving and improving you don’t have a platform.”

People are core to achieving the full potential that technology can offer. In her talk on the Five Seismic Shifts, Rachel Laycock, Head of Technology at ThoughtWorks, reinforced this idea by highlighting the concept of “humanity augmented” - the power human creativity, empathy, emotion physicality and insight coupled with powerful computation have to move society forward.

4) Be Principled and Be Bold

The powerful combination of people and technology has the ability to drive unprecedented change, although it is important that this change be principle driven. Whether it is digital transformation or figuring out how to incorporate A.I. capabilities into business processes, leaders need to tie these strategies to core organizational principles and hold themselves accountable to innovating in alignment with principles, not just financial goals.

Finally, Be Bold! Ram Charan encouraged company visions focusing on 10,000 times current market size to encourage creativity and boldness and cited “courage” as one of the most critical leadership traits in sponsoring executives.

This message was also echoed in the Leadership Lessons Learned the Hard Way panel and from closing speaker Peter Diamandis. There is abundance in the future and we need to be bold enough to risk a moonshot or even a Mars shot to go after it.

Watch select full-length talks from ParadigmShift.