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Future of leadership


It is hardly a surprise that digitalization plays an important role when looking into leadership challenges. Leaders can ask themselves how it affects both their business model and their organization.

The conversation about the impact of digitalization is on-going and not likely to end any time soon. These three perspectives are of the utmost importance for leadership; these perspectives are formed into the tensions revolving around data, workforce, and organization. 

Data: Product - Business Model Why are you not a data company?

Google and Amazon have both made exceptional businesses out of data and using it to grow their businesses. The model is not necessarily about companies not making and improving products with data but more about how they need to change their understanding of themselves as a company.

“When a company like Ford implements the Alexa system in their vehicles, they do so with the notion of competing against traditional competitors such as Chevrolet. Both companies see themselves as automobile companies that compete on features and price. As a result, Ford may gift something of ultimately strategic value, its data, to Amazon.”

When transformative actions happen in relation to digitizing existing data, implementing digital elements in sales, communication, and customer relations, the company can aggregate data that will help streamline business processes, deliver services more efficiently, and enhance products. These actions fall into the product end of the tension spectrum, while the next step will be to look at how data can be used to transform the business model and place a company on the other side of the spectrum.

About this case:

Utilization of data is the most transformative business component in this decade. On one end, companies can use data to optimize products and business processes; on the hand, data can shape and transform the business model opening for new opportunities, revenue streams, and markets. For this case, we spoke to Shomit Ghose, Managing partner at ONSET Ventures and lecturer at UC Berkeley where he teaches data-driven business models to software engineer graduates.

Workforce: Automation - Augmentation Who cannot be replaced by robots?

Self-driving vehicles on Lyft’s platform have completed 75,000 commercial rides through their partner Aptiv. But even as a born-digital company, it does not make Lyft immune to disruption or the need to adapt to the future in the same way brick-and-mortar companies have to. At Lyft Level 5, that also means they spend a great amount of time imagining the challenges of mobility in the future in terms of infrastructure, workforce, and passengers.

“I believe we won’t see the real impact of autonomous vehicles before a decade from now, and even at that time, I don’t see a future where humans are completely separated from driving. But the ways in which humans are involved will change. The software and hardware tools will need to be engineered, the vehicles maintained and cleaned, and people still expect great customer service from transportation.”

At large, Lyft sees autonomous vehicles as an augmentation of humans. As driving is automated, it leaves room to use the skills significant to humans, such as critical thinking, interpersonal skills, communication, and learning. But the most complex task is adjusting human behavioral patterns to be independent of personal vehicles.

About this case:

Digital augmentation of the workforce is nothing new, and emerging technologies continue to create opportunities for companies to increase efficiency in the organization. From automating processes entirely, or to augment employees to make processes seamless, are some of the options to consider for companies. For this case, we spoke to Johan Jessen, Design Manager at Lyft Level 5 – the autonomous vehicle division that leverages ride-sharing data from the platform to do 3D visualizations for AV, build APIs for AV partners to plug into the platform, and work on the next generation of self-driving cars.

Organization: physical - virtual Cancel all meeting?

Flexibility is one of the major benefits for employees to take remote and gig work, while the tricky part is to coordinate and manage projects and ensure effective communication when there is little face-to-face time. Silicon Valley is solving this problem by fostering companies like Slack, Trello, Zoom, HighFive, and Asana to enable virtual cooperation between coworkers in both remote and on-site companies. Asana includes features such as chat, project management, and task coordinating on its platform.

The complexity of managing teams might increase in larger organizations spread across the globe, but smaller teams also find an increased need for virtual elements to support their work efforts. This, both to minimize time spent on coordination and keep all team members up to speed when some are remote or away.

Software can especially support three standardized needs for businesses today: communications, digital sharing of work, and coordination. Asana’s co-founder, Dustin Moskovitz, who also co-founded Facebook, said in an interview with Quartz: “But we also need something that connotes more emotion,” Because one of the challenges for companies relying on remote work and its conveyed flexibility is that the virtual elements, such as SaaS solutions, should not obscure the people using it.

About this case:

New organizational structures are enabled through technology due to fewer limitations for collaboration between people internally and external to the organization. The virtual organization gives flexibility and allows people to work together without physical limitations. Likewise, physical organizations with face-to-face meetings and office spaces can take advantage of digital technology to increase efficiency and flexibility. Asana is an SaaS tool for work and team management. It began under the name Task and was an internal tool developed for Facebook employees by Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook, and Justin Rosenstein, ex-Google and Facebook engineer.

Digitalization of higher education Digitalization - an academic perspective

Keeping up with the digital reality of today has become a major concern for many universities in Denmark and in the U.S. Students are digital natives and demand education with seamless digital interfaces. Employers require new skills in data analysis and new technology, and educators see the potential for using digital technologies to provide new content and courses for students. Being “digital” is no longer about having rooms full of computers, printers, and keeping the campus Wi-Fi running smoothly. Being digital means taking stock of how large amounts of data and new methods to utilize data will change what universities should teach but also to rethink how to teach courses based on the possibilities of technology.

All four universities are investing in new courses, centers, or other initiatives to introduce skills in computer and data science across departments. The universities also have a common emphasis on integrating the digital skills with the students’ field of study by teaching the students exactly those digital skills that will provide them with new ways of studying their own field. The universities are upskilling faculty members to use new technological tools, and the common trend is that most of the implementation is based on a voluntary bottom-up process. They all introduce new educational technology that has the potential to increase students learning by broadening the reach of courses or using data-driven education to enable targeted teaching methods.

How can universities integrate new technology into curricula and provide students with new tools to analyze their field of study?

In November 2018, UC Berkeley announced a major structural change to establish a new Division for Data Science and Information. The Division will engage with departments, schools, and colleges across UC Berkeley to spur faculty hiring and education in data science-related fields.
MIT announced in October 2018 that it would incorporate digital technologies and AI across all of their degrees by building a cross-functional MIT Schwarzman College of Computing. According to the MIT president, Rafael Reif, “Computing is no longer the domain of the experts alone; it is everywhere, and it needs to be understood and mastered by almost everyone.” At Stanford University, however, instead of creating a new center for data science, the university aims to weave data science research and education into activities across disciplines.

How can universities use EDU-IT and upskill faculty to use new technology to deliver and support their teaching?

The U.S. context poses an especially interesting case for an outlook on how the universities use educational technologies, since the U.S. is the country in the world with by far the largest number of investment deals going into education technology. The movement toward developing and deploying EDU-IT and upskilling faculty springs from the belief that introducing new technology holds the potential to improve university education by enabling accessibility, flexibility, and better possibilities for targeted teaching methods. The move from physical teaching spaces to digital interfaces allows data collection on students’ behavior, interactions, and understanding of the coursework.

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