The 4th Industrial Revolution: Avoiding Vanity Innovations

The Technology Revolution is coming – but don’t embrace everything

When I grew up, AI stood for artificial insemination. Something to do with cows. No more. Now Artificial Intelligence is slowly moving across a continuum from assistive to augmented towards autonomous. So, please enjoy the fact that this blog has been typed by … a human!

According to M.I.T (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) there will be more technical change in the next 20 years than there has been in the past 200. Impact: Robots will replace a lot of jobs that are completed today. Hey, it’s not all bad. Trinity College has developed a Robot called Stevie designed to help the elderly. Might be an idea to hook up with him on LinkedIn; it’s important to be on good terms with Stevie and his autonomous mates when you get a bit older.

Technology Denier: I’ve always been a bit of an Ostrich around technology. About a thousand years ago I attended a conference when a so-called futurist predicted that my credit card would open up hotel rooms and car doors. All mine has ever done since is be responsible for bills with an outrageous 20% APR. We’ve been oversold on ‘tech’ so many times that it’s hard not to be skeptical. Perhaps some of the pushback against technology was spurned by Hollywood’s Terminators or Margaret Atwood novels about the worst possible human future societies. While there’s definitely comfort in pretending it’s never going to happen, this time around it seems a bit different.

PWC Conference: All of these thoughts were generated during the PWC annual business conference (November 2017) where one key messages was hammered home: stay open to new ideas. We all need to demonstrate curiosity and embrace innovation as a personal mission – rather than a corporate slogan. It was reminiscent of the Benjamin Franklin line: “Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.”  In darkened auditoriums, you start to think about how this stuff applies in your own life…

All Fans? Now, not everyone is a technology fan: “People were created to be loved. Technology was created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos is that technology is being loved and people are being used.” It’s certainly a quotable quote and reminded me of an earlier insight by John Naisbett (Megatrends) who stated: “The more the world becomes high tech, the more people require high touch.” When you ring your bank and get run-through the 72 different dial-in options, you know that this is a sector that has downplayed the customer experience. So, in a re-engineered world, can you ‘embrace’ both technology & customers?

Priority Actions: The two central questions in any organization are as follows: (a) What’s our promise to customers? (b) Are we delivering against this? Everything else is just noise. Sometimes your job is to stop the boss from chasing shiny new things. Do a horizon scan. Then pursue technologies that progress the 2 questions posed above. When technology is used to enhance that customer promise and you get it right, there can be huge gains. And it takes time to figure that out. Rona Fitzpatrick in PWC said: “Most of the time we’re too busy mopping to turn off the tap.” It’s a good point. But, in some cases companies mistake newness for solutions. They stumble through the complexity of installing enterprise software (or some other new piece of kit) and become disconnected from the main purpose of business – to define and meet customer needs. Hey I’ve mentioned this before but it’s probably worth repeating. Some things are shiny on the outside; like Donkey droppings!

Suggestion: Go back to basics and ask: “What’s the exact problem we are trying to resolve here?” In embracing new technology, avoid vanity innovations. And, may the future be with you!


PS Lighter Notes: From Amie Mooney in Australia:

An Irish daughter hadn’t been home for over a year. Upon her return her father cursed her: “Where have you been all this time? Why did ye not write to us? Not even a line. Why didn’t ye call? Can ye not understand what ye put your poor mother thru?”

The girl, crying, replied: (sniff sniff) “Dad…. I became a prostitute.”

“Ye what!! Out of here ye shameless Harlot! Sinner. You’re a disgrace to this Catholic family, so ye are.”

“OK Daddy, as you wish. I just came back to give Mammy this luxurious fur coat, title deeds to a 8 bedroom mansion, plus a cheque for $385,000. For me little brother Seamus, I have a gold Rolex. And for you Daddy, a sparkling new Mercedes SL500 limited edition that’s parked outside, plus membership to the Limerick County Club….(takes a breadth)…. and an invitation for everyone to spend New Year’s Eve on board my new Yacht in the Caribbean.”

“Now, what was it you said you’d become?” says the Dad

Girl, crying again, (sniff, sniff) “A Prostitute Daddy.”

“Oh, be Jesus. Ye scared me half to death girl. I thought ye said PROTESTANT. Come here and give yer Daddy a big hug.”

From Cillian Mooney: I keep thinking about an ex-girfriend who was obsessed with counting.  Wonder what she’s up to?

At the Sink: My wife gets really upset with me for hiding kitchen utensils. But that’s a whisk I’m willing to take!

In School: My son’s Maths teacher called him average. I think he’s mean…

Breaking News: Sad news just in from the Nestle factory. A warehouse worker was crushed to death beneath a case of chocolate that fell 20 feet from a storage rack. While apparently he repeatedly called for help, every time he shouted: “The Milky Bars are on Me”  his colleagues just cheered!

Check our website or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.


About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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