Fri, Jun 25, 2021
Forget Control – Innovation comes from Leadership, Trust and Purpose

In this third part of the SmartCom Summit Spring 2021 plenary talk show, Charles Groenhuijsen and Rob Kurver (Founding Partner at The Next Cloud) discuss purpose, leadership and trust as the real drivers for lasting change with our guests Patrick George (SVP Product and Business Development at iBasis), Vicky Bunyard (CTO at IBM) and Leonie van den Beuken (Program Manager at Amsterdam Smart City).

Like many other cities across the globe, Amsterdam will start a pilot this year autonomous vehicles. “Ollie”, the world’s first self driving shuttle, can first be found at the city’s new and special playground area, “Marineterrein” (which used to be a Navy base until recently), but will soon make trips the rest of the city as well. This is part of the Amsterdam Smart City program, which uses advanced technology to provide realtime analysis and insights into the world around them. Air quality, public transportation, traffic – the general idea is that technology can help people make decisions that are better for them, and also for the world we live in. Leonie van Beuken, Program Manager Amsterdam Smart City, explains Amsterdam is not trying to manage what people do, instead it’s providing data and options so “as a citizen I can make my own decisions.”

Purpose and Trust versus Control

Data from sensors is anonymized, IP addresses removed, anything that points to the identity of people is stripped. Leonie: “transparency is important, we need to figure this out to build trust. A great example is the Port of Amsterdam, where citizens and governments are working together to measure data, do joint fact finding, and build trust together. Nobody is in control, it works as a pack of leaders. Compare this with bicycle racing like the Tour de France, they work with switching captains. Whoever is in the lead at a particular point is the leader, but this changes depending on the circumstances and the specific qualities required.” All with the higher purpose of “sustainability”.

Vicky Bunyard, CTO at IBM, fully agrees: “this is how you get outcomes in society that bring value and bring impact. We have to deal with this question of trust, and we have to deal with it collectively.” From technology perspective, the question is do you trust the technology, can you trust the technology. Vicky: “Is it trustworthy (and are those that control it trustworthy), and is it also perceived to be trustworthy. So is it controlled and understood and transparent, but also is it brought in a way that fosters trust. Interesting balance.”

Trust has been key in the world of telecommunications for a long time. Large telcos like A&T in the past were cut op because they were too powerful. The telco industry has been a regulated industry for a long time, more than the software industry. And now somehow these two worlds are more and more coming together, creating interesting challenges. Patrick George, VP Product and Business Development at iBasis, adds: “Telco is about quality, about six nines. The software industry has different challenges.” Providing telco capabilities to software developers is key to new innovations. Patrick: “Telcos were born as transporter, and are now adding a service approach to help solve problems. Bringing added value on top of the core.” Telcos are enablers for all these innovations, and made working from home possible in the first place during this pandemic.

Shared Leadership

Technology can help mitigate future health crises, think of apps to check if you have Covid-19, detecting quicker when people are ill. Think of a system without a leader, like a school of fish or a swarm of birds. Crowd intelligence or swarm intelligence works for the species, for society. Based on trust that we all have the same goal, that we’re all going in the same direction.

Vicky: “Shared leadership is key. Move away from controlled management, go to shared leadership. Also from tech perspective, building ecosystems, get people involved so they trust more. Tech need ecosystems to build larger things.” Leonie: “Climate change doesn’t wait for us to determine who is in charge.” Patrick: “Without trust you can bring the best proposal but people will not adopt it. The challenge is that we all live in our own history, we need to create connections.” Vicky: “this is every project we’ve always worked on. Provide tech and see how people use it. That’s how we learn and innovate.”

Biggest change

We’re starting to see a glimpse of how things can change by working together and building communities. Innovation still accelerates, and Covid-19 was a big boost. The next years we can expect to see some fundamental changes in the way we work and live. Leonie is optimistic: “Tech and people need to work together. We need to improve cooperation, and implement different ways of working together.” Patrick adds “5G is a huge change, and humans will be smart enough to use it to make life better.” Vicky concludes: “there’s a transition we have to go through. Children today are growing up with tech at their fingertips, so different from when we were young. We as tech companies have to think about how we make these things consumable for people that are not technically savvy.”

Innovation is key, with the digital acceleration we’re experiencing and putting people first anything is possible for those willing and able to look at new opportunities and ecosystems. It will be interesting to see what happens to Ollie in Amsterdam and elsewhere, and what other new and amazing changes we will see happening the next few years!

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