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Swimming with the currents...


Analysing organisational and technological shifts after they have past provides rich fodder for business schools and management gurus. And predicting future trends has proved profitable for analyst firms with business models dependent on the ebb and flow of hype cycles.

But being in the middle of great shifts, as they are unfolding...now that's the fun part. If you can understand what's going on. And a big part of that challenge is giving enough time and focus to shifting the business, at the same time as delivering on existing commitments. Revenues and profits don't run on future dreams. Well, not generally anyway.

With so much coming at us in near real-time, how do business leaders keep their heads above water. Well one of the obvious ways is to trust in the expertise of what your teams are seeing at the so called "edge" of the organisation. Melting snow is a useful analogy that is getting a lot of airplay in terms of an organisation's gradual awareness of impending technological or platform shifts.

'22 was a year of gradual awareness of the power of AI converging on various industries and institutions, but November 30th last year resulted in an avalanche of awareness of opportunity and potential disruption.

Part of the fascination with the capabilities of these new AI tools is how easy it is to interact with them. The corridors and Teams rooms are awash with stories of amazement, utility and risk (in equal measures) regarding what is now possible...or will be soon.

For me the interesting opportunity is organisational shifts at scale, and figuring out how to make that shift for my own business at the same time as hitting the short and longer term targets. Of course the real trick is discovering how to harness these new AI capabilities to deliver on those very targets. And maybe go beyond them. Actually, that's going to be part of the daily job as various combinations of AI's will tilt the balance between customers, suppliers, partners and advisors. So figuring out how to swim upstream against this torrent of technological progress is the new "Job to be done".

But what if we reframe the challenge? Suppose we are able to reorientate our mindsets and instead surf those currents downstream.

Many are doing this. But how to shift your position midstream? Well it helps to have some kind of framework to noodle over. There are many out there, but I like the McKinsey "Tech:Forward" model which speaks to the challenges of organisational interdependencies across a number of vectors.

Models can be useful, but they have to be applied against canvas of the day-today-business. I'm lucky in that the business I lead is powered by colleagues from fourteen nationalities, each empowered by their scientific, research, industrial and innovation backgrounds.

When you work with a team like this then your own education takes on a real-time theme, thanks to the exciting European consortia we build with customers and partners across the electronics, healthtech, AI, smart cities and mobility spaces. Last Friday at the coffee machine I got an education from a colleague on the challenges of building hydrogen electrolyzers on floating platforms above giant wave energy turbines around the Scottish coast!

A daily consumption of shaping innovation funding projects with the top European Research and University institutions, combined with partners from corporate, SME, startups and public institutions, means that you get infused with a diet of rapidly advancing technologies reshaping industrial processes.

The other thing we can all do is adopt a constant posture of personal education in terms of rapidly evolving technologies. It's not difficult, and it's free. YouTube is up there with the best education platforms, with entrepreneurs from all ages and backgrounds offering up practical insights and deep level training which can take you to the next level. I managed to get on the ChatGPT wagon quite soon after it was released, but it was only after I started getting deep training from the multitude of teachers on YouTube on how to really get the system working for me, that my awareness of how this can rapidly enhance my business and that of my customers and partners really started to take shape.

In fact, it encouraged me to dip my toe in the raging current and create my own YouTube channel, The Nordic Bridge, which is a somewhat mediocre attempt to stimulate the conversation about business and technology from a practical perspective. By the way, if you decide to set up your own YouTube channel, then that's a whole new set of evolving skills, that once again you can acquire through other generous YouTubers. I also found the same level of support and education from YouTubers in realm of novel writing when I took the plunge last year and decide to write and publish two Nordic Noir books. Without that level of free education I would not have been able to navigate the complexities of the Agent/Publisher/self-publishing jungle.

Acquiring emerging practical AI skills, both individually and organisationally, can be achieved and rapidly leveraged, but it's got to be a constant process, and it involves all levels of management, regardless of the type and size of organisation.

The interesting thing is that once you get past a couple of hurdles, your confidence builds, both within yourself, across your team, and with your customers and partners. Once that happens, behaviour takes over, and you begin to absorb and act upon that torrent of AI opportunity. You begin to orchestrate your organisation's future.

At some point you notice that you are swimming with the current...

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