Top 5 TED Talks For Project Professionals

David McAughtrie

Project professionals must be able to adapt—especially when it comes to how things are done. Digital transformation, for instance, influences the way we collaborate and how we manage tasks by changing the capabilities of the tools themselves. It’s a lot to adjust to. These TED Talks can help.

1. Patrick Forth: Technology Disruption Meets the Change Monster… Who Wins?

“We are in the midst of a major confrontation between an irresistible force and an immovable object. It‘s going to have a life-or-death impact on the world’s largest and best companies.”

Change is scary, but as this TED speaker reminds us, it is inevitable. Most of the companies in the Fortune 500 will be out of business, acquired, or knocked down a few pegs by 2020. In order to survive, companies need to find ways to use change to their respective advantages. This really is the crux of digital transformation. Project professionals in particular need to embrace these changes so that the product you spearhead and the projects you lead produce solutions that make sense in the current business reality.

2. Job Ito: Want to Innovate? Become a “Now-ist”

“So remember before the Internet?… Life was simple… People actually tried to predict the future, even the economists. And then the Internet happened, and… those Newtonian laws that we so dearly cherished turned out to be just local ordinances.”

This TED speaker talks about the importance of action. Too often, people try to fiddle with an idea, concept, or product until it is just perfect. The problem is that by then, the timing just doesn‘t work. He advocates for taking action on those concepts and refining the end product after introduction. Project professionals like you will be able to take his advice on how you decide that the result is “good enough.”

3. Dan Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation

“There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does… The good news is that the scientists who‘ve been studying motivation have given us this new approach. It’s built much more around intrinsic motivation.”

The speaker in this TED Talk discusses motivation and how most managers do not motivate their employees in a way that is consistent with what social scientists know about motivation. He explains that traditional rewards are often not as rewarding as we would hope, and as a result not as effective. As a project professional, you might find new ways to motivate your team—or to stay motivated yourself.

4. Navi Radjou: Creative Problem-solving in the Face of Extreme Limits

“When external resources are scarce, you have to go within yourself to tap the most abundant resource, human ingenuity, and use that ingenuity to find clever ways to solve problems with limited resources.”

This TED speaker talks about the principle of “Jugaad,” a Hindi word for clever solution that comes out of adversity. These Jugaad solutions may not be perfect or as effective as they could be, but they are effective to a degree. They make things better. For project professionals, focusing on how to make things better, even if it isn‘t the perfect solution, is a good way to start on a project.

5. Barry Schwartz: The Way We Think About Work Is Broken

“The very shape of the institution within which people work creates people who are fitted to the demands of that institution and deprives people of the opportunity to derive the kinds of satisfactions from their work that we take for granted.”

Work provides both tangible and intangible benefits. This TED speaker argues that our understanding of this changes human nature. For a project professional, the worry may not be shifting human nature, but there is a human element in project collaboration that should be considered. By not allowing project workers to work to their full potential, it may make them less able over time to innovate and excel.

For more insight on effective leadership, see The Simple Secret To A High-Performing Team.

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David McAughtrie

About David McAughtrie

Dave McAughtrie is content marketing expert for SAP S/4HANA Cloud.

CIO Strategy: To Improve Employee Engagement, Buy Cupcakes

Manik Narayan Saha

Research clearly shows that highly engaged employees are good for business. People who feel connected to their employer are more productive, generate more revenues, and help the company thrive.

But did you know that IT can contribute to this success? According to new research from IDC [1], companies that develop a strong relationship between IT and the lines of business can measurably increase corporate performance.

IDC compared two types of enterprises: those where IT proactively worked with the business and those that did not cultivate a close relationship. Over three years, the companies with the strong IT-business connection achieved:

  • 90% greater growth in revenue from new product lines [1]
  • 80% greater growth in revenue from established product lines [1]
  • 50% greater improvement in compliance-related activities [1]

Introducing IT Day

These are compelling results that any CIO would be pleased to deliver. Yet creating active engagement between IT and the business can be challenging. Many employees view IT as a mere service provider—one to be consulted only when there is a problem.

How can an innovative, forward-thinking CIO demonstrate to employees that IT is more than just a support function? And how can IT help the company grow, modernize, and create market advantage?

At the SAP office in Singapore, the IT services team recently organized an IT Day to showcase our capabilities. Our goals: to educate employees on how IT delivers value to SAP and to demo the IT services that help employees work more effectively and efficiently.

Around 200 employees from multiple lines of business attended IT Day, following three tracks:

  • Expert talks that focused on the areas where IT is driving user productivity, cybersecurity, and innovation
  • Expert booths, modeled after the Apple Genius Bar, where employees received immediate service and experienced cool new products
  • Vendor booths, which provided special product offers to employees

To sweeten the deal and attract even more on-site employees, we also offered an afternoon snack of cupcakes, tea, and coffee. All 200 cupcakes were devoured in less than an hour. Employees were also eligible to participate in prize drawings.

Enabling productivity through IT

On the IT team, our goal is to enable SAP to transform into a digital enterprise using the best-in-class solutions, products, and services available in the market. Especially in the current era, IT can have a tremendous positive impact across the entire company by enabling the right technology for the organization.

From a strategic perspective, this meant focusing on two key aspects of the enterprise:

  1. Digitalization of enterprise business processes for efficiency – simplifying, automating, and massively scaling out existing business processes to meet the new demands of the digital economy. This meant upgrading our existing processes to support new business models such as volume business and subscription- and consumption-based billing. At the same time, the IT team is constantly thinking about how new technology can make a difference – for instance, using machine learning to significantly increase automation levels at our shared services organization.
  1. Digitalization of personal workspaces for higher productivity: Another key goal of the IT organization is rapidly enabling the SAP workforce to be agile, efficient, and productive so that the value each employee brings to the company multiplies exponentially.

At the IT Day, attendance was higher than anticipated, and the feedback was very positive. We offered sessions where employees learned how collaboration tools can help them be more productive working in virtual teams, and demonstrated in action the machine learning technology I mentioned above.

By actively engaging with our customers proactively, I think the IT services organization took steps toward increasing employee understanding of how we support their efficiency, productivity, and satisfaction. As the research shows, a strong IT-business partnership with engaged employees is a competitive advantage—so those cupcakes were definitely a worthwhile investment.

A great resource for CIOs is available at the SAP Technology is Live hub where there is a rich library of research and insights into the most relevant topics in the world of IT and digital transformation.

[1] IDC Perspective, “Six Priorities and Behaviors of Successful IT Organizations,” doc #US42251116, January 2017.

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Manik Narayan Saha

About Manik Narayan Saha

Manik Narayan Saha is the regional CIO for SAP Asia Pacific and Japan. Based in Singapore, Saha leads a global multinational and multicultural IT organization. As part of the SAP Senior Leadership team in APJ, he represents IT Services to more than 25,000+ employees in the region. As companies rapidly move to a digital agenda, Saha works closely with SAP’s leadership team in APJ to execute on enabling SAP as the digital enterprise. Saha is a member of the Insead Alumni Network and a Regional Ambassador of the Insead International Directors Network for Singapore. Saha received his degree in Computer Engineering from Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) and has a Masters in Applied Finance from the Singapore Management University.

Digital Transformation: Opportunities In Manufacturing

Sarma Malladi

Part 1 in the 4-part series “Opportunities for Digital Manufacturing

I once explained to my then ten-year-old son that 30 years ago, passengers waited in queues for several hours  to buy train reservations from Mumbai to Hyderabad. It was a manual system long overdue for automation—even for its time. Having grown accustomed to spending his allowance online with a click of a button, he responded, “Dad, you must have been born in the Stone Age.”

Perhaps a slow-moving government bureaucracy was to blame for this inefficiency. But the perception that private companies always optimize their use of new technologies is far from the truth. Fourteen years have passed since I had that exchange with my son, and I still see large global enterprises sift through file cabinets to give customers hard copies of invoices and service reports that could be easily sent online.

We expect profit-motivated enterprises to be at the forefront of automation and innovation, and yet I am always surprised by the plethora of straightforward technological opportunities that go untapped. For example, polls show that manufacturing and field service industries are lagging in the pursuit of digital transformation—and from my experience, this has been my impression as well.

Companies in these industries have several low-hanging opportunities for technological innovation. This suggests that leadership is either unaware of such opportunities or does not fully appreciate the ROI from technological innovations. I suspect that leaders at some of these firms mistakenly see technological investments as a necessary cost induced by the competition. As a result, companies with large market shares—which are often best equipped to be at the forefront of technological innovation—will sometimes wait and react to quickly changing industry standards rather than strive to set them.

The pursuit of creating new disruptive technologies is often thought to be strictly in the domain of startups. I have heard some executives in manufacturing and service industries express that they could buy technologies from a startup or simply buy the startup when the need arises. However, these outside options are becoming increasingly more expensive. In addition to upward-trending direct costs, late adopters risk incurring a loss in market share, whether temporary or permanent, to firms that are successfully implementing technologies that enhance the customer experience. On the other hand, companies that proactively seek out opportunities to adopt new technologies can win significant edge over competitors. But ultimately, executive management needs to put in place the right leader and governance structure to capture that value.

There’s a lot to learn from the degree of success that enterprises that have crossed over from offering traditional products to wrapping in digital services around their existing portfolio. In the coming weeks, I will continue this series with a discussion on opportunities for digital innovation in manufacturing and services, and the role of leadership in the pursuit of digital transformation.

For more on this topic, read “The Digital Advantage: How Digital Leaders Outperform Their Peers in Every Industry,” MIT Sloan Management, sponsored by Capgemini, 2012.

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Sarma Malladi

About Sarma Malladi

Sarma Malladi is an IT executive, working as a CIO for the past several years. He is passionate about leveraging technologies to build strategic business value. Much of his industry experience has been in manufacturing, field services, and consulting. All opinions expressed in this blog are his own and do not reflect the views of the current and or previous companies he has worked for.

Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences

Kai Goerlich

 

Google Cardboard VR goggles cost US$8
By 2019, immersive solutions
will be adopted in 20% of enterprise businesses
By 2025, the market for immersive hardware and software technology could be $182 billion
In 2017, Lowe’s launched
Holoroom How To VR DIY clinics

From Dipping a Toe to Fully Immersed

The first wave of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is here,

using smartphones, glasses, and goggles to place us in the middle of 360-degree digital environments or overlay digital artifacts on the physical world. Prototypes, pilot projects, and first movers have already emerged:

  • Guiding warehouse pickers, cargo loaders, and truck drivers with AR
  • Overlaying constantly updated blueprints, measurements, and other construction data on building sites in real time with AR
  • Building 3D machine prototypes in VR for virtual testing and maintenance planning
  • Exhibiting new appliances and fixtures in a VR mockup of the customer’s home
  • Teaching medicine with AR tools that overlay diagnostics and instructions on patients’ bodies

A Vast Sea of Possibilities

Immersive technologies leapt forward in spring 2017 with the introduction of three new products:

  • Nvidia’s Project Holodeck, which generates shared photorealistic VR environments
  • A cloud-based platform for industrial AR from Lenovo New Vision AR and Wikitude
  • A workspace and headset from Meta that lets users use their hands to interact with AR artifacts

The Truly Digital Workplace

New immersive experiences won’t simply be new tools for existing tasks. They promise to create entirely new ways of working.

VR avatars that look and sound like their owners will soon be able to meet in realistic virtual meeting spaces without requiring users to leave their desks or even their homes. With enough computing power and a smart-enough AI, we could soon let VR avatars act as our proxies while we’re doing other things—and (theoretically) do it well enough that no one can tell the difference.

We’ll need a way to signal when an avatar is being human driven in real time, when it’s on autopilot, and when it’s owned by a bot.


What Is Immersion?

A completely immersive experience that’s indistinguishable from real life is impossible given the current constraints on power, throughput, and battery life.

To make current digital experiences more convincing, we’ll need interactive sensors in objects and materials, more powerful infrastructure to create realistic images, and smarter interfaces to interpret and interact with data.

When everything around us is intelligent and interactive, every environment could have an AR overlay or VR presence, with use cases ranging from gaming to firefighting.

We could see a backlash touting the superiority of the unmediated physical world—but multisensory immersive experiences that we can navigate in 360-degree space will change what we consider “real.”


Download the executive brief Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences.


Read the full article Swimming in the Immersive Digital Experience.

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Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation. Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu

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Jenny Dearborn: Soft Skills Will Be Essential for Future Careers

Jenny Dearborn

The Japanese culture has always shown a special reverence for its elderly. That’s why, in 1963, the government began a tradition of giving a silver dish, called a sakazuki, to each citizen who reached the age of 100 by Keiro no Hi (Respect for the Elders Day), which is celebrated on the third Monday of each September.

That first year, there were 153 recipients, according to The Japan Times. By 2016, the number had swelled to more than 65,000, and the dishes cost the already cash-strapped government more than US$2 million, Business Insider reports. Despite the country’s continued devotion to its seniors, the article continues, the government felt obliged to downgrade the finish of the dishes to silver plating to save money.

What tends to get lost in discussions about automation taking over jobs and Millennials taking over the workplace is the impact of increased longevity. In the future, people will need to be in the workforce much longer than they are today. Half of the people born in Japan today, for example, are predicted to live to 107, making their ancestors seem fragile, according to Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, professors at the London Business School and authors of The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity.

The End of the Three-Stage Career

Assuming that advances in healthcare continue, future generations in wealthier societies could be looking at careers lasting 65 or more years, rather than at the roughly 40 years for today’s 70-year-olds, write Gratton and Scott. The three-stage model of employment that dominates the global economy today—education, work, and retirement—will be blown out of the water.

It will be replaced by a new model in which people continually learn new skills and shed old ones. Consider that today’s most in-demand occupations and specialties did not exist 10 years ago, according to The Future of Jobs, a report from the World Economic Forum.

And the pace of change is only going to accelerate. Sixty-five percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist, the report notes.

Our current educational systems are not equipped to cope with this degree of change. For example, roughly half of the subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree, such as computer science, is outdated by the time students graduate, the report continues.

Skills That Transcend the Job Market

Instead of treating post-secondary education as a jumping-off point for a specific career path, we may see a switch to a shorter school career that focuses more on skills that transcend a constantly shifting job market. Today, some of these skills, such as complex problem solving and critical thinking, are taught mostly in the context of broader disciplines, such as math or the humanities.

Other competencies that will become critically important in the future are currently treated as if they come naturally or over time with maturity or experience. We receive little, if any, formal training, for example, in creativity and innovation, empathy, emotional intelligence, cross-cultural awareness, persuasion, active listening, and acceptance of change. (No wonder the self-help marketplace continues to thrive!)

The three-stage model of employment that dominates the global economy today—education, work, and retirement—will be blown out of the water.

These skills, which today are heaped together under the dismissive “soft” rubric, are going to harden up to become indispensable. They will become more important, thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, which will usher in an era of infinite information, rendering the concept of an expert in most of today’s job disciplines a quaint relic. As our ability to know more than those around us decreases, our need to be able to collaborate well (with both humans and machines) will help define our success in the future.

Individuals and organizations alike will have to learn how to become more flexible and ready to give up set-in-stone ideas about how businesses and careers are supposed to operate. Given the rapid advances in knowledge and attendant skills that the future will bring, we must be willing to say, repeatedly, that whatever we’ve learned to that point doesn’t apply anymore.

Careers will become more like life itself: a series of unpredictable, fluid experiences rather than a tightly scripted narrative. We need to think about the way forward and be more willing to accept change at the individual and organizational levels.

Rethink Employee Training

One way that organizations can help employees manage this shift is by rethinking training. Today, overworked and overwhelmed employees devote just 1% of their workweek to learning, according to a study by consultancy Bersin by Deloitte. Meanwhile, top business leaders such as Bill Gates and Nike founder Phil Knight spend about five hours a week reading, thinking, and experimenting, according to an article in Inc. magazine.

If organizations are to avoid high turnover costs in a world where the need for new skills is shifting constantly, they must give employees more time for learning and make training courses more relevant to the future needs of organizations and individuals, not just to their current needs.

The amount of learning required will vary by role. That’s why at SAP we’re creating learning personas for specific roles in the company and determining how many hours will be required for each. We’re also dividing up training hours into distinct topics:

  • Law: 10%. This is training required by law, such as training to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • Company: 20%. Company training includes internal policies and systems.

  • Business: 30%. Employees learn skills required for their current roles in their business units.

  • Future: 40%. This is internal, external, and employee-driven training to close critical skill gaps for jobs of the future.

In the future, we will always need to learn, grow, read, seek out knowledge and truth, and better ourselves with new skills. With the support of employers and educators, we will transform our hardwired fear of change into excitement for change.

We must be able to say to ourselves, “I’m excited to learn something new that I never thought I could do or that never seemed possible before.” D!

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