Monday, December 20, 2021

An Optimistic Futurist

At any given moment, there are events within our control and out of our control.  There are areas we can influence, and areas we cannot.  As an optimistic futurist, I read and analyze the positive with the negative, and then I seek opportunities to influence a positive outcome. 

The global COVID-19 pandemic is a timely point of reference.  I read all the distressing news and projections like everyone else, and then look for opportunities to both mitigate the risk and to achieve the best possible outcomes.  

Imagine if you would sitting in a canoe full of your dearest family members.  The canoe is drifting quickly toward a dangerous waterfall.  Our choices are to focus on all the possible negative future scenarios of going over the waterfall, or focusing on influencing a positive outcome.  What will it be?

We need the clarity and wisdom of recognizing all the possible negative scenarios and consequences, but once we have that recognition, we should focus on shaping the outcome to something purposely positive.  Wouldn’t you agree?  Some might say futurist are better off being objective spectators, but I want a futurist to throw me a rope.

Doomsday futurist are often secretly hopeful they’ve got it right.  They sit back and wait for the canoe to go over the waterfall...as they predicted.  Optimistic futurist, identify, reverse engineer and rehearse both positive and negative possible future scenarios to learn what needs to be done today to purposefully influence our path to achieve the best possible outcome.

Future

My Futurist boss here at TCS, Frank Diana, always says, “It is impossible to predict the future - anyone who tries is on a fool's errand.”  There are simply too many building blocks of the future including, science, technology, societal, geopolitical and economic converging together, plus catalysts of change (think pandemic), mixed into this giant pot of stew we call the future.  Exactly what comes out can be guessed at, but not predicted.  At best we can identify a range of possible and plausible future scenarios to consider and rehearse. 

Given that we can’t predict the future - let’s identify the future we want and do everything possible and purposeful to achieve it.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

The Future of Safety

In this interview with Autoliv's expert, Christoffer Malm, we take a deep dive into the Future of Safety.  We explore the role of digital services and how they have created a revolution in safety, not just inside vehicles, but for all vulnerable road users.  

The complexity of our journeys is increasing.  We might take an e-bike to a train station, then take a train into the city, then we take an e-scooter into work.  On the way back we might take an Uber to the train station, or ride an electric unicycle or skateboard.  All of these modes of transportation need traditional and physical safety systems and digital safety systems protecting us.   

Join us as we dive into the future of safety.




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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

A Plausible Future for Higher Education with Expert Dr. Paul J. Bailo

In this episode, I explore the future of higher education with expert and Adjunct Professor Dr. Paul J. Bailo.  I present him with 16 different future scenarios and ask if they are possible, plausible, impossible or implausible.  Join us for some deep thinking, insight, laughter, and a look into the future.


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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Friday, November 19, 2021

A Review of TCS's 2021 Global Financial Leadership Report with Expert Paul J. Bailo

In this episode, we take a deep dive into TCS's newly released 2021 Financial Leadership Study and discuss its implications with financial expert and professor Dr. Paul Bailo.

The full report is available to read here.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Future is Where Everything Happens!

A rip current is a strong flow of water that pulls floating objects out to sea before dissipating in deeper water.  Swimmers who are caught in a rip current often panic and exhaust themselves by trying to swim directly against the flow of water, rather than with it.  The future is not unlike a rip current.  If you fight against the future you will exhaust yourself and ultimately fail.  

Change is uncomfortable, and time brings change.  Many people have a deep resentment against time and all the changes it brings.  These people often look at the future with dread.  All they can see coming is a rising tsunami of change and discomfort - physical, mental and emotional.  They point to today's problems as examples of what yesterday's future brought, and they don't want any more of it.  Often, people don't realize that the seeds of the changes we see today were planted long ago.  It is the past that brought us to today - for good and for bad.

It is the season of planning.  We are all busy looking ahead and planning for 2022.  The reason I get so excited about the future is we can influence it for good.  We can improve upon the past.  It's our opportunity for a next version - a version 2.0.  We can't change the past, but the future is our's.  What is our life's purpose anyhow, if it is not to build a better tomorrow?

Innovating, inventing, planning, creating, designing, developing, growing, starting, birthing and building are all future oriented terms.  They point to what is to come.  The future is a new place.  Let's bring forward from the past all that is good and improve on the bad.  Let's all work together for good so the future can be our gift to generations to come.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Leadership Advice from a Futurist - A Reading

Leadership is hard.  So for all the leaders and want-to-be leaders out there, here is some advice that I hope you will find useful.




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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Intelligent Customer Experiences With Verint CMO, Celia Fleischaker

In this episode of FOBtv we explore the evolution of marketing and customer experiences and dig deep into the concept of intelligent customer experiences with Verint's CMO Celia Fleischaker.  We explore the role of AI, NLP, chatbots, ML, and the other technologies involved and how these all contribute to a better customer experience.


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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

The Next Big Think Podcast: Is Data the New Gold?

My guest today is Susan Cook, CEO of Zaloni.  In this podcast, we explore the massive growth of data and the impact it will have on all of our lives.  We then take a deep dive into the complications involved in managing and securing these giant quantities of data.  

Susan Cook has nearly 30 years of leadership experience in enterprise software sales, strategy, consulting, and with a specialization in Data, Analytics, and Business Intelligence across technology giants like HP and Oracle.  As a data management expert, she believes information can grow in value only if protected and managed well. What does data need in order for it to be preserved well?  Listen to us discuss data as the new gold in this episode of The Next Big Think!


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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

The Next Big Think Podcast: Why Industry 4.0 is About Industrial Automation

Our guest in today's podcast is Daniel Raj David.  He figured out as a student engineer in university that asset monitoring and maintenance, especially in legacy-led industries like oil and gas, was complicated. So, he and a bunch of friends devised a plan to make it simpler.

Daniel Raj David is the co-founder and CEO of startup Detect Technologies, a company that is part of TCS' COIN™ Accelerator program. Detect Technologies focuses on industrial AI and SaaS, and is reimagining global industrial productivity. In this episode of The Next Big Think!, we delve into Industry 4.0. Daniel demystifies legacy transformation in industries like oil and energy, construction, and manufacturing. The conversation also explores how technology’s primary role is to digitize, de-risk, and automate business. Listen in to know more about how AI, IoT, drones, and ML are freeing up human capital to think, ideate, and design, and why ‘the next big think’ is industrial automation.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Next Big Think - Podcast: Blockchain Changing the Future

My latest podcast episode is a deep dive into what blockchain brings to industry – specifically the insurance industry. Ranvir Saggu, CEO, Blocksure, a startup under the TCS COIN™ Accelerator program, explains how blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT) are different but often used interchangeably. Blocksure has developed a technology platform that delivers tailored products and schemes for over three billion people across the globe. As a blockchain expert, Ranvir believes that with insurance becoming an embedded feature in our daily lives, blockchain will bring a fundamental shift in the global insurance industry. It will change the future of insurance.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Precision as a Competitive Advantage

Throughout history military leaders have suffered from a lack of knowledge.  They often were desperately searching through the "fog of war" to find the answers to seven key questions:
  1. Where are my enemies?
  2. Where are my own forces?
  3. Where are my allies?
  4. Where are everyone's supplies, materials and equipment?
  5. What condition are they in?
  6. What capabilities are available at a given time and location?
  7. What are the location and environmental conditions that might degrade capabilities?
These great “unknowns” impacted the strategies and tactics leaders used and the results of battles throughout history.  Leaders were forced to expend massive amounts of resources just defending themselves against the inherent risks of these unknowns.  

While military leaders of the past were handicapped by a lack of tools for gathering insights and intelligence, today we have many. With sensors of all kinds, wireless and satellite networks, mobile technologies, drones, analytics and artificial intelligence the “fog of war” can be greatly reduced.  Precise, real-time data from around the globe can be instantly aggregated, analyzed and results distributed to all relevant groups nearly instantaneously through network centric operations.  The resulting reduction of unknowns, releases leaders and resources to be focused more on strategies and solving problems based on knowns.   This is a monumental development in history.

Sensors extend our senses beyond our physical reach and act as our globally distributed digital nerves. These new capabilities significantly impact how businesses can operate, and offer new opportunities for competitive advantages for business leaders.

W. Edwards Deming, the father of quality improvement, once said, “The biggest problems are where people don't realize they have one in the first place.”  These “blind spots” – the unknown status of a process, schedule, delivery or available resource, for example – should be a relic of the past. Today, we have the ability to remove conjecture and work with precise data.

Many companies have yet to evolve from legacy business models based on the “unknown and imprecise” and continue to throw good money after bad by following "estimate-based" models. Many companies have yet to implement a comprehensive digital nervous systems.  As a result, these organizations have yet to update their strategies and tactics to support new models of real-time precision. Ignoring today’s “revolution in precision” is unacceptable, and would be like a manufacturer ignoring the “continuous quality improvement” movement in manufacturing. Leaders must recognize both the micro and the macro-trends impacting their markets.

Deming also said, “It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory.” Taking advantage of precision is a must if surviving is in your plan. As automation increases due to advances in sensors, bandwidth, artificial intelligence, algorithms and machine learning, precision becomes not only possible, but necessary.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Friday, October 01, 2021

The Speed Impact on Businesses

Roman Roads
The concept of speed as an advantage is not new. Over the course of 700 years, the Romans built and maintained a system of roads extending over 55,000 miles.  They built it to enable speedy communications and the quick movement of troops and supplies across the vast expanse of their global empire.

Today, our perception of time and speed is being shaped and confused by technologies. A person might say they live five minutes from town, but is that calculated by walking, riding a bike or driving a car.  In the roman era, their military calculations were determined by a standard measurement based on how far and fast a soldier could walk on a stone road carrying their equipment.  It was about 20 miles per day.

Today, digital technologies compress our perception of time, speed and space while expanding our expectations of what can be accomplished in a given time period. We expect to complete the equivalent of one hour of shopping in a supermarket in five minutes online.  These changes significantly impact the way businesses must operate in a digital era to compete and remain relevant.  

In a shareholder letter from a few years ago, Jeff Bezos identified one of Amazon's key competitive advantages as high-speed decision-making.   

In one research project I worked on, many of the participants were from technology and consulting firms.  As a group they identified the pursuit of speed as a key motivation for digital transformation.  In particular, those surveyed identified the following areas of need:

Speed developing - new products and services to meet customer demands
Speed going to market (GTM) - with new products and services
Speed responding - to changing market conditions and customer preferences
Speed adopting and implementing - new innovations and technologies

When asked about the biggest challenges their customers were facing with digital transformation, respondents in another survey answered using all kinds of references to speed (or lack of speed) issues: legacy systems (are too slow), iterative approaches (are too slow), technologies are evolving too fast to react (and responses are too slow), business strategy alignment (was too slow).  The consensus among the technology leaders surveyed, however, was that the biggest mistake leaders make - was moving too slow.  

We learned four key points:

1. Technology Performance

Most executives felt their IT infrastructures were a disadvantage to their business.  The limitations of their IT infrastructure limited the speed they could respond to changing conditions.  They saw their internal systems as a hindrance not a help.

We also found a series of "Legacy Rules" inside the data:
  • The longer an organization is in business, the more complex the technology infrastructure becomes, and the more difficult it is to change. They lose agility and speed the longer they are in business.
  • These limitations prevent businesses from changing at the speeds required to remain relevant.
  • Limitations often impact a business' options and their potential strategies.
  • The size of a company’s IT challenge is directly proportional to the number of legacy and custom (non-standard) solutions they use.
2. Organizational Agility

The speed at which an organization can change directions - its agility - is critical to success in a fast changing digital world.  The lack of organizational agility has real world consequences. “We missed [revenue] opportunities,” said one of the participants.

Agility doesn’t happen by accident. An agile organization must be purposefully developed to act and react with speed to changing market conditions and consumer behaviors.  Agility requires a business model, platform and ecosystem with the right organizational culture, and IT infrastructure capable of responding with speed.

3. Leadership Decision-Making

It takes real-time speed to support real-time interactions with real-time digital customers.  Decision making must be automated to support these digital speeds and environments.

4. Customer Alignment

Fast-changing customer behaviors were identified as a top motivation for digital transformation.

Consumers today are changing their habits and behaviors at an extraordinary rate.  An executive we interviewed said, “Our customers’ expectations are always three or four steps beyond us...we are always behind.”

Businesses today must measure and track the speed and pace of changing consumer preferences and behaviors, and align resources and priorities to ensure they are transforming, if not at the same pace, at least at a pace ahead of their competition.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Leadership Advice from a Futurist

Over the years I have conducted many surveys of business and technology professionals, and the one consistent insight across all these surveys is a high level scepticism that leaders will make the necessary decisions and act fast enough to compete effectively.  I understand that.  Most failures can be directly traced back to either bad decisions or a lack of decisions by leaders, but I also have great sympathy for them.   Leading through rapid market evolutions and disruptions is difficult in the best of times, but when you throw in fast changing consumer behaviors, supply chain disruptions, technology advancements and global pandemics it's just unfair.   There are, however, some great insights and wisdom that can be gleaned from all the surveys I have reviewed and research I have participated in.  I put together the following list that I hope you will find useful.
  1. Develop and monitor your own digital mindset and that of your organization's: Understand the need to continuously upgrade and update your own thinking, as well as your organization’s.  
  2. Accept that business success lies within change. Understand digital technologies and their capabilities.  Rethink every aspect of your business in light of technology advancements and changing customer preferences.
  3. Understand the role and impact of platforms and platform ecosystems.  Understand how they will change your marketplace now and in the future.   Think Uber, airbnb, Amazon, Apple, etc.
  4. Recognize the role culture plays in being successful in three key areas: leadership culture, organizational culture and customer culture.  Make every effort to ensure your culture helps, not hinders your success.
  5. Understand the four areas of digital transformation where speed is essential: technology adoption, organizational agility, decision-making and customer alignment.  Recognize the consequences of being slow in any of these areas and focus on improving them.
  6. Organize for agility: Platform ecosystems are changing the rules of business and rapidly expanding into adjacent markets.  Be prepared to rethink and respond rapidly.
  7. Know the unknowns: If your organization is operating on conjecture as a result of data blind spots, fix that with sensors, analytics, artificial intelligence, automation, customer and behavioral analytics.  Help your businesses operate at a level of precision never before possible. 
  8. Harvest the future: Understand that tomorrow’s competitive advantages are created today.  Invest in innovation experts that can identify new and emerging technologies early, and understand the possible business impacts faster than competitors.  The value of innovations and inventions depreciates rapidly over time, so catching them early optimizes value.
  9. Teach the leaders: Continuously educate and train your leadership and board to ensure they keep an open, curious, updated and innovative mindset.  They need to learn at the same pace and cadence as their markets are evolving.  Running the day-to-day operations of a large enterprise is complex and all consuming, and without a formal process, plan and schedule for continuing leadership education it doesn’t happen.
Thriving during digital and market transformation does not happen by accident.  It is a purposeful effort.

Watch the animated-reading of this article here.



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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Winning with Speed and Fridays

"The size of competitors and the longevity of their brands, are less predictive of future success than the importance they give to data, the speed in which they act upon the data, and their operational tempo." 
In 2013 the volume of data created, captured, copied and consumed worldwide totaled approximately 9 zetabytes.  This year the total will be 79 zetabytes.  By 2025 there is projected to be 181 zetabytes of data.  Inside these fast growing masses of data are the answers all businesses need to succeed.  The data tells them what their customers want.  It tells them the prices customers are willing to pay.  It tells them when the products are most in demand.  This data, however, has a shelf life that rapidly diminishes over time just as consumers change their preferences with the changing seasons.  It is up to every business to be able to exploit the data fast enough to be meaningful.

In an always-connected world where consumers and their needs are transient, timing is everything.  In order to capture competitive advantages and contextual relevance before the shelf life of the data expires, enterprises must deploy optimized information logistics systems (OILS) and lean on AI to help analyze and process fast enough to deliver value.

In digital interactions with customers today, they expect instant access to information.  IT infrastructures must be able to support these real-time interactions, and this need requires we solicit the help of AI and our robot friends.  It also takes rethinking business models, organizational structures, decision-making and business processes.  It requires new ways of operating, employee training, and often automation and our own robot Fridays.  

In Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel, Robinson Crusoe, Crusoe rescues a native from cannibals and names him Friday after the day in which they met.  The native stays with him and ultimately becomes a highly valuable companion to Crusoe.  If not already, we will soon all need robot Fridays (aka automation) to help process data and information fast enough to support these real-time interactions.  The following list is what digital winners invest in:
  1. Optimizing their information logistics systems
  2. Implementing effective sense and respond systems (IoT, IIoT, automated data collection systems, sensors, customer experience monitoring etc.)
  3. Utilizing automation to gain speed, predictability and quality 
  4. Achieving real-time and future time business operational tempos
  5. Increasing cultural agility
  6. Using contextual relevance to personalize digital user interactions and experiences in real time
The purpose of these investments is to capture the value of data fast enough to gain competitive advantages through fast decision-making and delivering the best possible customer experiences.  Speeds should be maximized in the following 6 areas to accomplish these goals:
  1. IT systems
  2. Business processes
  3. Decision-making
  4. Business alignment/transformation
  5. Customer alignment
  6. Cultural alignment 
Businesses that embrace hyper-digital transformation will optimize their organizational structures and business models to support the operational tempos demanded by customers.  By tempos we mean the speed at which the organization must operate to compete successfully.  Digital consumers demand real-time responses - rightly so.  To support real-time responses requires an enterprise to move beyond “human time” and into the realm of “digital time”.
  
Humans are biological entities that operate at a pace governed by our biology, the sun, moon, and the physical requirements that keep our carbon-based bodies alive.  These requirements and mental limitations make scaling human productivity beyond the limits of the Circadian Rhythm impossible without augmentation.  Augmentation takes the form of a robot Friday - automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning and algorithms.  Robot Fridays have the advantage of being able to work 24x7x365, and don’t as yet ask for holidays and sick days.

Once the business is running in digital time, the challenge becomes business agility.  Agility is the speed at which a business can recognize, analyze, react and profit from rapidly changing market conditions. Businesses that can accurately understand customer demand, and the strategies of their competition, and then respond faster will soon dominate those, which are slower.  The military strategist John Boyd called these competitive advantages, “getting inside of your competitor’s decision and response curves.”  This means your actions and responses are occurring at a pace that surpasses your competitions’ ability to understand and react.

To succeed today leaders must have a business capable of competing.  They must develop a company culture where change is viewed as an opportunity.  They must transform their businesses to operate at real-time tempos and move beyond “human-time” limitations to algorithm and automation supported “digital-time.”  They must understand that rapidly changing consumer behaviors mandate companies operate in a more agile manner capable of rapid responses to new opportunities and competitive threats.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Robots vs Humans - Are You Prepared?

Humanity's strongest advantage over the fast approaching robot hordes is our thinking and creativity.  We need to do everything possible to develop these skills.

In Cal Newport's book, "Deep Work" he posits that most knowledge workers need concentration and substantial time, that is dedicated and uninterrupted, to produce their best work. He argues that a lot of technologies and working environments inhibit creativity, and it is creativity that delivers creations.  Our minds require "deep work" and "deep thoughts" to produce new products, new businesses, new strategies, new competitive advantages and new improvements.  These are the most highly valued items an organization can develop, yet often we focus very little attention on optimizing the environments to foster them.  They are also the strongest differentiators we have between ourselves and the machines.

Newport argues that we must understand and optimize the conditions and environments that help our brains work best.  He argues that constant alerts, notifications, meetings and messages (sent by the machines) serve to prevent us from achieving deep thoughts and deep work.  He recommends that we restructure our working environments, schedules, activities and technology uses to provide substantial, reserved "deep thought" time so we can maximize our brain's productivity.

It's important for us to recognize that just because technology can do it, doesn't make it useful for our brains, person or society.  I am a huge advocate of technology designed to foster societal, planetary and business good, but when technology and the machines degrades our brain's function and our quality of life we need to take a pause and ponder.  In a recent series of articles published by WSJ, The Facebook Files, the scope and scale of ill effects that technology (the machines) can have on our communities and persons is revealed to be significant.   It's time for us to approach technology with more consideration and caution.

In our professional life, it is so easy to let our email inbox, collaboration sites and calendar invites become our boss and dictate our day's focus.  If, however, our highest contribution to our organization is our thinking and creativity, then we may want to approach our day with more purpose and discipline.  

It is my opinion that we should be guiding our technologies, not the other way around.  Technology needs to disappear into the background, while  purpose should be our siren's call. The average human has approximately 692,000 hours between birth and death. About 90,000 of those hours are spent in our careers working. How many of those hours do we want to waste? 

I wrote the following list to serve as a north star to keep me on track:
  1. Prioritize thinking time, mental productivity and purpose.
  2. Our time and activities must reflect our purpose.
  3. Receiving a call, email or message isn't automatically a justification for disruption.
  4. Important communications should all be found in one location.  
  5. Honor schedules that deliver on purpose and productivity.
  6. The creative parts of our minds work better at different times of the day. Those times need to be reserved, protected and honored.
  7. An addictive urge to immediately respond to trivial messages must be restrained.
  8. Technologies and practices that hinder creativity, productivity and innovation must be minimized.
I propose that digital technologies (aka the machines) should be required to make our human experience richer, deeper and more purposeful than ever before.  This year, I am more committed than ever to making technology work for me, not against me. What do you think? DM me.


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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Expanding Boundary of Opportunity and Employment

W. Edward Deming taught that quality is achieved by measuring as much as possible and reducing variations.  Japan widely adopted Deming's philosophies in the 1950s and, largely as a result, became the 2nd biggest economy in the world.  This revolution in manufacturing, that introduced a system of quality improvement and innovation, led directly to jobs and economic expansion.

This same kind of revolution is now taking place around decision-making.  Algorithms are now able to expand and codify Deming's philosophies and to take them to the next level.  Algorithms can standardize decision-making and make improvements to them, and for the first time in history uncoupled them from the very human dynamic of unpredictability.  This is a rich area for innovation and job creation.

Markets are often like a balloon - when one end is squeezed the other expands. When the market catches up with a competitive advantage and the advantage ceases, competition is squeezed and moves elsewhere.  Employment acts similarly.  When one industry is contracting, another often expands.  

Digitizing the physical world to more efficiently measure, monitor and make decisions about it is one of those expansion areas where competitive advantages can be found. This area today is rich with new ideas, new businesses and job creation.

Once unknowns become knowns (through data capture, digitization and analysis), smart people will build new businesses and solutions to take advantage of them. Investments and jobs will then migrate to the new frontier, the outer-edge, in search of new competitive advantages.  When something new is made possible - jobs are always created.  As something new ages into something ubiquitous it will be automated, jobs will decrease and investment will move toward the outer-edge.

The good news is that the the outer-edge, this expanding boundary, represents areas of recognized job creation, innovation and emerging competitive advantages.  The rule of the "Expanding Boundary of Opportunity and Employment" says that those who willfully move to the outer-edge through lifelong learning, focus and purposeful career choices dramatically increase their career and earnings potential.  Job markets never stop moving.  What about you?


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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

The Greater Good - Technology on Purpose

Adam Smith wrote about the concept of rational self-interest, which posits we work together for the greater good when it benefits ourselves.  Is this argument valid in the context of robots, automation and employment? I think so.


I believe most of us would agree that replacing large numbers of humans with machines that result in wide scale unemployment and suffering is not in our rational self-interest. Having massive numbers of jobs terminated by the Terminator does not result in a safer, healthier civilization or vibrant economy; therefore, it is not in our best interest.

Just because something is possible, does not mean it is good. A powerful ruler that takes all the food, property and means of production away from his people resulting in their suffering, quickly becomes a target of community wrath.

Businesses that replace human workers with machines and software, out of self-interest, will over time find it increasingly difficult to sell their products to their unemployed or underemployed consumers. At what point do businesses seek to expand employment opportunities out of a rational self-interest rather than decrease them through automation? Is it a realistic option for profit maximizing businesses to seek the greater good?

In the short-term, factories hope to benefit from automation faster than their competition in order to gain advantages, while there are still sufficient numbers of consumers employed elsewhere to provide a market for their goods. In the mid-term, entire industries will automate and terminate large numbers of jobs, but hope other, slower-to-automate industries will employ their consumer base. In the long-term, however, when digital transformation has swept through all industries, who is left to employ the consumers and provide them living wages, and who is left with capital to buy goods?

As jobs that require little training or education diminish in numbers, we have important choices to make, 1) Increase education levels to equip our population for the digital future, or 2) subsidize the unemployed and underemployed with a sufficient income to survive and maintain their dignity. 3) Fund infrastructure development in areas that employ people and benefit the common good.  If there are still not enough jobs for those that work hard to increase their level of education, then we are reduced to only two choices.

There are plenty of problems left on this planet to be solved. Solving these problems could employ many. Today, however, not all of these problems have economic values assigned to them. Fresh water sources, clean air, forestation, peace, better health, better education, etc., all of these have the potential to generate enormous economic benefits, but they need society to place a value on them and reward innovations and employment in these areas.

A vibrant economy, and a safe and secure society depend on healthy employment numbers, adequate wages, property ownership and rights, hope, peace and purpose. Digital transformation must foster these goals or risks accelerating a break down in our society and economy – two things that can diminish our future.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Convergence, Combinations and Challenges in the Future

I first read about futurist Frank Diana's concept of combinatorial technologies several years ago. He wrote, "We are seeing exponential convergence across the areas of science, technology, economics, society, ethics, and politics. The combinatorial nature of an overwhelming number of building blocks drives an accelerating intersection across these areas.  As an expert Lego player, I can appreciate the concept of building blocks, and the near infinite number of combinations these blocks can be used to form.  The idea that we have now reached a critical mass of digital building blocks, and that we are now experiencing exponential growth through the combinatorial nature of them is compelling.

The World Economic Forum described the future in similar ways, “We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before... Billions of people are now connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge.  And these possibilities are being multiplied by breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing."

Both of these quotes, and the idea that we have reached a new era as a result of the combinatorial nature of digital building blocks, begs the question of what does this mean for our organizations today?  The answers can be found in the simple Lego block.

Legos come in standardized shapes, sizes and integration points that allow for us to rapidly build billions of different combinations.  The standardization of Lego blocks doesn't restrict our ability to create new and unique combinations, rather it enhances it. 

We must all recognize that the winners of today and tomorrow are not organizations that create their own bespoke building blocks, but rather the ones that have a vision to use standardized digital building blocks to offer unique combinations faster than their opponents.  That is where ecosystems play a role.

Ecosystems often form around a digital platform.  Think about the Amazon ecosystem.  Hundreds of different kinds of businesses and services have formed to take advantage of the building blocks Amazon has already developed and made available.

The future is impossible to predict, but as mentioned earlier we do know that it will consist of the convergence of science, economics, society, ethics, and politics and a whole lot of different combinations of existing and new technologies.  Our challenge is to watch for the signals that will help us recognize which possible future scenarios are developing and which are fading.  

As we watch these possible future scenarios, it is helpful to practice a sense and respond approach.  Sense how possible future scenarios are evolving and respond and plan accordingly.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Will Over Weapons, Again

The final price tag for the 20-year war in Afghanistan seems to be around $2 trillion.  The $2 trillion did not buy a victory, freedom, human rights or a democracy, rather it bought a lesson.  A lesson that we have unfortunately already purchased several times in the past, but failed to learn.  What is this multi-trillion dollar lesson?  Will wins over weapons.

The renowned military strategist John Boyd taught that the ultimate objective of a warrior is not to kill more enemy on the battlefield, but rather to create mental chaos, disorder, ambiguity, confusion, distrust and morale collapse in the mind of an enemy.  If an organization suffers from these it cannot stand or resist.

Boyd emphasized that warfare is won or lost in the mind.  The victor will be the one with a stronger will and moral position.  The weight of mental will and moral fortitude shifted to the Taliban when the US supported Afghan government failed its people and purpose by engaging in corruption and collusion.  Several decades ago Boyd prophetically wrote, "Failing to achieve moral victory may result in strategic defeat even if an army is victorious in all of their tactical, physical battles."

Many believe there are commonalities between why we failed in Vietnam, and why the nation-building mission failed in Afghanistan.  Kevin Boylan, in an article in the New York Times wrote,  "The corrupt, undemocratic and faction-riven South Vietnamese government...proved incapable of providing its people and armed forces a cause worth fighting for."  Resistance from Afghan military forces melted away just weeks after the US forces began their final draw down.  It is obvious now that despite sophisticated equipment and training the Afghan forces had little will, and found little cause (either mental or moral), worth fighting for.

Each of us are also experiencing attacks on our minds daily in our own communities.  Daily, political opponents and pundits produce outrageous conspiracies, claims, falsehoods and headlines for the purpose of creating pandemonium, chaos and disorder, while social media sites amplify confusion, distrust and mental turmoil.  We must understand what these attacks do to our collective minds, and then try to learn the multi-trillion dollar lesson this time.

I have a soft spot in my heart for those struggling mentally in these painful, lonely and challenging times.  Life is hard enough without our own communities purposely attacking our minds.


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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Transparency and Swarming are Both Good and Bad for Businesses

Sleepy communities are suddenly overrun with people moving in from out of town.  Roads and traffic signals designed to accommodate low volumes of traffic are suddenly insufficient.  Hidden fishing holes are now surrounded by cars, families, dogs and campers.  Trail systems are overrun.  Birders swarm a quiet neighborhood causing traffic congestion and concern.  All of these swarming scenarios unfold so quickly they surprise us.  

What has caused these "sudden" swarms.  I am sure there are many different possibilities, but instant communication, search engines, social media, online and real-time data analytics and market transparency, plus our increasing desire for new and better experiences, wealth, and our ability to work from home anywhere all play a role.  Because of all these reasons and more we all are swarming more often.  

We swarm to new TV shows.  We swarm to new music.  We swarm to picturesque mountain villages.  We swarm to newly Instagram "discovered" trails, rivers, beaches, restaurants, mountains, neighborhoods and resorts.   Swarming can cause chaos.  It can upend communities overnight.  Housing prices can skyrocket.  Labor, materials and other resources can all suddenly become more expensive as a result of unexpectedly swarming-caused high demand.

Swarming seems to be a byproduct of the internet and social media platforms.  We are all connected on platforms that aggregate and centralize information, both true or false, at speeds never before imagined.  We swarm to grab toilet paper, some swarm to march on the capital, others swarm to a Frye Festival.

Swarming can have both good and bad effects on businesses.   If your organization represents something inspiring and positive, consumers may swarm to purchase your products leaving you without enough product.  If your company or leaders gain a reputation for mistreating humans, animals or for destructive environmental practices then customers may suddenly disappear leaving warehouses full of unsold products.

Swarming happens because of visibility to information, and in today's world nothing remains hidden for long.  We live in a transparent world where information, the internet, smartphone photos, social media and search engines, and data breaches all guarantee the "transparency effect" will also impact our world and our businesses.  Even the most secretive organizations like the NSA experience data breaches.

Transparency and swarming can cause chaos in a business.  The most well thought out plans and strategies can be turned upside down by one Twitter post showing how your supply chain includes a third tier supplier using child labor in a remote factory.  Transparency can be a very good motivator to not only promote your purpose-driven ambitions, but to actually become a practitioning purpose-driven organization.

In this article, I argue that as a result of both the "transparency effect" and the "swarming effect," companies today require a Chief Values Officer to ensure that the business and the leaders of the business follow admirable practices that align with their public statements, and that the "transparency effect" and the "swarm effects" will benefit the business, not destroy it. 


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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Speed and a Doctrine for the Future

Throughout my career in the high tech industry I have often heard the business maxim, “First, develop a business strategy and then find the technology to support it.” My experience over the years, however, has led me to believe this maxim is misguided.   Let me explain by asking several questions.

What came first digital commerce or the Internet?  Mobile payments or wireless networks?  Commercial airline travel or the airplane, knights in shiny armour being used as shock troops, or stirrups?  Trivia answer: Stirrups!  Technology has a long history of appearing first, and then strategies are formed later.

What we are learning is if our outdated business strategies are dictating the speed of our technology adoptions, then we are in big trouble! The world is moving much too fast and we must align the tempo of our business strategy evolution with the pace of technology innovations and our customer adoptions of those technologies.  We need to invest in future oriented thinking and the exploration of how new technologies and trends will alter the manner in which we interact with customers and operate our businesses.
"Strategy is the art of making use of time and space. I am less concerned about the latter than the former. Space we can recover, lost time never." -- Napoleon Bonaparte

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Must We be Good to Have a Good Future?

The renowned Futurist Gerd Leonhard, in this short and impactful video, says in order to create a good future - we must be good.  He suggests four focus areas for the future: people, prosperity, purpose and planet.  If you agree with Gerd, then the first question is "What is good?  Secondly, "How do we become good?"  And, thirdly, "How do we use that good to create the future we all want?"

A satisfying definition of "good" for me is something that promotes happiness, community well-being, is loving, pleasing, admirable, kind, desirable and virtuous.  Once we figure out how to become these things ourselves, we must embed them in our technology in the form of AI, to help us shape a "good" future.

As more of our daily activities and interactions involve artificial intelligence, we will want our interfaces and communications with AI (digital assistants, chatbots and robots) to feel and be "good."  We will want AI to make accurate, consistent and "good" decisions, and then to execute "good" actions.  Training AI to be good and act good is a real challenge.  These kinds of philosophical, moral and inspired traits and actions are not AI's strong suite.  Now that I am writing this I realize they aren't particularly the strong suite of humans either.

I can imagine a scenario where an algorithm processes data that suggests three equally logical actions.  The final choice, however, is determined by which option is most heavily weighted to the "good."  Which one of us is going to determine the "good" weight?

The obvious problem with this scenario is us humans can't agree on what is good, or to what degree it is good.  Feeding and sheltering homeless families and giving them medical assistance is considered good by some, and bad by others.  Saving millions of lives by vaccinating people is considered good by some and bad by others.

Our artificial intelligence powered digital assistants, chatbot and robots are all awaiting their instructions about how they can help create a "good" future.  What should I tell them?  

Watch the latest on Oracle's digital assistants, chatbots and artificial intelligence here in my interview with Oracle expert Suhas Uliyar.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Will You Trust a Robot?

Jeff Bezos and team launched 66.5 miles into suborbital space on a rocket ship with no pilot this week.  The rocket ship operated autonomously using sensors and artificial intelligence.  That takes trust. They had to believe in the science and that the AI system would get them safely there and back.  They had to have trust in the scientists, programmers, engineers, physicists and chemists.  They had to have trust in the math and physics.  They had to trust the coding and formulas used in the algorithms.  They had to trust in the data coming from the sensors.  Although there were likely many failures along the way, they trusted the process - the scientific method.

Monday, July 19, 2021

The Latest Developments in Artificial Intelligence and Digital Assistants at Oracle

My brilliant friend Suhas Uliyar is Oracle's VP of Digital Assistants, AI & Integration.  We connected on Zoom last week where he shared the latest developments in AI, and the progress his team is making in creating digital assistants that understand sentiment, swear words and soon have reasoning powers.  




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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Speed and Transformational Leadership


It took Magellan’s crew three years sailing ships to circumnavigate the earth.  Today, at hypersonic speeds of 7,680 MPH, it takes just over three hours to circumnavigate the earth.  Data on the Internet, however, travels at 670 million mph, which means it only takes milliseconds to circumnavigate the earth.  In this age of digital businesses and digital interactions, companies must digitally transform to work effectively in a world where global business and information moves at these mind-blowing speeds.

It's not just IT systems that are impacted by the volume and speed of information.  The creators of business processes that were designed and developed in an analog area, simply never envisioned a business environment that would require these operational tempos.  Analog business processes were designed to have humans involved.  These dependencies were designed to slow down the process to ensure accuracy, compliance and accountability.  Today, however, operating at the slow speeds of an analog, human dependent business process, will doom your company.  Analog business processes must be quickly automated via robotic process automation using artificial intelligence and machine learning to effectively interact with impatient digital customers and B2B partners.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

The Future of Managers

Managers must explain a lot of things.  Early in my career I managed a team of six IT experts responsible for EDI and other forms of business-to-business data exchanges with suppliers.  Our data, from planning and manufacturing systems, was shared with our suppliers' to support the just-in-time manufacturing of electronics.  Our senior leadership would often ask us to defend our data, yet we often struggled to explain where it originated from or how the numbers were generated.  The data we were using came from a figurative "black box."  We received it without explanation.  That of course was an untenable position for a manager.

In the near future managers will increasingly depend on artificial intelligence for assistance, and hopefully it will be explainable AI to avoid the challenges I faced.  Explainable AI (XAI) is artificial intelligence in which the results, and the logic and data used, can be understood by humans.  Understanding how the system works is critical to establishing trust.  

As AI becomes integrated into more and more businesses and IT systems, the role it plays will become ever more critical.  Any questions about why an AI system made a particular decision or took an action must be able to be quickly deciphered, explained and adjusted if necessary.  Having trust in the AI system is a critical first step for managers to open up and use it for an expanding list of tasks.

AI systems, implemented correctly can be a manager's right hand.  Common benefits of AI are:
  • Reduced human errors
  • Is available 24x7x365
  • Can complete mundane, repetitive and routine administrative work without distraction
  • Can scale
  • Can make faster decisions, and take faster actions based upon established business processes 
  • Can find solutions and innovations faster by analyzing patterns within oceans of data
In a report by HBR, it was found that 54% of a manager's time is usually spent on administrative tasks - tasks well suited for AI assistance.  If AI can take over these tasks it could free up managers to spend more time on the things humans are best at including applying their knowledge of organizational history and culture, empathy, ethical reflection, judgement, creativity, experiments, innovation, strategy, discretion, experience and improvisation. 

In the HBR report there are five pieces of advice for managers of the future:
  1. Leave administration to AI
  2. Focus on judgement work
  3. Treat intelligent machines/agents as colleagues
  4. Work like a designer
  5. Develop your social skills and networks
I can imagine a scenario in the near future where there will be an organizational chart of robots, robot workers, managers and robot executives.  Each using XAI to explain how they are managing the robots, tasks and operations under their responsibility.  I guess that means we humans will need to figure that out first.

Read more on AI here:
Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.