Digitalization is a state of mind

Being cast as a SAS keynote speaker is a great honour, being cast on an event called Curiosity forum is a great delight. My entire keynote is dedicated to the idea of curiosity driving innovation. ‘Bring the outside world into your organization and adapt your organization accordingly’, that’s the key message I will convey during my keynote, which includes blockchain, medieval cathedrals, and even some oriental philosophy.

Rik Vera, Author of 'The managers the day after tomorrow', will be keynote speaker at the SAS Curiosity Forum

Let’s start with a generally known truth: in this fast-moving world, the key to survival is understanding what your customer wants and making sure that you can deliver this to them. More generally, this means that you should keep a finger on the pulse of society and adapt your organization accordingly.

Hindered by patterns and procedures

Some (public and private) organizations will face extreme difficulties in doing so, because they are hindered by patterns and procedures which prevent them from reacting flexibly to new situations. Their static and rigid attitude may lead them to becoming a casualty of war in the digitalization era.

Think of Nokia, which refused to believe that the smart phone was what the customer desired, rather than an even more excellent Nokia device. Think of Kodak that failed to understand that it wasn’t about the quality of the analog or digital image, but about the fun of sharing your pictures with everybody rather than just keeping them stored in a photobook.

Some of the most wonderful century-old cathedrals are excellent examples of innovation and curiosity influencing the end result. Building a cathedral almost always took several years. During these years, the architects often travelled around Europe to get inspired by buildings and architects in other countries. When they returned, the cathedrals often halfway construction, they often added some elements from other styles, thus creating some of the most unique and wonderful buildings, without really belonging to one single style.

Moving on to data

That’s how organizations today should treat data as well: discover new datasets and rather than trying to squeeze them into the existing algorithms, which would result in more of the same, they should try to find new ways of combining data. That would lead to truly innovative results. That is also how you should view AI (Artifical intelligence): not as an enhanced version of BI (Business intelligence), applying the same logic to different and more data, but as an opportunity to combine datasets into new patterns. AI, much like the human brain, is capable of creating such new patterns. And the success of your AI strategy will be defined by the amount of creativity you can inject in these new patterns.

Digitalizing your organization is not about making your old patterns digital, it is about creating new patterns. It is not about imposing your old way of thinking on the new technologies, it is about designing new algorithms which will lead to a level of curiosity and innovation that no human brain could ever achieve.

From West to East

Ultimately, our age of digitalization is about creating a radical new way of thinking about the world. As Richard Nisbett explain in hos bestselling ‘The Geography of thought’, our western way of thinking is focused on persons and objects, whereas Asians focus more on the connection between them. In this new era, the winning organizations are those that focus on the connections as well: Uber connects passengers with drivers, Airbnb connects travelers with lodgings, and so on.

But what defines the winning organizations more than anything else: their relentless curiosity and eagerness to innovate in terms of what their curiosity has taught them.


Curious to find out more? Then you have just found one more reason to join us on our Curiosity forum! Do not hesitate, join us on 13 June by registering here.